An email from State Rep. Mike Tryon:
Our second week of veto session has ended, and while typically this would signify the end of the fall veto session, legislators are being called back to Springfield on Tuesday, November 29 to consider additional business. However, during the last few weeks several noteworthy votes have occurred.
House Bill 3793: Limits Property Tax Increases in Declining Housing Markets
Limiting property tax increases during times when housing values are declining is a discussion that needs to occur. The same tax cap laws that protected taxpayers in the years of unprecedented growth and prosperity in this area are now causing property taxes to increase while housing values are going down.
I am very sensitive to the issues faced by taxpayers in this declining economy and believe the taxing laws must be changed to protect taxpayers when their property values are decreasing.
As I have said many times, the economy is contracting and people are adjusting their budgets and getting by on less.
I believe the public sector needs to do the same.
This week I voted in favor of House Bill 3793.
The bill failed by a large margin.
The bill would have amended the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL) to prevent any taxing body in a tax capped county from collecting an increase in funding during a year when the area’s total assessed value decreases.
There was fierce opposition to the bill by
- school districts,
- municipalities and
- other agencies which rely on public funding for their operations.
I understand this opposition because property taxes are a primary funding source for these agencies, which provide important services that we all expect and rely upon.
At a time when the State is not making timely or full payments to them, the passage of House Bill 3793 would have created a significant hardship.
I have plans to file a bill which will require taxing bodies to publish in the newspaper the percentage increase of their tax rate as budgets are being finalized. I believe this new level of transparency would allow stakeholders to have additional information and an increased opportunity to be involved as taxing bodies’ budgets and levies and finalized.
Senate Bill 77: Unemployment Insurance Reform
It was with pleasure that I joined all other members of the House of Representatives in supporting Senate Bill 72, which reforms Illinois’ unemployment insurance system. Today the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund has a projected deficit of $2.4 billion. This staggering sum threatens the very sustainability of this important safety net for working families. Through this bill, the fund will become fully solvent by 2018 and it will provide $400 million in cost savings for employers across the state. Most importantly, these reforms will be accomplished without raising taxes. The provisions of the bill should also help create private sector jobs and reinvigorate the Illinois economy.
Senate Bill 2147: Funding for Regional Offices of Education
Governor Quinn used his veto power several months ago to eliminate funding for Regional Offices of Education (ROEs) and their employees. Because of his veto, Regional Superintendents have not been paid since June. In fact, in McHenry County, the veto led to the current Regional Superintendent retiring early and the individual who had been elected to replace him declining the job. As a result, Lake County officials have been taking care of McHenry County’s ROE needs for the last five months.
I am a strong supporter of Regional Offices of Education and the statutory services they provide, and I voted in favor of restoring the funding for the remainder of this year from the personal property replacement taxes that are distributed to local governments each year. At the conclusion of this fiscal year funding for ROE’s will revert back to the General fund where I believe it belongs. The bill also creates a 15-member streamlining commission that will look for opportunities to consolidate some offices and duties. I favor the creation of this commission and look forward to learning about how we can increase efficiency and save money in these offices.
Senate Bill 1701: Emergency Medical Services Access
This bill amends the Illinois Controlled Substances Act and the Methamphetamine Control and Community Protection Act by providing that any person who, in good faith, dials 911 or seeks medical treatment for someone experiencing a drug overdose shall not be charged with a crime. I voted against this bill because I know that today in our area those who call in an expected overdose are usually not charged with a crime.
The bill creates a situation where drug dealers who administer a fatal dose of a tainted drug could escape prosecution. I believe strongly that drug dealers need to be prosecuted. The “common sense” approach currently used in our area appears to be working and I think we need to continue to look at each drug overdose case individually. However, the bill passed in the House and is now pending in the Illinois Senate.
Senate Bill 1652: Com Ed Smart Grid
Today, 44 states have some level of smart grid technology in place, and when Illinois lawmakers approved a bill several months ago to modernize Illinois’ grid, Governor Quinn vetoed it. During the first week of veto session, members of the House and Senate voted to override Governor Quinn’s veto. I voted in favor of the override and did so in part so that Illinois could become more competitive in attracting new businesses and jobs.
The override means that once the improvements are in place, Illinoisans will have fewer and less widespread power outages than we have today. It will also provide the framework for Commonwealth Edison and Ameren to respond more quickly to network problems.
The need to upgrade our electrical grid was never more obvious than earlier this year when many collar county residents were without power for extended periods of time due to storms. But Oak Park, which has been using the smart grid technology on an experimental basis since 2010, escaped the summer’s widespread storm outages while communities all around it suffered significant power outages. The Smart Grid improvements would not only help prevent widespread outages, but it would also provide for a wholesale technology upgrade that will eventually lower overall electrical costs.
A trailer bill presented the first week of veto session included language that lowers the profit rate for Commonwelath Edison and Ameren to rates that are lower than what the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) has allowed in the past.
The new language also toughens the performance standards they must meet and increases the amount of money they must spend to improve the infrastructure. The trailer bill also calls for the creation of a fund to help those of lower socioeconomic circumstances pay their electric bills. Based on the changes included in the trailer bill, a consortium of 42 suburbs withdrew its opposition to the bill prior to the override votes.
Gaming Expansion in Illinois
A new gaming bill that scaled back a gambling expansion package approved by the General Assembly several months ago was soundly defeated by the House last week. I voted against the gambling expansion bill when it was originally presented almost six months ago and I voted against the scaled back version last week. The new bill dropped a provision that would have allowed for slot machines at Chicago airports and the state fairgrounds, and addressed concerns by some that regulations were not stringent enough. However, the new plan still allowed for five new casinos in Illinois and permitted racetracks to operate slot machines.
I am not opposed to a modest expansion of gaming in our state such as the addition of slot machines at racetracks. The racing industry is a large part of the McHenry County economy. In my current legislative district, there are 13 thoroughbred farms and several other farms which supply crops and feed for the horses. My issue with the bill was the large nature of the expansion and the way in which the revenue would be spent. It is my hope that a new, scaled back version can be considered when we return to Springfield on November 29.
Coming Up… The Status of Pension Reform and, the Proposal to Close Seven State Facilities and the Sears EDA
There are a few other issues that may be debate and/or resolved when the General Assembly returns to Springfield on November 29. I am a member of the pension reform committee and we have met many times to discuss ways to stabilize the state’s pension system.
Today’s pension system includes an $86 billion unfunded liability. Those negotiations are ongoing and I look forward to reading Senate Bill 512 when it reaches its final form.
It is imperative that we solve the pension crisis, but we must do so in a manner that once and for all stabilizes the system without placing the $86 billion liability onto the backs of the taxpayers.
As you have probably heard, Governor Quinn recently recommended closing seven state facilities due to budget shortfalls. His announcement was premature, ill-thought out and included no plan for how the patients and inmates would be transitioned to new facilities.
It was nothing more than a political move on his part, and yet another attempt to press for additional funding by using some of Illinois’ most vulnerable citizens as pawns.
I also serve on the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, and as a group we have been visiting these facilities and holding hearings over the last several weeks.
On Oct. 27 we voted against closing the Murphysboro juvenile detention center, Mabley Developmental Center in Dixon, Singer Mental Health Center in Rockford and Chester Mental Health Center.
Last week we voiced similar concerns by recommending against the closure of the Logan Correctional facility in Murphysboro, the Jacksonville Developmental Center and the Tinley Park Mental Hospital.
I am very much in favor of looking for opportunities to blend services so that efficiencies for providing services can be optimized. I also welcome an opportunity to review a comprehensive plan which includes a thorough cost-benefit analysis. To date, we have seen no plan and no cost-benefit analysis.
As the issue moves forward, I feel strongly that any ultimate changes would need to include a provision for a smooth transition for the individuals served by these facilitates.
Lastly, there has been much discussion and debate lately about Sears EDA in Hoffman Estates. As the 23-year tax incentive that brought Sears to Hoffman Estates approaches its 2013 expiration date, Sears is looking to the General Assembly to extend the terms of the EDA for an additional 15 years.
I am firmly opposed to the 15-year extension.
For the last 22 years, Sears has operated out of their space along I-90 between Beverly Road and Route 59 while enjoying significant property tax relief. I favor those original incentives and believe that at the time they were a necessary “carrot” that lured Sears and other businesses to the Hoffman Estates location. Jobs were created and the economic impact was very favorable.
District 300 officials have waited for the day when the EDA would expire so they could begin collecting the property tax revenue that rightfully belongs to them. Some legislators are trying to push through an incentive package that places the lion’s share of the sacrifice onto the backs of District 300 taxpayers. Simply put, it isn’t fair. It is my hope that my colleagues in the House and Senate slow down, take a step back, and create a piece of legislation that entices Sears to stay in Illinois while still being fair to the District 300 taxpayers.
I believe strongly that the next incentive package should be structured like the package we used to keep Motorola and its jobs in Illinois. The State gave Motorola a $100 million incentive package based on “EDGE” credits, whereby a percentage of the income taxes paid by Motorola employees was rebated back to the company. It was an incentive that was very lucrative for Motorola, and it wasn’t done at the expense of local taxpayers.
Clearly, all of Illinois is enriched by the economic activity that Sears brings to our state.
Therefore it is not equitable for the taxpayers of one school district to provide the overwhelming majority of the financial incentive that keeps Sears here. Since everyone benefits if Sears stays in Illinois, everyone should share in contributing toward making that happen.
As always, it is a pleasure to serve you in Springfield and at home. If I, or a member of my staff, may be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my Crystal Lake office at (815) 459-6453 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael W. Tryon
State Representative, District 64