Wehrli’s Legislative Update: June 10, 2019

Lawmakers Approve Fiscal Year 2020 Budget

On May 31, Illinois lawmakers approved a $40.62 billion operating budget that eclipses the budget Governor JB Pritzker asked for in his January budget address by $800 million, and increases state spending by $2 billion over the current year. While the budget did have some bipartisan support and includes some beneficial components, I could not support it because the document was filed just hours before we were expected to vote on it. The process was severely flawed, excluded almost all Republicans, and didn’t do enough to pay down debt.

The 1,508-page budget document was filed as an amendment to SB 262 at noon on May 31st while we were on the floor debating the legalization of recreational marijuana. Obviously, no one on the Republican side of the aisle had time to examine the budget before it was brought to the House Executive Committee for consideration. I serve on the Executive committee, and we did our best to work through the document and ask appropriate questions. While we were able to review the main parts of the document, the process did not allow for a thorough vetting of the spending plan. My disappointment with the process was made clear during the committee hearing. Click here to watch part off my committee debate of the budget.

Dropping the budget without adequate time for proper review is a political trick used every year by the majority party. Each year Republicans digest as much of the budget information as we can, but we are always left wondering what poison pills we missed during our rushed review.

Democrats hid a $1,600 pay raise in this year’s budget. While it’s the first pay increase for legislators since 2008, members of the General Assembly typically reject COLAs. Back in March, one of my House Republican colleagues filed HB 2965, a measure that would prohibit lawmakers from accepting COLAs or increased reimbursement for mileage lodging and meals for next year. Every member of our caucus signed on as a co-sponsor, but that bill never left Speaker Madigan’s Rules Committee. I joined many House Republicans in calling for Governor Pritzker to eliminate the raise through an amendatory veto, but the Governor rejected our request and signed the budget with the raise included into law on June 5 as Public Act 101-0007.

Since I cannot reject the raise at this point, I will be donating my raise to a local non-profit.

Other bills approved last week that relate to the budget include:

  • SB 689 contains the FY20 operating budget revenue and key business reforms. I supported this bill.
  • SB 1814 creates the FY20 Budget Implementation Act (BIMP bill) which makes the changes in State programs that are necessary to implement the FY20 budget recommendations. I opposed this bill.

Wehrli Supports Pro-Jobs Reforms to Grow Illinois’ Economy

In exchange for some Republicans making difficult revenue votes last week, our caucus was able to negotiate key pro-business reforms that will grow jobs, boost the Illinois economy and provide relief to Illinois’ job creators. I was proud to support SB 689.

The pro-business reforms included in SB 689 include business-friendly initiatives Republicans have been championing for years. We’re delivering business tax credits, phasing out the corporate franchise tax, and putting incentives in place to attract construction and permanent jobs. It is important legislation that allows us to say for the first time in a long time, ‘Illinois is open for business.’

Specifically, SB 689 includes the following provisions:

  • Creates the Blue Collar Jobs Act, which offers tax incentives to companies making significant capital improvement in Illinois based on the withholding tax paid to construction workers
  • Provides incentives to attract the establishment of data centers in Illinois, providing for good construction jobs and high-paying long term tech jobs
  • Extends the Manufacturing Machinery and Equipment (MM&E) exemption to production-related tangible personal property to include certain supplies and consumables used in a manufacturing facility, like fuel, solvents, coolants, oils, adhesives, hand tools, protective apparel, and fire and safety equipment
  • Phases out the Corporate Franchise Tax beginning January 1, 2020
  • Expands the ability for sales tax to be collected on online purchases

Every one of these reforms makes Illinois a more attractive place to do business by providing some relief to job creators in the construction and manufacturing industries. In addition to these reforms, this year House Republicans were able to block an anti-business bill that would negatively affect ethanol and chemical plants. It was my pleasure to support these reforms that benefit our state’s business community.

First Capital infrastructure Program in a Decade Passed by the General Assembly
Illinois has not had a major capital and infrastructure package since 2009. In the decade that has passed since the last capital program, Illinois’ roads, bridges and building infrastructure has continued to decay, leading to massive capital needs across the state. Funding for the new capital bill came through two revenue bills that were presented on the final day of our spring session. I supported SB 690 , which creates revenue through a gaming expansion and new opportunities for sports betting, but opposed SB 1939, which provided additional revenue by doubling the motor fuel tax and raising other taxes and fees.

Democrats Advance Gov. Pritzker’s Graduated Tax Hike
On Memorial Day, the Democrat super-majority passed a graduated income tax amendment out of the Illinois House of Representatives, over strong Republican objections.

SJRCA 1 was adopted by the House on a partisan vote of 73-44, with all Republican members voting ‘No.’ As the constitutional amendment resolution was previously adopted by the Illinois Senate, it will be placed on the November 2020 general election ballot for voter approval or disapproval.

Following the successful vote, I released the following statement on the passage of the graduated tax amendment (SJRCA 1) from the House Chamber:

“While Illinoisans took pause today to honor and remember all those that gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we all remain free, Illinois Democrats decided instead to raise taxes. On a day when our minds should be on servicemen and women who are no longer with us, majority party legislators decided this time would be better spent pushing through an initiative that will harm families and businesses. It’s unconscionable and disrespectful.”

“Democrats have said the people of Illinois deserve to have their voices heard at the ballot box on whether or not we should change our Constitution to provide for a graduated income tax. These are the same people who sidestepped reasonable posting requirements on Friday to stifle constituent voices on a related bill. And it’s the same people who, just a few years ago, ignored over 563,000 Illinoisans who signed a petition asking for a voice at the polls on fair maps. Cherry picking when people deserve a voice and when they don’t is incredibly disingenuous. If we’re going to open the Constitution to address our tax structure we should also be opening it to address important issues like fair maps, term limits and pensions.”

The graduated income tax proposal rammed through by the Democrats will raise taxes on Illinois families and businesses by at least $3.4 billion. Illinois residents are already paying the highest combined state and local taxes in the nation, in addition to some of the highest property tax rates in the nation. We believe the Democrats’ graduated tax hike proposal puts families and businesses even more at risk.

Democrats also passed SB 687, which contains their proposed graduated income tax rates. It amends the Illinois Income Tax Act to impose a graduated income tax rate structure on individuals and increase the income tax rate on corporations. Provides that on or after January 1 2021 (pending voter approval of SJRCA 1), the following income tax rates apply:

The current Illinois Constitution provides safeguards and protections for middle-income families that we desperately need to keep in Illinois. It helps to force lawmakers to face economic and spending realities. Illinois families can’t afford to give Democrats a blank check. 

Illinois General Assembly Passes Bill to Legalize Recreational Marijuana
On the final day of the regular spring session, the House of Representatives passed legislation legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in Illinois. The bill takes effect on January 1, 2020. I could not support the legalization of recreational marijuana because first and foremost, marijuana is still a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. As such, research into its true effects is limited. I believe marijuana should be removed from the federal Schedule I list of prohibited drugs so the real impact of its use can be thoroughly studied.

HB 1438 allows for the recreational use of cannabis by individuals over the age of 21. Illinois citizens may possess up to 30 grams of cannabis and out of state individuals may possess up to 15 grams. Medical cannabis patients may grow up to 5 plants in their residence.

It also expunges arrest records for possession of cannabis up to 30 grams. For individuals who have convictions for possession of up to 30 grams, the Governor will pardon those individuals and the Attorney General will file a petition to expunge. For those individuals convicted of possession between 30-500 grams, they may file a motion to vacate or expunge their records.

I believe it’s irresponsible to rush this legalization when we do not have empirical data that shows us the real impact long-term cannabis use has on the human brain. The research simply is not there, and I could not put a vote on a measure that could cause real, long-term and irreversible damage to people.

Rep. Wehrli to Host Mobile Office Hours on June 14

I’ll be continuing my mobile office hours tour this week on Friday, June 14 with a two-hour event scheduled at the Naperville Public Library’s 95th Street Location at 3015 Cedar Glade Road in Naperville. A member of my staff and I have space reserved in Conference Room A from 10:00 AM until noon.

The event is the second of a series of mobile office hours meant to provide residents of the 41st Legislative House District with easy access to their elected Springfield representative.

Those who attend can share opinions and ideas and receive assistance with issues involving state agencies. I look forward to talking one-on-one with people as I bring my office to the constituents I serve. No appointment is needed. Future mobile office hours dates and locations will be posted on my web site at repwehrli.com.

Rep. Grant Wehrli Launches “Wednesdays with Wehrli” Community Coffees

As an additional method for community outreach, on Wednesday, June 19 I will hold my first “Wednesdays with Wehrli” community coffee from 8:00 AM until 10:00 AM in downtown Naperville. Join me for a cup of coffee at Einstein Bagels, located at 22 Jackson Avenue in Naperville, so we can talk about the legislative session that just ended and about other topics that are important to you. Community outreach is essential, and I will be hosting a variety of events with hopes of making myself more available to the people who live in the 41st House District.