Update from the Capitol 10/1/15

Democrat majority continues piecemeal budget strategy

Although Illinois is close to ending its third month without a spending plan for the fiscal year that began on July 1, 2015, recent House sessions, including a one-day session last week, did not show any signs of progress.  On Thursday, Democrats on the House Executive Committee passed a $3.8 billion spending bill again without specifying a funding source for what they want to spend.

Repeated attempts to pass spending bills without the money to pay for them are not serious attempts at working out a budget. The full House did not take up the new spending bill last week and did not discuss an overall spending plan or budget agreement. 

Caterpillar Cuts
Last week regional economic powerhouse Caterpillar announced it will cut 10,000 jobs by 2018. Caterpillar currently employs approximately 21,600 personnel in Illinois, including 3,200 headquarters workers in downtown Peoria, and the company confirmed that a “significant” proportion of the layoffs would affect its Illinois workforce.

As part of the job cuts, Caterpillar’s February 2015 plans to build a new global headquarters complex in Peoria have also  been “put on hold.”  Worldwide salaried and management employees in many locations, including Peoria, will form a significant share of the overall cutbacks.  Many of the layoffs are expected to be implemented during the final months of calendar year 2015. 

Factory workers will also face the possibility of layoffs.  Caterpillar operates eight plants in Illinois, including Decatur, East Peoria, and Pontiac.  The firm announced this week that its overall cutback plan includes a reduction of about 10% in the global square footage it devotes to manufacturing.

Key association of school districts supports Rauner push to eliminate burdensome State mandates

The push to eliminate many of the day-to-day operational mandates upon Illinois local school districts is a major component of Governor Rauner’s “Turnaround Illinois” agenda.  The Large Unit District Association, which represents many of the school districts of Illinois that have the largest pupil enrollments, has swung behind the Governor’s proposal and has joined his call that it be brought before the General Assembly for discussion and debate. 

Mandates seen by local school districts as unduly burdensome include mandatory drivers’ education, including behind-the-wheel training; mandatory daily physical education; and a hard bar on third-party contracting, or outsourcing, for essential operating services such as janitorial work.  The Governor’s platform is pushing to allow local school districts, on a district-by-district basis, to lift the ban on school district third-party essential-operating-service contracts.  Proponents believe that lifting this ban will reduce pressure on school budgets and school-related property taxes. 

Current law allows individual school districts to apply to the General Assembly for waivers from some, but not all, of the school mandates imposed by the State, but the school district must undergo an administratively burdensome process to make the waiver request and get it approved. 

Check Your Vehicle Renewal Date

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has announced that his office will immediately suspend mailing out vehicle registration renewal reminders to the public due to the lack of a state budget. Those who want to continue receiving a reminder must sign up to receive electronic notices through the Secretary of State’s web site www.cyberdriveillinois.com. A direct link to sign up for email alerts can be found on the home page of that site.

When making the announcement, White noted that suspending this service will save approximately $450,000 per month, and allows his office to prolong the mailing out of vehicle registration renewal stickers, titles and license plates to vehicle owners. According to White, unless a budget is approved, his postage account will be completely depleted in a few months.

I would encourage all residents to be aware of the date for renewal of their vehicle registrations, but to also sign up for the email notifications without delay. While those who receive emailed vehicle registration renewal notices via email will continue to have access to a pin number needed to renew their sticker on-line, those who do not sign up for the electronic alerts will now have to renew their vehicle stickers in person at a Secretary of State office.

Great turnout for senior ID theft prevention seminars

Thank you to those who joined us for our Senior Identity Theft Prevention Seminars last week! We had a great turnout in both Watseka and Pontiac, and we all received great information from the Attorney General’s office on how to help protect your personal information.

I especially would like to thank Watseka Police Chief Roger Lebeck and Pontiac Police Detectives Nicholas Taylor and Michael Henson for joining us to talk about scams that we need to be on the lookout for, and how their departments stand ready to help.

If you missed the events and would like more information, please call my office or you can visit the Attorney General’s website at http://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/consumers/hotline.html