Pritzker budget requires his tax increase to implement

In his second Budget Address to lawmakers, Governor J.B. Pritzker unveiled a proposal that seeks $1.6 billion in new spending and makes some funding for priorities like education, health care and public safety contingent on the approval of his tax increase.   

In other action, legislation has been filed that would change a process that too often leaves citizens waiting for medical treatment due to insurance coverage requirements. Other bills recently filed include a proposal to exempt overtime wages from the income tax, and a measure that would recognize recipients of the Air Force Combat Action Medal.

Governor says new spending relies on his tax

The budget proposal presented by Pritzker before the General Assembly on February 19 seeks $1.6 billion in new spending that relies on getting his income tax increase approved.

Much of what we heard was not unexpected. The Governor is proposing $1.6 billion in new spending, but does not talk much about any of the cuts he asked agencies to provide. His plan requires a huge tax increase to implement. Now, we need to get into the details and begin to ask the tough questions.

I am concerned at Pritzker’s message that his tax increase must be approved in order to fully fund priorities like schools, health care and public safety. Under the state’s revamped school funding formula from 2017, the state is statutorily required to increase school funding by $350 million per year. Under Pritzker’s proposal, only $200 million is guaranteed, leaving $150 million of school funding in jeopardy.

Any spending plan will have its supporters and its opponents, but to succeed it will require good-faith negotiations. I believe bipartisan solutions are key to our state’s problems. Last year’s budget process is a road map that proves working collaboratively can produce a budget that meets the needs of Illinois citizens and funds these priorities without a tax increase. We can do it again.

What Illinoisans need is more fiscal leadership and responsibility. As the legislative budget process gets under way, I stand ready to work with my fellow lawmakers to make the tough decisions necessary to pass a balanced budget with structural reforms that will boost the economy and jobs.

Fiscal Year 2021 runs from July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021.

Reducing medical care delays

New legislation has been filed that would change a healthcare process that currently leaves many Illinois residents waiting for medical treatment because of insurance coverage requirements.

Illinois patients often have medical care delayed or denied because of their health plans’ use of a process called prior authorization. Senate Bill 3822 is a bipartisan solution that supporters say will bring much-needed transparency and streamlining to prior authorization requirements.

Health insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers use prior authorization to cut costs, requiring health professionals to do extra paperwork before their recommended patient care is approved. Even when authorization is granted, too often insurance companies later deny payment for medical care they approved.

Prior authorization requirements are often not based on clinically valid criteria, and are administered by individuals who lack relevant qualifications. The Prior Authorization Reform Act would make sure prior authorization requirements are based on medical evidence and administered by qualified individuals.

Senate Bill 3822 has been introduced in the Senate and awaits assignment to a legislative committee where it will receive a public hearing.

Exempting overtime wages from tax

Illinois residents who work overtime would find some tax relief under recently filed legislation that would exempt overtime wages from the state income tax.

Senate Bill 3695 would create a deduction on any overtime wages earned in Illinois. Wages earned in excess to a taxpayer’s regular monthly or weekly salary would be exempt from the state income tax.

The state income tax on overtime wages would still be withheld from an individual’s paycheck; however, when that person goes to file their taxes for that year, they would receive a deduction equal to the amount of taxes paid on overtime wages. It’s the least that can be done for hard-working Illinoisans who already face high tax burdens.

Honoring Air Force Combat veterans

Recipients of the Air Force Combat Action Medal could be recognized on Illinois license plates under newly filed legislation.

Senate Bill 2518 creates the Air Force Combat Action Medal license plate and allows the Secretary of State to issue them to eligible drivers.

The new license plate would join others created to recognize military service and awards, including the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Navy Service Cross.

The existing Combat Action Badge plate is offered for Army recipients of that medal, which is very similar to the Air Force’s Combat Action Medal.

Jil Tracy

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