A message from State Rep. Mike Tryon:
After spending the last few months tending to the needs in our home districts, legislators return to Springfield for the beginning of the spring 2014 session, which starts tomorrow.
As we prepare for the start of the new session, I thought it would be a good opportunity to update my newsletter recipients on recent activity in Springfield and at home.
State of the State Address Offers New Spending but No Details for Funding
On January 29, a joint session of the Illinois House and Senate convened for Governor Pat Quinn’s annual State of the State Address. It was clear to me after the speech that the Governor is out of touch with Illinois’ fiscal realities. I was hoping to hear a speech about how we would address unemployment and the unfriendly business climate in our state. Instead we heard about plans to increase the size of government through additional spending on programs and positions. Quinn made no mention of how he would pay for the expansion of government.
While I was disappointed by most of the Governor’s speech, there was one aspect of the 45-minute address with which I was in complete agreement. The Governor proposed reducing the LLC fee that new businesses pay in Illinois by half. He announced this initiative, but failed to mention that House Republicans have been trying to push this plan as part of a comprehensive job creation package for years. In fact, I am the Chief Co-Sponsor of House Bill 2230, which was filed in February of 2013 and would have made the very change the Governor proposed in his speech. I must wonder why the Governor did nothing last year to see HB2230 move. The bill was buried in the Rules Committee and never scheduled for a hearing. The bill has been refiled as HB4246 and I hope it receives fair consideration this spring during our legislative session.
The main thing missing from the address was Quinn’s plan for the roll-back of the 2011 income tax increase. When the legislature pushed through the tax increase in January of 2011, it was sold as a temporary measure that would allow for bills to be paid down. According to the law, the tax hike will begin to sunset in 2015. The overburdened businesses and taxpayers need to be able to rely on the promise that tax relief is one year away. Unfortunately, I heard nothing during the speech that suggested the Governor was interested in keeping that promise.
The Governor also also spoke about his plan to raise the minimum wage in Illinois to at least $10 per hour. Any discussion regarding an increase to the minimum wage must include a conversation about how Illinois can become more competitive for attracting jobs. It’s not China we’re competing with when it comes to Illinois job creation; it’s Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri, Kentucky and Iowa. If we are going to improve the job climate in our state it is imperative that our businesses are able to afford to add new jobs.
Madigan Makes Surprise Announcement of Plan to Cut Corporate Income Tax in Half
While remaining mum on the issue on the day of the State of the State address, the following day House Speaker Mike Madigan announced his plan to introduce legislation that would cut the Illinois corporate income tax rate by 50%.
I am in full support of this initiative.
As a result of the 2011 tax hike, today Illinois corporations pay a 7% income tax rate. It has slowed our state’s economic recovery and has allowed unemployment in Illinois to remain unacceptably high.
Early figures suggest that by cutting the rate by half, Illinois businesses would save an estimated $500-$700 million this year.
While I support any decrease in taxes, I believe the best scenario would be to combine the corporate rate reduction with an equal reduction in the personal income tax rate.
The majority of Illinois’ businesses are small businesses that are structured in a way that allows the small business owner to pay personal income taxes.
If we want to offer true tax relief that would jump-start the economy and improve the job climate, I would prefer tax relief across the board.
Legislators Begin Filing Bills for 2014
Last week legislators began filing the bills they hope to pass during the 2014 spring session. I will personally be filling about 10 new bills.
On January 29 I filed House Bill 4424, a bill that would ease the process through which local boards of education excuse pupils from physical education classes so they can take Advanced Placement (AP) coursework. Today, students in Illinois are required to take PE five days per week unless a waiver is granted. It is not unusual for waivers to be received, but the process for students to receive a waiver to allow for AP coursework is very difficult. We should be encouraging our high school students to be taking these college-level courses; not making it difficult for them to do so.
The idea for the bill came from my District 66 Student Advisory Council, which is comprised of two upperclassmen from each of the five high schools located within the boundaries of my district. According to the bill, a school board would be able to excuse any student in grades 9-12 from PE class if that student was enrolled in two or more AP classes. These bright students are trying to enhance their college applications by showing success in college-level work while in high school. And because many of these students are paying for part or all of their college expenses, they are doing everything they can to bring as many credit hours as possible with them when they arrive at college. This translates to real money saved on tuition costs.
Increased Budget Transparency Coming in Tax Refund Envelopes
I was pleased to learn recently that Illinois Comptroller Judy Barr Topinka plans to include a brief visual description of Illinois’ state budget with each Illinois income tax refund check that is mailed out in calendar year 2014. The graphical presentation will show how taxpayers’ money is divided between education, healthcare and family services, human services, pensions, and other budget needs and state expenses.
Hearing for Economic Projections Set for February 4
A key hearing that will help shape the FY15 budget has been scheduled for February 4 in Springfield. Members of the House Revenue and State Government committees will meet jointly to hear from State budget officers, who will unveil their projections for Illinois economic activity, tax payments and general funds revenues for the time period of July 1, 2014-June 30, 2015. The hearing will provide valuable data as preliminary discussions begin for the next budget year.