Senate Week in Review: Sept. 16 – 20, 2019

McHenry, IL. — A one-time tax amnesty program is being offered to delinquent taxpayers beginning October 1. Also during the week, members of the Property Tax Relief Task Force continued to meet in hopes of addressing Illinois’ onerous property tax burden. 

I also want to take note of Constitution Day, as we celebrated the 230th anniversary of the greatest document of self-governance in the history of the world. And, I’ve included initial findings from my summer newsletter survey in this report. 

Tax Amnesty Program Created to Recover Outstanding Taxes
While most people pay their taxes, there are those who do not for a variety of reasons. The Illinois Department of Revenue recently announced a tax amnesty program for delinquent taxpayers. 

Beginning October 1, individuals with unpaid tax liabilities from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2018 may be eligible for the one-time amnesty. Taxpayers have until November 15, 2019 to make full payments on their outstanding tax debt without penalties. 

Taxpayers who did not file their state taxes during the original filing period will be required to file an original return in addition to paying the full tax due. Residents will also have the opportunity to report changes to previously filed returns by submitting an amended return and paying the tax debt in full. 

The amnesty program was proposed earlier this year to recover the estimated $175 million in outstanding taxes owed to the state. For more information on the program, visit the Illinois Department of Revenue’s Tax Amnesty website located at www.tax.illinois.gov

Property Tax Relief Tax Force Identifies Critical Subcommittees
Meetings of the Property Tax Relief Task Force, a panel on which I am serving, continued during the week. 

Lawmakers from the Senate and House are tasked with pinpointing the causes of Illinois’ high property tax burden and identifying policy changes to provide relief to Illinois homeowners. 

To streamline the process of examining this complex issue, the Task Force recently created seven subcommittees to focus on the significant drivers of high property taxes in Illinois. Subcommittees will meet on topics including assessments and exemptions, government consolidation, social and economic disparities, limits on the amount of tax extensions allowed, local pensions, school funding and tax increment financing districts. 

The subcommittee I am serving on is dealing with PTELL, which stands for the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law. PTELL limits the amount of tax extensions (total taxes billed) for non-home rule taxing districts. The purpose of PTELL is to slow the growth of revenues to taxing districts when property values and assessments are increasing faster than the rate of inflation. 

Members of each subcommittee will continue to meet to discuss their designated subject areas in more detail and will report back to the central Task Force. While I was disappointed no substantive action was taken to address the property tax issue during the spring session, I am hopeful the Task Force will provide the answers Illinois needs to solve this pressing problem. An analysis by Wallet Hub, the online personal financial website, noted earlier this year that overall, Illinois has the second-highest property taxes among the 50 states trailing only New Jersey.

The Task Force is required to submit a final report of its recommendations to the General Assembly by December 31, 2019. 

School Visitation Law Reminder and Employer Responsibilities
With students back in school, and parent-teacher conferences are around the corner, which is why the State of Illinois is reminding parents of its school visitation law.

Since 1993, Illinois has had a law providing for unpaid leave for employees to attend school conferences or classroom activities of their children when such events cannot be rescheduled during non-work hours. The School Visitation Rights Act stresses the importance of and promotes the involvement of parents in their children’s schooling.

A school visitation rights leave form is available on the Illinois Department of Labor’s website. 

Constitution Day – September 17
The U.S. Constitution is 230 years old and it stands as the most monumental document of individual liberty and freedom ever designed by Man. It details our rights and our responsibilities. It also clearly gives ultimate authority to the people over the government it establishes. It is a document of self-governance unequalled in the history of the world. Its companion document, the Declaration of Independence, contains what some people regard as the 55 most important words of our nation’s Founding: 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” 

You can read these great Founding documents; the U.S. Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence in their entirety at my legislation website: www.senatorwilcox.com. Click on the “Your American Heritage” tab. 

U.S. Air Force Celebrates 72 Years
Also this week, the United States Air Force celebrated its 72nd birthday having been established on September 18, 1947. Even though the U.S. took possession of its first airplane in 1909, it wasn’t until after World War II that the Air Force was created as a separate military service. I’m proud to have served my country for 24 years as a member of the United States Air Force. 

[Depictions in military uniform do not imply an endorsement by the U.S. Air Force or the Department of Defense]

Survey Results Part 1
In July, I mailed a legislative newsletter that included a survey. Here are the results of the three questions:

  1. Do you think the Illinois Constitution should be amended to take the process of drawing legislative district maps out of the hands of self-interested lawmakers, to make the process independent and non-partisan?
    Yes – 139
    No –      5
    Undecided/No opinion – 6
  2. Illinois leads the nation with nearly 7,000 units of local government. Knowing that these governmental entities often contribution to increased costs for local taxpayers through extra layers of taxation, do you support a consolidation of township government?
    Yes – 113
    No – 30
    Undecided/No opinion – 6
  3. To help with public pension costs, it’s been suggested that local school districts should be responsible for paying into their teachers’ retirement plan rather than all taxpayers across the state. Do you agree?
    Yes – 90
    No – 37
    Undecided/No opinion – 15

In my next report, I’ll present the ranking respondents gave to 10 important issues facing Illinois. 

*** If you did not receive a printed survey in the mail, you can still participate in the survey by going to my legislative website at www.senatorwilcox.com. I’ll release the results of the website portion of the survey in the near future.

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