ECONOMY
·        ADM, Deere, Caterpillar honored as top Illinois firms.  The honor was published in “Illinois Top 200,” a series of online surveys enabling Illinois respondents to honor local leadership activities, institutions, and experiences.  Illinois respondents were asked to honor their favorite “homegrown companies,” in a list that also included McDonald’s, Walgreens, Rand McNally, DeKalb AgResearch, Sears, State Farm, and Dairy Queen.  

The three named firms – ADM, Deere, and Caterpillar – all share a historic orientation toward Illinois agriculture and heavy-industry engineering.  ADM helped make Illinois corn oil and soy-based protein into global commodities, while Deere & Co. helped invent the machines that grow the corn and soybean crops that are used to grind or press out the oil and protein meal that Illinois crops produce.  Like Deere, Caterpillar makes heavy off-road machinery used around the world.

Illinois Top 200” is now welcoming votes for top inventions and innovations.  Candidates include farm silos, blood banks, plasma display screens, and pinball entertainment machines.  Votes will be accepted until Friday, March 30.

Jobs – February 2018 unemployment
·        Illinois notches new all-time high in payroll jobs.  The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), which compiles Illinois nonfarm payroll job numbers in cooperation with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, announced this week that revised employment numbers for January 2018 show that Illinois has notched a new peak employment level.  The revised statistics show that nearly 6.1 million men and women were employed on Illinois-based nonfarm payroll jobs in January 2018.  The new high was achieved as the result of net new jobs that had been created in calendar year 2017 within Illinois. 

Budget – COGFA report
·        Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) releases February 2018 report.  February 2018 State general funds receipts grew significantly over similar figures posted in February 2017.  However, as with previous months in FY18, this healthy year-over-year performance was significantly affected by an income tax increase enacted in July 2017.  During the year-over-year period that spanned February 2017 and February 2018, sales tax receipts grew by 13%, individual income tax receipts grew 50%, and corporate income tax receipts increased by 378%. 

Education – Scholarships
·        Tax credit scholarship clearinghouse announces more than 33,000 applications.  The benchmark news came from Empower Illinois, one of the nonprofit entities overseeing implementation of the Illinois tax credit scholarship program created by the Illinois General Assembly in 2017.  Under this new tax credit, Illinois income taxpayers are authorized to donate moneys to an approved scholarship clearinghouse.  The moneys will be used to pay for scholarships to be awarded to enable children to attend fee-charging schools.  Scholarships that will cover 50 to 100 percent of a student’s tuition and school-related expenses will be awarded to children from income-eligible households.

Empower Illinois’ announcement followed the nonprofit’s previous announcement of a glitch on January 31.  When the Empower office first tried to roll out their online scholarship application window, so many applications were submitted that the website broke down.   The 33,000 valid applications submitted in the second process, which generated totals announced on Wednesday, February 28, reflect emergency repairs made to the application website.  Empower Illinois reported receiving $45 million in pledged donations from Illinois taxpayers.  The taxpayers will receive individual income tax credits to cover up to 80 percent of the cost of their donations.  Applicant households who do not get into the program this year may choose to reapply again in early 2019.