Rep. Keith Wheeler
Students, parents and teachers deserve to have schools open on time.  Taxpayers deserve to have their taxes support the school districts where they pay taxes.

Unfortunately, school funding is unnecessarily in jeopardy this fall because of political games in Springfield.  Our children’s educations should not be at risk due to a manufactured political crisis designed to send more money to Chicago.

Schools in Oswego and Yorkville are scheduled to start on August 16th.  State aid payments to local school districts need to be sent by August 10th.  The Illinois State Board of Education needs to prepare vouchers for those payments by August 3rd

The holdup is that the current bill regarding school funding, SB1, has been held in the Senate since May 31st on a purely procedural measure designed to create pressure on legislators.  The Governor has stated plans to use and amendatory veto when he receives the bill to remove the special treatment for Chicago which lawmakers can sustain or override.  Chicago Democrats want to override the veto but don’t currently have the votes.  That explains the pressure.
State Rep. Keith Wheeler
Imagine suburban and downstate school superintendents arguing against additional state funding for their school districts.  That is actually happening.

Imagine suburban and downstate teachers arguing against additional state funding for their schools.  That is also actually happening.

Imagine a suburban or downstate parent (local property taxpayer) thinking that they are getting a fair return on their investment in their kids’ education through all the money they pay to support local schools. After all, it’s their tax dollars funding the salaries of those very same local school administrators and faculty who are arguing that local schools shouldn’t get their fair share of new state education funding. This is the reality we’re living in today.

Some discussions with school officials and teachers regarding Illinois school funding, and SB1 in particular, have been very disappointing.  We have seen school superintendents testify before the entire House of Representatives and ignore questions about how their district would fare under SB1 alternatives (they would all get more funding) with a disingenuous attitude demonstrated by a clear lack of understanding about the political process in Springfield.
State Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego)
There was intense concern raised during the final days of the recent debate on the income tax hike about the potential for the state's bonds being downgraded to junk status and the dramatic and lasting consequences that would bring should a budget fail to be passed. It should disappoint all Illinoisans that the General Assembly didn't do its job and send a budget along with substantial reforms to the Governor's desk to avoid this catastrophe.

Instead, a budget and a tax hike were sent to the Governor that everyone knew was going to be vetoed. This is direct fallout of the Speaker's approach to apply maximum pressure up against a terrifying deadline from which there appears to be no return…
BUDGET
·         Republican Legislators Present Compromise Balanced Budget Plan.  House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs), Senate Republican Caucus Whip Karen McConnaughay (R-St. Charles), Assistant Senate Republican Leader Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington), Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon), Deputy House Republican Leader Patti Bellock (R-Hinsdale) and House Republican Conference Chairperson Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) have introduced a package of bills to end the budget impasse. The bills represent a compromise balanced budget and reforms that address the priorities of both parties, and urged the General Assembly to return to Springfield to vote on this proposal.

“Time is running out before the fiscal year ends, and we must act now! Where is the sense of urgency with Speaker Madigan to end this stalemate? Lawmakers should be in Springfield working around the clock until our job is finished. This comprehensive budget package with structural reforms that we are proposing today is the path forward to breaking the budget impasse,” said Durkin.

The comprehensive proposal includes a truly balanced budget, a four-year hard spending cap, lasting property tax relief, and changes to our regulatory system that will create jobs and grow the economy. The bills also include a $250 million increase for the new school funding formula, and fulfilling commitments to restore child care eligibility to 185% of the federal poverty level and a wage increase to Direct Support Professionals. It also includes term limits on legislative leaders and constitutional officers.
Budget
·         COGFA report shows slight uptick in total Illinois tax revenue.  The monthly report by the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) showed State general funds tax receipts up $143 million in May 2017.  The tax receipt increase is independent of “transfers in,” a separate table of non-tax general funds revenues such as profits from Illinois State Lottery ticket sales.  The increase in May 2017 tax revenues was entirely attributed to increased revenues from the personal income tax paid by almost all Illinois employees, with personal income tax receipts up $179 million over comparable figures reported in May 2016. 

Corporate income tax receipts continued to plunge during the 31-day reporting period, with this revenue stream down $72 million.  The decline of almost one-half in year-over-year corporate income tax payments to the State of Illinois reflected the continued movement of U.S. business from C-class corporate taxpayers, which was the dominant business model in former years,  toward the attribution of taxable revenues to pass-through entities, often organized as wholly-owned subsidiaries of holding companies.  The Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) has taken account of this change and has re-classified much of its remaining business tax receipts as individual income tax receipts, paid at individual income tax rates.
State Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) joined Rick Pearson on WGN Radio's "Sunday Spin" program on June 4. Click HERE to listen to the interview.


Budget – General Assembly
·         Democrats fail to enact budget.  Here we go again. We've reached the May 31st session deadline and once again, the Democrat-controlled General Assembly has failed to do its job. 

This week marked 700 days without a State budget. This is the longest period without a budget of any state in modern U.S. history. 

No balanced budget, no meaningful reforms to get Illinois back on track.

Democrats have spent months hurling insults and unfounded accusations against Republicans to distract from their own fiscal irresponsibility.

The majority party has blamed the Governor and House Republicans for the lack of a balanced budget. And yet, for the second year in a row, the Democratic-controlled legislature has failed to send a budget, balanced or not, to the Governor.
By Keith R. Wheeler
State Representative, 50th District

When I arrived in Springfield in January of 2015, we had a new Governor, a new class of Senators and Representatives, and a sense of optimism that we were about to turn Illinois around. I was ecstatic to begin enacting the reforms that the incoming class of legislators championed: a property tax freeze, meaningful job creation reforms and fair election maps.

As a freshman legislator, I heard rumors that some Democrats in the House were planning to sabotage Governor Rauner by refusing to pass a single budget during his tenure. The thinking behind that plan is that Illinois would be so drastically harmed during his first term that a second term would be unthinkable. It was dubious to me that anyone would consider that a legitimate plan for our state. I couldn’t bring myself to believe that elected officials who pledged to serve the people of Illinois would be willing to allow such catastrophic suffering in order to maintain their power.

Now in my third year of regular session, I am disgusted and disappointed to see this is indeed the course of action Speaker Madigan has chosen.  While some point their finger at the Governor for the budget impasse, they should take a much closer look in Speaker Madigan’s direction.  The General Assembly hasn’t passed a constitutional (balanced) budget since May of 2013.  That was more than a year and a half before Governor Rauner even took office.  Over the last 20 years, not a single budget proposal by any governor, Republican or Democrat, was passed by the General Assembly.  However, every one of those budgets that became law have the Speaker’s fingerprints all over them.
Kane County Reporter

Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) decried a workers' compensation reform bill that Democrats passed during the final hours of the legislative session on Wednesday.

“There is no savings in this bill," Wheeler said. "Realistically, if you balance out everything in this bill, it’s not going to come out to any real savings."

Proponents of House Bill 2525 say it would help regulate workers' compensation by requiring insurers to submit rates to the Illinois Department of Insurance for examination of potential overcharges, thereby ensuring that employers are paying rates relative to the market. It would also create a Workers' Compensation Premium Rate Task Force to study the extent to which the premiums reflect the recommendation of the National Council on Compensation Insurance...
A simple Facebook post about Illinois’ high property taxes draws impassioned responses from frustrated Illinois homeowners who have had enough.  My high school classmate and neighbor wrote:

"I wish my taxes were $4100 😒 - our entire extended family are considering leaving Illinois soon. Our parents cannot continue to pay a "mortgage" for their taxes for the rest of their lives on a fixed income. After living here for generations, we are taxed out."

In 2016, Kendall County, my home county, had the highest property tax rate as a percentage of home value in Illinois. Kane County, part of which I am honored to represent in Springfield, had the seventh-highest rate.

According to the New York Times in March of 2017, Illinois has the second highest property tax rate as a percentage of home value at 2.3% in the United States just behind the national leader, New Jersey, who comes in at 2.35%.
Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego)
SPRINGFIELD – In an effort to propel the state budget process forward, State Representative Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) sent a letter to Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Thursday calling on her to use the power of her office to force the Illinois General Assembly to adopt a revenue estimate prior to the filing and passage of any spending bills, in order to prevent further damage to the state’s finances and the many social service providers who serve the most vulnerable individuals and families across Illinois. Representative Wheeler’s letter to the Attorney General was co-signed by 39 other House Republican legislators.

In the letter, Representative Wheeler cites several prior court rulings and instances which set precedent for the Attorney General to intervene to ensure the Illinois Constitution is upheld. Both the Constitution and state law require the General Assembly to adopt a revenue estimate on which to base a balanced budget for the forthcoming fiscal year, an action which legislators have failed to take in either of the past two years and haven’t yet done for the coming fiscal year.

“It is time for the Attorney General to step in,” Representative Wheeler said. “The majority party in the General Assembly refuses to do their job and take the first, most basic step in the state budget process, which is to adopt a revenue estimate. It is common sense that you can’t determine how much you’re going to spend; and on which priorities, until you know how much revenue you have. Illinois families and taxpayers understand this principle; and until two years ago, the state did too.”
Budget
·         Fresh thinking will fix Illinois.  House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno

For too long, Springfield politicians have been stuck in the past. They think the pressing issues of our day — large budget deficits, unfunded public pensions, and dangerously high out-migration — are similar to the ones Illinois has faced in eras past. 

Have a problem? Look to the glory days of state government, they say. Just cut a little spending here and there, do a massive tax hike, and another short-term pension fix to top it off. Just remember to keep the overall system intact. They swear it’ll do the trick for a few years, maybe even a decade.

Current and former elected officials may deny it, but the old ways of doing business have been anything but glorious for the people of Illinois. For the past 15 years, state government has been operating with budgets in structural deficit. That’s 15 years of complete and total failure. Fifteen years of the General Assembly failing to meet its most basic constitutional obligation — to pass a balanced budget for the governor to sign into law. Read the rest of the editorial in SJ-R.

****
·         Want an Illinois budget? Adopt a revenue estimate.  K-12 schools and state universities need a state budget. Social service providers need a state budget. The most vulnerable individuals and families across Illinois need a state budget.

State government in Illinois is financially adrift because the General Assembly hasn’t stepped up to lead and make the tough decisions to work through a budget. By law we are required to begin by adopting a revenue estimate. I have filed legislation to do just that.

Why is it so important that we adopt a revenue estimate? There are three reasons:

The revenue estimate is the actual first step in our budgeting process. How do we know how much each appropriations committee has to allocate for their assigned departments and agencies if we don’t start with the Revenue Estimate?

The revenue estimate is required by state law and the Illinois Constitution. Just look it up. We have to do it. If we appropriate funds without a revenue estimate, we are, in effect, breaking the law.

The revenue estimate is an important form of taxpayer protection. If we skip the revenue estimate and just appropriate according to our wishes and the requests of the departments and agencies of state government, we will likely spend too much, which will trigger a tax increase.

McHenry Times

The House returned to work on Tuesday after a brief break, but Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) said you wouldn't know if from where he stood.

State Rep. Keith Wheeler
“On the Tuesday before we left for our break, I filed three different revenue estimates and invited everyone in this chamber to join me in supporting the first step in the actual House budgeting process,” Wheeler said. “Other than a clerical error regarding sponsorship to HJR51, I’ve yet to hear from anyone of my friends on the other side of the aisle supporting any of these revenue estimates.”

Wheeler demanded that some kind of budget process be undertaken before the end of the session this month...
As published in the State Journal-Register

State Rep. Keith Wheeler
K-12 schools and state universities need a state budget.

Social service providers need a state budget.

The most vulnerable individuals and families across Illinois need a state budget.

State government in Illinois is financially adrift because the General Assembly hasn’t stepped up to lead and make the tough decisions to work through a budget. By law we are required to begin by adopting a revenue estimate. I have filed legislation to do just that.

Why is it so important that we adopt a revenue estimate? There are three reasons:

  1. The revenue estimate is the actual first step in our budgeting process. How do we know how much each appropriations committee has to allocate for their assigned departments and agencies if we don’t start with the Revenue Estimate?
  2. The revenue estimate is required by state law and the Illinois Constitution. Just look it up. We have to do it. If we appropriate funds without a revenue estimate, we are, in effect, breaking the law.
  3. The revenue estimate is an important form of taxpayer protection. If we skip the revenue estimate and just appropriate according to our wishes and the requests of the departments and agencies of state government, we will likely spend too much, which will trigger a tax increase.

Budget – Thompson Center
·         Selling the JRTC a win-win for Illinois taxpayers and Chicago schools.  Governor Bruce Rauner announced today that Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin have filed legislation that will direct all future property tax receipts from the redevelopment of the James R. Thompson Center (JRTC) to Chicago Public Schools. The bill numbers are SB 2209 and HB 4044.

"The JRTC is sucking up valuable space, time, and money," Governor Rauner said. "No one likes working here. It's expensive to maintain and it's a drain on taxpayer resources. The legislation introduced today gives us yet another reason to move swiftly in selling this building. Every day of delay just postpones Chicago's ability to earn millions in property taxes."

The JRTC currently occupies an entire city block in Chicago's Loop and presents a unique redevelopment opportunity for the city. By selling the building, Illinois taxpayers could earn hundreds of millions in a sale and Chicago could generate up to $45 million annually in property taxes. Under Leaders Radogno and Durkin's legislation, CPS could see an additional $1 billion in dedicated revenue by 2040.

Small business has been called the backbone of the American economy for good reason.  Small businesses create more than 2/3 of the net new jobs and employ more than half of the country’s workforce.

Unfortunately, the environment for small business and entrepreneurial growth was filled with uncertainty.  That resulted in an anomaly that saw more businesses closing than opening.  Many small business owners felt the pinch of increased regulations at the federal and state levels along with the substantial costs of Obamacare.  Without a clear path to a return on investment, small businesses took less risk and hired fewer workers.

In recent months, small business optimism increased dramatically which may lead to increased hiring.  The NFIB Small Business Optimism Survey has reached heights not seen since 2005.  Sixteen percent of small business owners have plans to increase employment while 30% currently have job openings.  More than 20% of small businesses believe that it is a good time to expand.

In Illinois, it’s time for state government to get out of the way of small business.  Instead, several bills have recently passed the Illinois House that are hostile to small businesses.  Other bills claim to help small business, but just carry appealing titles with empty reform.  For Illinois to benefit from an improved economy that creates new jobs, small business needs to know that state government isn’t going to pull the rug out from underneath them.
Rep. Keith Wheeler
SPRINGFIELD – House Democrats this week pushed through poorly-written legislation that would put the State of Illinois into the worker’s compensation insurance business. State Representative Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) issued the following statement in response to the party line vote approving House Bill 2622:

Specifically, House Bill 2622 would create a state-run nonprofit corporation to offer workers compensation insurance to employers; this despite the fact that Illinois already has the most competitive workers’ compensation insurance market in the nation, with over 330 private companies already operating in the state.

“HB 2622 would put the taxpayers of Illinois on the hook for an initial $10 million start-up loan for the creation of a not-for-profit workers’ compensation insurance company; $3 million of which comes right off the top to cover overhead costs. The bill sponsor presented no business plan and no information for how they would seek paying clients. Our state’s inability to pass a balanced budget and live within its means is well documented. There is absolutely nothing to indicate that this $10 million investment would deliver the results for Illinois’ jobs climate promised by the sponsor.”

“We need real reforms that drive down the actual cost of workers’ compensation insurance for Illinois job creators; beginning with stronger causation standards that curb fraud and abuse of the system. This alone would go far in moving the needle to reduce the astronomical costs our businesses pay.”


SPRINGFIELD – State Representative Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) took action on Tuesday to make a state budget agreement possible by filing three different versions of legislation to adopt a bipartisan revenue estimate on which to base a budget for the upcoming fiscal year. State law requires the General Assembly to adopt a revenue estimate each year as the first step toward passing a state budget. The State of Illinois is currently mired in a 22-month long budget impasse.
Economy – Unemployment Rate
·         Illinois unemployment rate drops below 5.0 percent.  The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) reported this week that the jobless rate dropped 50 basis points in March, from 5.4% to 4.9%.  The new number marked the first time in 10 years that Illinois’ statewide unemployment rate dropped below the benchmark level of 5.0%.  

The falling unemployment rate was not a sign of new jobs being created in Illinois.  Although the decline in unemployment was significant, Illinois once again saw a net loss in total nonfarm payroll positions tracked by the IDES.  Illinois nonfarm payrolls dropped by 8,900 jobs from February 2017 to March 2017.  There were significant slowdowns in construction (down 7,100 jobs), professional and business services (down 3,600 jobs), and government (down 1,900 jobs).  The decline in unemployment was entirely accounted for by a net decrease of more than 70,000 workers in the Illinois labor force.

Illinois’s unemployment rate, at 4.9% for March 2017, remains higher than the jobless rate for the nation as a whole, which was 4.5% for the same month.  Many U.S. states have even lower unemployment rates.  For example, high-tech Massachusetts notched an unemployment rate of 3.6% in March.      
Budget – Stopgap
·         House Democrats advance irresponsible stopgap spending plan.  It is disappointing, but not surprising, that Democrats once again rammed another stopgap spending plan through the House – it’s precisely why Democrats have been unwilling to negotiate with House Republicans on a full, balanced budget. 

We have said all along that it was the plan of the Speaker and the majority party to only pass stopgap spending plans and allow our state to simply limp along to get to the next election – and their most recent actions prove that.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen all of this before. Typically, right before a break or deadline, the majority party decides it’s best to play politics and passes a spending plan that never balances or fails to address the real issues of our state so that they can go home and pretend that they’ve done their job.

Our students, community colleges and universities and social services providers deserve long-term certainty.  The House Democrat plan does nothing to address their long term problems and concerns and simply strings them along.
Budget – Lack of progress
·         No progress on Illinois budget; Moody’s warns Illinois of further downgrades.  While the Illinois House has held a series of “pro forma” hearings on the budgetary requests and needs of Illinois state agencies, there are no State budget numbers for FY17 or FY18.  FY17 is ending on June 30, 2017, without a written budget, and FY18 will start on July 1, 2018.  Under State law and the Constitution of Illinois, the General Assembly is mandated to approve a balanced budget that will guide State spending for the approaching fiscal year.  The Constitution requires that this budget not commit to spend more money than is expected to come in during the fiscal year.  The legislature did not fulfill this mandate for FY17, and is not making progress to do this for FY18.  As March 2017 ended, Illinois had more than $12 billion in unpaid bills on file with or under the supervision of the Office of the Comptroller of Illinois.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, and members of the House Republican Caucus and leadership team, joined this week to call for the House to take action on the State budget in fulfillment of its responsibilities.  Durkin and his team pointed out that progress toward a budget is still possible if the public sector undertakes serious structural reforms, including pension reform, to reduce its long-term commitments.  Moody’s Investors Service warned this week that continued non-action by Illinois on the current budget situation risks further downgrades of our State’s credit rating, possibly down to or below “junk bond” level.  The warning was issued on Thursday, March 30.

Continued decline in Illinois’s demographic standing relative to other states, continued cuts in the credit rating that governs the interest rates paid by State institutions, and concerns in the worldwide business community about Illinois’ future make immediate action necessary.  “The Spring legislative session is now almost half over, with no movement toward a budget resolution,” said freshman Representative Ryan Spain.  “Little in the way of meaningful reforms have been debated, and there is dwindling time for substantive action on behalf of those we serve.”
By Rep. Keith Wheeler
State Representative, 50th District


This week, the Governor and the Department of Innovation & Technology (DoIT) announced a comprehensive state cybersecurity strategy for Illinois. As a small businessman myself, owner of an IT services company for over 25 years, I understand the growing challenges in this field and what it will take for the State to meet them.

One recent cyber data breach illustrates how real this threat is to Illinois residents. Last August, Illinois State Board of Elections officials revealed that personal information from fewer than 200,000 voters was hacked through a cyberattack of possible foreign origin. It is possible that some voter personal information, including drivers' license numbers and the last four digits of Social Security numbers, could have been accessed of voters who entered that information when they registered to vote online.

The 2017 Identity Fraud Study, released by Javelin Strategy & Research, found that $16 billion was stolen from 15.4 million U.S. consumers in 2016, an increase over the $15.3 billion and 13.1 million victims a year earlier. Clearly, the State of Illinois must act in the face of this growing threat.
Budget – Pension Reform
·         House Republicans offer comprehensive pension reform proposal and CPS relief.  House Republican Leader Jim Durkin today called on Speaker Michael Madigan and the House Democrats to join the House Republicans in passing comprehensive pension reform that would provide significant savings for taxpayers and $215 million to the Chicago Public Schools for a one time pension parity payment.   

According to Durkin, the legislation is modeled after legislation introduced in a bipartisan manner in the Senate. Specifically, HB 4027 includes:
 
o   Senate President John Cullerton’s “consideration model” that would require members of TRS, SURS, SERS, GARS, and CTPF to exchange their Tier 1 COLA for the right to have future raises to be counted as pensionable, or keep their COLA and sacrifice future raises as pensionable.  This concept previously received union support by the We Are One Coalition
o   Provides a one-time normal cost payment to the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund of $215.2 million for FY 17
o   Closes new member participation in GARS
o   Offers Tier 1 TRS, SURS, SERS and GARS employees the option to participate in a defined contribution (DC) plan 
o   Creates a voluntary Tier 3 Hybrid defined benefit/defined contribution plan for new Tier 2 employees under  TRS, SURS, and certain SERS members who do not participate in Social Security

“With this legislation, we estimate the State of Illinois will realize short-term savings of $2.25 billion dollars from the general funds and a substantial step towards closing the deficit gap. This is a significant step towards achieving a balanced budget but also saving our pension systems.”
Taxes – Property Tax Burden
·         With one of the highest tax burdens in the nation, property tax relief must be priority.  Speaking at a press conference Tuesday at the Capitol, State Rep. Mark Batinick and his House Republican colleagues drew attention to the number one issue for many Illinois homeowners: the need for property tax relief.  

A recent poll from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute found that 47 percent of registered voters in Illinois say they want to move out, with 27 percent of them citing property taxes as their top reason. The Tax Foundation, the nation’s leading independent tax policy nonprofit, reported just this week that Illinois has one of the highest property tax burdens in the country (3rd), which contributes to the 5th highest overall tax burden in the nation.

“Families and seniors are being forced from their homes, not because they cannot afford their mortgage, but because they cannot afford their property taxes increasing each and every year,” Rep. Batinick said. “If we’re going to be asked to support a budget package, whatever that may end up looking like, we’re here to say there must be real, significant property tax relief for our constituents.”

The impact of property taxes is not limited to homeowners. Businesses are moving across state lines or closing entirely partially due to the high cost of property taxes in Illinois. The recent Tax Foundation analysis shows that Illinois’ property tax burden ranks as one of the least favorable for businesses, coming in at 46th in the nation.  
Rep. Keith Wheeler speaks in support of
redistricting reform at the Illinois Capitol.
Springfield, IL – Members of the House Republican Caucus today called on House Democrats to respect the wishes of Illinoisans by allowing redistricting reform, HJRCA17, to be called for a vote immediately.  

“This is one of the strongest statements we can make about reforming Illinois,” said State Rep. Tim Butler (R-Springfield). “This isn’t a Republican or Democrat issue, so it’s time for the Democrats to decide if they stand for the status quo or for a stronger, better Illinois for generations to come.”

HJRCA 17 would allow voters to decide, by statewide referendum, to amend the Illinois Constitution to create the Independent Redistricting Commission for the purpose of drawing legislative districts. A poll conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute last fall found that 72% of voters, including a majority of both Republicans and Democrats, supported the creation of an independent commission to draw legislative district maps. 

Members noted that redistricting reform is directly tied to the state budget and the failure of having unbalanced budgets for more than 10 years.
In an effort to make state government and the legislative process more accessible to Illinois residents regardless of their national origin or spoken language, State Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) is providing a link to translate the Illinois General Assembly website, www.ilga.gov, into any one of dozens of different languages.

The Illinois General Assembly website contains legislator profiles, full text of all legislation introduced in the House of Representatives and State Senate, live audio and video feeds of legislative session and committee hearings; and a wide variety of other legislative information and support services.

Please click any of the links below to translate the Illinois General Assembly website into your preferred language:

Spanish         Español
Arabic          عربي               
Hindi           हिन्दी      
Chinese (Simplified) 中文简体               
Chinese (Traditional) 中文繁體                
Japanese        日本語 
Korean          한국어             
Russian         Русский 
French          Français    
German        Deutsch             
Italian            Italiano           
Polish             Polski        
Greek             Ελληνικά            

You can translate the Illinois General Assembly website into as many as 57 different languages using any of the above links.

Budget – COGFA Report
·         COGFA reduces State revenue forecast by $657 million.  Many State tax revenues streams are earmarked for general funds used to fund key budget areas such as education, public safety, and social services.   The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, the General Assembly’s nonpartisan budget forecasting arm, reported to the legislature this week on trends in State revenues that will affect the reminder of FY17, ending June 30, 2017, as well as the approaching FY18 (starting July 1, 2017).  COGFA uncovered patterns of modest year-over-year gains, or even declines, in many categories of revenue that are closely tied to overall State economic activity.  Areas of weak or absent revenue growth included individual income taxes, corporate income taxes, sales taxes, public utility taxes, cigarette taxes, and corporate franchise taxes. 

All of these tax revenue streams showed modest growth, or absent growth, in the current FY17 from the patterns of money flow posted in the most recently concluded full fiscal year, FY16.  This cash flow picture has forced COGFA to reduce its FY17 Illinois tax revenue forecast by $657 million, worsening the State’s fiscal situation.  This pattern of revenue stagnation, while State spending continues to increase, underlies the current inability of the State to pay its bills on time.  The State’s ledger currently counts more than $12 billion in unpaid bills.  The COGFA revenue report was presented to the General Assembly on Tuesday, March 7. 
Governor Rauner – Medicaid Proposal
·         Gov. Bruce Rauner makes major Medicaid proposal.  The proposal to increase the percentage of Medicaid medical cases that move through “managed care” was unveiled on Monday, February 27.   The state’s chief executive called for expanding existing Medicaid managed care programs to cover 80% of Illinois’ three million Medicaid patients.  This would mark a major increase in managed care from the current percentage of nearly 67%.  In Medicaid managed care, private insurance firms serve as “gatekeepers” for treatments, performing a role similar to insurance firms that manage groups of families that receive employment-based health care.    

In his proposal, the Governor noted two large groups of Medicaid patients that have not yet been moved to managed care.  Many children under the supervision of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) have not yet been moved to managed care; their medical care is protected by legal case law, and the move has to be performed in a manner that complies with their legal standing.  Some rural Illinois counties do not yet have a Medicaid managed care provider network in place. 

Governor Rauner also announced a major push to turn what have, up to now, been notional savings to taxpayers from Medicaid managed care into real savings.  The effort will include rationalizing the managed-care network, better coordination of patient care, and moving reimbursement from a treatment-based model to a results-based model.   
Rep. Keith Wheeler with Mollie Blum and Lois Sheaffer at the
Elderday Center in Batavia
Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) toured the Elderday Center in Batavia on Monday, a facility which offers a comprehensive adult day program of socialization, recreation and health maintenance for seniors that reinforces each participant's self-worth and dignity while enhancing current skills and abilities.

The staff at Elderday pride themselves on providing an environment that is a "home away from home" for seniors. Rep. Wheeler was impressed with Elderday Center's commitment to providing quality day services and promoting independence for older adults and providing support and education for their caregivers. 

The center is open Monday-Friday from 7:30AM-5:30PM. Please feel welcome to contact Elderday Center at (630) 761-9750 or www.elderdaycenter.org
AFSCME – Possible labor action
·         AFSCME announces results of strike authorization vote.  AFSCME, the labor union that represents 38,000 Illinois employees, states that 81% of the workers who participated in a recent advisory ballot voted to authorize a possible strike

A key advisor to Governor Bruce Rauner, General Counsel Dennis Murashko, called the vote to authorize a strike “an attack on our state’s hardworking taxpayers and all those who rely on crucial services provided every day.”

The union’s leadership pointed to a possible partial freeze in State pay rates, and cuts in employer-financed health care benefits, as reasons for the strike vote.  The Governor’s office responded that AFSCME workers currently enjoy many benefits that private-sector workers do not enjoy, such as a 37.5-hour work week, platinum health insurance benefits, and a ban on merit pay.  The AFSCME vote does not make a strike inevitable, but authorizes the union’s powerful bargaining committee to call a labor action in the near future.  The strike, if it occurs, would be the first ever statewide public-sector labor action against the State of Illinois.
Governor’s Budget Address
·         Governor Rauner delivers budget address to General Assembly.  Speaking to a joint session of the Illinois House and Senate on Wednesday, Governor Bruce Rauner delivered his annual Budget Address, outlining his priorities and introducing his third balanced budget in as many years to be considered by lawmakers.

Saying “We must think anew and act anew,” the Governor presented a balanced budget that focuses on the future.  It invests in Illinois’ future with record funding for education, transforms our pension system, and makes structural changes to improve our jobs climate.

At the request of senators from both parties, Governor Rauner outlined his parameters to the General Assembly on the Senate’s “grand bargain” compromise.  He made it clear that the final product must be a good deal for taxpayers and job creators.  Rauner laid the foundation for balanced budgets for years to come, controlling spending so government lives within its means, and enacting real spending reductions with meaningful pension reform.

Governor Rauner once again said he would consider new revenue if it accompanies changes to grow the economy.  He asked legislators if they make an income tax increase permanent, the property tax freeze must also be permanent.  Rauner also reminded the legislature that term limits are important to restoring confidence in state government and workers’ compensation reform is critical to attracting job creators to Illinois.

General Assembly
·         House committees meet, begin to advance bills.  House members filed 3,921 bills in January and February 2017.  Under the “First Reading” deadline, bills filed by mid-February may be considered in a House committee in the 2017 spring session.  House bills filed after Friday, February 10 cannot be considered this spring as independent, free-standing pieces of legislation.  

Following the bill introduction deadline, the House schedule has set aside six weeks of session time in February and March for committee action.  During this six-week period, House committees will hold hearings, listen to testimony from witnesses, and hold votes on bills to be advanced to the House floor for further discussion and debate.  In spring 2017, the House has organized 57 permanent and special committees to hear bills and conduct legislative action.  Many of these committees began to meet this week.
Illinois News Network

Not passing a revenue estimate resolution is not being honest with taxpayers, which is why one lawmaker said he’s filed two measures requiring a revenue estimate before any budget bills are passed.
Rep. Keith Wheeler

The Illinois Constitution says lawmakers must pass a budget for a fiscal year that “shall not exceed funds estimated by the General Assembly to be available during that year.”

In previous years, the House and Senate would pass a joint revenue estimate resolution for the coming fiscal year’s budget. However, that hasn’t happened for the past two years – the same amount of time the state’s been without a full-year spending plan.

Republican state Rep. Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego, said not passing the revenue estimate doesn’t give taxpayers the whole picture.

“We’re not really trying to be honest with taxpayers,” Wheeler said. “Until we get a revenue estimate adopted, we’re just playing with the money and this isn’t Monopoly money, this is actual real people’s money...”
State Government – State Employee Pay
·         Bipartisan bill would protect employee pay.  With Illinois continuing to operate without a budget, the paychecks of Illinois state employees are coming under threat.  HB 2803, sponsored by Rep. Avery Bourne and more than two dozen House colleagues, would protect these paychecks while State employees are on the job.  The bill would provide for a continuing appropriation for each State agency to meet personnel expenditures for each payroll period without a conventional budget.   The measure has been referred to the House Rules Committee. 

Criminal Law – Intensive Halfway House
·         New intensive halfway house to prepare Illinois inmates for life after prison.  The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) Life Skills Re-entry Center is located in Kewanee, Illinois in western Illinois.  It represents the adoptive re-use of a former State juvenile detention center.  The Re-entry Center will begin taking in inmates in mid-February.

The new IDOC facility will teach skills to inmates and help them get ready for civil society.  Examples include technology familiarization and employment search.   Many inmates find looking for a job to be especially challenging, but the harsh odds they face if trying to “go straight” is matched by the dismal prospects if they do not make this effort.  Nearly half of inmates who are released from the Department’s custody are convicted of new prison offenses within three years.
Rep. Keith Wheeler
NORTH AURORA – State Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) is providing a new resource for local residents to submit feedback on current legislative issues by announcing the launch of his 2017 online constituent survey, available on his official legislative website, www.repkeithwheeler.com.   

The survey covers a wide range of issues including property taxes, the minimum wage, government reforms and the state budget, to name just a few. Rep. Wheeler will utilize constituent feedback to help represent the district effectively during the 2017 legislative session of the Illinois General Assembly. 

“All of the issues covered in the survey have been considered by the state legislature in the past; and are likely to be again in 2017,” Rep. Wheeler said.  “Your feedback helps me to know where residents of our district stand on a wide range of policy questions of concern to Illinois families and taxpayers.”

Caterpillar Inc.
·         Caterpillar to move headquarters from Peoria to Chicago.  The earthmoving giant, headquartered in Peoria for more than 90 years, announced plans this week to move its corporate headquarters to the Chicago area.  The move is expected to affect only about 300 of the 12,000 Caterpillar employees in the Peoria area, with most of the firm’s engineering, production, and back-office staff remaining in Peoria.  Caterpillar’s chief executive officer and his personal staff will, however, vacate their headquarters office in the central Illinois city.  The transfer is expected to be substantially completed before the end of the 2017 calendar year.

In addition to the move, Caterpillar announced the permanent cancellation of its previous plan to construct a new headquarters building in Illinois.  Caterpillar’s new Chicago-area headquarters will be located in existing office space that will be rented or leased by the firm.  Caterpillar had previously announced the indefinite postponement of its prior plans to build a new headquarters building in downtown Peoria.  The firm described its moves as a response to the worldwide downturn in demand for power and earthmoving equipment.  Caterpillar, a key component of the infrastructure-building U.S. private sector, is a member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA).

Caterpillar has strong historic ties to the Peoria area, and as recently as October 2012 the firm opened a Visitors Center on the Peoria riverfront.  The Visitors Center offers the public a chance to learn more about the firm’s construction-equipment history, and the current operating goals and challenges facing the firm and its designers and engineers.  Children are encouraged to touch and interact with the machinery on display.   
            
Rep. Wheeler at committee hearing
NORTH AURORA – State Representative Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) has been appointed Co-Chairman of the state’s legislative oversight committee of rules used to implement new and existing laws across all state agencies; the bipartisan, 12-member Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR). Comprised of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans from both the Illinois House and Senate, JCAR conducts several integrated review programs including for proposed, emergency and peremptory rulemaking, a review of new laws and a complaint review program.

Representative Wheeler, a sophomore legislator serving portions of Kane and Kendall Counties, has served as a member of JCAR since August 2016. He will now serve as Co-Chairman of JCAR along with Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park). JCAR is considered perhaps the most important and influential committee in Illinois, as it decides upon the rules by which state laws are implemented. JCAR meets monthly throughout the year, regardless of whether the General Assembly is in session. 
Rep. Wheeler with Everett Sprags,
aspiring entrepreneur.

State Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) participated in a discussion at the Chicago Urban League on Monday on the link between joblessness and violence. Policymakers at the state and local levels need to work together in partnership with community leaders and law enforcement to reduce the violence in Chicago and to provide greater economic opportunity for urban youth and families.

The Chicago Urban League hosted this panel discussion on "Youth Employment / Joblessness / Violence Issues and Solutions" to bring business leaders together with youth and young adults interested in finding solutions to these challenges together.
State of the State Address
·         Governor Rauner optimistic about the State of the State.  In his third annual State of the State Address, Governor Bruce Rauner indicated that he is optimistic about the future of Illinois and used the opportunity to talk about Illinois’ accomplishments, as well as the work that still lies ahead.

The Governor recognizes the state’s challenges, but with great challenges comes great opportunity. He is optimistic these challenges can be solved by working together to improve the future of Illinois. He discussed the administration’s accomplishments including ethics reform, record education funding, job creation and making government more efficient. While much work lies ahead, we build on the bipartisan agreement that change to the system needs to occur with passing a truly balanced budget.

The Governor also encouraged the General Assembly to pass legislation allowing voters to weigh-in on fair maps and term limits. The Governor believes that by working together we can build on these changes and address the problems facing our state.

You can watch the video of the address or read the speech.

Please visit The Caucus Blog to read reactions from several members of the Illinois House Republican Caucus after listening to the Governor's address.