Session continued, deal said to be close but not finalized

Session to continue at least one more day as negotiations continue
I want to give you a quick update on where things stand as of Friday afternoon. This morning, by a wide bipartisan vote, an amendment was adopted to Senate Bill 6 which sets out a spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year. This is not the final budget agreement, but it is a major step in that direction. The legislative leaders were meeting throughout the day and the word from both sides was that they are very close to an agreement, though not quite there yet.

The House has been in special session for the last ten days, and this morning we were told that we will be in session again on Saturday in the hopes of finalizing an agreement on the budget and several other major issues.

Because agreement has not yet been reached and because we won’t know exactly how these matters are going to be resolved until at least tomorrow, I do not have much of a news update for you at this time. I hope to have much more news to report next week.

For now, stay tuned.

All school districts benefit from more equitable compromise funding fix
Earlier this spring, the House passed Senate Bill 1, an attempt at reforming the way Illinois funds public schools. This month, a better proposal was introduced in the House. All Illinois school districts would benefit from a more equitable distribution of state education dollars under the proposal by Rep. Bob Pritchard to fix the state’s broken school aid formula and end the budget stalemate, according to data released by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).

The legislation, House Bill 4069, is a true compromise that embraces the priorities of lawmakers from both parties and both legislative chambers, and reflects the recommendations of the Governor’s bipartisan Illinois School Funding Reform Commission. In addition, according to the ISBE data, House Bill 4069 ensures that no school district would lose funding and represents the most fair and equitable plan for all Illinois students.

House Bill 4069 incorporates the agreed upon evidence-based model, relies on data to drive resources and funding to schools most in need and creates real equity by treating all districts and students fairly under one system, regardless of zip code. But most importantly, HB 4069 treats each of the state’s 852 school districts the same and ensures that no school districts lose funding.

When including both base funding and tier funding, every downstate and suburban school district would receive more funding through House Bill 4069 than under Senate Bill 1. However, embracing the spirit of compromise, House Bill 4069 represents real concessions in many areas.

The legislation reflects the same language as Senate Bill 1 in that both use an evidence-based model, both address poverty concentration, calculate local resources and establish a base funding minimum. But the new legislation improves on SB 1 in some important ways. The bill relies on data, and data alone, to drive resources to the schools that need it most, including Chicago. It ensures that all schools are treated the same under a formula that is the same for everyone, regardless of zip code.

Twelve of 14 Illinois metro areas fall short of national average job growth
According to the May 2017 monthly metropolitan-area job report from the Illinois Department of Employment Security, unemployment rates dropped in most areas of the state. Unfortunately, the decline can be attributed to a drop in the number of Illinois residents classified as being in the active labor force rather than new jobs being created.  As with the state as a whole, few new jobs are being created.

Job seekers are beginning to see a tight job market in many metro areas of Illinois, with unemployment dropping to 4.1% in the Chicago-Naperville region and to 3.9% in Lake County. Many Illinoisans are finding, however, that the continued transition of the Illinois and U.S. economies from a manufacturing-based economy to a services-based economy means that many residents need to have specialized skills in order to participate actively in the Illinois labor force.

Deal that could yield $300 million for state budget continues to be blocked
Legislation has been introduced calling for the state to begin negotiations for the sale of the state’s principal downtown Chicago office building, the James R. Thompson Center, to the private sector.

While the Thompson Center has physically deteriorated and would require hundreds of millions of dollars in renovations, including life/safety renovations, to remain habitable in the long term, experts say that the building’s physical site downtown makes the property a potentially valuable asset for redevelopment.  A billion-dollar complex that could contain as much as 2 million square feet of property tax-paying office space could be built on the site. Developers are ready to pay the state and its taxpayers a sum that would yield a margin of approximately $300 million net of relocation costs. With the state’s deficit and bill backlog, those extra funds are sorely needed.

Governor Rauner supports the sale of the Thompson Center and the relocation of its workers to new sites throughout the Chicago area.  However, Crain’s Chicago Business reported this week that the sale of the complex is being blocked due to a lack of agreement between Gov. Rauner and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on the terms of the sale and the outline of what building complex would replace it. House Bill 500 would allow the state to sell the building, while House Bill 4044 calls for all of the property tax funds that would be generated by the proposed new structure to be paid to the city’s troubled public school system.

Did You Know?
According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Illinois ranks third in the nation in the number of farmers’ markets. Nationwide, there are over 8000 farmers’ markets which offer a wide assortment of locally-grown products. The Department of Agriculture maintains a website which helps users find local farmers’ markets. It also has a chart of which fresh products are currently in season.