Budget negotiations continue as clock ticks down to May 31 deadline.
With less than a week left before the scheduled end of session, the House and Senate continue to work on budget negotiations with the hope of passing a balanced budget by the end of May. Both houses of the General Assembly have adjourned for the weekend and are scheduled to return on Monday for Memorial Day session. Negotiations will continue over the weekend as the “budgeteers” work towards an agreement on a balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2019.
Gov. Rauner announces certification of 327 Illinois Opportunity Zones.
Gov. Bruce Rauner has announced that 327 Opportunity Zone census tract recommendations submitted by the State of Illinois have been approved by the U.S. Treasury Department. These zones cover more than 85% of Illinois’ counties throughout the state and aim to support the future of Illinois through economic growth and investment.
Established by the Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, Opportunity Zones present an opportunity for private, tax-free investment in low-income areas with economic need, benefiting residents living in the zones and private investors. 1,305 qualifying low-income census tracts were available for selection, of which only 25% could be nominated by the Governor for inclusion in the program.
For more information on Opportunity Zones visit https://www.illinois.gov/dceo/Pages/OppZn.aspx.
Illinois eliminates tax burden on human-powered watercraft.
Until 2018, the law that requires that an Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Water Usage tax stamp be affixed to boats launched into Illinois waterways was applied to human-powered boats such as canoes, kayaks, and paddleboats. IDNR has decided to stop enforcing the tax-stamp requirement for summer 2018 boating in human-powered boats. The decision affects the 74,012 owners of non-motorized vessels who purchased the IDNR tax stamps in 2017.
Revenues from the $6.00 tax stamps were nominally used to build and maintain boat ramps that the non-motorized craft sometimes use, but the tax stamp did not raise very much money and most of the time, the owners and users of these light vessels just drop them into shallow water. In addition, there was ambiguity over whether the tax-stamp requirement applied to personal floating devices such as inner tubes and children’s float rafts. Meanwhile, many of the users of boat ramps continue to use them to push and pull heavy motorboats in and out of Illinois deep waters. Motorboats will continue to have to pay taxes. The rules change will take effect on Friday, June 1.
IDNR will continue to offer three-year registrations for all boats, including canoes, kayaks, and paddleboats. The registration fee creates a legal status for each individual boat in case of loss, theft, or accident. The registration fee schedule describes the registration fees charged to boat owners based on boat length and power. Registration is voluntary for owners of light human-powered boats.
Take the Give Them Distance pledge.
Illinois transportation, safety and government leaders were at the state Capitol this week to honor the life of Illinois Tollway roadway maintenance worker David Schwarz and to call on Illinois drivers to take the Give Them Distance pledge.
The Give Them Distance pledge launched as part of a statewide effort to emphasize the importance of the Illinois Move Over Law, which was expanded by Governor Bruce Rauner in 2017 and requires drivers to slow down and change lanes safely when approaching any vehicle stopped on the side of the road with lights flashing.
Schwarz was tragically struck and killed while working on the Tollway in 2017 by a driver who failed to follow the Move Over Law. Governor Rauner joined leaders from the Illinois Tollway, Illinois State Police, Illinois General Assembly and AAA recognizing Schwarz’s life today and emphasizing the importance of this vital law by calling on all drivers to take the Give Them Distance pledge.
The Illinois House of Representatives honored Schwarz through House Resolution 804and joined the Give Them Distance team to call for safer roads throughout Illinois.
Give Them Distance leaders, including the Illinois Tollway, Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois State Police, Office of the Secretary of State and AAA, are calling on members of the media, state legislators and drivers across Illinois to visit GiveThemDistance.com, take the pledge and share their commitment on social media to challenge their friends, family and constituents to join the movement for safer roads. Among those who have already joined the movement by taking the pledge are ABC 7 Chicago Traffic/Transportation Anchor Roz Varon and Chicago Bears Quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
AFSCME Members to Receive Back Pay from 2011
HB 4290 passed by a bipartisan vote and will finally giving state employees $63 million in back pay from 2011 for money they rightfully earned. “It has been an honor to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get our state workers the back pay that they were promised by the Quinn Administration in 2011. Today is just the first step we needed to take to make right the many years of mistrust and disservice to Illinois workers,” said Rep. McCombie. “I am hopeful that the Senate will follow our lead and pass this bill immediately next week.”
In January 2011, then Governor Quinn and AFSCME struck a deal in which AFSCME members would give up half the value of their contractually mandated pay raises in exchange for a promise that Quinn would not lay off 2,600 workers or close any state facilities until July 2011. AFSCME also accepted voluntary furlough days and other concessions to save the state about $50 million.
However, in July 2011, Quinn reneged on scheduled pay raises, and state workers have never received the money they earned. The passing of HB 4290 finally ensures state workers will be paid. HB 4290 will now to the Senate for approval. The bill should not be considered new spending, because it appropriates $63 million that was previously promised to state employees by Governor Quinn’s administration in 2011.