Road to Responsible Budgeting

Dear Friends,

Illinois has had a bad habit of starting the budget process with an inflated revenue number that made achieving successful results virtually impossible. Though we have a long way to go, it seems we are making notable progress in changing the pattern of how we budget in this state.

Establishing an accurate annual revenue value was one of the most important reforms established in the Budgeting for Results legislation I passed in January of 2011. Last year we saw some pretty vast differences in revenue projections between the House’s conservative estimate and the governor’s estimate, so I was very encouraged to see this year’s projections were more comparable. These projections were also more conservative when compared to last year, which is another sign that the principles provided in Budgeting for Results are being duly implemented.

But we are by no means out of the water yet. The revenue in Fiscal Year 2013 is estimated to increase by $720 million, but this growth is overshadowed by a large increase in pension costs and a looming Medicaid crisis in the billions. Illinois also owes an estimated backlog of $500-600 million to businesses because not enough money has been available to pay business tax refunds. I am currently pushing legislation that would allow those businesses to credit any due payments to their estimated tax liability for the next taxation year. Senate Bill 1741 would bypass the state’s cash flow problem and provide for the repayment of those backlogged bills.

We are still in the very beginning stages of the process, but this year’s budgeting has already shown greater discipline and reflected a higher sense of responsibility for how we spend taxpayers’ money. The benefit of having target revenue is to encourage restraint, so we must continue to implement responsible changes in the budgeting process and work towards making a recovery over time.

The road to economic recovery requires our state's leaders to recognize they have a spending problem, and the governor's acknowledgement of our serious budget crisis, including exponentially growing pension and Medicaid payments, is a major step forward.  As it should be, his office is participating in bi-partisan, bi-cameral working groups to determine solutions to pension and Medicaid funding that will encompass complete restructuring with "everything on the table" and a definitive deadline before this year's session ends. We need more than proposed solutions; we need to pass real reform legislation this year.

Unfortunately, we did not hear a specific plan on how to pay for the capital plan, overdue bills and the budget hole.  Although specific appropriations are the responsibility of the general assembly, I would like our governor - the state's CEO - to outline his vision for restoring Illinois' financial health.  I'm not sure his vision of ending corporate tax loopholes will be sufficient to pay back $9 billion in unpaid bills, which should be a higher priority.

Property Tax Relief

I have heard from many home owners who continue to struggle with decreasing home values and increasing taxes. It is common sense that when the value of your home is going down, your property taxes should not be going up. That is why I voted to stop these unfair property tax increases this week.

Senate Bill 2073 would allow residents the chance to vote future property tax increases up or down at a time when housing prices are falling.  This measure will offer a huge relief to families who are trying to stretch their household budget and cannot afford the annual increases to their property taxes.  Constituents have repeatedly asked for property tax relief and I welcome this legislation.

Difficult budget decisions will have to be made in the coming weeks to help lift Illinois out of the recession, but we cannot pass additional taxes onto the people in the middle of an economic recovery.

Children of Aging Parents Symposium

As we continue to recover from this recession and the down turn in the stock market, more people than ever are finding themselves in the position of caring for aging parents. I know that this can be a difficult process and that many questions arise as adult children prepare for and fulfill this responsibility.  That is why I have organized a Children of Aging Parents Symposium, to provide information that I wish was readily available to me when I became the primary caregiver for my parents.

Topics to be covered include:

  • Finding the ideal assisted living, senior housing, or in-home care provider for your loved one
  • A detailed overview of home care solutions and services available
  • Power of Attorney and other legal issues associated with caring for aging parents
  • The psycho-social effects experienced by aging parents and the families who care for them
  • What to look out for to ensure that parents do not become victims of senior fraud

If you think you might one day find yourself as a care giver responsible for the well-being of one or both of your parents, or if you are already caring for aging parents, I hope you can join me on Monday, February 27, from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Highland Park Health and Fitness Center in Buffalo Grove, located at 1501 Busch Parkway. To RSVP, please respond to this e-mail or call my office at 847-478-9909.

Coffee Shop Stops

This week, the governor outlined his budget goals for the General Assembly.  If you’d like to share your thoughts on that address, learn about legislation I have filed this year, or discuss other topics of interest, I hope you can join me at my next Coffee Shop Stop. I will be at the Mundelein Starbucks, located at 1174 West Maple Avenue, from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 25.

As always, if you cannot make it to any of the above events but would like to share your thoughts on upcoming legislation, or if I can be of assistance in another way, please reach out to my full time constituent service office located at 430 N. Milwaukee Ave., Suite 8 in Lincolnshire, by phone at (847) 478-9909 or by e-mail at RepSente@gmail.com.  I hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely,

Carol Sente
State Representative