Springfield, IL. – The highlight during the week in Springfield was a proposal putting taxpayers first for consideration, rather than first in line to pay higher taxes.
In other news, for the second week in a row the Capitol was packed with citizens rallying for Constitutional rights and; the Senate passed a measure protecting vulnerable citizens.
When it comes to government, taxpayers pay all the bills, but in recent years Illinois taxpayers have been at the mercy of a political system that continues to overspend year after year. That’s why, after two major state income tax hikes in 2011 and 2018, Illinois remains deeply in debt – and can’t pay its bills on time.
To begin addressing this fundamental problem, I joined my Senate Republican colleagues (pictured left) announcing a proposal to protect middle class taxpayers by making it tougher to pass tax hikes. The measure, SJRCA 12, would amend the state constitution requiring a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly before any higher or new taxes are imposed. (from l to r: Sens.; Chuck Weaver, Brian Stewart, Jason Plummer, Craig Wilcox, Jason Barickman, Dan McConchie with the microphone, Steve McClure and Paul Schimpf)
Currently, it takes a simple majority vote to pass a tax increase or to implement a new tax. Since Illinois is one of the top states in the nation for overall tax burden, according to a recent state-by-state ranking, having a higher, more difficult-to-pass standard is justified. The last time the General Assembly passed a tax hike was 2017. Because the vote occurred after the May 31, 2017 legislative deadline (July 2, 2017 in the House and July 4, 2017 in the Senate), the vote to pass the 32 percent tax hike actually took a 3/5’s majority vote, higher than a simple majority. The 3/5ths vote was also required to override the veto (July 4, 2017 in the House and July 6, 2017 in the Senate) by then-Governor Bruce Rauner.
Under the newly-unveiled proposal for a Constitutional Amendment requiring a two-thirds supermajority vote, a tax increase or new tax could only be implemented with 40 votes in the Senate and 79 votes in the House. The two-thirds standard could have prevented the 2017 tax hike. It is a higher threshold than 3/5ths as the General Assembly is currently structured.
With a public pension debt that exceeds $130 billion dollars, an ongoing budget deficit of several billion dollars and a backlog of unpaid bills that tops $7 billion, the temptation to grab more of your hard-earned dollars will seemingly never diminish.
Too often, when dealing with tight state finances, new taxes are a first resort. As we witnessed since 2011, higher taxes haven’t solved our financial problems. SJRCA 12 would force legislators to look at other avenues when dealing with financial issues rather than increasing taxes on the middles class. Just like Illinois families have to be diligent about their budgets, so should legislators—increasing taxes should not be so easily accomplished with a simple majority vote.
Law-abiding Gun Owners March on the Capitol
Just a week after thousands of right-to-life supporters came to Springfield, another huge event occurred at the Capitol on March 27. 6,000 to 7,000 Illinois gun owners paid lawmakers a visit as part of their annual Illinois Gun Owner Lobby Day. They marched from their Springfield convention site (pictured left) to the east steps of the Capitol, rallying in front of a statute of Abraham Lincoln (pictured below) to publicly affirm their Constitutional right to keep and bear arms, and remind members of the Illinois General Assembly that the Second Amendment, “…shall not be infringed,” as it is stated in the Bill of Rights.
Despite the passage of Concealed Carry in 2013, the ultimate recognition of the Second Amendment, there are still lawmakers who consistently introduce bills to undermine gun rights.
For example, some of the pending legislation this year includes the following:
As I also reported in this column last month, House Bill 888 would force law-abiding citizens to give the state access to their personal social media accounts for merely considering exercising their constitutional right to own a firearm.
Another proposal, Senate Bill 107, would also force law-abiding gun owners to pay additional fees and consent to a massive government registry simply for owning semi-automatic firearms, a technology that is more than 100 years old, or otherwise risk penalties such as steep fines and hard time.
Already signed into law earlier this year were burdensome new state licensing regulations for firearm dealers. They are already heavily licensed and scrutinized by the federal government. The state regulations will make it more costly to operate a gun store, most of which are small businesses.
While the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights and Constitution are unalienable, which means we are entitled to them by our very existence, law-abiding citizens must remain vigilant to avoid those rights being undermined. While I share the concern of lawmakers who want to address crime and violence, I think it’s misguided to do so by targeting and punishing law-abiding people.
You can read the Second Amendment and the rest of the Bill of Rights, and the U.S. Constitution, on my legislation website at senatorwilcox.com under the ‘Your American Heritage tab.’
Combating the Exploitation of Vulnerable Persons
Senate lawmakers are clamping down on those who financially exploit senior citizens and citizens with disabilities. Senate Bill 69 would provide tougher penalties for those who prey upon our most vulnerable populations, and also make it easier to identify those with a history of this criminal activity.
The bill calls for changes to the Criminal Code to help prosecute individuals who financially exploit seniors, including those perpetrators who live in a different state. It also makes “theft by deception from a person with a disability” a Class 2 felony, which could come with prison time and penalties. In addition, it prohibits sealing the records of certain offenses and eliminates a “consent” defense used by perpetrators who claim they didn’t know the victim lacked the capacity to consent.
The legislation passed out of the Senate on March 27, and is on its way to the House.
Elderly Women of Wisdom Day
Special citizens of Illinois were honored at the Capitol March 27. March is Women's History Month, and as part of the celebration, special ladies from each of our legislative districts were honored for their contributions to their families and our communities. Anne, (pictured left), who resides at Alden Terrace of McHenry Rehab in McHenry, is one such person honored on Elderly Women of Wisdom Day. The 98-year-young Anne was born in Lithuania and grew up in Cicero. As a child, she enjoyed walking to school with her neighborhood friends. Anne worked during the war for the government and spent most of her days working. She explained that she lived a long hard life, but wouldn’t change anything because it made her into the strong woman she is today.
Keep In Touch/Stay Informed
My District and Capitol office phone numbers are 815/455-6330 or 217/782-8000. You can also contact me by visiting my legislative website at www.senatorwilcox.com, and clicking on the ‘Contact’ tab at the top-right of the homepage.
The website is a great way to find out what’s happening at the Capitol with my weekly column and breaking news posted when appropriate. You can also sign up for my free newsletter, read our Founding Documents, and connect to state government agencies and resources.
Other information available includes college scholarship information and an extensive list of sites veterans can use to connect to employment, education, service records and more.