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

February 20th, 2018
In This Issue:
·         We Can’t Ignore Budget Pressures
·         Economic Forecast Finds Bright Spots
·         Another Tragedy as NIU Remembers
·         Free Testing for High School Students
·         Go Red For Women
·         Legionnaire’s Disease Uncontrolled
·         Planning for Art Contest

We Can’t Ignore Budget Pressures
If you were following the news about the Governor’s proposed FY2019 budget last week, you probably heard any number of legislators and citizens criticize the Governor’s plan.  It seems a majority of my colleagues are content to keep spending the way we have, ignoring ways to stimulate the economy and accepting the out-migration of college students and taxpayers.

Anyone in business, a non-profit organization or financially responsible household knows they have to set priorities, control spending and grow revenue to achieve a balanced budget.  Why not state government?

The Governor laid out his spending priorities, presented 19 structural reforms to change the status quo and proposed a path to restart Illinois’ powerful economic engine.  He pointed out the reasons he sees for our state lagging behind our neighbors in job growth, economic activity, growing population and increased worker pay.  You can read the full text of the Governor’s Budget Address here.

Now it’s the legislature’s turn to weigh-in on these issues, debate ways to growth the economy and revenue, and control spending.  Normally this debate occurs in April and May.  We cannot allow politics and the pressure of fall elections to delay passing a budget, making tough spending choices, and addressing reforms to stimulate economic growth.  These goals should be bipartisan objectives.

Governor Rauner stated that reforms must begin with pensions and state employee healthcare.  More money was spent for these items than on education last year.  The Governor proposed having school districts and state universities pay more of their teachers’ pension costs, in an attempt to connect who sets the salaries with pension liability.

The new state school funding formula adjusts how much state support a district receives based on its needs (adequacy target) and local resources.  It envisioned that schools would eventually be given responsibility for the pension cost. 

As your state representative, I will be engaged in the debate over pension cost shifts, equitable health care benefits, a capital bill and funding important state services.  Share your ideas with me.

Economic Forecast Finds Bright Spots
Despite the gloom that many businesses and individuals feel about Illinois right now, Moody’s Analytics found positives in their latest financial report.  The company released an economic forecast for the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) last week that concluded the passage of a state budget for 2018 has already helped the economy.  

For the first time in two years, no metro area in Illinois has been in a recession based on the state’s employment, factory output, homebuilding, and house prices according to the report.  Reliable employment growth is expected, especially in the areas of finance, professional and business services. 

Tourism will continue to be a big positive draw for our state’s economy, and in this area, Illinois actually exceeds the national level.  Service based industries of education and healthcare are especially important to the long term economic stability of downstate Illinois.  These sectors will continue to drive economic gains and are vital to future success.  Another positive point made in the report involves Northern Illinois.  This area remains the nation’s rail hub and will continue to benefit from this due to growth of online sales and increased transportation demand.

Nevertheless, the report noted that economic performance in Illinois still lags behind the rest of the country and especially the Midwest.  Illinois must get control of its spending and address population declines.  Illinois has declined in population for the fourth consecutive year, which goes against the national trend where states are annually gaining residents.  The state must overcome its political disagreements, pass a budget this year and be more competitive.

Ten years ago on this date, a tragic event occurred on the campus of Northern Illinois University. By today’s standards, it was a time of innocence and the event created shock. The tragic loss of 5 lives was international news; today such events with the loss of far more lives are all too common.

While NIU had an emergency plan, it had not been tested. Yet campus and city police, county sheriff department staff, fire and emergency medical responders reacted in a coordinated fashion. Kishwaukee Hospital nurses, doctors, and other medical personnel who were not scheduled for duty on that day rushed to the hospital to help as soon as they heard of the tragedy.

Hospital staff were nearly overwhelmed by the crush of family members, classmates, and news media seeking information, yet they managed to serve everyone’s interests with compassion and professionalism.

Those who responded, according to DeKalb Deputy Fire Chief Jeff McMaster “Went through all the stages of grieving: disbelief, bartering, denial, anger.”

Faced with the worst tragedy in NIU’s history, President John Peters was adamant from the outset that “NIU will not be defined by this tragedy.” And it hasn’t been. Over the past decade, NIU has turned its focus from questioning how and why something so terrible could happen, to affirming the importance of living bravely and meaningfully- and recognizing the power of love. We have moved Forward Together Forward.

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

February 5th, 2018
In This Issue:
·         Slow Progress on Extra Funding for Education
·         Governor Outlines Actions to Restore Citizen Confidence
·         Call for Companies to Share Tax Savings
·         Comptroller Impressed with the DeKalb Library
·         Adult Redeploy Program Changes Cycle of Crime
·         Pension Debt Payment Proposal Receives Scrutiny

Slow Progress on Extra Funding for Education
The legislature took action last week to remove one more barrier to releasing $350 million in new funding for the state’s K-12 education system.  However, the State Board of Education (ISBE) is still reviewing data from school districts that will determine how new money will flow to the districts.  ISBE estimates they will have accurate numbers in another month or two and can then start releasing the extra funding.
The General Assembly took action last week to over-ride the Governor’s veto of SB444 which corrected some errors in the new school funding reform bill.  The corrections were passed overwhelmingly by both chambers in November but the Governor vetoed the bill in an effort to make more private schools eligible for the new student scholarship program.  
The Governor’s office reached a solution with ISBE to allow private schools to be eligible for the program as soon as they met certain qualifications instead of having to wait a year.  Some legislators tried to say the Governor’s action slowed release of the new funding.  In a committee hearing on Monday, ISBE stated the delay was because of their due-diligence of school data and not the veto of SB444.  
I urge the approximately 97 school districts who are the subject of the review and ISBE to complete this review quickly.  School districts across the state are counting on the extra funding to improve the equity and adequacy of state funding for education.

Governor Outlines Actions To Restore Citizen Confidence
The Governor’s annual State of the State Address received the usual partisan criticism but it offered plenty of ideas to restore citizen confidence and stem the outmigration from our state.  It remains to be seen if Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton (shown in the background) will accept the olive branch or continue the government stalemate. 
Governor Rauner cited the great assets and resilience of Illinois as building blocks to find future success for our state.  Part of believing in our state’s potential is restoring the public’s trust in Illinois government.   He noted several reforms that he believes are necessary to help improve citizen confidence in government. 
Among the reasons people and businesses are leaving the state, according to the Governor, are high property taxes.  He called for reforms in the assessment process, the right of residents to have a referendum for lowering taxes, and, I might add, increased funding for education that would relieve the property taxpayers’ burden of paying a state obligation.
Another reason to invest in education according to the Governor was to stimulate our state’s economy.  Investing in education and entrepreneurship can help keep Illinois businesses thriving, creating jobs and give our students and our state the means to compete.  
Perhaps the most important part of the Governor’s speech was when he promised to submit a balanced budget proposal later this month.  A balanced budget would involve cutting spending, getting our pension payments under control, reducing prison costs, streamlining government with technology, and working to eliminate fraud.  He noted that $450 million of taxpayer dollars were saved this year due to the increased investigation into Medicaid fraud.  
The Governor acknowledged the challenges in this election year of working with the legislature to create the environment that attracts and keeps jobs, grows the economy, and yields personal income growth which will bring success to our state.  He said, however, that it’s time to do what the people of Illinois want. You can read the full speech here.

Call for Companies to Share Tax Savings
The Illinois Attorney General believes that with the passage of the new federal tax plan, companies-- especially public utilities-- should share tax savings with consumers.  The tax rate for corporations dropped with the new tax law from 35 to 21 percent.
Because these companies are saving more money with the lower tax rate, the amount they charge customers—since it includes federal taxes—should be decreased.  The Illinois Commerce Commission is in charge of regulating public utilities, and they have ordered 22 companies to reduce their rates.  ComEd is currently seeking approval to pass along approximately $200 million in tax savings through rate cuts to its customers in 2018.