From the ILHouseGOP Caucus Blog
Budget – FY16
Comptroller Munger warns of consequences if budget not enacted. The State’s chief cash flow manager, Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger, reported on Wednesday, June 10 on the actions the State will be forced to take if no budget is enacted prior to the end of the State’s fiscal year on June 30, 2015.
Successive actions the State will be forced to take include delayed paychecks for State workers, unanswered billings from and no payments to new Medicaid and other State-financed health care providers, no new payments to other State vendors, and no general state aid (GSA) payments from the State Board of Education to school districts. These actions are expected to hit in different ways at different times. For example, the Comptroller reports that the first scheduled payless payday will be July 15. The first GSA payment is due no later than August 10.
Munger pointed out that some monies remain in place to pay essential bills under the “lapse period” law. This law allows leftover money appropriated for use in fiscal year 2015 (FY15) to be spent down during the first 60 days of FY16. However, funds available under this pathway fall far short of the monies required to keep all of the State’s legal commitments, such as paychecks for State workers and GSA payments to schools.
House Republicans have repeatedly called for the startup of real budget negotiations and the creation of a balanced budget, as demanded by the state Constitution.
Gov. Rauner and reformers call for stricter causation standards. One of the open issues facing the Illinois General Assembly is the need for real workers’ compensation reform. HB 4223, legislation sponsored by House Republican Leader Jim Durkin with the full support of Governor Rauner, contains changes in causation standards that could help eliminate Illinois’ status as one of the top 10 U.S. states with the highest workers’ compensation insurance costs in the country. Most employers are required to purchase workers’ comp insurance for their employees as a legal mandate on the employer-employee relationship.
The insurance premiums are not only tied to the actuarial danger of each workplace, but to each state’s underlying laws that impose burdens on the workers’ comp system. States characterized as more burdensome, such as Illinois, see higher workers’ comp insurance rates. As workers’ comp premiums are a mandated add-on to the cost of each employee headcount position, any increase in the cost of workers’ comp insurance will reduce the number of Illinois jobs created and maintained.
Illinois’ unemployment rate is 6.0 percent as of April 2015, higher than the national unemployment rate of 5.4 percent. Illinois job creators are placing increasing pressure on the General Assembly to enact real workers’ compensation reform. As of Friday, June 12, however, the workers’ comp reform bill (HB 4223) remained bottled up in the Madigan-controlled House Rules Committee.
Property tax relief and mandate reforms needed to help middle-class families. Both the Illinois House and the Illinois Senate discussed and debated property tax issues during their sessions on Tuesday, June 9. No resolution was reached in either house. A report from the nationwide Urban Institute labeled Illinois as the state with the second-highest property taxes in the U.S.
Heads of local governments and tax reform experts agree that a freeze on Illinois property tax bills, or on the local-government property tax extensions that are used to generate these bills, could have unintended consequences. Many advocates are starting to call for real reforms in the way Illinois taxing bodies fulfill their duties. Relief that could be offered includes reductions in the unfunded mandates imposed by Springfield on local governments and school districts. Governor Rauner has renewed his call for the General Assembly to take a genuine look at these mandates and to sit down with him in real negotiations on one of the issues that faces the State and its taxpayers. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin has filed HB 4224 to enact a property tax freeze and reduction in local government mandates.
Illinois program to underwrite prepaid tuition contracts at Illinois colleges and universities faces long-term challenges. The College Illinois program, operated by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC), asks contractual depositor/investors to provide money up front for a future college student named by the investor. Funds deposited in College Illinois are used to prepay tuition at an Illinois public college or university for that student. College Illinois is an approved, tax-advantaged investment vehicle under Section 529 of the federal Internal Revenue Code. Section 529 prepaid tuition programs, like College Illinois, should be distinguished from Section 529 college savings plans such as Illinois’ Bright Start program, operated by the Illinois Treasurer’s office.
Popular in the 2000s, state prepaid-tuition programs like College Illinois have come under fiscal challenge in the 2010s due to changes in public perception of governmental probity and falling rates of return on invested capital, even as tuition rates continue to increase. ISAC reported on Tuesday, June 9 that over a two-year period, they have sold too few prepaid tuition contracts to enable persons connected with the program to feel assurance that it can continue to operate indefinitely. During this two-year period 1,084 contracts were sold (438 in 2013-14 and 646 in 2014-15), well short of the 3,000 contract sales required for the program to enjoy sustainability.
Monies invested in College Illinois by existing contract holders are being invested and managed on a professional basis, and the program has partly recovered some of the unfunded deficits that appeared in the depths of the 2008-13 economic downturn. Sharp returns on monies invested in Wall Street equities have enabled College Illinois to keep its immediate commitments and partly claw back its standing. ISAC has told House Republicans that families with College Illinois contracts that are close to maturity are highly likely to enjoy a full return on their assets invested.
College of DuPage
Continued investigation leads to administrative leave for key officials. Auditors continue to look through the books of the College of DuPage (COD) and the administrative decisions taken by departed President Robert Breuder and other top college officials. On Tuesday, June 9, two key college vice presidents of financial affairs were placed on administrative leave by interim college President Joseph Collins. Affected by the move were Thomas J. Glaser, COD’s senior vice president of administration and treasurer, and Lynn Sapta, assistant vice president of financial affairs and controller. The administrative action was accompanied by a disclosure that the College has lost $2.2 million that had been deposited in a risky investment fund.
The “Clean Slate” panel of new COD college trustees, most of whom were elected in the spring 2015 election, questioned Glaser and Sapta at the May 2015 board meeting. The trustee majority members have placed themselves on record as being in complete support of the ongoing coordination of audits and investigations that are scrutinizing the recent fiscal and administrative records of the public college.
Efforts continue to address the auditors’ recommendations prior to the start of the College of DuPage’s fall term on August 19. Continued prompt action became even more essential with the May 2015 announcement by the Higher Learning Commission, the COD’s accreditation commission, that COD’s standing as an accredited institution of higher education has been placed under review.
Economy – Craft Breweries
General Assembly approves bill to authorize expansion by craft breweries. A bright spot in the Illinois economy is the rising number of craft operations that brew unique and local beers, which are often sold on-site in brewpubs or taprooms. Many beer distributors are developing mutual arrangements with craft breweries; these contracts expand the opportunity for these beers to be consumed in local taverns and even sold in beverage stores and groceries.
While current law allows many breweries licensed as craft breweries to brew up to 30,000 barrels of annual production, this cap increasingly limits production growth and job creation by Illinois brewmasters and owners. On Tuesday, June 9, the Illinois House concurred with Senate amendments to HB 3237 to increase the craft-brewing production cap to 120,000 barrels/year, sending the measure to Gov. Rauner for possible approval.
Fate of Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library left without resolution. One of the bills passed by partisan majorities of both houses of the Illinois General Assembly, and then stalled on the order of “Motion to Reconsider,” was SB 1728. This controversial measure would move the presidential library from the Illinois Historic Preservation Authority and make it an independent State agency. The House vote on SB 1728 as amended by the library language was 69-47-0.
However, after the Senate concurred with the House’s Lincoln Library language on May 31, 2015, Senate President John Cullerton filed a “Motion to Reconsider” on the bill. This parliamentary move effectively locked the bill in his desk drawer and left the Library and its approximately 95 headcount employees without closure as of mid-June 2015.
2015 Special Olympics
Illinois State University hosts athletic festival. The Illinois Special Olympics are scheduled to kick off on Friday, June 12, at ISU’s Bloomington-Normal campus in central Illinois. The games are scheduled to continue until Sunday, June 14. Qualified athletes from all over Illinois were invited to compete in aquatics, bocce, gymnastics, powerlifting, soccer, and track and field events. More than 4,100 athletes are scheduled to attend with friends and family.
Athletes qualify for the Illinois Special Olympics through their participation in affiliated events. Track and field athletes qualify through gold-medal-level participation in Special Olympics Area Spring Games, while a variety of sanctioned competitions are used to qualify competitors and teams in aquatics, bocce, gymnastics, powerlifting, and soccer. The games are overseen by Special Olympics Illinois. Deputy Republican Leader Patti Bellock honored Special Children’s Charities and the Special Olympics movement in HR 503, adopted by the House in mid-May.
Wireless Phones – Do-Not-Call Status
Wireless Phones and the National Do-Not-Call List. Placing telemarketing calls to wireless phones is – and always has been – illegal in most cases. Why the confusion about telemarketing to wireless phones?
Consumers report receiving emails saying they’ll soon begin receive telemarketing calls on their wireless phones. The confusion seems to stem from discussions in the wireless phone industry about establishing a wireless 411 phone directory, much like your traditional (wired) 411 phone directory. A number of email campaigns seem to suggest that if your wireless telephone number is listed in a wireless 411 directory, it will be available to telemarketers, and you will start to receive sales calls. In addition, some of these email campaigns suggest that there is a separate do-not-call “cell phone registry,” which you must call to have your wireless phone number covered by the do-not-call rules. This information is inaccurate.
Even if a wireless 411 directory is established, most telemarketing calls to wireless phones would still be illegal. For example, it is unlawful for any person to make any call (other than a call made for emergency purposes or made with express prior consent) using any automatic telephone dialing system or any artificial or prerecorded voice message to wireless numbers. This law applies regardless of whether the number is listed on the national Do-Not-Call list.
The federal government does not maintain and is not establishing a separate Do-Not-Call list for wireless phone numbers.
Wireless phone subscribers have always been able to add their personal wireless phone numbers to the national Do-Not-Call list, either online, or by calling toll-free 1-888-382-1222 from the phone number they wish to register. The do-not-call rules require callers that are not exempt from the rules to stop telemarketing calls 30 days after you register a number.
There is no deadline for registering a number on the national Do-Not-Call list. There is also no longer any need to re-register a number – it will stay on the national Do-Not-Call list until you cancel your registration or discontinue service. Read more.
from Decatur Herald-Review | June 14, 2015
The Illinois General Assembly failed to produce a balanced state budget during its regular session, an act required by the state constitution.
But that doesn’t mean legislators wasted their days. They passed some important stuff, ranging from pushing for the restoration of Pluto’s status as a planet to making sure the state has an official vegetable, pie and even polka song.
It’s not entirely fair to be too critical of these actions. They probably took little time and these resolutions and bills are obviously important to someone. But, then so is a balanced state budget. Some examples of what they accomplished:
A House resolution calling for the restoration of Pluto as a full-fledged planet: Gov. Bruce Rauner probably wants to send some legislators to Pluto, but this has been an issue floating around the statehouse for a few years. That’s because Clyde Tombaugh, the man who discovered Pluto, was born in Streator. Pluto was demoted from planet to minor planet in 2006 by the International Astronomical Union. Past legislatures have also considered resolutions to make Pluto a planet again, which have been mostly ignored by the astronomical union.
A House resolution naming the state’s official polka song: Because, every state needs an official polka song. The song, “Polka Celebration,” was written and composed by Chicago native Eddie Blazonczyk Sr., who won a Grammy for the tune in 1986.
Bills to designate the pumpkin pie as the official state pie and sweet corn as the official state vegetable: We have nothing against pumpkin pie or sweet corn. Both are grown in great quantities in the state.
A House resolution requiring rest areas to stock their machines with at least two healthy snacks: Here’s where the legislature could use its imagination. Why not require every rest area to sell pumpkin pie and sweet corn? Now we’re on to something.
A bill that would create a monarch butterfly license plate to raise money to plant more milkweed, which will help boost the population of the state’s official butterfly: The monarch was declared the state’s official butterfly 30 years ago after a lobbying effort by students at Decatur’s Dennis School. But the state has too many license plates. The monarch does need more milkweed habitat, but we don’t see how a license plate accomplishes that. Milkweed seeds might do the trick.
A bill that would allow meat processors to butcher exotic game meet gunned down at places like Ted Nugent’s ranch in Michigan: We didn’t even know that was an issue, but it’s good to know that the legislature is on top of it.
We hope someday soon to write an editorial praising a compromise that has put the state on a sound financial track. Until then, it’s nice to know that the General Assembly is trying to sort out some of these pressing issues.
SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Senate is scheduled to hold a hearing on college affordability Tuesday as part of their summer overtime session.
With two weeks to go before the state enters a new fiscal year without a budget in place, the Senate hearing is expected to mirror one held last week on property taxes, in which witnesses testified before the entire Senate on the positive and negative effects of freezing property taxes.
The hearing is designed to highlight another difference between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrats who control both chambers of the General Assembly.
“It’s an opportunity for us to talk about ways to turn things around for the middle class,” said Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago
Democrat legislators are battling Rauner over his push to enact business-friendly reforms in exchange for a tax increase that would help close a $3 billion budget gap.
For the rest of the article, visit the Decatur Herald-Review.com.
This past weekend was one of interest, patience, and disappointment. Last November, the citizens of Illinois voted for change in the status quo and change in the state’s operations — and future. Alas, that has not happened.
Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner is calling the Legislature’s spring session “stunningly disappointing” after Democrats passed a budget despite an impasse over how to fully fund it.
Democrats want Rauner to approve a tax increase to help balance a 2016 budget that’s more than $3 billion short of anticipated revenues.
Illinois’s financial crisis deepened Sunday as the Democratic-controlled legislature and Republican Governor Bruce Rauner failed to reach an accord over a spending plan for the budget year beginning July 1.
The collapse of negotiations occurred hours before the scheduled end of the legislature’s budget session, meaning any compromise to close a $6.2 billion deficit now will require a tougher-to-obtain three-fifths vote to approve. The stalemate leaves the nation’s lowest-rated state in danger of another downgrade.
As a summer showdown looms between Democrats in the Legislature and Rauner over just how much the state should spend on what, here’s a look at the Legislature’s actions, or lack thereof, this session.
Leaders of the Illinois General Assembly say lawmakers will be in “continuous session” throughout the summer.
Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton made the announcements Sunday, the last day of the spring session.
While we continue to examine where initiatives and priorities stand — including pension reform, a balanced budget, worker’s compensation reform, and more — we have some initial reports and headlines.
We’ll continue to update the post as more is learned. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts on the gridlock.
UPDATE 1: June 1 @ 3:37 PM
From Illinois Retail Merchants Association:
SESSION CONTINUES…TENSIONS RISE
As noted above, an FY 16 budget for the State of Illinois has not been approved. The Governor proposed a budget of just over $32 billion in February that was out-of-balance by $2.2 billion due to a pension reform program most considered to be unrealistic. In return, the House and Senate developed and passed a $36 billion budget that is $3-$4 billion out-of-balance. A parliamentary motion was utilized to hold the passed budget in the Assembly. That motion can be removed at any time by the filer and, once removed, the budget is then transmitted to the Governor. It is widely anticipated that this will not occur until very close to July 1st – the start of the next fiscal year. The effect of the holding motion is two-fold. First, it does give all parties time to negotiate further. Second, if nothing is agreed to by the deadline, it gives the Governor very little time to act. His choices are to either Reduction Veto the budget or apply a Total Veto. However, the Governor has already stated he intends to exercise a Total Veto immediately upon receiving the Democratic budget.
TWIS readers know that the Governor submitted a Turnaround Agenda and has publicly stated that he is willing to consider additional tax revenues for the state so long as portions of his Turnaround Agenda are approved. For example, the Governor is seeking reforms in Illinois’ workers’ compensation and tort systems as well as a property tax freeze, redistricting reform, and term limits. However, the Democratic-majorities in the House and Senate put significant pieces of the Governor’s proposals (i.e. workers’ comp, tort, and property tax freeze) to votes where, predictably, they failed to receive majorities necessary for passage. In the case of the House, the Republicans voted “present” to signify their displeasure with what they perceived as a contrived process and the fact they did not consider the proposals ‘real’ as they had not actually been introduced on behalf of, or written by, the Governor. Additionally, the House voted down the Governor’s human service cuts included in his budget proposal. In the Senate, Republican Leader Christine Radogno introduced significant portions of the Turnaround Agenda which were written by the Governor’s Office. These proposals were heard in long and often contentious hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee and then voted down along party.
At this writing, the prospects of agreement in the near future appear dim. Earlier this week, the Governor promised a $20-$40 million full-scale campaign to attack Democrats, particularly Speaker of the House Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, for what the Governor believes are their unwillingness to compromise, failing to protect the middle-class and ominous statements that the two leaders have enriched themselves. For their part, Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton claim to have been preparing for this all spring and have promised to respond in-kind painting the Governor as unreasonable, a threat to the middle-class, and bringing Washington D.C.-style politics to Illinois. Some of this has already started to emerge as they have described Governor Bruce Rauner as a Republican-version of Rod Blagojevich and have adopted a mantra that they are willing to discuss reforms they believe would help the middle class (e.g. minimum wage, paid sick leave).
Deadlines are what often help bring issues to a conclusion. In terms of deadlines, the first state paychecks will be due the second week of July. If there is not budget at that point, state workers will start to miss paychecks. The first General State Aid payment for schools is due approximately August 10th. Some schools will not be able to open if these payments are not received. Over-shadowing this entire situation are the contract negotiations with AFSCME – the union representing the vast majority of state employees. These negotiations have been widely reported to be very contentious and the word ‘strike’ has been bandied about. However, late in session, the Assembly, voting on party-lines, sent to the Governor SB 1229 (Sen. Don Harmon, D-Chicago/Rep. Mike Smiddy, D- Port Byron). This legislation would prohibit workers from striking, would keep the current contract in place until such time as a new agreement is reached, and would allow either party to invoke mediation. If a mediator is unable to bring agreement, either party can initiate impasse mediation.
It remains to be seen how this will all play out. If, indeed, both sides carry through with their threats, it is going to be a very long, hot summer in Illinois.
U.S. News & World Report recently published Which Vocational Degrees Pay Off? Some one-year certificates lead to double-digit wage gains.
A four-year college degree isn’t for everyone. Especially for students who never liked school. The conventional advice for these folks is to master a technical skill in order to have a career more rewarding than serving fast food. Increasingly, many choose to go back to school and get a vocational certification or a degree. But, is there any evidence that this sort of job training pays off?
A new California study concludes that in some fields, especially health care, the answer is yes. In other fields, not so much. The working paper, “Career Technical Education and Labor Market Outcomes: Evidence from California Community Colleges,” was published online by the National Bureau of Economic Research in April 2015.
Here’s how much extra a student will earn annually by finishing a vocational degree in a field, compared with a similar student who didn’t finish.
The Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS) is collaborating with elected officials in Aurora to host an event for the small business community at Waubonsee Community College, Aurora Campus on June 5, 2015 from 9:00am to 2:00pm. The elected officials from the Aurora region that are supporting this event will be welcoming business owners at 9:30am.
Make a Connection: “Connecting communities to Illinois Business Opportunities”, promotes opportunity for the economic growth of small businesses that include minority, women, persons with disabilities and Veteran owned businesses. Business owners will have the opportunity to engage with other professionals and learn valuable information about the process in doing business with the State and about local programs that are available to the small business community.
Registration for this event is recommended; you may register to attend at: www.CMS.Illinois.Gov/Events. For event details and booth exhibitors, please refer to the attached documents.
We encourage you take advantage of this resourceful event, circulate the attached event information by sharing it with other business owners that may benefit from it.
We look forward to seeing you!
Situated 35 miles west of Chicago, the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce serves as a catalyst for business development for the second largest community in the State of Illinois. In 2014, the Chamber received a Lumina Education Attainment Award to strengthen Pathways to Prosperity, a regional collective impact effort, which is developing career pathways in information technology, health sciences and advanced manufacturing. The Chamber and community partners are working to align existing programs with current and future business needs, and to ensure the initial pathways include opportunities for internships, dual credit and stackable credentials.
Q: Can you provide some background on how your community began to focus on education attainment and workforce development?
A: For more than 25 years the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce convened a business-education partnership group – which placed business-member volunteers in individual schools and even individual classrooms – but objectives were fragmented. This partnership program was recognized within the state for a number of initiatives we were doing within the schools, but it just wasn’t enough considering what we were hearing from employers in Aurora about workforce needs and industry-specific skills gaps. We realized we needed to refocus our efforts and move into that new, collaborative arena.
For the full article, visit ACCE’s Education Attainment Division’s blog.