Government Affairs Roundup
“Your Timely Roundup of Local, State, and Federal Updates”

Chamber members:

Lawmakers are back in Washington this week to work on the social spending plan in order to pass the bipartisan infrastructure package. If it sounds like we’re reliving past, you’d be correct. Congressional leadership moved the end-of-September self-imposed deadline to Oct. 31 to buy more time. So now we’re in a similar spot to where we were in September.

Where do the negotiations stand? As Democrats have gotten closer to the self-imposed deadline, they’ve struggled to find the sort of breakthroughs on significant parts of the bill that would unite progressives and moderates, neither of whom leadership can afford to alienate given the tight margins in the House and Senate. Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, two moderate senators, continue to hold the keys here to a large extent. Frustration seems to continue to build.

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Governor Pritzker Announces Six-Year Plan for $1.2 Billion I-80 Corridor Improvement Project
Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Transportation were joined yesterday by local officials and community leaders to announce a six-year plan to rebuild Interstate 80 in Will County. Made possible by the Governor’s historic, bipartisan Rebuild Illinois capital program, the $1.2 billion project will replace more than 50-year-old infrastructure on a condensed timeframe and create thousands of construction and permanent jobs while positioning the region for long-term economic opportunity.

“This rebuild will transform 16 miles of I-80, redesign auxiliary lanes and interchanges to reduce congestion, and rehabilitate over 30 bridges along the roadway. These overdue improvements will not only make it safer for commercial drivers, but for the thousands of families who rely on I-80 to commute to work, drive their kids to school, and move safely through their daily lives,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “While this project is ambitious in scale, it has also been designed to minimize its impact on the residents that live along the highway. New pedestrian and bicyclist paths will help keep communities better connected and eight miles of noise walls will help keep surrounding neighborhoods insulated from noisy traffic.”

“The I-80 project is a major step in the amazing Rebuild Illinois plan,” said Lt. Governor Stratton. “The purpose is to improve infrastructure, but at its core Rebuild Illinois is about connecting us as people by repairing the roads and bridges we travel every day to work, school, and to visit friends and loved ones.”

As one of the country’s three coast-to-coast interstates, I-80 through Joliet and Will County carries approximately 80,000 vehicles a day, about 25% of which are trucks. Due to the outdated design and capacity restraints, congestion as well as frequent merging and weaving are common. To shorten the construction timeline, several project components and land acquisition efforts will be done concurrently to deliver a cornerstone project of Rebuild Illinois more quickly, with less impact to the public.

Starting next year, the section from Ridge Road to the DuPage River will be under construction as land acquisition progresses and final engineering is completed on the replacement of the Des Plaines River bridges. Improvements will begin from Ridge Road to U.S. 30 in 2023, leaving construction of the Des Plaines River bridges and Center Street and U.S. 52/Illinois 53 (Chicago Street) interchanges in 2026 and 2027.

Advance work on I-80 started this summer with a $41.7 million project to replace the eastbound bridges over Hickory Creek, Richards Street, Rowell Avenue/Canadian National Railroad, and westbound over Richards Street, in Joliet, Rockdale and New Lenox, while widening eastbound I-80 from Gardner Street to Rowell Avenue. Once the eastbound improvements are completed next year, similar improvements will begin in the westbound direction.

When it wraps up in 2027, the overall I-80 project will have redesigned and rebuilt 16 miles from Ridge Road, in Minooka, to U.S. 30, in Joliet and New Lenox, while adding or extending auxiliary lanes to improve safety and reduce congestion. Interchanges will have been rebuilt or improved at Interstate 55, Illinois 7, Center Street, Chicago Street, Richards Street and Briggs Street, with a new flyover ramp linking southbound I-55 to westbound I-80 to improve traffic flow and safety. More than 30 bridges will have been rehabilitated or replaced.

“With demand for freight projected to double in northeastern Illinois the next 20 years, Will County’s role as a transportation hub and the country’s largest inland port is critical,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. “We know I-80 drives commerce in this vitally important part of the state. At the governor’s direction, we are expediting these improvements as quickly as we can.”

To ensure I-80 no longer acts as a barrier to local mobility, bicycle and pedestrian connections will be provided through interchanges and at overhead crossings as well as along Chicago Street between Doris and Fifth avenues.

The larger I-80 improvements will include workers from the Highway Construction Careers Training Program, an IDOT initiative, in partnership with South Suburban Community College, in South Holland, and Dawson Technical Institute of Kennedy King College, in Chicago, to provide minority and female students with on-the-job experience toward a career in the construction trades.

Under the leadership of Gov. Pritzker, IDOT is delivering major upgrades throughout the I-80 corridor. A $47 million reconstruction of the U.S. 30 interchange, which includes adding a third I-80 lane in each direction west from Interstate 355, concludes this fall. Further west, IDOT is investing $32 million to leverage a combined $200 million public-private effort for the Houbolt Road interchange and extension to the CenterPoint Properties intermodal facilities.
Through year two of Rebuild Illinois, IDOT has made approximately $5.2 billion in improvements to more than 3,000 miles of highway and nearly 300 bridges, as well as almost 450 additional safety improvements.

“Improving I-80 is a critical step in ensuring that our infrastructure is prepared to meet the growing transportation demands throughout the region,” said Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant. “Will County is the largest inland port in North America, serving as a key connection between the Chicagoland region and the rest of the country. I’m grateful for the efforts of Governor Pritzker and the General Assembly in prioritizing this important project.”
Passed in 2019, Rebuild Illinois is investing $33.2 billion into the state’s aging transportation system, creating jobs, and promoting economic growth. Rebuild Illinois is not only the largest capital program in state history, but also the first one that touches all modes of Illinois transportation: roads and bridges, transit, waterways, freight and passenger rail, aviation, and bicycle and pedestrian accommodations.

Veto Session Begins with the Proposed Illinois Congressional Map
Springfield Democrats released their proposed map of new Illinois congressional districts, and though it came out a little earlier than expected, it generally follows lines that have been rumored for months, with all Democratic incumbents protected, but GOP congressmen Adam Kinzinger of Channahon and downstater Rodney Davis endangered.

Overall, the map, from the Illinois House and Senate redistricting committees, appears to create of one for Democrats, but a decrease of two for Republicans, with the GOP eating the seat the state will lose as a result of the 2020 Census. The map does not create a new Hispanic district on the North Side of Chicago as some have wanted, but instead continues to combine Hispanic areas on the North and South sides by wrapping around in a U shape a district similar to what is now represented by Democrat Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. It also keeps three majority-Black districts, but how big those majorities are was not immediately clear.

Kinzinger’s district would be essentially dismembered, with GOP areas of his current district moved into downstate, mostly Republican districts and Democratic pockets combined with upstate Democratic districts. Davis’ district would be converted into a skinny Democratic-tilting district in which he might have a difficult time winning re-election. One big question now is how Davis and Kinzinger will respond.

The Democratic-dominated Illinois General Assembly is expected to consider and approve a new map in its veto session, which begins today. Illinois Republicans immediately signaled their strong displeasure with the proposal.

“Illinois Democrats, led by Gov. Pritzker, have made it clear that they are willing to disenfranchise Illinois voters and break repeated campaign promises to do the bidding of Nancy Pelosi and D.C. power brokers,” Illinois GOP Chairman Don Tracy said in a statement.

There’s not much Republicans can do about it in Springfield, where they are a small minority. But there were immediate rumors that at least one Democrat is upset that her district has been pushed far into central Illinois: Robin Kelly of Matteson, who is the state Democratic party chair, but has a bumpy relationship with Pritzker.

“This proposal is an excellent first draft that amplifies diverse voices and gives every person in our state a say,” said Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez, D-Cicero, who chairs the House redistricting panel. “I look forward to continuing discussions” with all interested parties as the mapmaking continues.

Kinzinger in a statement said he has not yet made up his mind what he will do now. “My team and I will spend some time looking (the map) over and reviewing all of the options, including those outside the House.” Kinzinger’s home reportedly has been moved to a district friendly toward Democratic incumbent Marie Newman, D-Chicago.

Though the heart of Davis’ district has been carved out and combined with Democratic areas into a district friendly toward donkeys, his house is in the new 15th District. That’s the big purple beast on the map that runs from nearly the Kentucky state line to almost Wisconsin.

Davis is the only incumbent of either party living there. Though most of it would be new territory to him, it could be tempting enough to keep him out of a race against Pritzker for governor next year, where some think he could do well. All he’s saying so far, in a statement, is that the proposed map is a “shameful, partisan gerrymander.”

The homes of two other GOP incumbents, Darin LaHood and Mary Miller, have been thrown into the proposed new 16th District, with Dems likely hoping LaHood will unseat Miller. That leaves one incumbent GOP rep with a district all to himself, Mike Bost.

Other chatter: Democratic incumbent Sean Casten of Downers Grove did not get the slice of Chicago he’s reportedly been angling for; Mike Quigley kept it. But Dem Rep. Bill Foster was able to hold off efforts to move his district north to the Wisconsin border. Instead, that turf will go to another Democrat, Lauren Underwood.

Recent update: The first sign of real trouble for this map has shown up. In a statement, U.S. Rep. Marie Newman, D-Chicago, pretty much declared war on the proposal. “While our team continues to review the draft congressional map that was released earlier today, it is abundantly apparent that what has currently been proposed for Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District is not only retrogressive, but substantially diminishes the diverse and progressive voices of Chicago’s Southwest Side and suburbs,” she said. “I know that IL-03’s constituents will ensure their voices are heard loud and clear at these public hearings over the coming days.”

What is behind Rep. Newman’s complaint? According to an analysis of the new by demographer Frank Calabrese for Capitol Fax, Newman’s proposed new district is the least Democratic of any of the 14 Democrats are supposed to win, having given President Joe Biden just 52% in 2020. Rep. Cheri Bustos’ 17th District in northwest Illinois also gave Biden just 52%, but Bustos is retiring, and parties usually give a break to incumbents such as Newman.

If Kinzinger were to run in this district, or if a more conservative Democrat were to take on the progressive Newman in the primary next year, things could get quite interesting. Remember that Newman unseated party-organization favorite Dan Lipinski.

Former Democratic Congressman Dan Lipinski is speaking openly about his own political calculations. “For the past 18 months, people have been telling me that I should run again,” Lipinski said in a statement. “I’ve always said that I’d need to see the map before considering it. Now that this map is out, I’m taking a look, understanding that the map may still change.”

What’s next? State lawmakers are expected to vote on a congressional map during the tail end of a veto session that wraps up Oct. 28.

Additional Veto Session Topics
This week’s session will most likely be seen largely as a scene-setter to determine the appetite of legislators to consider potentially controversial legislation.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is proposing a package to help incentivize the electric car industry by giving tax credits to companies that produce electric vehicles and electric batteries in Illinois. The governor has been working with the Illinois Manufacturers Association, which supports the effort.

With so many folks trying to use the Healthcare Right of Conscience Act as it stands now to avoid getting a Covid-19 vaccination, the governor wants the legislature to narrow the definition of the law. Look for opposition from the right.

The state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund has a deficit of $4.4 billion, according to the U.S. Treasury. This week, lawmakers are not expected to pass a long-term solution to pay down the debt – those talks are likely to come in the regular budgeting process next year. But a major insurance premium hike for businesses and benefit cuts for people claiming unemployment is scheduled to take effect in January without legislative action, so negotiators on the unemployment front said the tentative plan is to push off the effective date of those rate changes to give lawmakers more time to consider a long-term fix.

Invitation – Will County Clean Energy Informational Session for Commercial Property Owners
County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant would like to invite our members to an informational session on the Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program that is managed by the Will County Land Use Department. Please feel free to forward on the following information:

Commercial property owners often look to energy efficiency and resiliency projects, such as HVAC improvements and renewable energy systems, to lower energy costs and operating expenses, increase occupant comfort, and improve the property values of their buildings. Still, the upfront costs of implementing these projects can be prohibitive for many.

To support property owners facing these financial barriers, Will County recently established C-PACE to help commercial property owners finance various energy/water conservation and resiliency projects. C-PACE is a financing mechanism that offers low-cost, long-term funding to local businesses for energy efficiency, renewable energy, water conservation, electric vehicle charging and other clean energy projects.

Participating property owners can reduce the initial cost barriers of capital improvements with fixed-rate interest, long-term financing for up to 100% of hard and soft project costs. This non-recourse financing, provided by qualified capital providers, can be repaid over the lifetime of the project as an assessment on the property’s regular tax bill.

Please see the attached materials on the program, as well as the invitation for an information session on Will County’s C-PACE program on Monday, October 25 at 6 PM. Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant and representatives from the Will County Resource Recovery and Energy Division, Will County Center for Economic Development, the Illinois Energy Conservation Authority, and a C-PACE program participant will share more information about this voluntary program, how local property owners can benefit from it, and how they can begin the process.

To register for the event, please visit:

Social Security trust funds now projected to run out of money sooner than expected due to Covid, Treasury says
The Social Security trust fund most Americans rely on for their retirement will run out of money in 12 years, one year sooner than expected, according to an annual government report published. The outlook, aggravated by the Covid pandemic, also threatens to shrink retirement payments and increase health-care costs for older Americans.

The Treasury Department oversees two Social Security funds: The Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and the Disability Insurance Trust Funds. Those programs are designed to provide a source of income respectively to former workers who have retired at the end of their careers or to those who cannot work due to a disability.

Officials said that the Old-Age and Survivors trust fund is now able to pay scheduled benefits until 2033, one year earlier than reported last year. The Disability Insurance fund is estimated to be adequately funded through 2057, eight years earlier than in the report published in 2020. Though the two funds are separate under law, the Treasury Department said the hypothetical combined funds would be able to pay scheduled benefits on a timely basis until 2034.

Senior administration officials said that a spike in deaths among retirement-age Americans in 2020 helped keep the programs’ costs lower than projected. They added that the ultimate, long-term impact of the coronavirus is less clear as costs and revenues return to their extended forecasts.

The Treasury Department said it estimates the level of worker productivity and thus GDP is assumed to be permanently lowered by 1% even as they are projected to resume their pre-pandemic trajectories.

Nevertheless, the financial outlook for Social Security and Medicare, two of the nation’s preeminent safety net programs, has deteriorated over the past year as Covid hastened retirements and caused a contraction in the size of the U.S. labor force.

There was no change from last year’s projection that the Medicare’s hospital insurance fund would be depleted in 2026. At that point, doctors, hospitals and nursing homes would not receive their full compensation from Medicare and patients would likely bear the responsibility for any cuts to coverage.

“The finances of both programs have been significantly affected by the pandemic and the recession of 2020,” the Treasury Department said. The combined effects of a dive in employment, interest rates, earnings and GDP, as well as higher mortality for the next few years “all significantly impact the outlook of the programs.”

In their entirety, the funds act as pillars upholding the retirement plans of tens of millions of Americans, current and future. Americans have for decades come to assume that the programs they spent years contributing to in payroll taxes would in turn provide for them.

The programs have become so popular that they are often dubbed the “third rail” of U.S. politics — simply too dangerous to touch. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen commented in a statement. “Having strong Social Security and Medicare programs is essential in order to ensure a secure retirement for all Americans, especially for our most vulnerable populations,” she said. “The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to safeguarding these programs and ensuring they continue to deliver economic security and health care to older Americans.” But the future of that model is now in the middle of a slow-moving crisis: Within the past two years, the program has started to draw down its assets in order to pay retirees all benefits promised.

In other words, Social Security’s costs in the form of monthly payments to retirees now exceed the income it takes in from U.S. workers. Projected to soon consistently operate in the red, the program’s reserve fund would be depleted around 2033.

If Congress does not act by that time, Social Security law would cut benefit checks for retirees by about 20% across the board. For a demographic that has planned on those payments, and usually has few other avenues of income, a 20% reduction could prove disastrous and threaten to throw many Americans into poverty.

Social Security has long known it faces a simple math problem: With thousands of baby boomers retiring every day, there is an insufficient number of younger people entering the workforce to offset the cost.

To make matters worse, Americans’ life expectancy is increasing and birth rates are declining. By Social Security’s estimates, the number of Americans 65 or older will increase to more than 79 million by 2035, up from the current 54 million, according to Census data. Meanwhile, the number of births in the U.S. declined last year by 4% from 2019, double the average annual rate of decline of 2% since 2014, the CDC said in May.

The U.S. birth rate is now so low that the nation is “below replacement levels,” meaning more people die every day than are being born, the CDC said.

Influence of “Big Tech”
Legislation to curb Big Tech’s influence, including by restricting online content, is gaining traction in Congress, as lawmakers narrow their targets and seek to build on public attention. One of the measures with the best chance of passage is an update to the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

Action is by no means assured. Facebook and other major technology companies, including Amazon and Apple, all field extensive lobbying operations in Washington. The companies have said generally that they support updated regulation of the internet. But they warn that current congressional proposals could damage the online economy and U.S. competitiveness. Google CEO Sundar Pichai has called for government action in policing cyberattacks and encouraging innovation.

Stay well,

Mike Paone
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry
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