Demmer’s Dispatch: April 29, 2019

Crowd of 100 Turns Out for Joint Town Hall Meeting in DeKalb

I want to thank everyone who came out on April 23 for the joint town hall meeting I hosted with

State Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) and State Representative Jeff Keicher (R-Sycamore). We had a productive conversation with community members about pressing issues in Illinois, including the budget, pension debt, legalization of recreational marijuana, government consolidation, higher education and taxes.

The meeting featured a slideshow presentation followed by a question-and-answer period moderated by Eric Olson, General Manager of the Daily Chronicle. I appreciated the opportunity to speak with constituents about the issues that are important to them and will take the feedback with me as I return to Springfield this week for the final five weeks of the spring legislative session.

House Republicans Continue Pushback Against Pritzker Tax Hike
The graduated income tax proposed by Governor JB Pritzker would enable future governors of Illinois and Illinois General Assemblies to enact any tax rate they want upon any specific slice of Illinois taxpayers. The authors of the Illinois Constitution of 1970 included specific ironclad language in that document that requires all income taxes imposed upon individuals to be at a single, flat, fixed rate. It is this provision of the Constitution that the proposal would repeal. 

Repeal of the proposal will open the door to an immediate, multi-billion-dollar Illinois income tax increase, to be followed at frequent intervals by further increases as advocates take advantage of the opportunities created by the new law to maximize State revenue. Nothing in the 2019 income tax proposal takes any steps to reduce government expenditures, reduce the costs of State-managed pension plans, or save money in other ways.

House Republicans are taking the lead in opposition to this tax proposal. HR 153 states the unanimous opposition of the House Republican Caucus to any proposal in Springfield to allow the creation of a graduated income tax in Illinois. In recent days, House Republicans have worked with Illinoisans throughout the State to inform them of this proposal and its threat to the Illinois private sector. Thousands of Illinoisans have signed a petition against the proposal. Click here if you’d like to sign it.

School Administrative Costs, Consolidation Issue Discussed
Illinois has 852 separate school districts, many of them rural districts that serve township areas in Downstate Illinois. The smallest districts have as few as 100 students. Some Illinois districts cannot field independent athletic teams, particularly in football, and have had to merge their teams. However, each independent Illinois school district has a proud history and is a symbol of its community. Even if some of the young adults from a community have grown up and moved away, this means that the adults who remain are those who are especially committed to the preservation of that community and its identity.

Some advocates, including people on both sides of the ideological spectrum, think more Illinois school districts should look at their futures. Professional educators sometimes point out challenges that face smaller districts in preparing their students for higher education. Advocates for taxpayers’ rights point out that consolidating independent school districts can reduce administrative payrolls and lead to lower property tax extensions.  

Following World War II, there was a wave of school consolidations throughout Downstate Illinois as “one-room schoolhouses” closed their doors and students began riding school buses to class. However, this wave has ended. Only 62 consolidation actions have taken place since 1983. Today’s school district consolidation proposals almost always run into strong opposition from local residents. In some cases, these Downstate communities see their local school districts as cornerstones of their local areas’ ability to survive as separate and distinct places of local identity. 

A genuine burden is placed on all Illinois taxpayers by current Illinois educational governance.  A study by the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) found that more than $1 billion of the money Illinois taxpayers paid in fiscal year 2014 property taxes were funneled to school-district-level administrative salaries and benefits. This school-district general administrative spending burden, the MPC found, was “by far the most of any state in the nation  On a per-pupil basis, school districts in Illinois spent $518 per pupil for general administration – the second highest [per-pupil cost] in the nation.” The MPC reports that the national average spending level for general administration was $210 (per pupil cost) in FY14.  If Illinois were to be able to reduce its per-pupil school district general administrative cost down to the national average, Illinois taxpayers would enjoy savings of more than $460 million per year.

Demmer to Launch Mobile Office Hours Tour

The 90th District is geographically quite large, and I recognize that my Dixon office is not convenient for all of my constituents. In an effort to make the resources of my legislative office more broadly available to constituents, my staff and I will be hosting a series of mobile office hours throughout the 90th District.

While additional dates may still be added, the following events are scheduled:

  • May 21: Rock River Center, 810 S 10th St, Oregon
  • June 11: Hub City Senior Center, 401 Cherry Ave, Rochelle
  • July: Sandwich (date and location TBA)
  • August 20: Rock River Center, 810 S 10th St, Oregon
  • September 10: Hub City Senior Center, 401 Cherry Ave, Rochelle
  • October: Sandwich (date and location TBA)
  • November 12: Hub City Senior Center, 401 Cherry Ave, Rochelle
  • November 19: Rock River Center, 810 S 10th St, Oregon
  • December 17: Rock River Center, 810 S 10th St, Oregon

All events will take place from 10:00 – 11:00 AM and no appointment is necessary. Each event is open to the public, and those who attend these mobile office hours can learn about the services my office can provide and receive assistance with issues regarding state agencies. I will attend personally as my schedule permits.

In addition to these scheduled mobile office hours, my legislative assistant is always available to meet with constituents in their communities on an appointment basis. For more information about mobile office hours or to schedule an individual appointment, please contact the Demmer office at (815) 561-3690.

Illinois Unemployment Rate Up Slightly in March
The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) announced last week that the unemployment rate was 4.4% in March. This was a slight increase of 0.1% from the 4.3% jobless rate posted in February 2019, and was 0.6% higher than the 50-state 3.8% unemployment rate posted nationwide during the same month. 

Further, the Illinois economy did not produce net new jobs in March 2019. While the manufacturing sector remained strong, with a March 2019 net increase of 1,700 payroll jobs in manufacturing, this strength was offset by weakness in other areas such as professional services (down 4,200 jobs in March 2019). The overall Illinois nonfarm payroll economy covered the paychecks of 2,800 fewer jobs in March 2019 than the payrolls of February 2019.  As the majority party continued to push a massive Illinois income tax hike proposal, the March 2019 jobs picture signaled the growing challenges facing the Illinois economy and its working families. 

Illinois’ stagnant job-creation numbers were echoed in overall U.S. state population estimates, which indicate that many Illinoisans may be leaving Illinois to seek work in other states such as Florida and Texas. Population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, keyed to trends between calendar years 2017 and 2018, show that the Chicago metropolitan area lost more than 22,000 residents in the last calendar year. Many Downstate metropolitan areas also posted year-over-year declines in 2018 relative to 2017.