Illinois House Republicans Launch "The Caucus Blog"

MARCH 5, 2013 SPRINGFIELD, IL -- The Illinois House Republicans are officially launching www.thecaucusblog.com this week! This will serve as the official blog of the Illinois House Republican Caucus. The new user-friendly blog will feature insights, provide updates, highlight House Republican efforts, and communicate with constituents from all parts of Illinois. “This is a great way for everyone to tune into what’s happening in the Illinois House and around the capitol,” said Illinois House Republican Leader Tom Cross. “Be prepared to see videos, member posts and the latest happenings in Springfield.” For example this week, stay tuned for tweets, insights and information surrounding the Governor’s Budget Address on Wednesday. Guests of The Caucus Blog will be able to track progress and interact with the members in real time by using the live blog feature, watching videos, and reading a weekly news roundup from across the state. Click here to watch House Republican representatives spread the word about the new blog. The Caucus Blog

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Video: Cross Introduces Bi-Partisan Comprehensive Pension Reform Bill

Illinois House Republican Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) introduces a new pension reform bill during a press conference at the Capitol.
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Leader Cross, Rep. Nekritz file answer to pension crisis

FEBRUARY 27, 2013

Bi-partisan bill saves $30 billion and pension system for government workers

[caption id="attachment_3058" align="alignright" width="107"]House GOP Leader Tom Cross House GOP Leader Tom Cross[/caption] (Springfield) Illinois House Republican Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) and Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) introduce comprehensive pension reform legislation today that will save hardworking taxpayers $30 billion and the pension system for hardworking government workers. “This legislation is the most complete, fairest bill we could come up with that will solve our pension crisis. When it passes and becomes law, it will also loosen the pension squeeze on our state budget,” said Cross. “We’ve filed and supported many bills and concepts along the way, but we believe this is the answer.” “Our pension problem is enormous and urgent, and any solution must be substantial and fair to state workers and taxpayers alike. We believe the principles outlined in this legislation do just that. We look forward to working together to addressing this problem here and now,” added Nekritz. House Bill 3411 includes many components of bills filed previously, but also includes some new ideas including: • Allows cost of living adjustments (COLA) to the first $25,000 of the employees’ pension -These new COLAs will take effect when the employee turns 67 or five years after they retire, whichever comes first. • Increases retirement age from one to five years, depending on current age • Increases employee contributions by 2 percent over two years • Caps pensionable salary • Changes Tier 2 COLA benefits in GARS to match COLA provisions in other systems • Creates Tier 3 defined benefit/defined contribution plan for SURS and TRS members who start work after January 1, 2014. Local Employers and employees will be responsible for funding these plans. • Includes a funding guarantee, systems can take state to court over nonpayment • Includes $1 billion in additional funding for systems starting in 2020 until systems are 100% funded “We believe that this legislation addresses the concerns of the many interested groups and will send a clear message to the bond houses that we are addressing our pension crisis,” Cross added.

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House GOP Introduces ‘Pro-Growth’ Jobs Package

FEBRUARY 25, 2013 Springfield, IL…Illinois State Representative Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) and Illinois House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) along with their republican colleagues and members of the business community revealed a pro-growth jobs package today at the Illinois Capitol. The pro-growth jobs package is aimed at making Illinois job creators more competitive with Illinois’ border states. The package includes reducing start-up costs for small businesses, eliminating job-killing policies, speeding up the approval of state permits and licenses, rolling back taxes, making research and development tax credits permanent, implementing workers’ compensation reform, and restoring fairness to Illinois’ court system. “The pro-growth jobs package is necessary at a time when many people are looking for work,” said Rep. Kay. “Job creators are looking for a place to stay, expand, and grow. We have an educated workforce ready to go to work. Illinois is home to one of the best infrastructures and we are the financial capital of the Midwest. Putting people back to work will provide opportunity and grow our economy. Jobs equal revenue and Illinois desperately needs more revenue without raising taxes.” According the U.S. Department of Labor, Illinois’ unemployment rate as of December 2012 was 8.7%. Illinois has the seventh highest unemployment rate in the nation. Since 2008, Illinois has lost the third most jobs in the country. “We need to be laser-focused on creating an environment in Illinois where residents can find good jobs,” said Leader Cross. “For years, we have been fighting for legislation that will improve our economy and we must make it a priority.” Illinois was also ranked the third worst state to do business in by Chief Executive Magazine and has the 11th highest tax burden on citizens in the nation. Furthermore, Illinois is losing more jobs and opportunity due to excessive taxation and archaic regulation. The House Republican pro-growth jobs package includes the following: • Reduce the cost of starting a small business by reducing the cost of setting up an LLC by 50%. (HB 2230) • Eliminate job-killing administrative policies by creating a panel that would bundle together old, obsolete rules and submit them to the General Assembly for abolition by up-or-down vote. ( HB 2892) • Speed up the approval of permits and licenses for professionals or job creating enterprise to be answered within 60 days. (At LRB) • Make Research and Development (R&D) tax credits permanent; add biodiesel and ethanol research as qualified R&D activities. (HB 2891) • Enact stronger workers’ compensation reform which establishes a standard (making the workplace primary cause) for determining whether or not an injury occurred at the workplace, making the system more fair for the injured employee and employer. (HB 107) • Restore fairness to Illinois courts by keeping out of state lawsuits with no connection to Illinois employers from being filed (HB 138), including curbing the practice of double-dipping (plaintiffs being compensated multiple times from the same defendant, for the same claim/lawsuit, HB 153). • Rollback taxes, rolling back the corporate income tax will promote economic growth. (HB 2890) “The NFIB applauds the House Republicans for pursing a pro-business package of bills that will help alleviate the cost of doing business in Illinois,” said Kim Clarke Maisch, NFIB/IL State Director. “Small business owners have not recovered from the recession and continue to struggle to keep their doors open. These bills are introduced at an important time as some in Springfield pursue a job-killing minimum wage hike. Small business owners need public policies that help them be successful, not hurt them.” “I applaud Rep. Kay’s hard work and dedication in trying to bring some common-sense lawsuit reforms to Illinois,” said Travis Akin, executive director of Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch. “Illinois is the fifth-worst state in the country for legal fairness. What we need in Illinois is more jobs – not more lawsuits.” “This pro-growth jobs package will create and attract jobs,” said Rep. Kay. “The state needs to create and attract jobs. It is necessary to see growth at three to four percent annually and this pro-growth jobs package will get the job done. This will not happen until the state meets its obligations by improving the tax and regulatory climate in order for business to prosper.”

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Leaders Cross, Radogno send letter demanding answers

February 22, 2013 Illinois House and Senate Republican Leaders Tom Cross (R-Oswego) and Christine Radogno sent a letter this week to Governor Quinn and Democrat Leaders asking them for updates on many issues that will affect state spending this fiscal year. Click here to read the letter.
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Reps. Kosel, Cross Look to Adjust Early Voting to Accommodate Easter Holiday

FEBRUARY 20, 2013 SPRINGFIELD - The employees of Illinois’ election authorities will be spending the Easter holiday with their families instead of their co-workers if legislation filed by Rep. Renee Kosel (R-New Lenox) and House Republican Leader Tom Cross (R- Oswego) continues to advance. House Bill 1560 would specifically exempt election authorities from staying open for early voting on the Easter holidays, while providing additional voting hours during the last week of early voting. It would also require notice be given to the State Board of Elections of any closure and public notice for the subsequent extended hours. The bill passed unanimously out of the Executive Committee Wednesday. Nancy Schultz Voots, Will County Clerk, supports this measure. “Generally on holiday weekends, we have not seen good voter turnout. We think this is an excellent idea that will boost voter turnout during the week with extended hours,” said Voots. “As soon as this bill would pass we would immediately prepare a voters’ guide to make sure everyone is aware of the early voting hours.” “There is no reason for these offices to be open on Easter,” Cross stated. “The law was originally drafted with the intent to afford for closures during major holidays. The timing of Easter this year was an anomaly that wasn’t foreseen, but should be accommodated for.” In 2005, a new law created an early voting requirement for Illinois election authorities. Under that law, there are allowable changes to the election calendar; however, that exemption only includes holidays that fall on the first or last day of a required election service, not in the middle. Aside from Good Friday, election authorities were not given latitude to accommodate for an ill-timed Easter holiday weekend within the law. Since then, Easter has only landed in March once; and that year conflict was averted due to the 2008 primary shift from March to February where legislative Democrats adjusted the election calendar to boost the presidential aspirations of then Senator Barack Obama. That law was reversed again in effective in 2012 thereby creating the conflict this legislation is seeking to address. “Easter is a sacred holiday for many, and this is just a common sense measure that will allow many to be with their families over the holidays without sacrificing time afforded to early voting,” Kosel added. “Early voting has been a tremendous asset for Illinois residents, and this will only strengthen that law”  

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PRESS RELEASE: Sandack, Cross Unveil New Transparency Initiatives

February 13, 2013 [caption id="attachment_3147" align="alignleft" width="300"] Rep. Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) and Rep. Tom Cross (R-Oswego) host a tele-press conference in Plainfield to unveil transparency initiatives. (February 13, 2013)[/caption] SPRINGFIELD – State Representatives Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) and Tom Cross (R-Oswego) unveiled a three-point set of new transparency initiatives today to make state and local government more accountable to taxpayers. The goal is to provide every property taxpayer with an annual itemized breakdown of the spending outlays they are billed for to support units of local government; including school districts, municipalities, library and park districts, community colleges and more. The transparency initiatives would include provisions to:  Expand the Illinois Transparency Portal (ITAP) (House Bill 1555) to include all taxing bodies, levies and debts; including pension and retiree health care liabilities and government spending in Illinois;  Require a State Debt Impact Note (House Bill 1556) be prepared on all legislation to tax, spend or generate revenue, such as levies and fees;  Create an Illinois Review Board (House Bill 1557) to evaluate the taxes, spending, and debt of each taxing body and require the Board to publish the findings for taxpayer review. “With all the well-documented fiscal problems Illinois faces, there are some easy things we can do to increase government transparency and save taxpayer money,” Sandack said. “By adopting these common-sense concepts, taxpayers will not only be able to see how their tax dollars are being spent today – but what their tax and government spending obligations are into the future as well,” added Cross.
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Rep. Cross' Ovation to Business Award goes to Plainfield Moose Family Center

FEBRUARY 13, 2013 PLAINFIELD - Rep. Tom Cross (R-Oswego) and his Ovation to Business Advisory Committee presented his monthly Ovation to Business Award to the Plainfield Moose Family Center #2491 today for their extensive community service and support of numerous civic and charitable causes. “The members of the Plainfield Moose embody all the attributes of community service the Ovation Award represents,” said Rep. Cross. “I congratulate the Plainfield Moose on their tremendous impact in directly improving the lives of countless local families.” The Plainfield Moose Family Center, located at 16310 S. Lincoln Highway in Plainfield, is a not-for-profit organization offering various programs, services and sponsorships for local residents and families since 1998. “It is a privilege to accept this award on behalf of our members and all our community partners,” said Chris Bell, Administrator of the Plainfield Moose Family Center #2491. “Giving back to the community and making a difference in the lives of area families is an extraordinarily rewarding and fulfilling endeavor. We are deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve.” [caption id="attachment_3139" align="alignright" width="300"] Pictured with Leader Cross at the Ovation Award presentation are LeeAnn Goodson, Jerry Weiss, Floyd Schultz, Bob Provo, Rich Segeburth, Jim Massey, Mike Cross, Darla Bell, Chris Bell, Liz Collins, Paul Fay and Jennifer Dylik.[/caption] The Plainfield Moose Family Center’s extensive community involvement includes support of the following projects and organizations: chartering a new Cub Scout pack and Boy Scout troop; donations to the Plainfield Emergency Management Association for essential emergency equipment; donations of Tommy Mooses (stuffed animals) to the Plainfield Police and Fire Departments for use with children who traumatic situations; continual donations to the Plainfield Area Interfaith Food Pantry, Green Harvest Food Pantry, Morning Star Mission of Joliet, and the We Care of Romeoville Food Pantry; sponsorship of youth baseball teams; contributions toward the building of the community Frisbee golf course; annual food baskets provided to needy local families; and continuation of the Ford Family Thanksgiving Turkey Drop, which included collecting and delivering over 1225 turkeys to area families this past November. The Plainfield Moose Family Center #2491 also supports Mooseheart Child City and School as well as a Moosehaven Senior Living residence in Orange Park, FL. They have also helped the Joliet Area Hospice and St. Baldricks’ Foundation; sponsored collections for Misericordia in addition to the Lions Club eyeglass collection and annual nut sales. The Moose also offer free CPR training and certification classes to the community and provide supplies to the Guardian Angels Shelter. Last summer they also hosted the Fallen Heroes Traveling Memorial Wall for the community to pay respects to fallen soldiers from Illinois. The Plainfield Moose Family Center is the first Ovation to Business Award honoree of 2013. Rep. Cross is currently accepting nominations for future recipients of the Ovation to Business Award. You can find and submit the application form on Rep. Cross’ website, www.tomcross.com. You can nominate a small, medium or large business in the 97th district that is sustaining or growing jobs as well as involved in community service. Not-for-profit organizations are also eligible for nomination. If you have any questions, please call Lois Maguire at (815) 254-0000. Cross’ Ovation to Business Advisory Committee will review the applications and make award recipient recommendations.

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Leader Cross' statement on Democrats passage of $2 Billion in new spending

FEBRUARY 5, 2013  “Democrats jammed through a $2 billion spending bill today at a time when our focus must be on forcing the state to live within its means, prioritizing the limited resources we have available to spend, and reforming our government. While the bill includes some items that have merit, Democrats unfortunately bogged it down with millions in unnecessary and irresponsible spending. Today’s action is just another example of how the Democrat majority in Springfield has spent us into the fiscal mess we are trying to clean up.” - Rep. Tom Cross IL House Republican Leader  
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What We Need to Hear Wednesday

FEBRUARY 5, 2013 Illinois can once again be a magnet for jobs and opportunity – if only our policymakers put their priorities in the right place. On Wednesday, Governor Pat Quinn will address a joint session of the Illinois General Assembly to deliver his annual “State of the State” address, laying out his agenda for the spring legislative session. We believe the Governor’s message – and the focus of our entire spring session – must center on the following three priorities:  Grow the Economy  Protect Hardworking Taxpayers  Safeguard Services for the Most Vulnerable Prosperity and growth are the fruits of economic policies that focus on jobs. We must keep our eye on the ball and not allow anything to distract from the urgent need to restore Illinois’ competitiveness in the jobs market. What we need to hear to improve Illinois is the Governor’s plan for growing our economy – so that individuals, innovators and entrepreneurs once again have the opportunity to succeed. As the old saying goes, “a rising tide lifts all boats”. More jobs and a stable economy are the foundation upon which to build a robust, opportunity-filled future for every Illinois family – and for our kids. The Governor must also focus on how we get our own fiscal house in order by telling us how he will help pass a balanced budget and pension reform. The time is now. The ball is in the Governor’s court. We stand ready to work with him – and to listen to you – on what must be done to meet the economic challenges that face each and every Illinois family. Sincerely, Tom Cross House Republican Leader State Representative, 97th District    
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