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In response to the Illinois House approval today of House Bills 317 and 318, State Representative Tom Morrison (R-Palatine) has issued the following statement:

“Today the Illinois House took bold action to fix the sham budget approved by Democrats last year. The fiscal year 15 budget was out of balance by $1.6 billion, a fact that former Governor Pat Quinn knew full-well when he signed it. Through these two bipartisan votes we have prevented devastating service disruptions in key budget areas like court reporters, services for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled and payroll at our prisons.”

“It is important to note that granting emergency budget authority to the Governor is not without precedent. Similar authority was given to former Governors Quinn and Edgar. My hope is that the Senate follows our lead and approves these two bills so Governor Rauner will have the flexibility he needs to balance the budget he inherited in January.”

Spring Session Well Underway in Springfield
The General Assembly is fast-approaching the midway point of the 2015 Spring Session. The bill filing deadline was Friday, February 27, and by the close of business that day, House members had turned in 4,140 substantive and appropriations bills for their colleagues to review.  Not all of these bills will get out of committee for full House consideration.  Some filings, such as appropriations bills and resolutions, will continue after the deadline.  

House committees have until March 27, to look at the bills filed before the deadline.  Bills that fail to meet this deadline can be worked on by their sponsors and other interested parties for possible future action in the 2016 spring session.  The status of bills filed in the Illinois House and Senate can be found on the Illinois General Assembly  website.

Last week I was honored to be joined in Springfield by Dave Parulo, President of Woodfield Chicago Northwest Convention Bureau, and Rolling Meadows constituent Andy-John Kalkounos.

Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in Pension Case
The Illinois pension reform law enacted in December 2013 faced questions before the Illinois Supreme Court at oral arguments on Wednesday, March 11.  The Illinois Solicitor General, advocating for the law, stated that the controversial law had been enacted to solve a fiscal emergency.  Established constitutional law authorizes a state, in furtherance of its constitutional duty, to exercise what are called “police powers” that potentially override other considerations.  Plaintiffs seeking to strike down the law say that it improperly violates a section of the state Constitution.  Illinois has the worst-funded pension system of the 50 states.  A decision by the state Supreme Court, which is expected later this spring, could affect budget and pension law policies that will be before the General Assembly as it approaches the May 31 adjournment date.

Slow Economic Growth continues in Illinois
The staff of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) presented their FY16 Economic Forecast  in Springfield on Wednesday, March 10.  COGFA is the nonpartisan economic agency of the Illinois General Assembly, and their Revenue Update for FY15 and numbers for FY16 will be key background data to be used by the General Assembly as they modify the State’s FY15 budget and craft a FY16 budget to meet the urgent fiscal needs of the State. 

COGFA’s numbers confirm that the post-2009 Illinois “recovery” has been the slowest economic expansion of the post-World War II period.  In each previous recession, not only were the rates of decline in economic output less severe, but the ensuing recoveries were faster and steeper.  Illinois economic trend lines, starting in 2010, show steady but very shallow, palely upward-trending movements.  New jobs are created in relatively low numbers and are being created, in Illinois, in insufficient numbers to force increases in median overall wage rates.    

The pale post-2009 “recovery,” combined with the pushdown of State income tax rates in January 2015 are two forces that continue to combine to create a worsening State of Illinois budget crisis.  A spreadsheet presented to staff by the Commission shows net income tax revenues dropping more than $4 billion in FY16, below what would have been paid to the State under the tax rates in effect in FY14.  Growth rates in tax revenues attributable to underlying rates of growth in the Illinois private-sector economy are expected to make up only $500 million of the lost income, leading to a structural deficit of $3.5 billion in FY16.  To this number is supplemented accumulated past-year deficits and unpaid State bills of many billions of additional dollars, plus the spending pressures created by many “entitlement” lines within the State’s budget.   

Unemployment Remains Higher than U.S. as a Whole, but Drops another 0.1%
The figures for January 2015, reported on Thursday, March 12 by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), show that Illinois’s jobless rate fell from 6.2% to 6.1% in January 2015.  The same number was 8.2% in January 2014, down 2.1% over the 12-month period.

Soft spots in the statewide economic picture complicated the continued trend toward lower unemployment. Illinois employment – the number of Illinois residents with nonfarm payroll jobs – also dropped by 7,100 jobs in the same month.  The declining employment and unemployment numbers reflected a stagnating Illinois population and the continued movement of many Illinois residents out of the labor force altogether. 

Many Parents Call for Allowing their Children to Opt Out of PARCC Tests
PARCC standardized tests, which utilize an online platform that students are expected to interact with as they take the test (rather than the format, familiar to their parents, of filling in bubbles on a piece of paper) began to be administered throughout Illinois on Monday, March 9.  The testing cycle is expected to continue for approximately four weeks.  Data from the test will be used to evaluate Illinois public and charter school students, teachers, schools and school systems.

Many parents are concerned about the new PARCC system, which from their point of view was sprung on their children without recourse and without sufficient warning.  No current law allows parents to withdraw their children from the PARCC test, which is supposed to be given to every eligible child in order to generate statistically significant results that can be used to gauge everyone’s performance.  Furthermore, the federal government has sent warning letters to Illinois’ State Board of Education to remind educators of the nexus between federal school aid and compliance with the order that students all take the test.  I have co-sponsored HB306, legislation that would give parents the ability to opt their children out of the tests.

Attitudes by parents toward the PARCC mandate is becoming increasingly coordinated with resistance toward other mandates imposed by schools upon children, such as mandated sex education and compliance with certain health benchmarks.  The “Chicago Sun-Times” describes the issue from the standpoint of concerned parents.  

Comptroller Munger Urges Illinois Individual Income Taxpayers to Register
The Illinois Tax Refund Alert system, rolled out this spring by new Illinois Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger, allows taxpayers to monitor the status of their Illinois tax returns, including an automated text-messaging system.  Similar to the familiar warnings that many of us get when our phone or cable bill is due, the test message will tell eligible taxpayers of their payment notifications.   Registration is free through the portal.

As always, please do not ever hesitate to call me or write to me about issues that are important to you. You may reach my Palatine District office at (847) 202-6584 and my Springfield office at (217) 782-8026. You may send emails to If you are ever planning a trip to Springfield, please let my Springfield secretary know so that I may adjust my schedule and meet with you. It is a pleasure to serve you.

A bill that would increase the frequency of actuarial reviews of the State’s five public pension systems was approved unanimously in the Illinois House on Thursday.

According to the bill’s sponsor, State Representative Tom Morrison (R-Palatine), current law only requires a thorough investigation into the pension systems every five years. “A more frequent actuarial study can ensure we are making the right payments to stay on track with our obligations, especially since we now have new Tier II employees in our pension systems,” said Morrison. “These actuarial reviews are incredibly important, because the data leads to recommendations that may be implemented by the pension boards.”

HB422 would amend the Teachers’ Retirement System, State Universities’ Retirement System, State Employees’ Retirement System, Judges’ Retirement System and the General Assembly Retirement System by requiring that the actuary of each system conduct an investigation of the system every three years rather than five years as is currently written in the statutes. Each review would examine the mortality, retirement, disability, separation, interest and salary rate assumptions used by the system for accuracy.

“Allowing for more frequent small changes in system assumptions prevents the need for drastic changes, which ultimately lead to difficulty in budget planning,” Morrison said. “The new data would provide many benefits, including greater predictability for our annual pension payments.”
In response to Governor Bruce Rauner’s Wednesday Budget Address, State Representative Tom Morrison (R-Palatine) has issued the following statement:

”I applaud the Governor for presenting a balanced budget plan that protects essential government services without increasing taxes. While we have some difficult decisions ahead of us, this budget reduces spending, eliminates our structural deficit, and puts Illinois on a path toward financial stability.

“The specifics of his plan seemed harsh to some, but they should not have come as a surprise.  We knew for four years that there was going to be a revenue drop-off when the temporary income tax expired.  Rather than proactively preparing for this day, the irresponsible spending—on many wants instead of needs—continued.   Those bad decisions only intensify the tough days ahead as we rectify years and years of overspending.

“Our Governor has surrounded himself with a top notch team of experts who have proven records of success in both the public and private sectors. In the months ahead I look forward to seeing budgetary efficiencies worked into the mix so that the turnaround plan does not rely solely upon budget cuts.

“I appreciate that the Governor is addressing our pension crisis rather than waiting for the courts to rule on the issue. His proposal appears to meet constitutional muster by seeking to preserve benefits earned to date and alter them only for future work.  I look forward to working with him on this critical area of reform so that government workers and taxpayers as a whole have greater certainty about the future in Illinois.”

State of the State Address Takes Aim at Laws that Swell Taxes, Government Spending
Last week, on Wednesday, February 4, Governor Bruce Rauner presented his first State of the State address. Governor Rauner’s bold agenda, which was outlined in a 40-minute speech to a joint session of the IL House and Senate, calls for comprehensive reforms to the “iron triangle” of public-sector career executives, government labor unions, and elected officials who are friendly to both groups.  The Chicago Tribune covered the story.

Governor Rauner looked repeatedly at Illinois tax and labor law as a factor in the Prairie State’s poor economic performance.  States that neighbor Illinois have enacted reforms to their states’ tax laws and labor laws.  Reforms enacted in Indiana and Michigan include offering a choice to workers on whether or not to join unions at their workplaces.  Rauner pointed out the comprehensively better economic performance enjoyed by these states, and presented an example of a typical firm – Modern Forge, formerly of Blue Island – that has joined many of its fellow small businesses in moving to Indiana.  “We must avoid slipping further behind,” he warned, calling for dramatic changes in the laws of Illinois to match its neighbors. 

The governor called for additional support for Illinois elementary, secondary, and higher education.  He pledged to reform the education bureaucracy and to prioritize early education programs, elementary and secondary education in geographically challenged areas of the State, and to return Illinois support to historic levels for credential-oriented programs within community colleges. 

Rauner called for major changes in the face of elected government in Springfield.  He strongly requested approval by the General Assembly, for submission to the people of Illinois, of constitutional amendments to limit the terms of Illinois elected officials and merge the offices of Illinois Comptroller and Treasurer

Rauner’s office has posted a video of his speech online, and welcomes social-media discussion of the points made in it using the hashtag #ILTurnaround. Following his speech I was asked to give my reaction on camera. You can watch the video of my comments here

Growing Measles Outbreak Hits Palatine Day Care Center
Last week five infants at a Palatine children’s learning center tested positive for measles.  The Cook County Department of Public Health provided details of the outbreak here.  The positive test results followed earlier reports of another patient, possibly an adult, testing positive for measles on January 27.  The earlier report was also located in Chicago’s northwest suburbs.

Measles can be a fatal illness if it is accompanied by complications, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, or brain inflammation (encephalitis).  Approximately one of every 1,000 cases of juvenile measles progresses to encephalitis.  Parents continue to be strongly encouraged to have their young children vaccinated with MMR vaccine at age 12 months for measles, mumps and rubella. 

Because measles is an extremely contagious viral disease, persons who suspect they have measles, and parents of persons who are suspected to have measles, should know whether or not they have been vaccinated.  If they have not yet been vaccinated, public health experts urge them not to present themselves at places where young children are being cared for or where health care is provided.  They should describe their symptoms to a health care provider by telephone, wireless, or Internet, and follow advice and instructions.  Symptoms of measles include fever, red and sore eyes, runny nose, cough, and a visually characteristic rash.  Images of the rash can be seen by researching the disease online.  

Bright Spot in Illinois Economy
A record-breaking number of tourists and visitors came to Chicago in 2014, with the number of visits breaking 50 million for the first time.  Most of the visitors were Americans visiting for pleasure, leisure, and culture (37.3 million), with 11.3 million U.S. arrivals for business travel and 1.5 million visits to Chicago from abroad.  Chicago tourism has now topped its pre-Great Recession peak of 46 million annual visitors per year.   

Announcing a new “Chicago Epic” campaign, the city called for Chicago to target 55 million visits by 2020.  From 2010 through 2014, an increase of 10 million in annual tourist visits to Chicago has generated approximately 9,400 new jobs.  State tax-based general funds are not used for Chicago convention and tourism promotion, which is funded by supplemental taxes on rentals of local hotel and motel rooms, restaurant meals, taxicab rides, and similar services often used by Chicago tourists and visitors.        

House Committee Lineup Takes Shape
The 48 standing committees will scrutinize bills presented to the Illinois House in 2015-16.  Some of these committees will have highly specialized responsibilities and may meet only one to five times over the course of this two-year period, whereas others will meet weekly whenever the Illinois House is in session.  Each committee has a chairperson, a vice-chairperson, and a spokesperson.  The chair and vice-chair are named by the Speaker of the majority party, and the spokesperson is named by House Minority Leader Jim Durkin. To read about my specific committee assignments, click here.

Legislative Session in Full Swing
We are entering the time of year when legislators spend most of their time in Springfield. However, my Palatine office will remain open and staffed with people who can assist you with your needs. Please do not hesitate to call my District Office at (847) 202-6584. You may also reach me through the contact form on my web site, at  If you are planning a visit to Springfield, please let my Springfield office know so they can assist you with arrangements. You may reach my Springfield office at (217) 782-8026. 
Following Governor Rauner's State of the State Address yesterday, State Representative Tom Morrison (R-Palatine) spoke on camera about his support of the Governor's agenda for economic recovery.

In response to Governor Bruce Rauner’s State of the State Address on Wednesday, State Representative Tom Morrison (R-Palatine) has issued the following statement:

“I thought Governor Rauner did a nice job of presenting a bold agenda that will set Illinois on a path toward prosperity. I was particularly pleased with his overall theme of empowerment, where Illinoisans can take control of their own futures.

“Property tax relief is a topic that is very important to me, so I applaud the Governor for recognizing that our high property taxes are a direct result of local and state governments being unwilling to control their spending. He said providing property tax relief is one of his top priorities, and I look forward to helping him promote this agenda through legislation in the General Assembly.

“I was particularly pleased to hear about the Governor’s plan for improving education options for Illinois families. He has embraced the notion that parents deserve the right to choose the best educational setting that will help their individual children thrive. I support many elements of the Governor’s Student and Career Success Package, and look forward to seeing the details as we move through this legislative session.”