Capitol Report from Senator Craig Wilcox

Senate Ethics Committee meets for first time this General Assembly
Despite a seemingly endless cycle of corruption news involving Illinois politicians, the Senate Ethics Committee finally held its first meeting of the 102nd General Assembly last week. It’s important to note that other Senate committees have been meeting for almost four months now. Originally not listed on the week’s committee schedule, the Ethics Committee meeting was posted late last Tuesday night for a 9:00 AM meeting Wednesday morning. As a result, many who would have been interested in following the proceedings did not know about the meeting until after it was over.

The committee considered just one bill, Senate Bill 4, which is an omnibus bill that seeks to reform legislative ethics laws in Illinois. The legislation includes some good ideas but doesn’t go nearly far enough to truly start rooting out corruption and rebuilding the public’s trust.

In light of numerous indictments and charges against Illinois elected officials in recent months, Senate Republicans have filed a variety of ethics reform bills, none of which have been given a hearing. Some of these measures include:

  • Amending the State RICO law to give wiretap authority to state’s attorneys to investigate crimes of public corruption.
  • Giving the Legislative Inspector General the ability to investigate and issue subpoenas without prior consent of the Legislative Ethics Commission (which is comprised of sitting lawmakers).
  • Prohibiting legislators from becoming lobbyists for at least one year after leaving office or until the end of their current term, whichever is longer.

I appreciate Senate Bill 4 as a starting point of a conversation, but believe much more work must be done if lawmakers are truly serious about changing Illinois’ political culture.

Senate passes state and local tax deduction bill
Small businesses in Illinois, which suffer from some of the highest taxes in the nation, stand to benefit from legislation (Senate Bill 2531) to alter tax deductions. The bill utilizes an IRS-approved method to allow pass-through entities to bypass the $10,000 cap on the State and Local Tax, or SALT, deduction.

This legislation has the potential to help up to 400,000 Illinois business owners save thousands of dollars annually on their federal tax filings. This bill does not cost the State of Illinois a penny as the tax savings are at the federal level. Currently, 14 other states have passed or are in the process of passing similar legislation. SB 2531 passed the Senate unanimously on April 21 and now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Tax Freedom Day: How Illinois Compares
Tax Freedom Day represents how long into the year Americans must work before they have earned enough money to pay all federal, state, and local taxes for the year. Illinois ranks 45th of all the states with April 24 being our state’s Tax Freedom Day. Some states, such as Alaska (ranking 1st), have tax freedom days as early as April 1. Click here to view all data for all 50 states.

Craig Wilcox

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