This Week in Illinois

TAXES

House Republicans: A tax increase is not necessary to achieve a balanced FY20 budget. Illinois House Republicans held a press conference Thursday at the Capitol to reiterate the message that a tax increase is not necessary to achieve a balanced Fiscal Year 2020 budget.

House Republicans presented a document detailing $2.6 billion more in revenue than the House working groups had previously planned for. These new revenues clearly demonstrate that the General Assembly can pass a balanced budget without raising taxes on Illinois families and businesses.

“We have the money to balance the budget with no new taxes or tax increases,” said House Republican Leader Jim Durkin.

“The important part here is we’re not presenting a plan and saying ‘take it or leave it,’” Deputy Republican Leader Tom Demmer said. “We’re saying there are new dollars that are on the table, that individual members have not yet been given the chance to weigh out. We believe their priorities should be heard.”

April revenue revisions by the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) and the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB) will allow budget working groups to start a second phase of negotiations. The realistic revenue options outlined below would allow appropriations committees to use an additional $2.642 billion in spending authority while maintaining a balanced budget.

Identified Revenue 

Income/Sales Tax Revisions

Refund Fund

MCO Assessment

Sports Wagering

Delinquent Tax Amnesty

Total

$845.0

$375.0

$1,035.0

$212.0

$175.0

$2,642.0

“These additional tax revenues have been verified by the governor’s budget office, the Department of Revenue and the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability,” Durkin said. “These numbers don’t come out of a Republican think tank.”

Durkin said the Republicans’ proposal shows that no new taxes are needed to balance the FY20 budget and Republicans should be playing a larger role in the budgeting process in general, as all four legislative leaders have not met with the governor on the budget since mid-April.

BUDGET

Cash flow from state income tax payments seen as good sign by global credit rating industry. One of the disincentives to businesses thinking about investing or creating jobs in Illinois is the fact that the State’s government has a subpar credit rating. A credit rating only one step above the “junk bond” level indicates a substantial possibility that the State will not be able to pay interest on the money it has borrowed to build roads, bridges, schools, and prisons.

Upon hearing a report from the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) that residents had paid $4 billion in income tax payments to Springfield in April 2019, New York-based credit rating analysts gave a thumbs-up to the news. The credit-rating industry continues to be aware of Illinois’ substantial existing debts and massive unfunded pension liability. For example, S&P Global Rating ranks Illinois general obligation debt as “BBB-minus,” only one step above junk, and this ranking did not change this week. While S&P analysts said some nice things about Illinois in response to the State’s budget news, the agency did not increase its rating of Illinois debt. The judgments of credit rating agencies about Illinois debt and pension obligations are a substantial element of Illinois’ overall policy picture.

CHICAGO

A.T. Kearney ranks Chicago as #8 city in world. The “Global Cities Index,” which ranked world cities by their influence in 2019, generated a list of 25 cities of global importance. Six American cities were numbered among the 25, including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Boston. Cities were ranked for their business activity, human capital, information-exchange capabilities, cultural experiences, and political engagement. 

With a worldwide ranking of #8 across these five indices, Chicago scored in between Singapore (#7) and Beijing (#9). Globally-known capital cities that were ranked lower than Chicago included well-known names such as Washington, Moscow, Berlin, Vienna, Amsterdam, and Buenos Aires. The three cities that were not capital cities and yet scored higher than Chicago were New York City (global #1), the business center Hong Kong, and the cultural mecca Los Angeles. 

CHILDREN

Study shows effects of intact-families priority at DCFS. The study by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago looked at Illinois child-abuse allegations and their follow-up, including cases where abuse was reported and DCFS chose to leave a child with his or her parents or guardians. In many cases, this decision is the right one; with help, a challenged family can re-knit itself together. In some cases, such as the recent case of A.J. Freund of Crystal Lake, this decision is the wrong one. The study found that DCFS routinely “puts parents first” even in cases where a child would be better off if removed from the home. This course of conduct can lead to oversight lapses that lead, in turn, to child fatalities.

In some cases, children left with their families by DCFS are placed in serious danger of harm or even death. Utilizing insights derived from “best practices” carried out by other child-welfare agencies throughout the United States, the Chapin Hall study urged DCFS to direct prioritized attention to children where there is the greatest risk of severe harm. In some cases, these “greatest risk” children, and their cases, are neglected in favor of the goal of keeping a family together. DCFS was pressured to work with courts and State’s Attorneys to refine legally defensible criteria for child removal in cases where a family is dangerously dysfunctional in various chronic and complex ways. The study was released on Wednesday, May 15.

DOWNSTATE

Wet weather delays Illinois crop planting. The heavy rainfall that has fallen over many sections of Illinois in spring 2019 has made it tough for farm machinery to get into the muddy fields. Farmers report high soil moisture levels and poor planting conditions. A period of temperate weather of approximately 10 days will be necessary to get corn and beans planted throughout the state.

A spokesperson for the office of the Illinois State Climatologist reports that the cumulative fall of rain and snow from May 1, 2018 through April 30, 2019, the most recent 12-month period, was the third-wettest in Illinois state history. Cumulative precipitation of this type not only fills up Illinois reservoirs and wetlands to overflowing, but also results in persistently muddy conditions as new rain cannot soak into the ground. Farmers are starting to worry about their crop prospects, as corn must be planted by the end of May in order to produce a good harvest. 

HIGHER EDUCATION

Southern Illinois University joins the Illinois Innovation Network. SIU Carbondale became the 15th hub in the Network, a broadband-linked lacework of think tanks where Illinois specialists in all professions can gather for research and development. The Illinois Innovation Network is the product of a four-year pattern of support from the General Assembly for a technology strategy set up to bring economic growth to all sections of Illinois.

People who can write electronic code and develop algorithm-based applications are creating jobs worldwide. In most cases, these people want to see and talk to the people they collaborate with. Silicon Valley and the growing high-tech industries of central-city Chicago are both areas that are witness to the red-hot growth enjoyed by places where innovative people can develop personal ties with their collaborators. The Illinois Innovation Network is set up to spread these growth opportunities to locations throughout Illinois, including Southern Illinois. SIU’s participation as a Network hub will concentrate on the four fields of food science, entrepreneurship, research, and manufacturing.

TRANSPORTATION

Gov. Pritzker, lawmakers unveil legislation to strengthen Scott’s Law, prevent roadway fatalities. In order to prevent more tragic losses of emergency responders and highway workers, Governor JB Pritzker and state lawmakers unveiled legislation Tuesday to strengthen Scott’s Law and understand how to better stop more senseless roadway fatalities.

“Scott’s Law says that drivers approaching a vehicle with their hazard lights on must slow down and move over. The legislation we’re announcing today enhances penalties for those who don’t obey the law and raises awareness for those who don’t even know Scott’s Law exists,”said Gov. JB Pritzker.”No one’s time or convenience is worth more than the lives of our state’s heroes.”

This year, Troopers Christopher Lambert, Brooke Jones-Story and Gerald Ellis paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the line of duty. The law was initially passed in memory of Lieutenant Scott Gillen.

The proposal is addressed with two separate pieces of legislation. The first, SB 1862, takes several steps to strengthen Scott’s Law:

  • Expands Scott’s Law protections to include a stationary authorized vehicle with oscillating lights, first responders, IDOT workers, law enforcement officers and any individual authorized to be on the highway within the scope of their employment or job duties;
  • Increases the minimum fine to $250 for a first violation of Scott’s Law and to $750 for a second or subsequent violation;
  • Adds $250 assessment fee for any violation of Scott’s Law to be deposited into a new dedicated fund to produce driver education materials, called the Scott’s Law Fund;
  • Increases criminal penalty to a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, if violation results in damage to another vehicle or a Class 4 felony, punishable by up to one to three years in prison, if violation results in an injury or death of another person;
  • Amends the Criminal Code of 2012 to include firefighter and emergency medical service personnel while acting within the scope of their official duties;
  • Adds aggravating factors to reckless homicide charges if Scott’s Law was violated;
  • Requires the Secretary of State to include written question on Scott’s Law in driver’s license test.

The second piece of legislation, SB 2038, creates a Move Over Task Force to study the issue of violations of Scott’s Law, disabled vehicle law, and stationary authorized emergency vehicle law, with attention to the causes of the violations and ways to protect law enforcement and emergency responders. Members of the Task Force must serve without compensation and must meet no fewer than three times. Additionally, the Task Force must present its report and recommendations to the General Assembly no later than January 1, 2020.

“This legislation is one way we’re working to protect the protectors,” said Rep. John Cabello. “Too many first responders have paid the ultimate price, and we are honoring their legacy by preventing even more tragic losses among our state’s heroes.”

The legislation will be introduced by Rep. Marcus C. Evans Jr. and Sen. Tony Munoz and will be co-sponsored by Sen. Neil Anderson and Reps. Tim Butler, John Cabello and Jay Hoffman.