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

Chamber members:

Last week was the State of the Union address delivered by President Biden. Today was address day close to home. Both Governor Pritzker and Joliet Mayor O’Dekirk delivered their addresses today. Coverage is below on both.

*Government Affairs Roundup brought to you by CITGO & Silver Cross Hospital*

Joliet Mayor O’Dekirk Delivers State of the City address today at Chamber luncheon
Mayor Bob O’Dekirk today addressed the crowd of chamber members by starting off with a report indicating that all city revenue was up in 2022 except for casino revenue. In addition, economic development continues to be strengthened by the efforts of the Economic Development committee and the Economic Development Director. Mayor O’Dekirk noted the recent activity of getting out around the country to recruit new businesses and developments.

The Mayor went on the list nine recent projects that standout to highlight these efforts, beginning with the partnership with Will County to keep the new courthouse in downtown Joliet. The remaining eight projects included: Houbolt Rd. Bridge project which is scheduled to open within months, the Cullinan project of Rock Run Crossings at I80 & I55, the redevelopment of the old Joliet prison, southern developments including Amazon, NorthPoint, and Lion Electric, I80 repairs and improvements that will have a price tag of $1.4 billion, the evolution of the Louis Joliet Mall and the surrounding area, new corporate headquarters such as Cadence Logistics, GP Transco, M2M in Motion, and Illinois Marine Towing, and finally the city water project that is scheduled to be completed in 2030 bringing Lake Michigan water to our region.

Mayor O’Dekirk also reminded of some major announcements in 2022 such as the opening of Vasa Fitness, Tony’s Finer Foods, Portillo’s, the soon to open Olive Garden, and the planned relocation of Hollywood Casino.

Before he wrapped up his presentation, the mayor shared a new announcement. O’Dekirk told the crowd that the U.S. Steel property on Collins St. that has been empty for some time now is planned to be transformed into a development that includes a partnership with Argonne National Lab. Plans include a campus that will feature a car battery & plastics recycling center along with the possibility for other green industries. An exact timeline was not given, but specifics should continue to emerge in the coming months.

Thanks to all that attended today’s luncheon and/or were supporting sponsors.

Governor Pritzker Proposes Transformative, Generational Investments in FY24 Budget
Building on four years of fiscal progress, Governor Pritzker’s fifth balanced budget proposal will “make transformative, generational investments in early childhood education and childcare, the teacher pipeline, higher education, and efforts to fight poverty.”

Please see below for links to the proposed FY24:

Fiscal Year 2024 Operating Budget
Fiscal Year 2024 Capital Budget
Fiscal Year 2024 Budget in Brief

Full text of Governor Pritzker speech

On Wednesday afternoon, Governor J.B. Pritzker officially unveiled his proposed fiscal year 2024 budget to the Illinois General Assembly, the first of his second term. Early childhood care and education were at the forefront as Pritzker called for the state to spend another nearly half-billion dollars a year on much-expanded early childhood education, childcare and related activities.

Pension reform was also a topic. Last year’s increased tax revenue and federal COVID relief funding enabled key contributions in paying off various debts. But with no guarantee of a repeat of those revenue numbers and federal funding drying up, concerns linger as to how to bridge the gap. Last week, the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago suggested a 10-year, 0.5% surcharge to the state’s income tax. Pritzker seemed to reject that notion while promising $200 million to supplement the state’s pension payment.

“In the age-old fight between happy warriors and misery’s carnival barkers, we’ve shown that if we resolve to do it, happy warriors win every time. And we are winning,” he said in remarks as prepared for delivery. “Which is why, here in Illinois in 2023, I’m confident in saying the state of our state is stronger than it has been in decades, and we’re getting stronger every day.”

The proposed budget notably won an initial thumbs-up from Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza. In recent days she has been warning about the dangers of new spending now, but said the proposal “makes sense.”

The key to the budget is an influx of revenue that began with the huge COVID-relief economic stimulus and has continued, if with less vigor. In a briefing in advance of Pritzker’s speech, state fiscal officials said that while they’re expecting general funds operating revenue to drop slightly, about 2.8%, it still will be up more than $1.24 billion from estimates made as recently as November.

With the national economy continuing to chug along, despite fears of a looming recession, income tax revenue now is projected to rise about $800 million from last year, with sales taxes holding, and even propped up by taxes on internet sales that have grown steadily since the U.S. Supreme Court authorized such taxes. Ergo, the new spending — or “investment,” as the governor puts it.

In addition to the early childhood/child care money, higher education will get a $219 million boost, to $2.47 billion, a hike Pritzker said is the largest in two decades. One hundred million dollars of that will go to expand popular college MAP grants, a priority of Mendoza’s, with most of the rest in the form of a 7% across-the-board hike in aid to state universities and community colleges.

For grade and high schools, the evidence-based formula that provides general aid geared toward poor districts would get another $350 million under Pritzker’s plan. Grants for special needs and transportation are up $86.4 million, with $70 million allotted to begin a program to recruit better teachers.

Governor Pritzker proposed spending another $200 million out of this year’s budget to supplement the state’s pension payment, something that will cut costs in the long run. But he pretty much rejected a proposal from the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club to sharply ramp up state pension contributions via a 10-year income tax surcharge, telling Rich Miller in a Capitol Fax interview that things the big business group is proposing are “not likely to come to fruition and that I would oppose.” But Pritzker says he is willing to talk about it if the group wants to revive his proposed graduated income tax.

Mendoza, in a phone interview, said she’s “excited” that the state now has built up a $2 billion rainy-day reserve — adding, “It needs to be higher” — and that the governor is allotting an additional $200 million to pensions, about the statutorily required amount. She said she remains concerned about any big new spending programs now but said the Pritzker childhood initiatives generally add money to “existing programs,” and are means-tested to ensure the money goes to the people who really need it.

Reaction to the budget speech is starting to come in, and it’s largely positive, with some criticism from the political right. Let’s start with the critics.

“We are approaching the edge of a fiscal cliff in our state that will collapse when one-time federal funds and extra revenue from inflation dry up. Illinoisans deserve a government that spends their hard-earned money responsibly, one that makes a U-turn before we reach the edge of this cliff,” said House Assistant GOP Leader Brad Stephens of Rosemont. “What also wasn’t mentioned in this budget address was real property tax relief.”

Fellow Republican Rep. Dan Ugaste of Geneva had a similar take. “In response to the glaring issues which Illinois faces — sky high property taxes, endless regulations, and other unnecessary costs — Gov. Pritzker is proposing new spending on Illinois’ budgetary house of cards,” he said. “This budget proposal will do nothing but hinder our terrible climate for job creators and cause Illinois families to find moving trucks out of our unaffordable state.”

A statement from the Legislature’s Freedom Caucus, which represents its most conservative members: “Creating new government programs with money we don’t have is not visionary. It is lazy, pandering from a narcissistic unaccomplished prima donna with delusions of grandeur. Not only is Gov. Pritzker incapable of solving the real problems facing our state, but he is not even interested. Last year, Illinois lost more than 100,000 people and we lost a Congressional seat thanks to the continued population loss. J.B. Pritzker refuses to talk about these issues because to do so would indict his administration and his failed policies.”

On the other hand, business groups that often align with Republicans was mostly favorable, but a little cautionary.

“We applaud Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the General Assembly for the work they have undertaken in recent years to stabilize the state’s finances,” said the Illinois Retail Merchants Association. “We are encouraged by the governor’s proposed investments in workforce development and look forward to partnering with the administration and lawmakers.”

While the current budget situation is good, we always have concerns about whether the budget proposals will build new permanent spending into the budget that the state will have difficulty in honoring when the inevitable economic downturns occur,” said the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. “Fiscal restraint when times are good will prepare the state for the bad times.”

Both Senate President Don Harmon and House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch praised the plan. So did the House Progressive Caucus, but in its statement it indicated it wants to “build up” Pritzker’s proposal.

And AFSCE, the big government-employees’ union, was thrilled, saying the plan “has the potential to move our state forward on a number of fronts that are vital to improving the lives of public service employees and strengthening the services they provide.”

Governor Pritzker signs measures ahead of second-term budget address
House Bill 268, effective immediately, creates a framework for local governments to increase funding for local tourism projects in collaboration with hotels by creating local tourism districts.

Hotels can qualify for these tourism districts if they can shoulder half of the proposed costs. If petitioning hotels are approved, they can charge up to a 5 percent rate per-room per-night that will go toward a fund overseen by a state-certified local tourism bureau.

State Sen. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, a lead sponsor on the bill, said the law will help create additional resources for tourism promotion, while giving more control to business owners in the state. “Tourism Improvement Districts put business owners back in the driver’s seat to direct marketing spending and spur growth,” Feigenholtz said in a statement. “The additional revenues generated by these special districts will be one more tool businesses can use to draw visitors to all corners of the state.”

In order to qualify, hotel owners must file a petition outlining a district plan including the boundaries of the proposed district, the length of the proposed term and a brief description of the proposed services and improvements they are requesting. They must also show they can pay more than half of the costs that will be taken on by the district.

The post-pandemic measure is an attempt at spurring economic growth as local communities continue to bounce back from the effects of COVID-19. “The tourism and hospitality sector is the second-largest employer in Illinois,” Feigenholtz said. “Tourism Improvement Districts will enable regions of our state to use this additional tool in an effort to recover from the pandemic and bring visitors back to Illinois.”

Proposed legislation to require EV charging stations could make homes more expensive
Proposed measures at the Illinois statehouse could require electric vehicle charging stations in the garage of new homes, a change one builder says would increase costs. House Bill 2206 and Senate Bill 40 require a new single-family residence or a small multifamily residence to have at least one electric vehicle charging station for each residential unit with dedicated parking.

Dean Graven of the Home Builders Association of Illinois said neither measure considers the added costs.  “This is a mandate with no funding behind it, a mandate that every new house, single-family duplex, then it gets into the multi-family, would have to have electric car charging stations,” Graven told WMAY. “For every $1,000 price increase on a home, you knock out 6,000 buyers.”

Graven said different electric vehicles require different setups and that these stations are not universal in use or price. For example, according to, the standard for charging is a 110-volt outlet, but other vehicles like Tesla use 220-volt outlets. “You’re looking at a substantial cost increase between a 110 outlet and a 220 outlet,” Graven said. “You are even asking for more power to come into the house.”

In 2021, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the Reimagining Electric Vehicles in Illinois Act into law, which incentivizes electric vehicle production across the state. There are also state tax incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles.

Graven said he has no problem with the state making a move towards electric vehicles but did suggest a different approach when it comes to home implementation. “You could fish wires from the breaker box to whatever location … you need,” Graven said. “This is a lot less expensive and then if a consumer says ‘I do not have one, I am never going to buy one, so I don’t have to spend any more money.”

Advocacy groups continue push for expansive paid family, medical leave in Illinois
A coalition of advocacy and labor groups is pushing for a state law to give Illinois workers 26 weeks of paid leave if they need to recover from an illness, domestic or sexual violence, or take care of a sick family member or new child.

The same groups just celebrated a legislative victory last month with the passage of five days of paid leave – negotiations that took four years but were ultimately agreed to by the state’s most influential business groups and even garnered some Republican votes.

After a quick rebrand to the Illinois Time To Care Coalition, advocates are pushing for a more ambitious leave policy, which would make Illinois the 12th state with mandatory paid family and medical leave. The United States is the only industrialized nation without a national paid parental leave law, while dozens of developing countries also have such policies.

The coalition’s initial proposal – encapsulated in Senate Bill 1234 and House Bill 1530 – would cover all employers in Illinois and all employees who earn at least $1,600 annually. Paid leave would also apply to contract workers. The benefits to workers would be paid out of a newly created special state fund. The law would require employers to pay 0.73 percent of the wages for their employees and contractors into the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Fund, similar to the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. An additional fee of up to 0.05 percent could be imposed through administrative rules for administering the program.

Those who need paid leave would need to provide documentation of pregnancy, adoption or guardianship of a new child, their own injury or illness, or that of a sick family member. The leave policy would also cover military-related time off and time needed to recover from sexual assault or domestic violence.

Those workers, if approved for leave, would receive 90 percent of their average weekly wages for their leave period, up to a maximum of $1,200 per week. Eventually that maximum would be adjusted to 90 percent of the average weekly wage in Illinois.

Those potential payouts are in line with the policies of the 11 other states with paid leave laws, although no other state’s law is quite as permissive as the proposal being pushed in Illinois. For example, although Massachusetts allows for up to 26 weeks of total paid leave in one year, it provides for only 12 weeks of paid leave for new parents and those caring for a sick family member, and 20 weeks for those who can’t work due to a long-term illness. But advocates pushing for paid leave in Illinois are aiming for loftier goals than the programs in other states.

The coalition is also selling paid leave as a boon for businesses, especially in a labor market where many employers have found it difficult to find or re-hire workers in the wake of COVID-19. House sponsor state Rep. Sonya Harper, D-Chicago, said lack of a safety net is preventing many women from re-entering the workforce.

“If women in Illinois participated in the labor force at the same rate as women in countries with paid leave, there would be an estimated 124,000 additional workers in the state and 4.4 billion more wages,” she said. But business groups aren’t engaging with the proposal yet. Rob Karr, President and CEO of the influential Illinois Retail Merchants Association, turned the focus back to last month’s legislative agreement on five days of paid leave.

“Our focus is on the proper implementation of the historic paid leave bill that just passed the General Assembly and has yet to even be signed into law by the governor,” Karr said in a statement.

Push for state child tax credit begins
A group of Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday called for creating a state-level child tax credit that would give low- and middle-income families up to $700 per child each year in tax relief. But whether Gov. JB Pritzker includes such a plan in his budget proposal and whether it receives the endorsement of top Democratic leaders in the General Assembly – remains an open question.

Erion Malasi, director of policy and advocacy at the advocacy group Economic Security for Illinois, pegged the plan’s cost at somewhere between $700 million and $800 million annually. State Sen. Mike Simmons, D-Chicago, said passage of such a measure would benefit about half of all children in Illinois.

“It puts money in the pockets of struggling moms and dads all across the state,” he said during a Statehouse news conference. “And when we put money in the pockets of those working parents, we know that they can’t afford to save so they’re going to go out and spend that money on shoes for their kids, on health care that they’ve put off for too long, on food for their teenagers who love to eat.”

Illinois already offers an earned income tax credit, or EITC, which is available to people who meet certain income guidelines, even if they have no children. A child tax credit would be an additional payment to parents. Like the EITC, the child tax credit would be refundable, meaning if the amount of the credit exceeds the filer’s total tax liability, the excess amount would be repaid to the taxpayer.

The language of the proposal is contained in Senate Bill 1444, which Simmons introduced Tuesday. Under the legislation, individuals with income below $50,000 and married couples filing jointly with incomes below $75,000 would be eligible for a $700-per-child tax credit. For tax filers with incomes above those limits, the amount of the credit would be reduced by $24 for each $1,000 of additional income.

The idea comes at a precarious time for Illinois, and it could face resistance due to its estimated annual price tag. Although the state has been running multi-billion dollar surpluses in each of the last two years, the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget has projected that state finances could start running deficits as soon as Fiscal Year 2025.

Meanwhile, Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza has cautioned lawmakers not to use the current surpluses to enact new, permanent programs that would obligate the state to fund long into the future. “What I would be opposed to is seeing new funding items – unless you can really sell that this is an extreme necessity for the state at this time – we want to stay away from funding new programs that are going to have to be funded year to year,” she said during an interview in January.

The CFPB Moves to Punish People Who Pay Their Credit Card Bills on Time
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently proposed a rule that would mean higher costs and fewer benefits for existing credit card users who pay their bills on time and fewer options for those looking for a new credit card.

‌Up to 75% of credit card users pay their bills on time. These consumers have come to rely on low costs from their financial service providers and more choices in their banking. If this rule goes into effect consumers – including small business owners – will have fewer credit card options and benefits.

‌The rule will likely cause a reduction in popular perks such as cashback rewards, discounts on groceries and gas, and travel perks with airline and hotel partners. If the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau wants to protect consumers, it shouldn’t disincentivize on-time payments.

Bill Hulse, vice president of the U.S. Chamber’s Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness issued the following statement regarding the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s proposed rule amending credit card issuers’ late fee regulations.

“Today’s actions by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau flatly ignore the Congressional and regulatory history regarding the establishment of regulations surrounding the collection of late fees by credit card issuers. Worse, it punishes responsible consumers who pay their credit card bills on time by forcing them to subsidize the costs of those who don’t.

“Credit card issuers provide robust disclosures, as required by law, regarding late fees which consumers agree to at the time of enrollment. Late fees not only ensure prompt repayment but also help consumers avoid additional interest accruing on unpaid balances and establish good credit history. Ultimately, what the American credit card user can expect from this rule change is higher costs and reduced choices as a direct result of the CFPB imposing more red tape on businesses.”

Will County Employers – Join Chicagoland Recruiting Effort!
H1B Connect invites Chicagoland businesses to join together to attract highly skilled workers to the region. Created jointly with the Greater Chicagoland Economic Partnership, World Business Chicago, and regional partners, this campaign will attract international tech talent to the Chicago region.

The campaign is centered on its job board, which is available for H1-B visa holders all over the country who are interested in relocating to Chicago, providing them with more opportunities to find suitable employment. More than 164,000 tech jobs listings were posted in Chicagoland in 2022!

If you are interested in connecting, spreading awareness, or participating in the job board opportunity for positions within your organization, please reach out to the Will County Center for Economic Development first and they will connect you with everything you need.

Many talented international workers around the nation have been impacted by recent layoffs in the tech industry. H1B Connect promotes awareness and signals that Chicagoland is an affirming, welcoming place and H-1B visa holders are a valuable part of our workforce.

Stay well,

Mike Paone
Executive Vice President
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry
815.727.5371 main
815.727.5373 direct