Government Affairs Roundup
“Your Timely Roundup of Local, State, and Federal Updates”
Today was our second candidate forum featuring those running for Joliet City Council Districts 1-5. It was a very insightful event that was recorded and posted on the WJOL website as a podcast ( https://www.wjol.com/podcast/ ). Additionally, our website has a page with the podcast from this event and our Mayoral forum two weeks ago. You can find those along with filled out questionnaires from the candidates here: https://jolietchamber.com/city-council-questionnaire-podcasts/
Check out information below on a new grant opportunity for the hotel, restaurant, and art industries as well as other notices on programs and resources. Also, in case you missed it, Governor Pritzker visited Joliet, tax cuts are proposed, and get up to speed on ranked choice voting.
*Government Affairs Roundup brought to you by CITGO & Silver Cross Hospital*
Governor Pritzker visits Joliet Junior College to Share Proposed Investments in Higher Education
Governor JB Pritzker joined Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton, state officials, and community leaders at Joliet Junior College (JJC) to highlight his proposed investments in higher education. The Governor’s FY24 budget calls for the largest increase for community colleges in over two decades and historic investments in financial aid, putting Illinois on track to guarantee every student has access to the education and training they need to thrive.
“Over the last four years, my administration has been laser focused on righting Illinois’ fiscal ship. Because of that work, our state can re-direct funding back into opportunity for Illinoisans, all while maintaining a balanced budget,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “We’ve also increased funding for day-to-day operations at community colleges by over $25 million since I came into office. And my FY24 budget proposal would add another $19 million annually – the largest increase for community colleges in over two decades.”
“The rigorous pace of college and studying for exams is hard enough without worrying about how school bills will be paid. In Illinois, we see you and we care,” said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. “That’s why we are investing an additional $100 million in our community colleges and state universities. These institutions are where our state’s brightest go to thrive, and now they are more affordable and accessible for working families. Illinois continues to be the best place in the country to live and go to school.”
“The state’s community colleges are an essential piece to building a capable 21st-Century workforce,” State Rep. Larry Walsh Jr., (D-Joliet). “Gov. Pritzker once again has demonstrated a serious commitment to ensuring that they are well-funded and well-equipped to meet all challenges. Countless professionals have started their journeys at Joliet Junior College, and I know that, with the state’s historic investment in higher education, many more will continue to do so for years to come.”
“Higher education gives students of all backgrounds the tools they need to find gainful employment and improve their economic standing, on top of the personal and professional growth college provides,” said State Rep. Dagmara “Dee” Avelar, (D-Bolingbrook). “An investment in higher education is an investment in the success and innovation of our state, which is why I am grateful Gov. Pritzker continues to make it a priority.”
Governor Pritzker stood alongside Joliet Junior College President Dr. Clyne G. H. Namuo to highlight his proposed investments to higher education, which include a $100 million investment in Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants. This funding would make it the largest investment in state history, representing a 75% increase in the program since he took office.
JJC is the nation’s first public community college, and currently serves approximately 27,000 students each year across six campuses. One out of every five students receive financial aid through MAP grants, which is monetary assistance for school that does not need to be repaid.
Due largely to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a nationwide shortage of skilled workers. To address this, Governor Pritzker’sFY24 budget proposes continued funding for the Pipeline for the Advancement of the Healthcare (PATH) Workforce Program to train new nurses, medical assistants, medical laboratory technicians, emergency medical technicians, and other high-demand positions.
From industry to healthcare, JJC is preparing students to work in underserviced fields. The College has a continuing partnership with Lion Electric, the biggest manufacturer of electric vehicles in its segment. Through their Automotive Technology program, degree-seeking students and professional technicians are able to learn about automotive service and repair.
JJC prepares students each year to graduate from the practical and registered nursing program. These students have the benefit of a state-of-the-art simulation center in the Health Profession Center. With investments such as PATH, more students will be able to attend community college for a career in the healthcare industry for free.
Tax cuts on the table if state revenues continue to exceed expectations
With two months to go before the legislature adjourns and current-year revenues continuing to smash expectations, Governor JB Pritzker said he and legislative leaders are considering tax cuts. His comments came one week after the legislature’s nonpartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, or COGFA, increased its revenue estimates by about $1 billion for the current and upcoming budget years combined.
“I would like to see – as we feel comfortable with these new revenues coming in and their stability; and I think we’re seeing a few years in a row now of the stability of that revenue – that we should be talking about whether there are tax cuts that we can implement,” he said at an unrelated news conference at a Springfield community college.
The governor did not say whether tax cuts would be permanent or which taxes he and lawmakers are considering cutting. And tax cuts were one of several potential uses of excess revenues the governor said he would like to consider. Others include contributions to the state’s “rainy day” fund and added payments beyond required amounts to the state’s pension system.
The conversation about what to do with excess revenues that show year-over-year stability is one Pritzker said has involved both Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, told Capitol News Illinois in a statement that the House GOP stands ready to work with the governor.
“To hear the governor mention any tax cuts is an exciting prospect for families across our state. At the first meeting I had with Gov. Pritzker, we discussed the cumbersome franchise tax on small businesses and high estate taxes that unfairly target family farms,” she said. “The governor recognizing conversations with Democrats and Republicans gives me hope that we will reinstitute the bipartisan budget working group with our budgeteers and appropriation teams leading the way.” McCombie also noted the House Republicans oppose a graduated income tax, which Pritzker has said he has no interest in reviving as a legislative proposal this year.
In their budget approved last summer for the current fiscal year, lawmakers included an array of mostly temporary tax relief. That included direct checks of $50 or more to most Illinoisans depending on income and number of children, a permanent expansion of the state’s earned income tax credit to 20 percent of the federal credit, a six-month pause on a 2-cent gas tax increase that ended Jan. 1, a one-year suspension of the state’s 1 percent grocery tax that ends June 30, and a property tax rebate up to $300 for some Illinoisans.
The governor’s office estimated those measures amounted to about $1.8 billion in tax relief overall. The state approved legislation bringing its rainy day fund balance to an estimated $1.9 billion by the end of the fiscal year and contributing $500 million beyond statutory requirements to its pension fund over the past two years.
The revenue update announced by COGFA last week represents just the latest in a remarkable stretch for state government revenues that have boomed nationwide over the course of the past two years. In Illinois, the growth has been driven by wage growth, corporate profits, inflation, changes to the corporate and online sales tax structures, revenues from marijuana sales and other factors.
“You can see in every single month so far this fiscal year we’ve actually had a gain where we’ve generated more revenue in this fiscal year compared to the same time a year ago,” Eric Noggle, senior revenue analyst for COGFA, said at the commission’s March meeting last week.
COGFA’s new estimate of $51.9 billion in revenues for the current fiscal year that ends June 30 is $545 million beyond the amount assumed by the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget in Pritzker’s budget proposal. And its $50.4 billion estimate for the fiscal year that begins July 1 is $465 million beyond GOMB’s initial estimate.
All told, COGFA now expects the state to end the fiscal year with revenues surpassing their initial estimates by more than $5 billion. While that’s partially because base sales and income tax receipts continue to produce at record levels, it’s also because the state’s estimates approved last summer were conservative, Pritzker said.
The current fiscal year still has three and a half months left, so COGFA noted in its recent report that the revenue estimate could be bumped even higher if final income tax receipts are stronger than expected as taxpayers file their returns for the year. But it could also move downward, the commission noted, if those revenues come in lower than expected due to weakening market conditions. They noted other factors could change the state’s revenue outlook, including the possibility of another COVID-19 resurgence, a worsening of the war in Ukraine, or a potential recession.
The Democratic budget leaders in the House and Senate – Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria, and Sen. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago – issued a statement as well. “By building fiscally and socially responsible budgets, we’ve managed to create surpluses and save for the future while also investing in what families need now – that includes more funding for our schools, affordable health care, and tax relief for working families. This process has also earned us eight credit rating upgrades. We’re going to continue rebuilding Illinois’ fiscal house and using the flexibility we achieve to deliver for hardworking Illinoisans,” the lawmakers said in the statement.
Illinois House panel debates ranked choice voting
Illinois lawmakers are debating whether the state should join a growing list of jurisdictions in the United States that allow voters to pick more than one candidate for an office, ranking them in order of preference rather than choosing just one.
Ranked choice voting, or as it’s sometimes called, “instant runoff voting,” actually has a long history in U.S. elections at the municipal level. But it has become more widely adopted in modern times, including in several states and dozens of municipalities.
“This is a better voting model to ensure all voices and choices are reflected in the election results,” Amber McReynolds, an elections expert and former elections director for the city and county of Denver, Colorado, told a House committee Wednesday. “It prioritizes and expands voter choice, it puts voters first, and it improves the voting experience for all.”
The proposals facing Illinois lawmakers are subject to change as they move through the legislative process. In a general ranked choice voting system, voters mark candidates in the order of their preference in races with three or more candidates. The voter can rank as many candidates as they choose. In a five-person race, for example, a voter might rank one candidate first, another second and leave the sections of the other three candidates blank.
In the first round of counting, ballots are counted as they are now, with everyone’s vote going to their first choice. If no one has achieved a majority, the person with the fewest votes is eliminated and their voters’ ballots are recounted with their votes going to their highest ranked candidate that is still in the race.
This continues until a candidate earns a majority of votes counted in a given round of tabulation. This may not mean a majority of all people who voted in the election, since a ballot isn’t counted after all of their listed choices are eliminated.
According to the group FairVote, which advocates for ranked choice voting, there are 64 jurisdictions that allow that method of elections, including the states of Maine and Alaska, as well as two counties and 60 cities.
Colorado enacted a law in 2021 that allows municipalities to opt in to ranked choice voting in local elections. And Democratic parties in five states – Alaska, Kansas, Hawaii, Nevada and Wyoming – used it, wholly or partially, in their 2020 presidential primaries.
There are currently three bills pending in the General Assembly that would allow ranked choice voting in one form or another.
- House Bill 2716, by Rep. Nabeela Syed, D-Inverness, would implement the system for elections for the General Assembly, governor and other statewide constitutional officers.
- House Bill 2807, by Rep. Maurice West, D-Rockford, would establish ranked choice voting in presidential primaries in Illinois.
- House Bill 3749, by Rep. Kam Buckner, D-Chicago, would allow municipalities to use ranked choice voting if the municipality’s chief election authority submits a written statement saying they have the ability to conduct such an election.
The committee discussion of the three bills was “subject matter” only, meaning they did not come for a vote. They have been re-referred to the House Rules Committee, meaning they may face an uphill battle to be passed into law in the current General Assembly.
Impact on elections
Supporters of ranked choice voting argue that it has several advantages over “plurality voting,” in which the person with the most votes after one round of counting wins regardless of whether that person has a majority.
One, they say, is that it reduces the number of “wasted” votes – that is, votes cast for candidates who drop out of the race after it’s too late to remove their name from the ballot. McReynolds said that is particularly true in presidential primaries in which a large field of candidates is winnowed down to just a few after the first few states cast ballots.
“In 2016, more than 2 million voters actually took the effort to vote for a candidate on the Republican side (after they had dropped out of the race). Their vote was lost,” she said. “In 2020, around 3 million to 4 million of Democrats – that’s the estimated (number) – had that same issue happen because lots of dropouts start happening after Super Tuesday in those periods of time.” Under ranked choice voting, she said, even if a voter’s first choice is no longer in the race, their second or third choice could still count in subsequent rounds of counting.
Some advocates also say it can reduce the overall cost of certain elections by eliminating the need for runoffs, like the one coming up April 4 in the Chicago mayoral race. “There are estimates that runoff elections cost the city between $25 and $35 million each time,” Buckner said. “And so this, if for no other reason, for financial reasons, being able to give us winners of both aldermanic and mayoral elections on the initial election date and to save some of those dollars and resources from the city and municipality.”
But Boone County Clerk Julie Bliss, speaking on behalf of the Illinois Association of County Clerks and Recorders, said there would be significant up-front costs for local officials to buy the voting machines and software needed for ranked choice voting, as well as the cost of printing and mailing what would be much larger ballots. “Expense and funding absolutely is going to be a question that all the local election authorities are going to have for you,” she told the committee. “… The initial cost of implementing something like this is going to be higher.”
Brian Pryor, deputy director of election operations at the Illinois State Board of Elections, said there are currently no voting systems in Illinois that could implement ranked choice voting immediately. “Some systems are capable of conducting ranked choice voting but they require additional components or software, which would need to be certified for use in Illinois,” he said. “There are currently 16 jurisdictions that have no capability of implementing ranked choice voting. These jurisdictions would need to procure new equipment.”
Governor Pritzker Announces $175 Million Available in B2B Grants for Restaurants, Hotels and Creative Arts Businesses
Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) announced $175 million in available grant funding through the Back to Business (B2B) program. Following state recovery for businesses totaling nearly $1.5 billion, the latest American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) -funded opportunity is designed to provide additional support for the hardest-hit sectors, including restaurants (B2B Restaurants), hotels (B2B Hotels), and businesses or organizations in the creative arts sector (B2B Arts). To provide hands-on support and raise awareness about the program, the State has mobilized a network of more than 100 community navigators across Illinois.
“In the three years since COVID-19 brought our state, our nation, and our world to a standstill, Illinois businesses have come back swinging—in part thanks to our Back to Business program,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “My administration is committed to helping small business owners move past survival and onto long-term success—and this latest investment of $175 million in B2B grants does exactly that.”
As outlined in statute, B2B Arts and B2B Restaurants grant award amounts will be determined by revenue declines, as reflected on tax returns, and funding for hotels will be allocated by number of rooms. Applications are open from April 5 through May 10, 2023 and awards are expected to be made several weeks after the deadline date. All eligible applicants will receive a grant as long as the business meets eligibility requirements and submits proper documentation and attestations.
The program design is based on legislation establishing the Restaurant Employment and Stabilization Grant Program ($50 million), Hotel Jobs Recovery Grant Program ($75 million) and the Illinois Creative Recovery Grant program ($50 million). The funding is designed to offset losses and support job retention in the hardest-hit industries.
“Illinois’ businesses have made a strong recovery since the most difficult times of the pandemic and we’re proud to build upon that progress through additional support for hard-hit industries,” said DCEO Director Kristin A. Richards. “Restaurants, hotels and creative arts are industries designed to bring people together, and with an additional $175 million we are investing in communities and supporting continued economic development.”
DCEO has enlisted a robust network of more than 100 community navigators to conduct outreach and provide technical assistance in the hardest hit communities. Community Navigators will be conducting outreach, hosting webinars, and supporting prospective applicants to prepare before the application opens on April 5, 2023. This is in addition to available small business support available through Illinois’ network of Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs).
Eligibility, Application, and Awards
The B2B Restaurants (20 ILCS 605/605-1100), B2B Hotels (20 ILCS 605/605-1095) and B2B Arts (30 ILCS 709/40) programs were designed in accordance with state statute, which specified industries, buckets of funding, spending guidelines and more. A summary of the programs are included below:
In addition to webinars and outreach hosted by community navigators, DCEO will be hosting statewide information kick-off sessions on the dates below:
|Up to $1,500 per room
|Impact of Receiving Prior Award
|Ineligible if business received any prior state relief funding (B2B, BIG, RRF) or more than 10K in local funding.
Businesses who received federal funds, such as PPP are eligible.
|Amount of state or local grants received deducted from overall award amount.
|Grant based only on 2021 losses for businesses that received prior state relief funding (BIG or B2B).
|Flexible spending to support losses
|80% for payroll related costs; 20% flexible spending
|Flexible spending to support losses
|Examples of Eligible Businesses (for the full eligibility list and guidelines please visit Illinois.gov/B2B)
|Performing and presenting arts
Cultural heritage organizations
Statewide DCEO English-Language Webinars
- Friday, March 24, 2023, 10:00 a.m.
- Register here: https://illinois.webex.com/illinois/onstage/g.php?MTID=ec5b73690d4bccf3d0a746566bb556dd4
- Thursday, March 30, 2023, 10:00 a.m.
- Thursday, April 6, 2023, 2:00 p.m.
- Statewide Spanish-Language Webinar:
- Subvenciones Back to Business (B2B por sus siglas en inglés) para restaurantes, hoteles, y empresas de artes creativas
- Jueves, 30 de marzo de 11:00 a.m.
- Registrese aqui https://bit.ly/ildceob2b
Online with OMEE – Overview of Financial Resources for Small Businesses
Wednesday | April 5, 2023 | 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. | Register Here
Is access to financial capital important for your business? The Office of Minority Economic Empowerment (OMEE) Business Development Managers invite you to an online conversation that’s open to all racial/ethnic minorities, women, persons with disabilities, veterans, LGBTQIA+ owned businesses and all other marginalized groups. Team OMEE will provide you with the latest updates on financial resources, federal and state programs, share information about other opportunities, and answer any questions you may have about your business. We’ll take questions in English and Spanish.
SSBCI Funding to Support Small Businesses
The U.S. Department of the Treasury announced that Illinois will receive up to $354.6 million to administer four programs as part of the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI). The expanded program offering through SSBCI will enable Illinois to support small businesses across the state – helping them attract more capital investment and expand or launch business operations, while supporting key sectors. All of the new programs will launch in the coming months.
• Advantage Illinois (AI) Loan Participation Program (Existing Program)
Advantage Illinois’ existing Loan Participation Program provides low-interest loans to small businesses by partnering with local lenders located across the state. In 2022 as of December, 71 percent of AI loans have gone to businesses owned by people of color, women, people with disabilities or veterans.
• Advantage Illinois (AI) Loan Guarantee Program (New Program)
Advantage Illinois’ new Loan Guarantee Program will support business applicants who are having difficulty gaining access to capital by using funds to guarantee a percentage of loans provided by partner lenders. By guaranteeing a percentage of the loan, it makes loans more attractive to lenders and has the potential to increase the funds received by the businesses.
• INVENT Venture Capital Program (VCP) (New Program)
Innovation Venture Fund (INVENT) will operate as a direct equity program with a focus on investing in businesses in key industries such as agriculture, ag tech, information technology, life sciences, manufacturing, quantum, and more.
• Climate Bank Finance Loan Participation Program (New Program)
This new program will be overseen by DCEO and administered by the Illinois Finance Authority (IFA), which will partner with local lenders to issue the loans. Climate Bank funds will be available to small businesses in the clean energy sector.
The programs will launch in the near future; interested businesses should fill out this form to receive additional information and updates when the programs are launched.
Executive Vice President
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry