Legislative Update

Legislative Update

Policy staff reports on the status of our policy initiatives.

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.

Legislative success is rarely a "sure thing," and we measure progress (or the lack thereof) on our priorities on a step-by-step basis. In these final seven days, we are optimistic that some of our bills are moving steadily toward passage, while others have stalled. Rest assured, our policy advocacy will continue until the session ends on May 31, 2011.

...when the 96th General Assembly adjourned on January 11th, they left one crucial bill on the table. The comprehensive plan to achieve fiscal stability had included not only new revenue but also the issuing of debt restructuring bonds, so that the state could pay back the billions of dollars it owes to agencies, hospitals, schools, and businesses. In fact, the tax increase legislation specifically designated a portion of the new revenue to go towards the paying back the debt-restructuring bond. Unfortunately, the House failed to pass the bill and thus, the Senate never even got a chance to consider it.

Illinois is just one signature away from becoming the 16th state without the death penalty. The General Assembly passed SB 3539 to repeal the death penalty on January 11, 2011. Now the legislation is awaiting final approval from Governor Quinn.


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