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IDOT: “project may or may not be terminated”

Springfield… The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) issued a response to local lawmakers regarding the possible future of an Amtrak passenger rail service to Rockford. IDOT stressed that project stakeholders understand the status of the project and the possibility that it may or may not be terminated.

“The availability of funds for this project was falsely advertised.  There was no money designated for the project. It was an outrageous political lie by the prior administration,” said State Representative Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford).  “We must proceed cautiously and explore other means of developing transportation until IDOT determines their current and future fiscal outlook.”

“I am disappointed that this project continues to be delayed,” said State Representative Brian Stewart (R-Freeport). “IDOT confirmed that this project currently looks doubtful, however I am hopeful that future plans will continue to develop as we strive to address our States’ current fiscal mess. Until then, we will just have to wait.”

IDOT went on to explain that the Governor’s office is committed to turning Illinois around, but it has to first perform a comprehensive review of all spending and programs, including major infrastructure projects.

As the Spokesperson for the Appropriations Public Safety Committee, which appropriates IDOT, State Representative John Cabello (R-Machesney Park) expressed some concern for the future of the project.
  
“It’s unfortunate that this project continues to be unsuccessful, but the reality is the funds were never allocated. IDOT is in a difficult fiscal situation and will have to evaluate its long-term fiscal problems before committing to the project. I will have a better understanding as I work with Secretary Blakenhorn to appropriate IDOT’s FY16 Budget. However, we must first and foremost be stewards to the taxpayers of the state.”

“This is a project that we all want, and that I think everyone is excited about,” said State Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford), “but unfortunately our last Governor made a promise that he never funded. In light of our state’s current fiscal condition, it looks like the project will continue to be delayed until suitable funding can be found.”

The Amtrak project to Rockford will be reviewed by IDOT and allow for locals to submit their concerns for the future of the project as they work to evaluate other projects around the State.

Unfunded mandates in need of  reform
As the Illinois Legislature searches for ways to provide taxpayers relief, everything must be on the table.  That is why I have introduced House Bill 261, which will remove the state unfunded mandate requiring local units of government to publish public notices in newspapers. HB261 will save local units of government and taxpayers’ money by allowing public notices to be placed on government websites instead of in newspapers.

I believe this is a common sense reform that increases government transparency.  Local governments can easily spend tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on these publications. Boone County spent in 2013 $17, 000 on printing property tax assessments. Lake County spends annually around $100,000 to print assessment information. The internet is a more cost effective approach and allows everyone increased and continual access to information.

To read more click here.

Video regarding public notices, click here.

Lake County Board Chairman unfunded mandates memorandum to Governor Bruce Rauner, click here.

Public Notices

On February 27, 2015, an editorial was written in the Boone County Journal, R.I.P A Free Press, in response to HB261. To read R.I.P Free Press click here

Boone County Treasurer Curt Newport submitted the below letter to the editor in response to R.I.P. A Free Press. It is expected to run in an upcoming Boone County Journal edition.

Letter to Editor By: Boone County Treasurer Curt Newport 

"...Indeed, when we study the writings of the founders on the subject, it’s hard to imagine their definition of a “free press” as an industry that relies on government revenue for survival.  In fact, I think the idea of taxpayer subsidized newspapers would have been absolutely repulsive to those who wrote the Bill of Rights.  The ability to criticize the government is the very reason we need a free press, and a newspaper that depends on that same government for its very existence is the epitome of a conflict of interest.

Such was the irony that saturated the editorial “R.I.P. A Free Press” in the Feb. 27, 2015 edition of the Boone County Journal.  The editorial predicted that without the revenue generated by state-mandated government advertising, newspapers would fold and the free press as we know it would cease to exist.  Again, I maintain that any newspaper sustained by feeding at the taxpayers’ trough would not meet our founders’ definition of a free press in the first place...."


To read more from Treasurer Newport click here.
Democrats silent, Republicans skeptical: Supreme Court Justices have no clear direction on pension reform

As reported in: Reboot Illinois
By: Caitlin Wilson
March 12, 2015

Even after tough questioning during the hearing of Illinois’ pension reform court case March 11, many analysts say it remains unclear whether or not the state’s Supreme Court will allow the 2013 reform law to stand or strike it down as unconstitutional.

The Chicago Sun-Times‘ Mark Brown writes that other than one very skeptical justice (Justice Bob Thomas), the court gave no indications on its plans to vote for or against the law, signed by former Gov. Pat Quinn.

From the Sun-Times:

Other than that, I’m not sure how anybody could have received much of a read on how the high court will rule on the challenge to the law that was intended to fix the state’s deepening pension problems.

Brown points out that the four Democratic judges didn’t make a “peep,” with only the three Republican judges questioning the state’s position out loud.

To read more click here.

 
As always, if you have any questions or comments about the topics discussed in this newsletter, or any other part of state government, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (815) 547-3436 or email me at sosnowski@ilhousegop.org.



Sincerely,

Joe Sosnowski
State Representative
69th District


Copyright © 2015 Rep. Joe Sosnowski, All rights reserved.

Last Wednesday, State Representative Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford) had the opportunity to meet with the Winnebago-Boone County Farm Bureau. Legislators were able to discuss current legislation and the Farm Bureau’s positions.
As the Illinois Legislature searches for ways to provide taxpayers relief, everything must be on the table. That is why I have introduced House Bill 261, which will remove the state unfunded mandate requiring local units of government to publish public notices in newspapers. HB261 will save local units of government and taxpayers’ money by allowing public notices to be placed on government websites instead of in newspapers.
I believe this is a common sense reform that increases government transparency.  Local governments can easily spend tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on these publications. The internet is a more cost effective approach and allows everyone increased and continual access to information.
This is the 21st century after all.  The least we can do is bring our requirements up to the 20th century.
Your tax dollars are paying for a service that local governments can provide at no cost.  That is called waste.  One quick example that happens all over Illinois: Boone County spent over $17,000 in 2013 on assessment publications for property taxpayers who had an assessed value change. That’s $17,000 to publish assessment information. Currently, a resident receives notification in the mail of changes in assessed value and Boone County has property assessment information on their website every day.  
We should not financially punish local governments that are accountable and transparent to their taxpayers; therefore, why do we require local governments to pay more to put this information in the newspaper that will be published and viewable only once?  
The answer is the newspapers lobby.  Yes they have lobbyists in Springfield looking to get their cut of taxpayer money.  The newspaper lobby claims they are increasing accountability and transparency by fighting for these types of notices to be filed in the paper. Articles written by some journalists claim my proposal will decrease government transparency.  That is utterly false.
The only thing that will be affected is the profits of newspapers.  It’s not the taxpayer’s responsibility to keep newspapers afloat. If we are being serious, how many of us are avidly searching their local weekly newspaper to find a fire protection district budget, school annual statement of affairs, taxpayer property id numbers, etc.? If you miss it, it is not printed again, whereas if the notice was posted online it would be available all the time and readily available for public viewing.
This legislation is a step in the right direction. Local governments will continue to operate in public and save taxpayer dollars.  As Illinois local units of government face more possible cuts due to budget pressures, I call on the newspaper lobby to think of the taxpayers and be fair and practical. 
Springfield… Today, newly elected Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner delivered his first State of the State speech. State Representative Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford) released the following statement in reaction to the Governor’s remarks…

“The Governor conveyed a positive message that outlines a plan to turn Illinois around. Everything he said today is geared towards fighting the biggest fight we have, creating jobs, improving our economy and bringing manufacturing jobs back to Illinois.

“I agree that we have to make Illinois more competitive and grow more jobs.   The themes are familiar, initiatives we’ve fought to change for years including worker’s comp reform, property tax relief and prioritizing education funding.

“I believe the Governor is on the right track and I am motivated to make sure his initiatives are carefully examined before we take action. I expect his budget speech in two weeks will be more vivid and will include more details.”




Belvidere… As the legislature enters into the new 99th General Assembly, State Representative Joe Sosnowski (R-Belvidere) discussed his new committee assignments and the impact it could have on the 69th District. Rep. Sosnowski was selected to serve on five different committees that focus in on education, infrastructure, revenue, and budget appropriations.

“I am honored to have received some new assignments on key committees that deal directly with funding,” said Rep. Sosnowski. “These committees will give people of the 69th District a voice in funding education, promoting local infrastructure, finding new revenue, and approving a balanced budget.”

Rep. Sosnowski was selected to serve on the following committees; Elementary & Secondary Education: School Curriculum & Policies, Revenue & Finance, Tollway Oversight, Appropriations: Elementary & Secondary Education, Appropriations: Higher Education, Executive, and Minority Spokesperson for Elementary & Secondary Education: Charter School Policy.

“Lack of new jobs and our spending problems have been strangling the state’s economy. Through my upcoming role on Revenue & Finance and education appropriations, I will work with my colleagues to improve the state’s operations and Illinois’ business environment. We must expand opportunities for everyone,” said Rep. Sosnowski.


Constituents can find more information on this cycles committee assignments by visiting the State website (ilga.gov). The website also provides a full calendar for this year’s spring session and committee schedule. 

Links below will direct you to the homepage for each committee:









Belvidere... Illinois has problematic issues that constantly keep the State from recovering.  Due to the State failing to resolve its most critical concerns, State Representative Joe Sosnowski (R-Belvidere) has offered commonsense solutions by crafting a better government legislation package that improves government transparency, efficiency and accountability.

“It’s highly imperative that we restore faith in government,” said Rep. Sosnowski. “This package serves as a step towards turning Illinois in the right direction by reducing regulations and promoting responsible government.”

The better government package includes legislation to address the state’s growing pension crisis. Illinois has a pension deficit approaching $111 billion, which means one in four State tax dollars goes towards funding pensions. This legislative package will stabilize the pension issue, provide the budget relief to fund other programs like education, and create changes to our business environment.

House Joint ResolutionConstitutional Amendment 9 if passed by the General Assembly will place a constitutional amendment on the next general election ballot allowing voters to repeal the pension protection clause in the Illinois constitution. We all contribute to the pension system and therefore deserve the opportunity to redefine the structure if necessary.

House Bill 314 changes our state’s economic development model to a public private partnership modelled off of Indiana where key community and business leaders are brought together to help lead our retention and recruitment efforts and to foster a positive atmosphere through partnerships, government reform, and pro-business policy changes that create jobs and community investment.

“This design works great at a local level with our regional economic development councils (similar to RAEDC); we need to do the same thing across the state of Illinois,” Sosnowski said.

Other bills within the package (House Bill 315 and House Bill 258)  creates an optional self-managed plan (SMP) for all state employees modeled from the SMP that was enacted for the State University Retirement System (SURS) and eliminate cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for State government legislative and executive elected officials and qualifying appointees.

“Saving the State money while taking steps to fix the pension crisis in Illinois is essential to improving how we operate,” said Rep. Sosnowski. “Our growing financial obligations to state employee pension systems continue to grow every day we fail to act. However, we can begin to mend the problem with these commonsense reforms.”

The better government legislative package reduces state spending and promotes economic growth. Additional highlights of the legislative reform package are below:

Better Government Package Highlights:

House Bill 256: Reduces filing fees imposed upon limited liability companies by 50%.


House Bill 253: Stops abuses in the state plans regarding overtime.


House Bill 260: Reduces State stipends for county officials based on population.


House Bill 314: Private Public Economic Development Program.


House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 10: Prohibits a person from holding the office of State Senator or State Representative or a combination of those offices for more than 20 years. (Term limits)