Senator McCarter: Week In Review
While the recent stop-gap budget deal between the Governor and legislative leaders “keeps the lights on” in Illinois a key component of the bipartisan agreement is a recognition of the fact that state government needs to address structural reforms to improve Illinois’ business/jobs climate and fix its broken fiscal house.
Reform = Renewal
If you’re a regular reader of this column, “reform” is a topic you are well-familiar. Reform and its relationship to Illinois’ renewal is an issue at the center of my legislative agenda since first coming to the Senate in February of 2009.
Illinois needs structural reforms to how it conducts public business and how it taxes and regulates employers. We are still among the states with the highest Workers’ Compensation rates across every job category. We have workplace rules in the place that make it expensive to hire and keep good people employed. These are regulations that affect both public-sector workers, union employees and non-union workers.
I hope all parties will sincerely address structural reforms, as the Legislature moves toward crafting a complete budget. State policies and practices can’t be pro-jobs and anti-business at the same time. What’s good for the employer is good for the employee and the potential employee. If we restructure the cost of doing business – the business climate – and give the risk-takers the opportunity to make a profit and invest in people, the economy will create the prosperity we seek. Prosperity puts people to work and it generates the revenue government needs to pay for critical state programs and services, and to begin to dig ourselves out of the current financial hole. We are neck-high in public debt and red ink. Illinois can’t pay its bills on time and the crisis threatens to burden future generations.
There is plenty of evidence that reform is necessary as identified in this column for many months. It is also common knowledge that Illinois’ public debt continues to climb out-of-control, our unemployment rate remains above the national average – as job losses out-number job gains – and Illinois is one of the top states for out-migration of residents.
A recent report by the Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) revealed the state lost more than 350,000 prime working-age adults (age 25 to 54) over the past ten years, with most of the loss – 290,000 – due to migration to other states. The IPI report states, “Out-migration is a serious problem for Illinois, and policymakers should focus on curtailing it by fostering a better climate for job creation and economic growth. The more Illinoisans leave, the fewer there are left to shoulder the burden of Illinois’ tremendous debts.”
Unfortunately, for the past year, partisan politics in Springfield stood in the way of reform and renewal. The common argument in opposition to reform is that the budget and structural reforms should not be tied together. As I mentioned many times in the past, they are linked because they impact each other at the state’s fundamental financial level and they impact the lives of every Illinois citizen. Structural reforms will have to be substantial to overcome the $8 billion deficit identified in the stop-gap budget by the Legislature’s own Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability.
Unresolved Issue: Property Taxes
Revitalizing our state economy and getting government under control will help address the issue of rising and unaffordable property taxes too. High property taxes hurt middle-class homeowners and it’s a roadblock to Illinois’ ability to attract new businesses and compete for jobs. A recent study on property taxes indicates Illinois taxpayers suffer under the burden of the highest property taxes in the nation. The property tax burden is large enough to impact a homeowner’s ability to stay in their home. This is an especially significant issue for Illinoisans on a fixed income. No one purchases a home with property taxes they cannot afford, nor will a lender agree to a loan under such circumstances. Something must be done to lower our property taxes. I would like to hear your opinion. Contact me at 217-283-3000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last month, I hosted a Property Tax Town Hall in Effingham. Another Town Hall is planned for Troy in September. In Effingham, more than 50 homeowners attended. Effingham County Assessor Pam Braun helped us to better understand property tax bills, exemptions and assessments. I’m planning a second Property Tax Town Hall on September 15 in Troy at the Tri-Township Community Center. I’ll pass on more details as the date approaches.
SAT Returns for High School Students
The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) announced it will end the controversial PARCC assessment test for high school students during the upcoming 2016-17 school year.
ISBE said it will replace PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) with the College Board’s SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test), at no cost to students. ISBE said the decision to replace PARCC and return to the SAT came after a statewide listening tour of students, parents, teachers, administrators and other interested parties.
The State Board said, “Stakeholders overwhelmingly emphasized the need for equitable access to a college entrance exam for all students. They also stressed that the amount of testing time and the number of assessments administered to students need to be reduced.”
Elementary school students in grades 3 through 8 will continue to take the PARCC assessment.
“…the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or total change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity and happiness require it.” – John Adams, second President of the United States (1797–1801), the first Vice President (1789–97), and Founding Father.