As always, you can contact me via webform at repbennett.com, or by phone at (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac) or (815) 432-0106 (Watseka). Thank you for the honor of serving as our district's representative in Springfield.
Hearing set for graduated income tax hike
On Monday the House Revenue and Finance Committee will meet to hear discussion of the proposed graduated income tax increase, officially known as Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 1. This amendment would change Illinois' income tax structure from a flat income tax, where all taxpayers pay the same percentage of their income to the state in taxes, to a "graduated" system where Springfield politicians can set different rates on different groups of people. Supporters have also proposed a plan which would, upon enactment of the Constitutional amendment, raise taxes by more than $3 billion.
Many of the same politicians who are trying to tell Illinoisans that this new system would be a "fair tax" are the very politicians who have raised your taxes twice in the last decade. This amendment would give them a blank check to set tax rates wherever they want on whomever they want. If recent history is any guide, giving them more tax revenue will only tempt them to push for more reckless spending, which will cause us to need even more revenue. It's an endless cycle of tax increases and more and more spending.
Not only is this tax policy unwise, it is also unnecessary. Last year, Republicans and Democrats worked together to pass a bipartisan, balanced budget without any new taxes. This month we learned that the state took in over a billion dollars more than projected, giving us more than enough money to balance this year's budget without raising taxes. If we work together and determine to spend taxpayer money wisely, we will not need to raise taxes.
Tax increase for infrastructure advances without bipartisan negotiation
An amendment which would raise gas taxes and related fees by as much as $2.4 billion in order to fund transportation projects has passed the House Revenue & Finance Committee on a straight party line vote. While there is broad agreement in Springfield that we need a capital bill to fund infrastructure improvements, I voted against this tax hike in committee because the plan has not been negotiated with both parties, nor have we seen a finalized funding plan for a capital bill. We need to improve our roads and bridges, and we need to find the money to pay for these projects, but we should work together to find the best way to do it, instead of just ramming through a big tax hike.
The main elements of this proposal would increase the motor fuel tax by 25 cents (more than doubling that tax) and would hike vehicle registration fees by $50. Combined with some other proposed tax and fee increases, the legislation would collect somewhere around $2.4 billion each year for transportation funding. We still have a lot of work to do on this issue.
How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $6,920,787,763 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $7.2 billion. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be approximately $130 billion.
Touring Iroquois County
Session was unexpectedly cancelled last Friday, so I spent the day visiting some of our neighbors in Iroquois County as part of National Small Business Week. We are lucky to have so many hard working, dedicated small businesspeople in our district.
I stopped in at Shorty's in Watseka for breakfast. There was some great food and conversations! I thanked Dan McCullough for having a business in Watseka and in Illinois. I also had a nice conversation with Carola Good about NAPA and the 20 locations which they have in Illinois and Indiana. It is great to have NAPA and Roger in Illinois. I was glad to visit with Jim Mowrey of Mowrey Auction Co. in Milford. It is a great operation and I appreciate all they do for the community. Lunch was at the Cissna Park Family Restaurant for some more good food and conversation. Thank you for having a business in Illinois.
During the course of the day I also dropped in to see Jim Devine, the State's Attorney in Iroquois County as well as Joe Lyznicki and Bob Burd from Country Financial for some discussions of all that is happening in state government. It was nice to talk with Robin Schuldt at True Value in Cissna Park, where they are getting ready for spring gardening season at long last. I spent a few minutes with Les Seggebruch of Seggebruch Insurance Agency, another important business with a lot of community involvement in Cissna Park. It was a nice way to spend a lovely spring day in the 106th District, and I am grateful not only for the time these businesspeople provided me, but for all they and so many other small businesses do for our communities.
Negotiations on sports gambling continue
Legislation has been introduced in the House to legalize and regulate betting on sporting events. The bill is called the Sports Wagering Act and it would create a process for certain qualified private businesses to apply for licenses to open sports betting facilities. These facilities and their customers would pay taxes on any betting activity to Illinois. This issue came onto state government's agenda last year when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could legalize and regulate sports betting within their jurisdictions.
Supporters told a House committee about the steps they would take to implement a new sports betting law. Representatives of teams in three professional sports leagues outlined the ways they could provide almost instantaneous data to sports bookmakers in exchange for a royalty fee from the gaming industry in Illinois. Additional interested parties discussed what they could bring to the table of the ongoing negotiations and what they would expect in return from the state. If sports gambling were to be legalized in Illinois, the state hopes to collect millions in license fees and taxes, but the costs which come along with expanded gambling are also a serious consideration. This is another major issue which is a long way from completion during these final weeks of the legislative session.
Did You Know?
On May 17, 1955, Governor William Stratton signed legislation which made "Land of Lincoln" the state slogan of Illinois. Illinois' official nickname is "The Prairie State," but Senator Fred Hart (R-Streator) proposed an official recognition of our most famous citizen. The idea quickly caught on and passed both houses before being signed into law. Senator Everett Dirksen then pushed through legislation in Washington which gave Illinois copyright status to the slogan, which has frequently appeared on Illinois license plates and many other places over the decades since.