Springfield, IL. – A busy week that began with a tour of one of our leading local companies. Meanwhile, the Senate had a full schedule of committees and some floor action. Other notes of interest include taking care of our veterans, learning about the State Supreme Court and job creation. Also in this report is news about our state and local tax burden.
Brake Parts Inc. Visit
On Monday, March 11, I had the opportunity to visit another of our area’s great companies: Brake Parts Incorporated (BPI).
I talked with the company President and CEO David Overbeeke about the impact of Illinois’ new minimum wage law. BPI pays well above minimum wage and treats its' employees well. They have opportunities to move up and earn more – more than the current minimum wage law requires. Illinois’ new higher minimum wage law could have a negative impact on the company’s ability to keep quality employees, and on its financial health and ongoing strategic planning. While they are headquartered, and have a major distribution center in McHenry and two other locations elsewhere around the country, they are also a global company. A $15 per hour minimum wage might negatively impact BPI’s ability to expand its operations in Illinois resulting in jobs going elsewhere.
BPI is a premier manufacturer and supplier of brake system components, including its popular Raybestos brand of products. It’s a global leader in automotive aftermarket brake products, and we can be proud that their world headquarters are in McHenry.
(Photo: from l to r Sen. Wilcox; David Overbeeke, President and CEO of Brake Parts Inc. and; Mayor Wayne Jett of McHenry)
Honoring Deputy Keltner
On March 13, the Senate honored McHenry County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Keltner with a moment of silence. My colleague, Senator Dan McConchie eulogized Deputy Keltner who was shot while on duty March 7.
Police officers are special human beings. We invest them with tremendous authority and trust them to preserve the peace and protect us all. In return, they devote themselves – putting their own lives at risk – to work and care for the communities they serve. It was fitting the Senate honored Jacob’s life and service.
In other legislative activity during the week, a couple of controversial measures made news.
Senate Passes Tobacco 21
The full Senate met just briefly each day during its three-day schedule, but on its last day, tackled the controversial Tobacco 21 legislation. Under House Bill 345, anyone younger than 21 would be prohibited from using tobacco or e-cigarette products.
While the intent of the legislation may be a sincere effort to help people avoid the illnesses associated with smoking, at what point are adults responsible for their own lives? At age 18, you can vote and sign a contract; you can marry without parental approval and be financial responsible for children. If you are able to make adult decisions in these areas, you are also capable to make a decision about smoking, taking into account the widely-known negative facts about the use of tobacco.
A number of communities in Illinois already have adopted Tobacco 21 rules. HB345 would make it a statewide standard. The Senate passed HB 345 on a vote of 39 to 16. Have been approved by the House on March 12, the measure now heads to the Governor’s desk.
Targeting Presidential Candidates
Under Senate Bill 145, candidates for President and Vice-President would be required to publish or make their income tax returns public. Failing to do so would mean that candidate would be barred from appearing on an Illinois Presidential ballot. Under current federal law, presidential candidates are not required by law to publish or make their income tax returns public. Courts have also held, in two separate cases, that it’s unconstitutional for states to add requirements to a federal office. Those cases are U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton and Cook v. Gralike. It’s clear, by the bill’s sponsorship and the 14 to 3 partisan vote, the legislation is meant to target President Donald J. Trump who did not release his income tax records prior to the 2016 election.
Senate Bill145 now moves to the full Senate for action.
As a member of one of two Senate budget committees, and an Air Force veteran, I will be watching closely how the state plans to fund our veterans’ homes. During a meeting of the Senate Appropriations I Committee March 13, we heard testimony from the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs about their requests for the new fiscal year state budget. I’m sure you are well aware of the Legionnaire’s Disease outbreak at the Quincy Veterans Home that led to a number of deaths of residents. State government began taking serious steps to address the water contamination at the home last year, including replacing contaminated plumbing, improving water treatment and securing a new water source for the Home. At our most recent hearing, the Department discussed their capital needs to keep facility improvements on track. I will be keeping a watchful eye on the progress. Meanwhile, the agency scheduled a tours, with Gov. Pritzker, of the Quincy Veterans’ Home on March 14 and the Chicago Veterans’ Home on March 15.
Law School for Lawmakers
I had a great opportunity on March 13 to attend a special Law School for Legislators Program hosted by Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Lloyd Karmeier. We learned about how the court operates and toured the Supreme Court Building where seven Justices, representing different regions of the state preside, hear legal appeals from lower courts and provide the final determination in cases where the constitutionality of laws are called into question.
When the high court is in session in Springfield, the Justices live in the Supreme Court building. And while the Justices have dinner together, they do not discuss cases unless they are in the Chambers deliberating.
Long-time Chicago Bears fans will recognize the name of Justice Robert Thomas, who was the Chicago Bears placekicker from 1975 to 1982 and again from 1983 to 1984. Justice Thomas was elected to the Supreme Court from the 2nd District – that covers our northern Illinois region outside of the City of Chicago.
Some Good News for Illinois’ Economy
The improving national economy may be trickling down to Illinois, although there’s room for improvement.
According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), preliminary figures show nonfarm payrolls increased by 24,000 jobs in January 2019 over December 2018. IDES also reported during the week that job growth during the three-month period of November to January averaged a monthly gain of 12,500 jobs.
However, the agency revised its previously reported December jobs gain downward from 13,600 to 7,400. IDES also notes the state’s unemployment rate remained at 4.3 percent in January, unchanged from December. Illinois’ unemployment rate is .5 percentage points higher than the 3.8 percent national unemployment rate reported for February.
Illinois’ State and Local Tax Burden
Illinoisans understand well, the amount of state and local taxes they pay each year. What you might not know is how we compare with other states.
The online consumer and financial website, WalletHub ranks Illinois with having the highest effective state and local taxes in the nation at 14.9 percent. The ranking was based on a Median U.S. Household income of $58,082, with an estimated annual tax burden of $8,653. WalletHub ranks Illinois’ current flat income tax rate of 4.95 percent at 39, our real-estate tax at 50 and our sales and excise taxes (taxes on products such as gasoline, tobacco and alcohol) in the middle of the pack at 25.