Government Affairs Roundup
“Your Timely Roundup of Local, State, and Federal Updates”
A couple of announcements out of the Governor’s office in today’s roundup for upcoming funding. Also, some information on two topics surely to be in the news during the state veto session beginning next week.
*Government Affairs Roundup brought to you by CITGO & Silver Cross Hospital*
Governor Pritzker Announces $21 Million for CEJA Contractor Incubator Hubs
Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) launched $21 million in funding for the Clean Energy Contractor Incubator Program or “CEJA Contractor Incubator Hubs.” The program establishes a network of 13 community-based hubs across the state offering incubator services designed to assist clean energy contractors – especially those from underserved areas – grow their businesses. The organizations that will run CEJA Contractor Incubator Hubs will be selected through a competitive Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) process.
“Illinois’ nation-leading Climate and Equitable Jobs Act is the boldest climate action plan in our state’s history, and it’s anchored in equity to ensure no one is left behind,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “That’s why I’m proud to announce additional funding for our CEJA Contractor Incubator Hubs that will further advance our clean energy businesses and workforce. It’s another step on the path to creating the clean energy future that all Illinoisans deserve.”
The CEJA Contractor Incubator Hubs is CEJA’s central small business support program among a highly interconnected set of statewide clean energy workforce development and community support programs. The Hubs will provide a variety of services to contractors and clean energy small businesses, including access to low-cost capital, training, mentorship, networking opportunities and other business-related assistance. The program prioritizes support for business owners and contractors from historically marginalized backgrounds as well as entrepreneurs located in environmental justice communities.
“Our administration is prioritizing not only environmental justice, but how we empower our small businesses and working families to thrive. CEJA Contractor Incubator Hubs are a critical part of how we connect our communities to clean energy,” said Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton. “This $21 million investment will uplift our local businesses and community-based organizations with opportunities to grow.”
The CEJA Contractor Incubator Hubs will serve small clean energy businesses and contractors with the goal of empowering them to grow their clean energy businesses. The Hubs will be comprised of organizations with extensive experience supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs in capacity building.
“The CEJA Contractor Incubator Hubs are essential to moving our state toward a clean energy future under the landmark CEJA legislation,” said DCEO Director Kristin Richards. “Through community-based hubs, DCEO will uplift and support small businesses and clean energy contractors, especially those in historically underserved communities across Illinois.”
Through a competitive Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), qualified entities can apply for grants, with awards ranging from $500,000 to $2.5 million.
Applications will be accepted until December 11, 2023, at 5:00 p.m. To view the NOFO and apply for the grant, please visit the DCEO website. Interested parties are encouraged to reach out to CEO.GrantHelp@illinois.gov for application assistance. A Technical Assistance Webinar will be held on October 20, 2023, at 9:00 a.m.
The Clean Energy Contractor Incubator Program is one of several contractor, workforce, and community support programs established by the landmark CEJA legislation intended to move Illinois to a 100% carbon-free future. Under CEJA, DCEO will administer $180 million per year in workforce and community support programs designed to build Illinois’ clean energy economy and prepare the state’s workforce and communities for the jobs of the future.
CEJA training, contractor & community investment programs administered by DCEO include:
· Clean Energy Contractor Incubator Program (20 ILCS 730/5-45)
· Clean Energy Primes Contractor Accelerator Program (20 ILCS 730/5-55)
· Clean Jobs Workforce Network Program (“Clean Jobs Hubs”) (20 ILCS 730/5-20)
· Coal to Solar and Energy Storage Initiative Fund (20 ILCS 3855/1-75)
· Energy Transition Barrier Reduction Program (20 ILCS 730/5-30)
· Energy Transition Community Support Grants (20 ILCS 730/10-20)
· Energy Transition Navigators Program (20 ILCS 730/5-35)
· Illinois Climate Works Pre-apprenticeship Program (20 ILCS 730/5-40)
· Jobs and Environmental Justice Grant Program (20 ILCS 730/5-60)
· Returning Residents Clean Jobs Training Program (20 ILCS 730/5-50)
Governor Pritzker Launches $2.5 Million Economic Empowerment Centers Program
Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) launched $2.5 million in funding for the new Illinois Economic Empowerment Centers Program (EEC). Eligible career education agencies and non-profit organizations can now apply to serve as EECs to provide entrepreneurship training to prepare individuals from historically marginalized communities to pursue business opportunities in a more inclusive business ecosystem. EECs will be selected through a competitive Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) process.
“Illinois is stronger when every individual has equitable opportunities to thrive,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “That’s why I’m proud to launch $2.5 million in funding to uplift communities that have historically lacked access to business resources and guidance while facing significant barriers to entry. Our new Illinois Economic Centers Program will provide a comprehensive business support system that will ensure every business—from start-ups to established entities—have pathways to success.”
The EEC Grant Program was created to address the need for tailored support at a local, community and cultural level for Illinoisans in targeted populations in the business community, including minorities, women, individuals with a disability, dislocated workers, veterans, and youth entrepreneurs. Through the new grant program, EECs will aim to create an inclusive business ecosystem for communities that have traditionally faced systemic barriers to entry and growth through dynamic partnerships, targeted outreach, and tailored programs and initiatives.
“Centering equity in economic development benefits all Illinoisans, and the Economic Empowerment Centers Program uplifts economically disenfranchised communities. This program provides the training and services that break down the barriers of inequality,” said. Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton. “This investment is a testament to ensure entrepreneurship is a reality for people across Illinois.”
EECs will provide business advice, technical assistance, education, and cohort training, including resources and training tailored toward start-ups, existing businesses, and dislocated workers. Selected EECs will provide a variety of services, including management analysis and counseling, business planning and financial planning assistance, market analysis, referrals to educational programs and more.
“Communities that have historically faced systemic barriers will soon have a breadth of new opportunities provided by the new Illinois Economic Empowerment Centers,” said DCEO Director Kristin Richards. “Through the EEC program, DCEO is investing in Illinois’ diverse entrepreneurs and ensuring they have access to resources and training that will help them thrive in the workplace.”
Qualified entities can apply for grants between $250,000 to $500,000, with a 1:1 match required. DCEO anticipates selecting up to 10 awards. Applications will be accepted until November 28, 2023, at 5:00 p.m. To view the NOFO and apply for the grant, please visit the DCEO website. Interested parties are encouraged to reach out to CEO.GrantHelp@illinois.gov for application assistance.
To help applicants prepare to apply for funding, DCEO will be holding a webinar from 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. on Tuesday, October 17.
Veto Session: Ameren right-of-first refusal bill
Legislation that opponents said would raise costs for electric customers in Illinois could be addressed during the upcoming fall veto session. The bill would have given Ameren Illinois the right-of-first refusal on transmission line construction projects, thus eliminating the competitive bidding process.
Transmission line planning is big business, and opponents say banning competition is a surefire way to increase costs at the expense of utility customers. Illinois lawmakers who approved the legislation on the last day of spring session argued the proposals would generate more utility worker union jobs in the state.
Governor J.B. Pritzker issued an amendatory veto in August, striking out only the portion of the measure that deals with the right-of-first refusal. “Competition is important and we want to keep costs down for our customers across the state and having a competitive environment helps do that,” said Pritzker.
Jason Heffley, the Illinois State Director for Americans for Prosperity, sent a letter to lawmakers urging opposition to the legislation. “We wanted to put folks on notice that we are going to be pushing hard during the upcoming veto session to make sure that the veto is sustained or that the veto is not overridden,” said Heffley.
At least a dozen states have adopted laws that give local utilities a right-of-first refusal to build transmission line projects, including Iowa and Indiana. Ameren has testified in other states considering similar legislation that the competitive bidding process leads to delays and cost overruns.
During the upcoming veto session in Springfield, lawmakers will have the option of accepting the governor’s changes, overriding the governor’s veto so that the bill becomes law, or letting the legislation go by the wayside.
Veto Session: Invest in Kids Act
The Invest in Kids Act, a scholarship program that’s set to end December 31st if the General Assembly doesn’t act, gives tax credits to those who contribute to the scholarship program. The program benefits low-income families at non-public schools. It’s currently opposed by the Chicago Teachers Union.
A recent poll revealed two-thirds of Illinois voters support the program, “especially” parents, voters of color and voters with annual incomes under $40,000, according to the polling memo from Brian Stryker and Oren Savir, the pollsters who count President Joe Biden as a client.
“Support remains unchanged after voters hear statements from both proponents and critics of the program,” according to the poll memo. Most of those surveyed weren’t even bothered by statements such as: “Wealthy Illinoisans get to take their tax dollars, give them to private schools, and leave public schools underfunded.”
Lawmakers could take up the proposal to extend the program when they meet starting Tuesday for the scheduled veto session.
Governor Pritzker says he would veto any Chicago financial transaction tax
Governor J.B. Pritzker said he would veto any legislation to impose a financial transaction tax that could harm Chicago’s storied exchanges and cause them to leave the state. “Let me be clear, there is no financial transactions tax on the table, period,” the Democratic governor said in an interview with Bloomberg News. “There will not be support. I would veto it.”
Pritzker’s comments follow months of speculation over how Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson plans to raise revenue to tackle the city’s embattled finances. They also represent the billionaire governor’s strongest words of opposition to the levy, after he expressed dissent to the proposal following Johnson’s election.
The third-largest US city is facing a budget gap of more than $500 million, with the shortfall projected to increase in the years ahead. Johnson, a progressive Democrat who took office in May, proposed a slew of taxes during his campaign, including a $1 or $2 levy per securities trading contract that would help him raise $100 million. But executives from Chicago’s largest exchanges and trading firms have already warned they may be forced to consider their options if the levy puts them at a disadvantage against peers in other states.
Terry Duffy, the chief executive officer of CME Group Inc., said he has liquidated every piece of real estate, and that the exchange — which has called Chicago home for more than a century — would leave if it had to. “Will the CME still stand for Chicago in five years time? Nobody knows,” Duffy said in a separate interview. “There’s no reason for us to want to leave. But at the same time, if the atmosphere gets to the point where it’s intolerable, we have no choice.”
Johnson proposed some $800 million in taxes on corporations, airlines and the ultra rich during his campaign. So far the only significant measure that’s moving forward is a proposal to raise taxes on the sale of properties above $1 million to tackle the city’s homelessness crisis. Chicagoans would have to vote to approve such a measure.
At a press conference last week, the mayor dodged Bloomberg questions about what taxes proposed during his campaign are still on the table, limiting his comments to what has been presented in the budget. “What I presented on Wednesday is what’s actually on the table,” he said. “There’s nothing new that I’m hiding. That’s what’s on the table.”
This isn’t the first time financial firms have battled against a tax on LaSalle Street, Chicago’s version of Wall Street. In 2016, CME and Cboe Global Markets Inc., the world’s largest options exchange, fought a similar proposal by state representative Mary Flowers.
When Chicago saw its budget deficit balloon during the pandemic, a City Council committee also debated the issue.
Illinois Secure Choice Reminder – Zoom Recording and Slides
Don’t forget about the Illinois Secure Choice law deadline coming up at the beginning of November. Illinois state law now requires that every private-sector employer that has been in business for at least 2 years and that had 5 or more Illinois employees last year must offer their own qualified retirement plan or facilitate the Illinois Secure Choice retirement savings program.
In a recent webinar session, the Illinois State Treasurer’s Office covered the specifics of the state law and provided an overview of how Illinois Secure Choice works and how easy it is for businesses to facilitate retirement savings for their employees.
Here is the Zoom link to the recording. Attached are slides covering the program as well.
Executive Vice President
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry