Community Renewal Society Blogs

The General Assembly's 2011 legislative year finally ended on December 13, 2011 after it passed two significant bills--one to give some tax relief to low-income, working families who are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit and the other to grant highly-profitable corporations tax breaks.

It appears likely that some funding will be restored to several of the human service programs and facilities cut in the 2012 state budget. Whether it's a supplemental appropriation, as some say, or a budget reallocation, as other prefer to call it, this restored funding represents good news for some of the most vulnerable people of Illinois.

You'd think the irony of an income tax increase that's generating new revenue for Illinois while it's being derided in the press and hated by the public would be enough. But no, when it comes to Illinois politics, there are more ironies to be found at the 2011 Veto Session of the General Assembly.

Everybody loves to hate a tax increase. The 2011 Illinois income tax increase is no exception. It has attracted negative news articles and disgruntled constituents all across Illinois. Businesses have lined up to demand a reduction in the corporate tax or "we'll go somewhere else." The irony, of course, is that the income tax increase is working. It's contributing to a better Illinois.

A little over a year ago, I wrote an article called “Coming Clean” about our work with the Clean Power Coalition to shut-down or clean-up two coal-fired power plants in Chicago.

On August 16, 2011 the Illinois Department of Revenue (DOR) issued denials on tax-exemption applications for new construction at three major not-for-profit hospitals in Illinois--Northwestern Memorial’ s Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago, Edward Hospital in Naperville, and Decatur Memorial Hospital in down-state Decatur. This is an important step in the quest for fair charity care in Illinois.

With President Obama's signature, the Budget Control Act of 2011--passed by the U.S. House on August 1st and the U.S. Senate on August 2nd--became law on Tuesday, August 2nd, just in time to avoid defaulting on our nation’s obligations. The bill raises the debt limit, avoids new revenues altogether, and relies solely on budget cuts to reduce the federal deficit.

The August 2nd deadline for raising the debt ceiling and preventing the federal budget going into default looms ever closer. A vote on a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution has been put off apparently, but new demands for deeper cuts "right now" are now being heard in Washington. Illinois schools, health care, human services and public-safety efforts are still at grave risk.

The current debate about the federal budget negotiations and deficit-reduction strategies demands that we pay close attention to what’s going on in the U.S. Congress, especially since the results of those negotiations will have a dramatic impact on Illinois, given our long-standing fiscal crisis.

We had hoped that the June 22, 2011 special session of the IL General Assembly would bring a different conclusion to the not-quite-settled 2012 state budget. That, to our great disappointment, does not appear to be the case.

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