Former Speaker Madigan indicted on corruption charges
Michael Madigan, the longest-serving House Speaker in Illinois history, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Chicago on Wednesday on a range of corruption charges. Madigan accumulated enormous power as Speaker and a variety of political posts, including chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party. After corruption allegations came to light in 2020 Madigan stepped down as Speaker early in 2021 and resigned from the House a few weeks later.
Madigan now joins a long list of public officials in Illinois who have been indicted for corruption, including Governors, state legislators, city officials and many others. Last year, after the Madigan scandal became public, there was strong momentum for ethics reform in Illinois, but it was ultimately so watered-down by the Democrat majority in the General Assembly that our chief ethics watchdog resigned in protest. Madigan’s indictment should give new momentum to the movement to clean up the culture of corruption in Springfield.
Another mixed report on state revenue
Every month it seems that we get another good news/bad news report on state revenue. These reports come from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA), the General Assembly’s non-partisan budget watchdog agency. The continuing high inflation and the recovery from the pandemic have led to an increase in revenue to the state. COGFA now expects the state to take in $48.5 billion in the current fiscal year which ends June 30. That is more than $4 billion than was expected at the start of the year.
The bad news is that much of this money will not carry over into the next fiscal year. Available funds are expected to drop by more than $2 billion next year as money from federal sources dries up. One example is the one-time use of $1.5 billion in repurposed federal funds from the America Rescue Plan Act of 2021 which were used as general revenue in the current budget. With economic headwinds on the horizon, and the remaining $4 billion debt which Illinois owes from its unemployment insurance trust fund, many House Republicans have expressed concerns over Governor Pritzker’s plans to increase state spending in the upcoming fiscal year.
State Police report continuing success in FOID card backlog
Last year one of the top issues I heard about from constituents was the long delays in processing FOID card applications and renewals. The State Police made changes to their systems and have worked diligently to bring down the backlog and reduce the time Illinoisans were having to wait for approvals. This week we received some additional statistics from the State Police to show the progress that is being made.
Where we were a year ago:
New applications for FOID cards in January 2021: 25,702
Approvals for FOID cards in January 2021: 23,870
Applications for FOID renewals in January 2021: 14,195
Approvals of FOID renewals in January 2021: 1,647
Where we are now:
New applications for FOID cards in January 2022: 12,003
Approvals for FOID cards in January 2022: 14,897
Applications for FOID renewals in January 2022: 15,940
Approvals for FOID renewals in January 2022: 31,232
As you can see, the State Police have worked hard to get ahead of the problem and are bringing down the backlog. While one year ago approvals were lagging behind the number of applications, today the State Police are getting ahead of the surge, especially in FOID card renewal applications where the improvement has been the greatest. If anyone in the 106th District is still having difficulty with a long wait time, I encourage them to contact my office to see if we can help.
Bridging the Divide
I have worked with Dr. Junius Rodriguez at Eureka College on a number of projects over the years. Dr. Rodriguez hosts a “Bridging the Divide” program to talk about how we might become more engaged in state and federal issues, discuss issues when we disagree and develop trust even when we are on different sides of an issue. This spring I was honored to be invited to speak to Dr. Rodriguez’s group of about 35 students from Eureka, Loyola and the University of Chicago. As always, this excellent group of students had great questions and insights.
How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $3,613,987,533 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $5.0 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?
On this day in 1861 Abraham Lincoln delivered his inaugural address to a crowd of 25,000 spectators on the east front of the U.S. Capitol. He pleaded for unity, saying, “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
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