Senate Week in Review: December 12-16

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Following the Dec. 13 passage of a targeted job creation and retention package, many Illinois lawmakers are now calling for a more thorough review and possibly a rollback of state tax hikes that were passed just under a year ago.

State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) said the piecemeal approach that Gov. Pat Quinn and his legislative allies have taken whenever a major employer threatens to leave the state needs to be replaced by a broader and more consistent approach that will encourage job growth and reduce costs for all Illinois employers.

The latest push comes following the approval of a package of income tax exemptions and credits. Although attention has been focused on a handful of high-profile provisions, the actual components of Senate Bill 397 and Senate Bill 400 were much broader and impact many Illinois businesses.

In addition to tax changes to retain several thousand jobs at the CME Group and Sears Holding Company, SB 397 also contained a significant cut in the state’s estate tax to protect family farms and an extension of gasohol tax credits that were set to expire in 2013. Other provisions that will help businesses invest and grow jobs in the state included extensions of the state’s Research and Development and Investment tax credits. In addition to the two Chicago-area companies, the legislation also offered tax benefits to a downstate manufacturer of automobile filters.

Sen. Rezin said she ultimately decided to support the legislation because of the support area farm bureaus had for the estate tax component of the measure.

“The reason we were put into this position was because of the 67% tax increase last January,” Sen. Rezin said.  “Overall, I’m not in favor or picking winners and losers for tax incentives.  However, there were other components of this legislation that had some real benefits for the district.”

A second measure, SB 400, offers an expanded credit for low-income workers through the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit program and a small increase in the personal deduction for all taxpayers.

For the past year, Senate Republicans have voiced concern about both the effect of the 67% income tax increase and the refusal of the Governor and majority legislators to come to grips with the state’s massive overspending problem.

Despite the tax increase, Illinois will end the current fiscal year billions of dollars in the red. And, that is after pushing off more than a billion dollars in Medicaid costs into the next year. Senate Republicans laid out an extensive “Reality Check” austerity plan last spring, but it was rejected by the Governor and Democrats who control both houses of the legislature.

While most of the attention during the week focused on the business and personal income tax packages, lawmakers also unanimously approved a bill designed to correct problems created by a major cemetery reform adopted following the 2009 Burr Oak cemetery scandal near Chicago.

Senate Bill 1830 will roll back a number of regulatory requirements that proved to be particularly burdensome and costly, especially for small cemeteries. Many lawmakers expressed concerns that small public and privately-owned cemeteries might otherwise be closed or abandoned.

“This legislation is going to be beneficial to cemeteries across the region and state,” Sen. Rezin said.  “When the Cemetery Oversight Act was passed, we heard that the regulations were burdensome, unnecessary and costly.  This concurrence will hopefully correct some of those burdens while still maintaining proper oversight and regulation on cemeteries in Illinois.”

The legislation will now be sent to Gov. Pat Quinn for his approval. 

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