MEETINGS IN ILLINOIS/AROUND THE DISTRICT
On December 4 and 5, I attended the Illinois Farm Bureau Annual meeting where we were updated by state and federal officials about the issues affecting farming and agriculture-related industries.
On December 6, I attended the Pensions and Investments Committee and the Legislative Audit Commission meetings in Chicago. I serve as a member on both the Committee and the Commission.
The Pensions and Investments Committee discussed the use of minority-owned investment firms in the state pension funds systems.
The Audit Commission adopted a resolution to investigate the spending allocation at the Universities. The Auditor General will audit the nine universities and compare their management spending structure versus their instructional budget (classroom budget). The audit will examine salaries of management and professors.
Later on December 6, I was also pleased to attend the McLean County Chamber of Commerce Elected Officials Reception at Biaggi’s in Bloomington.
LAWMAKERS CALLED BACK TO VOTE ON TAX LAW CHANGES
State lawmakers will return to Springfield December 12 and try once again to approve a package of tax law changes designed to prevent several major employers from fleeing the state.
The House of Representatives plans to convene December 12, with the Senate going into session the next day.
While Republican lawmakers continue to negotiate with the Governor and the Democrat majority to craft the changes, there is frustration among GOP lawmakers who warned their Democrat colleagues last year that the 67% tax increase approved in January 2011 would have a disastrous effect on Illinois’ jobs climate.
TWO PROPOSALS BEING CONSIDERED
When lawmakers reconvene December 12, they are expected to take up at least two main proposals.
The first is a series of business tax changes, including an apportionment change that would assist the Chicago-based CME trading group; a tax credit and other provisions to assist Illinois-based retailer Sears; an extension of a research and development tax credit to encourage research investment in Illinois; and other business tax law changes, including a tax credit for a car filter manufacturer in downstate Albion and a cut in estate taxes designed to help farms and small businesses.
The second proposal would raise the personal exemption on income taxes and link it to the annual rate of inflation. It would also expand the earned-income tax credit, which allows lower-income workers to keep more of their earnings.
ILLINOIS FISCAL MESS DRAWS INTERNATIONAL ATTENTION
Meanwhile, Illinois continues to draw unwanted attention for the state’s financial mismanagement.
Recently Illinois’ problems drew international attention when the British publication, The Economist, published a December 3 article that began, “The state finances in Illinois are an ugly mess of deficits, unpaid bills and tax refund backlogs.”
BLAGOJEVICH RECEIVES 14-YEAR SENTENCE
Also during the week, impeached former Governor Rod Blagojevich received a 14-year sentence on federal corruption charges.
While the Blagojevich sentencing may close the chapter on one era in Illinois politics, the need for further political reforms continues. The abuses that brought down the former governor did not occur in a vacuum and many of his staunchest supporters remain active in state government.
In addition, although Blagojevich has been gone from office for nearly three years, many of his programs and policies remain in place.