Rep. Keith Wheeler (left) discusses school safety with SD308
Superintendent John Sparlin and OHS Principal Mike Wayne.
SPRINGFIELD – State Representative Keith R. Wheeler joined Oswego School District 308 Superintendent John Sparlin and Oswego High School Principal Mike Wayne for an active shooter response drill at Oswego High School Thursday morning.  This was Oswego High School’s second active shooter lockdown drill and the fourth drill involved in locking down and responding to emergencies during this school year.

As part of the lockdown procedure, Oswego schools have implemented the nationally-recognized ALICE active shooter response training program. ALICE is the acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate.

“I believe this type of response training is an important, non-controversial first step in securing our schools here in Illinois,” Representative Wheeler said. “The administration, staff, and students displayed a number of techniques and responses that will be vital to saving lives should an active shooter situation occur.  Continued collaboration between our school, government, and law enforcement leaders is an important component in protecting our children and I’m glad to see that is underway locally.” 
BUDGET
·        Governor Rauner delivers budget address to General Assembly.  Gov. Bruce Rauner delivered his Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Address to a joint session of the Illinois General Assembly Wednesday.  The Governor renewed his call for a $1 billion tax cut for all Illinois taxpayers.  He also called for “structural reforms” to Illinois laws that underlie the current patterns of Illinois public-sector taxes and spending. 

Assailing what he called “unsustainable growth in our pension and healthcare costs,” Gov. Rauner stated that more than 25 cents of every dollar the State spends goes to these facets of public-sector employee benefits.  These benefits far exceed the benefits paid to workers in the private sector, and the cost of these benefits is driving job growth from Illinois to other states.  Rauner pointed to job trends, including manufacturing job growth, in Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin.    
General Assembly – House committees
·        With full start of 2018 spring session, Illinois House committees convene and begin to hear bills.  Following the State of the State address on Wednesday, January 31, the Illinois House and Senate began committee action for the spring 2018 session.  The House will have five full weeks of committee action prior to the deadline for substantive committee action on April 13.  Most of the work of presenting a bill, hearing witness testimony on the measure and developing amendments to perfect the measure are done in committees rather than on the floor of the full House.  The House schedules for spring 2018 can be found here.  The General Assembly’s website also includes a type-in box to track each individual bill under consideration in Springfield by bill number. 
SPRINGFIELD – State Representative Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) has been appointed to serve as the point person for House Republicans in working with the Governor’s Office and the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) to fulfill the constitutional mandate of generating a revenue estimate on which to base the state budget for FY 2019 this spring. The announcement was made Wednesday in a letter to House Speaker Michael Madigan from House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs). 

Illinois currently has nearly $8.3 billion in unpaid bills and a structural FY18 budget deficit of $1.7 billion. The Illinois Constitution requires the General Assembly to adopt a revenue estimate on which to pass a balanced state budget, based on projected tax revenue and funds owed to Illinois from the federal government.

“Agreeing on a bipartisan revenue estimate is the first and most important step in the budget process,” said Representative Wheeler. “Unfortunately, the General Assembly has failed to meet this fundamental responsibility each year since before I first came to Springfield. We have an opportunity to not repeat that same mistake again this year; and instead demonstrate to Illinois families our commitment to work together to pass a state budget that lives within our means and respect taxpayers.”
Rep. Keith Wheeler speaks, joined by Rep.
Peter Breen
In an effort to put more money in the pockets of Illinois taxpayers and infuse funds into the Illinois economy, State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) has launched the Illinois Tax Reform Plan, joined at a press conference in Springfield today by Representative Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego). The plan, consisting of three taxpayer-friendly bills, has the potential of lowering taxes on Illinoisans and Illinois businesses.

The cornerstone of Breen’s package is HB 4563, which expands Illinois’ current Invest in Kids Act tax credit model to allow Illinoisans to make fully deductible charitable contributions to 501(c)(3) foundations supporting public school districts, while receiving tax credits to reduce their partially deductible state and local income tax (SALT) payments. The new federal tax law provided a $10,000 limit on deductions for SALT payments, while placing no limit on charitable deductions. “While changes to the federal tax code are providing many opportunities for taxpayers to keep more of their hard-earned money in their own pockets, folks in states where property taxes and income taxes are too high need relief. The Congress left intact the full deduction for charitable contributions, and my Illinois workaround to the new SALT deduction cap relies on the very successful education tax credit model upheld by the Tax Court and IRS, and used by states across the country. This plan has the potential to put over $1 billion every year back into Illinois taxpayers’ wallets. Rather than sending this money to Washington bureaucrats, these dollars can be pumped into the Illinois economy, to help our state grow and prosper.”
General Assembly – Spring session
·        Lawmakers convene for 2018 spring session.  The first day of the spring session was Tuesday, January 30.  In addition to considering appropriation bills to make up the FY19 State of Illinois budget (for the fiscal year which starts on July 1, 2018), the Illinois House and Senate will consider many substantive bills.  With Amazon.com considering Chicago as one possible location as the site for its second headquarters, the lawmakers will be eager to prioritize measures to improve Illinois as a place for job creation and enterprise.  Continuing competition from other Midwestern states, especially Indiana, Missouri and Wisconsin, is expected to be a major theme of the session’s substantive bill work.  

The spring session will continue through May; the lawmakers are constitutionally required to attempt to wrap up their spring 2018 work by May 31.  The Illinois House posts its schedules on the public Illinois General Assembly webpage; the schedules can be found here.