Senate Week in Review: September 2-6
A state board that oversees state purchases says the use of controversial no-bid contracts has grown under Governor Pat Quinn, in some cases outpacing even his predecessor, imprisoned former Governor Rod Blagojevich.
Meanwhile, the Illinois State Police are now accepting applications from those interested in serving as firearms instructors under the state’s new concealed carry act, according to State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris).
And, while the prospect of Illinois moving to a graduated income tax has been grabbing headlines lately, Sen. Rezin said a look at the rates in others states could give Illinoisans an idea of what the impact might be in the state.
Rezin Receives Agriculture Certified Legislator Certificate
While at the Farm Progress Show on August 28 in Decatur, Illinois, Sen. Sue Rezin earned credentials from the Illinois Farm Bureau as an Agriculture Certified Legislator.
Sen. Rezin received the certificate after touring the Farm Progress Show with the Illinois Farm Bureau and the certificate recognizes her efforts to gain a better understanding of Illinois Agriculture.
The Farm Progress Show is one of the nation’s largest outdoor farm expositions. During the last week of August, lawmakers learned about the latest technology used in agriculture from industry experts such as John Deere and Monsanto. They also saw how farmers use new tools to produce food for their family and families across the state while minimizing their impact on the environment, and much more. Attendees of the informational session and tour received the Illinois Farm Bureau 2013 Agriculture Certified Legislator Certificate at its conclusion.
Sen. Rezin said this was her first opportunity to attend a Farm Progress Show in 40 years and was amazed at how much the industry has changed and developed.
“It was fascinating to see how vitally important agriculture is to our state, and learn how diverse the industry really is,” Rezin emphasized. “It is more than just agriculture, it is agribusiness.”
No Bid Contracts Soar
Members of Illinois’ Procurement Policy Board, the state’s main purchasing oversight board, has revealed that officials approved more than $135 million in no-bid “emergency” purchases during the fiscal year that ended on June 30. To put that figure in perspective, it is $34 million more than the previous fiscal year, and a startling 300 percent more than similar no-bid purchases during the last year of former Governor Rod Blagojevich’s time in office.
Normally when the state needs to purchase goods or services it takes bids in order to secure the lowest price. However, in “emergency” situations the state is often forced to resort to making these purchases without considering multiple bids.
Without competitive bids Illinois’ taxpayers may be spending more than necessary for goods and services bought by the state.
Although emergency no-bid purchases are intended for use in situations where time is of the essence, officials say an increasingly large number of these purchases are attributed to human error, understaffing or failure to plan ahead for purchasing.
One example cited was a recent Illinois Department of Corrections $15,000 no-bid emergency purchase of “hot dog seasoning” for use at the Menard Correctional Center meat shop. The existing contract for the seasoning had expired and a new contract had not yet been put in place.
Concealed Carry Instructors
The Illinois State Police (ISP) recently announced that Illinois Concealed Carry Firearms Instructor and curriculum applications and eligibility requirements are available on the Illinois State Police website.
When the state’s new concealed carry law goes into effect in January, individuals who are interested in applying for a concealed carry license must successfully complete training offered by an approved Illinois Concealed Carry Firearms Instructor.
The instructor and curriculum applications are a first step to assure that adequate training will be available to meet the expected demand.
Applicants for an instructor’s license must first electronically submit their fingerprints through an Illinois licensed Livescan vendor in order to expedite the background check process. ISP explained this will help ensure more timely approval of qualified instructors.
Applicants for the concealed carry instructor license must:
• Be at least 21 years of age;
• Be a legal resident of the United States;
• Possess or be eligible for a valid FOID card;
• Be eligible for a Concealed Carry License in Illinois;
• Have a high school diploma or GED certificate; and
• Have at least one valid firearms instructor certification.
The Department has created a registry that will include information on instructors who successfully demonstrated that they meet all of the requirements; this information will be posted on the registry as soon as their application is approved.
September is Hunger Action Month
Sen. Sue Rezin is helping promote September as Hunger Action Month and encouraging residents to become involved with this cause throughout the month of September.
The Northern Illinois Food Bank will be hosting awareness campaigns and events to bring attention to and take action for the cause of hunger throughout the month. The Northern Illinois Food Bank served over 500,000 people in the last year and distributed a record 42 million meals across the 13 counties they serve. Sen. Rezin said the fight against hunger never ends, noting food banks in the area and across the state are still in need of help.
Sen. Rezin said residents can help support and promote the cause in a couple simple ways. They include:
Dine Out for Hunger: Go out to dinner at one of more than 30 participating restaurants and know that part of your bill is going back to the Northern Illinois Food Bank feeding programs. Find a list of participating restaurants at www.SolveHungerToday.org.
Volunteer: Bring your family, friends and colleagues to one of the food bank centers to help repack food for our hungry neighbors.
For more information or to sign up to volunteer during Hunger Action Month, call the Northern Illinois Food Bank at 630-443-6910.
Graduated Tax Means Higher Taxes in Most States
The prospect of Illinois moving to a graduated income tax has been attracting attention lately.
Proponents argue that a graduated tax would be more fair than the current flat rate tax because higher income persons would pay a higher tax rate while lower income persons would pay less.
Opponents disagree, saying that the graduated tax discussion is a thinly disguised attempt to increase taxes on most Illinoisans and a way to keep the temporary tax increase enacted in 2011 permanent.
Thirty-four States plus the District of Columbia have graduated income taxes. The national Tax Foundation compiles information on tax rates across the country that can help the public determine how a graduated tax might play out in Illinois.
While proponents claim that only those earning more than $150,000 a year in Illinois would pay higher taxes, that has not been the case in other states. Taxpayers with incomes of $50,000 or more pay a higher rate than Illinois’ current 5% rate in two-thirds of the states that have a graduated tax.
For a couple earning $80,000, almost 60% of states impose a rate of 6% or more, while only nine of the states impose a rate lower than Illinois' current 5% tax rate.
In many states, a graduated income tax simply means slightly lower rates for those at the bottom of the income scale, but higher rates for middle income earners. For example, in Arkansas anyone earning $34,000 or more pays the maximum 7% rate. In Georgia, couples earning more than $10,000 pay the top rate of 6%. In Idaho, couples pay 7.4% on any income over $20,700, while in neighboring Iowa an 8.98% rate is imposed on both individuals and couples earning more than $67,230.