Lawmakers are back in Springfield for the final four weeks of the spring session. While we’ve been meeting regularly since mid-January, I’m again puzzled that the most impactful legislative initiatives have been delayed until this final month.
With just 20-21 scheduled session days remaining, legislators are expected to come to agreement on a FY20 budget, the legalization of recreational marijuana, a capital bill to fund road and bridge projects, a gaming/sports betting bill, and the graduated income tax. All of these big-ticket discussions must take place at the same time as the House is considering the 395 Senate bills that were recently sent over to our chamber for consideration.
While the budget is typically a May issue, I’m wondering why these other issues have yet to be addressed. History tells us that when legislators rush, we make mistakes. When we are not deliberate with our bill reviews, we end up with bad legislation.
The issues receiving the most headlines are the legalization of recreational marijuana and the change from a flat income tax to a graduated tax structure. I have significant concerns about the law enforcement and public safety elements of a marijuana legalization bill. We must have an accurate method for conducting field sobriety tests for those who would use marijuana. Currently no such system exists, and other states where marijuana has been legalized have experienced an uptick in traffic accidents. I’m also concerned about those who work in fields where drug testing is required for job safety.
The House Republican Caucus is unanimously opposed to a graduated income tax. The majority party raised taxes in 2011 and 2017, and both times they promised the new revenue would address the state’s fiscal crisis. Today our debt is higher than ever, and rather than looking at reforms at how Illinois operates, many of my colleagues in Springfield are only interested in raising taxes again. Illinoisans shouldn’t be duped into believing that that this tax would forever only affect the top 3 percent of wage earners. The language of the proposal does not set rates; it simply removes the flat tax guarantee and leaves it up to Springfield legislators to set rates — rates that can be increased anytime they need more money for their new spending.
Governor JB Pritzker admitted his FY20 budget proposal is $3.2 billion out-of-balance. In spite of that fact, proponents in the House have brought forth proposals this year that would spend more than $12 billion in new spending. Do you trust Springfield politicians with what equates to essentially a blank check to fund the budget?