Mayor Richard M. Daley today thanked the Illinois General Assembly for passing legislation providing property tax relief for Chicagoans, strengthening penalties for unlawful use of a weapon statewide and restructuring the operations of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, and said that when legislators return to Springfield later this month to address the state’s budget, they should – at a minimum – keep funding for education at last year’s level.
“I know that the General Assembly was challenged this year on a number of fronts, and as we all know, the legislature continues to work through the state’s financial situation and pass a budget,” Daley said in a news conference held at Avalon Park Fine and Performing Arts School, 8045 S. Kenwood Av.
“Nonetheless, we worked hard during this current session on behalf of Chicagoans and managed to accomplish some important things that will help make our city safer and more affordable and improve the overall quality of life for our residents,” he said.
The Mayor thanked the General Assembly for passing – and urged Governor Quinn to sign – several important pieces of legislation that Chicago proposed or supported.
“And I want to assure Chicagoans that we will never stop fighting to pass laws that protect and improve the lives of the people of our City,” he said.
City-proposed or -supported bills approved in the current session include:
Guns – A City-proposed bill makes aggravated unlawful use of a weapon a non-probational offense if a person is carrying a loaded weapon and has not been issued a valid firearm owners identification card (FOID). “When this becomes law, people caught carrying loaded weapons will not be let off scot-free as many of them are today,” Daley said. The bill’s main sponsors were Senator Antonio Munoz and Representative Michael Zalewski.
The Mayor said the City and its allies also were able to ensure that legislation that would have legalized the concealed carry of weapons in Illinois did not become law. Two such bills were voted out of committee but due to lack of support were not voted on by the full House.
Property Tax Relief – One bill extends the so-called “7 percent cap” for another year at $20,000 and allows for a gradual step-down of the exemption over the next two years. “Had the legislature not acted, property tax bills would have been $600 higher for half of Chicago’s homeowners because of the loss of the exemption. That could have potentially forced many people – those who can least afford to pay – out of their homes,” Daley said.
A second bill will give taxpayers an extra 30 days to pay their 2010 first installment bill, payable in Spring 2011, before a penalty fee is assessed. This measure passed in response to the fact that property tax bills are expected to go out very late this fall “and I want taxpayers to be given more time to pay their bills,” Daley said.
McPier – This bill restructures the way business is conducted at McPier, including appointment of an interim trustee to oversee the authority and major changes in labor work rules. The legislation also allows McPier to refinance its debt, which will free up resources for its operating budget.
“The worst economic recession in seventy years brought into focus the competitive disadvantages of the Chicago convention industry and this bill is a major step forward in leveling the national playing field,” Daley said.
Pension reform – Legislation approved by the General Assembly established a two-tier general pension system providing stabilization and financial relief over time. The legislation also contained short-term relief for Chicago Public Schools by lowering the system’s pension payment for the next several years and allowing a longer amortization period. This legislation significantly cuts CPS’ operating deficit for next year.
Elder Financial Abuse – This bill requires financial institutions to train their front-line employees on elder financial abuse and what signs to look for when it occurs using a baseline training program to be developed by the State of Illinois. “Each year millions of older Americans are victims of elder financial abuse which threatens their health, dignity and economic security,” Daley said. “This bill will help reduce the odds that seniors throughout the state will become victims of financial abuse.”
Good Samaritan Building evacuations – This bill provides amends the Good Samaritan Act to include civil protections for individuals who provide voluntary assistance to people with the disabilities and others in the evacuation of a building during an emergency. The bill was an initiative of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities.
Housing tax credit – Extends the income tax credit for affordable housing donations through the taxable year ending on December 31, 2016. Chicago and other Illinois municipalities rely on this tax credit as a powerful incentive to leverage private sector donations to help finance affordable housing. Since the program’s inception in 2001, the City of Chicago’s Department of Community Development has issued more than $26 million in tax credits, leveraging more than $40 million dollars for affordable housing construction and resulting in the construction of more than 3,000 affordable units in Chicago.
Veterans – This legislation expands emergency medical services for veterans by allowing City ambulances to take veterans to a Veterans Administration hospital with the approval of the state Department of Public Health.
Construction debris – It approved a bill that will save the taxpayers millions of dollars on new public construction projects by clarifying where clean construction debris can de deposited. The Public Building Commission estimates the bill will result in savings on a typical construction project as follows: $445,000 for a high school, $145,000 for an elementary school, $62,000 for a police station, $72,000 for a fire station and $72,000 for a library.
Payment Plan – This legislation was an initiative of the City’s Department of Revenue and enables the City to lift the suspension of driver’s license lost for non-payment of fines and penalties if the driver signs up for a payment plan.
Daley also said that when the General Assembly returns to Springfield later this month to address the state’s budget, it should — at a minimum — keep funding for education at last year’s level.
“If funding is cut, my concern is that CPS will be forced to increase class size, reduce classroom personnel and make other cuts in after school and early childhood programs that we desperately need to fund. Don’t cut spending on the backs of our children and their education,” he said.
And the Mayor also urged the legislators to pass the City’s proposal requiring banks (or other responsible parties) in Chicago to maintain their foreclosed properties so that the costs do not fall on the taxpayers. The legislation would apply only to Chicago.
“Chicago has some of the toughest local laws in the nation when it comes to requiring banks to maintain vacant properties they own as a result of foreclosure. But current laws do not adequately address who is responsible for the property during the foreclosure process if the homeowner has already abandoned it,” he said.