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State Senator Heather Steans Springfield Update

Posted on March 21, 2011

Dear Neighbor,
 
Last week the Senate took a significant step toward creating a balanced budget, passing a revenue resolution that provides estimates on what the state can afford to spend in FY12.  This update explains our revenue estimate as well as shares information on bills that I and colleagues are working on in the Senate.
 
Budget - Revenue Estimates and Next Steps
The Senate passed a resolution that estimates state revenues will be $34.3 billion in FY12.  As I mentioned last week, this estimate is based on projections by the bipartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA), less $600 million that would require legislative action to obtain.  COGFA believes its estimate is conservative, using 3.1% growth rate in personal and corporate income taxes compared to a 3.6% 15 year average and a much higher average (over 5%) after recessions.  With the reduction of the $600 million, these estimates are also gimmick free - only secure, predictable revenue sources are included.  You can view the resolution here, and get more information on how COGFA derived it’s estimates here.
 
Our next step will be to allocate dollars for fixed expenditures, such as pension payments and debt service.  The remaining dollars will be available to appropriate to state agencies and operations.  We will NOT spend beyond these available revenues.  This level of spending will require cuts to FY11 spending and to the Governor’s proposed FY12 budget.  We are beginning to implement a new method to appropriate dollars, Budgeting for Results.  The goal is to review the effectiveness of state programs to determine how we can prioritize spending so that taxpayers’ dollars are used wisely, enabling us to cut waste, fraud, mismanagement, and inefficient programs first.  We look forward to working on a sensible spending plan in a bipartisan fashion as well.
 
Legislation
The bills I worked on last week include:
1.  Campaign Contribution Limits for Party Leaders (SB1272).  Last session we passed and the Governor signed into law Illinois’ first ever campaign contribution limits.  While this new law limits what party leaders can contribute to races in the primary elections, it did not limit what leaders can contribute in the general election.  This bill establish such limits ($175,000 for a state senate race and $125,000 for a state representative race), and received editorial support from both the Sun-Times and the Tribune.  While I could not get this bill passed, I obtained assurance that the Task Force charged with reviewing the campaign contribution law will analyze this bill and develop a recommendation.
2.  Social Security Offset (SB144).  Currently seniors are discriminated against if they are laid off.  Their unemployment insurance (UI) benefits are reduced by half of any social security income they receive .  Illinois is one of only 2 states that has not repealed this social security offset.  I am working to ensure we end this discriminatory practice.
3.  Comprehensive Sex Education (SB1619).  If a public school teaches sex education, this bill requires the school to use evidence-based, age appropriate and medically accurate curriculums that stress abstinence and include other methods of protection.  The goal is to prevent unwanted pregnancies and the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases.  This bill passed out of committee.
 
Other big ticket items that are being considered this session are highlighted below.  Not all of them have bill numbers yet.
 
1.  Education reform.  Senator Lightford is negotiating with all interested parties a bill that incorporates teacher performance into tenure and layoff procedures.
2.  Retiree health care contributions.  Senator Schoenberg is developing legislation that would require retirees to increase contributions for healthcare benefits on a sliding scale basis to protect lower income retirees.
3.  Cigarette tax increase for State capital plan (SB21).  Revenue from a proposed $1/pack increase would support the State’s capital program.  President Cullerton has also proposed an end to legalized video gaming as a revenue stream for capital.
4.  Commission to eliminate units of local government (SB 1926).  Illinois has over 7,000 units of local government - far more than other states.  Senator Link’s bill would create a commission similar to the federal base closing commission to recommend combining and eliminating some of them, with binding recommendations unless voted down by the General Assembly.
5.  Consolidation of State Treasurer and Comptroller (SJR13).  Senator Raoul’s resolution would place a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot to combine these two offices.
 
Please let me know if you have any questions about any of these bills or others that I have not mentioned.  You can email me back or reach my by phone at 773-769-1717.
 
Best regards,
Heather Steans
_________________________________________________________________________
Community Event
Please save the Date for the North Lake Shore Earth Day 2011
SAVING GREEN TOGETHER
Saving Money and Saving Greenspace
DATE:  April 16, 2011
Time:  10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Place:  Quinlan Life Sciences Building - 1050 W. Sheridan Road
773-508-7450 - LUC.edu/earthday
If you would like to volunteer at this event please email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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