Riopell: Income tax hike, school funding shift, minimum wage to return in '15?

  • Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner talks to reporters in the Illinois Capitol in November.

    Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner talks to reporters in the Illinois Capitol in November. Associated Press File Photo

  • Former congressman Phil Crane was honored on the Illinois House floor this week.

      Former congressman Phil Crane was honored on the Illinois House floor this week. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 12/5/2014 5:14 AM

Lawmakers' departure from Springfield this week with no plans to return before a new legislature and Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner are sworn in meant the death of a handful of controversial proposals.

For now.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

For one, despite the predictions of many people for several years, the Capitol full of lame-duck lawmakers did not extend the 2011 income tax increase into 2015. Income taxes for individuals will drop as scheduled from 5 percent to 3.75 percent on Jan. 1.

Lawmakers didn't follow Gov. Pat Quinn down that path in the spring. Then Quinn lost in the fall, so now Democrats who run the legislature are waiting to see what Rauner proposes.

What they and Rauner will do about the state's immediate and long-term financial problems will be a focus of the spring.

The idea of changing how the state hands out money to schools is dormant, too. Suburban Republicans loudly pushed back against it in the fall and turned it into a campaign issue.

Some relatively wealthy districts in the suburbs could have seen their state support plummet while some less wealthy districts would have benefitted.

Democrats said the school funding change wouldn't be approved in November and December, and it wasn't. Republicans declared victory.

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But that, too, is likely to come up again next year as lawmakers and school officials across the state all eye a limited pool of state resources.

And most recently, this week state lawmakers declined to follow Chicago aldermen in raising the state minimum wage above $8.25 an hour. The proposal changed several times in the waning hours of the legislative session, but in the end, House Speaker Michael Madigan said there wasn't enough support, so nothing happened.

It's complicated

Among the employers watching that minimum wage fight is Robert Okazaki, executive director of Park Ridge-based Avenues to Independence.

The agency, among other things, employs group home workers who take care of disabled people in houses across the suburbs. The state reimburses the agency for the majority of the $10 per hour it starts its workers at.

It can be hard to find people to do the work for that pay, so Okazaki is among many advocates who have asked the state to raise how much it spends on the care of the disabled.

If the Illinois minimum wage goes up, he'll pay his workers more. But for now, getting more money from the state will be tough. So that could make it even harder for the agency to make up the gap.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We're not like a regular business where we can pass on our costs to the consuming public," Okazaki said.

So Okazaki is in the odd situation of wanting to pay his workers more but also fearing a minimum wage hike could make things more difficult.

And it's all tied to the state finances, too.

Repeated

Rauner met with reporters again this week to talk about how bad the state's finances are, but he didn't reveal his plans yet.

Crane honored

The Illinois House honored the late former congressman Phil Crane Wednesday.

"Crane was really one of the pioneers of the conservative movement," state Rep. Ed Sullivan, who worked on Crane's campaign in 1992, said on the House floor.

Crane, a longtime Wauconda resident who died in November at age 84, departed Congress after the 2004 election as its longest-serving Republican member.

"I think we all as Illinoisans should appreciate the work of Phil Crane," said state Rep. Tom Morrison, a Palatine Republican.

"He definitely had a huge impact on the country in a positive way."

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