State Roundup: GOMB Director won’t support borrowing

From Illinois News Network
ilnews.org

Illinois_News_Network_logoBorrowing for operations is not a good idea and the Governor’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget says he will not support borrowing in the future in an effort to avoid crisis governing. During a House hearing on recent budget decisions GOMB Director Tim Nuding says borrowing from one fund to pay for another means a bill for the following year that will brings about unnecessary strain for everyone involved, from representatives to service providers and recipients.

“If you borrow those funds you will get the same effect in FY15, but you’re going to have a $650 million bill next year that you’re going to have to pay back to those funds when we’re trying to fund medicaid, when we’re trying to fund child care.”

Nuding says borrowing from state funds for the current fiscal year makes it even more difficult to bring about a balanced budget for the next fiscal year. Meanwhile, representatives said there were some surprises with recent grant suspensions. But Nuding says it took time to work with the various state agencies on areas to reduce spending to fill a $1.6 billion hole in the current fiscal year without running afoul with various funding requirements.

Medical Cannabis Pilot Program extension passes House

Approved patients in the state’s Medical Cannabis Pilot Program will have cards extended without any additional cost. That’s the intent of a measure that passed the House Tuesday. House Bill 3299 also extends the sunset of the act to four years after the dispensaries open for business. Sponsor Representative Lou Lang says the measure is good public policy.

“But it starts that four year pilot from the time the first dispensary is ready to open. This will give us time to assess the program to figure out what’s right about it, what’s wrong about it and to make sure that prices stay at a reasonable level for patients.”

Lang says if the program continues to be mired down and investors back out patients will go back to the streets for the drug and the program will fail. The original sunset of the pilot program is scheduled January of 2018. If Lang’s measure is passed by the Senate and signed by the Governor the sunset would be four years after the first dispensary opens with product for patients.

Measure banning police double dipping passes House

A measure to keep retired police officers from double dipping pensions passed the House Tuesday. House Bill 1320 was on postponed consideration from last week. The measure from Representative Grant Wehrli would only apply to future sworn officers in the Downstate Police Pension Fund and requires that if a person is receiving a police pension and then becomes a police chief they must notify the pension fund so the pension payments can be suspended until the employment period ends. The measure passed 88-20 and now heads to the Senate.

EDGE changes passes Senate

Changes could be coming to the state’s EDGE tax credit that would clear up what it means to be a new employee. The Illinois Senate passed Senate Bill 1427 Tuesday that amends the credit to exclude employees who were previously employed by the company, or who have been transferred to a new project, from being considered as a new employee and eligible for the tax credit. The measure also provides the director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to approve credits for projects that do not meet the minimum job creation thresholds if that approval supports a business in generating additional growth by attracting companion businesses. The EDGE program has been criticized for handing out tax credits to businesses that inflate their job creation and retention numbers. The bill passed unanimously and now heads to the House.

Senate Bill mandates website to assist new or relocating businesses

People wanting to create or relocate a business to Illinois would be able to find all the necessary information on one website under a measure that passed the Senate Tuesday. Senate Bill 659 directs the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to create and maintain a website to help the businesses find estimates of license and permitting fees, state government applications forms for licensing or registration, and links to various agencies responsible for accepting the applications. There will also be information for any local government permitting agencies that may be relevant to the business startup. The measure passed unanimously and now heads to the House.

Red Light Camera ban advances

A measure to ban red light cameras throughout the state has advanced out of committee and could make the House floor in the days or weeks ahead. State Representative David McSweeney’s House Bill 173 would remove the authority of non-home-rule municipalities to operate red light cameras. McSweeney says the technology does not enhance safety and in many cases creates unsafe conditions as drivers slam on the brakes during a yellow light to avoid getting a ticket. The measure is opposed by several villages, cities and American Traffic Solutions–a red light camera company.

Governor wants agenda passed in 45 days

Governor Bruce Rauner wants his “Turnaround Illinois” agenda passed within the next 45 days, and he’s leaning on business leaders to help make that happen. During a speaking engagement in front of the Illinois Bankers Association Lobby Day lunch in Springfield Tuesday, Rauner said he needs the bankers and other groups to urge lawmakers to make Illinois more business friendly. One issue in his agenda the Governor presented was right-to-work zones. The Governor says he doesn’t want the state to go right-to-work, but thinks special zones could attract business to Illinois. Right now, the Governor says, businesses don’t have Illinois on their list.

“Twenty-five states are on the list, we’re not on the list. And there are thousands of employers, manufacturers, transportation firms, foreign owned companies that won’t come to a closed shop, forced unionization state. That’s just true.”

Rauner said unless businesses speak out about the business climate they will suffer from bad policies. Other measures the Governor says would make the state more business friendly includes workers’ compensation reforms, insurance reforms and getting rid of unfunded mandates and some of the 7,000 units of government. Several counties and municipalities have taken up a resolution supporting the Governor’s agenda with mixed results.

Governor on education reforms

Meanwhile the Governor reiterated his call to right-size Illinois’ public schools. Rauner said that there are more than 800 school districts in Illinois and the money for schools is being eaten up by “administrators galore.”

“Superintendents, assistant superintendents, assistant assistant junior superintendents, junior superintendents, junior vice presidents of whatever. The money should be with the teachers in the classroom and teachers should be allowed to teach. Not dictated with a hundred mandates of what they’ve gotta do everyday.”

Meanwhile Rauner said that he wants local communities to determine whether to have project labor agreements or prevailing wage when it comes to building news schools, instead of the mandate being handed down from the state. Earlier this week Governor Rauner shared the same message to 600 members of the Education Writers Association.

Wallet Hub: Illinois isn’t getting best bang for the tax buck

Illinois taxpayers could change the state’s recent low ranking for taxpayer return on investment if they make some noise to their local and state legislators. That’s according to a spokesperson for Wallet Hub (dot) com. Jill Gonzalez tells WMAY Springfield that Illinois ranks the lowest for taxpayer return on investment, or ROI, because the state’s high property tax and poor government services.

“If you’re paying top dollar in Illinois I’m sure you expect some top rate services as well and that really isn’t the case right now.”

Gonzalez says the state’s infrastructure, pollution and education all played into the ultimate outcome of Illinois being in the bottom ten of all states for taxpayer ROI. How can the state change the ranking? Gonzalez says taxpayers should express their frustrations to their elected officials.

“So I think making some noise about it in your local government can really help, again, your taxpayer ROI, especially state and locally.”

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