The Illinois General Assembly did what it had to do last weekend. It passed a budget.
The spending plan relies heavily on federal money and assumptions, but they got the job done. Lawmakers also passed a plan to expand voting by mail, which is a good step given the potential threat of the coronavirus pandemic this fall.
Nonetheless, there still are issues that greatly affect this area that have been left undone.
Most notably, lawmakers continue to punt on property tax reform. Yes, they passed a bill during the short session that would help with penalties and interest on late payments, but that does nothing to address the enormous property tax burden in the state, one that has contributed to the uneven growth in the Quad-Cities.
A commission had been appointed to make recommendations, but as the Chicago Tribune points out, it "devolved into partisan squabbling" and the panel never even issued a report.
The legislature also failed to move on ethics reform, an issue that matters to all Illinoisans.
No doubt, the session faced enormous challenges because of the coronavirus pandemic. But even on that score, the legislature failed to act. Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s emergency rule to make it a Class A misdemeanor for businesses to violate his emergency order was withdrawn; unfortunately, legislators declined to touch the issue, even though law enforcement and local officials are being put on the spot.
There was significant legislating done, including a tax deal that makes it more likely a casino in Chicago can become a reality. That’s a move that will improve the financing of a statewide infrastructure plan, something that will benefit all parts of Illinois.
That said, we cannot emphasize this enough: Springfield must take action to ease the state's property tax burden, which enacts significant harm on bi-state areas like ours. It's unfortunate that on this issue the state's leaders continue to fall short.
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