Legislative Update: May 6, 2019

Wehrli Urges Pritzker to Get His Own Finances Under Control Before Pushing New Income Tax Plan
Earlier this month Illinoisans learned that Governor JB Pritzker is under federal investigation for a dubious property tax appeal that the Cook County Inspector General called a “scheme to defraud” taxpayers. On Wednesday, May 1, I was proud to stand with a group of House Republicans who called on JB Pritzker to get his own tax situation under control before pushing a new tax proposal on Illinois families. I was joined at the Capitol press conference by State Representatives Mark Batinick, Margo McDermed, Patrick Windhorst and Avery Bourne.

Illinois Democrats raised income taxes in 2011 and 2017. Both tax hikes were done under the premise that the new revenue would address the state’s fiscal crisis. Neither tax hike fixed the State’s problems, and instead our debt is higher than ever. New spending proposals just keep coming, and this year alone new spending initiatives topping $12 billion have been filed through legislation. We need to stop spending and show some fiscal responsibility and restraint.

The flat income tax guarantee is one of the last good things Illinois has going for it. Today, if lawmakers want to raise income tax rates, they must raise them on everyone. That gives us pause, because we know we would be causing a real hardship on some people. By removing that protection, lawmakers would be able to bring more and more people into higher tax brackets over time as they increase state spending. If this initiative makes it to the ballot, I hope Illinoisans think long and hard about whether they can trust legislators to set responsible rates and hold their spending to what is affordable through those rates.

Click here to watch my portion of the press conference, or click here to watch the entire press conference.

Senate Democrats Advance Graduated Income Tax Package
Just hours after our Capitol press conference on May 1, Illinois Senate Democrats passed a graduated tax package out of the Senate that would increase taxes by more than $3.5 billion per year. The Senate tax package includes four pieces of legislation. The four-piece package is tied together, meaning all of the bills must pass or none of them takes effect. The bills include:

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT

SJRCA 1, which was approved along party lines with all 19 Senate Republicans voting “no,” would remove the flat income tax requirement from the Illinois Constitution and provide that the General Assembly would set the income tax rate or graduated tax rates. Today’s flat tax guarantee is an important protection, which if removed, would provide legislators with a much easier method through which to raise taxes in the future. The Constitutional Amendment would not enshrine actual rates, therefore eliminating any protections from tax hikes beyond year one.

GRADUATED INCOME TAX

Senate Bill 687 (approved 36-22) contains the new graduated income tax rates/brackets. In some cases, the rates are even higher than what was proposed by Governor Pritzker just two months ago. As approved, the Senate proposal raises the top income tax rate to 7.99% from 7.95% in Governor Pritzker’s proposal and kicks in for individual filers with income over $750,000 and joint filers with income over $1 million. The highest 7.99% tax rate would apply to all income.

ESTATE TAX REPEAL

Senate Bill 689 (approved 33-24) would repeal the Illinois estate tax. This repeal is contingent upon passage of the graduated tax amendment. According to COGFA’s FY20 estimate, repealing the estate tax would reduce state revenue by approximately $300 million.

CONDITIONAL PROPERTY TAX FREEZE

Senate Bill 690 (approved 36-18) would provide property tax relief beginning in 2021, based upon the condition that the State fully funds K-12 education. This would require $350 million annually for the new evidence-based funding formula and approximately $300 million for mandated categorical payments. If these education funding requirements are met, property tax rates for school districts would be frozen for the coming year and every year thereafter in which the State meets the full funding requirement. This conditional property tax freeze would also be contingent upon passage of the graduated tax amendment.

Rep. Wehrli Visited by Leaders from Naperville’s All Saints Catholic Academy
I always enjoy talking with local people who are visiting Springfield. Last week I received a visit from leaders from All Saints Catholic Academy in Naperville. School Principal Melissa Santos, Director of Student Services Patty Bajek and School Board member and parent Christopher Johanneson were in Springfield to discuss an important tax credit that provides educational opportunities for students. We had a nice conversation, and specifically discussed the merits of Illinois’ Invest in Kids Act.

Illinois enacted the Invest In Kids Scholarship Tax Credit Program in 2017. The program offers a 75 percent income tax credit to individuals and businesses that contribute to qualified Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs), like All Saints Academy. The SGOs then provide scholarships for students whose families meet income requirements and would otherwise not be able to afford to attend qualified, non-public schools in Illinois.

This tax credit program does not take money from public schools, as some opponents would claim. I was a proud supporter of the program when it was implemented, and oppose the current suggestion by Governor Pritzker that funding be slashed for these scholarships in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget.

Local Realtors Visit Capitol for Lobby Day
The Capitol hallways were bustling last week with groups lobbying in favor of issues that are important to them. I had a wonderful visit on Tuesday from local realtors who were in Springfield for the Illinois Realtors’ Association Lobby Day. There were hundreds of realtors at the Capitol on Tuesday, and I enjoyed talking with local folks about the important work they do in the residential and commercial areas of real estate.

Deaths of Children Spur Calls for Major Reform
Illinois children at risk are supposed to be looked after by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). When these children are injured or killed, many Illinoisans are both stricken with sadness and increasingly determined to overturn the system that failed these at-risk youths. In recent days, many Illinoisans are thinking and talking about the life and death of A.J. Freund of Crystal Lake in nearby McHenry County.

Many facts about the death of 5-year-old Freund are still not known, and further investigations are taking place. The almost unimaginable fact that the young boy was beaten to death has sent shock waves through the entire state. The inability of the youngster to get lifesaving help from DCFS has raised very serious questions about the Department and its personnel. Now, the words of a 2018 letter from the McHenry County State’s Attorney have come to light. In this letter, the prosecutor describes three separate previous cases in which the agency’s local caseworkers allegedly failed to act to protect children and cooperate with prosecutors who were trying to carry out legal interventions.  

In the case of young A.J. Freund, the youth’s parents had been “under investigation” by DCFS, and his case had been “open” until it was closed by the discovery of his body. House Republicans are determined to take action and look seriously and deeply at DCFS, and at the bureaucratic culture of the Department. I have already been outspoken about the repeated failures of DCFS with regard to the case of A.J. Freund. Click here to read about comments I made to DCFS officials at a recent hearing.

Large Crowd Turns Out for Wehrli Town Hall Meeting

Toward the end of April, close to 100 people came out for my spring open topics town hall meeting in Naperville. After a brief PowerPoint that outlined my legislative initiatives this year and other bills of interest, I fielded questions on a variety of topics. I believe all who attended left with a better understanding of the challenges we face as a state, and how I am working locally to address issues important to the 41st District. Several constituents stayed after the event to have one-on-one conversations about individual issues of interest.

Topics discussed included the May push to approve a budget for Fiscal Year 2020, the need for pension reform, legislation to legalize recreational marijuana, property tax issues and more. The meeting also included a lengthy discussion about Governor JB Pritzker’s desire to remove the flat income tax guarantee from the Illinois Constitution and replace it with a graduated tax structure that would hike taxes on Illinois families and businesses.

New Residential Garbage & Recycling Contract Now Underway
As you may know, Groot Industries now has the Naperville contract for weekly garbage, recycling and yard waste pick-up. Your current collection day will not change, and there is no need to purchase new garbage or recycling carts.

As we all engage in Spring Cleaning of our homes and garages, I also want to provide a reminder about the wonderful recycling drop-off center that accepts materials from Naperville residents at no cost. With an eye toward environmental protection, I took advantage of the recycling center over the weekend as we cleaned out our garage. It couldn’t have been simpler. Naperville’s Environmental Collection Campus is located at 156 Fort Hill Drive.

Paper, glass, plastic and scrap metal items may be brought to the center on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8:00 AM until 4:00 PM. Access to the drop-off center is from the one-way drive off of Fort Hill Drive. Please note that no box trucks or vehicles larger than a pick-up truck or van will be permitted to drop off materials for recycling.

Oil-based and alkyd paints, pesticides, automotive fluids and other toxic products must be dropped off at the Household Hazardous Waste Facility on the same campus. Those items will be accepted on Saturdays and Sundays from 9:00 AM until 2:00 PM.

The collection center is also once again serving as a collection point for electronics recycling from 7:00 AM until 3:00 PM on weekdays. A small fee applies for CRT, flat screens, projection TVs and monitors. Many other electronic items are accepted at no cost.

For more information about the City of Naperville’s recycling opportunities, click here.