Spring session coming up; Term limits legislation

Spring session to begin on January 23
The Illinois House will return to Springfield for the opening of the annual spring session on Tuesday, January 23. The Senate will be back a week later on January 30. Governor Rauner will offer his State of the State Address on January 31 and his budget address on February 14. During these opening weeks, members will be filing new legislation and committees will begin their consideration of the bills that are filed. Since this is the second year of the 100th General Assembly, it is possible that a few bills which were introduced last year could be brought back for consideration again this year.

Term limits for legislative leaders
I have introduced several bills for this spring session and I will be telling you about them over the next few weeks. One of them is House Bill 4194 which would put term limits on legislative leaders. This is similar to a bill I introduced last year, House Bill 491 which did not get a hearing in the Executive Committee before the deadline.

This legislation would change state law to allow a person to serve no more than 10 years as Speaker or Minority Leader of the House, or President or Minority Leader of the Senate. It would take effect with the inauguration of the next General Assembly, beginning in 2019. I believe this bill would be a good way to restore some accountability to Springfield and prevent any one individual from accumulating too much power within state government.

How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $8,238,366,493 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.

Revenues up, but retail spending in Illinois disappoints
Helping somewhat with the decline in the overdue bill backlog is an increase in revenue to the state over the past few months. The most recent state revenue report by the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) indicates an increase in revenue by $438 million over the same month in 2016, which amounts to a 15.4% increase.

However, the report contained some warnings about weakness in the revenue numbers as well. Sales tax receipts were $34 million, a 4% decline. The poor sales tax numbers were caused in part by the overall struggles being faced by retailers.

COGFA also offered a report to the General Assembly about the overall performance of Illinois’ economy, as compared to other states over the 10 year period since the start of the 2007-08 “Great Recession.” Unfortunately, Illinois’ economy has underperformed our Midwestern neighbors and the national economy as a whole. The declines have been concentrated in construction and in the manufacturing of durable goods such as machinery and fabricated metal products. There have been a few bright spots in manufacturing, such as nondurable goods like chemicals and refined oil products. The report is another sign that we need to act to make the state’s economic climate more competitive with the rest of the region and the nation.

Unemployment rate held steady in November
The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) is out with its November 2017 unemployment report, which indicates relatively low unemployment rates in Illinois, but still reports a higher unemployment rate in Illinois than the nation as a whole. The unemployment number for November was 4.9%. According to the report, there were approximately 6,045,000 persons working in nonfarm payroll jobs in Illinois, which accounts for almost one-half of the state’s population.

IDES tracks Illinois jobs by broad categories to help spot areas of strength and weakness. As has been the trend for the past few months, there was strong job creation in areas of specialized services. During the past 12 months, Illinois saw significant job creation in financial activities, professional and business services, and education and health services. Each category generated more than 7,000 net new jobs in Illinois during the twelve month period. Many of these jobs were filled by persons with specialized postsecondary job licenses and credentials.

Some other categories saw net job losses in Illinois during the same period. Particularly hard-hit were governments, which lost 8,000 jobs during the year. Once again, Illinois did not create as many net new jobs as many neighboring and comparable states.

Illinois drops to the sixth largest state
The 2017 end-of-year state population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that Pennsylvania has passed Illinois and is now the fifth largest U.S. state in population. Illinois and Pennsylvania both have more than 12.8 million residents.

The announcement stood in stark contrast to the late 1990s, when Illinois passed Pennsylvania to claim the #5 spot. Illinois was fifth-largest in the 2000 and 2010 censuses. Both states have had almost stable populations for the past thirty years. California is the largest U.S. state in population, followed by Texas, Florida and New York. Idaho was the nation’s fastest-growing state in 2017.

Visiting with Watseka Kiwanis
I had the chance on Monday to stop by the meeting of the Watseka Kiwanis to deliver a Springfield update. Thanks to Kevin Hack with the Kiwanis for the invitation. We have an interesting year ahead in Springfield and I always appreciate the opportunity to meet with local groups to hear your comments and questions.

Did You Know?
The first French fort to be built in present-day Illinois began construction on January 15, 1680, on the banks of the Illinois River just across from present-day Peoria. The fort was called Fort Crevecoeur. Shortly after the fort was built its commander, Rene de La Salle, and six men left to retrieve more supplies for future exploration of the region. The remaining French soldiers soon mutinied and abandoned the fort.