Political gridlock blocks reform in Illinois

Scoring political points over passing good public policy continued into the first week of the overtime session, as Democrat leaders continued to block critical reforms that would freeze property taxes and reform the state’s workers’ compensation system.

On June 9, the Senate convened a rare “Committee of the Whole” hearing, inviting testimony from tax experts and education and local government representatives. However it was noted that Illinois taxpayers—those most dramatically impacted by Illinois’ high property taxes—were notably absent from the panel.

Gov. Rauner and Senate Republicans stress that Illinois has some of the nation’s highest property taxes. According to the Tax Foundation and the Taxpayers’ Federation of Illinois’ latest study, over a five-year period Illinois had the third-highest residential property tax rate in the nation, behind only New Jersey and New Hampshire. Other recent studies show Illinois having the second-highest property tax rates in the nation.

Senate Republicans emphasize that property tax relief is critical to keeping more families and businesses from fleeing the state. Senate Bill 1046 is founded in Gov. Rauner’s plan to freeze property taxes, allowing residents to choose through referendum whether they want to increase taxes for education, libraries or other services. The proposal would also directly address several of the contributing factors to high costs at the local level. However, Senate Democrats rejected Senate Bill 1046, and have so far refused to work with the Governor and their Republican counterparts on compromise legislation.

The Senate Judiciary Committee also met June 9 to discuss workers’ compensation legislation being pushed by the House Speaker. Codifying what is already current law and making no real reforms, Senate Republicans say House Bill 1287 fails to address the issues that contribute to Illinois having the seventh-highest workers’ compensation rates in the nation—a distinction that employers say increases their costs and drives jobs out of Illinois.

Instead they point to Gov. Rauner’s proposal (Senate Bill 994) as a more effective option, saying the measure would have reduced workers’ compensation rates for businesses by instituting a number of reforms, including a provision that would ensure the workplace is the major contributing cause of the injury.

Senate Republicans remain open to compromise and continue to advocate for reforms in Illinois that will make the state more competitive, create new jobs and improve the overall economy. 

Chapin Rose

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