Legislative Update: March 9, 2015

Concerns Continue as No Agreement Reached on Growing Spending Crisis
With the current budget more than $1.6 billion out of balance, more and more subsectors of the Illinois economy were affected this week.  House Republicans reaffirmed their commitment to solving issues related to immediate funding issues faced by child care, corrections, and court reporter sectors of the economy. 

“The unbalanced FY15 budget needs to be corrected immediately and brought into balance,” asserted House Republican Leader Jim Durkin on Tuesday, March 3.  Pointing to the State’s failure under former Gov. Pat Quinn to meet its constitutional responsibility to enact a balanced budget, Durkin and his leadership team pledged to help “clean up the mess Governor Rauner inherited on January 12, 2015.”

Local “Exemplary Youth” Visits Springfield
On Wednesday, I had an opportunity to sit down with Elijah Williams, who was in Springfield being honored as an Exemplary Youth from the Boys & Girls Clubs in Illinois. He was representing the Boys & Girls Club of Danville. Elijah is a terrific young man and a role model for young people everywhere. For more than 60 years the Boys & Girls Clubs of Illinois have accomplished goals of opening doors and transforming lives by providing safe places where young people can be themselves, be proud, and experience opportunities never thought possible. Through programs that expand horizons, the Clubs challenge youth to experience the world outside their doorsteps and gives them the tools to succeed.   

This week I also was visited by a group from the Jamaica Flatlanders 4-H group in my District office in Danville.  We discussed the details of how a bill becomes a law, the pressing issues of the day in Springfield and how they as young people can be engage and remain involved.

I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to speak to these terrific students at length about the legislative process.

Prairie State Continues to Grow Slower than Most of U.S. 
Last week the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA), the economic think-tank arm of the Illinois General Assembly, issued their monthly report on the current state of the Illinois economy.  The February 2015 “Monthly Briefing” melded together Illinois’ December 2014 unemployment rate of 6.2%, its current 5.88 million-person labor force, and current rates of change in job growth and joblessness to develop a comprehensive picture of the current state of the Illinois economy as it compares to other states, especially states that neighbor Illinois.

CGFA’s nonpartisan staff finds that the rates of Illinois job growth and change in joblessness lag well behind national averages.  For example, although Illinois’ job totals are marginally higher (up 3.2%) from where they were 36 months ago, this marginal growth ranks Illinois 38th among the 50 states.  Illinois has 6.6% more employer-employee relationships than it had 20 years ago, which ranks 48th.  Over the twenty-year period that began in 1995, few states have performed worse than Illinois. 

Illinois’ anemic job growth continues to cause poor tax collections.  Much of Illinois’ income tax is paid directly by employers through monies withheld from employee paychecks, and when jobs are not created, income tax receipts lag.  This problem, in the first half of calendar 2015, is exacerbated by the rate change in the individual income tax rate on January 1, 2015 from 5.0% to 3.75%.  CGFA staff estimates that State individual income tax collections will, in February 2015, fall $219 million below receipts taken in during February 2014.  This individual income tax shortfall is by far the biggest ongoing driver affecting the ongoing shortage in State general funds receipts, which are expected in February 2015 to fall $174 million behind comparable general funds receipt figures for February 2014.   

Ongoing debate on the FY15 and FY16 State of Illinois budget is driven by several factors.  The pattern of slow private-sector economic growth and the ongoing and steepening downturn in Illinois tax receipts are two of these factors.         

Filing Deadline Sees 4,140 Bills Submitted for House Consideration
The filing deadline was Friday, February 27, and by the close of business House members had turned in 4,140 substantive and appropriations bills for their colleagues to review.  Not all of these bills will get out of committee for full House consideration.  Some filings, such as appropriations bills and resolutions, will continue after the deadline. 

House committees have three more weeks, until March 27, to look at the bills filed before the deadline.  Bills that fail to meet this deadline can be worked on by their sponsors and other interested parties for possible future action in the 2016 spring session.  In many cases, a bill needs to be carefully looked at before it becomes a law.  The status of bills filed in the Illinois House and Senate can be found on the Illinois General Assembly website.

Butler Welcomed to House as Representative of Central Illinois House District
Timothy J. Butler took the oath of office on Tuesday, March 3 in the State Capitol.  Butler is now serving the 87th Illinois House district, a district that covers all or part of Logan, Menard, Sangamon and Tazewell Counties.

Prior to his service in the Illinois House, Tim Butler was district chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) and previously served in the same role for former U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Peoria). He was director of marketing for St. John’s Hospital in Springfield for three years. Butler and his wife Wendy have lived in Sangamon County since 1998, residing in Logan County for three years prior to that. He has family in Menard and Tazewell Counties as well. Butler is on the Boards of Directors of Downtown Springfield, Inc. and the Everett Dirksen Congressional Center.

FFA Week Celebrates Downstate Illinois Heritage
The members of Illinois FFA are looking forward to careers in agriculture, agriculture-related trades, and a wide variety of professions related to life in a region that is a net exporter of agricultural products. More than 25,000 students are enrolled in 321 ag-ed programs across Illinois. FFA Week culminated with Legislative Awareness Day on Thursday, March 5 as more than 1,000 members came together in Springfield to visit their lawmakers.

I had the pleasure on Thursday of meeting and talking with FFA groups from Rantoul (small group photo) and Oakwood (large group photo) High Schools. Illinois FFA, formerly the Illinois chapter of Future Farmers of America, was founded in 1929 to mark the transition in U.S. agriculture from horse-drawn plows to capital-intensive machinery. As technology continues its march, a widening variety of career pathways are associated with life in a region that exports farm-grown products. Approximately 1.5 million Illinois jobs are part of, or dependent upon, Illinois crops and agriculture.

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