Unemployment declines; Woodford residents eligible for disaster tax credit

Illinois unemployment shows slight decline
The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) has announced that the state’s unemployment rate dipped by a tenth of a point in October to 4.9 percent and nonfarm payrolls increased by 3,400 jobs based on preliminary data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and released by IDES. The figures for September were revised up to show a smaller decline than initially reported, as Illinois lost 7,900 jobs in September compared to the 10,800 that were initially reported.

In what is becoming a common refrain, however, October’s job growth numbers for Illinois still lagged well below the national average. Illinois job growth has moved up and down since the beginning of the year. The three-month trend is down, showing average declines of 2,300 jobs per month from August to October, but the six-month trend is up: indicating an increase of 1,900 average monthly job gains from May to October. Both the 3-month and the 6-month have improved since last month.

Overall, Illinois’ unemployment rate is 0.8 percentage points higher than the national rate reported for October, which decreased to 4.1 percent. Illinois’ unemployment rate has declined by 0.9 percentage points from this time last year, when it stood at 5.8 percent. At 4.9 percent, the Illinois jobless rate is 0.8 percentage points lower than it was at the start of 2017.

Woodford County property owners affected by July floods eligible for tax credit
Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed into law a tax credit worth up to $750 for property owners in Woodford and 17 other Illinois counties which sustained flood damages over the summer.

Senate Bill 403 creates a natural disaster credit that eligible, affected property owners may apply to their 2017 Illinois income taxes. Along with Woodford, the included counties are Cook, Lake, Kane, McHenry, Alexander, Clinton, Jackson, Marshall, Union, Carroll, Henry, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Rock Island, Stephenson and Whiteside — all of which were declared state disaster areas by the governor last summer.

The legislation came into being after severe storms in July caused flooding throughout the state. The Governor noted that many home and business owners are still working to clean up the damage caused by the floods.

To qualify, the property must be a taxpayer’s principle residence or land owned by a small business. It cannot be a rental or leasing business. The tax credit will be either $750 or the deduction allowed under the Internal Revenue Code for each taxpayer who owns qualified property in a county declared a state disaster area – whichever is less.

Township assessors shall issue eligibility certificates for appropriately requesting property owners. The assessors will certify to the Illinois Department of Revenue listings of flood-damaged properties. Based on damages previously reported to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, the fiscal impact to the state is estimated at $4.6 million.

How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $8,855,547,693 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 bipartisan sexual harassment prevention bill
Governor Rauner has signed SB 402, the omnibus sexual harassment prevention bill which the House and Senate passed during the fall session. The bill calls for annual sexual harassment training sessions for state officers and employees and creates penalties for those who violate the policies set forth in the training.

Another feature of the new law is a telephone hotline to report cases of sexual harassment. Some examples of the kind of help that the hotline could provide include assistance in filing a complaint, but also referrals to counseling or protective services. Reporting may be done through the hotline or by other means.

Governor Rauner also signed into law HB 137, a bill to allow investigation of existing complaints by the newly-appointed Legislative Inspector General. With respect to the Illinois General Assembly, there was a period of time when the office of Legislative Inspector General was vacant and some complaints were not acted upon in a timely manner. Concerns have been raised about this gap period, and so the legislation grants the new Legislative Inspector General the right to review a reported twenty-eight complaints that had been caught in limbo. This measure will help to ensure that all parties to these complaints receive due process and fair treatment.

Get Covered Illinois tour to stop in Watseka
The Illinois Department of Insurance is conducting a statewide tour to inform Illinoisans about the Get Covered Illinois health insurance program. GCI open enrollment is underway right now, so this is an opportunity for those who want to sign up for the program to get their questions answered. The tour will be stopping at my Watseka office at 342 W. Walnut Street on Monday, December 4, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

More information about the program is available at www.getcovered.illinois.gov.

Did You Know?

Abraham Lincoln took office in the Illinois House of Representatives for the first time on December 1, 1834. Representative Lincoln, then a Whig from Menard County, would go on to serve several terms in the Illinois House before winning a single term in Congress in 1846. He ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate before being nominated for President in 1860.