It’s May in Illinois and farmers have only one goal in mind: Get the crop planted. Meanwhile, in the legislative world, May means the Illinois General Assembly is in a full-court press. All hands are on deck to get to the May 31 adjournment target.

Shortly after the 2018 election, Illinois Farm Bureau began thinking about the upcoming General Assembly session — especially with a large number of freshman legislators and new statewide elected officials that would be descending on the State capitol.

In January, Farm Bureau set organizational priorities for 2019. A top priority was building relationships with the newly elected Illinois executive branch, constitutional officers, agency leadership and legislators.

As we introduced ourselves to legislators, we voiced our desire that they promote fair tax policy and reasonable regulations that improve the business climate in Illinois.

In his inaugural budget address, Gov. J.B. Pritzker pointed out the state was faced with a $3.2 billion budget deficit, over $15 billion in unpaid bills and last year paid out over $700 million in late payment penalties on last year’s unpaid bills.

During his address, the governor laid out his plan for addressing the state’s unbalanced budget by switching the state from a flat rate income tax to a progressive rate income tax.

We knew the 101st General Assembly would bring its challenges. The May “forecast” for the General Assembly includes considering a constitutional amendment to have a progressive income tax; legalizing the recreational use of marijuana; considering a capital plan supported by a higher Motor Fuel Tax, fees and other revenue enhancements; legalizing sports betting; and the passage of a state budget. That’s a tall order for the General Assembly in the next five weeks.

During the two-week spring legislative recess, we initiated an action request asking our members to call their state senator requesting they oppose Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 1. This amendment would place on the November 2020 ballot the question of should the General Assembly be authorized to adopt any type of tax on income.

SJRCA 1 does not specify a rate and it does not specify a graduated or non-graduated tax. Illinois Farm Bureau Policy prefers a flat rate income tax.

This is not a Democrat or Republican issue — it is about a longstanding Farm Bureau philosophy of having a fair tax policy and contained government spending.

Never underestimate the power of one phone call to your state legislator because one call from everyone lets our elected officials know where the citizens of Illinois stand. Together, we can make a difference.

These are just a few of the issues on which Farm Bureau is focused. Our eyes also are watching efforts to protect endangered species under federal jurisdiction without creating an additional burden for landowners, protecting property rights as utilities expand, protecting livestock operations from overburdensome regulations and advocating for rural development needs.

Working in partnership with other state agricultural groups, we will stand together on these issues and countless others. A great example is our public-private collaboration of the Illinois Monarch Project.

It brings together representatives of various sectors, including natural lands, rights-of-way, urban and agricultural sectors, as well as scientists and educators.

The mission of IMP is to identify the stressors on monarch butterfly habitat, to enhance existing habitat on the ground and to plan additional conservation actions for monarch butterflies.

We all know our core strengths. When we work together, we can influence the outcome. When individual members join together through our grassroots process, our collective voices are heard.

It’s never easy. But we know that by working hard we can get “our crop” of public policy implemented.


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