FOID card process needs revamping; Warnings about debt

Renewing the call for FOID card application process reform

As we have dealt with the coronavirus pandemic this year, we have seen many state government operations struggle. One of these has been the processing of applications for Firearm Owner Identification or FOID cards.

Wait times which were already too long before the pandemic have expanded to unacceptable lengths. Figures shared by the State Police indicate that while the average processing time for a new FOID card application in 2018 was 20 days, this year it is 70. Renewals which took 20 days just two years ago now take on average 136. While the number of applications increased from 256,353 in 2018 to 379,873 this year, the state of Illinois has not adapted its system to meet the increased demand.

I recently sent a letter to Governor Pritzker calling for action to reduce wait times for FOID cards. My office has received many emails and phone calls from concerned constituents who have been waiting for their applications to be approved. Some have waited for 6 months or more. We have been working with the State Police to move the process along but much more needs to be done.

I have spoken with State Police Director Brendan Kelly and shared with him our concerns about the wait times. These delays have made it harder for Illinoisans to purchase firearms or ammunition or to make plans for fall hunting trips as shotgun deer season approaches.

This is not due to any mistake or wrongdoing on the part of the applicant. It is also not due to a lack of hard work on the part of the State Police personnel who are processing the applications. It is due to an inadequate and inefficient system for processing the paperwork. Director Kelly and I have had productive conversations and he told me about the steps he is taking to improve the process. I applaud the work he and his staff are doing to straighten this out but there is much to do. Government needs to do better! Much better.

I look forward to seeing an improved system that better protects the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Illinoisans.

Another warning about Illinois’ debt

In the eyes of Wall Street and global bond buyers Illinois’ finances stand just barely above junk-bond level. If our state is downgraded any further by the major debt rating agencies it would likely push Illinois general-obligation debt below the junk-bond line. This would cause Illinois bonds to be considered by many to be shaky debt that does not possess investment-grade characteristics.

Fitch Ratings published a report last week which explained the possible data points that could lead them to downgrade Illinois. Their analysts will be looking at items such as changes in Illinois’ pension liabilities, further aid from Washington, D.C., any budget reduction plan put forth by the Pritzker administration, possible downturns in the national economy and any negative effects on the state from international trading patterns.

The timing is worrisome because Illinois is preparing to sell another $850 million in general obligation bonds next week. In advance of this sale, Fitch analysts re-stated that Illinois’ debt is rated BBB- with a negative outlook, the lowest investment-grade rating possible.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $8,278,197,717 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $7.2 billion. 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 subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be more than $137 billion.

Join us for a discussion of Illinois’ tax system

Visit my Facebook page next Thursday at 5 p.m. for a discussion about Illinois’ tax system. My guest will be David Harris, the Director of the Illinois Department of Revenue. Director Harris is a former state representative from Arlington Heights and also served as the commanding general of the Illinois National Guard. We will talk about the different sources of revenue that go into Illinois’ finances and how each of these contributes to the making of a state budget each year. We will also discuss how they have been impacted by COVID-19.

More news from around the state

The latest update from the Department of Public Health – new highest single-day case total

State gambling revenues plummet during pandemic

Illinois State University expects $46.2 million in COVID-19 costs

Department of Public Health issues COVID-19 holiday season safety tips

For additional helpful resources, click here.

For continually updated news from state agencies, visit: coronavirus.illinois.gov or my website at repbennett.com and click on COVID-19 Info. Persons with coronavirus questions or concerns should call the statewide toll-free coronavirus hotline at 1-800-889-3931. You can also submit questions via e-mail at dph.sick@illinois.gov.

My district offices remain closed to in-person visits, but are still accessible by phone at (815) 432-0106 (Watseka) and (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac).