SPRINGFIELD – Illinois’ legislative leaders and the Governor are set to meet Dec. 1 to talk about the state budget impasse, but several factors could delay action on passing a budget until early next year.
Also during the week, the state’s ranking has improved in an annual assessment of how states’ tax structures impact businesses climates.
In other news, drivers are urged to travel carefully as the AAA organization is anticipating high volumes of travelers on the road this year.
High school students propose new laws to Sen. Barickman at Youth Advisory Council kick off
For the second year, State Senator Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) kicked off his “Youth Advisory Council” by inviting students from across the 53rd District to join him in Bloomington-Normal to propose new laws to improve their state.
“Adults often complain that our younger generation isn’t engaged in what’s happening in their state government,” said Senator Barickman. “This is a way to bring them into the process and let them know that they have a voice and can make a difference on issues important to them.”
More than a dozen schools from throughout the 53rd District were represented at the event on November 20th at the Illinois State University Alumni Center. Students were divided into several groups and tasked with proposing new legislation to tackle an issue important to them.
“There’s actually a very healthy discussion between people of different views,” said Normal West High School Senior Shea Grehan, “And views haven’t gotten in the way of discussing and proposing issues.”
The proposed bills ranged from reforming state assessment tests to legalizing assisted suicide. All the groups then voted on the various ideas in a runoff to pick one proposal to move forward with. The students eventually selected a plan to change college entrance exams. The students will come to the State Capitol in Springfield during the regular spring legislative session for further action on their plan.
“Hoping to gain more knowledge of politics itself and kind of how I can influence things and have my voice heard,” said Dwight Township High School Sophomore Faith Rowland. “Though I am only 15 and I can’t vote yet, I still want my voice to be heard.”
Students at the event also learned more about the legislative process through discussions with Senator Barickman and State Representative Dan Brady (R-Bloomington), and also heard a presentation from Central Illinois businessman Habeeb Habeeb.
“Not that many students know about their state or local government,” said Normal Community High School Junior Aishwarya Shekara. “I think this gives us more insight into our state government, and what the Senator is doing and what we can do to help our own people.”
The spring session of the Youth Advisory Council is tentatively scheduled for April 13th in Springfield.
Factors may further delay budget resolution
With the state’s budget impasse about to enter its sixth month, a budget meeting between the four legislative leaders and Gov. Bruce Rauner is set to take place Dec. 1 in Springfield.
In addition to the challenges of coming to an agreement on spending and revenue levels for Fiscal Year 2016, there is also the difficult task of getting lawmakers back to Springfield during the holiday season, as well as getting the support of individual lawmakers who are concerned about constituent backlash over tough fiscal decisions.
Waiting another month, however, would ease the pressure to forge a compromise. Illinois’ constitution states that after May 31, a three-fifths vote, not a simple majority vote, is required in both chambers to pass a bill that will take effect prior to July 1 of the next year. In January, a budget agreement would require fewer votes, a simple majority – 60 in the House and 30 in the Senate.
Senate Republican members are hoping the Democrat legislative majorities will negotiate in good faith, so Illinois can achieve progress on structural reforms needed to right the state’s fiscal ship, create jobs, boost the economy, and move Illinois forward.
Illinois’ tax ranking improves, but reforms needed
The Tax Foundation is giving Illinois a better ranking this year in its assessment of how states’ tax structures impact business climates. Illinois moved up from 31st to 23rd this year because the state’s temporary income tax hike was allowed to expire after four years.
In January 2011, Democrat leaders forced through a temporary hike in the individual and corporate income tax rates. The temporary increase was supposed to be used to address the state’s pension crisis and start paying down Illinois’ staggering pile of unpaid bills.
The increase generated more than $32 billion over the four-year period, but under Democrat control during that time, the state’s fiscal problems remained. Today, the state’s pension debt is $132 billion, the credit rating has been downgraded several times, and unpaid bills are estimated at more than $7 billion (expected to grow to $8.5 billion by the end of the year).
The combined corporate income tax rate now stands at 7.75 percent, and the individual income tax is 3.75 percent.
Many experts believe the key to boosting revenue in the state is making structural reforms to state government and creating a better business climate so more jobs are created and the state’s economy moves forward.
Senator Barickman is asking Illinois residents to help those less fortunate by donating to a local foodbank. During the holiday season, many foodbanks suggest donations of canned pumpkin, canned yams, cranberry sauce, boxed stuffing, and other non-perishable holiday food items.
Throughout the year, foodbanks are always looking for donations of shelf-stable proteins like canned tuna, chicken and other meats, canned and dried beans, peanut butter, nuts, and trail mix, as well as pantry staples like rice, oatmeal, pasta, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, canned vegetables, flour and cooking oils.
Minonk Food Pantry
670 N Chestnut St, Minonk, IL 61760
Center of Hope Food Pantry
1801 W Hovey Ave Ste E Normal, Illinois 61761, 1801 Ste E Cottage Ave, Normal, IL 61761
Ford County Food Pantry
780 S Vermillion St, Paxton, IL 60957
You can find out where your closest food bank is located by clicking here.
AAA: Heavy travel expected during Thanksgiving week
According to the recently released travel outlook from auto group AAA, as many as 46.9 million Americans plan on traveling during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, the highest Thanksgiving travel volume since 2007.
Attributing the high numbers to lower gas prices, AAA is anticipating 300,000 more travelers this year than in 2014.
Travelers are encouraged to be aware and stay safe during their holiday travels. The Illinois Department of Transportation provides travel information at its Web site.
Attorney General releases Safe Shopping Guide
The Attorney General’s office has released the annual Safe Shopping Guide highlighting hazardous toys, children’s products and household items that have been recalled over the past year to help Illinois families ensure their home is safe for the holidays.
The 2015 Safe Shopping Guide includes descriptions and photographs of nearly 100 children’s products recalled in the last year – from popular children’s toys and games that pose choking hazards, to children’s furniture and playsets that pose entrapment or falling risks.
The Guide also details practices that should be used with many popular holiday gifts with internet access, including smartphones, gaming consoles, and tablets.