Op-Ed: Property Tax Relief, Combating Corruption & DCFS Reform Vital this Spring

Over the past several weeks, my colleagues and I have been drafting new legislation and determining which legislation filed in 2019 we want to prioritize for the new session. The Governor also gave us an idea of his priorities for the session during his recent State of the State address.

While I don’t frequently agree with the Governor on major policies, I’m glad he reiterated his support for property tax relief. However, we need serious action, not more talk. The Property Tax Relief Task Force proved a failure because House Democrats arbitrarily dismissed fact-based solutions offered by Republicans. Unfunded mandate relief, increased transparency, consolidation and resource sharing among local governments can’t be ignored as they were by the task force. I’m also working on legislation right now to prevent a loophole that allows bonds to be renewed without going back to voters for approval. If the Governor uses the power of his office to press Democrats to work with Republicans, there is no reason we can’t get something done.

When it comes to property tax relief, we also can’t ignore the unsustainable and unfunded liability of pension debt. While the bipartisan work to pass the consolidation of police and fire pensions last fall was a good start, it’s only a drop in the bucket of the larger problem. We need structural reform to the entire system.

The same is true when it comes to combating corruption. Last week, the Governor expressed a willingness to take up Republican ethics reform ideas that were dismissed during the fall veto session. I agree that it’s ridiculous a sitting legislator can also be a lobbyist. We filed HB 3947 last fall and it needs to be taken up this spring. And sadly, the “scourge” of corruption, as the Governor called it, clearly extends to our local communities and it’s long past time this is dealt with.

However, if the Governor is serious about addressing unethical behavior and corruption, then he needs to take a strong stance in support of fair maps to finally put an end to gerrymandering. Nearly 3 out of 4 Illinoisans support fair maps and it needs to get done. Here too, legislation already exists, HJRCA 10 and HJRCA 15.

Lastly, major reform at DCFS must happen this spring. A recent review of the agency found 123 children died despite contact with DCFS last year, including AJ Freund. We also have 17,000 youth in care and 19,000 former youth in care who rely on the agency for specialized care that are at the mercy of a so far disjointed transition to Medicaid managed care. I will soon be filing legislation to create third party oversight and place more authority in the hands of local law enforcement to protect our children in contact with the agency. These children are our responsibility and we cannot allow these terrible failures to continue.

There is much that needs to be addressed this spring, but I am committed to working with the Governor and Democrats if they are serious about joining Republicans to get things done.