GENERAL ASSEMBLY
·         House Republican Leader Jim Durkin authors key hotline section of sexual harassment bill sent to Governor.  The Durkin proposal would create a telephone hotline for persons seeking relief in cases of sexual harassment.  Examples of help that the hotline could provide could include assistance in filing a sexual harassment complaint, referral of a victim to counseling, or referral of a victim to protective services. 

The Durkin proposal was included in SB 402, the omnibus sexual harassment bill that was passed unanimously by the General Assembly this week and sent to the Governor for his signature.  Other sections of SB 402 provide for annual sexual harassment training sessions for State officers and employees, and create penalties for State officers and employees who violate the policies set forth in the training. The training sessions will include information to recipients of sexual harassment on how to report this conduct to the hotline and through other pathways.  SB 402 was part of a package of sexual harassment reforms passed in the wake of allegations of misconduct at the Capitol.  Leader Durkin authored the hotline section of the omnibus bill by sponsoring HB 4148, which was combined with other pieces to create the overall SB 402 sexual harassment bill.

Complaints of sexual harassment, other violations need 
prompt, unbiased review


(L to R: Rep. Batinick, Rep. Wehrli,
Rep. Wheeler)
Springfield…Recent reports that incidents of sexual harassment in the Illinois General Assembly are not promptly investigated, or are not even reported due to fear of retaliation, are proof that the legislative ethics review system is in need of a complete overhaul, stressed State Representative Grant Wehrli. Wehrli, along with Representatives Keith Wheeler and Mark Batinick, today introduced a series of reforms that will give deference to complainants in such cases, and ensure their claims receive a fair and unbiased review.

“I’m very pleased that after more than a year we finally have a Legislative Inspector General in place this week. I’m confident Julie Porter will do an excellent job. But there’s more we must do to correct the fundamental flaws in the process that for years have made harassment victims hesitant to come forward because they felt the system was stacked against them. It’s that bias that we’re targeting with these reforms,” said Rep. Wehrli (R-Naperville).

“Sexual harassment in any form is wholly unacceptable. Our State Capitol and all government offices must be places where legislators, staff, lobbyists and visitors treat each other with the utmost dignity and respect. Our legislation will help to make this expectation a reality by strengthening the legislative ethics review process,” said Rep. Wheeler (R-Oswego). “Victims of sexual harassment should always be made to feel safe in coming forward; and every perpetrator should be held accountable to their organization, caucus, or the proper authorities.”
BUDGET
·         COGFA releases revenue report for October 2017.  The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) has released its monthly revenue report and economic briefing for October 2017.  COGFA continues to report that Illinois’ stagnant job picture is having a negative impact on income and sales tax growth.  One major source of potential tax revenue growth is increased supplies of money forwarded from employers to Springfield of income taxes withheld from paychecks, and the absence of net new employment growth is limiting revenue increases from this source.
State Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-50th) was honored to speak to the students at the ribbon cutting for the Samuel Sublett Alternative School in St. Charles this morning. This school will give students a much-needed opportunity to push the reset button and learn valuable new skills. The school is named after the late Samuel Sublett, Jr. (1928-2012), who worked most of his professional career at the Illinois Youth Center in St. Charles, retiring with over 40 years of service.
State Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) spoke to students at Aurora University this morning about the legislative process and answered questions about the challenges facing the Illinois General Assembly as well as his work serving the residents of Kane and Kendall Counties.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY
·         First week of veto session.  The Illinois House met on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of this week.  On the agenda were vetoes issued by the Governor to the General Assembly earlier this year.  Chief sponsors of the vetoed bills could ask their colleagues to consider voting to override the veto messages.  Overriding a governor’s veto requires a three-fifth majority in both houses of the General Assembly. 

In addition to veto motions, the House also voted on housekeeping and sunset-law measures to be passed before the end of the calendar year.  An example of this pre-end-of-year housekeeping was SB 1381, a bipartisan bill to maintain the State’s unemployment insurance (UI) system and UI laws for calendar years 2018 and 2019.

Under the Illinois Constitution, the General Assembly is scheduled to meet for a second and final week of veto session in the first full week of November.  Bill actions taken by each house of the General Assembly this week can be taken up by the other chamber during the session’s second week.  Persons interested in individual bills can look up the up-to-the-minute status of each bill in Veto Session on the General Assembly website.    


State Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) speaks during debate against HB 4117 on Thursday, gun control legislation that was defeated by a vote of 48-54 moments later.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
·         Plans unveiled for Illinois Innovation Network.  Governor Bruce Rauner and the University of Illinois System unveiled plans Thursday for an Illinois Innovation Network (IIN) to help ignite the state’s economy through a $1.2 billion network of research universities, businesses, and public sector partners focused on the development of solutions in computing and big data, advanced materials, food and agriculture, and biosciences and health.

The network will help ensure a knowledge-based, 21st century economy in Illinois where discovery and innovation are the focal points. The plan is to nurture the inventors and entrepreneurs of tomorrow by allowing them to hone their talents in Illinois. The network will be led by the University of Illinois System, with universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield and satellite campuses in Peoria and Rockford. The University of Chicago and Northwestern University will be inaugural partners. 
BUDGET
·         State report: Budget out of balance by $1.7 billion.  The state’s fiscal year 2018 budget is out of balance by $1.7 billion, according to a fiscal policy report released Thursday by the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget. The imbalance might have been avoided if the General Assembly had enacted $2 billion in reforms proposed by the Rauner Administration and Republican leaders earlier this year.

The Illinois Economic and Fiscal Policy Report provides a five-year economic outlook based on the budget along with state and national growth forecasts. The GOMB compiles the report, which is available for public view at https://www.illinois.gov/gov/budget/Pages/PolicyReports.aspx.

In the report, GOMB Director Scott Harry asserts that with stronger economic growth accompanied by spending controls, Illinois could achieve budget surpluses and reduce its bill backlog to an estimated $500 million by the end of fiscal year 2023.
NORTH AURORA –Small business owner and State Representative Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) released the following statement today in response to the Cook County Board Finance Committee’s vote to repeal the controversial tax on sweetened beverages effective December 1. Representative Wheeler is Chief Co-Sponsor of House Bill 4082, legislation that would repeal the tax at the state level had the Cook County Board failed to take action:

“I applaud the Cook County commissioners who listened to their constituents and voted to repeal the pop tax today,” Representative Wheeler said. “In just a short time, the pop tax was crushing small and family-owned retailers in Cook County, the very men and women who are the backbone of our economy from Lake-Cook Road to the Indiana state line. Today is a victory for taxpayers and for job creators.”

The full Cook County Board is expected to vote Wednesday to formally accept today's move to repeal by the Finance Committee.

Representative Wheeler serves the 50th District, which includes portions of west suburban Aurora, Batavia, Geneva, Campton Hills, Elburn, Montgomery, Oswego, Plano, St. Charles, Sugar Grove and Yorkville.

# # #
BUDGET 
·         COGFA: September Income Tax Gains Reflect Rate Changes, Federal Sources Unable to Maintain Momentum.  A monthly State of Illinois revenue report for September was published this week by the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA). The commission, a nonpartisan arm of the General Assembly, tracks State revenues coming in through the Department of Revenue and other departments, and compares these revenue flows to national and worldwide economic trends.  Their goal is to help lawmakers develop an objective picture of future tax-based cash flows during the remainder of FY18 and in future Illinois fiscal years. 
ABORTION
·        Governor Rauner signs law authorizing taxpayer-funded abortion on demand.  On Thursday, Governor Bruce Rauner announced that he would sign House Bill 40, highly controversial legislation that provides for taxpayer-funded abortion on demand for Medicaid recipients and state employees.

Governor Rauner’s decision to sign HB 40 came after he publicly stated back in April that he would veto the legislation if it reached his desk.  The Governor’s decision was met with profound disappointment by Republican legislators and pro-life groups opposed to HB 40.

AMAZON.COM
·         Chicago business community unites behind push for $5 billion headquarters campus.  Amazon.com has stated that they need additional workspace, not available at their current headquarters complex in Seattle, for management-level employees of the global retailing firm.  Amazon expects that the overall economic activity to be sparked by their new “second headquarters” could create as many as 50,000 new jobs.

Many Chicago leaders believe that the city’s workforce, with its skill set in logistics solutions, makes Chicago the best place for Amazon to choose.  A bipartisan panel of more than 600 Illinois business leaders is working to sell Illinois to the online retailing giant.  House Republican Leader Jim Durkin has repeatedly expressed his support for the push.    
JOBS
·         EDGE tax credit overhaul gets Gov. Rauner’s signature.  Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed legislation (HB 162) that overhauls the EDGE Tax Credit Program and provides much-needed transparency and taxpayer protections.

“The EDGE Tax Credit Program overhaul is a bipartisan job creation program that is innovative and competitive for businesses,” Gov. Rauner said. “This legislation is another tool to use in our quest to bring high-quality and good-paying jobs to Illinois.  It is crucial for the future success of our state that we make Illinois a more business friendly environment through pro-growth measures.”
                                                                                                                                                  
The EDGE tax credit program is a critical local economic development tool that incentivizes job creation, growth and competitiveness in the state. The new law extends the program until June 30, 2022.
YORKVILLE- State Representative Keith R. Wheeler (R-Oswego) held an informational seminar for Fox Valley homeowners at the Yorkville Public Library on Tuesday evening on the property tax assessment process and how to appeal your property taxes if you believe you may have been over-assessed. Representative Wheeler was joined by Kendall County Assessor Andy Nicoletti for the ninety-minute program. Over three hundred residents of Kane and Kendall County attended the seminar.

‘Skyrocketing property taxes are one of the issues that encouraged me to run for State Representative,” said Rep. Wheeler. “I hear from residents every day that the annual increase is driving them out of their homes and forcing them to relocate to states with lower costs. Seniors have felt the impact harder than most. I felt that it was vital to inform residents of the steps that can be taken through the appeals process to give them some relief.”

Due to the success of this seminar, Rep. Wheeler plans to host similar events in the future. Rep. Wheeler recommends that until future events can be planned, residents should reach out to their local township assessor to learn more about how they can appeal their property taxes. 
AMAZON.COM
·         Amazon urged to pick Illinois for its new headquarters.  The Seattle-based retailing giant Amazon has announced that it is running out of headquarters space in its current city and would like to open a second headquarters in a centralized U.S. location.  The second headquarters could contain as many as 50,000 workers, who would occupy a potential 8 million square feet of office space to be constructed for as much as $5 billion.  Amazon has cited good transportation, strong schools, and a tech-oriented workforce as elements in their decision. 

Amazon headquarters operations oversee the firm’s network of warehouses, transfer stations and delivery solutions for the firm’s hundreds of millions of customers worldwide.  Chicago, with the nation’s largest workforce skilled in logistics technology, would be highly suited to serve as Amazon’s choice.  Competition for the selection is expected to be heavy.    
State Representative Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) joined a panel titled “Data Security: Who’s Responsible?” with Claire Gartland, Privacy and Public Policy Manager of Facebook and Tom Galvin of the Digital Citizens Alliance on September 12th at mHUB in the West Town neighborhood in Chicago.  CompTIA‘s Alexi Madon, who has testified at the State Capitol in Springfield on behalf of the tech industry regarding data policy, hosted the event and moderated the panel.  Panelists discussed who handles data and their role in keeping that data secure from the user to the provider to government regulators. 

Wheeler’s comments, which reflected his roles both as an IT specialist and as an Illinois State Representative, focused on finding a data policy balance that protects consumers without hampering innovation.  

From his legislator perspective, Wheeler noted that “Regulations should always be technology neutral – meaning they should not target any one specific technology since government shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers.  In conjunction with that, security legislation should focus on consumer protection.”


YORKVILLE –State Representative Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) invites local residents to attend an upcoming forum to educate and empower homeowners about the process for determining property taxes and how to appeal if they are being over-assessed, entitled “Understand & Learn How to Appeal Your Property Tax Assessment”.

The event will be held at 7:00 pm on Tuesday, September 19 at Yorkville Public Library’s Meeting Room, located at 902 Game Farm Road in Yorkville. The presentation will be given by Andy Nicoletti, the Chief County Assessment Official for Kendall County. The event is free and open to the public.

“We welcome every local homeowner to attend our property tax forum to learn about the process and get their questions answered,” Representative Wheeler said. “We are grateful that our local county assessor has agreed to offer this informational resource for area homeowners and property tax payers.”
BUDGET
·         Governor Rauner announces borrowing plan to pay down bill backlog.  After conducting a thorough review of the out-of-balance fiscal year 2018 budget passed by the General Assembly in July, Gov. Bruce Rauner announced Thursday that he intends to exercise borrowing authority to issue $6 billion in bonds to pay down a portion of the state’s bill backlog.

“Illinois has been deficit spending for many years, resulting in a huge unpaid bill backlog. The state has been, in effect, borrowing from local service providers, including nonprofits and small businesses, because it takes months for them to get paid,” Gov. Rauner said. “My preferred solution has always been for state government to reform its spending, and for a strong, competitive economy to grow family incomes faster than the cost of government.
BUDGET – EDUCATION FUNDING
·         Historic education funding reform passes.  The new school funding formula moves towards an “evidence-based” model based on practices followed in many other states.  Illinois’ 852 school districts will be given positive incentives to work hard to improve their students’ performances. The new formula is contained in SB 1947, as amended in the House.  Enactment of the measure followed up on two years of bipartisan negotiations between school advocates from both parties and was a response to the school funding discussion that took place during the summer of 2017.  

SB 1947 represents a compromise agreed to by the four legislative leaders and Governor Rauner.  Many of its individual features are not perfect from the standpoint of people who voted for the measure.  Other features are popular with many Illinois legislators and voters.  School mandates are reduced, and school management operational transparency is increased.  One feature of the reform bill creates a system of new Illinois income tax credits.  This new program is expected to leverage the donation of up to $100 million to scholarship funds to enable the enrollment of low and middle-income students in Illinois private schools.    Supporters see the bill as a way to move Illinois toward adequate school funding and to add serious budgeting for results. 

The House vote on SB 1947 on Monday, August 28, was 73-34-3.  The House’s three-fifths majority carried the bill over to the Senate for concurrence.  The Senate 38-13-4 concurrence vote sent the education funding reform package to Gov. Rauner for his signature on Thursday.
Chicago, IL – State Reps. Michael McAuliffe (R-Chicago), Christine Winger (R-Bloomingdale), Peter Breen (R-Lombard), Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville), and Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) today introduced legislation, House Bill 4082, to immediately repeal the one-cent-per-ounce Cook County Sweetened Beverage Tax. The tax, which went into effect on August 2, will result in Cook County consumers having to pay on average 67 percent more for a 2-liter of pop, 43 percent more for a gallon of juice drink or sweetened iced tea, and 29 percent more for a 12-pack. 

“The pop tax is crushing small and family-owned retailers in Cook County, the very men and women who are the backbone of our local and state economy," Rep. Wheeler said. “Cook County politicians cannot hide from the fact that their tax-and-spend policies continue to fail the working families and job creators in every community from Lake-Cook Road to the Indiana state line.”
By Caitlin Nordahl | Kane County Reporter

Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) has filed legislation to prevent big city governments from being big bullies when it comes to challenges to to their authority, according to a press release.

The bill, House Bill 4080, comes in response to a now-withdrawn lawsuit by Cook County that followed a challenge to the recently imposed sweetened beverage tax. The challenge had prompted a judge to impose a temporary block on the tax, which was to take effect in July. Cook County's lawsuit maintained that the block cost the county $17 million in uncollected taxes...
State Rep. Keith Wheeler
SPRINGFIELD –State Representative Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) filed new legislation today, House Bill 4080, to prohibit governments from suing taxpayers and job creators for damages simply for exercising their constitutional right to challenge the legality of a tax. The bill filing comes in response to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s retaliation against the men and women of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA) seeking $17 million in damages for the one-month delay in implementing the controversial Cook County “soda tax” after a judge issued an injunction in response to IRMA’s legal challenge to the tax, originally scheduled to go into effect on July 1.

Although Preckwinkle has withdrawn her motion to seek damages against IRMA, Wheeler believes this legislation is necessary to prevent even the threat of such action in the future.  “Some reports indicate that Preckwinkle only withdrew her motion because another court ruled in her favor.  That sends the signal that this chilling tactic could be used to punish or suppress those who might question tax policy in the future.”

“Imagine a local small business grocer, family restaurant, hamburger stand, or theater owner being driven out of business by their own local government leaders who are suing the small business owner because he or she had the audacity to ask the courts if a new tax, that the local government was forcing the business to collect from its customers, was actually constitutional,” Rep. Wheeler said. “No one should be able to be sued by their own government for asking the courts if a tax they are forced to collect is constitutional.”
By Theo Douglas 
GOVERNMENT TECHNOLOGY MAGAZINE

The state of Illinois, which has taken pioneering strides with various blockchain projects in testing new Internet technology, is taking additional steps to improve cybersecurity at its first line of defense: with end users.

On Monday, Aug. 7, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed House Bill 2371, an amendment to the state’s Data Security on State Computers Act requiring annual cybersecurity training from the Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) for state employees.

The amendment allows DoIT to adopt rules to implement the training and to make the training an online course. It also requires that the education cover how to detect phishing scams; prevent spyware infections and identity theft; and how to prevent and respond to data breaches...
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 (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.”