Rep. Wheeler's Weekly Roundup: January 6

Budget – December 2016 Revenues Again Fall Short 
·         COGFA report continues dismal State revenue picture.  The report by the Illinois General Assembly’s nonpartisan budget office covers State revenues for December 2016.  Although 2016’s final month contained most of the yearend shopping season, State revenues once again fell significantly short of the State’s cash outflows and spending commitments. Net Illinois general funds revenues submitted to the State in December 2016 totaled $2,581 million, down $257 million from the $2,838 million received from the same sources in December 2015 twelve months earlier.  These revenues continued to fall far short of the numbers required to maintain the long-term operations of the State.

Areas of especially weak revenues included the personal income tax (down $93 million from December 2015) and the corporate income tax (down $88 million).  The December 2016 report marked a continuation and intensification of trends already in place during the full six-month period that marked the second half of calendar year 2016.  During this six-month period, total Illinois general funds revenues have dropped by $990 million on a year-over-year basis.  This decline was paced by reductions in State individual income tax receipts (down $189 million), State corporate income tax receipts (down $386 million), and transfers from U.S. federal sources (down $290 million). 

In a commentary accompanying the report, COGFA staff pointed to the State’s current poor job-creation performance, and noted that the declining pace of receipts from income taxes withheld from employee paychecks are starting to make the Illinois revenue picture look like the picture seen in a nationwide economic recession.

Budget – “Stopgap” Budget
·         Expiration of “stopgap” budget increases fiscal pressure on many recipients of State funds.  Community colleges and universities are especially affected by the January 1, 2017 expiration of the “stopgap” FY17 spending plan, which partially covered some State spending programs for the six months in late 2016.  Other State spending programs are moving forward based upon court orders, consent decrees, and continuing appropriations.

State spending on higher education could be hard-hit by the expiration of the “stopgap” budget.  Money has not yet been set aside for State aid to colleges and universities for the second half of FY17, the six-month period from January 1 through June 30 of 2017.  The cut in general-funds State aid to higher education is especially significant for the State’s teaching universities, four-year institutions such as Eastern Illinois University (EIU) in downstate Charleston that specialize in non-research activities.  While research universities often can supplement their budgets through research grants, gifts, and endowment proceeds, the budget of teaching universities are oriented toward State aid payments and tuition payments.  As one response to the overall Illinois budget crunch, EIU has laid off 400 faculty and staff members over the past fiscal year.  EIU’s plight was covered by NPR Illinois on Thursday, January 5.   

Crime – Human Trafficking
·         How you can help stop the trafficking of children in Illinois.  The human trafficking of children for sex in Illinois happens in every small town and big city throughout the state. In 2016, DCFS investigated 143 calls to the hotline for allegations of Human Trafficking. Many of the reports involved children being victimized within blocks of where they live.

Trafficking is not just an issue that happens to people in other countries. The United States is a source and transit country, and is also considered one of the top destination points for victims of child trafficking and exploitation. Cases of human trafficking have been reported in all 50 U.S. States; anyone can be trafficked regardless of race, class, education, gender, age, or citizenship when forcefully coerced or enticed by false promises (source: unicefusa.org). It’s important to remember that anyone under the age of 18 involved in this crime is a victim.

The public can help us stop this crime by knowing the signs and by reporting it. What are some potential indicators of trafficking a child? The child may:

o   Show signs of physical harm
o   Become depressed, fearful or withdrawn
o   Have a history of running away or currently be on run
o   Have expensive clothing, jewelry, manicures, pedicures, etc.
o   Begin spending time with an older boyfriend or girlfriend
o   Be found in a hotel/motel
o   Have new tattoos or branding
o   Be performing work inappropriate for his or her age 
o   Become isolated from family, friends or sources of support
o   No longer have control of his or her driver’s license or other identification documents

If you suspect or know a child is a victim of human trafficking, call 911 and the DCFS Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline 1-800-25-ABUSE.

DCFS receives, investigates and acts upon a report of child abuse or neglect every five minutes. Tens of thousands of children are safer thanks to those who call our Child Abuse hotline, 1-800-25-ABUSE (252-2873) each year. Working together, we can ensure a safe, loving home and brighter future for every child.

Economy – Economic Growth Platform
·         Illinois Chamber of Commerce sets forth economic growth platform for 2017.  One of Illinois’ largest business groups, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, published a five-point platform this week for restoring Illinois economic growth. 

The platform addresses what the Chamber considers to be five key state policy areas to jump-start the Illinois economy.  The business group calls for: (a) pro-growth economic reforms, including reinstatement of the EDGE program; (b) workers’ compensation reform; (c) a moratorium on unfunded mandates on employers and job creators; (d) regulatory reform, with a focus on Illinois’ current telecommunications landline mandate; and (e) refocusing Illinois’ educational infrastructure on workforce preparation, including preparation for careers that do not require a four-year college degree.

Education – Vaccination Rule
·         Legislators look at new rule that will strongly encourage parents to have their children vaccinated.  The vaccination rule is being promulgated by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).  The new and expanded vaccination requirements will apply to all children entering child care facilities, public schools, and private schools.  They include various immunization and public-health testing requirements that will be imposed on infants, younger children, and older children, and their parents, at different ages and upon entry to different grades of public and private education.  They are meant to guard against and reduce the incident of lead poisoning, pneumonia, meningitis, diphtheria, polio, measles/rubella/mumps, hepatitis B, and varicella.

Concerned parents sometimes try to work with their children’s health care providers to learn more about vaccination and testing requirements and, in some cases, to look for alternatives to vaccination.  Under this rule, parents will continue to be authorized to complete a Certificate of Religious Exemption, and submit the certificate to a child care facility or a school in lieu of the required proofs of health care tests and vaccinations.  However, this rule will require that any proposed certificates of this type must be co-signed by the health care provider responsible for the child’s health exam. 

Under State law, all new administrative rules must be scrutinized by a nonpartisan panel of the General Assembly, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR).  The IDPH vaccination rule is scheduled for hearing by JCAR in Springfield on Tuesday, January 10.

General Assembly – New Members
·         Illinois House Republican Caucus welcomes 15 new members.  Fifteen Republicans who were not on the November 2014 ballot will be taking their oaths of office in January 2017 as members of the 100th General Assembly.  These fifteen new members make up almost one-third of the 51 total members of the House Republican Caucus.  The inauguration ceremony will be held in Springfield on Wednesday, January 11.

Five of these new members were elected in November 2016 from sections of Downstate Illinois that are outside the Chicago media market.  These five are:

o   Brad Halbrook (102nd District, southeast central Illinois).  Representative-elect Halbrook is an experienced legislator from Shelby County, southwest of Champaign-Urbana.  Halbrook represented another district in Springfield from 2012 to 2015.  After some time off, the farm owner/operator and small businessman was chosen by his neighbors to return to the Illinois House.  
o   Tony McCombie (71st District, Quad Cities).  Representative-elect McCombie is a realtor and the Mayor of Savanna, Illinois.  Savanna, a traditional river port on the Mississippi, is one of the towns on the western edge of Illinois that is aware of the job-creation-friendly policies of our neighboring states.  A certified real estate professional, McCombie is bringing a job-creation agenda to Springfield.       
o   Dave Severin (117th District, far southern Illinois).  Representative-elect Severin owns a small business that specializes in promotional products.  Like other businesspersons who are joining the House Republican Caucus, Severin understands the job-creation challenges facing Illinois.  His district is strongly affected by federal policies affecting the coal and energy industries. 
o   Ryan Spain (73rd District, Peoria area).  Representative-elect Spain is the Vice President of Economic Development for OSF Healthcare System.  OSF, a hospital and health-care network and complex, is one of the largest creators of net new jobs in central Illinois.  Spain brings his local-government experience as a member of the Peoria City Council to the Illinois House.
o   Daniel M. Swanson (74th District, Galesburg area).  Representative-elect Swanson served in the U.S. Army for over 20 years.  A retired lieutenant colonel trained in executive logistical management, his service in Iraq earned a Bronze Star and the Combat Action Badge.  He has also served on active duty at the Rock Island Arsenal in northwestern Illinois.   

State Fair – Coliseum
·         Key horse show building on Illinois State Fairgrounds is closed indefinitely.  Building inspectors have found that the 115-year-old Illinois State Fairgrounds Coliseum is no longer safe for public access.  The decision to lock the doors of the William McKinley-era building came in October 2016 after a loose ceiling beam was discovered.  The Coliseum’s quasi-domed roof and clerestory windows were groundbreaking structural innovations in their time, and the then-new building created a safe space for displays of skill in handling horses and other animals that pull.  But the Coliseum’s roof, made of American steel and old-growth timber framing, has begun to leak and its structural elements have begun to rot and rust.

Urgent Coliseum repairs, with a cost estimated at $3.7 million, are necessary if the horse show building is to be restored to public use.  The Coliseum’s issues are only part of an overall backlog of $180 million in unmet infrastructure public safety, rebuilding, and building maintenance needs at the two State fairgrounds in Springfield and Du Quoin, Illinois.  In summer 2016, Governor Rauner led the creation of the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation to begin private-sector fundraising to deal with this growing challenge.  In the interim, however, horse show operators that planned to host activities in the Coliseum in 2017 are being forced to alter their plans.  

State Government – New Laws
·         26 new laws that went into effect on January 1st191 new laws took effect on January 1, 2017. The House Republicans’ Caucus Blog has a preview of 26 new laws Illinoisans should know about. Click here for a summary of these new laws.

Transportation – 2016 Projects
·         IDOT reports on work done in 2016.  The Illinois Department of Transportation’s (IDOT) year-end press release lists major projects in 2016.  Major work was accomplished on two major Chicago flyover interchanges, the Jane Byrne Interchange in downtown Chicago that links the Dan Ryan and Eisenhower Expressways, and the McCormick Place Interchange just south of downtown Chicago that links the Stevenson Expressway with Lake Shore Drive.  

In downstate Illinois, other interchanges were rebuilt.  Examples include I-74/I-155 in Morton, southeast of Peoria, and I-57/I-70 in Effingham, in south central Illinois.  Downstate work continued on the Chicago-St. Louis high-speed rail project, with miles of new safety fencing installed in calendar year 2016.  A new train station in Dwight, Illinois, southwest of Joliet, replaced a more-than-100-year-old historic depot.

Future IDOT projects include the construction of planned pay lanes on perennially congested I-55 southwest of Chicago.  The construction of additional lanes, to be used by vehicles with transponders, could speed traffic flow in one of the Chicago area’s largest job-creation regions.  The new lanes, when they are built, will be managed with time-sensitive tolls charged on the vehicles that use them.  The tolls would rise and fall depending on traffic conditions.  

Week in Review

·         Get the Week in Review emailed directly to your inbox!  Sign up today to get a first-hand look at the continuing legislative and fiscal challenges facing policymakers in Springfield.