socastcmsRssStartBy Greg Bishop | Illinois News NetworksocastcmsRssEnd
When members of the 101st General Assembly are seated Wednesday, new and returning lawmakers will face some of the same problems that the last class of lawmakers faced, but majority Democrats will have a member of their own party in the governor’s mansion.
The 100th General Assembly ends Wednesday as the new class of lawmakers is seated. House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, closed out the House session Tuesday after calling the past four years an “epic struggle” Democrats had with the Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. Rauner lost to Democrat J.B. Pritzker by a wide margin in November.
“What happened, happened – no need to spend time today to talk about blame or fault,” Madigan said.
Madigan then went on to thank Republicans who joined Democrats in supporting an increase of the state’s income tax in 2017. That $5 billion tax increase was vetoed by the governor and Republicans joined with Democrats over an Independence Day holiday to override the governor, ending the impasse.
“With no further ado, I move that the House do stand adjourned sine die,” Madigan said.
One old problem the new General Assembly must contend with is the state’s fiscal condition. Illinois’ finances are still a mess. And pension debt is a big part of that.
State Rep. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago, who is back for another two-year term Wednesday, said the pension debt is no secret.
Martwick said he hopes the new assembly works to get a progressive income tax structure in place to address the debt.
“To use progressive revenue, to raise the revenue necessary and we use the vast majority – all of that if it was my doing – to go into the pension to solve that debt problem,” Martwick said.
He said once the pension debt is under control, then lawmakers can use the additional revenue for things like higher education or even for tax cuts.
Incoming Republican state Rep. Mike Murphy, R-Springfield, said toying with tax rates won’t help. He said the state needs to foster economic growth.
“We need to be more business-friendly. I know that’s a cliché, but it’s true,” Murphy said. “Our workman’s comp, our unemployment [taxes], those things hurt businesses. We just got to make sure we can build a base. That’s the way we’re going to build Illinois.”
Murphy, who owned a diner, said the answer to the state’s debt problems is getting government out of the way so business can grow.
“Let business expand,” Murphy said. “We cannot tax our way out of this problem. We need to expand the base and it’s very simple: Jobs.”
The new class of state representatives will take the oath of office at the University of Illinois, Springfield, where the first order of business will be to select the next speaker. That’s expected to again be Madigan, who’s been the speaker for all but two years since 1983.
The Senate will have a morning session for the 100th General Assembly to take up final bills the House passed over before adjourning their chamber. Then Gov. Bruce Rauner, in one of his final actions will oversee the swearing in of new state senators and the election of the next Senate President for the 101st General Assembly.