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, 2018
My Final Perspective
In This Issue:
  • Appointment to NIU Board of Trustees 
    Internet Sales Now Taxed 
  • Reducing Reliance on Property Taxes 
  • $16 million in grants will help agriculture 
  • Adoption Tax Credit Offered 
  • Discovery Partners Institute Unveiled 
  • Attention to Sexual Abuse in Schools 
  • Solving the Public Pension Crisis 
  • Fire Marshall Must Now Inspect 
  • Advice for Renewing or Obtaining a License 
Appointment to NIU Board of Trustees


As you may have heard by now, I am resigning my position as State Representative on July 1. I had planned to finish the term in the 100th General Assembly, but was recently appointed by Governor Bruce Rauner to the Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees. That appointment, also effective on July 1, prompted my early resignation from the legislature. Therefore, this issue of the Pritchard Perspective will be my last.

I want to express my appreciation for the opportunity to serve as a Representative for the 70th district over the past 15 years, and for the opportunity to get to know the people of this region. I gained great satisfaction helping constituents and advocating for this region of our state.

Throughout my time in Springfield, I have worked in a bipartisan manner on legislation that made significant strides to improve our state. From changing our school funding formula to passing legislation that will help attract students to our institutions of higher education here in Illinois, I am proud of the work that was accomplished on behalf of all our residents.

While I close this chapter of my service to our community and state, I look forward to continuing to serve the region and working for education in a different capacity. The future of Illinois is in our innovation, skilled workforce and making the state attractive to employers, and this truly starts with education. If we can start there, we can continue to rebuild Illinois and achieve our dreams.


Bob and Mary thank you for your friendship and look forward to continue working for Illinois

Internet Sales Now Taxed 

The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned an earlier ruling (Quill vs North Dakota) and now allows states to charge sales tax on internet purchases. The Illinois legislature anticipated this ruling and passed rules with the FY 2019 budget to impose a 6.25 percent sales tax on internet companies with more than $100,000 in sales to Illinois residents.

As online shopping has grown in recent years, on-line retailers without a physical presence in Illinois had a price advantage over retailers with a “brick and mortar” store. States, counties and municipalities also were losing billions of dollars annually in potential sales tax revenue.

For Illinois, the fiscal impact of this decision will be an estimated $200 million in additional sales tax revenue for the year.

Reducing Reliance on Property Taxes
The new education funding formula has included a property tax reform options to replace local property tax dollars with state dollars. With the $350 million in additional funding for education in the FY2019 budget, $300 million goes to districts through the new, equitable formula and $50 million goes to the Property Tax Relief Fund that was created to help low-property wealth, high-tax communities.

Illinois contributes the smallest share of education funding of any state and therefore has the greatest dependence on property taxes to fund education. Reversing the inequity in Illinois' school funding system will take time, but reducing the reliance on property taxes to fund education is the right step forward. The property tax relief pool fund comes into effect this year and school districts can apply for grants that compensate them for reductions in their property tax levy and the amount of dollars they receive from real estate owners.

The goal of the Property Tax Relief Fund--along with additional state funding for education--is to start moving districts away from relying on property taxes to fund their schools.

To ensure that education is adequately funded and that districts can lower their property taxes, the state must continue to appropriate adequate funding for both the Evidence Based Funding formula and Property Tax Relief Fund.

Developing a more equitable formula that directs dollars to the least well-funded districts was a first step towards improving this system. For more details on how the property tax relief fund will work, check out the full brief here.

$16 Million in Grants Will Help Agriculture
Gov. Bruce Rauner announced last week the release of $16 million in agriculture grants. The funds being released from the FY2018 budget will fund soil & water districts, county fairs and agriculture societies, and the University of Illinois Extension services.

Soil and Water Conservation Districts, which protect our state’s farmland through strategic conservation efforts, will receive $6 million. The Department will be issuing more than $61,000 to each of the 97 districts to help fund operations.

More than $54,000 will be sent to each of the 92 county fairs across the state. This will mainly be dedicated to helping operations at the fairs and may be used to support critical facility rehabilitation needs. A study from the University of Illinois shows county fairs generate more than $90 million annually and create more than 1,000 jobs each summer.

Approximately 1.5 million Illinois residents take part in programs offered by University of Illinois Extension each year targeting all ages. Extension provides educational assistance in the areas of energy and environmental stewardship, food safety and security, economic development and workforce preparedness, family health, financial security and wellness, and youth development. The Department of Agriculture will disperse $5 million dollars to assist the organization with its core mission.

Adoption Tax Credit Offered 

Governor Rauner visited Children’s Home and Aid of Rockford, a leading child and family service agency, to promote the new adoption tax credit that was included in this year’s state budget. The credit will help make it easier for families who want to adopt children to navigate the often costly and difficult process.
The new adoption tax credit, based on the existing federal tax credit, offers up to $5,000 for a couple who is adopting a child at least one-year-old who resides in Illinois. Other adoption situations will qualify for up to a $2,000 credit.

The adoption tax credit was part of the larger budget negotiations that led to the passage of a balanced budget. The Governor hopes to expand this credit in the future to encourage even more families adopt children and youth.

Discovery Partners Institute Unveiled
I recently attended a ceremony detailing plans for the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) in Chicago to accelerate Illinois’ prowess for technology and innovation. The project was appropriated $500 million in the FY2019 State budget.

Governor Rauner speaking at the event, said the institute will be led by the University of Illinois System and be the centerpiece of the Illinois Innovation Network (IIN). The network, which includes Northern Illinois University, will be a system of research centers across the state tailored to meet the needs of individual regions and grow their economies.

During the news conference, U of I System President Tim Killeen announced the system is providing $6 million over the next four years to support start-up efforts. He also introduced OSF Healthcare as the first corporate partner and the first international academic partner from Israel. Northwestern University and the University of Chicago are also collaborators.


Governor Rauner speaks about his dream to create an innovation center in Illinois 

The goal is to have private sector sources match the state level of funding given to the project. DPI is expected to be an economic engine that will fuel job creation here in Illinois.

According to Killeen, DPI will initially be home to about a hundred world-class researchers and top faculty from across the U of I System. They will work with thousands of students every year, countless businesses--both large and small--and with entrepreneurs and investors to spur enterprise creation in Illinois.

Attention to Sexual Abuse in Schools
Last week I attended a joint hearing of House and Senate lawmakers investigating sexual abuse of students within Chicago Public Schools (CPS). While the Chicago media have focused on the problem in our state’s largest school system, it is a situation in many districts that must be stopped.

The hearing raised numerous important questions that must be asked at school board meetings in all our districts:

1. Do school districts train staff on mandatory reporting duties of abuse?

2. Are the best practices of children’s advocacy centers being used in responding to victims?

3. Do school districts have policies about handling reported sexual abuse and holding people accountable?

4. Do all employees receive background checks?

5. Should districts be required to share information about abusers with future employers?


Laura Farr, Doug Henning, Matt Lyons, and Jadine Chou represented CPS at the hearing but failed to explain why the school and its staff didn’t respond properly to abuse. 

There will be additional committee hearings in downstate Illinois this summer as part of the continuing investigation into sexual abuse. Several bills have been introduced in the legislature as well to respond to the situation. One of them, HB5923, will give the State Superintendent of Education the authority to initiate a suspension or revoke a license of any educator who fails to report an instance of child abuse or neglect. Those who work in our schools are ‘mandatory reporters,’ when they see or hear of cases of assault or abuse.

Solving the Public Pension Crisis
One of my regrets as I leave the legislature is that we haven’t adequately dealt with the public pension system crisis. Due in large part to past legislative actions, the five major public pension systems are underfunded by nearly $130 billion. Continuing with the current payment policies is unsustainable.

The legislature has created a pension payment ramp that grows each year until reaching 90 percent funding by the year 2045. To continue with this ramp using current revenue projections, the legislature will need to cut public services each year and will not be able to provide additional funding for education. Those annual cuts grow from a little over $2 billion in FY2019 to $11 billion in 2045 according to the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability (CTBA).

A rational way to solve the funding problem, avoid devastating cuts in services and escape further tax increases would be to re-amortize pension debt. I heard a presentation on such a plan this week that makes a lot of sense; I urge the legislature to consider it and other policy groups to add their comments.

The plan includes a two-step ramp that gets to 70 percent funding (nearly double the current level) by 2045 and then to 90 percent funding. The first ramp would require issuing pension bonds totaling $11.2 billion over 6 years and making nearly equal annual pension payments of under $12 billion.

As a result of this re-amortization, taxpayers would save an estimated $67 billion through 2045 according to CTBA. We would avoid service cuts and pension cost shifts to public schools, colleges and universities. And we would shift to a sustainable pension payment ramp that should be agreeable to the bond rating services. Action must be taken soon--yet in the 100th General Assembly—for a sustainable fiscal policy.

Fire Marshall Must Now Inspect
I was successful in passing HB 5551 this spring and Governor Rauner signed it into law on June 22. This bill requires the State Fire Marshal to again provide necessary fire inspection for Community-Integrated Living Arrangements (CILAs) so they can comply with licensing requirements.

Legislation last year omitted the responsibility for the Fire Marshall to provide the inspection and local fire departments were not able to provide the inspection. As a result, new CILAs could not be licensed or operate. It’s a great satisfaction to see the situation corrected.

Advice for Renewing or Obtaining a License
My office frequently gets complaints from residents about delays in receiving government licenses. We find that state licensing agencies are under staffed and there are too many licenses that have to be renewed at the same time.

One case in point is the Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card. Nearly 50,000 cards expire and need to be renewed in June and July. Renewal applications require computerized background checks of state and federal databases before the new card can be mailed out so the process takes time.

The spike in FOID card renewals is connected to a change in the FOID law that occurred ten years ago. Effective on June 1, 2008, the maximum lifespan of an Illinois FOID card was increased from five years to 10 years. Many applicants took advantage in the summer of 2008 to get the new, longer-term cards, and it is those cards from 10 years ago that are expiring now.

Residents are advised to not wait to renew or apply for a license. Apply on-line, if possible, and at least two months before you will need the license. You will have less frustration and get your license when you need it.

I wish you a wonderful summer and look forward to seeing you in my new role. You can continue to reach me at 815-761-4058 or bobpritchard5@frontier.com 

-Bob
State Representative Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley), who has served for 15 years in the Illinois House of Representatives, officially announced today that he will be stepping down from his seat on July 1. The Representative had planned to finish his term in the 100th General Assembly, but was recently appointed by Governor Bruce Rauner to the Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees. That appointment, also effective on July 1, prompted his early resignation from the legislature.

Pritchard serves portions of DeKalb, Kane, and Boone Counties as a strong advocate for education, economic growth, and fiscal responsibility. Throughout his tenure he has been known as an expert on education related matters. He was Republican Spokesperson on House education committees and was a member of the Governor’s Education Reform Commission, which produced the historic K-12 school funding reform agreement to adequately and equitably fund education throughout Illinois.

“I want to express my appreciation for the opportunity to serve as a Representative for the 70th district, and for the opportunity to get to know the people of this region,” said Pritchard. “I gained great satisfaction helping constituents and advocating for this region of our state.”

The Representative encouraged civic involvement and enjoyed hosting advisory councils, writing legislative update newsletters and meeting with constituents. Pritchard hosted an art contest for middle school students, a youth summer reading program, a high school advisory council to help students understand state government and express their views, and a health fair of services for senior citizens.

“Throughout my time in Springfield, I have worked on legislation that made significant strides to improve our state. From changing our school funding formula to passing legislation that will help attract students to our institutions of higher education here in Illinois, I am proud of the work that was accomplished on behalf of all our residents. While I close this chapter of serving in the General Assembly, I look forward to continuing to serve the region and working for education in a different capacity. The future of Illinois is in our innovation, skilled workforce and infrastructure, and this truly starts with education. If we can start there, we can continue to rebuild Illinois and achieve our dreams.”

Pritchard and his wife Mary, a Professor and Associate Dean Emerita at NIU, have two sons and 4 grandchildren. They will celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary this September. His private sector careers involved various facets of agribusiness. He grew up on a farm near Maple Park and continues to manage and operate the farm business with his son.
Representative Pritchard is pictured above with his son Greg.


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 4, 2018 

In This Issue:
  • What’s in the New State Budget 
  • IDOT’s Infrastructure Plan Announced 
  • More than a Hundred Bills Debated 
  • First Wave of Help for Higher Education 
  • New Laws Take Effect 
  • Time for Kids to Start Summer Reading 
  • College Trustees Association Gives Awards
What’s in the New State Budget

By now you have probably read several stories with highlights of the bipartisan state budget that Governor Rauner signed Monday morning. I’d like to walk you a little “deeper into the weeds” of the 1246-page document so you can appreciate the significance of the compromises that were made.

First, the General Revenue was estimated to be $600 million higher than a few months ago based on more current numbers. Income tax refunds are less than anticipated, state investment returns are higher than expected, and the sale of the Thompson Center in Chicago has finally been authorized by the legislature so sale negotiations can begin in earnest.

Second, pension reforms were included that will reduce the state’s pension obligations by $445 million. Inactive Tier 1 employees will be offered a lump sum payment to buy-out their pension. This is similar to a plan implemented in Missouri. Other Tier 1 employees will be offered a lump sum payment for converting their 3 percent compounding annual cost of living adjustment to a 1.5 percent simple interest cost of living adjustment. Finally, end-of-career salary adjustments for employees in education will be lowered from 6 percent per year to 3 percent to be more reflective of the cost of living index.

The FY2019 spending plan cuts some $1.2 billion from the FY2018 budget and reduces or eliminates nearly a dozen pieces of legislation that would have authorized more than $500 million in new spending. Education was clearly prioritized in the budget—both K-12 as well as higher education—and there is funding for capital projects as proposed by the Governor including re-appropriations for unfinished projects in the 2009 Jobs Now program.

Authorization was given to pay $1.3 billion in bills primarily from FY2017 and back pay for some union workers. These actions will not increase the amount of unpaid bills and will give the Comptroller authority to pay more of the old bills.

I will continue the discussion about the budget in future issues of the newsletter and invite your questions and comments.

IDOT’s Infrastructure Plan Announced
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has unveiled its plan to invest $11.05 billion in the state’s roads and bridges over the next six years, including $2.2 billion of state and federal funding in the upcoming fiscal year. The austere Multi-Year Proposed Highway Improvement Program will focus on projects that provide the greatest economic benefit to communities and take advantage of long-term strategies that save money over time.

Based on current funding levels, the FY2019-2024 Proposed Highway Improvement Program aims to improve a total of 1,945 miles of road and 525 bridges maintained by the state.

More Than a Hundred Bills Debated

Before breaking for the summer, the legislature debated what seemed like an endless stream of bills. Here are some of the more noteworthy bills that received approval.

SB2858: An innovative proposal from the State’s Treasurer to use idle funds to pay old bills and reduce interest paid by the state. The Treasurer could use up to $2 billion dollars in available funds that normally earn 3.5 percent interest annually to pay off old bills earning a prompt payment penalty rate of 9 or 12 percent interest.

SB3604: Limits severance pay for public and university officials to no more than 20 weeks of compensation. The bill responds to a number of cases in the last few years where government boards provided generous employment packages, lavish spending, and lucrative severance agreements.

SB337: One of many bills presented to regulate gun sales, this bill encourages better business practices among gun dealers, shares license information with the State Police, requires a security plan, and requires one unannounced visit to retail stores by State Police or other law enforcement.

HB4290: Appropriates back pay totaling $63,225,750 for some state workers according to their contract and as ordered by the courts.

SB2332: Raises the age for sale of tobacco products, electronic cigarettes, and alternative nicotine products from 18 to 21 years, and eliminates the prohibition and penalties for minors possessing tobacco products.

SJRCA4: A Constitutional Amendment that provides equality of rights will not be denied by the United States or any state on account of sex. This action makes Illinois the 37th state to ratify the Amendment.

SB3052: In construction contracts, a retainage of 10 percent of the payment may be withheld from the contractor until half the work is complete. After that time, the amount of retainage may not exceed 5 percent.

SB2939: Amends the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy Law to allow IMSA to accept freshman and up to a quarter of its students from out of state locations. It can charge non-Illinois resident students room, board, tuition and fees.

SB486: Establishes a new assessment process for commercial solar energy systems located outside of Cook County for assessment years 2018-2033.

SB2562: Allows law enforcement to use drones for security and safety reasons at events of more than 10,000 people. The drone cannot be equipped with tear gas canisters, stun gun technology, or facial recognition software.

SB2892: Sets an increasing minimum pay for teachers over five years until it reaches $40,000. This is thought to help alleviate the current teacher shortage facing many rural Illinois schools.

SB3536: Provides for an alternative license for early childhood education teachers to help alleviate the teacher shortage.

HR1098: Creates a Task Force to audit every school’s compliance with teaching African American history in grades K-12.

HB5344: Requires the Department of Veterans' Affairs to establish a field office in each of the 177 Legislative Districts.

SB3049: Requires the Department of Healthcare and Family Services to reimburse certain healthcare providers for mental health services to recipients via telehealth. Requires the Department to reimburse any Medicaid certified eligible facility or provider organization that acts as the location of the patient at the time a telehealth service is rendered, including substance abuse centers.