SPRINGFIELD (Heartland Newsfeed/Illinois Policy Institute) — While 2017 was a bad year for Illinois taxpayers, there are bright spots among the bills that passed the General Assembly.
There’s no doubt 2017 was a rough year for taxpayers across Illinois. The General Assembly voted for a state budget that included a massive income tax hike with no real reforms, which hit the pocketbooks of millions of Illinoisans.
Despite this, some of the bills that passed the General Assembly and were signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2017 will help move Illinois in the right direction. Here are a few examples:
House Bill 418: Under HB 418, retired police officers cannot double dip in pension funds if they return to the force as a police chief or return to service with a different municipality. Retired officers who return in either of those capacities will be able to enroll in a 401(k)-style plan, but not a second pension.
House Bill 3122: This new law requires local officials to work a minimum of 1,000 hours to qualify to participate in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund. This ensures that a participant in the retirement fund is working at least in a part-time capacity.
Senate Bill 701: Under SB 701, unused vacation time paid out in the final three months before retirement cannot count toward pensionable salary. The law also excludes vehicle allowances from being considered pensionable earnings.
Senate Bill 3: This new law is a small step toward reducing the number of units of Government in Illinois, and potentially saving tax dollars. SB 3 creates various ways in which township officials may initiate consolidation of their unit of government. This bill also expands the process for government consolidation currently available in DuPage, Lake and McHenry counties to all counties across the state.
House Bill 607: Under this law, township boards can submit a resolution for residents to vote in a referendum to determine whether a township road district should be abolished and the duties taken up by another unit of government.
House Bill 303: This new law reforms civil asset forfeiture, a practice in which law enforcement is able to seize and profit from property without proving the property is connected to a crime. This measure addresses the standards that govern law enforcement’s confiscation of property and imposes some transparency-related requirements to rein in abuse and incentives to profit from policing.
House Bill 2373: HB 2373 removes the lifetime ban preventing many ex-offenders from petitioning a court for the opportunity to prove rehabilitation and have their records sealed. It does this by expanding the eligibility provision of the criminal record sealing statute to allow those with previous felony convictions to apply to have their records sealed from view by the general public. (Certain kinds of felonies, such as sex offenses and domestic violence, are excluded from sealing eligibility.)
House Bill 3817: This measure expands protection for juveniles by providing for automatic expungement of juvenile arrest records that do not result in delinquency. (“Expungement” means wiping a criminal record clean.) And in other cases, records of delinquency can be expunged two years after the juvenile’s case is closed, so long as that juvenile has no other criminal cases pending against him or her and no subsequent delinquency proceedings. Certain offenses are excluded from expungement eligibility, such as sex offenses, most violent crimes and other serious crimes such as residential burglary. Juvenile records that are not expunged are sealed from view by the general public. The law also acts to prevent a juvenile adjudication from disqualifying a person from certain things, such as holding public office one day.
These bills are small steps in the right direction. However, these do not go far enough. Illinois’ pension system is still in need of major reform. The state still has the highest number of local governments in the nation, which means Illinoisans have to pay more in property taxes to fund all those layers of government. And Illinois’ state budget is still unbalanced, despite a massive new income tax increase.
The General Assembly needs to get serious about implementing meaningful reforms, especially regarding Illinois’ crushing property tax burden. Illinoisans should not have to continue putting up with financial mismanagement from state and local governments.