Stopgap budget expiration nears; state gets carbon sequestration grant

Another week with no budget agreement
As the stopgap six-month budget for the first half of this fiscal year approaches its scheduled expiration on December 31, pressure is growing for top Illinois officials to develop a budget agreement. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, Governor Rauner, and the other legislative leaders were meeting almost daily in Chicago. Some of the main issues under discussion include cash flow for state spending areas covered in the stopgap budget. If these areas are to get funding in January 2017 and following months, they will need a renewed appropriation. However, as of this writing, no agreement has been reached.

In the meantime, while an agreement continues to elude state leaders, we continue to receive warnings on the deteriorating financial condition of the state. The Comptroller’s office indicated that early this month Illinois had accumulated a backlog of unpaid bills reaching more than $10.6 billion. This figure includes both bills that are currently sitting in the Comptroller’s office awaiting payment and bills that are coming through the various state agencies and are in the process of being forwarded to the Comptroller.

ISGS receives $10 million federal grant to study sequestration
The Champaign-Urbana- based Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) has received a $10.1 million federal grant to study and develop technologies for the continued burning of fossil fuels throughout the world. There are concerns about the emission of carbon dioxide when certain fossil fuels are burned, but geologists contend that it is possible to collect carbon dioxide generated by energy sources such as power plants and inject it deep into the earth. The process of doing so is called “carbon sequestration.” It is possible that the technology could be used to lessen pollution from the burning of coal and other fossil fuels in the future.

The ISGS has been asked by the U.S. Department of Energy to study the feasibility of injecting over 50 million metric tons of CO² into geological strata deep under Illinois. The ISGS study will develop information based on previous core drillings and other research showing that large areas of central and southern Illinois are atop beds of impermeable shale. The theory being studied is that carbon dioxide could be injected beneath the shale and would not come back to the surface.

Firearm season deer harvest was down this year
With the late-season harvest numbers yet to come in, the main firearm deer hunting weekends are over. According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) tag numbers reported by licensed hunters indicate that the number of deer taken in Illinois this fall was down significantly from 2015. IDNR’s figures indicate that firearm-season tag numbers were down by 8.5% this fall: a decline from 86,847 deer last year to 79,429 this year. Late-season deer activities still to come include a muzzle-loading weekend in December, an antlerless-only season in certain areas in late December, and the archery deer season, which runs through mid-January.

IDOT warns motorists about winter driving
The Illinois Department of Transportation has created a brief streaming video which includes warnings to drivers about snow and ice conditions. Conditions to be aware of include the need to drive defensively when driving near snowplows, spots where road ice is likely to appear and build up, and items you should carry in your vehicle during wintertime. A typical winter survival-supply kit for winter driving includes items such as blankets, a first-aid kit, reflectors, an ice scraper for windshields, jumper cables, and a cellphone. Drivers in rural areas should be mindful of the fact that not all sections of Illinois have continuous, seamless cellphone service.

Bicentennial Commission taking shape
Illinois will observe the 200th anniversary of statehood in 2018. To help plan and coordinate a series of celebration events around the state, the Governor has appointed members to the unpaid Bicentennial Commission which was established earlier this year. The members of the Commission include government officials, business leaders, historians, educators, media figures, tourism coordinators, and even the chairmen of the Cubs, Bulls and White Sox.

The commission includes local leaders from around the state who will help to develop each community’s observance of the event, which will last throughout the entirety of 2018. The approaching bicentennial gives Illinoisans an opportunity to learn about and to show their pride in the state’s history and heritage.

Did You Know?
Illinois has nearly two dozen official state symbols. They include the State Song (“Illinois”), the State Flower (violet) and the State Insect (monarch butterfly). The first state symbol was the State Tree (the native oak, later changed to the white oak) which was designated in 1908. Many of our state symbols have been chosen by polls of schoolchildren, such as the State Animal (white-tailed deer), State Fish (bluegill) and State Bird (cardinal).

In recent years, school groups have approached the General Assembly with ideas for additional symbols, such as the State Snack Food (popcorn) proposed in 2003 by 2nd and 3rd graders from Cunningham Elementary in Joliet, the State Fruit (goldrush apple) a 2007 idea from a 4th grade class at Woodlawn Elementary, and the State Vegetable (sweet corn), suggested in 2015 by students at Glenwood Elementary in Chatham.