Week in Review for 1/6/14 – 1/10/14

Governor’s budget projection forecasts increased deficits, bill backlog.  The Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB) is required by P.A. 96-1354 to annually file a three year budget projection which forecasts expected general funds revenues and expenditures based on current statutes.  The projections also include expected bill backlogs for each of the coming fiscal years.

GOMB recently filed the 3 year budget projection covering FY15-FY17 and an Economic and Fiscal Report providing context for the numbers.  As can be expected, the phase down of the income tax increase has a drastic, but not unanticipated, impact on revenue and past due liabilities.  The 3 year projection estimates that the old bill backlog at the end of FY17 will surpass $16.2 billion – nearly 50% of all general funds revenue available for the year.      

Based on current law (tax increase expires, no fiscal policy or program changes), GOMB is projecting a $1.9 billion deficit in FY15, a $4.1 billion deficit in FY16 and a $4.6 billion deficit by FY17.  The Governor’s projections clearly demonstrate that without serious cuts in spending, the State will have to choose between higher taxes or ballooning deficits.

More information on GOMB’s three year budget projection and Economic and Fiscal Policy Report may be found at http://www2.illinois.gov/gov/budget/Pages/PolicyReports.aspx.

Guns – Concealed Carry
State Police approve more than 13,000 concealed carry applications.  The Illinois State Police announced Tuesday that it had completed the initial approval of more than 13,000 concealed carry applications.

On Sunday, January 5, the first day most people could apply electronically for concealed carry licenses, 4,525 applications were filed.  Nearly 7,000 applications were from people who were allowed to apply early in December, including firearms instructors and applicants who submitted electronic fingerprints with their applications.  Applications continue to pour in via the State Police’s website and as of Tuesday, a total of 15,539 applications had been received.

Upon initial approval by the State Police, the applications must then be reviewed by local sheriffs’ and police departments, state’s attorneys and the Attorney General’s office, all of which have the power to object to a license being issued.  To ensure that applications are not denied unjustly, a seven-member Firearm Concealed Carry Licensing Board will review objections raised by law enforcement.  The State Police has 120 days from the time it receives an application to issue a license.

For more information on concealed carry, including how to apply for a license, please visit the State Police’s concealed carry website.

Guns – Chicago 
Federal judge shoots down Chicago’s ban on retail gun shops.  A federal judge on Monday stripped away a key element of Chicago’s gun ordinance, ruling that it is unconstitutional to prohibit licensed gun stores from operating within the city.

U.S. District Judge Edmond E. Chang wrote that Chicago’s 2010 ordinance banning gun sales within city limits “goes too far in outright banning legal buyers and legal dealers from engaging in lawful acquisitions and lawful sales of firearms.”  The judge said the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms for self-defense “must also include the right to acquire a firearm.”

The judge stayed the ruling, however, in order to give the city a chance to respond.  On Thursday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that Chicago will not fight the federal court ruling.  Instead, the city will ask the judge to let them spend the next six months coming up with rules restricting where gun stores could open.

Auditor General reports five state pension funds owed $100.5 billion.  According to figures provided by the retirement systems, the cumulative unfunded actuarial accrued liability for the five State-financed retirement systems as of June 30, 2013 was $100.5 billion when using the “smoothed” valuation of assets.  The unfunded actuarial accrued liability increased $5.9 billion (6.3%) during FY13 when using this method.

Pursuant to P.A. 96-43, during FY09 the State changed from valuing retirement system assets for actuarial purposes from market value for the calculation of annual required contributions to a methodology which “smoothes” actuarial gains or losses incurred during a fiscal year in equal amounts over a five-year period, beginning with the year the gains or losses were first incurred.  When using the market value of assets, the unfunded accrued liability increased $668 million (0.7%) during FY13.

Wednesday’s report by Auditor General Holland does not take the recently-passed pension reform law into consideration, due to the fact that the report uses older numbers.  For more information, please visit the Auditor General’s website.

Lawmakers call for legislation, potential investigation on troubled IDOC employee.  A group of Illinois Republican lawmakers are taking action in the wake of the recent investigative report detailing the troubling situation surrounding the high-paid corrections employee with a history of gang membership and falsified job qualifications spanning multiple state agencies.  The trio, including State Rep. Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst), State Rep. John Anthony (R-Morris) and State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton), is seeking a legislative remedy for the future and a potential investigation into the apparent gross lapses in employment standards within the Illinois Department of Corrections.

“There’s been a clear breakdown in the system involving in what at best could be described as incompetence and at worst as the clout induced, high cost shuffling of an unqualified, former gang member,” stated Rep. Reboletti.  “This situation is appalling at so many levels, but the one I’m most concerned with is the threat to public safety imposed by a former gang member working on the inside of the Illinois Department of Corrections.  While I believe the situation in its entirety must be examined, this in particular must be addressed immediately.”

For more on this story, please visit The Caucus Blog, the official blog of the Illinois House Republican Caucus.

FEMA denies Illinois’ request for aid to tornado-impacted local governments.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has denied a request for aid to local governments in Illinois after deadly tornadoes swept the state in November.  While the federal government has approved millions of dollars to date of aid to help people and businesses recover, Thursday’s decision denies aid to local governments in impacted communities throughout Illinois.  Governor Quinn announced the State will appeal the decision within 30 days to FEMA.

On December 19, Governor Quinn requested federal aid for local governments in Champaign, Douglas, Grundy, Massac, Tazewell, Vermilion, Washington, Wayne and Woodford counties. That request included documentation of tornado-related expenses, such as emergency protective measures, debris removal and repair or replacement of government-owned facilities incurred by the nine counties and the state.

Those costs, which totaled more than $6.1 million, were compiled by a joint damage assessment conducted by FEMA and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) in early December. That total is short of the federal threshold for Illinois of $17.8 million, which is based on the state’s population multiplied by $1.35. This calculation hurts the chances of aid for geographically large states with large urban centers like Illinois.

Tough Times for Working Families
Illinois predicted to be 50th in job growth in 2014.  The same group that says the State of Illinois’ credit rating is the worst in the nation now predicts Illinois will create the fewest jobs in the nation in 2014.  Moody’s Analytics puts Illinois in dead last for job creation this year, predicting the state’s payroll job numbers will only grow 0.98 percent, an increase of only 57,000 jobs.  More on this story from the Illinois Policy Institute.

Illinois lags in population growth among Midwest states.  The U.S. Census Bureau in December 2013 released its annual population estimates for the period from April 1, 2010, to July 1, 2013.  Among the Midwest states, only Michigan and Ohio posted poorer population growth than Illinois during the period.  Perhaps that’s to be expected for a state that closed 2013 with the nation’s fourth-worst unemployment rate.  For much of the time measured here, Illinois had the second-highest unemployment rate of any state.  More on this story from Reboot Illinois.

Illinois 2nd highest out-migration state in 2013.  Illinois ranked as the second-highest state in out-migration in 2013, according to United Van Lines’ Annual Migration Study. Illinois held steady at the number two spot after falling from the top spot in 2011.

State Representative Bill Mitchell (R-Forsyth) wants Illinois to address the ongoing exodus of families to states with better job climates.

“Illinois continues to see a flood of working families and jobs going to states with pro-growth, pro-jobs policies in place,” Mitchell said. “Unfortunately, our state is struggling with high taxes, high unemployment and record debt. We’ve got to put on the brakes and stop driving jobs out of Illinois. We need to fundamentally change our jobs and tax policies in Springfield if we’re going to turn things around and get Illinois working again.”