Illinois Policy victories: 2014 in review
Tax relief, worker freedom and a health-care win have set the stage for an Illinois comeback in years to come.
2014 was a big year for Illinoisans. For the first time in more than a decade, the state will see a change in party leadership, as Governor-elect Bruce Rauner takes office Jan. 12.
Below are some of the major victories that our team helped shepherd:
This spring, our work spearheaded the defeat of a tax hike that would have crushed small businesses in Illinois. We also fought to educate Illinoisans on attempts to amend the state constitution to levy a progressive income tax, which would have increased taxes on 85 percent of Illinois residents. We made the proposed extension of the 2011 income-tax hike so toxic that lawmakers did not even take a vote on the measure this spring. But we didn’t stop there.
This summer, we launched a statewide campaign to hold lawmakers accountable to their promise of tax relief. At the close of this fall’s veto session, we received official confirmation that the 2011 income-tax hikes will sunset, as scheduled. Illinoisans will see income-tax rates drop to 3.75 percent from 5 percent. This means that come Jan. 1, the average Illinois family will take home an extra $1,075 each year. These tax victories will bolster the state’s middle class and promote economic growth and prosperity throughout Illinois.
Chipping away at the unions’ stronghold
In 2005, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich issued an executive order allowing the unionization of day-care providers for low-income children who receive child-care subsidies from the state. More than 50,000 day-care providers were unionized and forced to pay union dues or fees to the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, to keep their jobs, despite the fact that only 27.6 percent of them voted to be part of the SEIU. The SEIU collected approximately $10 million annually from these day-care providers in union dues and fees.
But in June 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a groundbreaking ruling in the case Harris v. Quinn, stating that state governments cannot force-unionize participants in state entitlement programs, or force them to pay union dues or fees as a condition of receiving help from the state. The plaintiffs in the Harris v. Quinn case were participants in a state Medicaid program for people with disabilities.
Following the ruling, the Illinois Policy Institute and its litigation arm, the Liberty Justice Center, sought to have the ruling in Harris v. Quinn applied to the home day-care providers, since they also were unionized by executive order. The Institute and Liberty Justice Center worked with Laura Baston, a day-care provider from downstate Casey, Illinois, to petition the Quinn administration to apply the ruling in Harris v. Quinn to day-care providers and stop withdrawing union fees from her benefit checks.
Thanks to our partnership with Baston, the Quinn administration notified her that state government would honor her request, and stop withdrawing union dues from the benefit checks for day-care providers effective July 1, 2014. Going forward, no day-care providers will be forced to pay union fees or dues unless they have signed a union membership card requesting to pay dues to the union.
This decision will save the approximately 50,000 unionized day-care providers as much as $10 million that previously was going to the SEIU.
We have empowered and mobilized Illinois residents – private-sector workers and government employees, Democrats and Republicans – to speak out. Illinois Policy will continue to advocate for real pension reform that makes the most sense for the state, government workers and taxpayers. In the wake of the recent ruling on 2013’s pension reform legislation, this issue will be ripe for real reform. The state’s public pension crisis is so calamitous that Illinois risks default if it is not sufficiently and shortly addressed. Our team will continue offering solutions to modernize Illinois’ retirement system by eliminating political control over pensions and giving government workers the secure retirement they deserve while at the same time protecting the state’s taxpayers.
Taking taxpayers off the hook for additional ObamaCare costs
Illinois Policy has staunchly opposed a state-funded health insurance exchange, a fundamental and failed component of ObamaCare, for years. After we caught a clandestine attempt to implement an exchange over Memorial Day weekend, we continued aggressively monitoring the issue throughout the summer and during veto session. Implementing a state-based exchange would cost Illinois taxpayers an estimated $100 million annually, squeezing out spending in other areas with no benefit to patients.
By educating lawmakers and the public about the true cost of ObamaCare in Illinois, we helped to create an environment that made supporting a state-based exchange politically toxic. The federal deadline to establish an exchange was Dec. 31, so with the General Assembly adjourned until the New Year, Illinoisans will be protected from higher taxes for shoddier care.
2015 promises to be a momentous year in Illinois. With a change in administration but enduring Democratic supermajorities in the General Assembly, lawmakers will have to work together to get things done in ways we have not seen since the state’s last stint of divided government.
While the state managed to avoid a minimum-wage hike this year, that debate is expected to resume once Rauner takes office. Our team will continue to aggressively educate lawmakers on how increasing the state’s minimum wage would hurt the very people its proponents intend to help. Instead of a minimum-wage hike, we will continue to back our innovative, market-based solutions that will lead to a more robust Illinois economy in terms of employment and economic growth.
As in years past, Illinois Policy’s 2015 legislative agenda will emphasize the importance of a financially responsible and limited government focused on promoting the efficient delivery of core government services while advancing pro-growth fiscal policies. Accordingly, our government affairs team will continue to advocate on behalf of legislative initiatives that advance these fundamental principles and against legislation that hinders or jeopardizes these goals.
Illinois Policy’s vision is for Illinois to become a destination state for entrepreneurs and businesses, characterized by economic opportunity that results in upward social mobility. We will strive to make freedom and fairness a reality for all Illinoisans. And we will continue to make meaningful headway in building the foundation for transformational change in Illinois.