Following the annual State of the State address by Governor Rauner, State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) said she hopes the other side of the aisle will finally support similar reforms that have allowed the national economy to thrive.

“Last year, a renewed sense of confidence led to the beginning of a national economic surge. This economic surge has been increasingly buoyed by the federal reforms which have eliminated numerous burdens caused by government overreach, as well as comprehensive tax reform. Companies small and large across the nation are responding to these policy changes, whether it is the burgeoning craft brewery industry or the likes of Apple, Chase or Walmart. Across the nation, employee pay is rising, bonuses are being paid and major investment is taking place as the financial benefits of reform are being realized.
Rauner concentrates on health of private sector - Illinois in 2018 represents what would be the world’s 17th largest economy if the Prairie State were an independent country – roughly equivalent, in national terms, to the economies of Spain and Canada. The progress of this economy formed the heart of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s 2018 State of the State address to a joint session of the Illinois General Assembly on Wednesday.

Rauner reminded the lawmakers that Illinois is the home of 1.2 million job-creating small businesses, 36 Fortune 500 companies and 72,000 farms that plow 27 million acres of agricultural land. Illinois has 12.8 million residents, almost one-half of whom – 6.05 million – are in the nonfarm payroll workforce, making and producing goods and services that are in demand all over the world. Support for public and private education is a necessary part of continuing this record of achievement, and the Rauner administration and the General Assembly have increased funding for K-12 public schools by $1.2 billion. The administration last year proposed, and the General Assembly enacted, the Invest in Kids program to create tax incentives for donations to scholarship granting organizations that help high-achievement students obtain financial help to attend competitive private schools.

Today at noon, Governor Rauner will deliver his State of the State Address.

You can watch it live online, Click Here.
Whether scam artists use your information to file tax returns in hopes of getting your refund or pose as IRS agents and threaten legal action if payments aren’t immediately made – there are preventative steps you can take to ensure a smooth tax season. The Illinois CPA Society outlines key points than can help you avoid becoming a target and what to do if you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam.

Tax ID Theft Warning Signs
The IRS estimates that recent crackdowns in 2016 on ID theft scams stopped more than 785,000 fraudulent returns, but that $239 million in “suspect” refunds were paid out. Tax ID theft is still very prevalent and some warning signs to look for if you think you may be a victim are:
  • Your electronically filed tax return is rejected because a return with your SSN already has been filed. 
  • Receiving a letter from the IRS asking for confirmation on submission of a tax return being held for review. 
  • Being informed by the IRS that that records of wages were received from an employer that you did not work for. 
State Representatives Steve Reick (R-Woodstock) and Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) have asked the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) to hold a local public hearing to gather testimony from Johnsburg and Antioch residents who would be affected by a massive sewer and water rate hike proposed by Utilities, Inc.

“My office has been inundated with calls and emails from constituents that would be affected by this increase, which I’m told would be the third rate increase for water and sewer since 2009,” said Reick. “These people, many of whom are living on fixed incomes, have asked us to help facilitate a local platform where they can come and provide testimony on how this latest rate increase would affect their family budgets, and for some, their ability to remain in their homes.”

In 2009, Utilities Inc. serviced the affected area at a monthly rate of $5.14 and consumption rates of $3.14 per 1,000 gallons. If the latest request is approved by the ICC, those customers would then have to pay a rate of $35.03 per month with consumption rates of $11.08 per 1,000 gallons; a 353% increase in water/sewer service costs in just eight years.
Before you pick a "free" tax filing software, make sure you know which options will actually be free for you. The IRS provides an easy to use tool to help you find a tax filing service that may allow you to file both your Federal and State tax returns for free.

If your adjusted gross income was $66,000 or less in 2017, you will find one or more free software options available through Free File at Review each company's offer to make sure you qualify for your free federal return.

Some companies offer free state tax returns; some charge a fee. For more information, Click Here to see software offers and detailed information on company websites. The following states provide a free state tax return in partnership with private software companies via the Free File Alliance: AR, AZ, DC, GA, IA, ID, IN, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NY, OR, RI, SC, VA, VT, WV. All the listed tax software companies provide a free federal return to active military personnel with an AGI of $66,000 or less.
The much anticipated new science building at the College of Lake County opened for classes this week. Thanks to the advocacy of State Representative Barbara Wheeler, the state of the art facility was approved for $17.5 million in project funding by the Illinois Capital Development Board.

From the Daily Herald: "What they will find is a modern, energy-efficient building that's a big step up from the old digs.
Everyday in the United States, doctors and hospitals use over 36,000 units of red blood, 7,000 units of platelets and 10,000 units of plasma while treating patients. A single donation could be used by multiple patients and save lives. Consider giving blood this January. 

The American Red Cross offers a convenient zip code search where you can find upcoming blood drives near your community, Click Here
State Representative Barbara Wheeler joined the #WearBlueDay campaign to raise awareness about the pervasive impact of human trafficking in the United States. Rep. Wheeler has made the fight against human trafficking a focus of her legislative work in Springfield and recently joined the board of Refuge a Women, a non-profit that helps victims recover.

Learn more about the #BlueCampaign and the collaborative work of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, law enforcement and leaders across the country to end this terrible human exploitation here:
State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) said it is good news that the University of Illinois (U of I) System plans to extend its current in-state tuition freeze for another year, but more is needed.

“The cost of a public university education has risen 200 percent across the country in the past two decades,” said Wheeler. “Illinois students have felt these rising costs more than our neighboring states and it’s caused a dramatic brain drain as students have chosen to leave Illinois. I’m pleased the U of I System is responding to the problem by continuing their in-state tuition freeze, but considering the dramatic increase in college costs, more has to be done.”

The Board of Trustees for the U of I System, which consists of universities in Chicago, Springfield and Urbana-Champaign, is expected to vote on the undergraduate in-state tuition freeze proposal next week. President Tim Killeen said the tuition freeze, begun in the fall of 2014, has increased enrollment by 6.6 percent. While undergraduate in-state tuition will be frozen, undergraduate mandatory fees and room-and-board rates will not be frozen, nor will graduate and professional program tuition.
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. On Thursday, January 11, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, State Representative Barbara Wheeler and leaders across the country are encouraging Americans to #WearBlueDay to support human trafficking awareness. Join the awareness effort to end this terrible practice by wearing your blue and share #WeWearBlueBecause

From the Lake County Health Department: Radon is a radioactive gas naturally found in rock and soil. It typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Your home traps radon inside, where it can build up. Any home may have a radon problem. This means new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements. 

The Health Department offers short-term testing kits for $10.00. The cost includes return postage, laboratory analysis and interpretation by Health Department staff. Test kits are also available from area hardware and building supply stores. If test results reveal elevated levels of radon in your home, contact a radon professional to evaluate and fix the problem. For more information and to request a short-term testing kit, contact the Health Department at: (847) 377-8020 or Click Here.
The “Illinois 1818” postage stamp celebrates Illinois’s 200th birthday, will have no denomination and will be permanently valid for U.S. postage use. The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) stamp’s simple design features twenty stars, paying tribute to the first 20 American states, and then superimposed on an outline map of Illinois is the image of a rising sun in honor of Illinois, the 21st state. The Flag Act of 1818, enacted on the eve of Illinois’ entry into the Union, standardized the custom of adding one star for each state and keeping thirteen stripes for the original 13 States. Another 2018 USPS stamp will commemorate the Flag Act flag.
Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed legislation supported by Rep. Barbara Wheeler that substantially reduces startup, annual filing and other fees for limited liability companies (LLCs), the organizational structure preferred by many of Illinois' 1.2 million small businesses.

The new law will encourage more businesses to form in Illinois rather than go to other states to escape high fees. Effective immediately, the filing fee for new LLCs drops to $150 from $500 and annual report fees drop to $75 from $250. Previously, Illinois charged fees that were among the highest in the nation.

The bill, SB 867, was signed in the presence of dozens of small business advocates gathered at Level Office, an LLC that provides shared office space for startups. 
The Solid Waste Agency of Lake County will be hosting two household chemical drop-off events at their facility located at 1311 N. Estes Street Gurnee, IL 60031 on Saturday, January 13 and Monday January 22. 

APPOINTMENTS ARE REQUIRED for Household Chemical Waste Events located at the Gurnee Facility to ensure safety & efficiency. Collections are for residential waste only. No business waste will be accepted. All SWALCO HCW Collection Events are FREE for Illinois residents ONLY.
The Illinois Tax Credit Scholarship Program, “Invest in Kids,” provides a 75 percent Illinois state income tax credit to individuals and corporations that contribute money to a non-profit Scholarship Granting Organization (SGO). The SGOs award scholarships to eligible students from low-income families. These scholarships allow schools across the state to provide quality educations to young students who otherwise wouldn't be able to attend the quality school of their parents choosing.

Through this program: 
  • An individual or corporation will receive a 75 percent credit on donations to an SGO. For example, if a person donates $100,000, they will receive a state tax credit of $75,000. 
  • Individual donors can designate their donations to a specific SGO. 
  • The credit can be rolled over for five years. 
  • Donors are prohibited from receiving a federal tax deduction for these donations. 
  • The program is capped at $100 million in donations, resulting in $75 million in total tax credits issued.