Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Alliance Legislative Report 100-08

PROPERTY TAX FREEZE COULD BE UP FOR VOTE
The Senate budget “grand bargain” compromise attempting to end the state budget stalemate could be called for a vote this week in the Illinois State Senate. When the Senate adjourned two weeks ago, Senate leaders indicated that they would call the wide-ranging budget and reform plan for a vote upon their return. One of the bills in the 13 bill package contains a two-year freeze on property tax extensions for school districts and units of local government.

This is not the first time that the “grand bargain” has been put to the test in the upper chamber of the General Assembly. On Feb. 8, several budget-related bills were approved by the Senate: SB 3 (local government consolidation), SB 8 (procurement reform), and SB 10 (municipal taxes). But when the pension reform bill (SB 11) was called, the bill was defeated as all Republican members and many Democrat members voted against the measure. It was not that they were necessarily against the budget agreement, Republicans said at the time, but that since each of the bills was linked as a package they were not prepared to vote until they saw the final language of all of the proposals. As of today, there is still no language available for SB 1 – the bill that will contain the school funding reform language.

But even after that set back three weeks ago, both Democrats and Republicans have stated that the “grand bargain” is still a viable package. Only time will tell if the compromise legislation will have the votes to pass the Senate. It is anybody’s guess on the fate of the compromise in the House of Representatives.

The “grand bargain” is made up of a series of 13 bills, with some having a potential positive effect on schools and others posing a risk for devastating impacts. The most potentially damaging bill is SB 13, which would impose the property tax freeze. The impact will vary district by district, but the end result will be the same: schools across Illinois operating with less access to resources.

School board members and administrators are urged to voice concerns to their state Senator about the property tax freeze proposal. The biggest impact will be realized by describing the specific negative consequences local school districts will face with such a limitation.

Other bills in the compromise package include: SB 2 (increase in the minimum wage), SB 4 (borrowing authority), SB 5 (appropriation for Chicago teacher pensions), SB 6 (budget appropriations), SB 7 (gaming expansion), SB 9 (revenue enhancements through income and sales taxes), and SB 12 (Workers’ Compensation reform).

More comprehensive analyses on the budget bills can be found in Alliance Legislative Report 100-01.