On Wednesday, Jan. 25, the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce released the results of the annual Regional Economic Pulse survey of businesses. Panelists Steven C. Meves, CFA, Old Second Bank; Kathy Gilmore, Valley Industrial Association; and Alex Pope, Rush-Copley Medical Center, joined Chamber CEO Joseph B. Henning, IOM, CAE, to discuss the results and highlight the implications for the region.
A cursory overview of the results show some positive feelings:
Negative feelings were also brought to light in the results:
The Aurora Chamber would like to thank Old Second Bank, Dolan & Murphy Real Estate, and Invest Aurora for their sponsorship of the survey and lunch program. The Chamber and its partners will use the results of the survey to identify and provide programs for the business community throughout the year. For questions or more information, contact the Aurora Chamber at (630) 256-3180.
Prior to the expiration of the 99th General Assembly, the Senate leaders had reported that they had reached a tentative bi-partisan agreement on a budget package framework. Although the package was filed in the last days of the 99th General Assembly, the 99th General Assembly adjourned Sine Die and the leaders promised that they would take the package up for consideration the first week of the 100th General Assembly. Immediately after convening the 100th General Assembly on Wednesday, Jan. 11, the framework package was introduced in 13 separately filed bills.
The Senate package includes a tax package (SB 9), minimum wage increase (SB 2), six new casinos and slots at race tracks (SB 7), a temporary two-year property tax freeze on the school portion of the tax bill (SB 13), workers’ compensation reform (SB 12) bonding to pay off $7 billion of the current $11 billion backlog (SB 4), pension reform (SB 11) procurement reform (SB 8), limited consolidation of local governments (SB 3), and a K-12 education funding reform (SB 1). Currently, the K-12 education funding reform has no details. Each bill is contingent on the other 12 passing before that bill can become law.
As promised, the bills were sent to the substantive committees to be considered. With the exception of the education funding reform bill and the minimum wage bill, broad discussions were held on the rest of the package and were sent to the Senate floor to be held for further discussions. Immediately prior to the meeting of the Senate Revenue Committee, an amendment was filed that drastically changed the scope of the tax package. The controversial sugar-sweetened beverage tax was removed. To replace this revenue within the tax package the creation of an excise tax of 5% on an array of services and a “Business Opportunity Tax” based on payroll range were included. The excise tax on services is modeled on the current structure in Wisconsin. As currently envisioned, the services to be included would be landscaping services, laundry and dry cleaning services, amusements, and repair and maintenance services. There would also be a 7% excise tax on cable television and direct broadcast satellite services. The implementation of the excise taxes rather than an expansion of the sales tax base to include these was in response to a constitutional case based on the Illinois’ constitution prior to the 1970s Constitutional Convention. The excise tax approach is unnecessarily complicated and the constitutional issue does not exist. The “Business Opportunity Tax” replaces the franchise tax and includes five different tax brackets which would require employers to pay between $225 and $15,000 in taxes on payroll for a taxable year.
Also included in the package is an increase in the corporate income tax rate from 4% to 7% and the personal income tax to 4.99%. Additionally, it eliminates the unitary business non-combination rule and decouples from the domestic production activities deduction. It also redefines the graphic arts production and the manufacturing machinery and equipment exemption. Finally, the package closes the loophole that allows private individuals/entities to bring lawsuits as realtors in instances where they believe a fraud of some kind has occurred. Income tax is exempt from the False Claims Act. Through an oversight, sales tax is not. As a result, Illinois businesses are facing inventive lawsuits from one particular contingency fee attorney who alleges the improper collection of sales tax on shipping/delivery charges even though the businesses are following the laws, regulations,and guidance of the state and the Illinois Department of Revenue.
It is important to understand that the package is a living document and is completely fluid as leaders, lawmakers and advocates continue to negotiate. In its current form, it is a Senate effort. The process will ultimately need to include the House and Governor Bruce Rauner.
The Souper Bowl of Caring Pairs Youth Volunteers with Local Grocery Stores to Help Area Food Pantries
Nearly 30 years ago, a youth group in South Carolina gave birth to an idea to use Super Bowl weekend to unify the nation around a higher good: collecting monetary and food donations for the hungry. Named the Souper Bowl of Caring, these efforts became a nationwide movement, one that Fox Valley United Way (FVUW) is sponsoring in this area for the 11th year.
This year’s Souper Bowl takes place on February 4, 2017, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Groups of Fox Valley area youth and leaders will be greeting shoppers in local stores and inspiring them to purchase groceries from a suggested list of non-perishable food items to leave in a bin near the store exit. Shoppers may also provide a cash donation, each dollar donated provides the pantries with $8.00 in purchasing power at the Northern Illinois Food Bank.
Once again, local Jewel-Osco stores and Prisco’s Family Market, in Aurora, will be welcoming the volunteers. “The Souper Bowl of Caring is an event that Jewel-Osco looks forward to participating in each year,” said Jewel-Osco President Mike Withers. “Too many families continue to worry about where their next meal will come from, and that is why we are committed to eradicating the problem by keeping the shelves stocked at our local food pantries.”
Youth volunteers will be present at Jewel-Osco stores on Eola Road and W. Galena Boulevard in Aurora; Veterans Parkway in Yorkville; Orchard Road and Route 30 in Oswego; and N. Route 47 in Sugar Grove; as well as Prisco’s Family Market on Prairie Street in Aurora.
“Last year we were thrilled to make a difference for the Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry and the Kendall County Community Food Pantry through the efforts of these compassionate young volunteers and generous shoppers,” said Michael Meyer, FVUW chief executive officer. “Approximately 2,400 pounds of food was collected as well as $8,247 which gave the food pantries the ability to purchase $65,976 worth of groceries at the Northern Illinois Food Bank.”
Community members can participate in the Souper Bowl of Caring before February 4 as well. Leading up to Super Bowl weekend, folks have the opportunity to host food drives or sell Soup Pot cards and bring these donations to the FVUW office. Soup Pot cards are available from FVUW and sold for $1.00 each. For more information on participating in this way, please call Deborah Rudel at 630-896-4636, x102.
Contributions can be made securely through the FVUW online giving platform at www.foxvalleyunitedway.org .
The Fox Valley Park District will begin accepting picnic shelter reservations on Wednesday, Feb. 1, on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Park District features 13 picnic shelters throughout its park system in Aurora, North Aurora and Montgomery. Reservations for groups of 25 or more are available from May 1 to Oct. 22.
Reservation fees are $60 for residents and $90 for non-residents, with a $100 refundable security fee required as well. Reservations include exclusive use of the shelter, pavilion and grill areas during the reserved time. However, as public parks, adjacent open space and playground areas remain available to others during reserved times.
Capacity ranges from 30 to 150 people at all of the shelters except Cool Acres, which can accommodate groups as large as 200. Cool Acres – located on the Fox River along Route 25 and Sullivan Road – is the only shelter area that allows consumption of alcohol. Additional fees and permits are required.
Jericho Lake Park and Copley I Park are not available for shelter reservations during the 2017 season due to on-site construction. Also, Austin Park is not available after July 31 due to restroom remodeling.
Reservations are taken in-person at the Cole Center (101 W. Illinois Ave.), Prisco Center (150 W. Illinois Ave.) and Eola Center (555 S. Eola Rd.) during weekday hours. An illustrated picnic shelter guidebook is available online and at each facility, providing an overview and photos from each reservable park site.
For the 18th consecutive year, the City of Aurora has been recognized for its high standards in financial reporting. And this year, those accolades include recognition of the City’s dedication to making transparent, easy-to-read financial reports widely available to residents.
“This is just absolutely thrilling for us to be able to have this kind of recognition for the substantive, wonderful work that is done,” said Mayor Robert J. O’Connor. “Thank you and congratulations to our CFO & City Treasurer, Dr. Brian Caputo, and all of the staff in the Finance Department on a job well done.”
The City of Aurora was recognized with three awards from the Government Finance Officers Association on January 10, 2017 at a meeting of the City Council:
“This is very much a triple crown and Aurora is a shining star when it comes to their financial reports,” said Dr. Michael Peddle, professor of public administration at Northern Illinois University and a representative of the Government Finance Officers Association, who presented the awards. “Certainly the finance department played a central role in earning these awards; however, the finance department could not have done so without the support of the Mayor, the City Council and the City’s department heads. Thank you for your commitment to excellence in financial management.”
The newest award came in recognition of a new publication launched by the City in 2016 called the Budget-in-Brief, which explains the City’s revenues and expenses in an easy-to-read format for all residents. The Budget-in-Brief also explains the City’s budgeting process and gives residents clear examples of capital expenses like bridges and public safety systems purchased with their tax dollars.
The City of Aurora’s complete budget, as well as the Budget-in-Brief, is available at www.aurora-il.org/finance/budget.php
Last week, Sen. Hutchinson filed new language to SB 9, otherwise known as the Senate’s revenue omnibus bill. SB 9 is part of package of 13 bills that is currently making its way through the Illinois General Assembly. There are several new components laid out in Senate Amendment No. 1 to SB 9 that are worth mentioning to the Illinois business community.
Under Senate Amendment No. 1, the new provisions include:
Unemployment rate rises to 5.7% in December 2016. The final Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) jobless report for calendar year 2016 contained more bad news for the Illinois economy. The most widely-tracked measurement of Illinois joblessness, reflecting persons completely out of work and actively searching for employment, tracked upward from 5.6% in November 2016 to 5.7% in December. The increase in unemployment was paced by an overall shrinkage of 16,700 in Illinois nonfarm payroll jobs in the final month of 2016.
There are currently 6,002,600 nonfarm jobs in Illinois – almost one job for every two Illinoisans. Illinois continues to support more jobs than any other state in the U.S. Midwest. However, well more than 300,000 Illinois residents who would like to work are reporting that they cannot find employment of any kind. Furthermore, more than four-fifths of total Illinois jobs, and virtually all of the new jobs being created, are in the service sector. Only 782,500 nonfarm Illinois jobs – about 13% of the total – are made up of the production or extraction of tangible goods. Examples of production or extraction include the manufacturing of factory goods, the construction of real estate, and the mining of minerals.
Business leaders, such as the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association’s Greg Baise, are describing Illinois’ subpar atmosphere for the creation of manufacturing jobs when compared with other Midwestern states. He said nearby states have been surpassing Illinois with manufacturing plants and jobs over the last seven years. Wisconsin created 41,300 manufacturing jobs, while Ohio created 76,700, Indiana created 90,800, and Michigan created 163,700 jobs. In contrast, Illinois lost 1,600 manufacturing jobs.
Illinois House Democrats adopt Madigan Rules. The new House Rules governing the 100th General Assembly were written by the office of Speaker Michael J. Madigan, and were adopted by a House majority that closely followed partisan lines. House Republicans expressed strong disappointment that the majority party had once again refused to consider bipartisan proposals to ensure equal representation for all residents of Illinois. Each Illinois House district contains more than 100,000 residents, but the new Rules of the House contain a wide variety of provisions intended to enhance the ability of Speaker Madigan to maintain complete control of the House.
How undemocratic are some of the Speaker’s Rules? Here are several examples:
In contrast to Speaker Madigan’s Rules, House Republicans advocated for common-sense reforms to the House Rules that would open up the legislative process to be more truly inclusive, collaborative and democratic. House Republicans jointly sponsored HR 47, an alternative Rules proposal meant to be bipartisan in its operation. For example, the proposed Rule 18(g) would have reduced the role of the currently all-powerful House Rules Committee by allowing members’ bills to be discharged from the Rules Committee by motion from the House floor and the affirmative vote of 71 members. This rule, if it had been adopted, would have given all House members recourse to have their bills heard and debated by their colleagues.
Rep. Steve Andersson, the new House Republican floor leader, penned an opinion piece recently to discuss Madigan’s Rules and the House Republicans’ alternative Rules proposal. Andersson’s op-ed stated in part:
At a recent meeting, one of my colleagues took the chance to apologize to the rest of the House Republican Caucus by saying: “I am sorry. Most of you have no idea what it is like to truly be a state representative, because every two years more of your rights and responsibilities are stripped away by the speaker’s House Rules.”
We are supposed to be a representative democracy, where all Illinois residents from every House district are represented equally. Unfortunately, that is not the case in the Illinois House of Representatives.
Every two years, the people of Illinois elect representatives from 118 districts across the state to serve as their voice in Springfield. Once sworn in, these representatives have the opportunity to take two important votes.
The first is to elect a speaker of the House, which typically goes to the leader of the majority party.
The second important vote, which occurs two or three weeks later, is to adopt a set of procedural rules to govern the House for the subsequent two years.
For 32 of the last 34 years, those rules have been drafted in a manner that consolidates control with one individual – Speaker Michael Madigan – allowing him to circumvent our representative democracy and make the House subject to the power of one.
House Republicans respond to Attorney General Madigan’s motion to block state employee pay. At 7:30 PM on Thursday night, Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a motion in St. Clair County Circuit Court to stop state employee pay by the end of February. House Republicans were disappointed by her action and questioned the timing since a bipartisan solution is currently being negotiated.
Statements from members:
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin: “The timing of the Attorney General’s action is questionable in light of the current attempts to resolve the budget impasse. This decision clearly undermines the legislature’s duty to negotiate a bipartisan solution.”
Rep. Avery Bourne: “The recent court filing from Attorney General Lisa Madigan can only be described as putting politics over people. This politically-motivated action is the same kind of Chicago-style politics that the Madigans too often employ. At a meeting I attended just this morning, a comment was made that, ‘as soon as deals in Illinois are close to done, someone always tries to blow it up.’ While the Senate has been negotiating and making progress towards a bipartisan budget deal, Madigan chose to instead disrupt state employee pay in an attempt to force a shutdown of state government, crippling vital government services and endangering families who rely on them. Attorney General Lisa Madigan should immediately denounce these hardball political tactics and stand with state employees and those who rely on state services.”
Rep. Terri Bryant: “This interference by yet another Constitutional officer in the budget process is blatantly political and seeks to unnecessarily blow-up ongoing negotiations,” Bryant said. “The Senate went home this week following committee hearings on a possible budget deal to hear from their constituents. Pieces are starting to move to get to a compromise and a balanced budget. So, the timing of the Attorney General’s attempt to stop state employee paychecks is as dangerous as it is puzzling.”
Rep. Tim Butler: “This late-night move by the Attorney General is unconscionable. She has put tens of thousands of hard-working state employees and their families at risk by advocating in court that they not be paid for the work they perform. In the midst of ongoing, bipartisan negotiations in the State Senate to resolve this budget impasse, the Attorney General has decided to create chaos, instead of trying to support a compromise that is potentially in the works. I call on Attorney General Madigan to rescind her motion filed tonight”
Rep. Sara Jimenez: “In the midst of an unprecedented budget crisis, our state employees have continued to perform their work every day and have provided services to the people of Illinois while facing tremendous pressure and uncertainty. I am thankful that every state employee has continued to receive a paycheck throughout this impasse. It is extremely disappointing to hear that Attorney General Lisa Madigan is attempting to block state employee pay until a budget is finalized. We have seen tremendous progress in the last couple of weeks towards hopefully ending this stalemate. I am calling upon Attorney General Madigan to drop her efforts to block state employee pay and allow the members of the General Assembly to finish the work that the Senate has begun and negotiate a balanced budget that will get our state back on the right path.”