Two major legislative initiatives put forward by the Kane County Legislative Committee in 2015 passed the General Assembly and were signed into law, bringing an additional $2.5 million to $3 million annually to Kane County coffers.
Unlike many other counties that hire lobbyists, Kane County’s Legislative Committee members champion Kane County legislative initiatives in Springfield. Committee chairs Brian Pollock and Susan Starrett reported this week that 2015 efforts brought fruit in two major pieces of legislation.
One of the new laws (Senate Bill 804) allows Kane County to end the subsidizing of court security expenses by Kane County property taxpayers. Last year, prior to the enactment of the law, Kane County taxpayers paid about $1.22 million to subsidize court security costs — above and beyond the standard court security portion of legal filing fees.
“Thanks to the new law, the cost of court security will be paid by users of the courts, not all county residents,” Pollock said.
Another law (House Bill 1630) was drafted specifically for Kane County and creates a reliable, user-based revenue source for the expansion of judicial facilities, namely expanding and bringing together court-related functions at the Judicial Center in St. Charles. Pollock said the legislation is important to Kane County residents because costly repairs to the aging 19th century Geneva courthouse will continue to drain capital funds, and expanding the St. Charles facility has been a part of the county’s master plan since 1989.
The new legislation will bring $1 million to $1.5 million annually to allow for the facility’s expansion without increasing the burden on county taxpayers.
“These two laws alone will bring an additional $2.5 million to $3 million annually to Kane County without increasing property taxes,” Pollock said. “While we face potential lost income as a result of the state budget impasse, this additional revenue is even more important to help the county continue to provide critical services while freezing property taxes.”
The budget impasse in Springfield had a major impact on legislative action and to the county’s budget in general, Pollock said. Because the state had no authority to appropriate money in many areas after July 1, Kane County did not receive its share of federal grants for workforce development and public health, as well as special revenue funds for building and maintaining roads, funding operations of the 911 center, and the county’s share of tax revenue.
“Through intensive lobbying efforts, we explained the problems we faced, including potential service cuts and layoffs, and pushed for legislation to fund these programs,” Starrett said. “We succeeded in the fall in getting a bill to get our share of federal funding and another in December for our share of special revenue funds. These bills brought more than $5 million to Kane County.”
Kane County’s Legislative Committee jump started its 2015 efforts with a legislative breakfast on March 9, when legislators engaged in direct conversations with board members and staff about issues affecting Kane County and presented legislative initiatives that focused on generating revenue without increasing the burden on the county’s property taxpayers and saving money by addressing costly unfunded mandates.
During that breakfast and through subsequent communication with local, state legislators, the Legislative Committee secured sponsorship on all of its bills.
Despite the obstacles of the budget impasse and the moving target that makes Springfield legislation so difficult to follow and affect, Pollock and Starrett said legislative efforts in 2015 were a success by any measure.
“It takes a team to achieve these successes, and the hard work of the Legislative Committee, other board members, countywide elected officials and county staff members all played a role,” Pollock said. “We are grateful to our legislators who listened and acted to help our mutual constituents. Without their sponsorship and support of our proposed legislation, we could not have achieved so much.”
The Kane County Legislative Committee’s 2016 legislative breakfast scheduled for Feb. 22.
SOURCE: Kane County Legislative Committee