EDGE tax credit overhauled; unemployment ticks up slightly

Governor signs EDGE tax credit overhaul into law
Governor Rauner has signed legislation which I co-sponsored that overhauls the EDGE Tax Credit Program and adds some much-needed transparency and taxpayer protections.

The EDGE tax credit program is important to local economic development which incentivizes job creation, growth and competitiveness in the state. The new law extends the program until June 30, 2022.

Among important changes to the EDGE tax credit law is a change that will help to benefit the entire state, instead of just a few geographic areas. Under the updated law, incentives will encourage companies to grow or relocate to underserved areas of Illinois. The change also lowered the eligibility thresholds in order to allow more Illinois small businesses to grow. The overhaul also implements a Gov. Rauner transparency measure, requiring all EDGE agreements be posted within 10 days of the project being secured in Illinois.

Renewing the tax credit while implementing these changes will make Illinois more competitive with our neighboring states in attracting job creators. It is a good example of the kind of bipartisan cooperation we need to get Illinois moving in the right direction.

Slight increase in August unemployment rate
The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) announce that the state’s unemployment rate increased +0.2 percentage points to an even 5 percent in August. Nonfarm payrolls decreased by 3,700 jobs over-the-month, according to preliminary data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and released by IDES. The figures on July job growth were revised downward, now showing an increase of 600 jobs instead of the original estimate of 2,100 jobs.

With the decline in August, Illinois’ over-the-year job growth remains well below the average for the rest of the country. Overall, Illinois job growth has been moving up and down throughout the year. The 3-month trend shows that Illinois has averaged monthly gains of 1,100 jobs per month over the summer, while the longer, six-month trend indicates a 100 per month average job loss since March.

Illinois’ unemployment rate is 0.6 percentage points higher than the nationwide unemployment rate for August, which increased to 4.4 percent. There is some good news, however, as Illinois’ unemployment rate is down by 0.8 percentage points since this time last year when it stood at 5.8 percent. At 5 percent, Illinois’ jobless rate stands 0.7 percentage points lower than it was at the start of the year.

How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $15,097,308,817 in unpaid bills to state vendors. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is estimated to be more than $100 billion.

Governor signs House Bill 40
On Thursday Governor Rauner signed House Bill 40, legislation which would allow state employee health insurance and Medicaid to pay for elective abortions. I was disappointed by this action. I voted against this bill when it came up in the House back in the spring, and I remain opposed to it. I do not believe taxpayers should have to pay for abortions-on-demand, and I also do not know where the state is going to find the money during our continuing fiscal crisis.

IEMA awards $500,000 in grants to 32 county emergency management agencies
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) this month awarded $500,000 in grants to 32 county emergency management agencies around the state to help them enhance their emergency operations centers. The grants included $17,850 to Iroquois County and $6,439 to Woodford County.

In order to receive consideration for a grant, an emergency management agency has to be compliant with National Incident Management System requirements, operate a functional emergency operations center and have a current, approved emergency operations plan.

The grant applications were reviewed and evaluated by public safety representatives from the state and local level. Priority was given to counties with the greatest need. County and municipal emergency managers also provided input on which of the eligible items for purchase would best benefit their agencies.

Those items eligible for purchase with funds from the grant include computers and printers, projectors, phones, radio base stations, screens, white boards and furniture for the emergency operations center.

Harvest of corn and beans begins a little late this year
Because of relatively high rain levels earlier in the season and the resulting moisture levels in the crops, the process of harvesting Illinois farmland has been slowed down this year. As of mid-September, the U.S. Department of Agriculture was reporting that only 2% of the corn crop has been harvested, which is below the average of 6% that Illinois usually has harvested by the middle of the month.

There is some reason for optimism about 2017 crop yields. Corn fields in Illinois are projected to average 189 bushels per acre, and expectations for bean fields are 58 bushels an acre. That gives Illinois an expected 2.07 billion bushel corn harvest for 2017, with 600 million bushels of soybeans expected to be harvested. Corn volume is projected to be down by around 8% compared to last year’s Illinois crop, but the reduction is entirely due to a decline in acres planted.

Did You Know?
The cornerstone for the Illinois State Capitol was laid on October 5, 1868. The structure at 2nd and Monroe Streets in Springfield is the sixth Illinois State Capitol building, and took 20 years to complete. A major renovation effort; which lasted nearly as long as the construction; was completed in 1988, just in time for the building’s 100th anniversary.