Illinois’ new Governor outlined his spending plan for the coming year, and a controversial minimum-wage measure has been signed into law.
Also during the week, an environmentally-minded legislative package, which has gained bipartisan support, would offer communities greater protections from ethylene oxide.
Gov. J. B. Pritzker delivered his first Budget Address Feb. 20 to a joint session of legislators in the House of Representatives Chamber.
The Governor’s proposed budget represents a starting point for further negotiations; however, there are concerns about references to more spending, more tax increases and budgeting gimmicks that tried and failed in the past. Although lawmakers will have time to analyze the fiscal details, many have already expressed their concerns about proposals to address the pension system, the Governor’s calls for a graduated income tax and other revenues from such actions as legalizing medical marijuana and extending Illinois’ pension payments.
“The agenda put forth by the Governor this week has some fundamentally concerning aspects, including the proposals to defer pension payments and implement a graduated middle class income tax structure. We have to acknowledge that a continuation of the same failed fiscal policies of the past will not help Illinois move forward,” said Syverson. “However, nothing is set in stone and the Governor indicates he is open to compromise. Hopefully, we can work together, find some common footing and make improvements to his proposal that provides us with a more responsible path to recovery.”
As the legislative budget process gets under way, lawmakers should instead work together in a bipartisan way to make the tough decisions necessary to pass a balanced budget with structural reforms that will boost the economy and create jobs.
Fiscal Year 2020 runs from July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2020.
Governor signs controversial minimum wage hike
Less than a week after Democrat legislative leaders forced through a minimum wage hike, Gov. Pritzker signed Senate Bill 1 into law on Feb. 19. The controversial legislation was advanced by the Senate and House on party-line votes, despite economic concerns from employers and public groups.
The plan would raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour over six years, and to $13 per hour during the same period for those employees younger than 18.
Opponents of the plan noted the vast differences in the cost of living across Illinois. They also raised concerns that the incremental increase could have far-reaching implications for employers across the board, including an increase in annual costs for state agencies, local school districts, human service providers and hospitals.
Greater protections from ethylene oxide
A package of legislation unveiled Feb. 19 will address the public health crisis caused by Sterigenics and their release of ethylene oxide into surrounding communities.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency issued a seal order Feb. 15 against Sterigenics, which forced them to cease operations. The legislation will also ensure the proper policies and protections are in place to safeguard Willowbrook and all Illinois communities from the impact of this public health hazard.
Senate Bill 1852 requires:
· A facility to notify all affected property owners and local governments within 2,500 feet when an ethylene oxide leak has occurred.
Senate Bill 1853 provides that:
· The IEPA shall reevaluate the current CAAPP (Clean Air Act Permit Program) permit of any facility emitting ethylene oxide, and conduct a 90-day public hearing process on such permits.
· No permit shall be renewed if the facility is in violation of any federal or state standards or current studies pertaining to ethylene oxide.
· A facility emitting ethylene oxide at levels higher than federal or state standards must cease operations until the level of emissions are reduced below the federal and state standards.
Senate Bill 1854 provides that:
· No facility shall have fugitive emissions of ethylene oxide above zero.
· Each facility is subject to regular and frequent inspections and testing to ensure that no fugitive emissions of ethylene oxide exist. Inspections shall be unannounced and conducted by a third party chosen by the municipality in which the facility operates.
· Each facility is subject to fence line ambient air testing, at random, once within every 90-120 days for a duration of 24-hour samples of no less than six consecutive days. Testing is done by a third party chosen by the municipality.