Budget – FY17
·         As year-end deadline approaches, talks are suspended.  Many facets of state spending are moving towards limbo with the approach of New Year’s Eve.  December 31 is the expiration date for the so-called “stopgap budget” that is authorizing much of the State’s spending activities during the final two quarters of calendar year 2016.  The “stopgap budget,” which was enacted in summer 2016, was meant to serve as a bridge to cover the first half of the 2017 fiscal year while budget negotiations took place.  However, high-level budget talks have been suspended.  Governor Bruce Rauner stated on Wednesday, December 14, that based on his face-to-face contacts with leading Democrats, negotiations are not being productive at this time.   

Under the complex current Illinois budget situation, not all areas of State spending are tied to the so-called “stopgap budget.”  Significant FY17 spending programs, such as Medicaid and pay for state employees, are tied to court orders, consent decrees, and continuing appropriations.  Other spending programs are being carried out through December 31 in line with the so-called stopgap budget.  Still other areas are not covered by any current appropriation at all, and monies for these programs are not being spent.  Many entities that are not receiving needed state funding, such as community colleges and offices that carry out many social programs, are begging for relief.    
Budget – FY17
·         Leaders meetings do not generate budget agreement.  With the “stopgap” six-month budget for the first half of FY17 scheduled to expire on December 31, pressure is being placed on key Illinois officials to develop a budget agreement. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, Governor Bruce Rauner, and other leaders were meeting almost daily in Chicago.  Key issues include cash flow for State spending areas covered in the “stopgap” budget.  Renewed appropriations are required if these areas are to get funding in January 2017 and following months.  However, no agreement has yet been reached

Pressure for a budget deal is being driven by the deteriorating financial condition of the State.  The Comptroller’s office indicated that Illinois had, as of Tuesday, December 6, piled up a backlog of unpaid bills totaling more than $10.6 billion.  These include both bills that are actually in the Comptroller’s office awaiting payment and bills that are in the various State agencies and have not yet been forwarded to the Comptroller.
Budget – FY17
·         Governor Rauner renews call for property tax freeze and term limits. Substantial segments of Illinois state spending are scheduled to run dry with the expiration of the so-called ‘stopgap” State budget that is covering the first half of FY17.  This period of time will end on December 31, 2016, and further State action will be required to keep those facets of State spending in operation.  However, meetings between Governor Bruce Rauner and the four legislative leaders, including House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, have not yet succeeded in achieving the level of agreement necessary for a budget bill to move forward.

Many Republicans believe that structural reforms are necessary in order to justify the investment of additional taxpayer money.  Governor Rauner has released a video on his Facebook page describing his call for legislative term limits and a freeze on Illinois property tax extensions.  Representative Mark Batinick introduced a property tax extension freeze bill in the Illinois House on Tuesday, December 1.
General Assembly – Veto Session
·         First week of veto session held in Springfield.  The Constitution of Illinois asks State lawmakers to spend two session periods of three days each in Springfield each fall.  The veto session weeks, which straddle Thanksgiving, give the General Assembly the opportunity to consider and approve or reject the total and amendatory vetoes signed by the Governor earlier in the summer. 

Action remains uncertain on some of the issues discussed this week, and both the House and the Senate final action on many of the measures considered in this first week of veto session will take place during the 2nd and final week of the session.  The General Assembly is discussing the stabilization of Illinois’ electrical generating infrastructure, workers’ compensation, legislative term limits, and many other issues.  The General Assembly will reconvene on Tuesday, November 29.
Budget – Unpaid Bills
·         State of Illinois’ backlog of unpaid bills hovers above $9 billion.  As of Wednesday, October 26, the State was in possession of more than $9.1 billion in unpaid bills payable from general funds.  Unpaid obligations of the State of Illinois include money due to a wide variety of medical service and social service providers.  These are entities, most but not all of which are part of the private sector, which provide services to Illinois residents under state and federal laws (such as Medicaid) and have the right to be paid for them.

A wide variety of local government agencies are also hard hit by the State’s poor cash flow.  For example, Downstate public transportation districts offer van rides to persons who request transportation assistance, and often offer local bus services.  These local bus-and-van agencies cannot hope to cover their operating expenses from fare box collections, and depend on supplemental money from the State, which is currently not being paid.  Several Downstate transit systems have shut down operations due to the lack of state funding.  

Agriculture – Harvest Time
·         Illinois farmers have harvested more than three-quarters of corn, soybeans.  The bumper crop numbers were reported on Tuesday, October 25 by the National Agriculture Statistics Service.  Relatively dry conditions have made it possible for heavy farm equipment to repeatedly enter mature crop fields in most sections of Illinois.  Warm weather has further helped with harvest conditions. 

Damp fields affect some portions of the State. The Illinois Department of Agriculture reported at the start of this week that the corn harvest was 83% complete, compared to 91% last year, and the bean harvest was 76% done, compared to 77% for the 5-year average.  Large quantities of winter wheat are planted in some parts of Illinois, especially the southeastern counties.  This fall-sown crop had been 68% planted as of this week. 
State Government – Cutting the Red Tape Initiative
·         Governor Rauner issues executive order creating Illinois Competitiveness Council.  Governor Bruce Rauner has announced a comprehensive plan to promote economic growth and job creation by cutting the red tape in Illinois. He signed Executive Order 16-13 to review all agency rules and regulations by the newly-created Illinois Competitiveness Council.

“For years, Illinois has added layers and layers of burdensome rules and regulations to a never-ending bureaucracy,” Governor Rauner said. “It’s an endless line of red tape that creates a barrier for small businesses and entrepreneurs. By cutting the red tape, we are creating an environment where they can succeed.”

The Illinois Competitiveness Council will be comprised of a representative of each of Illinois’ regulatory state agencies. Its goal is to save Illinoisans at least $250 million in direct license fee costs over the next decade, and save Illinois taxpayers and business owners at least 4 million pages in paperwork. It will work to ensure current regulations are up to date and relevant to today’s industries and practices; ensure the language in rules are easy to understand; reduce the amount of unduly burdensome requirements on businesses, social service providers, and citizens through both time and cost; and ensure there is a clear need for the regulation.
Budget – Debt Refinancing
·         Underwriters agree to help refinance some Illinois debt.  The $600 million in variable-rate bonds that will be refinanced are stapled to a set of “crocodile” clauses.  Hidden under the dark water of the 2003 bonds’ contractual covenant are a series of punishment terms in which the State of Illinois promised to pay an enormous penalty ($150 million) should its credit standing fall below letter-of-credit level.  A consortium of four banks has agreed to refinance the debt under terms that will replace the letters of credit requirement that was stapled, by covenant, to the old debt.

The bonds that will be refinanced under this agreement were placed during the administration of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.  The agreement, which was announced on Wednesday, October 12, is not expected to lead to an upgrade of Illinois’ sub-par triple-B credit rating.  In addition, it is expected that the State of Illinois will have to pay fees to the refinancing banks in return for their replacement of the letters of credit.  The refinancing is expected to be completed on November 7.      
By Susan Sarkauskas
The Daily Herald

Tears come to the eyes of state Rep. Keith Wheeler when he talks about how as much as $200,000 is missing, presumably stolen, from the Kendall County Food Pantry.

But beyond the sadness, there's anger.

"They (charity thieves) are stealing from more than one person," Wheeler said.

Thieves reduce the aid that can be given to people and in a way also are stealing from people who give to charities, he said. And news of such fraud can discourage others from donations.

In August, the Oswego Republican filed legislation aimed at toughening the punishment for stealing from a charity. It would make nonprofit organizations special victims under the state's theft law, just like churches, schools and governments, and increase the severity of the charge.
Children – Teenage Concussions
·         Health care providers report sharp increase in official diagnoses of concussions among many Illinois teenagers.  The diagnosis count increased 83% from 2010 to 2015 among a large subset of Illinois children aged 10 to 19.  The subset is made up of those children and young adults that are members of households insured by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, Illinois’ largest health care insurer.  Blue Cross reports that more than 8 million of the 12.9 million people of Illinois are covered by their firm.  The numbers reflect diagnostic codings reached by health care professionals, used by them as a basis for follow-up treatments of their patients, and submitted to Blue Cross for requested reimbursement.
It is not known to what extent, if any, concussions are growing in Illinois.  Health care providers have worked hard in recent years to improve their screening for this diagnosis when a patient is presented for treatment.  Many older Illinoisans will remember incidents, especially on a sports field, when a young person would have reported that he was “feeling woozy” and, instead of being diagnosed and treated by trained medical personnel, would have been urged to sit down until he felt better.    

The General Assembly has taken significant actions in recent years to treat teenage concussions, particularly in high school sports.  The Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act, passed in spring 2015, has led to a series of new guidelines from the Illinois High School Association.  A principle guideline mandates that school coaches and officials undergo both first-time training and, as a follow-up, continuing education in the field diagnosis of concussions and other acute medical conditions.  Additional guidelines set forth pathways and markers for an affected student, his or her family and caregivers, and his or her athletic trainers to follow in returning a person diagnosed with a concussion to possible future sports activity.    

Budget – Unpaid Bills
·         Backlog of unpaid bill hits $8.6 billion.  The unpaid-bill count, tracked on a day-to-day basis by the office of Comptroller Leslie Munger, hit more than $8.6 billion this week.  The red-ink number is closely watched by holders of Illinois debt paper and by international credit rating agencies and firms that rank worldwide debtors by chances of insolvency.  For example Moody’s, the world’s largest credit-rating firm, currently ranks Illinois general obligation debt backed by general funds at Baa2, two ranks above “junk bond” level.  Moody’s adds that they have a “negative outlook” on Illinois’ current Baa2 rating.  Analysts at Moody’s report that Illinois’ “structural budget gap” currently equals at least 15% of Illinois general fund and pension expenditures.    

The backlog, counted as of Thursday, September 22, represents more than $8.6 billion in bills payable from Illinois general funds.  These bills have either been presented to the Illinois Comptroller for payment, or are known to be waiting in the coffers of various State agencies for presentation and payment.  Many of these bills are request for reimbursement to providers of supplies and services to the State and its clients, particularly medical and nursing care provided to Medicaid patients. 

The unpaid-bill ledger count reported weekly by Munger’s office is likely to continue to fluctuate in future weeks.  However, the overall red-ink trend is expected to continue to go upward, based on tax payments to the State continuing to fall short of monies obligated by continuing appropriations, court orders, and consent decrees.  Illinois’ unpaid-bill debt is only a small fraction of the total debts owed by the Illinois public sector.  One estimate indicates that the State of Illinois alone has compiled obligations, including future pension obligations, of more than $45,500 per taxpayer.
Jobs – Illinois labor force
·         Illinois payroll drops by 8,200 jobs in August.  The monthly jobs and unemployment report from the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) showed a 30-day drop of 8,200 in Illinois’ seasonally-adjusted nonfarm payroll jobs.  This key employment number declined from 6,016,900 in July 2016 to 6,008,700 in August. 

More than one-half, or 4,400, of the new job losses were posted by the manufacturing sector.  The making and supporting of goods assembled or packaged in factories now accounts for less than one-tenth of Illinois’ total nonfarm payroll jobs.  In August 2016, 568,400 workers labored in or around Illinois factories, less than 9.5% of Illinois’ total employment of 6.0 million.  Parts of the August job losses posted by Illinois in manufacturing, construction, mining and other sectors were made up by continued job growth in leisure, hospitality, professional services and business services.  These sectors have done well in past months in Illinois and continued to add new jobs in August 2016. 

The overall unemployment rate dropped in Illinois in August 2016 from 5.8% to 5.5%.  Much of the decline was attributed to “discouraged workers” dropping out of the labor force or leaving Illinois entirely.  Approximately 20,000 Illinois residents dropped out of the labor market in August 2016.  Illinois’ unemployment rate continued to be significantly higher than the nationwide unemployment rate of 4.9% for the same month. The IDES jobs report was released on Thursday, September 15.   
Chicago – Vista Tower Groundbreaking
·         Ground broken on residential skyscraper designed to be 1,186 feet tall.  When completed, Vista Tower will be the third tallest building in Chicago behind the Willis Tower (1,450 feet, plus antenna masts) and the Trump International Hotel and Tower (1,389 feet).   Although largely designed for residential use, the Chinese-financed tower will also contain luxury hotel space.  Designed by prizewinning architect Jeanne Gang, the Wacker Drive tower will be 95 stories tall.

The Vista Tower project is expected to take 3.5 years to complete.  The work will employ thousands of specialized construction jobs, in addition to the 500 personnel who will permanently staff the building upon the scheduled completion date of December 2019.   The project will cost its investors nearly $1.0 billion.
YORKVILLE – The Illinois Farm Bureau has presented their 2016 “Friend of Agriculture” award to State Representative Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) in recognition of his voting record in support of pro-agriculture initiatives in the 99th General Assembly. Presenting the award to Representative Wheeler was Kendall County Farm Bureau President Bob Stewart. 

“As a sixth-generation resident of Kendall County, I am exceptionally humbled to accept this award from our friends at the Illinois Farm Bureau,” Representative Wheeler said. “The family farmers and agri-business industry of Kane and Kendall Counties are the backbone of our state and local economy, producing the corn and soybeans that feed Illinois and the world. I am proud to stand with them and remain committed to being a strong advocate for agriculture as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives.”
By Keith R. Wheeler
State Representative, 50th District

As public schools throughout the Fox Valley and the State of Illinois open on-time and students return to the classroom, it’s important to recognize that this only happened because of compromise.

Earlier this summer, the possibility of schools not opening on-time and teachers not getting paid was very real, due to the long state budget impasse in Springfield.  However, on June 30, legislators came together and voted to approve a six-month stopgap budget that included funding to ensure the new school year would start without delay.

The outcry from parents and teachers would have been deafening if we had failed to do this– and justifiably so. As the father of three, including one in high school and one who just started kindergarten, I shared the concern of many other parents about the impact on our schools if the politicians in Springfield did not get their act together this summer and pass a budget compromise.

My House Republican colleagues and I stood firm in our conviction that we could not stand by and allow our kids’ education to be held hostage in the Springfield budget battle. We were determined to take K-12 education out of the political crossfire, and we did. Yet this could not have been achieved if we had not stood together and kept pressure on the Democrats who hold a firm grasp on power in the Illinois House of Representatives.
NORTH AURORA – State Representative Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) has filed new legislation to increase criminal penalties for those convicted of theft from a nonprofit 501 (c) (3) organization, signaling a commitment to protect the integrity of private funds that support a wide variety of charitable causes who provide services to individuals and families of need within communities throughout Illinois.

The legislation, House Bill 6599, would increase the punishment for those that steal from a nonprofit organization.  The increased penalties would allow judges to sentence offenders to up to 30 years in prison for thefts from nonprofits of more than $500,000.  

“We need to stiffen the criminal penalties for anyone convicted of misusing funds or in any way stealing from a nonprofit organization,” Representative Wheeler said. “These nonprofits do so much incredible and important work in the community, serving those who fall through the cracks of inefficient and impersonal government programs. We need to protect the integrity of the generous local donations that fund these organizations as well as honor the many unpaid volunteers who make these community service organizations viable.”
General Assembly – Redistricting
·         Independent Maps referendum language thrown out by Illinois Supreme Court.  The 4-3 decision, which fell along partisan lines, found that the Independent Maps amendment to govern the way Illinois draws its lines for General Assembly seats should not appear on the November 2016 ballot.  The decision, which cannot be appealed to any higher panel, will make it impossible for Illinoisans to speak out on the process used to elect members of the Illinois General Assembly. 

Three members of the Supreme Court, speaking out in dissent, strongly criticized the majority decision.  Justice Robert Thomas labeled the decision a “nullification” of plain language of the Constitution allowing the voters the right to circulate petitions to amend that article of the State’s fundamental law that governs the organization and operation of the General Assembly.  This limited initiative right was inserted in the Constitution of 1970 as a common-sense response to the likely conflicts of interest to be faced by future General Assemblies when looking at questions involving the Legislative Article of the Constitution. 

The Supreme Court majority, led by Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride, said that Illinoisans can circulate a petition to change the way that Illinois legislative districts are mapped whenever they want to do so, but the Supreme Court will not advise them in advance of what the language on the petition should say if the amendment is to be drafted properly; and the Supreme Court reserves the right to throw out any language that it likes if it believes that the language has been drafted improperly.  Persons who commented on the Supreme Court decision were left puzzled as to what kind of recourse is provided by current case law to voters who are not satisfied with the current system of drawing legislative maps in Illinois.
By Tony Scott
Kendall County Record

A local legislator and former board chairman for the Kendall County Food Pantry wants those convicted of theft from non-profit organizations punished more severely.

Rep. Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego, has filed a bill stating that anyone convicted of theft from a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization be sentenced to one felony class higher than other convicted thieves. Theft that qualifies as a Class X felony would have a minimum penalty of seven years in state prison, according to the proposed bill..

Health – Affordable Care Act
·         Aetna withdraws from Obamacare individual marketplace in Illinois.  The withdrawal follows the financial failure of ACA cooperative Land of Lincoln Health, and leaves an increased number of Illinois counties where only one or two health insurance providers are willing to participate in the marketplace.  Aetna announced its departure from marketplaces in Illinois and 10 other U.S. states on Tuesday, August 16.  The withdrawal from the ACA insurance marketplace could affect as many as 838,000 exchange enrollees nationwide. 

The financial failure or withdrawal of many insurance providers from ACA-related marketplaces nationwide has added to concerns about the challenges facing individual customers for U.S.-based health insurance plans.  With competition substantially weakened or even absent in many American localities, many persons required by law to comply with the health insurance mandates of the federal ACA law many find themselves facing much higher prices for insurance policies.  In many states, including Illinois, remaining health insurance care providers are demanding double-digit premium increases as a condition for meeting their fast-growing expenses and remaining as active suppliers to customers in health insurance markets. 
Governor Bruce Rauner on Sunday took action on several bills as part of Veterans Day at the 2016 Illinois State Fair. The bills strengthen Illinois’ commitment to our veterans and their families by providing needed assistance and honor to those who have sacrificed so much for our country and our state.

“The selflessness of our American heroes can never truly be repaid, but here in Illinois we are making it easier for our men and women to return home and have prosperous futures,” said Governor Rauner. “We are investing in our veterans’ futures while never forgetting those we have lost along the way.
Health care – Zika virus
·         Public health trackers have now counted 46 cases of Zika infection in Illinois.  The report from the Illinois Department of Public Health states that Illinois pregnant women are now counted on the list of people exposed to the mosquito-borne illness.  The names of the Illinois patients have not been disclosed, as is standard in new disease outbreaks.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued a series of warnings and travel advisories in response to the widespread appearance of Zika in a range of tropical and subtropical ecosystems throughout the Western Hemisphere. In addition to outbreaks in Greater Miami and in Puerto Rico, the virus has been reported in all but two countries south of the U.S. border.  Affected countries include Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and all of South America except Chile and Uruguay. 

Potential Zika patients are strongly urged to take standard precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Not all mosquitoes are genetically adapted to serve as vectors of the Zika virus.  The mosquitoes that carry Zika live in tropical and subtropical environments and mostly bite during the daytime.  As the Zika virus has now been proven to have the capability of spreading by sexual intercourse, standard precautions are also strongly urged in this area.     
NORTH AURORA – State Representative Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) has been appointed to the state’s legislative oversight committee of rules used to implement new and existing laws across all state agencies; the bipartisan, 12-member Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR). Comprised of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans from both the Illinois House and Senate; JCAR conducts several integrated review programs including for proposed, emergency and peremptory rulemaking, a review of new laws and a complaint review program. 

Representative Wheeler, a freshman legislator serving portions of Kane and Kendall Counties, was appointed to JCAR by House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs), who praised Wheeler’s skills in naming him to the panel.

“Representative Wheeler’s sound judgment, keen analytical skills and team-building approach make him ideally suited to serve in this critically important role,” Leader Durkin said. “I appreciate Keith’s willingness to take on this additional responsibility and bring his professionalism and insight to JCAR.”

“I am honored to accept this appointment and look forward to working collaboratively to ensure that state laws are implemented fairly, accurately, and according to the legislative intent with which they were passed,” Representative Wheeler said. “It is truly a privilege to have this opportunity as a freshman legislator, one that enables me to make a greater difference for Fox Valley families and taxpayers.”
Drugs – cannabis possession
·         Governor Rauner consults with Illinois State Police on cannabis possession bill.  A measure passed by both houses of the Illinois General Assembly this spring will, if signed into law, reduce criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana.  Current law (the Cannabis Control Act) sets up a complex table of penalties for simple possession of cannabis.  Under the law, simple possession of less than 10 grams of pot (less than 0.4 oz.) cannot be charged higher than a Class B misdemeanor.  Under the law, a judge may sentence someone convicted of a Class B misdemeanor to up to six months in county jail.

Few cases of possession of this volume of cannabis result in substantial county jail time.  A perpetrator is more likely to face a multi-stage disposition that may include court supervision, payment of a fine, mandatory substance abuse counseling, and return to the court at a later date to determine whether the disposition should remain part of a public record that names the defendant.  The legislation currently on the Governor’s desk, SB 2228, takes steps to reclassify the possession of very small quantities of cannabis from a misdemeanor criminal offence to a civil offense.  Instead of being arrested, defendants would be issued a citation and face a different court process to dispose of their case.  They would pay a fine of $100 to $200 for a first offense.  16 other states have already reclassified the possession of small quantities of cannabis as a civil offense.
NORTH AURORA – Local residents in Kane and Kendall Counties wishing to display a blue light bulb on their driveway and/or front porch to show support for local police can pick up bulbs at the district office of State Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego), located at 959 Oak Street in North Aurora. Regular office hours are 9:00am – 5:00pm Monday-Thursday and 9:00am – 4:00pm on Fridays, or by appointment.

The blue light bulbs are free of charge; however donations are accepted at the time of pick-up.  Suggested donations are $2 per bulb. All proceeds will benefit Chiefs Lead the Way, a mental health and wellness initiative of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police. Through training and interaction with mental health professionals, the program encourages chiefs to demonstrate an active concern for their own psychological and emotional well-being and to inspire their command staff, sergeants and officers to understand how important it is to take care of their personal mental and social health. 

“The men and women of our local law enforcement agencies deserve to know the support they have within the community,” Rep. Wheeler said. “Blue light bulbs are just one small but impactful way we can show respect to those who put their lives on the line each and every day to serve and protect us.”

Rep. Wheeler represents the 50th District, which includes portions of Aurora, Batavia, Geneva, Campton Hills, Elburn, Montgomery, Oswego, Plano, St. Charles, Sugar Grove and Yorkville.
Kendall County Record

The volunteers at the Kendall County Food Pantry in Yorkville are getting ready for school to start. Lea Ann Koch organized a community effort to donate backpacks for the upcoming school year. Generous neighbors responded by delivering 350 brand new backpacks to Jan Sticka, school supplies director at the pantry. Pictured with the new backpacks at the food pantry are Jerry Bannister, Jan Sticka, State Representative Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego), Judy Wheeler, and Lea Ann Koch.
State Rep. Keith Wheeler (center) with food pantry volunteers and the donated backpacks.

Click HERE to read the full article and more local news.

Budget – FY17
·         Budget experts warn of continued Illinois deficits.  Although Illinois’ lawmakers enacted a stopgap budget in late June to cover the first six months of FY17, budget analysts warn that this move was not equivalent to a constitutional balanced budget for the entire year.  In fact, the act of “spreadsheeting out” the money being spent, and comparing it to honest projections of the money coming in, reveals that Illinois’ expected spending will outweigh expected FY17 revenues by $7.8 billion.  The Reuters news service believes this is the largest single deficit by a state in U.S. history.  Expected spending totals $39.5 billion and expected revenues total $31.8 billion. 

Although the state Constitution contains a legal requirement that the State annually enact a balanced budget, the requirement has been widely ignored in recent years.  Continued ten-figure State deficits have led to a growing backlog of unpaid Illinois bills.  The Comptroller’s office now counts the State’s unpaid bills at almost $8.0 billion.  The unpaid bill total is contained in Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger’s “The Ledger”, a subpage of the Comptroller’s webpage. 

Budget – stopgap budget deal enacted
·         New FY17 spending bills will enable full K-12 school operations for entire school year.  By contrast, however, many other State operations will only be funded through December 2016.  The “stopgap” bills do not balance the budget and do not solve Illinois’ fiscal woes.  The State’s leaders believe that the current Springfield policy gap has achieved dimensions great enough that only the voters of Illinois, in the November election, can choose which path the State should follow.   One of the key bills was the measure that actually appropriated money for FY16 and FY17; SB 2047, which was passed by the House and Senate on Thursday, June 30.  

      The stopgap budget package was signed by Governor Bruce Rauner before the end of the day and prior to the start of FY17.  The measures include funding to ensure that Illinois schools, including the troubled Chicago public school system, will reopen on time.  Money is included to resume or maintain operations at Illinois state universities and other essential public facilities.  Funds are earmarked to enable the fulfillment of this summer’s construction schedule for the repair and maintenance of State roads, bridges, and mass transit facilities.  Some money is provided for community social services.  The House vote on SB 2047 was 105-4-1.  After unanimous approval in the Senate, the appropriation bill became law as P.A. 99-524.

Budget – FY17
·         Bills signed into law on June 30 did not enact a full-year budget.  The financial markets are reminding Illinois that the current spending patterns being resumed by the State do not represent a stable long-term course for the State and do not constitute an annual, constitutional balanced budget. 

The package enacted on June 30 covers some back payments for FY16.  It also covers projected spending over a variety of State departments for six months, until December 31.  The State’s multi-billion-dollar budget deficit and pile-up of unpaid bills remain untouched by the June 30 budget compromise.  As of Thursday, July 14, Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger estimates the current count of unpaid Illinois bills as being more than $7.7 billion.  These factors are expected to hold Illinois’ credit rating down at the bottom of the debt ratings posted for America’s 50 states.   Continued slow State payments to public institutions of higher education are also causing credit-rating cuts in the debts issued by Illinois colleges and universities.

Despite these flaws, the Illinois General Assembly enacted the “stopgap” FY17 budget as a way of appropriating money to open Illinois K-12 educational institutions on time and keep operations going in other essential State buildings and points of infrastructure.  
CHICAGO – In response to the failure of Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino to answer questions amidst the ongoing federal and state investigations into his campaign spending irregularities while a member of the Illinois General Assembly, State Representative Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) announced the filing today of House Joint Resolution 158 aimed at removing Mautino from office, a measure with over 15 co-sponsors.

“Under the cloud of federal and state investigation, Auditor General Mautino is not able to perform his duties with the trust and confidence that Illinoisans deserve,” Rep. Wheeler said.  “The Auditor General’s Office is a position where transparency is at the very heart of the job itself. If he will not do the right thing on his own and step aside, we have a responsibility as the people’s elected representatives to hold him accountable.”

Pictured (left to right) Rep. Tom Morrison, Rep. Jeanne Ives,
Rep. Dwight Kay, Rep. Keith Wheeler
At issue is more than $200,000 Mautino spent over 10 years on gas and vehicle repairs at a Spring Valley service station owned by a city alderman, as well as $259,000 in payments made to a local bank since 1999.

“The state official directly responsible for how every nickel and dime of taxpayer dollars is spent cannot serve effectively when he is under investigation himself for how he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds,” Rep. Wheeler added. “The people of Illinois and the General Assembly must have complete, unreserved confidence that the Office of Auditor General is able to operate with the utmost transparency and without the hint of scandal. Unfortunately, that is not the case today.”
Kendall County Record
By TONY SCOTT - tscott@kendallcountynow.com

Local state legislators gave mixed reviews to the stopgap budget approved by the General Assembly on Thursday.

Lawmakers adopted the $50.6 billion budget measure on the deadline of the state's fiscal year, which began Friday. The plan includes funding for K-12 and higher education, transportation and infrastructure projects and human services programs...

State Rep. Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego, said the stopgap measure "isn't perfect or complete."

"It is the product of a negotiated, bipartisan compromise," he said. "Ultimately, there will be critical discussions this fall that will address needed reforms to grow the Illinois economy and to create jobs to reduce Illinois’ unemployment rate which is currently the highest in the nation."
Budget – FY16 Nears End
·         Fiscal Year 2016 nears its end without a budget.  FY16 will reach its end on June 30th, when the State of Illinois will possibly go an entire fiscal year without a budget.  Subsection 2b of Article VIII of the Constitution of Illinois requires the General Assembly to annually enact a balanced budget.

However, as FY16 began a year ago on July 1, 2015, no balanced budget had been enacted. An impasse began, with worsening consequences for entities depending on the State for day-to-day funding.  In addition, the lack of a constitutional balanced budget worsened Illinois’ standing among its neighbor states.  By June 2016, Illinois was poised to become the first U.S. state since the Great Depression years of the 1930s to try to operate for more than one year without any budget at all.  As one consequence of this somber milestone, Illinois’ credit rating had dropped by June to the lowest rank of any of the 50 states.

Budget – School Aid
·         State education funding to end June 30th; Republicans offer full funding bill.  Year-round learning programs, known as “summer school” to many older Illinois residents, are put at special risk by the pending shutoff of State school aid funds on July 1, 2016.  While many areas of State spending are not protected by court orders, consent decrees, and continuing appropriations and have already been cut off by the inability of the majority party in the Illinois General Assembly to enact a balanced budget, the State did pass a spending bill in FY16 just for schools.  Illinois elementary and secondary schools, with the help of General State Aid and other school aid programs, operated on schedule during the 2015-16 school year.  However, the school aid payments authorized by this FY16 bill will end on June 30 with the end of the fiscal year. 

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and his colleagues are fighting for action on HB 6583 to provide full funding for Illinois schools for the 2016-2017 school year.  HB 6583 would allow every Illinois school district to be fully funded at 100 percent of the foundation level for the first time in seven years.  Additionally, the bill holds harmless those school districts that would lose state funding in 2017 due to rising property values along with a decline in poverty.  But most importantly, it removes K-12 schoolchildren from the crossfire of the larger budget impasse.

Governor Rauner has said he will sign the clean education funding bill and HB 6583 has the full support of House and Senate Republicans, who are urging Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton to pass the bill next week.
You are invited to join me and State Representative Mark Batinick for a FREE ice cream social between 6:00pm – 8:00pm on Monday, June 27 at the Oberweis Dairy store located at 2274 Route 30 in Oswego.

We would like to answer your questions, listen to your concerns, and give you an update on the latest from Springfield and what we’re doing to fight for local families and taxpayers. Your feedback is especially important to us as we work toward reaching bipartisan compromise on the state budget.

Come join us at Oberweis Dairy in Oswego next Monday, June 27 between 6:00pm – 8:00pm! Just bring a copy of this invitation for a free ice cream treat. Families are welcome. For questions or more information, please contact my district office at (630) 345-3464.

Yours in Service,

Keith R. Wheeler
State Representative, 50th District
Budget – Transportation
·         Road and bridge maintenance lead to push to reopen capital spending cycle.  Illinois’ general funds budget impasse has led to problems in other areas where money is available, particularly capital spending for roads and bridges.  In these capital-spending areas, money from taxes other than income and sales taxes are set aside for specific uses defined by State law. The largest of these set-asides is money from the State per-gallon tax on motor fuel, which is put into the Road Fund and used to rebuild state-maintained roads and bridges. 

Governor Bruce Rauner and House Republican leaders called on Wednesday, June 15 for the immediate enactment of a “stopgap” road construction bill to maintain the State’s transportation program.  Contracting crews go out to many locations every summer to relay concrete and perform needed road maintenance.  This work continued even after the Illinois budget process came to a halt in June 2015.  However, the State’s legal counsel and accounting staff have now advised State leadership that this cannot continue on into FY17.  The director of the Illinois Department of Transportation, Randy Blankenhorn, warned reporters at a Wednesday news conference that his Department will be forced to suspend the IDOT construction program at month’s end unless money is released before then by law for transfer to contractors.    

While Illinois borrowed $550 million on Thursday, June 16 to meet immediate portions of the capital-infrastructure needs covered by this warning, none of this money can legally be spent unless an authorization can be wrung out of the Democrat-controlled Illinois General Assembly.   
Budget – Ratings Cut
·         Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s cut Illinois credit rating one notch.  The Moody’s Investors Service ratings cut, from Baa3 to Baa2, together with the Standard & Poor’s ratings downgrade  to BBB-plus, brings Illinois one notch closer to “junk bond” status.  As Illinois’ credit rating declines, Illinois taxpayers must pay higher interest rates.  In addition, the State faces the prospect of substantial supplemental penalties should credit ratings further decline, with borrowing covenant clauses in effect in which the State promised to lenders who have already lent the State money that it would maintain the value of its debt at investment-grade levels.  

Moody’s accompanied the ratings cut with a reaffirmation of its longstanding “negative outlook” statement on Illinois general-obligation (GO) debt, signaling the firm’s belief that further ratings cuts may be imposed on the Prairie State in the relatively near future.  Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s are the world’s #1 and #2 providers of credit ratings to public and private entities.  A third firm that competes with and operates in close affiliation with Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, Fitch Ratings, may also soon cut its ratings of Illinois debts. 

The credit ratings posted by Moody’s and its competitors are meant to gauge the probability that a piece of debt paper will go into default.  Credit rating cuts have preceded many of the major public-sector defaults of the recent past, including the city of Detroit and the commonwealth of Puerto Rico.  Governor Bruce Rauner responded to the debt downgrade on Thursday, June 9, with a call for “real structural changes to repair the years of unbalanced budgets and deficit spending.”
Budget – FY16/FY17
·         Second straight year without a State budget.  As the end of fiscal year 2016 (FY16) approached, House Republicans filed a budget bill, HB 6585, to cover both FY16 “stopgap” expenditures and some urgently-needed FY17 expenditure areas.  It would have appropriated badly-needed money to a wide variety of essential and job-creating state agencies and educational institutions, such as state universities and prisons. The appropriations contained in this bill were fully paid for from existing revenues.  HB 6585 was filed by House Republican leader Jim Durkin on Tuesday, May 31. 

However, the majority House Democrats refused to hear Republican budget bills. To add to the chaotic scene in Springfield’s State Capitol on the final night of the 2016 spring session, the majority Senate Democrats refused to pass the $7.5 billion out-of-balance “budget” approved by the House Democrats.  The supermajority party in the two chambers could not even agree on fake numbers for a massively-unbalanced spending plan for FY17, which will start on July 1, 2016.  In an unprecedented failure to govern, the Democrat supermajority did not pass a state budget by the May 31st deadline.  Entities that have been left waiting for more than 11 months for payment from the State were left in no doubt which party was at fault for the debacle.  Illinois’ public schools were also left unfunded as Democrats left town, pointing fingers at each other. 

A series of special sessions are expected to be held in June for lawmakers to make additional attempts to reach a budget and policy compromise.  Illinois Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger has warned lawmakers that some state payments will end, and others will be delayed as long as eight or nine months, unless a budget deal that matches expenditures to revenues is reached prior to the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.   
Chicago, IL - State Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) joined a group of Illinois lawmakers today to urge Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino to voluntarily take an unpaid leave of absence while numerous investigations persist into irregular campaign expenditures and reporting procedures dating back to his time in the Illinois House of Representatives. The lawmakers stressed that Mautino cannot effectively do his job while under a lingering cloud of suspicion. 

“Over the last four months we have formally asked Auditor General Mautino four times to provide answers to the questions raised in the investigations, and still no answers are forthcoming. Recently it has come to light that federal authorities are looking into his campaign spending and reporting practices as well. There is no way that he can effectively do his job as Auditor General while defending himself against potential criminal charges and a State Election Board investigation,” said State Representative Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville).

A group of twelve legislators from the House sent an initial request for answers to Auditor General Mautino on February 1st asking for a written reply within 10 days. Mautino replied on February 9th that he needed more time to properly address the request. To accommodate the Auditor General, the lawmakers on February 11th extended their request deadline to February 25th. Mautino replied that he had retained a legal firm to assist him and would be working ‘…during the next few weeks in order to respond to your letter.’ In May lawmakers sent another request to which the Auditor General responded that the issue would be resolved by the State Board of Elections. Since that time, however, it has been revealed that the matter has grown into a federal investigation.
Budget – FY17
·         $7 billion out-of-balance budget passed by House Democrats.  Illinois House Democrats introduced their own “budget” for FY17, contained in House Floor Amendment #2 to SB 2048, undermining the work of the bipartisan budget working groups that had been making progress toward achieving a compromise to end the budget impasse.

The House Democrats’ budget weighs in at approximately $40 billion in spending with only $33 billion in estimated revenue.  The Democrats unbalanced, unconstitutional proposed budget is $7 billion out-of-balance and would require a 47% tax hike to pay for all the additional spending.

House Republicans were denied a vote verification for a 500-page bill that was introduced a mere 90-minutes before it was called for debate on the House Floor. Democrats then limited the debate to less than an hour with a parliamentarian move. The first vote on Wednesday, May 25, was 63-53-1.  There was a second vote on Thursday and the measure was passed again by a vote of 60-53-1. 

By spending at least $7 billion more than Illinois expects to take in during the spending period, the measure is seen as likely to raise the count of unpaid Illinois bills up to or above $15 billion.  Illinois is already the lowest-ranked of the 50 states in terms of credit rating.  The controversial measure was sent to the state Senate for further discussion and debate.  Governor Rauner has pledged to take veto action on the SB 2048 “budget” bill, should it get to his desk.  
During the House floor debate on Friday, with only 4 days left in the regular session, Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) joined a call for all legislators in the House to stand up if they are willing stay at work over the holiday weekend and work on a compromise to achieve a comprehensive and balanced budget. 

·         Leaders meet to discuss budget negotiations, but many obstacles remain.  The four legislative leaders met with Governor Rauner for only the second time this year on Tuesday, May 17.  The leaders agreed to deputize lawmaker working groups, including key members of the House Republican Caucus, to discuss specific issues relevant to an agreement.  The Illinois budget process has been stalled by an impasse that has now gone on for nearly 11 months.  Illinois began operating without a constitutional balanced budget to control spending on July 1, 2015, and is now the only state not to have a budget for the current fiscal year. 

Many issues stand in the way of a durable agreement to craft a constitutional balanced budget for Illinois in FY17.  After the meeting, Leader Durkin urged the negotiators to achieve agreements on questions that involve the status of collective bargaining labor-management relations within local governments, public-sector pension reforms, and workmen’s compensation reforms.  Many House Republicans believe that lack of progress on these issues has become a very serious threat to future job creation and future tax revenues in Illinois.  Current statistics show that Illinois’ economy is generating few if any new private-sector jobs.  Our state’s unemployment rate, as of April 2016, has grown 0.7% over the level six months earlier in October 2015, and our state’s most recent 6.6% jobless rate is now 160 basis points higher than the 5.0% unemployment rate for the U.S. economy as a whole.
Budget – Possible Compromise
·         House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, Governor Bruce Rauner hint at possible budget compromise.  Illinois is the only one of the 50 states that has not enacted a balanced budget to control its spending in FY16.  Not surprisingly, Illinois also has the lowest credit rating among the 50 states.  On Monday, May 9, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin expressed optimism that current talks going on between partisan budget experts could generate movement towards a solution. 

At an educational event in west suburban LaGrange that he attended with Governor Rauner, Durkin discussed the need to reach budget action in order to improve prospects for sufficient school funding for Illinois public schools.  While Illinois’ General Assembly enacted full funding for Illinois school districts in FY16, this money was not part of a constitutional balanced budget and does not extend into FY17.  The next fiscal year will begin on July 1, 2016, adding to pressure on state negotiators to talk seriously on urgent issues of fiscal reform, budget reform, and Illinois job creation.  
Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) welcomed students from Traughber Junior High School in Oswego to the State Capitol today in Springfield.
By Kevin Hoffman | Reboot Illinois

Republican lawmakers again are calling on Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino to answer questions surrounding campaign spending during his time in the House.

In a letter sent to Mautino Thursday, state Rep. Grant Wehrli, R-Naperville, and 19 other Republican representatives demanded the Spring Valley Democrat clarify spending and accounting irregularities in his now-inactive campaign fund, the Committee for Frank J Mautino.

Illinois Times and several state government watchdog groups reported in January that Mautino spent more than $200,000 in gas and vehicle repairs at one Spring Valley business between 2005 and 2015. But what piqued the interest of the Illinois State Board of Elections, which subsequently asked Mautino for clarification, was the nearly $259,000 in campaign funds he used to pay the Spring Valley City Bank since 1999, including $94,000 in loan repayments...