State revenue vs. inflation; Better protection for DCFS workers

State revenue goes up, but so does inflation

The December report from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) found that the ongoing coronavirus recovery was helping bring in revenue to the state treasury, but warned that the growing inflation threatened to take it right back out. Personal income tax receipts were up by $264 million compared to one year earlier when unemployment was much higher due to the pandemic. Corporate and sales tax revenues were also up compared to the year before.

But COGFA once again warned that skyrocketing inflation was continuing to harm the state’s overall budget picture. As anyone who has been to the grocery store or the gas station recently knows, prices are going up: COGFA pegged the increase at 6% in Illinois just in the month of November, similar to what people across the country are seeing.

The nationwide inflation affects each and every one of us every time we try to buy something, but it also affects state government – and not just because prices are higher for things the state needs to buy. Higher inflation could force Illinois to start paying higher interest rates to those lenders who allow the state to borrow the millions of dollars it takes to run state government. COGFA reminded Illinoisans that our state still has one of the lowest credit ratings in the country, which means that we are already paying more for borrowing money than other states with more responsible budgeting practices.

You can review the full report by clicking here.

Legislation needed to protect DCFS caseworkers

Last week the House of Representative paused for a moment of silence in honor of Deidre Silas, an investigator for the Department of Children and Family Services who was murdered while conducting a welfare check on children at a home near Springfield.

Sadly this is not the first incident of this nature. In 2018 another DCFS investigator, Pam Knight, was killed in northwestern Illinois. Other DCFS workers have been attacked and injured on the job while trying to protect at-risk children. After Ms. Knight’s murder, several legislators introduced a bill to enact tougher penalties for those who attack DCFS caseworkers, the same penalties applied to attacks on other public servants like teachers and firefighters. In 2018 the bill did not get enough support to pass the House. In 2019 it passed the House but not the Senate. In 2021 it was introduced again as House Bill 3933. We need to end the delays and pass this important legislation to better protect those who protect endangered kids.

Illinois has a 24-hour Child Abuse Hotline to report suspicions that an Illinois child has been harmed or is at risk of abuse of neglect. That number is 1-800-25-ABUSE.

Capitol renovations to improve access and security

The north wing of the State Capitol will undergo extensive renovations starting this spring. The north wing includes the Comptroller’s office, Senate chamber and many of its offices. Once the spring session concludes, the Senate will move its proceedings to the auditorium of a nearby state building and will hold its sessions there until the project is completed in 2025.

The renovations will include new stairs and emergency exits, better fire alarms and sprinklers, more accessible bathrooms and entryways, and more up-to-date electrical and ventilation systems. An underground parking garage will be constructed in addition to a new north entrance. The Capitol building currently has only one handicapped-accessible entrance.

The Capitol was constructed just after the Civil War. It is a beautiful historic building which our state can be very proud of. The renovations will cost $224 million, funding which was authorized by the previous General Assembly’s Rebuild Illinois capital spending plan. A major renovation of the Capitol’s west wing was completed about ten years ago.

Donating another pay raise check

This month I donated my monthly pay raise check to Harbor House, which supports survivors of domestic violence through advocacy, empowerment and prevention. My thanks to Jenny Schoenwetter for our important discussion and for a tour of the facility which serves both Iroquois and Kankakee counties. Thank you also to Iroquois Federal for their key community support. You can find out more about Harbor House and the services it provides by visiting https://www.harborhousedv.org/.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $3,930,430,744 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $5.3 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 $141 billion.

Did You Know?

In the first decennial census in which Illinois participated (1820) the new state had a population of just 55,211 people. We were the smallest state in the nation at the time. Agriculture was the state’s top employer with 12,395 workers. Illinois’ population quickly began booming: tripling by the next census in 1830. Today Illinois is the nation’s sixth-largest state with a population of 12,812,508.

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