A bipartisan group of lawmakers working to reform Illinois’ education funding formula met during the week to discuss the state’s property tax system and its implications for school funding.
It could also once again become more costly for the state to borrow money as S&P Global Ratings dropped the state’s credit rating one notch.
Also during the week, Senate lawmakers heard testimony from advocates who want Illinois to join a growing list of states that are removing the statute of limitations on sexual abuse of a minor. And, a new survey this week shows Illinois residents are demanding term limits for legislators and want politicians removed from the process of drawing legislative district maps every 10 years.
School Funding Reform Commission discusses property tax system
Meeting for the fifth time, the bipartisan Illinois School Funding Reform Commission discussed the state’s property tax system and its implications for school funding during its meeting October 5.
Tom Johnson, the former President of the Taxpayers’ Federation of Illinois who is now retired, discussed the recent historical trend of Equalized Assessed Value (EAV) throughout the state. He illustrated for lawmakers that since 2009, EAV in Illinois has dropped 23 percent. Because the state’s school funding formula relies heavily on property taxes, which are calculated using EAV, this decline has dramatically impacted school districts.
Johnson also showed how the breakdown of commercial property and residential property within a school district’s boundaries can impact tax revenue for that school district. In addition, he explained to lawmakers for both PTELL (Property Tax Extension Limitation Law) and non-PTELL districts, how tax rates are calculated and talked about the Cook County property classification system. Finally, Johnson described Tax Increment Finance (TIF) districts and how they apply to available local resources.
The commission will meet again October 19 and continue the discussion on how property taxes impact the state’s school-aid formula.
At prior meetings, Commission discussed the hold harmless provision, funding distribution models, the relationship between school funding and workforce readiness, reviewing the “evidence-based” approach to funding education, and exploring best practices in school funding, among other topics.
Chaired by Secretary of Education Beth Purvis, the Commission is tasked with making recommendations to the General Assembly to revise the current school funding formula by February 1, 2017.
Illinois’ credit rating takes a hit
Citing Illinois’ massively underfunded pension liability as a major financial pressure, S&P Global Ratings dropped the state’s credit rating one notch to BBB on September 30. Illinois is facing an unfunded pension liability of more than $111 billion, the largest in the country. The credit agency also cited “continued weak financial management” as a reason for its decision in addition to the state’s unpaid bill backlog totaling more than $8 billion.
The lower investment grade of BBB, just two levels above junk status, can make it more costly for the state to borrow money as interest rates are higher.
Republicans say this is another reason Illinois must pass a constitutional pension reform law and pass a balanced budget with structural reforms that will grow Illinois’ economy, create jobs, and move the state forward fiscally. S&P noted another downgrade is possible if Illinois isn’t willing to “adopt a long-term structural budget solution.”
Removing statute of limitations for child sex abuse cases
The Senate Criminal Law Committee met October 4 in Chicago to hear testimony and discuss legislative proposals on removing the statute of limitations on child sex abuse crimes. Illinois’ current law says sexual abuse against a child must be reported and prosecuted within 20 years of the victim turning 18 years old.
There are currently four proposals pending in the General Assembly that would remove the statute of limitations from felony child sexual abuse crimes. More than 30 states have no statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases.
Senators heard powerful testimony from victims who suffered sexual abuse as a minor and who now as adults are advocating for a change in Illinois law, so abusers don’t go unpunished do to the passage of time.
Illinoisans support term limits, redistricting efforts
A survey released October 5 by the Paul Simon Institute found Illinoisans overwhelmingly support term limits and independent redistricting efforts. The results include:
• More than 80 percent favor a constitutional amendment limiting the number of terms a state representative or state senator can serve, while 17 percent are opposed.
• 72 percent of likely voters support an idea of an amendment establishing an independent commission to draw legislative district lines, while 18 percent are opposed. The Paul Simon Institute has been polling this question since 2010 and the support for redistricting reform this year is a record high.
The poll comes on the heels of an Illinois Supreme Court ruling in August that struck down a ballot referendum that would take the legislative district map drawing powers out of the hands of lawmakers. Efforts to get a proposed amendment on the ballot about term limits have also failed in the past.
This recent survey is further proof these are reforms Illinoisans are demanding. We continue to push for legislation that would allow voters the opportunity to amend the Illinois Constitution to establish term limits and change the way legislative maps are drawn.