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We understand state employees have questions on how their benefits will be impacted as the state budget is no longer in place beginning July 1. The following Q&As were designed to help answer any questions you may have.

Employee Benefits

Q.  Will an employee's health, dental or life insurance be affected?
A.  No. Group insurance coverage during a budget situation will not be impacted. If paychecks are delayed, and as long as the employee continues to work and earn a paycheck, insurance premiums will be taken accordingly. The missed payroll deductions will be taken once paychecks are issued.

Q.  What will happen to an employee's contributions to any flexible spending accounts (i.e., MCAP, DCAP) during the budget situation?
A.
Ø  Employees enrolled in MCAP will not be impacted. ConnectYourCare debit cards will continue to work. If the employee continues to work and earn a paycheck, deductions should be taken accordingly. If MCAP deductions are missed, they must be made up when the budget situation is resolved.
Ø  Employees enrolled in DCAP may be impacted as reimbursements are limited to the available account balance contained in their DCAP account. If the employee continues to work and earn a paycheck, and once all payroll deductions are deposited into the DCAP account, reimbursements can be made for eligible expenses up to the available account balance.

Q.  What will happen to an employee's Commuter Savings Program benefit?
A.  Employees enrolled in the Commuter Savings Program will continue to receive the benefit under this program. Employees will owe any underpaid amount upon their return to payroll.
State Representative Bob Pritchard (R- Sycamore) was recognized as 'Legislator of the Year' by the Illinois Association of Fire Protection Districts.

Along with State Senator Linda Holmes (D-Aurora), Representative Pritchard was honored at the annual IAFPD conference this past weekend in Peoria. Both will have their names engraved on a patio brick at the Illinois Firefighter Memorial near the state capitol. This is the second time in his 12 years in office that Representative Pritchard has been selected to receive this honor. 

"It is a privilege to sponsor legislation that enhances and benefits firefighters and fire protection districts," Representative Pritchard said. "I take the safety and priority of our firemen and first responders very seriously and as such I consider IAFPD to be an important legislative partner. I will continue to collaborate with IAFPD on legislation that assists our Illinois fire services and their abilities to protect citizens."

The Illinois Association of Fire Protection Districts represents over 650 fire districts throughout Illinois. Every year the IAFPD honors a legislator who has supported fire service legislation and promoted the interests of fire service personnel. The award is named for Representative Don Moffitt (R- Galesburg), chairman of the fire services caucus. 
Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to bob@pritchardstaterep.com

June 29, 2015
In This Issue:
  Ø  Government Shutdown Imminent
  Ø  Public Private Partnership Bill Passes
  Ø  Fire Districts Honor Legislators
  Ø  Governor Vetoes All But One Budget Bill
  Ø  Poker Run Bill Rides to Governor

Government Shutdown Imminent
Without a state budget for FY2016, many state operations will be required to shut down on Wednesday as the new year begins.  The courts have ruled that the Comptroller cannot pay any new bills if the money has not been appropriated.  Among those programs that will continue are essential services like state police, some prison operations, federally funded programs, court ordered payments and programs funded by continuing appropriations.  
While the state budget for K-12 education has been approved, money to operate the State Board of Education which oversees many school functions has no budget.  State workers may choose to continue working with no assurance they will be paid on time, meanwhile many non-profits and other businesses, without a state contract, have no assurance they will ever be paid.
I’ve been asking a lot of people how they think a shutdown of state government will affect them.  Representative Tom Demmer and I asked the question of those at our first ‘Discussion over Coffee’ last Saturday in DeKalb as well.
Obviously some rely very little upon state programs and don’t think they will be affected.  Perhaps the major impact will be upon their friends or neighbors.  For other individuals and non-profits who rely on government funded programs the answer is much different.  One person I visited with uses subsidized child care for her children so she can work.  In the future she must choose between missing work and perhaps losing her job, or finding someone she can afford to pay just to watch her children. 
Still others who work to deliver state programs anticipate being laid off until their employer gets a new state contract.  Higher education employees may not be affected because the college or university has sources of funding other than the state to carry them for awhile. 
Going without pay will present immediate hardships for people with mortgages and those living paycheck to paycheck.  Such uncertainty affects the emotions and mental health of families.  The delay in a state contract can tip a business just on the financial edge to have to close.
I clearly understand that closing down state government has serious consequences so I will continue urging the legislative leaders to work with the Governor to reach a compromise; and quickly.  Meanwhile we can all look out for those affected directly by the shutdown and offer whatever help we can; even a word of encouragement and prayers will help.

Public Private Partnership Bill Passes
This past Tuesday the House debated and passed a bill that creates a public private partnership to encourage economic growth and innovation.  I discussed the concept advanced by the Governor in last week’s newsletter, but HB574 sponsored by Speaker Madigan added eight amendments.
The amendments could not be considered improvements and were anything but friendly to the concept.  Amendment nine ends the program in three years which sends a clear message about the state’s lack of commitment to the concept and is hardly enough time for such a partnership to produce many results.

Fire Districts Honor Legislators
The Illinois Association of Fire Protection Districts honored two legislators Saturday for their sponsorship of legislation important to its members.  Senator Linda Holmes (D-Aurora) and myself were selected “Legislators of the Year” and will have a patio brick at the Illinois Firefighter Memorial by the capitol engraved in our honor. 
Charles Vaughn, IAFPD Lobbyist, Senator Holmes, and Representative Pritchard
This is the second time in my 12 years in the House that I’ve has been honored by the Fire Association as Legislator of the Year.  The Association represents over 650 fire districts throughout the state and offers training, counsel, and other services to fire district trustees and chiefs.

Governor Vetoes All But One Budget Bill
Governor Rauner vetoed 19 of the 20 budget bills last Thursday, approving only the Elementary and Secondary Education budget.  He explained his decision in a Chicago Tribune op-ed which can be read here.  
The education budget (HB3763) funds $6.9 billion for K-12 education which is about $300 million higher than the previous year and a number that closely resembles the level recommended by Governor Rauner.  The bill also funds the Teacher Retirement System and Teacher Retirement Insurance Program, and makes a contribution toward the Chicago Teacher Pension System. 
The state has underfunded its contribution to school districts for years now, but this move does increase the funding level from an average 89 percent of the legislature’s goal per student to 92 percent.

Poker Run Bill Rides to Governor
HB 3538 will help to smooth the licensing approval process for this popular fundraising tool throughout suburban and downstate Illinois.  The bill was approved by both chambers last week and now heads to the Governor.
Current law creates local snags in the ordinances that groups use to win licenses to carry out these popular fundraising activities, and HB 3538 pushes to streamline these snags by placing poker run licenses in the hands of Illinois county boards other than Cook County.  The bill also clarifies that all bona fide nonprofit groups are eligible to seek to operate a poker run. 
Poker runs are activities, usually one day long, in which a group of people make an event of traveling from place to place and playing a game at each location.  At the end of the poker run, the players concentrate at a finish line and play out the game, and prizes are awarded.  Under the provisions of HB3538, the poker run must be set up so as to raise money for a needy person, a good cause, or the financial survival and stability of the group sponsoring the run.  Many motorcyclists and biker groups carry out poker runs.
 
I had the privilege of participating in the Relay for Life of DeKalb County over the weekend and especially enjoyed this message by one of the teams.  These relays sponsored by the American Cancer Society seek to honor cancer survivors, remember those who have lost the battle, and contribute funds for researching a cure for cancer. 


Bob
The Governor signed signed House Bill 3763 today making appropriations for education funding and the teachers retirement system. The budget bill, one of many sent to the Governor, increases General State aid by $244 million and early education funding by $25 million. The school funding proration rate is up from 89% to 92%.

"I want to commend the Governor on his willingness to work with the majority party in developing a responsible budget." Representative Pritchard said. "I’m glad to see that the Governor has made education an important part of his agenda. By signing this bill increasing the education proration rate we’re seeing that in action. With the budget battle going on in Springfield I am glad that this investment in our children’s future will be out of the crossfire and that our schools will open on time. Now is the time for Speaker Madigan and his fellow Democrats to come back to the table and help break the current stalemate. I’m confident if both sides continue to be willing to negotiate and meet each other halfway we can find a solution that protects our most vulnerable while keeping in mind the fiscal realities of this state."  

Taken together, the budget bills amount to an almost $4 billion dollar over appropriation of state resources. The governor has said he will not sign the whole budget as it is unreasonable and grossly overspends what the state has to work with. 

For more information click here.


Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to bob@pritchardstaterep.com

June 22, 2015
In This Issue:
  Ø  Join in Discussion Over Coffee
  Ø  Getting more Aggressive in Job Attraction
  Ø  Comptroller’s Office Sets Example
  Ø  A History of Innovation in our Area
  Ø  Some of the Budget Bills Sent To Governor
  Ø  Auditor General Stepping Down
  Ø  Pipeline Company Supports Education, Responders

Join in Discussion Over Coffee
        This Saturday I will be holding the first of several morning discussions about state issues, the budget and topics important to you.  Representative Tom Demmer will be joining me on June 27 at the Lincoln Inn, DeKalb.  I hope you will join us at 9 a.m. for coffee and a lively interaction.  We’ll also be taking questions from you and look forward to hearing your concerns.
This is the first of several gatherings planned for the next several weeks around the district.  Other discussions will be held in Campton Hills, Garden Prairie, and Kirkland.  I will keep you posted as the dates approach, but be sure to check my website and Facebook for frequent updates.

Getting more Aggressive in Job Attraction
       Last week the House held its third Committee of the Whole this year to hear details about Governor Rauner’s initiative to encourage growth and innovation through the creation of a public- private partnership.  Eleven states as well as counties like DeKalb, DuPage, Lake and Will have successfully used such partnerships to attract and work with businesses for job growth and investment in their areas. 
       As an example, job creation in Ohio lagged behind Illinois until they formed a private nonprofit corporation.  Now job creation exceeds Illinois’ effort by 40 percent and new company capital investment in 2014 increased $6.1 billion over 2013 levels.
       The Governor’s proposal would create a corporation governed by a board of directors who are appointed by the Governor and legislative leaders.  The corporation would be funded by Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) grants and private tax-deductible donations.  It would focus on business development, small and minority business incubation, trade and investment, and tourism and film production-- activities currently managed by DCEO.
      DCEO Director Jim Schulz testified that red tape, mandates, and bureaucracy have contributed to the state’s lack of success in attracting jobs compared to other states.  He said Illinois ranks as an “F” in small business friendliness.
      Negotiations between the Governor and Speaker Madigan’s office have addressed concerns about the organizations created in other states.  This new more nimble entity would be subject to appropriate oversight and audits, freedom of information requests, ethical constraints, and final approval on all projects from the director of the DCEO.

Comptroller’s Office Sets Example

        People who are skeptical that government can significantly improve efficiency or cut costs should listen to Comptroller Leslie Munger.  I heard her speak in Kane County last week about the great strides her office has made in just six months to become more efficient and reduce costs.  

The Comptroller said she has cut 10 percent from an operations budget that was already as low as in 1998, combined divisions within the office, and cross trained some staff to provide more streamlined services.  Staffing is at the lowest level in modern times according to the Comptroller who is putting to work her experience as a business executive.

          What was most exciting about her comments was the goal she has to upgrade the state’s computer system and reduce the number of financial accounts and incompatible computer systems.  Munger spoke about the inefficiency in managing over 800 different financial accounts and how unacceptable it was to have 263 computer financial reporting systems that lack the ability to interact. 
Overhauling the financial reporting system state-wide is estimated to save $300 to $500 million per year according to the Comptroller who added the new system will be phased in over the next five years.  Munger added the executive branch is attempting to replicate these improvements and similar accomplishments in other agencies and services in order to cut state spending and the need to raise taxes.  
         
A History of Innovation in our Area
The DeKalb Area Agriculture Historical Association (DAAHA) is serving a wonderful purpose of remembering past innovations in our area and challenging citizens to continue the tradition.  The group unveiled its latest historic sign in Sycamore on June 13 at the site of the Marsh Harvester Manufacturing plant-- what is now the home of Blumen Gardens. 
The sign approved by the state Historical society tells about the significance of the Marsh Harvester in 1858 and how the Marsh Harvester works was Sycamore's first major industry.  The company helped install the city’s first water system to help control fire at the plant according to Sycamore Mayor Ken Mundy.
The Marsh reaper-combined the process of cutting and binding the stalks of small grains, and greatly reduced the number of workers needed.  The machine was quickly adopted by farmers during the Civil War when labor was scarce because men were off fighting the war.
DAAHA has erected four signs so far in tribute to the innovation of local residents.  From the Marsh Harvester to barbed wire, pasteurized milk, seed drying, hybrid corn and the county Extension Advisor, people in this region have demonstrated their creativity and willingness to try something new. 
Innovation and education go hand-in-hand.  Not only is cultivating the creative mind in our schools and universities important but also teaching the skills necessary for work.  I believe we can’t forget the importance of such programs in our middle and high schools to serve the needs of all our students.

Some of the Budget Bills Sent to Governor
The 18 budget bills that passed the General Assembly in May are finally being sent to the Governor.  Late last week, two of the bills from each chamber were sent to his office; more are expected to be sent this week.  The Governor has stated that an unbalanced budget is unacceptable and he will veto these bills.
The Governor continues to hold out hope that some agreement can be met by the beginning of the budget year on July 1st.  Speaker Madigan, on the other hand, continues to resist any compromise with the Governor and appears ready to shutdown state government.

Auditor General Stepping Down
Bill Holland, Illinois Auditor General since 1992, is retiring at the end of this year after nearly 23 years on the job.  Last Wednesday he sent a letter to the four legislative leaders announcing his intent to leave his office effective December 31st. He has done an excellent job in his tenure handling it with complete professionalism and uncovering serious errors in government spending.

Pipeline Company Supports Education, Responders
I had a chance last week to witness check presentations by the oil transportation company Enbridge to two local organizations.  One $5,000 check was presented to Kishwaukee Community College President Tom Choice for scholarships in engineering, welding, and other related fields.  Another check in the same amount was given to Chief Chad Connell and the Kirkland fire department for their costs in responding to the tornado on February 9.
John Gauderman (center) and Kish College officials
The checks were presented by John Gauderman, the Chicago region manager for Enbridge.  The company transports 70 percent of the oil in the Midwest and their pipeline in western DeKalb County has the potential to carry 1.2 million barrels per day.
Kirkland Fire Department officials receive help with expenses
Here’s hoping you have a dry and a productive week.

Bob
The area’s two State Representatives invite residents to an informal discussion over coffee on Saturday June 27 at the Lincoln Inn in DeKalb. Tom Demmer (R- Dixon) and Bob Pritchard (R-Sycamore) will be discussing the spring legislative session, the 2016 budget, and other issues facing the community and the state. The representatives also want to hear the ideas and concerns of residents on issues directly impacting them. 





Where: The Lincoln Inn Restaurant, 240 E Lincoln Hwy, DeKalb

When: Saturday June 27 at 9am

On Saturday the DeKalb Area Agriculture Historical Association as they unveiled a new historic sign in Sycamore at the former site of Marsh Harvester manufacturing, now the Blumen Gardens site. The Marsh Harvester Manufacturing Company was Sycamore's first major industry.

Read more about the marker and the association here.