Government Affairs Roundup
“Your Timely Roundup of Local, State, and Federal Updates”
Thanks to all that participated last night as part of our Annual Dinner & Awards Celebration. We appreciate your support through attendance and/or sponsorship. It was a great event!
On to the next big event on the calendar – our monthly membership luncheon for March will be split into two events. First, join us on Wednesday, March 8th for our Joliet Mayoral Candidate Forum hosted at the Clarion Hotel & Convention Center in Joliet. We are putting this event on in partnership with WJOL 1340 AM. An email was sent earlier today with full information and here is the link to view and/or register online.
Info will follow soon on our second event to be held at the same location on Wednesday, March 22nd with the candidates for the five Joliet City Council Districts. In each case, questionnaires will be sent to candidates and answers will be shared for those not able to participate in person.
*Government Affairs Roundup brought to you by CITGO & Silver Cross Hospital*
Downtown Joliet City Square Open House
The City of Joliet recently began the detailed design of the Chicago Street City Square, located across from the Rialto Square Theatre at the corner of Clinton and Chicago Streets. The city will be sharing initial design concepts with the community and would like feedback at a Community Open House on Thursday, February 23, 2023, at the Joliet Public Library, 150 N. Ottawa Street.
The open house will be held in the Burnham Room on the Library’s second floor. Although there will not be a formal presentation, residents are welcome to attend the open house any time between 4:00–7:00 p.m. Project team members will be present to discuss design concepts and receive input.
Graduated Income Tax Back in Spotlight
As promised, a new proposal for an Illinois graduated income tax has been introduced in Springfield, and though its prognosis is iffy at best, it has some significant differences from the “fair tax” plan by Gov. J.B. Pritzker that voters rejected in a 2020 referendum.
Under legislation filed by state Sen. Rob Martwick, a Northwest Side Democrat, tax rates on low-income single filers would be cut to as low as 4%, well under the state’s current 4.95% flat rate and the 4.75% rate the governor proposed. The tax rate wouldn’t even hit the 4.75% mark until a person’s annual income tops $100,000.
At the opposite end, rates would max out at 6.95% on annual income above $500,000 for individuals and $1 million for couples who file jointly. That’s lower than the maximum 7.95% rate in Pritzker’s plan.
The changes would mean that, while the plan would help middle-class and working families while hitting the wealthy, overall it would be revenue neutral. Unlike the defeated “fair tax,” this revised plan would raise only as much money for the state treasury as the current flat tax does, not more.
Even if approved by legislators, the changes could not be enacted unless voters separately approve a constitutional amendment dropping the current ban on a graduated tax. Martwick is working on a separate enabling measure that would put the matter back in front of voters.
As he did in previewing his legislation several weeks ago, Martwick in a phone interview said he’s hoping spark a conversation about proper state tax policy.
As a follow up to last week’s information on the Illinois Budget, here are some review highlights:
- $250 million over four years to ramp up pre-K education to include families in need. We wrote about that Wednesday.
- $100 million or new facilities to accommodate more pre-K education.
- $350 million for elementary and secondary schools to meet state education targets required by a law adopted during the Rauner administration, and
- $100 million toward the Monetary Award Program, called MAP grants, which help higher-education students from families who are at or below the median income. Other areas of higher education would also see increases.
Other spending highlights:
- $9.8 billion contribution to the state’s pension funds.
- $45 million for the state Public Health Department’s computer systems to track future pandemics.
- $30 million to fund a violent crime witness protection program.
- $20 million to create the Illinois Grocery Initiative to get grocery stores in underserved areas, both urban and rural, and
- $5 million toward training health care workers in the reproductive health industry. “I’m sure that there are some elected officials who would like us to stop talking about abortion. Well, too bad,” Pritzker said to applause.
The budget proposal anticipates continued strong revenue receipts even as federal COVID-19 stimulus funds dry up, allowing for increased spending across all levels of education and most of state government. The governor also asserted that the actions of his first term laid the groundwork for the new spending he outlined last Wednesday.
“Fiscal responsibility isn’t easy, nor is it a one-time fix,” Pritzker said. “It’s an annual effort that requires persistence. It requires conservative revenue estimates, as all of my budget proposals have. But when done right, consistent balanced budgets strengthen the institutions our residents rely upon, creates new opportunities for success, and makes life easier for the people of Illinois.”
All told, the governor outlined a Fiscal Year 2024 budget that anticipates $49.9 billion in general revenues, a $1.4 billion decrease from current FY 23 estimates. Excluding current-year contributions to the state’s “rainy day” fund, the $49.6 billion in approved FY 24 spending represents a drop-off of about $350 million.
Money for DCFS hiring
Overall, the budget proposal for DCFS jumped to more than $2 billion — a 65% increase in the department’s annual fund since fiscal year 2019. Much of the funding will go towards hiring nearly 200 new department workers and a $41 million increase for the main rollout of the Comprehensive Child Welfare Information System. CCWIS replaces a previous case management system for “efficiency and faster case processing” according to the governor’s Office of Management and Budget.
The proposal also includes $10 million to support the “acquisition and training” for the use of pepper spray by DCFS frontline workers. This comes after the legislature passed Senate Bill 1486, a bill introduced by Springfield Republicans state Sen. Steve McClure and former state Rep. Sandy Hamilton, in the prior General Assembly.
The bill came following the death of DCFS investigator Deidre Silas, of Springfield, who died while checking the welfare of six children at a home in Thayer. Benjamin Reed, 32, was charged with first-degree murder in connection with her death.
Funding for broadband
Local business and community leaders recently gathered in Springfield to discuss the need to expand broadband access in the city and Sangamon County. The consensus among speakers at the forum was broadband has become essential for students and parents, especially since COVID-19. Federal and state funding has increased in recent years, yet thousands in the county still lack access.
The governor’s proposal will continue the state’s investment with $25 million dedicated to the Department of Innovation and Technology. The state’s IT agency would direct those funds to the Illinois Century Network with the intent of providing broadband and internet access to all public K-12 schools.
Medicaid funding increase
Enhanced Medicaid benefits, where the federal government increased funds it gave to state programs during COVID-19, are scheduled to begin trending down in March.
According to the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, the federal match dedicated to the state is currently 6.2 percentage points and will be phased out gradually by the end of the year.
IDHFS administers the state’s Medicaid program which would be funded at $37.2 billion this year by Pritzker’s proposal, an increase of $709 million from last year’s budget, mostly due to the reduction of the extended federal Medicaid match.
The proposal takes notice of the change in federal policy by dedicating $8 million to create the Ready to Renew Campaign – which will either keep Illinoisans on Medicaid or help them find other forms of health insurance.
Sports Wagering is Big Deal
Sports betting was legalized in Illinois only in 2019 but laying down money on games has quickly become a favorite pastime. In December, bettors in Illinois gambled over $1 billion on sports, according to numbers pulled from the Illinois Gaming Board. What’s more, it was the third month in a row that the state topped that $1 billion mark. And, again according to the gaming board, the state’s gamblers placed a total of $9.75 billion in bets on sports in 2022.
Which is why it was a bit of a surprise to learn that Illinois didn’t crack the top five states when it came to Super Bowl bets this year. Maybe that changes if the Bears reach the promised land again (no matter where they call home).
Of course, it’s a lot easier now to place your bets since you can do so online instead of trekking to a physical sportsbook and the numbers prove it. Per those gaming board numbers, Illinoisans made $390 million in bets in person but just $9.36 billion online.
SAFE-T Act Update
The Illinois Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Tuesday, March 14, in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the SAFE-T Act criminal justice reform. The SAFE-T Act’s cash bail provisions, which end wealth as a determinant of pretrial release, proved controversial in the months prior to the November election.
Nearly two years after the law’s initial passage in January 2021, lawmakers returned to the Capitol late last year to pass changes to the law while keeping its main function intact. But state’s attorneys and sheriffs across the state sued, challenging the law’s constitutionality and putting the measure’s effective date in limbo depending on the jurisdiction.
In December, the high court agreed to hear the case on appeal and approved a temporary stay on the law’s cash bail provisions. The parties involved have been preparing written arguments in recent months.
Building Blocks of Success IDOT announces March dates for Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program workshops
The Illinois Department of Transportation is hosting free virtual workshops in March as part of its continuing Building Blocks of Success series for Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) firms interested in strengthening their skills, growing their business and bidding on state projects. New and existing DBEs, as well as firms interested in becoming certified in the program are invited.
March workshop dates and topics are:
- March 2, 10 a.m. to noon: Landscaping- Section 200 of the Spec Book & Traffic Control
- March 7, 10 a.m. to noon: Avoiding Pitfalls
- March 9, 10 a.m. to noon: Overhead Rate Calculation, Construction & Professional Services, and more
- March 14, 10 a.m. to noon: Daily Documentation
- March 16, 10 a.m. to noon: Force Account (T&M) Work
- March. 21, 10 a.m. to noon: Getting Paid
- March 23, 10 a.m. to noon: Construction Materials Requirements (IDOT)
Building Blocks of Success will continue through April. Workshop information, including dates and times, is available through Eventbrite at bit.ly/DBEworkshops. Advance registration is required.
Questions can be directed to IDOT’s DBE Resource Center at (312) 939-1100.
As part of Gov. Pritzker’s historic and bipartisan Rebuild Illinois, IDOT is helping to deliver the largest capital program in state history. In implementing Rebuild Illinois, IDOT strives to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, including contracting and workforce participation.
Administered by IDOT, the DBE program provides minorities, women and other eligible small businesses opportunities to participate in highway, transit and airport contracts that are federally and state funded. For more information on becoming a certified DBE and learning more about IDOT resources that are available, visit www.idot.illinois.gov/dbe.
Executive Vice President
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry