Tax revenue declines; help for Illinois businesses

Report indicates tax revenues on the decline
The latest monthly revenue report issued by the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA), the General Assembly’s nonpartisan budget watchdog office, indicated that tax revenue to the state declined in September. Revenue to the state’s general funds was down by $119 million below the levels received during the same month last year. The decline was attributable to changes in income tax cash flows, as personal income tax receipts were down $136 million and corporate income tax receipts came in $87 million lower. The drop in corporate income tax revenue amounts to a decline of 22% from a year ago.

It is because of these poor Illinois cash flow patterns that the state is slow in making payments and has so many unpaid bills. As of early October, Comptroller Leslie Munger estimated that the state now has more than $8.5 billion in unpaid bills. 

Help for businesses to expand in Illinois, or begin exporting product
Early this month the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) launched its new Illinois CORE program: Creating Opportunities for Retention and Expansion. The program is part of Intersect Illinois, DCEO’s public-private partnership to help create and expand businesses throughout the state. The new program is intended to be a data-driven approach to helping businesses identify resources in Illinois that can assist them while promoting the many assets Illinois has to offer. Thus far, at least 40 different companies and local government agencies have joined the partnership.

In a related story, the U.S. Small Business Administration awarded Illinois’ Office of Trade and Investment $850,000 to help Illinois’ small businesses increase exports. Companies which are eligible can obtain assistance through Illinois’ State Trade and Export Promotion (ISTEP) program to join in trade missions, get training in international marketing and learn more about how to export their products. More information on ISTEP, including details of the program and eligibility requirements, is available from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Another insurer leaves Illinois Obamacare marketplace
The latest insurance firm to depart Illinois’ marketplace is Harken Health, an alternative health insurance provider which was set up by UnitedHealth. The company tried to sell insurance profitably to eligible patients in Illinois and Georgia, but has now announced they are pulling out. Harken’s departure comes after its parent firm withdrew from other Illinois Obamacare marketplaces, and brings about the complete departure of UnitedHealth from the Illinois marketplace. UnitedHealth is the nation’s largest health insurance holding company.

The withdrawal of Harken will bring about even fewer choices in those areas of Illinois where there were still at least two insurance companies competing for consumer dollars. In Illinois, as in an increasing number of marketplaces nationwide, many customers who were required to purchase individual health insurance policies are only able to find one provider who offers coverage, if that. Concerns about consumer prices are deepening as individuals face new, Obamacare-mandated health insurance marketplaces in many parts of Illinois and the nation.

Sexual assault response training for 9-1-1 operators
Legislation passed this spring and signed by the Governor will add a sexual assault response training requirement for 9-1-1 operators. The training program will be overseen by the Illinois State Police’s Statewide 9-1-1 Administrator office.

Current law already makes the State Police responsible for the collection of evidence in sexual assault cases statewide. An increase in federal assistance to state and local law enforcement made it possible for Illinois, as well as some other states, to put in place additional first-response programs and training in line with evolving national standards.  A $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice will help cover the cost of the new training.

The legislation was SB 3096, and it will become effective on January 1.

Illinois’ first 500 bobcat hunting permits issued
Nearly 6,500 applications for bobcat hunting and trapping were submitted to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) for the 500 permits. The permits are only valid within a specifically-mapped area of the state and each permit will allow taking of only one of the animals. The bobcat can be taken by hunting, trapping, or roadkill salvage. IDNR is distributing 500 permits because it has determined that this number is best for maintaining the stability of the overall bobcat population of approximately 5,000 cats in Illinois. In much of downstate Illinois, bobcats are among the top carnivores; each cat requires a large individual territory to eat and live, so there are not a large number of them. Bobcat hunting was legalized, starting this year by the passage of HB 352.  The bobcat season will begin on November 10.

Did You Know?
The University of Illinois’ Memorial Stadium was dedicated on October 18, 1924, and the Fighting Illini did not disappoint the 67,000 fans as they beat Michigan 39-14. The stadium was meant to be not just a football field but also a “living war memorial” to the soldiers of Illinois who had fallen just a few years earlier during World War I. It took two years of construction to build the stadium, which is still home to U of I football today.