12th District E-Newsletter
Friday, May 14

Dear Neighbor:

May has been a busy month in Springfield but the legislature's work is far from over. When we reconvene next week to finalize the 2011 budget I will be advocating for crucial budgetary reform measures as outlined in this e-letter.

Throughout this process, it is important to remember that Illinois is not the only state facing a dire financial situation, nor is there one single solution to all of our problems. With the cooperation of all legislators and a willingness to make the tough decisions, it is still possible to develop a reasonable budget that maximizes each revenue dollar brought in.

I have included several significant pieces of legislation that may be of interest to you. I will continue to keep you updated on the budget and other legislative matters as session comes to an end. If you have any questions until then, please feel free to call or email me.

Very Truly Yours,
Sara Feigenholtz
State Representative, 12th District

  • Property Tax Relief
  • McPier Convention Tourism
  • Nursing Home Reform
  • State Budget
  • Community Events

  • Property Tax Relief

    Senate Bill 3638, which passed both Houses, provides property tax relief by extending the Cook County 7% property tax cap for 3 additional years. Exemption amounts cannot exceed $20,000 in the first year; $16,000 in the second year; and $12,000 in the third year. The bill also streamlines the Senior Citizens Homestead Exemption application process by eliminating variances between counties. The Returning Veterans' Homestead Exemption is expanded to include the year after a veteran returns to the state (currently only the year of return). The service-related disability for disabled veterans has been reduced to 70% (currently 75%); at this level, veterans will be able to receive a $5,000 property tax exemption.

    McPier Convention Tourism

    In order to attract more conventions and tourism dollars to Illinois, serious reforms are needed; these reforms are embodied in Senate Bill 28, which passed both Houses. This legislation will alleviate some of the hassle and excessive costs for conventions at a time when dozens are threatening to leave Chicago in favor of cities with more hospitable convention environments. This bill is paramount in resurrecting Chicago's convention industry.

    Nursing Home Reform

    Sweeping nursing home reform legislation brought desperately needed changes to increase staff-to-patient ratios and change the screening and admissions process. When our elders need long-term care we want to make sure they are in the safest environments with the gold standard of care. Senate Bill 326 incorporates many of the recommendations made by the Nursing Home Reform Task Force and received near-unanimous support from the General Assembly. Additional highlights:

    • Enhances the background check and screening process to identify individuals that may place themselves or others at risk in a nursing home setting.
    • Allows for the development of a transition program to transition individuals who are capable of independent living out of nursing homes and into community care.
    • Requires nursing homes to obtain a psychiatric rehabilitation certificate of compliance if admitting individuals with a serious mental illness or a behavioral management unit certificate of compliance if admitting residents determined to pose a risk to others.
    • Increases fines and penalties for nursing home violations.

    State Budget

    Senate Bill 3660 and Senate Bill 1211 are the bulk of the Governor's proposed emergency budget package and include the following provisions:

    • Requires legislators and agency directors to take 12 unpaid furlough days.
    • Provides that the state sells half of its rights of the tobacco settlement, providing $1.2 billion in cash flows.
    • Makes a 5% across-the-board cut in operational expenses.
    • Gives the Governor discretionary rulemaking authority with regards to spending.
    • Would create a 'pension holiday' exempting the state from pension payments for the first six months of the fiscal year.

    As it stands, this proposed budget lacks the reform and detailed line item stipulations needed to move the state beyond this fiscal crisis. When the House meets to finalize the budget, I am advocating for the following reforms:

    • Cuts to nonessential services, including an emergency review of contractual services.
    • Enacting cost sharing measures with current and retired state employees.
    • Reforms and cuts in Medicaid without jeopardizing federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.
    • A slight tax to retirement income for high-income individuals only. For more information on Illinois' antiquated tax system and more about retirement income taxing please click here.
    • Full implementation of Senate Bill 3622 and the Budget Transparency Act, which will ensure that taxpayers can easily and quickly access appropriations bills through the General Assembly website prior to any legislative action.

    Last year, I disagreed with the excessive borrowing of pension funds to pay for state services and the lack of an accompanying revenue source, transferring unprecedented amounts of budgetary power to the Governor and lump sum budgets. This year, we are facing a grimmer situation that leaves us with two options: borrowing funds or deferring payments - including allowing the state to take a pension holiday. Considering the state of the pension systems, taking a pension holiday now is one of the most inefficient tactics to emerge from this crisis and will only lead to further problems down the road.

    With the cooperation of legislators a well-crafted budget is still possible and I look forward to debating these issues and collaborating with my colleagues to find the best solution for Illinois citizens.

    Community Events

    Living Green in Lincoln Park
    Sunday, May 16, 1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m., Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Dr.

    This Sunday, I will be attending the Living Green in Lincoln Park community-wide forum. This free event will highlight some of the newest resources for going green, local vendors and a tour of a green home in Lincoln Park. A panel of green experts will be on hand to provide tips on sustainability, give advice for saving money through environmental consciousness, and help you to design and detoxify your home. I'm very excited to be a part of this event and learn how to make my own life greener!

    Buena Park Neighbors Clean & Green
    Saturday, May 22, 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m., meet at Dollop Coffee, 4181 N. Clarendon

    Join the Buena Park Neighbors in helping to clean up and beautify the neighborhood. Volunteers of all ages are needed and are encouraged to bring work gloves - all other supplies will be provided. To register or get more information, email bpnblockcaptains@hotmail.com.

    26th Annual Belmont-Sheffield Music Festival
    Saturday, May 29, 12:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. and Sunday, May 30, 12:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m., Sheffield Ave. from Belmont to School

    This year's Belmont-Sheffield Music Festival features local and national entertainment acts as well as a collection of arts, crafts and displays from local merchants and artists. All proceeds from the festival will benefit the Central Lakeview Merchants Association.

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