Pritchard's Perspective for June 4th

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

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.

First Wave of Help for Higher Education

Concerned with the higher cost of attending Illinois universities and nearly half of the high school graduates going on to universities in other states, legislators have proposed several new programs and funding to bring stability. As I have reported in earlier Perspectives, a bipartisan bicameral group met for months and interviewed every public university in Illinois for solutions.

As we discussed the issues and possible legislation, we found low hanging fruit and other ideas that would take longer. Three bills were passed this spring and another two are waiting for approval this fall. The group intends to work over the summer on other ideas.

Perhaps the biggest help the legislature offered was an on-time budget with more money for university operations. The state has defunded higher education over the past 18 years forcing institutions to raise tuition and creating uncertainty for students. Another bill (SB2927) creates the AIM High scholarship program where public universities match $25 million in state funding to offer merit based scholarships to qualifying students.

Colleges and universities can also promote 4-year monetary assistance (MAP grants) to low-income students (HB5020). With these two programs, recruitment and admissions staff have tools to combat the aggressive recruitment from out-of-state universities.

Another bill (SB2354) removes the cap on university financial help for students, and provides for advising to help students transfer between institutions. If community college students transfer to a university, this bill also provides a pathway to get an associate’s degree once enough credits have been earned.

As I end my legislative service, I’m most proud of the game changing legislation in education over the past two years. First, the legislature passed the Evidence Based Funding Model for K-12 schools; and now significant help for higher education. Students should take a second look at the variety of quality institutions of higher education in Illinois. We can now be cost competitive with other states as well.

New Laws Take Effective

34 new laws took effect on June 1st. You can click here to view the entire list.

Time for Kids to Start Summer Reading
With most regular school classes recessed for the summer, elementary students should be encouraged to set a schedule for reading each week. Local library programs make reading fun and I sponsor a party at the end of summer to recognize those who have read eight or more books.

Research shows that reading over the summer helps students retain what they have learned and continue to improve their academic skills. You can find a brochure with more information and guidelines for my party here.

College Trustees Association Gives Awards
The Illinois Community College Trustees Association (ICCTA) honored a number of individuals at their annual banquet in Springfield over the weekend. Several Kishwaukee College (KC) trustees and President Laurie Borowicz were on hand to see Everett Westmeyer recognized as KC’s outstanding full-time faculty member. Cynthia Prendergast was recognized as KC’s outstanding part-time faculty member and Cindy McCluskey received the Professional Board Staff Member Award.

Among the legislators honored, I received the ICCTA’s highest award for service to the entire Illinois community college system during my career as a legislator.

Attending the banquet from Kishwaukee College were: (Top row left) Bob Johnson, Kate & Everett Westmeyer, Bob Pritchard, and Laurie Borowicz. Also: (Bottom left) Kathy Spears, Bob Hammon, Bobbi Burke and Mary Pritchard

Have a great week and call my District Office to share your opinions or if I can be of assistance.


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