Illinois residents pay some of the highest taxes in the nation and unfortunately for Illinois taxpayers the situation is only getting worse.

In April, WalletHub ranked Illinois the highest taxed state in the country. Just three months later the Democrat-controlled Legislature passed a 32 percent permanent income tax hike making the situation even worse. Included in that figure is the second highest property tax burden in the nation.

Illinois has 7,000 units of local government. It is no wonder the Illinois tax burden is so high. But what makes the situation even more egregious is the stockpiling of funds that far exceed the amount of money a local unit of government needs to operate.

For example, Shelbyville Township levied $511,234 in taxes in the 2015-2016 fiscal year. The Township had $1.19 million in reserves at the time which meant the Township had $1.7 million in cash on hand for the 2015-2016 fiscal year. Their expenses that year totaled $443,702. With the cash on hand the Township could have completely eliminated the tax levy altogether and still operated for nearly 4 years.

This spring, I introduced legislation (HB 1896) to address the issue of townships stockpiling cash reserves. The measure places a cap on the accumulation of Township funds, other than the Capital Fund, to 2.5 times the average annual expenditure [of each fund] of the previous 3 fiscal years. The measure has now been signed into law.

It is an affront to taxpayers for townships to continue to collect the highest tax levies possible when it is not needed. As taxpayers, we accept that it is our civic duty to pay our taxes. We understand units of government need tax money to operate but it is not fair to taxpayers for units of local government to take in far more in taxes than they actually need to operate.

There is nothing wrong with local governments having some cash reserves. Emergencies do happen and the responsible thing to do is to make sure there are funds available to adequately address those situations. But in the case of Shelbyville Township, having four times the operating budget in reserves goes far beyond an emergency fund.

It is time we took a hard look at the number of units of local government we have here in Illinois and how we might lower our state’s tax burden. Illinois taxpayers need property tax relief. I believe this new law is a step in the right direction. It is my hope we can build on this new law and enact even more meaningful reforms in the near future.
Equifax, an Atlanta based credit-rating agency, suffered a security breach on July 29th that exposed sensitive information of millions of Americans. Such information included social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers, birthdays, and addresses. It has been determined that 5.4 million Illinois residents have been affected by the breach. 

The company has set up a website where you can check if your personal information was affected by the breach: www.equifaxsecurity2017.com

Attorney General Lisa Madigan has opened an investigation into the recent security breach, and called on Equifax to provide free credit freezes to all Illinois residents in the wake of the breach. She urges Illinois residents to take the Equifax breach seriously and take steps to protect themselves from the possibility of identity theft:

· Seriously consider placing a credit freeze on your credit reports with all 3 consumer reporting agencies: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax;

· Regularly request your free credit reports, inspect them closely, and promptly dispute any unauthorized accounts;

· Inspect all financial account statements closely and promptly dispute any unauthorized charges;

· Consider placing alerts on your financial accounts so your financial institution alerts you when money above a pre-designated amount is withdrawn;

· Beware of potential phishing emails; don't open any email messages or attachments from unknown senders and do not click on any unknown links. Fraudsters will frequently send coercive and misleading emails threatening account suspension or worse if sensitive information is not provided. Remember, businesses will never ask customers to verify account information via email. If in doubt, contact the business in question directly for verification and to report phishing emails; and

· Be on the lookout for spoofed email addresses. Spoofed email addresses are those that make minor changes in the domain name, frequently changing the letter O to the number zero, or the lowercase letter l to the number one. Scrutinize all incoming email addresses to ensure that the sender is truly legitimate.

With questions on the data breach, you can contact Equifax at 866-447-7559, or the Illinois Attorney General’s Identity Theft Hotline at 1 (866) 999-5630.