"Pass Illinois Budget" Now

Recently, some of the schools in our area put messages on their marquees to “Pass Illinois Budget.” I’m not sure whether the message was aimed at the public, in hopes they will call their legislators, or aimed at legislators themselves driving by. Either way, I saw it and certainly agree.

In fact, everyone you ask will agree that Illinois needs a budget now. I’ve been telling everyone who will listen how we’re overspending by at least half a billion dollars a month, just from court orders and consent decrees—spending ordered by judges and agreed to by the Attorney General. This has to stop.

It’s like someone who lives paycheck-to-paycheck making $32,000 per year, running up $500 per month in excess credit card spending. That person may be able to get away with overspending for a few months, but after two years, they’re facing $12,000 in credit card debt, with no clear way to pay it off. If you add six zeros to the numbers, that represents your state government. (How the judges could order this overspending, and the Attorney General agree to it, is a subject for another day.)

Despite this, the parties in Springfield are deeply divided on the budget, with the key questions being 1) whether spending should be reduced, 2) whether taxes should be increased, and 3) whether reforms should be made to reduce the cost of government and improve the business climate.

On spending, the Democrats want to spend $41 billion in the next fiscal year. Folks on the Republican side are divided on spending, with some wanting to spend at the current amount of estimated revenue ($31.5 billion or so) and others willing to go up to $36 billion.

On income taxes, the parties have been less specific. There’s a rule of thumb that every increase in the personal income tax of .25% yields about $1 billion in revenue. That means spending $41 billion would require an extra 2.5% over the current 3.75% rate, yielding a state personal income tax rate of 6.25%. Practically, that translates to each Illinois worker giving an extra week and a third of their labor, every year, to pay for increased state government spending. A $36 billion budget level would require an extra 1.25%, yielding a 5% rate, or roughly three more days of labor per worker every year. There are also proposals for small increases in the sales tax, too.

On reforms, there are proposals that could significantly reduce costs for state and local governments and improve our business climate. But, the most significant reforms have been scuttled by the Democrat majorities in the House and Senate, due to vigorous opposition by the public employee unions and other interest groups. Even so, one bright spot that has gained traction is the Republican proposal for a property tax freeze, at least for the next few years. Other less controversial reforms are still being negotiated.

Wallethub.com recently published a study of the states, based on their tax burdens on middle class families, defined as those earning a median income, owning a median home, and spending at the median amount. That study found that Illinois is worst in the country in state and local tax burden on middle class families. Illinois was in the middle of the state rankings for income tax (30th) and sales tax (27th), but our 50th-worst ranking for property taxes dragged our overall rate down to the bottom. Now, if you substitute the proposed 5% income tax rate for our current 3.75% rate, that 30th place income tax ranking falls to 46th, putting us in competition for the worst income taxes in the country—and dragging down our combined tax rate even further.

The genius of the American system is that each of the 50 states is an independent “laboratory of democracy.” Each state competes with all the others for residents and businesses, along with the resources and vitality that they bring. After three straight years of losing residents to other states, we have to “Pass Illinois Budget” right now—a realistic, affordable, and balanced budget that will bring people and jobs back to our state.

Breen Opposes Bill with Negative Consequences to Police, Fire, and Basic Services
On Thursday I spoke out against legislation that would have dire consequences for police, fire, and other basic services in cases of municipal bankruptcy. SB 41 creates a scheme to allow local municipalities to overspend, by mortgaging their expected payments from the State of Illinois. Bonds issued under this scheme would be given protected “statutory lien” status in bankruptcy. That means payments from the State of Illinois for vital public services like police and fire will instead be diverted to pay off bonds—this means massive property tax increases just to maintain basic municipal services. Another consequence is that, in bankruptcy, police and fire pension funds will behind these bonds, which means our first responders, including those disabled in the line of duty, could get pennies on the dollar on their pensions, with the funds instead going to big bond houses.

You can click here to watch my floor debate with the bill sponsor, House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago).

Soon enough, we will be dealing with the difficult issue of municipalities going bankrupt in Illinois, and this bill is a pre-emptive strike by big bond houses from New York and elsewhere to ensure they get to the front of the line when determining what debts get paid. Despite my argument against the bill, it passed by a narrow margin, and it now returns to the Senate for their concurrence with the changes made in the House.

Breen Bills Making their Way to Governor’s Desk
Several of my bills are making their way through the Illinois Senate, and I am also having success moving Senate Bills for which I serve as the Chief House Sponsor. While many have cleared the committee level and await final floor action, as of Friday, May 26, I have seven bills that have been approved in both chambers of the General Assembly and are on their way to Governor Rauner for his signature. These bills include:
  • HB 2386: Allows craft brewing companies in Illinois to utilize new 360-lid technology.
  • HB 2423: Allow townships to save money by permitting the delivery of surplus wood chips generated through routine tree maintenance to residents.
  • HB 3084: Closes loophole to ensure those who cause death while driving drunk are punished as harshly as others who committed vehicular homicide if they are subsequently caught for driving on a suspended license.
  • HB 3514: would amend state law to end the practice of charging “expedited service fees” of $25, $50, or more on every electronic filing with the Secretary of State’s office.
  • SB 587: Reverses new Dep’t of Revenue ruling treating small religious retreat houses as “hotels,” charging them thousands of dollars under the Hotel Operators' Occupation Tax.
  • SB 1420: Exempts not-for profit recycling organizations from tedious paperwork and costly fees associated with operating collection centers for residential drop-off of used cooking oil and grease.
  • SB 2066: Requires reporting about the cost of state mandates on local governments. The bill applies to items listed in the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s (DECO) catalog of state mandates.
In addition to the above bills that await final action by the Governor, I successfully moved the following Senate Bills out of a substantive House Committee and they should be given full consideration in the House in the coming days:
  • SB 707: Helps protect citizens by requiring that any data security breach of the state government impacting more than 250 Illinoisans be reported within 72 hours to the Department of Innovation and Technology and the Attorney General for investigation.
  • SB 1321: Ensures that definition of “child” is clear to avoid vagueness challenges to our criminal statutes protecting children against sex offenses of grooming and traveling to meet a child.
  • SB 1422: Ensures that challenges to extensions of the statute of limitations are raised and ruled upon prior to full criminal jury trial, just like challenges to venue and other challenges to a charging document.
The House of Representatives returns to session this afternoon to continue work on the budget, with just 4 days left until our adjournment date of May 31.

Breen Launches Third Annual Summer Reading Program
With summer vacation from school just a few short weeks away, this summer I will once again be hosting my summer reading program for children in grades Pre-K-5 who live in the 48th Legislative House District. Through my Summer Reading Safari program, those who achieve the summer reading goal of reading eight or more books will be invited to attend a fall reading celebration party where they will receive a certificate in recognition of their accomplishment and other treats. Some local and private schools will send the program brochure home in backpacks while others will post program information on their web sites. Brochures are also available at my office at 929 S. Main Street, Suite 101-A, in Lombard, and at the following libraries:
  • Downers Grove: 1050 Curtiss Street, Downers Grove
  • Glen Ellyn: 400 Duane Street, Glen Ellyn
  • Wheaton: 225 N. Cross Street, Wheaton
  • Lombard’s Helen Plum Memorial Library: 110 W. Maple Street, Lombard
  • Lisle: 777 Front Street, Lisle
  • Oak Brook: 600 Oak Brook Road, Oak Brook
  • Villa Park: 305 S. Ardmore Avenue, Villa Park

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