I want to thank everyone who filled out my pre-session legislative survey. This is an invaluable tool my office utilizes each year to seek feedback from constituents on some of the top issues facing our state. The results drive my agenda and set my priorities.
This was our most successful survey yet, with nearly 700 constituents voicing their opinions.
To begin, I wanted to discuss a few of the top issues brought forward by the community:
In the last election, voters in the state approved a non-binding referendum by a 2-to-1 margin in support of raising the statewide minimum wage to $10 an hour by January 1st, 2015. Unfortunately, we were unable to pass the increase during the veto session.
While the state failed to act, the City of Chicago passed a plan that will gradually raise the wage to $13 an hour by 2019. This is a strong step in the right direction, and I am hopeful that in the coming years the legislature will fulfill the very clear expression of public support through the referendum and pass a statewide increase.
Progressive income tax
A graduated, progressive income tax is one of the most critically needed reforms in our state. It would provide tax relief to a vast majority of Illinois residents while ensuring we have the revenue needed to properly fund human services and our schools.
The process is difficult, requiring legislative approval and passage of a constitutional amendment through voter approval.
In all discussions of the budget and revenue, a graduated income tax is my number one priority. While the next opportunity for voter approval will be November of 2016, we have never been closer and will continue to strongly push throughout this year and next.
With the lapse of the tax increase and subsequent reduction in revenue, this year’s budget making process will be one of the most difficult our state has ever dealt with. The reduction in revenue will cause a shortfall of $6 billion in FY 2016.
Failure to address revenue makes draconian budget cuts inevitable. We may very well see enormous cuts to public safety, our social safety net and education.
During this session, my priority is to defend critically needed programs from cuts. Many programs offer a net cost-savings: while they incur an initial cost, their effectiveness saves the state money. What may appear to be a cut could end up as a cost in the long term.
As the new governor prepares his budget address and plan, we will begin gearing up to protect programs as best we can in the face of dire budgetary pressures caused by the shortsighted reduction in revenue.
Criminal justice reform
Reducing our prison population and implementing smart criminal justice policies can improve public safety outcomes while saving money.
This can be accomplished through a variety of means- sentencing reforms for non-violent crimes, strengthening of re-entry services and civil enforcement of low-level drug offenses.
Serving on the Public Safety Appropriations Committee, protecting cost-effective programs from cuts while be a top priority.
Additionally, serving as Chair of the Committee on Juvenile Justice and System Involved Youth will offer a unique opportunity to pursue policies to improve our response to the most vulnerable in our state.
In January 2015, the 99th General Assembly will be sworn in. Along with the beginning of new session comes the opportunity to introduce new legislation. If you could propose a new law or modify an existing law, what would you recommend?
Progressive Income Tax- 50
Protect Pensions- 41
Legalize Marijuana- 39
Stricter gun control- 25
Ban Fracking- 19
This past session, the legislature failed to extend our current income tax rates, meaning in January, 2015, the individual tax rate will drop from 5% to 3.75% and the corporate rate will fall from 9.5% to 5.25%.Failure to extend the current rates, which Representative Cassidy has supported doing, will create a $4.1 billion hole in the budget, necessitating unacceptable cuts. Assuming budget cuts are unable to be avoided, rank the following in order of preference. Assign a 1 to the area you want to cut the least, continuing to an 8 which would be the area you are most willing to accept cuts in.
In order of LEAST acceptable cuts to MOST acceptable cuts.
1. Elementary / Secondary Education
2. Human Services
4. Senior Services
5. Higher Education
6. Public Safety / Corrections
7. Governmental Employee Salaries / Benefits
8. Corporate Tax Credits / Incentives
Are there any areas that should be cut not mentioned above?
Waste, bureaucracy and administrative costs- 44
Smart criminal justice / reduce prison expenditures- 18
Legislative Salaries / Perks- 16
Combine Treasurer and Comptroller- 14
Charter School Funding- 8
In the November election, voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum in support of raising the minimum wage statewide from $8.25 an hour to $10 by January 2015. Despite our best efforts, the legislature failed to act during veto session and was unable to garner the necessary votes. Fortunately, the City of Chicago passed a plan that will slowly raise the minimum hourly wage to $13 by 2019. Some have argued that the state minimum wage legislation should preempt home rule, meaning one minimum wage for the entire state, preventing local governments from raising it any further.Which minimum wage legislation would you prefer?