I am proud to have served in one of the most productive legislative sessions in recent history. The Illinois General Assembly took on major issues including reproductive rights, gun safety, and took real steps towards fixing Illinois’ broken finances. We worked hard, and often across the aisle, to get consensus on legislation to move Illinois forward.
In this newsletter, you’ll find some of the highlights of this year’s legislative session. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please reach out to my office at (847) 486-8810.
Representative Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz
I voted for a bipartisan budget that Republicans and Democrats both recognize as honest and balanced. Working across the aisle, we began the hard work of rebuilding Illinois. This budget reflects our commitment to controlling spending and paying down the backlog of unpaid bills from the two-year budget impasse under Rauner while investing in health care, education, resources for our most vulnerable, and career training to prepare Illinoisans for high-wage jobs in an evolving economy.
Illinois faces a structural deficit due to unfunded liabilities that we cannot continue to ignore. Doing nothing is simply not an option. Since 2000, the General Assembly has cut spending for higher education -52%, health care -23.2%, human services -25.9% and public safety -25.8%. The draconian cuts to higher education forced our students to out-of-state colleges where many of them remain long after they graduate.
This budget makes a full pension payment, invests $375 million in new funding for public schools and addresses Illinois’ outmigration of college students by restoring our commitment to higher education.
Illinois families deserve a voice in critical issues, including how our state’s income tax structure works. I voted to send that decision directly to the voters in the form of a referendum in the 2020 General Election because I trust the people of Illinois to make the best decision. In order for the graduated income tax to take effect, it must receive at least 60% of the total vote.
I supported a capital plan with bipartisan support that makes a responsible inflationary adjustment to the gas tax to rebuild Illinois’ crumbling infrastructure. The capital bill is a first step toward long-term economic growth that will provide critical funding to repair roads and bridges, create jobs and put infrastructure funds in our municipal budgets to put downward pressure on our property taxes.
A recent study by the Chamber of Commerce showed that failing roads cost taxpayers $16.4 billion every year as a direct result of wear and tear, wasted fuel due to congestion, and lost economic activity.
For electric vehicles, the plan provides parity with gas vehicles and hybrids, requiring a $150 annual registration fee as well as a $100 road usage fee in lieu of paying motor fuel tax. All vehicles regardless of type contribute to wear and tear on the roads that must be maintained for everyone’s safety.
The motor fuel rate had remained unchanged since 1990 and was not indexed to the CPI-U. If the state had installed the index in 1990, the current rate would be $0.38, which is what passed in the capital infrastructure bill with bipartisan support to provide long-overdue funding to repair infrastructure after years of neglect.
Arriving at a balanced budget and a capital plan took months of discussion and, ultimately, a compromise. A majority of members, including Democrats and Republicans, agreed on a plan to start the hard work of rebuilding our state and putting downward pressure on property taxes.
There is more work to be done to lower property taxes. I sponsored a property tax relief fund, and the Governor has committed to working over the summer on finalizing real property tax relief. We made tough choices this session, but I remain committed to doing the hard work it will take to build a stronger Illinois.
In order to balance the budget, fund lifesaving services, and ease the burden on middle-class families, we took steps to legalize, regulate and tax adult recreational cannabis use, which will mean hundreds of millions of new dollars every year for schools, health care, and other important services.
I voted to send the issue of a graduated state income tax directly to the voters of Illinois to make that decision through direct democracy. I also voted to establish specific tax rates and brackets in advance of that referendum so that Illinois families can make an informed voting decision, weighing the best decision for themselves.
Recently, there has been increased awareness and accountability for how others should be treated in the workplace. Meaningful and comprehensive change to address sexual harassment will require us to look beyond changing laws and look at how policies, procedures and attitudes create environments where this disrespectful behavior can occur. That’s why I sponsored legislation to research and develop best practices to create workplaces free from harassment.
Across the country, we are seeing states pass restrictive laws aimed at eliminating a woman’s right to choose as opponents of choice wage their war on women. Throughout history, women have been devalued, dismissed, discounted and have died just for attempting to exercise bodily autonomy. We cannot go back to a pre-Roe world. That’s why I supported the Reproductive Health Act: because abortion is healthcare, and because Donald Trump and his allies should not be dictating what women can and cannot do with their own bodies.
I supported the “Fix the FOID” act because gun violence continues to plague communities across Illinois, which shows how much more work is required to end this epidemic. Recent tragedies have proven the dire necessity for comprehensive background checks and new finger-printing requirements for FOID applications. I am proud to have supported this key gun safety reform to close loopholes and keep guns away from those who may cause harm.
Education in our state suffered greatly under the previous administration. In particular, draconian cuts to higher education drove up tuition and fees, forcing students to out-of-state colleges, where most of them will remain long after they graduate. This costs our state young college graduates, young families, and economic growth. In this budget, we increased the state education budget to help keep tuition down and keep students in Illinois.
As a human rights lawyer, I have witnessed firsthand how deficient, and in some cases malicious, immigration policies are and how they can tear families apart. I authored a bill to mitigate the pain and anxiety of family separation by ensuring that parents may designate a trusted legal guardian in the event they are deported or detained. There has become an epidemic of criminals exploiting the status of undocumented people by targeting them for crimes and abuse, which is why I passed legislation to prevent a victim’s immigration status from being used to intimidate them into silence in the courtroom.
Join us this Thursday or Friday, as State Senator Laura Fine, Representative Robyn Gabel, and myself will be co-hosting two (90 minute) End of Session Town Hall Meetings. The meetings will focus on the accomplishments of the recent legislative session and what is left to be done. These meetings are free and open to the public. Seating and capacity are on a ‘first come’ basis. We hope you’ll be able to attend one of the meetings.
- Thursday, June 6, 2019 at 7:00 – 8:30 pm
End of Session Town Hall – Evanston
Evanston Public Library Community Room
1703 Orrington Avenue, Evanston, IL 60201
- Friday, June 7, 2019, 10:00 – 11:30 am
End of Session Town Hall – Glenview
Park Center – Lakeview Room
2400 Chestnut Avenue, Glenview, IL 60026
- National Safety Month
- National Pride Month
- Men’s Health Month
- June 6, 2019 – End of Session Town Hall – Evanston (see above)
- June 7, 2019 – End of Session Town Hall – Glenview (see above)
- June 10-16 – Men’s Health Week
- June 20, 2019 – Shop, Swap and Stock – 1820 Waukegan Rd (Off Chestnut), 5:30 pm
- July 1, 2019 – Constituent Services Hours: Skokie Public Library 4:00-6:00 pm