Illinois State CapitolThe State Journal-Register - May 30, 2017 | original article

By Doug Finke

Illinois senators Tuesday approved bills that impose a two-year property tax freeze for school districts and local governments outside of Chicago.

The legislation – Senate Bill 482 and Senate Bill 484 – now go to the House.

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office, which has sought a four-year property tax freeze, labeled the bills “phony.”

Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said the legislation fulfills Rauner’s desire to have a property tax freeze as a condition of the General Assembly raising taxes to balance the budget.

“This is a full property tax freeze,” Cullerton said. “The question is the length. My philosophy is two years is a really good start, and if it is so popular, we can come back and do it again.”

That wasn’t good enough for Senate Republicans, most of whom voted against the bills.

“We have the highest property taxes in the entire country,” said Sen. Karen McConnaughay, R-St. Charles. “It’s one of the driving reasons why people leave the state of Illinois. If we are going to pass a massive income tax (hike), don’t we think the very least we can do for the people of Illinois is to give them more relief than what is being presented?”

“If we pretend to care about our constituents, we need to do more than a two-year freeze,” said Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet.

Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, said Republicans were unwilling to buck Rauner in the name of compromise.

“The Senate Democrats have stood up and done the right thing,” Bush said. “If we really want to change the trajectory, you’ve got to get the cojones over there to stand up to Gov. Rauner. It’s time to do the right thing. Stop the damn politics.”

In the end, though, only three Republicans voted for the two bills – Sam McCann of Plainview, Sue Rezin of Morris and Kyle McCarter of Lebanon. Nine other Republicans voted “present” on both bills.

Read more...

Category: In The News

Lake County trafficChicago Tribune - May 14, 2017 | original article

By Mary Wisniewski

Lake County has many beauties — the lakes, the forest preserves, the antiques stores.

But one place you don't want to be is on Illinois Route 120 during rush hour, when congestion causes major backups on the partly two-lane highway that runs east/west through the center of the county.

Widening and realigning parts of Route 120 are part of a long-discussed proposal to extend Illinois Route 53 north to Lake County and turn it into a T-shaped tollway, with Route 120 at the top.

But the 53/120 plan appears to be ailing. Key supporters have backed out. The Illinois Tollway voted in December 2015 to spend up to $50 million for a comprehensive environmental study, but nothing has happened.

Meanwhile, communities along Route 120, also known as Belvidere Road, have grown tired of waiting. The county's population has almost doubled in the past 50 years, and a road that had served a mostly rural area is now a key suburban connection. Local officials want to work with federal, state and county leaders to fix the troubled route soon, regardless of whether the ambitious Route 53 component ever happens.

"I think 120 is the number one priority that Lake County needs," said Lake County Board Chair Aaron Lawlor, who dropped his support for the Route 53 expansion last year. "That's the number one project that's been held hostage by 53 in the last 50 years."

Grayslake Village Manager Mike Ellis said he did not have an opinion on Route 53. "My concern is 120 and what can be done," Ellis said.

Grayslake and the communities of Lakemoor, Volo, Round Lake, Round Lake Park and Hainesville got together to come up with a consensus list of Belvidere Road improvements. Ellis said the communities want to focus local and state leaders' attention on Route 120.

"It's a long road to get to the road," Ellis said. "The quicker we can get these specific improvements on people's minds, the better."

State Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, said her office will hold meetings over the summer with the Illinois Department of Transportation, road builders and other stakeholders about Route 120.

"These are improvements that have needed to be done in the last 20 years," Bush said.

Read the full story...

Category: In The News

Illinois Senate chamberABC7 Chicago - May 10, 2017 | original article

Republicans cut short an attempt by Illinois Senate Democrats to recharge the "grand bargain" budget compromise with time running out on the legislative session.

The grand bargain is a package of legislation Senate leaders designed last winter to break what has become a two-year logjam on an annual spending plan.

But sticking points continue to be GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner's demands for restrictions on workers' compensation payouts and a permanent property tax freeze for homeowners.

The Senate voted 35-15 to give local governments flexibility on paying debts. It's one of the few measures with bipartisan support in a package that's supposed to help break a logjam on a state budget deal.

Democratic Senate President John Cullerton of Chicago then tried to call workers' comp and tax-freeze legislation Rauner won't accept. Republican Leader Chrstine Radogno of Lemont declined to let her bills go up for a vote.

Cullerton says he can't compromise on the bills further. Radogno says he has to and that the two sides are "very close."

State Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) released a statement, saying, "For months, Senate Republicans and the governor have said, 'Just one more thing and the deal will be good. We just need a little more time.' We've changed the Grand Bargain bills over 30 times to meet Republican demands. We tried compromising on non-budgetary reforms, but the Republicans and Governor Rauner have made it clear that no compromise will ever be good enough. They say they need a little more time, but we don't have any more time. The end of session is just three weeks away. The people of Illinois can't wait any longer. Passing a balanced budget must be our sole focus."

The state has gone two years without a budget. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and legislative Democrats have tussled over a tax increase to battle a deficit while Rauner demands regulatory changes such as restrictions on workers' compensation payouts and a freeze on local property taxes.

Category: In The News

US CapitolIllinois News Network - May 8, 2017 | original article

By Cole Lauterbach

Illinois state senators progressed a bill that would have removed President Donald Trump from the ballot in Illinois if it were law last year.

The sponsor, State Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, says his legislation would require any presidential candidate wishing to appear on Illinois' ballot to disclose the previous five years of tax returns to the Illinois Secretary of State's office, who would then make them public.

"I think this gives the voters the ability to evaluate the candidates standing before them for the most powerful office in the history of the world," he said.

Trump declined to disclose his tax information, saying he was under audit.

State Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, says people have a right to know this information.

"Seeing someone who's running for president's tax return is something we expect," she said.

Read the full story...

Category: In The News

opioid crisis button