Mike knows the state budget is all about the balanced approach, and that’s what our families and neighbors expect as well. Focusing only on damaging cuts to solve the state’s fiscal challenges will not solve the problem, but it will hurt those he is sent to help in Springfield. He knows that cutting medical care services for the elderly, the disabled and struggling families by more than $1 billion will do more harm than good.
He strongly opposes the view of some politicians who have pushed extreme budgets driven by devastating cuts to critical programs: emergency shelters that serve homeless families and children, services for victims of child abuse and nursing home care for thousands of frail elderly residents.
Mike’s approach to the proper budget balance to protect the middle class includes spending reductions and some new revenue, such as closing corporate tax loopholes and requiring those who make more than $1 million a year to pay a little more.
Zalewski Rejects Pay Raise
Amid the budget impasse, Rep. Zalewski voted to cut his own pay. House Bill 576, sponsored by Rep. Zalewski, blocks pay raises for legislators and freezes mileage reimbursement rates. House Bill 576 passed the General Assembly.
“Illinois is facing serious financial challenges, and this is no time to be paying legislators more. Earlier this year, I supported a spending plan that rejected legislators’ automatic pay increase, but when the governor chose to veto that budget, further action was needed to prioritize spending and ensure taxpayers aren’t subsidizing a legislative pay raise. My vote to reject a pay raise and freeze reimbursement rates for legislators makes it clear that while middle-class families are struggling to make ends meet and the services they rely on are facing severe reductions and eliminations under the governor’s plan, elected officials need to lead by example.”- State Rep. Michael J. Zalewski
When Rep. Zalewski discovered that some survivors of sexual assault would never see their attackers brought to justice because of a legal loophole, he worked to give police and prosecutors more time to put dangerous rapists behind bars, passing legislation ensuring that the time period to file criminal charges in sexual assault cases does not begin until all evidence has been analyzed. House Bill 369 passed the General Assembly.
Survivors of sexual assault face unimaginable pain, and Rep. Zalewski believes we must do everything we can to help them put their lives back together. He passed legislation prohibiting hospitals from billing rape victims for emergency care or the cost of processing evidence, because medical bills should never add to the burden of victims who have already suffered so much. House Bill 3848 passed the General Assembly.
Working alongside the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center and the Illinois State’s Attorneys Association, Zalewski introduced Senate Bill 1389 in the House, which gives the court permission to allow assistance dogs in the courtroom to help victims testify who are less than 18 years old or have intellectual or developmental disabilities. Illinois is now the first state to statutorily authorize the process. These assistance dogs have undergone specialized training by the Assistance Dogs International, an assistance dog organization that promotes excellence in regard to dog acquisition, training and partnership. House Bill 1389 was signed into law.
Preventing Prescription Drug Abuse
As prescription drug abuse continues to be a struggling addiction for some Illinoisans, Rep. Zalewski has taken the initiative on finding ways to combat the epidemic and deter prescription drug theft. House Bill 3219, which Zalewski introduced, implements a pilot program for distributing drugs with a high potential for abuse in a non-reusable, combination locking “lid.” This measure will help prevent addictive prescription drugs from falling into the wrong hands. House Bill 3219 passed the General Assembly.
Helping People with Special Needs and Disabilities
Rep. Zalewski sponsored House Bill 235, an effort from Autism Speaks, which would help older individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder to receive an anesthetic when undergoing dental treatments. During these surgeries, patients can be frightened which can cause them to possibly harm themselves or others. Under this bill, the fear can be prevented be requiring insurance companies to pay for anesthetics for people 26 and younger who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders and receive dental care at a dental office or oral surgeon’s office. House Bill 235 was signed into law.
During the 2013 holiday season, a serious data breach at retail stores resulted in the theft of nearly 110 million consumers’ personal information.
With the use of mobile devices and electronic commerce increasing, millions fall victim to data breaches and identity theft every year. Rep. Zalewski supported legislation to increase the types of personal information that will be protected and requires companies to immediately notify the Attorney General if a data breach occurs so consumers are made aware of threats to their security. Senate Bill 1833 passed the General Assembly.
How to Help Protect Your Identity
Millions of Americans are victims of identity theft every year, which has been identified as a top consumer complaint by the Illinois Attorney General for more than a decade. AARP recommends some simple steps you can take to help avoid becoming a victim:
Check your credit regularly. By law, you are entitled to a free annual credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies.
Never give your Social Security Number or other private information to unknown parties.
File your taxes in person or over a secure wireless data network.
Shred any documents that contain sensitive information before discarding them.
Working with business, labor and environmental groups, Rep. Zalewski is supporting a comprehensive proposal, House Bill 2607, calling for improved energy standards and job creation throughout Illinois. Her legislation will expand the use of renewable energy and increase energy efficiency, which will help improve our environment while creating new, green jobs. The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition’s initiative has the potential to create tens of thousands of jobs in Illinois.
As our children get older and enter an increasingly globalized economy, employers will demand students are better prepared and have the skills needed in a competitive job market. That is why Rep. Zalewski supported a spending plan that would increase education funding for our local schools. Though state budget talks are ongoing, Rep. Zalewski will not allow the quality of our children’s education to be sacrificed or suffer disastrous cuts.
To help create good jobs in Illinois, we need to foster a friendlier business climate. Job-creating businesses need stability where they locate, and they want to know the state is focused on providing a strong education for children, career training for employees, and critical health care services to improve the quality of life for employees.
Rep. Zalewski helped pass a budget that reduces state spending by nearly $300 million while protecting funding for education, health care, public safety and programs for the elderly and veterans from devastating cuts.
Illinois’ Community Care Program provides in-home care to the elderly as an alternative to nursing homes, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars per year. But when the governor proposed cutting $140 million from the program, more than 39,000 seniors faced losing access to a service that allows them live independently and would have forced many into nursing homes. Rep. Zalewski acted to restore critical funding for this important program, allowing older adults in Illinois to remain in their own homes.
Protecting Soldiers’ Funerals from Hateful Protests
Soldiers who die in the service of our country should be laid to rest with honor and dignity. Their families should not be harassed by hateful protesters. To make sure the families of fallen soldiers can mourn their loved ones in peace, Rep. Zalewski supported legislation strengthening the state’s Let Them Rest In Peace Act. The bill keeps protesters further away from mourners at funerals and memorial services and bans protests one hour before and after services. House Bill 1404 awaits a hearing in the Senate.
Many Illinois homeowners may qualify for reductions on their property tax bills. Below are several programs available to residents designed to provide tax relief.
For more information about property tax exemptions you may qualify for, or to obtain the necessary applications, please contact Rep. Zalewski’s constituent service office at 708 442-6500.
General Homestead Exemption
This annual exemption, up to $7,000 is available for residential property that is occupied as the principal dwelling place of the owner who is liable for the payment of the property taxes.
Long-time Occupant Homestead Exemption
The exemption is available for residential property in Cook County occupied as a primary residence for 10 continuous years by a qualified taxpayer with a total household income of $100,000 or less. It limits EAV increases to a specific annual percentage increase based on the total household income. A total household income of $75,000 or less is limited to a 7% annual percentage increase in EAV; a total household income of over $75,000 to $100,000 is limited to a 10% annual percentage increase in EAV.
Disabled Persons’ Homestead Exemption
This exemption is an annual $2,000 reduction in Equalized Assessed Valuation (EAV) of a primary residence that is owned and occupied by a disabled person who is liable for the payment of property taxes. The exemption must be renewed each year.
Disabled Veterans’ Homestead Exemption
This exemption provides up to a $70,000 reduction in assessed value for certain types of housing owned and used by a disabled veteran or his or her unmarried surviving spouse. The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs determines the eligibility for this exemption, which must be applied for annually.
This exemption allows senior citizens who have a total household maximum income of less than $55,000, and meet certain other qualifications, to maintain the EAV of their homes at the base year EAV and prevent any increase in that value due to inflation. The exemption must be renewed each year.
Senior Citizens Homestead Exemption
This annual exemption provides a $5,000 reduction in the EAV of a residential property occupied as the principal residence of a person who is 65 years of age or older during the assessment year. The person must be the owner or a lessee who has an ownership interest in the property with a single-family residence and is liable for the property taxes. Cook County residents must file for the exemption each year.
Senior Citizens Real Estate Tax Deferral Program
This program allows persons 65 years of age and older, who have a total household income of less than $50,000 and meet certain other qualifications, to defer all or part of the real estate taxes and special assessments on their principal residences. The deferral is similar to a loan against the property’s market value. The state pays the property taxes and then recovers the money, plus 6 percent annual interest, when the property is sold or transferred.