GENEVA – As Illinois lawmakers make another attempt at a state budget and President Donald Trump begins to send out executive orders, the state is looking at some changes for 2017.
For the state budget, the most important thing in the business climate is stability, said Benjamin Brockschmidt, executive director of the Infrastructure Council and vice president of policy for the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.
As to what a Trump administration might do with the Affordable Care Act, tax reform and major policy changes in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Labor: “It’s going to be a fascinating next 100 days with President Trump,” Brockschmidt said.
Brockschmidt spoke Jan. 19 to about 30 people at the St. Charles, Geneva and Batavia chambers of commerce Legislative Luncheon at Eagle Brook Country Club in Geneva.
As the state enters its second year without a budget, Brockschmidt said the two sides in the Illinois Senate have negotiated a 13-bill budget package that requires all 13 bills to pass, or none of them are passed.
“No doubt we need a budget as a good starting point, ranging from government consolidation to pension relief,” Brockschmidt said. “The heart of the package is Senate Bill 9. It tries to address that there is a lot of new revenue that is needed. We are honest about that, but we are also very aware there has to be cuts and there has to be fiscal constraint out of Springfield to get that kind of revenue increase.”
The ongoing state budget woes are a consequence of the stalemate between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic-controlled General Assembly in Springfield and has left the state without a spending plan.
The state’s Senate package includes a sweet beverage tax of a penny an ounce at the distributor level; an increase in income tax to 4.95 percent on the individual; and the corporate tax rate would go up to 7 percent from 3.75 percent and 5.25 percent, he said.
Also in the package is an increase in minimum wage, as well as trying to close some loopholes, a two-year property tax freeze – excluding school districts – and some worker compensation changes, Brockschmidt said.
“We are very happy that the Senate is negotiating this,” Brockschmidt said. “There is no doubt that we need a budget. … But the package is not without its shortcomings.”
Illinois has lost 100,000 residents in the past several years and lost a seat in the U.S. House every year since the 1980s, Brockschmidt said.
“That’s a major problem,” Brockschmidt said. “People want to come here. People want to invest here. We should not have an outgrowth of 100,000 people. We should have an ingrowth of 100,000 people.”
While the state Legislature is a big part of people leaving the state, changes in the nation’s capitol also can impact the stability businesses need, he said.
With changes coming to the Affordable Care Act and the EPA, the state’s two Democratic U.S. senators – Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth – will have to be aware of what that means for Illinois residents, Brockschmidt said.
“We have to remind them that just saying, ‘No. No. No,’ is not going to address the problem,” Brockschmidt said.
He cautioned that some lawmakers who chafed under President Barack Obama might just want to ram through changes, but that is not going to help the business climate, either.
Businesses spend money to deal with how the rules and laws are today, not for what lawmakers will come up with later, he said.
He encouraged business owners to engage with their elected officials by inviting them to their workplace, going to their offices to introduce themselves, or by simply inviting them to a company picnic.
“Have them get to know you,” Brockschmidt said.
Leah Hoppes, owner of Vision Force Marketing in St. Charles, praised Brockschmidt’s insights and suggestions.
“He ... gave us some good ideas of things we can do,” Hoppes said. “Things I had not thought about before like inviting legislators out to events to get to know us, so that we become a resource for them. I just thought that was brilliant.”