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

Chamber members:

Congratulations to all of our award recipients last night as part of our Annual Dinner & Celebration of Success: Pritz Family, Rod Tonelli, IKEA, Heritage Corridor Destinations, Larson Steel, Abri Credit Union, YMCA, Lewis University, Popus Gourmet Popcorn, Wermer Rogers Doran & Ruzon, Melissa Helfert, and Colleen Lyons. Thanks to all of our sponsors and attendees for making it a great night! Special thanks to our co-emcee’s Pete Colarelli and Kip Kline, both who are proud Government Affairs committee members.

With that said, the big breaking news of the day is not about a government deal to avoid shutdown, but rather that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the longest-serving Senate party leader, announced that he will step down as the Republican leader in November.

This week’s roundup is going to be considerably shorter than last week that contained the Governor’s budget plan. Week to week we’ll review some issues contained in the budget starting with pensions.

*Government Affairs Roundup brought to you by CITGO*

Lawmakers race to avoid looming shutdown
Lawmakers are in a frantic race to avert a partial shutdown ahead of Friday’s funding deadline, a task made more challenging over the weekend as leaders failed to reach an agreement and instead engaged in finger-pointing over the cause of the impasse. This marks the fourth time this Congress that members are confronted with the specter of a shutdown.

In discussions among Congressional leaders, there is talk of extending the government shutdown deadlines further into March, as part of a broader arrangement to finalize funding bills and avoid a partial funding gap looming by the week’s end.

A spokesperson for Speaker Mike Johnson stated on Tuesday night that leaders would only consider a temporary funding measure as part of a comprehensive deal to complete some of the 12 spending bills. Negotiators are already pressed for time to finalize bill text for the four measures set to expire just after midnight on Saturday morning, if Johnson intends to uphold his commitment of allowing House lawmakers three full days to review the text before a vote.

For several days, top lawmakers have been discussing the possibility of pushing any unfinished funding bills to March 22, while possibly opting for a shorter extension for the bills that can be quickly wrapped up.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared on Sunday that congressional leaders had yet to reach a compromise on spending bills, placing blame on House Republicans for the delay. However, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) swiftly countered, attributing the holdup to “new Democrat demands” during negotiations.

As the weekend drew to a close, appropriators failed to release the compromise spending bills that have been under negotiation for months, leaving lawmakers scrambling as Friday’s deadline rapidly approaches.

Funding for military construction, water development, and various government departments including Agriculture, Energy, Veterans Affairs, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development is set to lapse on Friday. The remaining eight spending bills are due to expire on March 8.

Pension Funding Plan
Governor JB Pritzker aims to overhaul a 30-year pension funding plan initiated by a Republican predecessor if his proposal goes through. Back in 1994, then-Governor Jim Edgar, in a bipartisan effort, signed a pension reform package setting a target for the state to cover 90% of its pension obligations by 2045. However, this plan has been criticized by lawmakers from both sides for its slow progress. Currently, the funding stands at less than 45%, leaving a shortfall of $141.3 billion overall.

Prior to presenting the budget proposal, the Pritzker administration deliberated on reforming this plan, often referred to as the “Edgar Ramp.” The new proposal, contingent upon legislative approval, aims to achieve full pension funding by 2048, with increased annual contributions from the state once the debt is cleared.

Former Governor Edgar commented on Pritzker’s proposal, noting that it isn’t drastically different from the plan enacted during his tenure. He emphasized the necessity of discipline in resolving the pension issue without expanding benefits. Shifting the goal to full pension funding by 2048 would align Illinois with states like Wisconsin and South Dakota, which have already met similar targets.

Under the current plan, spending is projected to exceed $18 billion by fiscal year 2045 before significantly dropping the following year. Pritzker’s proposal would maintain annual pension payments below this threshold, with higher contributions from 2033 to 2040 followed by decreases until 2045, then a subsequent increase until 2048.

The governor’s office anticipates reaching this goal with the help of clearing two long-term debts in the coming years: a $6 billion loan covering backlog borrowings and $10 billion in pension funding bonds, scheduled for repayment by 2030 and 2033, respectively.

Pritzker suggests reallocating half of the revenue used to repay these bonds to make additional payments to the state’s five pension systems once the debts are settled, estimated to save taxpayers $5.1 billion by fiscal year 2045.

Approval of the governor’s proposal by lawmakers would not affect pension spending in the upcoming fiscal year. Pritzker’s plan entails allocating $10.1 billion for pensions, nearly 19% of the proposed $52.7 billion budget, representing a $300 million increase from the current fiscal year’s estimate.

This proposal aligns with previous initiatives by the governor, such as investing an extra $700 million into the systems in fiscal years 2022 and 2023 and extending the pension buyout program for state pension recipients through 2026. The Illinois Supreme Court recently upheld a state law allowing the consolidation of downstate police and fire pensions, another initiative signed into law by Governor Pritzker.

The proposal has garnered support from Comptroller Susana Mendoza and State Representative Stephanie Kifowit, who chairs the House Personnel and Pensions Committee. Kifowit believes transitioning to full funding is fiscally responsible and the right course of action.

Pension reform is part of a suite of legislation Pritzker wants the General Assembly to address, alongside a healthcare reform package. For the governor’s proposals to materialize, legislation must be drafted and passed by the General Assembly, which reconvenes on March 5th.

Governor Pritzker Announces $6 Million for CEJA Returning Residents Program
Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) launched $6 million in funding for the Illinois Returning Residents Clean Jobs Training Program as part of a larger strategy to equitably grow Illinois’ clean energy workforce through the landmark Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA). The program will deliver clean jobs training, education, and support services in Illinois Department of Corrections facilities to individuals within 36 months of their release to prepare them to work in clean energy and related sector jobs upon release. Organizations that will run the Returning Residents Program will be selected through a competitive Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) process.

“It is critical that as we build our clean energy future, all of our communities can access the training they need to secure jobs in growing industries,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Thanks to the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, Illinoisans impacted by the justice system will not only be prepared for the good-paying jobs of tomorrow, but they will also help us create a cleaner, more sustainable state for all.”

The Returning Residents Program will provide classroom instruction and hands-on learning opportunities, utilizing a standard Clean Jobs Curriculum Framework, and connect Program graduates with potential employers in the clean energy industry.

“The Returning Residents Program is exactly what we mean when we say we are shifting Illinois toward a more restorative justice system,” said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. “The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act has always been rooted in equity. We’re reimaging what reentry looks like while further diversifying the clean energy workforce.”

Program curriculum will include training in essential employability skills and clean energy basics to help participants succeed in an array of workplaces and clean energy jobs. Upon completion, participants will continue to the job-specific training portion of the curriculum to receive solar PV training or HVAC training, with an energy efficiency focus.

“Launching the Returning Residents Program will promote diversity and inclusion in the clean energy sector,” said DCEO Director Kristin Richards. “Returning residents deserve the chance to make a positive, lasting impact on our state by participating in this CEJA program that will give them the opportunity to pursue successful careers in the clean energy jobs of the future.”

Post-release services will be provided in coordination with the Clean Jobs Workforce Network Program Hubs and the Climate Works Pre-Apprenticeship Centers to continue to support participants after release as they prepare for and transition into employment. A wide range of support services will be available, including help with transportation, childcare, supplies and other expenditures, along with support to gain and retain employment.

“The Returning Residents Program is a great example of what is possible when you prioritize equity,” said Assistant Majority Leader Marcus C. Evans, Jr. (D-Chicago). “As chief sponsor of the landmark Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, I know this funding will not only help Illinois in building a clean energy future, it will also provide meaningful opportunities to individuals who need it most – reducing recidivism and creating a pathway to a greater future.”

The Returning Resident Program will work with clean energy employers to identify job and work-based learning opportunities for participants and help facilitate job placement. DCEO will publish a Hiring Returning Residents Handbook for employers, and the organizations that deliver the program will engage with employers to promote company policies to support hiring and supporting returning residents.

“This investment is essential to ensuring all Illinoisans, regardless of their background, have an opportunity to thrive,” said Assistant Majority Leader Aaron Ortiz (D-Chicago). “As a cosponsor of the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, I am thrilled to see continued support for our state’s shared vision of building a clean energy future.”

Up to four grantees will receive funding through the program to serve participants in the Kewanee Life Skills Re-Entry Center, Decatur Correctional Center, Western Illinois Correctional Center, and Vienna Correctional Center.

“As one of the sponsors of the transformative Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, I am thrilled to witness its continued positive impact on our state,” said Majority Caucus Appropriations Leader Elgie R. Sims, Jr. (D-Chicago). “This investment will not only help us in our efforts to build a cleaner future and expand our clean energy workforce, but it will allow us to do so through an equitable lens and provide greater opportunity for historically disadvantaged communities.”

Qualified entities include community-based organizations such as non-profits, community colleges, and local governments that provide employment skills, training, or related services. Organizations are encouraged to partner with each other to deliver training within the correctional facilities and support participants as they are released into communities throughout Illinois. Applicant teams must demonstrate relationships with returning residents and organizations serving returning residents.

Through a competitive Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), qualified entities can apply for grants, with awards ranging from $1 million to $2 million. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until funds are exhausted. 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 at 1 p.m. on March 1 and a webinar at 1 p.m. on March 8. One-on-one technical assistance is also available for applicants. Interested parties are encouraged to reach out to for application assistance.

The Returning Residents 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)

Recurring Business:

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 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:

  • March 5, 10 a.m. to noon: Job Costing and Work-In-Process
  • March 7, 10 a.m. to noon: Overhead Rate Calculation – Construction and Professional Services, Part 1
  • March 12, 10 a.m. to noon: The Benefits of Using Accounting Software
  • March 14, 10 a.m. to noon: QuickBooks – Part 1, 2 and 3 Q&A
  • March 19, 10 a.m. to noon: QuickBooks – Industry Specific: Construction
  • March 21, 10 a.m. to noon: QuickBooks – Industry Specific: Professional Services
  • March 26, 10 a.m. to noon: QuickBooks – Industry Specific: Suppliers
  • March 28, 10 a.m. to noon: QuickBooks – Industry Specific: Trucking

Building Blocks of Success will continue through April. Workshop information, including dates and times, is available through Eventbrite at Advance registration is required.

Questions can be directed to IDOT’s Bureau of Small Business Enterprises at (217) 785-4611.

Through Gov. JB Pritzker’s historic, bipartisan Rebuild Illinois, IDOT is helping to deliver the largest capital program in state history while promoting diversity, equity and inclusion.

Administered by IDOT, the DBE program provides minorities, women and eligible small businesses with opportunities to participate in federally and state funded highway, transit and airport contracts. For more information on becoming a certified DBE and learning more about available IDOT resources, visit

Stay well,

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