Week in Review: Madigan, state fair, Ukraine & more


Former House Speaker Michael J. Madigan indicted on federal corruption charges. On Wednesday, March 2, former Democratic Speaker of the House Michael J. Madigan was indicted on federal racketeering conspiracy and bribery charges following a federal probe into political corruption in the state of Illinois. Also named in the indictment is longtime Madigan confidante Michael McClain. A joint press conference held by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) outlined the indictment.

The charges are related to Madigan’s alleged role in a conspiracy linked to lobbying practices during his decades-long tenure as Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives. The indictment accuses Madigan of leading a criminal enterprise to enhance his political power and financial well-being. In addition to the previous allegations that Madigan and McClain sought jobs, contracts, and money for Madigan’s associates from ComEd, the indictment reveals a new scheme involving Chicago City Council Member Danny Solis. Madigan allegedly agreed to help Solis land a spot on a state board paying at least $93,926 after his retirement from City Council.

According to U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois John Lausch, who was leading the investigation of Madigan, “The indictment alleges a long-term, multifaceted scheme to use public positions for unlawful private gain.”

The U.S. Justice Department said, “Madigan and McClain allegedly caused various businesses, including the utility company Commonwealth Edison, to make monetary payments to Madigan’s associates as a reward for their loyalty to Madigan, at times in return for performing little or no legitimate work for the businesses."

"This is another chapter in the sad story of corruption that has pervaded every corner of the state that was touched by Mike Madigan and his Democrat enablers and has dismantled true democracy in Illinois,” said House Republican Leader Jim Durkin after learning of the indictment. “Today, the same Democrats who empowered Madigan are still blocking real ethics reform just like they blocked the Special Investigating Committee that was created to get to the bottom of Madigan’s corrupt activities.”

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Moody’s Analytics issues official “State of Illinois Economic Forecast.” The Moody’s report, prepared for the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, contains analytical data intended to translate statistically significant data into information for Illinois policymakers.

The Moody’s analysts praised the people of Illinois for some of the elements of its current situation, while chiding the State and its government for other aspects. Once again, as in previous economic recoveries, Illinois is creating fewer jobs and is notching a slower pathway to future growth than are rival, comparable, and neighboring U.S. states. On the other hand, “tight labor market conditions” indicate that most of the potential workers of Illinois are either working or are getting hired.

Moody’s expects that Illinois’ future economic performance and growth will continue to underperform the United States as a whole. Economic productivity is measure by Gross State Product, the variable that measures the market value of the goods and services produced within Illinois. After briefly outperforming the United States as a whole during calendar year 2021, Moody’s projections show the growth rate of Illinois’ gross state product as likely to underperform the U.S. economy as a whole during the four calendar years that began on Jan. 1, 2022 and will end on December 31, 2025.

This predicted underperformance is tied to structural long-term patterns and trends that continue to affect Illinois. Moody’s ranks Illinois’ tax burden as 36th among the 50 states, well below average. Thus, “mounting pension obligations and a shrinking tax base” continue to burden the State’s private sector. “Poor population trends,” as residents continue to emigrate from Illinois toward better job markets elsewhere, are expected to continue to operate. Moody’s ranks the tax burden of neighboring Indiana as 14th among the 50 states, creating a much more attractive location for job creation than Illinois. Wisconsin is ranked 26th.

The Moody’s report includes charts and data on Illinois personal income, census population, and the net migrations of persons into and (especially) out of Illinois. The twelve lawmaker-members of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, and their 165 lawmaker colleagues, will use the Report to help shape the FY23 budget and other decisions to be made by the General Assembly in spring 2022.

Report on February 2022 State general funds revenues. Continuing its monthly series of reports on Illinois state tax revenues, the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA) issued its report on February revenuesthis week. A CGFA analysis focused on Illinois gambling tax revenues, which bounced back in 2021 after the COVID-19 stay-at-home decline of 2020. Illinois brick-and-mortar casinos, and “video poker” slot machine storefronts, were forced to temporarily close their doors in March 2020 as the coronavirus hit and no vaccine was available yet. In 2020, Illinois casino adjusted gross receipts (AGRs) dropped 54%. These facilities had all reopened by January 15, 2021, setting the stage for a relatively normal operational year, and Illinois casino AGRs rose by 92% to make up much of the ground lost in 2020.

Brick-and-mortar casino tax revenues are funneled into a variety of end-uses, with school aid being the marginal end use for what remains of this tax stream after numerous deductions. Other State school aid comes from conventional general revenues, primarily tax streams from Illinois taxes on income and retail sales. Sales tax revenues continued to be relatively healthy in February 2022 as opposed to one year earlier, up $37 million as Illinois consumers continued to be in a buying mood. However, February 2022 Illinois income tax revenues were down by $88 million from the year-earlier month. This decline came after a series of strong income tax months, and CGFA analysts presented the decrease as part of a projected reversion to a normal pattern of State individual income tax payments and activity.

The individual economic status of Illinoisans, however, continued to be threatened by a renewed outbreak of U.S. inflation. Rising prices of essential goods such as groceries and gasoline are hitting Illinoisans’ pocketbooks. CGFA data indicates that Illinois inflation could be more severe than the numbers publicly published in the news media. A key hidden indicator, the “producer price index” (PPI) that tracks prices at the wholesale level, has nosed upward into double-digit territory. This could be highly significant, because wholesale price increases are institutional, internal pricing data points seen by companies when they buy and sell goods to each other. These PPI numbers often precede price increases at the retail level. Price hikes at the retail level generate the familiar “consumer price index” (CPI).

State Fair to be celebrated in Springfield in August 2022; concert lineup announced, tickets go on sale next week. The Illinois State Fair will open on Thursday, August 11 and run through Sunday, August 21. The country-music Grandstand list features Sam Hunt, Brooks & Dunn, and Jan Pardi. American R&B group TLC, reggae singer Shaggy, and rocker Sammy Hagar bring numerous Grammy wins and other honors to Central Illinois. Grandstand lineup tickets go on sale on Friday, March 11. The concert lineup was announced on Tuesday, March 1.

Severin bill cutting red tape for owners of hunting ground passes House. State Representative Dave Severin earned the support of the Illinois House of Representatives on HB 5042, legislation cutting regulations impacting owners of hunting land in Illinois.

Severin’s bill amends the Illinois Wildlife Code to change requirements for resident and nonresident landowners. Currently, landowners must submit a permit application and proof of eligible land ownership to the Department of Natural Resources every year. Severin’s bill changes the requirements to once every 5 years.

“Hunting is a way of life for many people that own land in Southern Illinois,” Severin said. “The fact is, there are people that do not live in Illinois that still own hunting ground here for their use, for their friends and family, and for the purposes of renting the land to in-state hunters. Currently these folks are required to submit to yearly reporting requirements and a mountain of paperwork that my bill changes to just once every five years.”

“I am proud to have earned the support of the Illinois House for this important measure. Any time we can cut red tape and burdensome regulations in support of our sportsmen in Illinois we are doing vital work.”

2021-2022 deer hunting seasons conclude: 147,004 deer reported. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) has wrapped up the final deer season of 2021-2022. A series of deer seasons cover opportunities for bowhunters, shotgun hunters, muzzle-loader hunters, youth hunters, and people in other categories. Hunters who take deer under license then report their harvests to IDNR for official tabulation and game management.

The 147,004 deer reported in 2021-2022 were a sharp decline in harvested deer from the 162,752 deer taken in 2020-2021. The decline of almost 10% means that more deer could be wandering around Illinois’ roads and highways. The harvest numbers from the 2020-2021 season cluster could have reflected the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and the eagerness of many licensed Illinoisans to enjoy outdoor recreation after many months of “stay-at-home” orders. Demographic factors are also affecting trends in Illinois deer hunting.

Durkin, Demmer legislation supports Ukrainian refugees. The war being waged by expansionist Russia on Ukraine has led two Illinois lawmakers to introduce bills that would impose sanctions on Russia and support Ukrainian refugeesfleeing their war-torn homeland.

Deputy Republican Leader Tom Demmer sponsored HB 5702 and HB 5703, legislation that would provide additional funding to aid in the resettlement of Ukrainian refugees. As Ukraine continues to defend its boundaries from Russian assault, hundreds of thousands of refugees are making their way to Europe and the United States. Demmer wants to make sure that Illinois is well equipped to provide necessary services to Ukrainians who are displaced by the Russian invasion.

“In this dark and dangerous moment, it is crucial that we stand strongly and unequivocally with the people of Ukraine and offer every tool at our disposal to provide aid to refugees who flee from the invasion of their sovereign nation,” said Demmer.

The funds provided in Demmer’s legislation would ensure the availability of mental health, counseling and orientation services, as well as English classes, vocational training, job readiness, and job placement assistance for Ukrainian refugees.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin’s legislation shows support for Ukraine in a different way by prohibiting the State of Illinois from doing business with Russia. HB 5704 prevents the State from investing public funds in any investment instrument that is based in or tied to Russia. HB 5705 requires the State's five pension funds to divest from any holdings in Russian companies.

Both legislators believe it is important to send a strong message to the Ukrainian people that Illinois stands with them.

Additionally, Durkin called for bipartisan support of the legislation, Ukraine and the refugees. “… [T]his is an opportunity for us to stand up as a bipartisan body and do what is right to support the Ukrainian people in the face of unimaginable hardship."

Women’s History Month observes contributions throughout American history. Fourteen Illinois-born women are members of the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York. Inductees include First Lady Betty Ford, writer Betty Friedan, playwright Lorraine Hansberry, Cabinet member Patricia Roberts Harris, and earth scientist Susan Solomon.

Closer to home, the Enjoy Illinois campaign has posted a website to help “Celebrate Women’s History in Illinois.” March is Women’s History Month.