CAPITOL RECAP: Holder White seated to state Supreme Court in historic ceremony

CAPITOL RECAP: Holder White seated to state Supreme Court in historic ceremony

By CAPITOL NEWS ILLINOIS

SPRINGFIELD – Lisa Holder White was sworn in Thursday, July 7, as the first Black woman to serve on the Illinois Supreme Court.

Holder White, who previously served on the 4th District Court of Appeals, was chosen to succeed one of her mentors in the legal profession, retiring Justice Rita B. Garman, who broke many barriers herself as a woman in what was then a male-dominated profession.

“It is truly a historic day for the Land of Lincoln,” Garman said, introducing Holder White. “But even while breaking barriers in the judicial system and serving as an inspiration to others, she has remained humble, true to her roots, and dedicated to ensuring that all those who come before the courts are treated with dignity and with respect.”

The installation ceremony took place at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, a place that Holder White said holds special meaning for her.

“Just last week, while in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, I had the opportunity to see one of the approximately 12 existing copies of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Lincoln,” she said. “Being sworn in as a justice on the Supreme Court of Illinois in the museum dedicated to our 16th President, the man who freed the slaves, my ancestors, is of special significance to me. My heritage is a heritage that once involved minds and bodies that were shackled, and doors that were so, so long closed.”

Holder White, 54, a Republican, was named to the seat in May soon after Garman, also a Republican, announced her retirement. She will serve until Dec. 2, 2024, after a replacement is chosen in the November 2024 election. Holder White previously told Lee Enterprises that she plans to run for a full 10-year term.

A native of Decatur, Holder White earned a bachelor’s degree from Lewis University in Romeoville in 1990 and a law degree from the University of Illinois College of Law in Urbana-Champaign in 1993.

She was named an associate judge in the 6th Judicial Circuit in 2001, making her the first Black judge in that circuit.

She was appointed to the 4th District Court of Appeals in 2013 to succeed the late Justice John T. McCullough, who died the previous October, making her the first Black judge in the appellate district. She was elected to that seat in 2014.

* * *

REVENUE WINDFALL: State tax revenues grew by $5.5 billion in the fiscal year that concluded on June 30, exceeding $50 billion for the first time in Illinois’ history, according to a new report from a state budgeting agency.

The 12 percent base revenue growth in Fiscal Year 2022 gave lawmakers near-unprecedented flexibility in the current budget year.

That allowed the General Assembly to approve $1.8 billion in tax relief, pay $500 million more to state pensions than statutes require, retire hundreds of millions of dollars in interest-accruing debts early, and drive the state’s “rainy day” fund to its highest-ever balance of over $1 billion.

It also helped the state reach a zero-day accounts payable cycle – meaning it was caught up on its bills – for the first time in decades.

But the report from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability also noted that the pandemic-related drivers of growth, which led to nationwide revenue windfalls for nearly all state governments, are likely to wane in the coming months.

That’s something Gov. JB Pritzker told Capitol News Illinois last week that lawmakers planned for in April when they projected Fiscal Year 2023 revenues at $46.5 billion – an 8 percent decrease from the final FY 2022 numbers.

All told, the FY 2022 base revenues reached $50.3 billion without including direct federal aid. The number jumps to $51.1 billion when including a $736 million direct transfer-in of COVID-19 relief dollars.

The base revenues were nearly $8 billion beyond the May 2021 projections on which the FY 2022 budget was based.

While the revenue windfalls won’t alleviate longstanding budget pressures such as a $130 billion unfunded pension liability that demands about a quarter of state general revenue funds each year, it’s a level of good financial news that Illinoisans are not accustomed to hearing – and a level of progress Pritzker has hung his hat on as he seeks a second term.

The COGFA report noted that even though direct federal aid was not included in the base revenue calculation, the indirect effects of federal stimulus played a major role in the unexpected growth.

So major, in fact, that revenue came in beyond initial projections in 49 states in the fiscal year.

One driving factor, according to the report, was the “continuation of a pandemic-related shift” in consumer spending from non-taxed service-based sales to taxable goods, which created “strong market conditions” that led to increased tax revenues from corporate profits and capital gains.

Those drivers are expected to wane this year.

Still, June’s receipts remained strong, growing by $736 million compared to the previous fiscal year.

As a result, final FY 2022 revenues were $2.6 billion higher than the April estimate from the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget that was used as the basis of this year’s budget negotiations.

A GOMB spokesperson said in an email Wednesday that the surplus has not led to any discussion of amending the FY 2023 budget in the first week of the new fiscal year. But it’s likely to allow for some flexibility.

* * *

SPECIAL SESSION: Gov. JB Pritzker and top Democratic leaders in the Illinois General Assembly said Tuesday, July 5, that while they still plan to call a special session this year to strengthen abortion rights, they expect to take the “remainder of the summer” to craft policies before lawmakers return to the Capitol.

Pritzker first announced his plan for a special session on June 24, the same day the U.S. Supreme Court released a decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that legalized abortion nationwide.

While the governor said at the time he would call the special session with support from Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, and House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, he did not set a specific date for lawmakers to return. He said only he would call the session “in the coming weeks.”

In a joint statement Tuesday, the three leaders indicated the return to Springfield could come as late as the fall.

“In the coming weeks, as the ripples of the decision to overturn Roe are felt throughout the nation, we expect to get an acute sense of our needs and how Illinois can play an even more vital role in standing up for reproductive freedom,” the statement read. “We plan to work closely together for the remainder of the summer to assess every possibility of what we can do and convene a special session in the coming months.”

Illinois already has among the most permissive laws in the country regarding abortion.

In 2019, Pritzker signed the sweeping Reproductive Health Act which, among other things, declares access to abortion services a “fundamental right” in Illinois. And in December, he signed a law making it legal to perform an abortion on a minor without notifying the minor’s parents.

Illinois also allows public funding of abortion services for people enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program, the result of a 2017 law signed by then-Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican.

However, as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, more restrictive laws have automatically taken effect through so-called “trigger laws” in some of Illinois’ neighboring states, including Missouri, Wisconsin and Kentucky.

That has led many to anticipate that Illinois could see a large influx of residents from those states coming to Illinois for abortion services.

During a June 30 interview with Capitol News Illinois, Pritzker suggested one response might be to expand segments of the state’s health care workforce to take on greater demand.

During that interview, Pritzker also said the state would not consider providing aid for out-of-state travel to Illinois for abortions.

* * *

TAX RELIEF: Illinoisans began seeing some modest tax relief starting Friday, July 1, when the state’s new fiscal year begins.

That includes some income tax rebates, property tax rebates, a suspension of the state’s 1 percent tax on groceries, and a six-month pause on the scheduled inflationary increase in the state’s motor fuel tax.

Gov. JB Pritzker and legislative Democrats held a news conference publicizing those tax breaks as consumers grappled with 8.6 percent inflation, the highest rate in nearly 40 years.

“We’re sending $1.8 billion in tax relief to Illinois families, and we are able to do that because Democrats balanced the budget, eliminated the bill backlog, and state government is now running a surplus,” Pritzker said at a news conference in Chicago.

The news conference came just two days after the state’s primary elections, marking the kick-off to the general election cycle in which Pritzker and Democrats, who control both chambers of the General Assembly, will be touting their fiscal management of the state.

The tax relief measures were included in the $46 billion budget lawmakers passed for the fiscal year that begins Friday. They include:

An income tax rebate of $50 per individual with income below $200,000 a year, or $100 for couples filing jointly with income below $400,000 a year, plus $100 per dependent child, up to three children.
A suspension of the 1 percent sales tax on groceries through June 2023.
A suspension of the scheduled inflationary increase in the motor fuel tax through Dec. 31, which has been estimated at 2.2 cents per gallon. Instead, the motor fuel tax will increase twice at the rate of inflation next calendar year.
A sales tax holiday on back-to-school items, to run from Aug. 5 to Aug. 14, when the rate will be imposed at 1.25 percent instead of the regular 6.25 percent.
And an additional property tax rebate of up to $300 for homeowners who were eligible to claim the property tax credit on their 2021 state tax returns. The rebate is available to joint filers earning $500,000 or less and single filers earning $250,000 or less.

In addition, the tax relief package included a permanent expansion of the state’s earned income tax credit, or EITC, to 20 percent of the federal EITC while also extending eligibility for that credit to noncitizens who file taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number instead of a Social Security Number.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government that is distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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