Unemployment declines; how much do we owe?

Unemployment rate drops in all Illinois metro areas
The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) has issued a report which provides us with information about the unemployment rates in each of Illinois’ 12 metropolitan areas. The good news was that each of the 12 metropolitan areas had a lower jobless rate in July 2017 than it had been twelve months earlier, with an especially significant drop in Chicago (currently 4.8%, which is down from 6.0% a year ago). 

As in previous metro reports, the jobless picture was slightly better in Illinois’ largest cities and suburban areas than throughout the state, indicating that we still have a long way to go in improving conditions statewide. Information released earlier in the summer indicated that Illinois’ unemployment rate remained higher than the national average and higher than our neighboring states. This shows that while progress is being made, we still need to do more to improve our jobs climate and keep jobs in Illinois.

How much do we owe?
This week I am adding a new feature to my update from the Capitol. As you know, Illinois is billions of dollars in debt to its many creditors which include local governments, hospitals, school districts, service providers and individuals. Earlier this summer, the Comptroller said the amount of unpaid bills the state owes should begin in September to slowly decrease from its already-unacceptably high level.

As I have traveled around the district, I have been asked exactly how much do we owe? It is hard to pin down a specific figure because some of our debt can only be estimated. The number below is the amount of unpaid bills we owe: that is, bills that have been submitted to the Comptroller for payment, but for which there is not enough money in the state’s checkbook to pay. There are other debts that we can only estimate. For example, by some estimates, our unfunded pension liability is well over $100 billion.

While the number changes from one day to the next, each week I will provide you with the most up-to-date figure available as of the time of writing. This week, the figure for how much in unpaid bills the state of Illinois currently owes is: $15,133,763,117.

Honoring Chief Drollinger
A special ceremony was conducted at the Hoopeston Sweet Corn Festival on Sunday to honor Hoopeston Police Chief Mark Drollinger for his many years of service to the community. His recent passing was a loss for the entire community. The Hoopeston Police Force formed a semi-circle on stage in support as many had known and worked with Mark for many years. Mark’s wife Susie and son Patrick came forward and received two Proclamations: one from the Illinois General Assembly and one from Governor Bruce Rauner. For many days after things were over, I saw several signs throughout the community that said “Thank you Chief.” He will be missed.

New engines on Amtrak trains will cut travel time by an hour from Chicago to St. Louis
The trains running on the Amtrak line which includes the stops in our district in Pontiac and Dwight will soon begin using improved diesel-powered locomotives that will be capable of running at speeds of up to 125 miles per hour in open areas. The enhanced performances generated by these 4,400-horsepower units could reduce travel time on the line known as the “Lincoln Service” by more than one hour. Currently, traveling the full route from Chicago to St. Louis takes five hours and 40 minutes. The faster trains would reduce that time to four hours and 30 minutes.

The re-engined “Lincoln Service” is part of a long term program to improve service on one of Illinois’ most historic train routes. The Chicago & Alton line was completed in 1855 with legal help from Springfield attorney Abraham Lincoln. Union Pacific, which owns the railroad track, has worked with the federal government to install safety fencing alongside the track for much of the route. In some sections, double track has been laid, and some road crossings have been closed. Warning of faster train speeds, both public and private authorities reminding pedestrians and motorists to exercise caution around the tracks.

September is National Preparedness Month
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) has launched its “Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead, You Can,” program to remind Illinois residents that disaster can strike anytime. IEMA is encouraging Illinoisans to take a few moments to make plans with family members to make emergency plans for your household.

IEMA’s director pointed out that Hurricane Harvey has demonstrated the devastation that can occur from a disaster that was forecast several days in advance. Many disasters offer little or no warning at all. As part of Disaster Preparedness Month, IEMA will be offering information on how to put together a family emergency communication plan, but also such important tips as how to assembly your emergency supply kit and methods of receiving notifications in the event of disaster. More information is available at www.ready.illinois.gov.

Did You Know?
The Illinois Supreme Court has seven justices who are chosen from five judicial districts. Each justice serves a ten-year term on the Court. These same districts are used to choose justices for the Appellate Court, which is the court just below the Supreme Court. These judges also serve ten-year terms. Beneath the Appellate Court are the state’s Circuit Courts. Circuit Judges serve six-year terms, while appointed associate judges to the Circuit Courts hold four-year terms.