Budget situation “unsustainable”; Illinoisans leaving for Indiana

Moody’s labels Illinois’ budget situation “unsustainable”
Moody’s Investor Services, the globally-followed credit-rating firm which has downgraded debt securities issued by the state of Illinois and its affiliates in the recent past, has given us another warning.  In the most recent caution issued to Springfield, Moody’s indicated that if the State does not enact a budget by May 31, Illinois will be on a pathway to “unsustainable fiscal challenges.” This is another reason why last week’s “stopgap” budget (instead of a full-year budget) was a bad idea.

Illinois is two steps away from having our credit rating fall to a non-investment-grade level. Moody’s analysts warned the state that the ramifications of this loss of investment-grade quality might expand the already-deep cuts that have been inflicted on service providers and institutions of higher education. This endangers public universities and community service agencies across the state.

Moody’s pointed out that Illinois already has the lowest debt rating (BBB/Baa2) of any state in the U.S. The combination of the lack of a budget and Illinois’ significant pension underfunding situation are worsening the overall picture of Illinois’ debt-to-assets ratio. We need a long-term solution soon.

Census finds increasing numbers of former Illinoisans have moved to Indiana
The eastern boundary of the 106th district runs along the state line with Indiana. The difference between the friendlier jobs climate of Indiana as compared to Illinois is very directly felt here. Now we have some figures from the U.S. Census Bureau which prove that we are losing residents to our neighbor to the east. The figures from the American Community Survey tell us that in 2015, 34,220 former Illinois residents moved across the state line to Indiana.

Right now, Indiana looks very attractive to potential job creators and those in search of better opportunities for themselves or their families. Indiana has a working state budget, a triple-A credit rating, and a job-friendly business climate. Illinois residents will keep moving to Indiana if we don’t take positive action to make our state more competitive.

State parks could be allowed to use volunteers for cleanups, special events
Bipartisan legislation sponsored by State Rep. Ryan Spain would allow volunteer work to be performed at Illinois State Parks. The bill would not take work away from state employees who work at the parks, but would allow local volunteers to participate in such activities as Adopt-a-Trail programs, spring cleanups, special events and trail maintenance.

The bill came about after concerns were raised by trail riders from Jubilee State Park near Peoria. Potential volunteers claimed they had been turned away from helping out at state parks to keep trails clean and maintained. This legislation would allow volunteers and state employees to work together to maintain state parks and keep them in good shape for future generations.

House Bill 3455, passed the House 113-0 last week and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Raising speed limits on tollways
The 106th district does not have any toll highways, but those traveling north to the Chicago area or west across Northern Illinois will encounter quite a few. While Illinois’ maximum speed limit on non-congested Interstate highways was increased from 65 mph to 70 mph, Illinois toll roads continue to maintain a maximum speed limit of 65 mph, even on rural sections west of Aurora and Elgin.  The toll roads are operated by the Illinois Toll Highway Authority (ITHA), an independent panel that has so far maintained the older, slower speed limit.

Legislation sponsored by Rep. Peter Breen, HB 2938, tries to push the ITHA to raise the speed limit on those parts of the system where it can be done safely. If enacted, in 12 months after the effective date of the bill, the toll road maximum speed limit will be 70 mph for highways other than the Tri-State Tollway (I-294). The bill authorizes the ITHA to control the timing and process by which they raise the speed limit. The bill passed the House on April 5 by a 109-5 vote. It has been sent to the Senate for further discussion and debate.

Upcoming constituent meetings
This coming week I will host a pair of constituent meetings in the district. On Thursday at 5 p.m., I will be at the Clifford Bury Administrative Center at 1001 E. Grant Street in Watseka. On Friday at 5 p.m., I will be meeting constituents at the Livingston County Courthouse at 112 W. Madison Street in Pontiac. Each meeting is open to the public and no RSVP is required.

There will be an update on the activity so far this year in the House of Representatives and an opportunity for you to share your views on the legislation we are considering. I hope you will stop by. If you cannot make it, you can always reach my office by phone or through the website.

Did You Know?
Nuclear power has some important roots in Illinois. Enrico Fermi conducted the first controlled nuclear reaction at the University of Chicago on December 2, 1942. Illinois is also home to the world’s first nuclear power generating system, the Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, which became active on January 14, 1957.