Week in Review for 1/5/15 – 1/9/15

Comptroller – appointment
Leslie Geissler Munger’s appointment announced by Bruce Rauner.  A Chicago business executive, Munger will be named by Governor-elect Bruce Rauner to serve as Comptroller, filling the vacant office left behind by the late elected Comptroller Judy Barr Topinka. Governor-Elect Rauner announced the pending appointment on Monday.

Munger, 58, has extensive executive-level business experience working for Helene Curtis/Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, and McKinsey & Company in a wide range of consulting, staff recruiting, training, brand management, and category management capacities. She has significant ties with the Illinois House Republican Caucus, having served as our 2014 candidate in Representative District 59 to represent her neighbors in north suburban Lincolnshire. Her campaign platform closely matched the successful platform of Governor-elect Bruce Rauner, calling for a comprehensive change in the public-sector policies of Illinois to re-orient the State towards job growth and development.

The Illinois Comptroller is in charge of the “cash flow” of the State of Illinois, supervising the rationing and allocation of Illinois’ general revenue cash funds to meet the obligations of the State. Munger has announced she plans to run for retention as Comptroller in a special election scheduled for November 2016 (see below).

General Assembly – special session; constitutional questions
Special sessions held on Wednesday, January 8.  The majority party in the Illinois House and Senate enacted language in special session to shorten the term of the Comptroller-designee Leslie Geissler Munger by a full two years. HB 4576, which creates an unprecedented special election for this office in November 2016, was met with opposition by Republicans citing constitutional issues with the initiative as well as the procedural maneuvers used to expedite the legislation.

The special sessions were called by outgoing Gov. Quinn and Democratic leaders for the specific purpose of enacting HB 4576 . After the bill was passed, the lame-duck 98th General Assembly adjourned only to convene once again this coming Wednesday.

Constitutional questions raised by majority party action.  The Illinois Constitution specifically sets the years Illinois statewide officials run in Article V, Section 2 of the Constitution, coinciding with nonpresidential years. Transcripts of debates in the constitutional convention clarify this timing was specifically designated.

However, HB 4576 moves on from the state Constitution and creates a new process, not aligned with the four-year cycle explicitly set up in Article V, Section 2, for filling statewide office vacancies. The bill applies to all statewide elected offices, not just the Comptroller vacancy, and no language exists within the Constitution that authorized this move by the General Assembly.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and his Republican colleagues took action to file HJRCA 1 (3rd Special Session) to open the door for the voters of Illinois to create this authorization in future years through a constitutionally correct procedure. The legislation was not considered.

Comptroller-Treasurer merger
New calls for merging offices of Comptroller, Treasurer.  The complicated and ugly circumstances involved in replacing late Comptroller Judy Barr Topinka has raised anew the desirability of looking at reducing the overall State budget and headcount of statewide elected officials. This could be done by merging the offices of Illinois Comptroller and Illinois Treasurer. Comptroller Topinka had been an advocate for this move. She supported measures in the outgoing 98th General Assembly such as HJRCA 44, sponsored by House Republican Representative Adam Brown, to merge these two offices.

With the coming of the 99th General Assembly, measures like HJRCA 44 are likely to reappear and be re-filed as new constitutional amendments. Watch the “Week in Review” and our sister publication, “In the Know,” for more information on how Illinois Republicans are fighting to merge these two offices, reduce the complexity of Illinois state government, and conserve scarce taxpayer resources.

General Assembly – inauguration
Plans for inauguration finalized; 99th General Assembly welcomes new members, including 12 new additions to the House Republican Caucus.  All the House Republican members, new and returning, will be sworn in at the Illinois House inauguration ceremony to be held at the Public Affairs Center/Sangamon Auditorium on the campus of the University of Illinois at Springfield (UIS) on Wednesday, January 14. A map of the UIS campus and the location of the auditorium can be found here.

The new and returning members of the Illinois House are all of the men and women chosen by the voters in the November 2014 election to represent their neighbors and constituents. Under the 2010 census, each Illinois House district must contain approximately 108,734 residents.

Listed by their district numbers, the twelve House Republicans who have joined or will be joining our Caucus since the adjournment of the 2014 spring session are: District 37 – Margo McDermed of Mokena; District 41 – Grant Wehrli of Naperville; District 45 – Christine Winger of Wood Dale; District 48 – Peter Breen of Lombard; District 50 – Keith Wheeler of Oswego; District 61 – Sheri Jesiel of Winthrop Harbor; District 65 – Steven Andersson of Geneva; District 94 – Randy Frese of Quincy; District 97 – Mark Batinick of Plainfield; District 106 – Thomas Bennett of Gibson City; District 110 – Reggie Phillips of Arthur; and District 115 – Terri Bryant of Murphysboro.

As the 2015 spring session moves forward, if you live in these and other districts represented by House Republicans you will be hearing more about how they are fighting to improve Illinois governmental productivity and work with the new Rauner administration to get Illinois moving again.

Governor-elect Bruce Rauner 
Governor-elect completes plans for inaugural ceremony.  The new Governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, will be sworn in on Monday, January 12. This will be the first inauguration without the traditional inaugural ball, which will be replaced by an Inauguration concert that evening. The concert will be headlined by Toby Keith, and opened by two of our own House Republican musicmakers Chad Hays and Mike Tryon. The inauguration website describes the many events that will be held in coordination with Rauner’s arrival into office.

After the oath of office, Rauner will face the tremendous challenges borne by Illinois and its people. Illinois’ jobless rate remained at recession levels (6.4 percent) in the most recent unemployment report, released December 18 for the month of November 2014. Faster economic growth in states comparable to, or bordering, Illinois points out the consequences of many of the mistaken policy decisions made by Illinois’ outgoing administration, and creates hope for significant changes in the way Illinois’ public sector performs the people’s work in the Prairie State.

DCFS scandal
Key State Department to get new director.  The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has come under sharp fire from advocates and the press, including the “Chicago Tribune,” after revelations in Chicago’s largest newspaper made clear that several State-supervised facilities that are supposed to provide residential care and shelter to wards of the State and other juvenile residents are not safe places. A series of investigative articles in the “Tribune” detailed charges of disorder, including abuse of child residents and juvenile residents by both residential personnel and other juvenile residents. In some cases, the newspaper found, this abuse has extended to include cases of assault, sexual assault, juvenile pimping, juvenile prostitution, and other serious and high-level felony criminal offenses.

After the December 2014 revelations were published, the Illinois House took action. A key House committee met on Wednesday, January 7 in Chicago to hear witnesses and look further into the allegations. Deputy Republican Leader Patti Bellock expressed strong concerns in the hearing about the severity of the allegations. Current DCFS director Bobbie Gregg testified to the hearing and announced her approaching departure from her position, effective January 19. Governor-elect Bruce Rauner will have the right to appoint a new Director of the troubled department. The “Chicago Tribune” describes the hearing and Gregg departure from office.

Budget – Tribune
“Chicago Tribune” describes $12.7 billion budget hole facing incoming Rauner administration. Part of the ongoing fiscal challenges faced by the State of Illinois can be found in the so-called ‘structural deficit,” the ever-growing gap between the expected general revenues of Illinois and the ongoing costs of the fiscal commitments borne by the State. Another, related part focuses specifically on the State’s Fiscal Year 2015 and the failure of the General Assembly, in spring 2014, to enact a balanced budget as constitutionally required by law.

The majority-party lawmakers systematically underestimated the State’s spending commitments in the year that will end on June 30, 2015. Even after doing this, their expected revenues still fell short, so they put together a jerry-built program in which different spending lines of the State’s government were asked to borrow from each other. Meanwhile, unpaid bills piled up to a level exceeding $6 billion dollars.

The “Tribune’s” feature story details some of the results of these policies. Unpaid bills, the debts created by the interfund borrowing program, and other fiscal pressures and unmet commitments are combining to create a fiscal hole of more than $12.7 billion that faces incoming Governor Bruce Rauner. Similar holes are likely to exist in Fiscal Year 2016 and all future fiscal years unless actions are taken.

CGFA budget/revenue report
General Assembly fiscal watchdog finds slow growth in State revenues, major impact from changes in State income tax rates. The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA) is the General Assembly’s economic think tank. In findings posted this week, CGFA found that State revenues for the first six months of FY15 the period ending December 31, 2014 – show mixed results compared to receipts during the same time period during the previous year.

Through the first half of FY15, base revenues are down by $380 million compared to the same time period in FY14. Much of this decrease was expected due to a change in the transfer from the Income Tax Refund Fund, which pays State income tax refund checks to taxpayers, to GRF. A decrease in federal funds is also reflected in the overall numbers, but federal funds are expected to rebound as spending is more focused on matchable expenditures.

Personal income taxes and sales tax receipts have shown positive gains. Through the first six months of FY15, net personal income tax receipts are up by $229 million. Over this same time period, sales tax receipts are above FY14 levels by $241 million.

Net corporate income tax receipts are down through the first half of the fiscal year by $197 million. Transfers are down by $378 million, mostly due to the change in the Refund Fund transfer and also a $30 million reduction in the Riverboat transfer. Federal sources have declined by $402 million.

Beginning on January 1st, 2015, the personal income tax rate has statutorily phased down to 3.75% from 5% and the corporate income tax has phased down from 7% to 5.25%. This change was included as a variable in setting the FY15 revenue estimate. Due to this phase down, a direct comparison to receipts received in the previous year will still show month over month changes in terms of pure dollars, but will not prove to be as useful of a measure of economic strength.

State police – non-legal Illinois residents
Outgoing Gov. Quinn takes action in favor of non-legal Illinois residents. Based on the current state of federal law, many residents of the 50 states – including Illinois – are persons who are not citizens and do not have U.S. residency rights and permits.

Traditionally, one of the ways of enforcing U.S. immigration law is to ask our police forces to be on the lookout for persons who lack citizenship/residency identification. Many persons are detained on this basis by the U.S. Border Patrol, especially close to our nation’s borders; but these policies have also been carried out, for many years, by law enforcement throughout the United States. However, the departing governor has issued Executive Order 15-02, a new policy published on Monday, January 5 that provides that no law enforcement agency under the jurisdiction of the state of Illinois may implement immigration detainers or immigration warrants as the sole ground to detain an individual who has been taken into custody.

Nothing in the new policy affects ongoing cooperation between many Illinois local police forces and the Department of Homeland Security in the enforcement of U.S. immigration law, but many feel that current federal policies are not allowing this federal Department to fully enforce and implement its job responsibilities in this sensitive area. Executive Order 15-02 could also be seen as less than fully respectful of all Illinoisans, including persons who have followed the painful and time-consuming provisions of U.S. federal law intended to oversee the process of legally establishing a residency permit in, or immigrating into, the U.S.

University of Illinois – tuition freeze
University’s leadership proposes tuition freeze for in-state undergraduates.  The proposal requires approval by University of Illinois trustees to be implemented. The freeze would be the first zeroing-out of this base-level expenditure in more than 20 years. The proposed freeze would not affect non-tuition expenses paid by almost all undergraduates, including food, housing, mandatory student fees, and other required expenditures.

New students would pay tuition at rates parallel to the rates paid by this year’s first-year students. Tuition levels for University of Illinois first-year students (freshmen) are $12,036 at the Urbana-Champaign campus, $10,584 at the Chicago campus, and $9,405 at the Springfield campus.

The freeze follows a lengthy period of exponential growth in the total cost of attending these flagship Illinois institutions. Studies have found that tuition costs have risen faster, for students at the University of Illinois, than for students in many comparable U.S. institutions of higher education. The “Chicago Tribune” has the story.

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