REPUBLICAN CONCERNS REPEATEDLY IGNORED
During the years leading up to terrible decision, Republicans have repeatedly called for spending reductions, program cuts, government restructuring and reform, and balanced budgets. It is important to note that have requests have been repeatedly ignored.
Many money-saving bills introduced by Senate Republicans were blocked by Democrat leaders, who prevented legislative consideration of GOP measures.
OUR CONCERNS ABOUT THE NEW LAW
We have many concerns about the new law that implements the income tax increase.
First, the “spending caps” included in the new law are far too generous. While Democrat lawmakers contend Senate Bill 2505 imposes spending limits, those “limits” are extremely high—a $3 billion increase approved for next fiscal year, plus close to $1 billion a year for the following three fiscal years. With a total anticipated increase of almost 17 percent over the next four years, tax opponents say that without real spending cuts the state will face the same budget quagmire in five years.
The spending caps will also not apply to existing or newly created special funds, which would allow the General Assembly or the Governor to expand spending through the creation of special funds. The Governor would also be allowed to exceed the caps by declaring a fiscal emergency, or reduce pension payments to free-up revenue to spend on other purposes.
Another concern is that although the tax increases are being touted as “temporary,” it’s unlikely that the rates will expire as promised. Though the 67 percent tax is scheduled to be reduced from five percent to four percent at the end of 2014, Illinois’ budget obligations would have reached at least $39 billion at that time because the spending limits are not true reductions in spending. With no means to pay for the spending without the tax–supported revenues, it’s improbable the planned reduction could take place.
The new law also contains a major loophole that could allow the Governor to skip required pension payments. Although tax-hike proponents argued the tax increase would help reduce the state's massive unfunded liability in its retirement accounts, the measure contains a provision that allows the Governor to skip or reduce those mandated pension fund payments simply by declaring that revenues are insufficient to cover payments.
97TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY CONVENES JANUARY 12
On January 12, the 97th General Assembly convened in Springfield. Nine Senate Republican lawmakers took the oath of office, which was administered by Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis in the Senate Chambers of the State Capitol.
Congratulations to two new GOP colleagues who were sworn in: Senator Suzi Schmidt of Lake Villa, who represents the 31st Senate District, and Senator Sam McCann of Carlinville, who represents the 49th Senate District.
In addition to swearing in new members, we selected their leaders. Senator Christine Radogno of Lemont was re-elected to fill the position of Senate Republican Leader, and Senator John Cullerton of Chicago will once again serve as Senate President. The lawmakers also undertook a number of procedural duties, including adopting Senate Rules for the 97th General Assembly.
DEATH PENALTY REPEAL APPROVED
Early in the week, a controversial measure to repeal Illinois’ death penalty was narrowly passed and awaits action by the Governor. If signed into law, Senate Bill 3539 would take effect on July 1.
The bill only abolishes future death penalty sentences, and would not interfere with the death sentences of people currently on death row, or anyone sentenced to death prior to July 1.
However, the Governor does have the power to commute the existing death sentences to life, or a term of imprisonment. The measure would also create a Death Penalty Abolition Fund, with proceeds going to help the families of homicide victims and train law enforcement.
In 2000, former Governor George Ryan instituted an ongoing moratorium on executions in Illinois following the reversal of 14 convictions of death row inmates. A Commission was later appointed to investigate the death penalty and recommend reforms. Ryan later used his power as Governor to pardon all inmates on death row.
In 2003 and 2004, the General Assembly enacted death penalty reforms, which included the creation of a Capital Punishment Reform Study Committee charged with studying the effectiveness of the reforms. In its final 2010 report, the Committee found the enacted reforms were working, though it suggested the implementation of additional reforms.