An update on the 2017 session of the Illinois General Assembly

by Kevin Riggs | Apr 20, 2017

The 100th Illinois General Assembly is currently on Spring Break.  Presently, budget discussions and negotiations are still not where they should be thus resulting in the continued impasse putting the state in deeper debt, as well as jeopardizing economic development incentives, capital infrastructure improvements, funding for universities, community colleges, and human services.

Senate:  Grand Bargain Package
Since December, Senate President Cullerton and Senate Minority Leader Radogno have been working on a series of bills known as the "Grand Bargain Package" to break the impasse.  In January and February, they held extensive subject matter hearings and then proceeded to move the bills to the Senate Floor, where they are on Second Reading.

  • SB 13 - Proposals for property tax freezes.
  • SB 11 - Forces active state employees to choose an option for pensions benefits.
  • SB 2 - Increases minimum wage from $8.25 to $9.00 per hour beginning on July 1, 2017 and .50 cents each year there after until it reaches $11.00.
  • SB 6 - Supplemental Appropriation to fund Higher Education, human service group health insurance and state operations for the rest of the year.
  • SB 9 - Revenue bill designed to generate funds from a variety of sources including, but not limited to increasing the state income tax to 4.99%, raising the corporate tax from 5.25% to 7.00%.

The Grand Bargain Package bills have not been called for any votes because the bills do not cover more of Governor Rauner's Turnaround Agenda.

House Takes Action:  Stopgap Budget Plan
The Democrats in the House filed and passed an $800 million stopgap budget, which will provide limited funding to higher education and human service programs. Governor Rauner and House Republican legislators opposed this measure because it does not balance the overall state budget.  Revenue for the new spending will be appropriated from an accumulation of income tax receipts in two special state funds (Education Assistance Fund and Human Services Assistance Fund).

The plan sends $559 million to higher education with an additional $258 million for human services. The monetary assistance program (MAP) will receive the lion’s share of funding - $287 million to provide need-based assistance for college students. Community colleges receive $50 million for career and technical education and $36 million to offset operating expenses. The Golden Apple Scholar program is the beneficiary of $6.6 million in funding. Other educational programs receiving money are Lincoln’s Challenge, veterans’ grants, alternative schools, nursing career technical education, Illinois Math & Science Academy, and adult education and literacy. Illinois’ public universities also receive more than $150 million in funding for their normal operational expenses and costs. Many human service programs including domestic violence shelters, senior meals, homeless youth programs, autism diagnosis education, bullying prevention, cancer screenings, HIV/AIDs education, mental illness, addiction treatment, and immigrant services would all receive funding. Sponsored by Greg Harris (D-Chicago), House Bill 109 passed on a vote of 64-45-1 and heads to the Senate.

Property Taxes
The House of Representatives passed a massive property tax break for residential homeowners that will shift hundreds of millions of dollars onto commercial and industrial property taxpayers. Sponsored by Rep. Michelle Mussman (D-Schaumburg), this bill that gives special tax breaks to senior citizens and veterans while increasing the general homestead exemption to $8,000 for all homeowners. This represents a 14% increase in Cook County (currently $7,000) and 33 percent increase (currently $6,000) in all other counties.

Labor
The House Labor & Commerce Committee approved House Bill 198, Sponsored by Rep. Will Guzzard D-Chicago, passed on a vote of 17-6-0. In a partisan vote, Democrat members of the House Labor & Commerce Committee approved an 82% increase in the minimum wage. If enacted into law, Illinois would have the highest minimum wage in the United States with the new $15 per hour minimum wage phased in through the year 2022.  The legislation includes a tax credit for small businesses with less than 50 employees. It also maintains a training wage and tip credit but does not pre-empt local governments from imposing a higher wage. If passed into law, Illinois’ current $8.25 wage would increase as follows:

January 1, 2018        $9.00

January 1, 2019        $10.00

January 1, 2020        $11.25

January 1, 2021        $13.00

January 1, 2022        $15.00

Incentives
Despite the continued budget impasse, the General Assembly has been working on various business incentives in both chambers to stimulate economic growth within the state. The following is a list of incentives, which are being advocated:  River's Edge, New Markets, Data Center, Film Industry, Enterprise Zone, and Tax Increment Financing.

Scheduled Date of Adjournment:  May 31
Trying to pass a budget will remain the number one issue for the General Assembly and Governor Rauner.  Senate Republican negotiations will now will include more of Governor Rauner's agenda. Senate President Cullerton will continue to meet with Senate Minority Leader Radogno in hopes of breaking the impasse, so the state can resolve some of its financial issues.  If this does not happen by May 31, 2017, most of the state's obligations will be appropriated again through several court ordered consent decrees, which forced the state to pay for certain programs and operations and debts.