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A mailing that makes some outlandish accusations is landing in mailboxes across Illinois. If you haven’t received this piece of political propaganda, don’t worry- you will. The mailing takes aim at legislators who voted last month to bring the State’s budget that funds Illinois services through June 30 into balance; finally. The political mailing is meant to stir an emotional response through the use of irresponsible and highly inflammatory rhetoric. The group that funded the mailer represents the road builders’ union in Illinois.

To better understand the purpose for the General Assembly’s emergency budget votes last month, Illinoisans need to look back at the budget that was approved for this current fiscal year. Last May, House and Senate Democrats sent Governor Quinn a budget they knew was out of balance by $1.6 billion. I did not vote for that sham of a budget and neither did any House or Senate Republicans. But the controlling Party sent the disingenuous budget to Quinn and he signed it, knowing it was unbalanced … hoping they would “correct it” after the election via an income tax increase if everything went according to plan. But it didn’t. Governor Rauner unseated Quinn.

Prior to the legislature taking corrective action last month, funding for vital State programs was within days of running out. Funding for prison guard and court reporter salaries, money earmarked for a childcare program that allowed our most disadvantaged citizens to work outside the home, and funding for programs that assist the mentally ill were almost depleted. To prevent the shuttering of these and other programs and budget areas, a bipartisan coalition of legislators took bold steps to ensure no disruption of services would occur.

With regard to the road issue, please know that I am 100% committed to rebuilding Illinois roads, and support efforts to ensure that a steady stream of revenue is available each year to keep up with road and bridge projects. My voting record on funding for road and bridge projects statewide speaks for itself. What bothers me most is the timing of this ill-advised mailing. In addition to being grossly inaccurate, it is unhelpful as legislators work to fix the decades-long neglect of our State’s finances. Here’s what the mailing doesn't tell you:
  • Today the Road Fund is sitting on a balance of over $1 billion.
  • The emergency budget votes in March will not affect next year’s annual allocation for road construction or put IDOT operations in jeopardy.
Correcting years and years of overspending and budget mismanagement is a goal that is attainable for Illinois. It will be achieved through thoughtful negotiations where everyone comes to the table to provide input and solutions; not through mail pieces that aim to politicize the process, rile up citizens’ emotions, and divide the legislature.

As always, I am happy to answer any questions. Call me at 630/737-0504 or email me at repsandack@gmail.com.
On Monday, State Rep. Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) spoke with WLS radio host John Howell about news that broke over the weekend that College of DuPage trustees and senior administrators charged thousands of dollars in alcohol at the on-campus restaurant to a foundation that funds student scholarships. "Almost every day there is a new revelation about malfeasance at COD," said Sandack. "Can you imagine how many more scholarships the College of DuPage could have provided to students if this money hadn't been spent on alcohol?"

You can listen to the full interview here.

DuPage County taxpayers are one step closer to having more control over their tax bills due to legislation sponsored by State Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) that cleared the Illinois House on Wednesday.

HB2459, which was approved unanimously, would amend the Counties Code and prohibit DuPage County from charging property owners a storm water management utility fee without first gaining voter approval through a referendum.

According to Sandack, an original law which allowed DuPage County to adopt a fee schedule to pay for the county’s storm water management gave the county the authority to implement it by ordinance. “My bill is about taxpayer empowerment,” said Sandack. “Today, DuPage County can, after extensive investigation and public participation, adopt a fee schedule through a vote by the board. My bill transfers that power into the hands of the electorate. This bill would require a front door referendum.”

In DuPage County, a portion of current tax bills is designated for storm water management. However, funds are not collected through a fee schedule. “If my bill becomes law, DuPage County could not move to a storm water utility fee-based system until it is approved by voters,” Sandack said. “The County could not utilize both the tax-based and fee-based systems at the same time. It is one or the other and in order to change to a fee-based system, voters must approve of the initiative.”

The bill has now moved to the IL Senate for consideration.

Use the link below to hear Sandack talk about the bill.


Tornadoes Lash North-Central Illinois near Rochelle and Rockford
The twisters touched down late Thursday, April 9, and caused two confirmed fatalities and extensive property damage in DeKalb County’s Fairdale.

Governor Bruce Rauner activated the State Incident Response Center Thursday night.  The emergency response center coordinates the efforts of local and community first responders to a disaster, and will, if necessary, supervise the deployment of non-community specialized response teams for further aid and assistance.   

The Governor, along with Director James Joseph of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and local officials, met Friday for a press briefing and to survey damage from the tornadoes that hit north central Illinois Thursday night.

Friday morning, Governor Rauner declared DeKalb and Ogle counties state disaster areas. “Our hearts and thoughts go out to those impacted by yesterday’s storms,” he said during a press conference.   “The State will do everything it can to help these families and communities recover and heal, while providing response resources.”

The state disaster declaration makes available a wide variety of state resources that can help affected communities respond and recover from the storms.  The State of Illinois has mobilized personnel and assets to help local government officials with disaster recovery, including conservation police officers, communication equipment and light towers.

More information about the State’s tornado response and tornado safety is available at www.Ready.Illinois.gov, and for more information on ways to help the victims of this tornado outbreak, please visit The Caucus Blog.

Sandack Guest Lectures for College of DuPage Politics Class
On April 7 I had an opportunity to serve as a guest lecturer for Aaron Reinke’s American Politics class at the College of DuPage. The students listened and engaged with me as we discussed politics, the Illinois legislature, and other relevant topics. I had a great time and was impressed by this group of eager learners.

Consolidation Task Force meets in Wheaton
In Illinois there are almost 7,000 school districts, municipalities, townships, and other units of local government.  All of these educational bodies and units of government have the right to charge fees by law, and most of them can levy property and other taxes from their residents.  In many cases, Illinois residents are not fully aware of all of the different units of local government they help to support.  Illinois law allows public-sector advocates to set up specialty units of local government, such as mosquito-abatement districts and drainage districts, whose taxes and assessment fees appear on residents’ tax bills.     

Governor Bruce Rauner and Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti have made Illinois local government consolidation and the reduction of redundant public-sector work one of the focuses of their administration.  Sanguinetti is the chairperson of the Local Government Consolidation Task Force, a panel asked to look at this issue.  The DuPage-based Lieutenant Governor is familiar with the work of DuPage County Chairman Dan Cronin at fighting back against proliferating local governments in his county, and at their initial meeting the members of the newly-appointed Task Force expressed eagerness to look at local areas within Illinois, and at efficiency practices in other states, for guidance on how to craft recommendations to accomplish this task.  Cronin offered testimony and guidance to the Task Force’s hearing in Wheaton, held on Wednesday, April 8.  

Task force members agreed that Illinois, with 6,963 units of local government (#1 nationwide) has much to learn from other states.  One of the commission’s top-priority tasks will be to examine numerous mandates imposed by Springfield upon Illinois educational units and units of local government.

CGFA Reports on March Revenue Numbers
 The report for March 2015 by the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA), the General Assembly’s non-partisan budget arm, calculates Illinois’ net general funds receipts in March 2015 as having fallen by $330 million from the same receipts in March 2014.  The decline was paced by a cut in Illinois personal income receipts of $195 million (net of refunds) and by a comparative fall in State corporate income tax revenues of $76 million (net of refunds).  These reductions were related to the rollback in State income tax rates that took effect on January 1, 2015; for example, the State personal income tax rate fell from 5.00% to 3.75% on that day.

In addition to lower tax revenues related to the rollback of part of the “temporary” tax increase, CGFA staff pointed to other structural changes affecting the Illinois economy.  For example, jobs in the Illinois manufacturing sector, a traditional cornerstone of Illinois economic activity, continue to be held back by the soaring value of the U.S. dollar in the international marketplace.  Illinois expects to export between $5 and $6 billion dollars in goods in calendar year 2015, but this figure has been flat since 2011 as U.S. manufactured goods continue to lose ground.  Competitive manufacturers based in other countries can often offer cheaper labor and more competitive currency values. 

The U.S. Department of Commerce counts 345,050 Illinois jobs as supported by exports in 2014.  $68.2 billion of goods that originated in Illinois were exported to other countries, and these goods were assembled and shipped by part of the 345,000-person workforce.  With their pay, the direct export-oriented workforce then purchased goods and services from other Illinoisans, making up the balance of the 345,000 figure.  These workers also pay income and sales taxes to the Illinois public sector.

Prosecutors, Grand Jury Begin Formal Inquiry into College of DuPage Spending
Controversial executive-level budget and expenditure issues at the College of DuPage have already drawn the attention of local taxpayers and Illinois House members.  On Tuesday, March 31, it was publicly disclosed that a DuPage County grand jury has issued subpoenas to the College, seeking records related to executive actions taken by lame-duck college President Robert Breuder.  The subpoenas seek further information about the departing chief executive’s compensation contract and allowable expenses. 

Data gathered from these subpoenas could uncover information about the relationship between President Breuder, the college’s board of trustees, and persons with alleged insider status in college affairs.  For example, a lucrative contract for college signage was recently awarded on a non-bid basis to an individual identified as a key college fundraiser.     

Many House Republicans have already taken the lead in calling for an intensified investigation into President Breuder and the fiscal affairs of the College of DuPage.  HR 55, sponsored by Rep. Jeanne Ives and more than 55 colleagues, directs the Illinois Auditor General to conduct a four-year performance audit of the College’s spending patterns in fiscal years 2011 through 2014.

On Tuesday, three new trustees were elected to the COD board. All three were members of a “Clean Slate” team that had worked with others to question ties between the existing trustees and lame-duck college President Robert Brueder.  The three new trustees – Deanne Mazzochi, Frank Napolitano and Charles Bernstein – were elected to serve six-year terms.

Sandack Visits with 8th Graders from Darien School
In Illinois, students are required to pass a test about the U.S. Constitution. On Friday, I had the privilege of speaking to the students from Ms. Weisinger’s 8th grade class at Our Lady of Peace School in Darien. These students are getting ready to take the test, and we had a hearty discussion about our Constitution and how it is the framework for the freedoms we enjoy. The class members had some great questions and I really enjoyed visiting with them. An inquisitive bunch, I have no doubt that these students will do well on the Constitution Test. Best of luck to them!

Governor Rauner Makes Three Appointments to Enterprise Zone Board
The board, operating as an independent arm of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, will scrutinize the applications and reapplications of Illinois communities for status as hosts of Enterprise Zones.  An Illinois Enterprise Zone is a geographic zone, located within an economically challenged area, where firms that invest capital and create jobs have the right to enjoy relief from some of the taxes, fees and regulations imposed in the rest of the state. 

There are almost 100 enterprise zones throughout Illinois, all of which will expire soon.  If they choose to re-apply for their status, the newly-appointed Board will look at their applications and compare them with new applicants.  The General Assembly has created a statutory schedule for the Board to complete its work this year.

Governor Rauner’s three appointments, announced on Tuesday, March 31, were Jovita Carranza, Lawrence Falbe, and Larry Ivory. 
Time is running out for public participation in State Representative Ron Sandack's 2015 Legislative Survey. The survey will be closed this week at the end of the day on Friday, April 10. Citizen input is greatly appreciated. You can take the survey here.
Governor Rauner & General Assembly Close FY15 Budget Hole
Faced with a $1.6 billion FY15 budget deficit upon taking office, Governor Bruce Rauner almost immediately asked for executive powers to reorganize spending and enable the State to get through the fiscal year, which covers spending needs through June 30, 2015.

Without immediate action, the State would have been unable to make payroll at Illinois prisons, low-income working families would lose their child care assistance, court reporters would be laid off and money for services for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled would run out. In addition, inaction would have further delayed and perhaps jeopardized critical categorical school funding and State aid payments.

After negotiations in which House Republicans were full participants, the General Assembly agreed last week to language contained in HB 317 and HB 318. HB 317, an appropriations bill, made cuts and transfers in State spending. HB 318, a budget implementation bill, granted the Governor the legal authority to carry out and implement the cuts in spending and spending transfers made in HB 317. Together, these bills work to fill critical holes in the deliberately unbalanced FY15 budget passed by majority Democrats and signed by former Governor Quinn.

Approximately $1.3 billion of the moves occurred in the form of budget transfers from various funds, and approximately $400 million was in the form of an across-the-board budget cut. The HB 317-HB 318 package created $97 million in budgetary flexibility that can be used to respond to specific challenges, including the challenge of school districts that have run out of reserves.

After the bills were approved I was interviewed about the difficult votes and why they were necessary. You can listen to my comments here.

House Committees Advance 512 Bills to Floor
Friday was the deadline for movement of House Bills out of the House committee process. In all, the Illinois House advanced 512 bills from committee to the House floor. House committees began meeting in February to take testimony and hear advocacy from witnesses, proponents and opponents for and against the measures filed by House members. This work was finished up this week. After the conclusion of the two-week spring break, the House and its committees will consider floor action and amendments to the House bills that advanced out of committee. The House will also start looking at bills coming over from the state Senate. Less than 13% of the bills filed this spring achieved approval by a House committee prior to Friday’s deadline.

House Republicans Advance Several Bills to Address COD Debacle
In response to public outrage over perceived malfeasance at the College of DuPage (COD), House Republicans have advanced six pieces of legislation that seek to prevent future mismanagement at the community college.

Thousands of COD taxpayers and several state legislators were shocked in January when a $763,000 contract buyout deal for COD President Dr. Robert Breuder was rushed through the COD board process with no transparency for stakeholders. Public outcry intensified a few weeks later when it was learned that Dr. Breuder, his top administrators and the college trustees had also enjoyed close to $200,000 in high-end dining on the taxpayers’ dime. House Republicans, led by Representative Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) petitioned Speaker Mike Madigan at the time to schedule immediate hearings into what lawmakers felt was a clear misuse of public funds.

Just last week we learned of yet another instance of questionable financial decision-making at COD, when the Chicago Tribune broke a story about COD Foundation board member Carla Burkhart, who received a no-bid $630,000 contract for sign design and installation work at the college. The contract made reference to Burkhart’s experience as an architect, when, in fact, she is not an architect and her firm does not do architectural work.

With the Friday deadline for House Bills to be moved through the House committee process, the following COD-related bills are now headed to the House floor for formal debate:
  • HR55 (Ives): Directs the Auditor General to conduct a thorough performance audit at COD that is paid for by COD. Under the resolution, the performance audit would include the following determinations for Fiscal Years 2011-2014:
    • The College of DuPage’s sources of revenues
    • College expenditures, by broad category
    • Whether the Board is carrying out its responsibilities required by Board policy
    • Whether the Board is meeting its fiduciary responsibilities and ensuring compliance with the Public Community College Act and Board Policies
    • Whether the compensation and severance packages provided to the COD President are comparable to compensation and severance packages provided to Presidents of other Illinois Community Colleges
    • Whether changes to the College President’s compensation package were properly approved
  • HB303 (McDermod): Adds transparency to publicly-funded severance agreements by making them subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
  • HB3593 (Ives): Limits the term of a community college employment contract to no more than three years and caps the amount of a severance agreements to no more than one year. The bill also prohibits automatic renewal clauses and requires that renewal or extension discussions occur during open meetings.
  • HB3998 (Ives): Prohibits community colleges from holding more than four months of operating expenses in reserves (COD currently has 24 months of operating expenses in reserves).
  • HB4134 (Sandack): Provides that if community college trustees issue a severance package to an employee using State funds, the exact amount of the monetary severance package shall be deducted from the college’s state aid when the next aid disbursement is made by the Comptroller.
  • HB4135 (Sandack): Limits the amount of a community college severance package to one year of salary and one year of benefits.
HR55, HB303 and possibly HB3593 will stand alone on the House floor, while the other bills are likely to be amended and possibly combined.