This week, the Illinois Supreme Court once again affirmed that it will not allow Illinois residents to have a voice in how legislative districts are drawn.
In economic news, estimates that the state’s bill backlog could reach an unprecedented $14 billion by 2017 underscores the importance of enacting systemic government reforms to bring jobs to Illinois and boost the economy. That message was stressed during a recent address by the President and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, and reinforced during the announcement of a state-supported investment in a bioprocessing research lab that could bring up to 20,000 jobs to Illinois.
Highlighting the state’s need for serious structural reforms, Forbes rated Illinois as the second biggest loser in outmigration, particularly with high-earners and the younger crowd, based on tax data from the last year of the Quinn administration.
Meanwhile, the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) and the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) teamed up to help mentally ill inmates, ending a long legal battle that predates the current Governor. And the USDA says farmers are heading back to the fields for a bumper crop that may not be that great for their pocketbooks.
Supreme Court refuses to rehear redistricting referendum
After striking down a popular, citizen-driven referendum to change the way Illinois draws its political maps, the Illinois Supreme Court has denied a motion for rehearing the case. Senate Republicans have been exploring other options to give the public a voice in the way legislative district boundaries are drawn, following the court’s initial decision.
The referendum would have taken the power to draw political maps away from the politicians and created a non-partisan system for fairly drawing district boundaries.
Senate Republicans have supported legislative attempts to reform the redistricting system, but most genuine efforts have been blocked by Democrat leadership. Earlier in 2016, both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly passed redistricting reform proposals, but the Democrat leaders in each chamber refused to take up the other chamber’s bill.
Many statehouse insiders referred to the Democrats’ actions as a thinly veiled attempt to appear sympathetic to the issue while making sure no reforms actually take place.
Departments of Correction and Human Services team up to help mentally ill
The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) and the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) recently announced a joint effort to help deliver treatment services to mentally ill inmates. The two agencies have entered into an Intergovernmental Agreement that allows IDOC to use part of the Elgin Mental Health Center (EMHC) as an inpatient mental health treatment facility.
Currently, the EMHC serves as a forensic hospital, which serves patients who may have been found not guilty of crimes by reason of insanity or those who were unfit to stand trial. The new agreement will transform the Jenk and Dix units of the EMHC into a secure mental health facility. The goal is to improve the correctional outcomes of the mentally ill inmates, and improve safety for all inmates, IDOC staff, and the residents of Illinois.
The agreement is also expected to help fast-track a settlement in a years-old lawsuit of mental health care, Rasho vs. Baldwin, which had languished in the courts for seven years.
Bill backlog, job loss underscore need for government reform
Recent remarks made by Illinois Manufacturers’ Association President and CEO Greg Baise underscore the need for significant structural reforms to state government. Baise noted in a recent City Club of Chicago address that while many Midwestern states are adding manufacturing jobs, Illinois has lost more than 300,000 manufacturing jobs since the turn of the century. Baise said that accounts for nearly one-fourth of Illinois’ manufacturing jobs since 2000, a figure that impacted nearly 200,000 Illinois residents.
Baise called for a reform agenda to create stability and predictability for Illinois’ employers—and employees. He underscored the importance of addressing the state’s pension debt and bill backlog; enacting workers’ compensation reform; tax reforms and incentives for employers; property tax relief; and an emphasis on creation of a skilled workforce through education and workforce development initiatives.
Republican lawmakers have called for structural and spending reforms in state government, stressing that fundamental change is needed in Illinois to bring fiscal security and much-needed jobs back to the state.
This type of economic growth will be imperative to avoid what Moody’s Investors Services estimates could be an unpaid bill backlog of $14 billion by the summer of 2017. A spokesman for Moody’s noted that “if the bill payment backlog becomes sufficiently large, the state could resort to borrowing from debt service funds for operating needs.” That, he indicated, would further impact Illinois’ already dismal credit rating.
Though legislative Democrats have called for a reinstatement of their 2011 income tax hike as a way to boost revenues, Republican lawmakers have resisted that effort without first passing economy-boosting, job-creating reforms.
Senate GOP lawmakers pointed out that though the Democrats’ previous tax increase brought in more than $30 billion, the state’s unpaid bills remained in the billions, the pension debt reached approximately $111 billion and the state’s financial situation remained unstable and unpredictable. They said state spending that exceeded existing revenues has led to the state’s fiscal instability and bill backlog, and have staunchly refused to support efforts to hike taxes without first exploring ways to make government more efficient, reduce waste, boost the economy and help Illinois’ employers.
Forbes rates Illinois 2nd worst for out-migration losses
As further evidence of the need for structural reforms in Illinois, a recent Forbes study shows Illinois as one of the biggest losers in terms of inter-state migration. The article quantifies the financial losses faced by states who are losing residents to other areas. Illinois is ranked as the second worst, trailing only New York. The magazine describes Illinois as a “high tax, high regulation” state and a “low growth disaster.”
The magazine analyzed tax data from 2014, the most recent available, creating an indictment of Illinois’ migration trends during the end of former Governor Pat Quinn’s second term. The author writes that the idea was to create a “snapshot of where Americans are moving now, and, equally important, a breakdown by income levels and age.”
According to the study, New York is the only state losing high-income earners (over $200,000 per year) at a greater rate than Illinois. Looking at all income levels, their data says that Illinois is only gaining 67.2 in-migrants for every 100 people lost to out-migration. The Land of Lincoln also appears to have a hard time holding on to younger residents with the second largest out-migration rate for people aged 26-34.
You can read the full article here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/joelkotkin/2016/09/06/the-states-gaining-and-losing-the-most-migrants-and-money
Dept. of Natural Resources holding public meetings on Chronic Wasting Disease
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) will be hosting three public meetings throughout the state to discuss the effect on Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) on deer populations and how the agency is battling the disease.
CWD was first documented in Illinois deer near the town of Roscoe in 2002. It is a type of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy of deer which has now been found in Jo Daviess, Stephenson, Winnebago, Boone, McHenry, Lake, Ogle, Dekalb, Kane, DuPage, LaSalle, Kendall, Grundy, Will, Livingston and Kankakee counties.
The meeting dates and locations are:
• Wed., September 21 - Community Building, 402 West St., Elizabeth, IL;
• Tues., September 27 - Stephenson County Farm Bureau Bldg., 210 W. Spring St., #3, Freeport, IL;
• Wed., September 28 - Meadowhawk Lodge, Hoover Forest Preserve, 11285 Fox Road, Yorkville, IL
Farmers heading back to the fields
Motorists are encouraged to be aware of potentially heavy farm equipment traffic on rural roads as farmers are beginning their 2016 harvest season.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 42% of Illinois corn is now considered mature, with approximately 3% of corn fields harvested already. Soybeans are quickly ripening as well, with 50% turning color right now.
Farmers are expecting a big crop, and the USDA rates 85% of the state corn crop as good or excellent, with 79% of the soybeans receiving the same ratings.
Their crops likely won’t be worth very much this fall however, with many predicting that prices may drop to levels lower than farmers have seen in 10 years.