Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
April 3, 2017
In This Issue:
- Crafting a Budget
- Illinois Comeback Agenda Announced
- Keys to Job Growth
- Illinois Celebrates Agriculture Day
- Recognizing Outstanding Educators
- Legislation to Watch
- More Citizens Engaged in Policy Debate
Crafting a Budget
Budgeting in its simplest definition prioritizes how to spend available revenue. In the absence of any real activity by the legislature to craft a state budget, it’s interesting to read the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) three-year budget forecast released recently. COGFA is required by law to release budgets for the next three years using the best projections and noting opportunities and threats to those projections. You can find the report (Here).
Since the state has not had a budget in two years, COGFA had to use a type of forensic accounting on past general revenue and expenditure funds to produce the estimates. The Commission based general fund revenue at $30.2 billion in FY2017 and only expects it to grow to $32.7 billion by FY2020 based on minimal growth to the economy and employment.
Balancing those revenue projections, COGFA pegged FY2017 spending at $39 billion based on the Governor’s five-year budget forecast. The overspending of available revenue can be seen in the growth of unpaid bills—currently at $12 billion– interest charged to those unpaid bills of $397 million, and bills from providers that are being held by agencies since they don’t have spending authority.
COGFA then laid out six spending scenarios for the next three years that range from a 14 percent reduction—in order to essentially eliminate the unpaid bills– to a 5.1 percent annual growth in spending that has been typical over the past 20 years.
The Commission’s scenarios point to the obvious conclusion that paying our backlog of bills and crafting a balanced budget requires more revenue. According to COGFA, the legislature could choose to expand the number of sales taxes; increase tax rates; make policy reforms that would stimulate economic growth in years to come; or a combination of these choices.
Based on the last two years’ experience and current budget negotiations, it would appear the legislature is headed toward making none of these choices. It now looks to me that the only way the legislature will pass a balanced budget for FY2018 is if there is a significant shut-down of government and massive citizen uprising—or divine intervention.
Illinois Comeback Agenda Announced
House and Senate Democrats held a press conference last week to layout their plans to move the state forward and counter the Governor’s reform agenda. Their initiative includes five components: the budget, limiting the influence of money in politics, job creation, education and improving community health and safety.
A main priority of the plan focuses on amending the state constitution to allow a graduated income tax. The legislature must approve the amendment by a three-fifths vote–which requires bipartisan support–and then submit it to voters perhaps by the November 2018 election.
Other portions of the Democratic agenda call for limiting large campaign contributions, removing politics from drawing legislative boundaries, and curbing tax breaks for corporations that move jobs out-of-state. Also in the plan is raising the minimum wage, reversing cuts to child care programs, protecting children brought into this country from deportation regardless of immigration status, and ending the requirement of cash bond that can keep low-income people in custody awaiting court action.
As the Governor has found over the past two years, it’s difficult to negotiate and compromise if the other side doesn’t engage. I view the Comeback Agenda as a step toward negotiations to fix the fiscal crisis ruining our state and so many of our institutions and organizations.
Keys to Job Growth
The Illinois Manufacturers’ Association commented on employment data last week showing that Illinois has only created a net 100 jobs since September 2000. This equates to an average of just six new jobs per year in Illinois over the last 17 years.
In contrast, our neighboring states have added an average of 115,250 jobs since 2000. Missouri led the way with 134,400 new jobs followed by Wisconsin with 116,300, Indiana with 110,600 and Iowa with 99,700.
The U.S. Department of Labor reported in February that Illinois had finally surpassed the number of total non-farm jobs held in 2000. While this total jobs number may be seen as a bright spot, the state’s population grew by more than 400,000 residents during that same time period and manufacturers shed 309,000 jobs.
The manufacturing group reiterated its key tenets for moving Illinois forward and regaining economic competitiveness with the rest of the country. They call on policymakers to create fiscal stability, reform pensions, strengthen the education and workforce system, enact economic development reforms, and rewrite the tax code that reduces the high cost of property taxes.
Illinois Celebrates Agriculture Day
Last Thursday was Agriculture Day in Springfield when the various segments of the industry assembled to share information about their contribution to the Illinois economy. Youth who are studying agricultural science in high school helped assemble and deliver baskets of various agricultural products to legislators.
Dean of the College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) at the University of Illinois Kim Kidwell shared some of the exciting research work at her college that will improve human health as well as the abundance of jobs available to ACES graduates.
Members of the Grange from Boone and DeKalb Counties also stopped by to highlight how farmers and agribusinesses are critical to the life of rural communities and generate $19 billion annually for the state economy.
Recognizing Outstanding Educators
The Illinois Association of Colleges for Teacher Education recognized a number of beginning teachers last week and two have ties to my district. Northern Illinois University (NIU) graduate Ashley Van Sickle, Rockford, and Rochelle native Riley Hintzsche, Streator, were among those selected for Outstanding Teacher Awards.
Van Sickle teaches fifth grade at Rock Cut Elementary School, Loves Park. Now in her third year of teaching, Ashley was recognized for her creativity and energy in the classroom, which helps her students stay engaged while learning.
Riley Hintzsche is a graduate of Western Illinois University and a second year teacher of agricultural education at Streator High School. Riley engages students not only in the classroom but also in supervised career projects, skills contests and leadership development. He utilizes the skills he learned in state and national FFA competition while at Rochelle High School.
Teachers learn the fundamentals in a good college program but it is the creativity, passion and continual professional development that helps them engage and lead students to grow in their education.
Legislation to Watch
Debate continued last week on hundreds of bills in the House; some passing out of committee before the Friday deadline while others passing out of the House. Here is a sampling of bills headed to the Senate:
HB155 amends the property tax code to provide that applications for judgement and order of sales for taxes and special assessments shall be made by May 1 of the next calendar year.
HB 1811 renews the Interpreter for the Deaf Licensure Act for 10 years. This Act sets qualifications, education, training and experience for those who want to practice interpreting for the deaf or hard of hearing.
HB2470 makes it easier for experienced individuals in certain technical fields like auto and diesel mechanics, auto body repair, and welding to obtain career and technical education teaching licenses.
HB2570 provides that families of Illinois National Guard members who have died while on active duty or during training shall be presented with the state flag of Illinois.
HB3130 amends the Pesticide Act to allow product and business registrations for 2 years and reduces the penalty for late registration.
HB3213 increases the eligibility for child care assistance to families continuing their education and training to improve their job skills.
HB3359 provides that if a tenant does not pay the rent due within the time stated in a specified notice, the landlord may consider the lease ended and commence an eviction action without further notice.
The following are a few of the bills passing out of committee that were hotly opposed by the business community:
HB647 requires employers to make accommodations for employees covered by orders of protection including changing contact information, work location, restructuring job functions and screening phone calls.
HB198 would gradually increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022. To compensate for the economic impact on employers, the bill includes a tax credit for businesses with less than 50 employees but does nothing to offset the higher costs for other businesses and organizations.
HB2771 requires all employers to offer full- and part-time employees a minimum of 5 paid days of leave for illness or to care for a family member. The construction industry, schools, parks and some Chicago agencies are excluded from the requirement.
More Citizens Engaged in Policy Debate
I appreciate a break in the long legislative sessions to meet with individuals and groups visiting Springfield and hear their comments about the bills being debated. This week I met nursing students from Northern Illinois University (NIU) who were concerned about nurse licensure reciprocity agreements with other states among other issues like funding for higher education.
Have a great week and call me in Springfield to share your opinions or if I can be of assistance.