“Your Timely Roundup of Local, State, and Federal Updates”
Your “Roundup” email is back after a week off due to our trip to Washington, D.C. for advocacy meetings. It was a very successful trip in which we were able to squeeze in eight meetings basically in 24 hours. Our meetings included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Senator Dick Durbin, Senator Tammy Duckworth, and Representatives Underwood, Foster, Jackson, Kelly, and LaHood. We covered topics such as Workforce, Small Business Tax Deductions, SBA Reauthorization, Research & Development Expensing, Cannabis Banking, Credit Card Competition Act, Overtime Pay Threshold, Neighborhood Homes Investment Act, Infrastructure, and Healthcare.
It was perfect timing while we were there as the House finally elected a new speaker (one of our group members may be taking credit for that). More on that below as well as a number of other topics to cover.
*Government Affairs Roundup brought to you by CITGO & Silver Cross Hospital*
New House Speaker Mike Johnson and the Hurdles Now Faced
Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) faces his first big test as he tries to avoid a government shutdown. Funding runs out Nov. 18, setting up the same obstacle course that helped cost Johnson’s predecessor the gavel. House Republicans’ little-known leader says he wants to prioritize passage of full-year spending bills while proposing a stopgap measure through at least January. But as Republicans gear up for a potential showdown with the Democratic-led Senate over spending, the party’s strategy and cohesiveness over the next few weeks will once again be tested.
Johnson met with President Biden and Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y) at the White House last Thursday, to discuss the president’s request for nearly $106 billion for Israel, Ukraine and other national security needs. “It was a productive meeting,” Johnson told reporters back at the Capitol. “I enjoyed my visit with the president.”
The next few weeks are unlikely to be smooth sailing, with seven full-year GOP spending bills still waiting for consideration, as well as a massive Israel aid package. But the usual Republican antagonists are signaling that they’re willing to go easy on Johnson as he carves his own way out of the party’s spending mess.
Several hardliners said they’re open to another short-term funding patch, albeit with conservative priorities attached, that would prevent a shutdown next month.
Senate push for shorter stopgap sets up collision with House GOP
Senate appropriators are considering a continuing resolution (CR) that might run until mid-December, setting up a potential clash with Speaker Mike Johnson, who prefers delaying final spending decisions until next year. The proposed CR ending the week of December 11 is being discussed, but no final decision has been made yet.
Both chambers are also facing contentious issues like aid for Israel and Ukraine, along with other national defense and domestic funding priorities requested by President Joe Biden. Johnson is advocating for separating Israel aid and linking it with pulling back previously approved IRS funding, whereas most senators prefer bundling Israel aid with Ukraine funding and other components of Biden’s $106 billion “national security” package.
With the November 17 funding deadline approaching rapidly, it seems likely that aid will be combined with the CR due to time constraints. Johnson and House Republicans want to avoid a fiscal 2024 appropriations omnibus during the holidays, and Johnson has suggested a stopgap lasting until January 15 or April 15 to prevent a Christmas omnibus.
However, many senators from both parties believe that lengthy stopgap measures are not an effective way to govern and that it results in inefficiencies and delays for government agencies, particularly impacting the Pentagon. Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray and other Democrats are urging for full-year appropriations to be passed before January to maintain national security and global standing.
House Democrats share a similar stance as Senate counterparts regarding the need to wrap up the calendar year without relying on continuing resolutions. The challenge lies in the fact that there has been little progress in reconciling full-year spending bills that can pass in both chambers and become law.
The House has made limited progress on its bills due to a lengthy hiatus, while the Senate is expected to pass its first set of appropriations bills this week. The tight timing is a concern, with the supplemental funding and stopgap measures requiring attention in the coming weeks.
Despite the challenges, some lawmakers are determined to expedite the fiscal 2024 bills and fulfill their duty to the American people, even if it means working nights and weekends to get the job done.
Gov. Pritzker Announces Key Milestones Reached on $1.3 Billion I-80 Corridor Project
Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) were joined today by local officials and community leaders to celebrate several important milestones on the $1.3 billion overhaul of Interstate 80, setting up one of the cornerstone projects in the governor’s Rebuild Illinois capital program to be almost fully under construction in the spring. Entering the next construction season, an estimated $385 million worth of projects just on I-80’s mainline lanes will be underway on almost 12 miles of the corridor, signaling the start of a major new phase.
“Illinoisans deserve infrastructure built for the modern era, with the highest standards of safety and reliability, and a little less congestion and frustration,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “That’s why the General Assembly and I dedicated $1.3 billion of our road modernization plan — the largest single allocation — to the rebuilding and restoration of I-80 through Will, Grundy and Kendall Counties. These 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.”
The reconstruction of I-80 is replacing more than 50-year-old infrastructure, improving safety, adding capacity, and building new connections across the interstate. The projects also create thousands of construction and permanent jobs while boosting quality of life and positioning the region for long-term economic opportunity.
Over the weekend, the Houbolt Road interchange in Joliet was converted to a diverging-diamond design, marking substantial completion of a project in excess of $200 million with CenterPoint Properties, the city of Joliet, and Will County. The work improves access to North America’s largest inland port and opens up new economic development opportunities. The state contributed $32 million toward the project.
Other I-80 elements soon to be wrapping up include the Shepley Road and Wheeler Avenue bridges over the interstate, weather permitting. The new structures will accommodate the larger footprint needed to support I-80 capacity and safety enhancements, with pedestrian and bicycle accommodations added to Wheeler Avenue. Similar improvements to the Briggs Street bridge are ongoing and will finish in late 2024, with construction starting on the River Road bridge this winter.
On the west end of the corridor, temporary pavement is being added to I-80’s westbound lanes between Ridge and River roads to accommodate traffic in the work zone during the upcoming construction seasons.
Finally, IDOT has awarded or is finalizing contracts that will cover nearly 12 miles of improvements to I-80, between Ridge Road and Center Street and from Rowell Avenue to U.S. 30. Once the improvements are complete, tentative for 2026, the final piece on I-80 will begin: the Center Street and Chicago Street interchanges as well as new bridges over the Des Plaines River. The entire project is anticipated to be substantially complete by the end of 2028, with landscaping, bridge demolition, and miscellaneous work extending into 2029.
“Since Day 1, IDOT under Gov. Pritzker has made fixing I-80 a priority,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. “The governor’s capital program is the driving force behind major projects coming online or currently unfolding up and down the state. Please continue to pardon our dust while we Rebuild Illinois: Slow down, stay patient and pay extra attention when driving in and around any work zone.”
The overall I-80 project will redesign and rebuild 16 miles from Ridge Road in Minooka to U.S. 30 in Joliet and New Lenox, improving travel times and reducing congestion. Interchanges will be 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 eastbound I-80 to improve traffic flow and safety. More than 30 bridges will be rehabilitated or replaced.
Also included are projects for people who walk, bike, and roll to help decrease barriers and connect communities, including a new path along Chicago Street from Doris Avenue to Fifth Avenue in Joliet.
The I-80 rebuild includes workers from the Highway Construction Careers Training Program, an IDOT initiative in partnership with South Suburban Community College in South Holland to provide minority and women students with on-the-job experience in the construction trades.
“I-80 is vital for our local transportation network and it’s long overdue for this reconstruction project,” said County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant. “This project will prove to be one of the most impactful infrastructure projects for Will County in decades. Once completed, residents will have access to a safer roadway with reduced congestion.”
“The improvements to the I-80 corridor have been much anticipated,” said Shorewood Mayor Clarence ‘CC’ DeBold. “This creates safer roads and improved transit throughout the region. We look forward to seeing this project at its full completion.
“I commend Governor Pritzker for his exemplary leadership and his visionary commitment to addressing the critical imperative of investing in our roads and infrastructure, particularly focusing on I-80, through the Rebuild Illinois capital program,” said Joliet Mayor Terry D’Arcy.
Passed in 2019, Rebuild Illinois is investing a total of $33.2 billion over six years 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 that touches all modes of transportation: roads and bridges, transit, waterways, freight and passenger rail, aviation, and bicycle and pedestrian accommodations.
For more information, visit I80will.org. The mobile-friendly website features project information, photos, and the ability to submit questions and comments to the project team.
State Estimates $1.3 Billion Drop in Business Taxes for Local Governments
The Illinois Department of Revenue estimates a 28.8% decline in Personal Property Replacement taxes this year — roughly $1.3 billion less. The explosion of PPRT revenue over the past few years was fueled by multiple factors, officials at the state revenue department said. Most significant was the growth of corporate profits, which translates to a growth in taxable income. Secondly, was a now-expired $100,000 cap on how much businesses could deduct in operating losses.
The reason for this year’s decline includes a multitude of reasons as well. As profits stagnate or drop, taxable income levels off or declines. With no deduction cap, businesses report larger losses, which translates to less taxable income. Additionally, state revenue officials said businesses were refunded more tax revenue than anticipated, and that loss is being reconciled this year.
The 6,488 local governments, which includes counties, municipalities, townships, school districts, parks, libraries, fire protection districts, water agencies and even more than a dozen mosquito abatement districts, still stand to split an estimated $3.5 billion in PPRT revenue next year.
The personal property replacement tax is assessed on profits and investment income of corporations, small businesses, trusts, partnerships and even public utilities, according to the revenue department. It was created in 1979 after another tax on the value of business equipment was eliminated.
The loss of revenue hits some harder than others because distributions are based on an archaic formula devised by legislators almost 50 years ago that benefits government agencies with larger corporate footprints at that time.
The nearly 6,500 local governments statewide won’t see an additional $356 million in PPRT revenue this year because state legislators diverted that amount to a variety of state agencies. That includes $105 million to the Illinois Community College Board, $99 million to the comptroller’s office, $81 million to the revenue department and another $81 million is split among six other state agencies, state revenue records show.
The amount of PPRT money diverted from local governments by the state has been growing each year from $21 million in 2009, officials at the Illinois Municipal League warned its constituents last year.
“We’d like to see the portion that goes back to municipalities rise to what it was in the past,” Kuehne said. “We’ve all done well over the past couple years with sales and income taxes, and that’s really helped, but we’re all wary of the future in terms of a potential recession.”
Governor Pritzker Launches $15.4 Million Tourism Grant Programs
Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) launched $15.4 million in tourism funding through two grant programs, the Tourism Attractions Grant Program ($10.8 million) and the Tourism Private Sector Grant Program ($4.6 million). Eligible entities can apply for grants to attract, develop, and improve new and existing tourism-related projects, events and festivals in an effort to boost tourism across the state and welcome more visitors. Grantees will be selected through a competitive Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) process.
“Illinois is the heart of the Midwest—attracting visitors from throughout the nation and around the globe,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “As our tourism industry continues to bounce back from the pandemic, I’m happy to announce another $15.4 million in tourism funding, so we can keep breaking records and displaying Illinois values of resilience and strength on an international scale.”
The $10.8 million Tourism Attractions Grant Program will provide funding for the development or improvement of tourism attractions in Illinois, such as museums, recreation areas, amusement parks, and more. The goal of the program is to provide assistance for projects that increase the economic impact of tourism throughout Illinois by increasing visitation rates, boosting hotel occupancy, increasing local hotel and sales tax revenue, and more.
DCEO is also allocating $4.6 million through the Tourism Private Sector Grant Program which provides funding to entities to attract, host and develop new or enhanced events and festivals across Illinois. The grant opportunity is open to non-profits, government entities, for-profit institutions, and local promotional groups and as defined in state statute, matching funds must be provided by private sector entities, which is the origin of the program’s name. Grant funds can be used for a variety of purposes that support new, expanded, or enhanced events and festivals including advertising and marketing, transportation, building or equipment rental, receptions and banquets, registration, entertainment, and more.
“Illinois continues to break tourism records, and DCEO is building upon this momentum by continuing to support attractions and festivals in every corner of the state,” said DCEO Director Kristin Richards. “By attracting new events and supporting attractions across the state, we’re increasing opportunities to show visitors from near and far that Illinois is the best place to live, work and do business.”
Eligible applicants for both tourism grants include counties, municipalities, not-for-profit organizations, local promotion groups, and for-profit entities, and Tourism Attraction grants are also open to units of local government.
For the Tourism Attraction program, qualified entities can apply for grants between $15,000 to $500,000, with a 1:1 match required. Applications will be accepted until December 18, 2023, at 5:00 p.m. To view the NOFO and apply for the grant, please visit the DCEO website. To help applicants prepare to apply for funding, DCEO will be holding a webinar focused on the Tourism Attraction Grant Program from 1-2 p.m. on Thursday, October 26.
Eligible entities can apply for Tourism Private Sector grants between $10,000 to $500,000, with a 1:1 match requirement. Applications will be accepted until December 4, 2023, at 5:00 p.m. To view the NOFO and apply for the grant, please visit the DCEO website. To help applicants prepare to apply for funding, DCEO will be holding a webinar focused on the Tourism Private Sector Grant Program from 1-2 p.m. on Wednesday, October 25.
Interested parties are also encouraged to reach out to CEO.GrantHelp@illinois.gov for application assistance.
The State of Illinois continues to prioritize its tourism industry as millions of visitors spend billions of dollars annually across Illinois, boosting economic development and supporting jobs in the industry. Illinois reached its highest-ever hotel revenue figures in FY23 with $308 million – surpassing the pre-pandemic record in FY19. Additionally, Illinois welcomed 111 million visitors who spent $44 billion in 2022 – representing 14 million additional travelers spending $12 billion more than calendar year 2021.
The success of Illinois’ tourism sector is due to commitment to supporting the industry as well as the Illinois Office of Tourism’s award-winning “Middle of Everything” campaign. Since it launched in 2022, the campaign has contributed to an additional 2 million trips equaling an additional $1 billion spent in Illinois hotels, restaurants, small businesses, and attractions, according to data from Longwoods International. Additionally, every $1 spent on the campaign equated to $91 in visitor spending while generating $10 in state and local tax revenue for every dollar spent – an enormous return on investment.
To learn more about Illinois and to plan an Illinois getaway, visit www.EnjoyIllinois.com.
First week of veto session wraps up with little legislative movement
Illinois lawmakers headed back to their districts after three days of legislative session in Springfield last week that saw little movement on several major initiatives. They will have a week off before returning to Springfield on Nov. 7 for the second of their annual two-week veto session during which they consider bills the governor vetoed since they last met in the spring.
When they return, they’ll consider measures including reforms to the state’s nuclear policy and a potential extension of a controversial tax credit program that funds private school scholarships.
Unlike the spring session, all legislation must pass with super-majorities − 71 votes in the House and 40 votes in the Senate − to go into effect immediately. Democrats have those numbers, meaning if all of its members vote for a bill it will move to Governor Pritzker’s desk.
Rep. Larry Walsh, D-Elwood, announced last Wednesday that he would not pursue a veto override vote for a policy that would have granted downstate electric utilities – notably Ameren Illinois – the “right of first refusal” for transmission line construction, allowing them to have first crack at the projects.
Governor Pritzker this summer vetoed the portion of a broader bill containing the proposal, citing concerns about stifling competition and increasing consumer prices. While he conceded the veto override, Walsh said he will push for a broader bill that would provide the right of first refusal across the whole state in the spring.
Governor Pritzker also vetoed a bill earlier this year that would have partially lifted the state’s 1980s-era moratorium on new nuclear construction, writing in his veto message that it didn’t include sufficient protections for the “health and safety of Illinois residents who would live and work around these new reactors.”
But since then, the original bill’s sponsor has introduced a new bill that she hopes addresses these concerns and Pritzker has indicated that he’s open to supporting a bill allowing some nuclear construction.
“I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to get a bill that does that,” Pritzker said. “We should be able to. We’re all competent adults who understand what the goal is and I believe there’s a strong majority of people who want to do this.”
Private school scholarships
While there wasn’t a formal vote on the subject, advocates for the Invest in Kids tax credit program for donors to private school scholarship funds flooded the Statehouse last week to rally support for renewing the program before its scheduled to expire at the end of the year.
The program, which has been the subject of partisan debate for several years and was originally introduced as a concession to Republicans during the creation of the state’s evidence-based funding model for schools, was not extended during this year’s budget negotiations.
Hundreds of advocates – including school uniform-clad children and a few nuns – rallied inside the Capitol, with their loud chanting in the rotunda at times interrupting debate on unrelated bills inside the House chamber.
Rep. Angelica Guerrero-Cuellar, D-Chicago, introduced a bill that would extend the program until 2028 with a $50 million budget cap, down from the $75 million it has received in recent years. It would also limit the individual tax credits to be 100 percent credit for the first $5,000 and a lower percentage credit for any donations beyond $5,000. It was previously 75 percent on all donations.
Guerrero-Cuellar’s House Bill 4194 hasn’t been considered by any committees, meaning it cannot clear both chambers with just three session days left on the calendar this year. The topic will likely come up for discussion when lawmakers return in November, but for any negotiated extension of the program to pass in that second week of lawmakers’ session, the proposals would have to be moved to a bill that’s further along in the legislative process.
SB 508, Employment E-Verify
This bill passed out of Senate Executive Committee. This bill provides that unless otherwise required by State or federal law, an employer shall not voluntarily enroll in the E-Verify program or a similar Electronic Employment Verification System. Provides that an employer shall not impose work authorization verification or re-verification requirements greater than those required by federal law. Provides that if an employer is required to participate in the E-Verify program or a similar Electronic Employment Verification System and receives notification from the Social Security Administration of a discrepancy between an employee’s name or social security number and the Social Security Administration’s records, the employer must provide the employee with specified documents.
Provides for additional rights and protections granted to an employee following the notification from the Social Security Administration of a discrepancy. Provides that an employer shall provide notice to current employees, by posting in the language the employer normally uses to communicate employment-related information to the employee, of any inspections of I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification forms or other employment records conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, United States Customs and Border Protection, or any other federal entity enforcing civil immigration violations within 72 hours after receiving notice of the inspection. Provides for additional notice requirements concerning obligations of the employer and the employee.
New Guidance Released for new Paid Leave Act
As the deadline for the January 1, 2024, Leave of Absence Request form and the implementation of the Illinois Paid Leave for All Workers Act (IPLAWA) draws near, employers must conduct a comprehensive review of their current paid leave policies to identify and implement any required modifications by the close of 2023.
The Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) has initiated the dissemination of information regarding the IPLAWA. On October 18th, the IDOL released updated Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) concerning the IPLAWA. Here are a few essential points from the FAQs and presentation for employers:
Preservation of Existing Paid Leave Policies: Employers can retain their existing paid time off policies if they provide a minimum of 40 hours of paid leave for any reason within a designated 12-month period. They are not obliged to adhere to all other IPLAWA provisions. (Refer to FAQ No. 3.) However, this policy must be in place before January 1, 2024, and it must specify that the leave can offset any paid leave entitlement under the IPLAWA.
Denial of Leave for Operational Needs: Employers have the authority to set parameters for IPLAWA leave usage and define limited circumstances under which such leave can be denied for operational reasons (e.g., seasonal demands, excessive simultaneous absences, essential staffing requirements). If an employer plans to reject an employee’s leave request under the IPLAWA, the written policy must outline the considerations and circumstances under which such denial may occur. This policy should be disseminated in advance of the effective date. Further clarification on this topic is anticipated in future IDOL FAQs.
Coverage for Remote and Traveling Employees: The IDOL acknowledges the complexity of various scenarios involving remote and traveling employees (e.g., those residing in Illinois but working in Indiana or vice versa). Consequently, a one-size-fits-all answer does not exist. The IDOL has indicated that it traditionally applies Illinois workplace protections to employees primarily performing work in Illinois for companies operating in Illinois. However, specific factors determining coverage for remote and traveling workers will be addressed in forthcoming rulemaking.
The IDOL has disclosed its intention to publish the initial notice of administrative rulemaking for the IPLAWA by the end of 2023, along with the requisite employer poster. It is crucial for companies with Illinois-based employees to focus on this legislation before the year’s end and collaborate with employment counsel to ensure that necessary policy adjustments are made or new policies are drafted for compliance by the effective date.
Will County Alternative Fuels Survey
The Office of Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant has launched a planning study for Electric Vehicles (EVs) and other Alternative Fuel Vehicles (AFVs). The study will evaluate the future infrastructure needs for EVs and AFVs, such as hydrogen, biodiesel, ethanol, and natural gas. The Will County Alternative Fuels Readiness Plan is the first county-wide alternative fuels plan in Illinois. This is just one step in ongoing efforts to provide more sustainable transportation options for residents, visitors, and businesses. This plan will develop strategies to meet the practical, immediate needs and make meaningful progress to support the County’s initiatives to promote more clean energy.
This plan will only be successful with public input. Please share your thoughts, suggestions, and concerns about EVs and AFVs! Your feedback will help the team better identify electric grid and infrastructure needs to future growth in Will County.
Take the survey at willcountyaltfuels.com!
The website also includes information on the project, educational resources, and feedback opportunities throughout the project. Your involvement and contributions are greatly appreciated, and we thank you for being an essential part of our “Fueling Our Future” journey!
Executive Vice President
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry