Senate Republicans support the
governor's commitment to avoid raising the sales and income tax, and
they agree with the governor's call for fiscal discipline in
Springfield. But they are disappointed to once again see spending
increases in the governor's budget proposal. The budget proposed
last week adds $750 million in spending. This is on top of the $1
billion in spending additions approved last year.
There also is concern about a new list
of taxes on Illinois businesses. The governor's budget includes
proposals to eliminate $320 million in tax incentives. One proposal
would change the way business software is taxed. Currently, when
multiple software licenses are purchased, sales tax is paid on only
one copy of the program licensing fee. The governor now wants to tax
every copy purchased. It is dubbed a corporate loophole, but
businesses of all sizes use computer software, and even small
businesses purchase multiple software licenses.
Senate Republicans are fearful the
anti-business climate will continue a pattern of jobs leaving the
state. An independent survey released earlier this month suggested
that more than 16,000 Illinois jobs were lost because of the $1
billion in fee and tax increases contained in the fiscal 2004
budget. The survey also reported that more than two dozen Illinois
companies were actively considering moving out of state because of
the higher costs.
In other news, several Senate
Republicans unveiled legislation to prohibit the state from owning
casino licenses. Last year legislation (Public Act 93-0028) was
passed giving the state the ability to manage a casino. An amendment
filed this week to Senate Bill 2235 would prohibit the state from
owning a riverboat casino license or horse racetrack organization
license, repeal the legislation allowing the state to manage a
casino, and maintain the state's proper role of issuing these
licenses and regulating these entities.
In other news, a Senate committee
advanced legislation (Senate Bill 2103) requiring a more
comprehensive and detailed quarterly financial report, to present a
better picture of the state's financial situation. The purpose of
the legislation is to give lawmakers and the public a better
understanding of how the state's financial situation is and a better
sense of what to expect in the future.
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Finally, Senate Republicans unveiled a
package of 20 separate legislative measures to address the crisis in
health care created by skyrocketing medical malpractice insurance
costs. Some of the more creative proposals include a plan to create
a special court system focused on medical liability cases. Another
approach under consideration would be to convert the existing
medical liability system into a workers' compensation model that
would guarantee fair compensation to injured patients without having
to go to court. Other measures provide "good Samaritan" immunity for
doctors, require the Department of Insurance to conduct an
investigation into the causes of rising medical malpractice rates,
and provide graduated caps on noneconomic damages, beginning at
Legislative measures approved this week
in Senate committees include:
Unauthorized movie theater videotaping
(SB 2134) -- Creates the offense of unauthorized videotaping in a
movie theater and establishes penalties.
Child care product safety (SB 2378) --
Makes a comprehensive list of unsafe children's products available
to facilities that do not have Internet access.
Child product recalls for safety (SB
2379) -- Imposes requirements on commercial dealers in children's
products with respect to product recalls.
License plate discounts (SB 2453) --
Beginning with the 2006 registration year, anyone who has received a
Circuit Breaker property tax and relief grant would pay $24, instead
of the usual registration fee, for a vehicle displaying the license
plates issued to Gold Star recipients.
Speed limits (SB 2374) -- Allows large
trucks, recreational vehicles such as campers, and vehicles towing
another vehicle to drive 65 miles per hour on rural interstates and
toll highways outside urban areas, the way cars and smaller trucks
Bottled water safety (SB 3112) --
Requires bottled water companies to register with the state;
provides for increased inspections and safety tests of Illinois
bottled water plants and sources.