State Roundup: Consolidation wouldn’t impact services

From Illinois News Network

McHenry County is moving to reduce a number of governments, but there could be some hurdles along the way. A proposal being considered in the collar county is to take 17 units of government down to just eight, something supporters say won’t change the level of services, but rather reduce managerial costs. Mike Shorten, a township trustee in Nunda (NUN’-duh), says the plan is to lower the number of elected representatives which would bring about cost savings to taxpayers. There would also be additional savings in sharing resources and services with other townships and governmental units. Shorten says the world will still turn despite the outcome of consolidation efforts.

“But I think that what most taxpayers and most citizens realize is that we’ve gotta start pulling levers. And I think this is a lever that pain point is going to be significantly low and I think $40 million over ten years back in the local economy is a significant number.”

Shorten says if the consolidation plans go through there could be a difference of more than 70 elected officials. Consolidation supporters hope to have a ballot initiative in front of voters by the March primary in 2016. But longtime consolidation advocate Representative Jack Franks, who is on Governor Bruce Rauner’s Commission on Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates, says there is opposition to consolidation from some in control of the nearly 7,000 units of local government.

Government leaders are hurdle to consolidation efforts

Representative Franks didn’t mince words when asked about the challenges ahead for consolidation.

“You wouldn’t believe the fiefdom and kingmakers that we have in this state. Everybody, you know, they have a piece and they don’t want to give it up! My biggest problem in passing my bills in the General Assembly when I was chair of the consolidation commission previously was getting downstate republican legislators to allow this to be voted on.”

Franks says there is a culture problem in Illinois that goes beyond democrat and republican loyalties to the detriment of taxpayers paying for exorbitant numbers of governmental units.

Woodstock tables “Turnaround Agenda”

Another Illinois city has taken up a resolution to support Governor Bruce Rauner’s “Turnaround Agenda” only to table the measure. The Northwest Herald reports that Woodstock city officials voted to table a resolution that would have simply showed support for a variety of things Governor Rauner is advocating for while touring the state. Last week the village of East Dundee passed the resolution supporting the agenda while a day later, just 35 miles south, the village of Oswego heard from a dozen union members opposing the resolution. Oswego officials did not take any action on the measure. Earlier this week village trustees in Mt. Zion tabled the resolution saying they wanted more discussion on the issues of project labor agreements, prevailing wage, and so-called empowerment zones.

Groups call proposed motor fuel tax increase bad move

A hike in Illinois’ motor fuel tax would be a regrettable move and impact low to middle-income earners disproportionately. That’s according to a group of petroleum marketers and convenience stores. David Smith, the President and CEO of Smith Oil Company with Jiffi Stops in both Illinois and Missouri, says he has data to show stores on the Illinois side of the border already have far less business than in neighboring Missouri, indicating people are already crossing state lines to get less expensive fuel. In one case, Smith says there’s a difference of 100,000 gallons a month. But that’s not his only concern. Smith says marginal profits could cause stores needing upgrades to close down in Illinois, which will impact rural customers.

“You gotta go back to the consumer, that’s why we’re in business. They’re not only not going to have a place to go and get their gas, they’re not going to be able to get their soda or anything else. And these small towns, they’re little one convenience store towns, and they lose that, they lose the retail establishment plus our employees are out of work.”

In a joint press release from the Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association, the Illinois Association of Convenience Stores and Americans for Prosperity, the groups says the state has mismanaged gas tax dollars in the past and questions why taxpayers should have to make-up for that mismanagement. But the Transportation for Illinois Coalition says the state’s gas taxes have not been raised in more than two decades while the cost to build and maintain the infrastructure has grown exponentially all while vehicles are more fuel efficient. TFIC says they are asking for a very modest gas tax increase as part of a broader package to address infrastructure needs.

Illinois exports support 345K jobs, but more can be done

Illinois exports supported more than 345,000 jobs last year, an increase of nearly 20 percent from 2009, but more can be done. A new report from the U.S. Department of Commerce indicates the key categories for Illinois exports are machinery manufacturers, transportation equipment, chemicals, computer and electronics equipment, and petroleum products for a total of $68 billion. The leading destinations for these goods were Canada and Mexico, but also China, Germany and Japan. Mark Denzler with the Illinois Manufacturer’s Association is encouraged by the news but says Illinois must capitalize on the United States’ manufacturing renaissance. Denzler says Illinois is already competing with neighboring states.

“As manufacturing jobs are coming back to the United States Illinois needs to be in position so we can compete with Indiana, or Michigan, or Pennsylvania, some of the other larger manufacturing states. And right now they enjoy a number of advantages that we don’t, in terms of reduced costs, lower tax burdens.”

Denzler says Illinois has a solid workforce and centralized location but the Governor and General Assembly must address workers’ compensation, insurance and other costs that may repel manufactures from the Land of Lincoln. Nationally, the Commerce Department report says, U.S. goods and services supported over 11 million jobs in 2014.

Buy North American bill could hit House floor next week

Should state government only buy vehicles made in the U.S. or Canada? The Illinois Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association say no. House Bill 3438 from Democratic Representative Mike Smiddy would prevent state government from buying or leasing vehicles not made in the U.S. or Canada. But, the Chamber and IMA say that could mean higher costs for taxpayer funded state purchases and could endanger jobs locally, let alone damage relations with Mexico. Mark Denzler with the IMA says they’ve already heard of possible blowback from the Mexican consulate.

“You know the last thing that we want is Australia or Mexico or another country to say ‘Hey! Caterpillar or John Deere or whoever it is can’t sell their products in our country unless they’re made here’.”

But Representative Smiddy says the reason Mexico was left out was because of their working conditions.

“I do not want to reward a company that has less working standards than what the United States and Canada has as far as producing these products.”

Smiddy says his original proposal was amended to allow the state to purchases not only U.S. manufactured vehicles, but also vehicles from Canada. House Bill 3438 has already cleared the House Labor Committee and is pending on the House Floor for possible debate next week.

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