In an effort to propel the state budget process forward, State Representative Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) sent a letter to Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Thursday calling on her to use the power of her office to force the Illinois General Assembly to adopt a revenue estimate prior to the filing and passage of any spending bills, in order to prevent further damage to the state’s finances and the many social service providers who serve the most vulnerable individuals and families across Illinois. Representative Wheeler’s letter to the Attorney General was co-signed by 39 other House Republican legislators.

In the letter, Representative Wheeler cites several prior court rulings and instances which set precedent for the Attorney General to intervene to ensure the Illinois Constitution is upheld. Both the Constitution and state law require the General Assembly to adopt a revenue estimate on which to base a balanced budget for the forthcoming fiscal year, an action which legislators have failed to take in either of the past two years and haven’t yet done for the coming fiscal year. Read more here.


Budget
Fresh thinking will fix Illinois. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno

For too long, Springfield politicians have been stuck in the past. They think the pressing issues of our day — large budget deficits, unfunded public pensions, and dangerously high out-migration — are similar to the ones Illinois has faced in eras past.

Have a problem? Look to the glory days of state government, they say. Just cut a little spending here and there, do a massive tax hike, and another short-term pension fix to top it off. Just remember to keep the overall system intact. They swear it’ll do the trick for a few years, maybe even a decade.
by House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno

For too long, Springfield politicians have been stuck in the past. They think the pressing issues of our day — large budget deficits, unfunded public pensions, and dangerously high out-migration — are similar to the ones Illinois has faced in eras past.

Have a problem? Look to the glory days of state government, they say. Just cut a little spending here and there, do a massive tax hike, and another short-term pension fix to top it off. Just remember to keep the overall system intact. They swear it’ll do the trick for a few years, maybe even a decade.

Current and former elected officials may deny it, but the old ways of doing business have been anything but glorious for the people of Illinois. For the past 15 years, state government has been operating with budgets in structural deficit. That’s 15 years of complete and total failure. Fifteen years of the General Assembly failing to meet its most basic constitutional obligation — to pass a balanced budget for the governor to sign into law. Read the rest of the editorial in SJ-R.
Though people often focus on unemployment rates as a measure of economic health, another telling data point is how many people are so discouraged with the job search that they're dropping out of the labor force altogether.

A newly released survey found good news: Fewer unemployed Americans are giving up looking for work. But that's not the case in Illinois, where more people seem to be throwing up their hands.

A survey conducted by Harris Poll for Express Employment Professionals, a staffing agency, in March and April found 44 percent of jobless people in Illinois said they had completely given up looking for a job. That's worse than the 41 percent who said the same last year and the 33 percent who said so in 2015. Read more.
For a good time — come to Illinois.

People are getting that message and responding by coming to Illinois in record numbers.

Politics aside, and even that can be quite entertaining at times, the state has a lot going for it. There’s a lot to see and do from South Beloit all the way down to Cairo and from Chicago to Galena. It’s a big state with nearly 13 million people who know how to have — and host — a good time.

Read the editorial in the Rockford Register Star.

Governor Bruce Rauner announced today that Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R- Western Springs) have filed legislation that will direct all future property tax receipts from the redevelopment of the James R. Thompson Center (JRTC) to Chicago Public Schools. The bill numbers are SB2209 and HB4044.

"The JRTC is sucking up valuable space, time, and money," Governor Rauner said. "No one likes working here. It's expensive to maintain and it's a drain on taxpayer resources. The legislation introduced today gives us yet another reason to move swiftly in selling this building. Every day of delay just postpones Chicago's ability to earn millions in property taxes."
State Rep. Avery Bourne today released the following statement on school funding reform upon the House's return to Springfield for the final month of the spring legislative session:

For years, multiple legislative commissions and committees have studied the obvious inequities of Illinois’ school funding system. As it stands now, Illinois has the most inequitable school funding system in the nation. That means students are essentially forced to play a zip code lottery that will determine whether they learn in classrooms equipped with an iPad per student or one where students share decades old textbooks. This is a challenge we need to tackle as the legislature, and there is bipartisan agreement that it must happen soon. Read more.

K-12 schools and state universities need a state budget.

Social service providers need a state budget.

The most vulnerable individuals and families across Illinois need a state budget.

State government in Illinois is financially adrift because the General Assembly hasn’t stepped up to lead and make the tough decisions to work through a budget. By law we are required to begin by adopting a revenue estimate. I have filed legislation to do just that.

Why is it so important that we adopt a revenue estimate? There are three reasons:
  1. The revenue estimate is the actual first step in our budgeting process. How do we know how much each appropriations committee has to allocate for their assigned departments and agencies if we don’t start with the Revenue Estimate?
  2. The revenue estimate is required by state law and the Illinois Constitution. Just look it up. We have to do it. If we appropriate funds without a revenue estimate, we are, in effect, breaking the law.
  3. The revenue estimate is an important form of taxpayer protection. If we skip the revenue estimate and just appropriate according to our wishes and the requests of the departments and agencies of state government, we will likely spend too much, which will trigger a tax increase.
Read the remainder of opinion piece by Rep. Keith Wheeler.
Budget – Thompson Center
Selling the JRTC a win-win for Illinois taxpayers and Chicago schools. Governor Bruce Rauner announced today that Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin have filed legislation that will direct all future property tax receipts from the redevelopment of the James R. Thompson Center (JRTC) to Chicago Public Schools. The bill numbers are SB 2209 and HB 4044.
As the acting director of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, I lead the catch-all agency charged with everything from managing our state's property and vehicles to our state employee benefits and personnel systems. Under that purview falls the management of the James R. Thompson Center, the state's main office building in Chicago. For months, we've been working cooperatively with the city of Chicago and other major stakeholders refining a plan to divest the state of the property in a manner that maximizes the benefit to the people of Illinois.

The time is right to turn this property into an asset for everyone. Read the entire commentary by Michael Hoffman, acting director of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services.

With the success of the inaugural Veterans Honor Flight of southern Illinois, the Illinois House of Representatives declared April 25th Veterans Honor Flight Day for the state of Illinois.

Representative Dave Severin of the 117th District introduced the resolution. More here.


Graphic from Ilinois.gov
May is Motorcycle Awareness Month in Illinois, but really the campaign could extend to every month where there’s enough decent weather for enthusiasts to get their motors running and head out on our scenic highways.

Already this season we’ve reported on one serious motorcycle accident — an early April collision at the intersection of Route 23 and U.S. 34 south of Leland in which a car failed to yield while turning left, pulling into the path of a motorcycle about 10:30 p.m. — and next week a county resident will be sentenced for his role in a fatal crash from October. Read more.
Lawmakers and environmentalists from parts of Illinois that rely on groundwater want tougher monitoring of porous rock quarries that are being "reclaimed" by filling them with construction waste, saying they want to regulate them to make sure drinking water doesn't become contaminated with toxins.

On the other side are road builders, engineers and others in the construction business, who argue that Illinois has sufficient quarry regulations and additional testing would be too expensive.

The proposed rules appear stymied this spring. But Attorney General Lisa Madigan is in court, trying to force previously dismissed groundwater monitoring on the quarries. She argued in a state appellate court brief that testing underground aquifers is necessary to protect drinking water "from the ongoing threat posed by the placement of unchecked materials ... directly into the water table."

Pro-monitoring forces use Flint, Michigan, as a worst-case scenario, where river water was not treated to reduce corrosion for 18 months, leading lead to leach from old pipes and fixtures.

"That's the danger," said Rep. Margo McDermed, a Republican from limestone-rich Will County who is sponsoring legislation requiring groundwater monitoring around quarry receptacles. "That's the concern of everyone who uses water nearby quarries: that we could be in a situation like that." Read more.