Senate Week in Review: News You Might Not Have Heard

September 14, 2018
Illinois small business owners are feeling optimistic these days. Perhaps a recent report by the Institute of Supply Management is one reason why. The national organization reports U.S. manufacturing activity in August reached its highest level since 2004.
A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats
According to the Illinois News Network (INN), Illinois small businesses are feeling the effects of a growing national economy. INN quotes the Illinois director of the National Federation of Independent Business saying small businesses are having a hard time filling jobs openings.“They’re super-excited because there’s just so much business out there,” State Director Mark Grant told the media outlet. “They can’t hire enough people,” “Because of that, they’re making money, they have customers. That’s really the bottom line. If you have customers and you can sell your service, you’re in good shape.”
Grant also told INN that employers are looking for tradespeople, who are in short supply. If you recall in my last column, a new law I supported this year addresses this growing problem. House Bill 5247, signed into law on August 20, allows high school students aged 16 and older to participate in industry-based occupational apprenticeship programs. While rules about how the program will operate and federal approval are needed, there is hope the registered apprenticeship program can get underway during the current school year. A related law, also recently signed, allows high schools to apply for funding to purchase manufacturing equipment for in-school training.
In a 1963 speech, President John F. Kennedy said“A rising tide lifts all boats.”The growth in the national economy over the past year and a half, which I attribute to President Trump’s tax cuts and massive reduction in business-strangling regulations, seems to prove President Kennedy’s point.
While the positive sentiment about the national economy is a great development, we have a way to go to extract ourselves (Illinois) from the anemic economic growth of the past 10 years.
It’s Not Just Me Saying It
In a devastating editorial during the week, writer Kristen McQueary of the Chicago Tribune highlights an issue I’ve covered numerous times in this column. At the risk of repeating myself, I’ll let her describe the trend that Illinois’ political leaders have failed to adequately address:“More residents left Illinois last year than did residents of any other state.” 
McQueary,who is a member of theTribune’s Editorial Board, wrote that an ever-increasing tax burden is helping to drive out-migration. She also detailed the frustration of Illinois taxpayers saddled with two massive income tax increases, with the possibility of higher taxes yet to come: “We live in a state where politicians jammed a 67 percent personal income tax hike through the General Assembly in 2011 and promised it would be temporary. Then they vacillated on keeping their word and tried to make it permanent. Under pressure, they did allow a portion of the tax to sunset. For a moment. Then they passed a new 32 percent income tax hike. And now they’re vowing to rewrite the state constitution to permit a graduated income tax without revealing how much it would cost.”
McQueary also pointed out, as I have done, how the tax increases did nothing to solve the state’s fiscal crisis. The state’s credit rating remains at“junk-bond”status, our public pension debt continues to balloon into the tens of billions of dollars, and we still can’t pay our bills on time – bills stemming from money government spent in your name.
As I have also previously written, Illinoisans are over-taxed, not only on income but, on the property we own. Illinois has the highest median property tax rate among the 50 states. Unfortunately, very few believe Illinois can get out of the current fiscal crisis without raising taxes. I disagree. During my tenure in the Illinois Senate,I offered four specific budget proposals. Each would have put Illinois on a faster track back to prosperity and opportunity. They would have made government more fiscally responsibility to taxpayers and the 2011 and 2017 state income tax hikes would have been unnecessary.
Illinois needs lower taxes and fewer regulatory burdens, which are roadblocks to job growth, and business expansion and retention. These ideals have been part of my legislative agenda and that of my Republican colleagues for many years. Unfortunately, warnings about the direction Illinois was heading and the common sense, proven solutions we offered to restore our state economy were not adopted. Without a growing economy Illinoisans will continue to see family and friends leave for other states. State government won’t get out of debt and opportunity and prosperity will continue to sputter along, gasping for air.
Champion of Free Enterprise
The Illinois Chamber of Commerce recently released its legislative ratings for the 100th General Assembly based on legislation both favorable and unfavorable for business, jobs and the economy. Once again, the Chamber recognized me as a Champion of Free Enterprise for my support of pro-business issues during 2017 and 2018. The award also recognized lawmakers for their work opposing measures detrimental to economic growth, such as taxation and regulation.Free enterprise is central and essential to the success of our state and our country. It’s not just about what’s good for employers; it’s about what is in the best interest of us all. Economic progress leads to more opportunities for our families, our children and our neighbors. Allowing both employer and employee to pursue excellence leads to a better quality of life for all.
Harvest Emergency
A Harvest Emergency Declaration for Illinois is now in place for the remainder of 2018. During such a declaration, producers can obtain special free permits from the Illinois Dept. of Transportation (IDOT) to transport agriculture commodities provided the axle weight and gross weight do not both exceed 10% above the maximum specified limits. The Governor issued the declaration September 7 citing uncooperative weather that limits harvest time, farmer profitability and agricultural competition in commodities from neighboring states. A similar declaration was issued in 2017. Legislation allowing IDOT to make these declarations and issue the permits, as needed, was recently signed into law but, it doesn’t take effect until next year.
Notable Quotable
“The purpose of a tax cut is to leave more money where it belongs: in the hands of the working men and working women who earned it in the first place.”Bob Dole; U.S. Senator (1969 – 1996); 1996 Republican Presidential nominee; U.S. Army veteran of World War II.