Nearly two dozen lawmakers came together this week to oppose tax plans that would likely hurt job growth; legislation was filed to allow voters in some counties to lower their property tax burdens; and the Senate passed a bill that would offer property tax relief to disabled veterans.
Also during the week, the Illinois Department of Corrections opened a new Life-Skills Re-entry center, and lawmakers honored the life and work of former First Lady Barbara Bush.
Senate Republicans join together against anti-jobs tax proposals
Senate Republicans joined together in support of a resolution to oppose a graduated tax system that has been proposed by some candidates for statewide office.
Illinois’ current flat tax system levies one percentage for all earners, though because it is a percentage, actual tax bills are higher for higher incomes. A graduated tax system levies multiple rates for different income levels, which is often seen as a policy that discourages advancement and growth.
Sponsored by every member of the Senate Republican Caucus, Senate Resolution 1590 notes the importance and stability provided to employers and individuals alike by the current flat-tax system, allowing them to plan and grow in the Land of Lincoln. Especially when considering a tax burden ranked as one of the highest in the nation along with sky-high workers compensation costs, the state’s current flat tax system has often been cited as one of the few reasons for employers to add jobs in Illinois.
The Illinois Constitution would have to be changed to allow for a graduated tax. While a graduated tax bill may initially propose rates, once the Constitution is amended, lawmakers would then be able to set the various rates and tiers at whatever they wanted.
Property tax relief legislation filed
New legislation filed this week would allow residents in Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL) counties to lower their property tax bills via referendum, an ability that is currently only given to residents in non-PTELL counties.
PTELL was designed as a system to set caps on how much property taxes can increase each year. However, since the system was first instituted in 1990, property taxes have actually grown faster in PTELL counties, despite the caps.
PTELL limits local governments to only increasing their tax revenue by 5 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower, per year. Voters in PTELL counties have the option of raising their rates via referendum but are not currently allowed to lower them in the same way.
Senate Bill 2670, filed by State Sen. Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods), establishes the petition and voting requirements that would be required to place a referendum to lower property taxes on the ballot in PTELL counties.
The legislation is currently assigned to the Senate Revenue Committee.
Senate passes legislation to provide property tax relief for disabled veterans
Disabled veterans who qualified for property tax relief through the Disabled Veterans Standard Homestead Exemption would qualify for a pro-rated break if they move into their home after the first of the year.
Under current law, disabled veterans are eligible to receive reductions in their property taxes, but the breaks don’t kick in for a given year unless the veteran resides in the home by January 1. Co-sponsored by State Sen. Neil Anderson (Andalusia), Senate Bill 2306 requires that the homestead exemptions for veterans with service-related disabilities must be prorated if the veteran moves in to the residence after January 1 of that year.
The available tax breaks vary from $2,500 all the way to a complete exemption on property taxes, depending on the level of the disability. The benefits are also available to spouses of deceased veterans, if the spouse remains unmarried and if their veteran spouse was receiving the benefit before their death.
IDOC opens new life-skills re-entry center
The Illinois Department of Corrections opened its second Life-Skills Re-entry Center. The facility, located in Murphysboro, is designed to teach offenders the skills needed to readjust to society upon their release, including things such as using the latest technology, scheduling medical appointments, and how to manage a bank account.
The goal is to reduce recidivism and offer inmates a better shot at leading a successful life. The first such Life-Skill Re-entry Center opened in Kewanee in early 2017, while a third, in Lincoln, is planned for the future. Offenders who have one to four years left on their sentence qualify for placement at the Life-Skills Re-entry Centers.
Senate honors former First Lady Barbara Bush
The Senate unanimously adopted a resolution honoring the life and work of former First Lady Barbara Bush. Filed by Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), and sponsored by all Senators, Senate Resolution 1624 noted her dedication to improving literacy, including her championing of the National Literacy Act and the founding of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, which raised hundreds of millions of dollars for literacy programs.
Barbara Bush, who passed away on April 17 at the age 92, was married to George H.W. Bush for 73 years, and is only the second person to have been the wife of a U.S. President and the mother of a U.S. President.