Illinois bill would make Election Day a holiday, but only for government workers

Illinois bill would make Election Day a holiday, but only for government workers

Tucked into sweeping vote-by-mail legislation is a holiday provision that would make Nov. 3, 2020, a holiday for all state and local government workers.

Lawmakers in Springfield are looking to expand vote-by-mail for the upcoming 2020 election, but the package also includes a surprise for local governments across the state.

Tucked away in Senate Bill 1863 is a provision to make Election Day a holiday for all state and local government workers – but nobody else – leading to higher costs for Illinoisans paying among the highest property tax bills in the nation.

House Amendment 5 to Senate Bill 1863, filed by state Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, would make Nov. 3, 2020, a legal holiday, applying to all public schools, and state and local government offices across the state. State workers represented by AFSCME already have a full paid holiday come Election Day, meaning additional costs to taxpayers will largely hit at the local government level.

With municipalities suffering from strained revenues, looming pension obligations and worry of furloughs, local governments would be especially hamstrung by this sweeping proposal.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s top priority in November is a constitutional amendment eliminating Illinois’ flat income tax protection. Government worker unions are among Pritzker’s largest supporters – meaning employees in local governments could be paid to get out the vote for the governor’s interests.

The state has not estimated the cost this provision would have on municipalities, continuing a long tradition of Illinois lawmakers avoiding price tags on new unfunded mandates. What is known is even the calculation of cost burden would be different for each local government. The cost for each municipality would vary based on holiday and overtime pay arrangements, which depend on each respective collective bargaining agreement.

As over 1.1 million Illinoisans are out of a job, seeking unemployment benefits, and governments try to bring into balance busted local budgets, lawmakers in Springfield should not be looking to increase the financial burden on municipalities or local taxpayers through unfunded mandates.

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