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Two days after election, Pritzker forms budget working group

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Illinois Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday that dealing with the state’s financial problems will be a top priority.

To that end, Pritzker said he created a Budget and Innovation Committee that will work to address the state’s dire finances before he takes office.

Two days after beating Gov. Bruce Rauner by 15 points at the polls, he’s formed a transition team and has said more working committees on different issues will be established in the days ahead.

The Democrat appeared in Springfield at the AFL-CIO headquarters for the announcement flanked by various members of the newly announced committee, including former Democratic Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes. Also on the committee will be former Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, a Republican. She was not at the event.

“The Budget and Innovation Committee will mold the guiding moral document that is our state budget and develop inventive solutions to move Illinois forward,” Lt. Gov.-elect Juliana Stratton said in a statement.

Pritzker said the group will evaluate the state’s existing finances and how to address shortfalls while keeping an eye on various ways to bring about innovation in government.

Illinois’ financial picture is bleak. The state has more than $200 billion of unfunded public employee retirement liabilities, and more than $7 billion in backlogged bills. That bill backlog is accruing interest of up to 12 percent a year. Plus the state budget approved this Spring has already been reported to be more than $1 billion out of balance.

Pritzker said there can only be one governor at a time and he will do what he can to provide input on how to deal with the current budget shortfall headed into the next fiscal year that will begin July 1, 2019.

Asked about tax rates for a proposed progressive tax that would require a change to the state constitution, Pritzker said he’s still listening to all sides and didn’t want to provide any rate structures. All during the campaign while promoting a progressive tax he had refused to provide rates.

He also said he didn’t have any comment about possible cuts to the budget to make up for the shortfall, or to address the pension debt.

Pritzker reiterated his support for legalizing sports betting and recreational marijuana use for adults. As to the possibility of funding infrastructure through a vehicle miles traveled, or VMT, tax, he said he never proposed such a thing, but he said he’s open to all options to find investments for critical infrastructure.

He also said taxpayers shouldn’t be concerned he will give away the store to a union that endorsed his campaign. Pritzker said he will be negotiating on behalf of taxpayers for a fair contract with the union. The largest state employee union, AFSCME, doesn’t have a contract as negotiations with Rauner broke down over nearly 3 years ago and the dispute is mired in court proceedings. Rauner had said AFSCME was asking for more than what taxpayers could afford.

Pritzker said he wants a report from the budget working group before the inauguration in January.

The budget committee includes Hynes, Radogno, state Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, state Senator Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hills, Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara, Decatur Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe, Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan Chief of Staff Jessica Basham, Chicago Budget Director Carol Brown, Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois President Pat Devaney, Center for Tax and Budget Accountability Executive Director Ralph Martire, Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery, Civic Federation President Laurence Msall, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton Chief of Staff Kristin Richards, CCM Grosvenor CEO Michael Sacks and Springfield Park District President Leslie Sgro.

Article by Greg Bishop with Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit ILnews.org

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Illinois News Network, publisher of ILNews.org, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media company dedicated to the principles of transparency, accountability, and fiscal responsibility in the state of Illinois. INN is Illinois’ pioneering non-profit news brand, offering content from the statehouse and beyond to Illinoisans through their local media of choice and from their digital hub at ILNews.org. Springfield Daily was granted republishing permission by INN.

Business

Illinois launches veteran-owned small business logo program

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Finding veteran-owned local businesses will soon be easier.

The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs is offering a sticker to qualifying veteran-owned businesses. Veteran-owned businesses that are registered with the state, and in good standing, can display the logo in their place of business.

The stickers will be released as part of their annual program that sets aside $300 million in state contracts that only veteran-owned businesses can bid on, Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs spokesman Dave MacDonna said.

“We want to raise public awareness about small businesses that are veteran-owned or large businesses that are veteran-owned,” he said.

MacDonna said that there are many small business owners across the state and this is a way for consumers to have confidence that they’re spending their money with one.

“We want the consumer to realize that they are a trusted and valuable part of the community,” he said.

The program will run in concurrence to the state’s annual Veterans’ Business program, which gives qualified veteran-owned businesses in the state access to more than $300 million in contracts.

For information about the program, visit www2.illinois.gov/cms/business.

Article by Cole Lauterbach with Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit ILnews.org

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State

Duckworth, Durbin Introduce Legislation to Improve Water Quality & End Sewage Dumping into Great Lakes

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PRESS RELEASE | U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced legislation today to end the dumping of untreated sewage waste into the Great Lakes Basin. The Senators’ Great Lakes Water Protection Act would improve water quality in the Great Lakes, which contain 95% of America’s fresh surface water and supply drinking water to more than 30 million people in North America. The bill would also create a dedicated fund to help clean up sewage in the Great Lakes and require the public be immediately notified when sewage is discharged. Representative Dan Lipinski (D-3) has introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“The Great Lakes is the source of drinking water for tens of millions of Americans and supports 1.5 million jobs,” said Senator Duckworth. “Yet, under the current rules, roughly 22 billion gallons of untreated sewage and storm water are discharged into the Great Lakes each year, threatening the health and livelihoods of millions.  Our legislation will help fix this problem by banning discharges of untreated sewage into the Great Lakes to protect local economies and ensure our water is clean for families in Illinois and throughout the Great Lakes region.” 

“The Great Lakes are precious natural resources and it’s our duty to protect them. In Illinois, we depend on Lake Michigan as a critical source of drinking water for millions of people. Lake Michigan also provides a huge economic benefit to the state, and is a place of recreation for countless residents and tourists,” Senator Durbin said. “This bill will end sewage dumping and ensure we have clean and healthy Great Lakes for future generations of Americans to enjoy.”

“My bill and the legislation Senators Duckworth and Durbin introduced in the Senate will improve water quality in the Great Lakes by ending the practice of blending and making sure that wastewater discharged into the lakes is fully-treated,” added Representative Lipinski. “We are also creating a Great Lakes Cleanup Fund that will provide federal dollars to offset the cost of infrastructure improvements needed to end wastewater blending, and make sure that an undue burden is not placed on local residents.”

An estimated 22 billion gallons of untreated sewage and storm water are discharged into the Great Lakes each year. That’s because inconsistent rules allow sewage treatment facilities in some states to divert wastewater around secondary treatment and discharge the untreated water directly into the Great Lakes when the treatment facilities are overloaded due to heavy storms, wet weather events or power failures, creating a public health hazard. The Senators’ legislation would create a uniform policy across the entire Great Lakes Basin that ends this practice. It would also authorize The Great Lakes Cleanup Fund to provide up to $250 million each year from 2020 to 2024 to support projects that lead to reductions in wastewater blending. 

The Great Lakes Water Protection Act has been endorsed by the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the National Wildlife Federation Great Lakes Regional Center, American Rivers, Environment Illinois, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

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Education

Illinois educators wary of bill to require metal detectors in every school

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image from the Sentinel-Echo

A group of Illinois lawmakers are promoting legislation that would use a combination of state, local and federal funds to put metal detectors in every school in the state, but some school leaders say it’s simply not feasible.

State Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, said students in schools should feel safe from gun violence when they’re learning. For that reason, the former teacher filed a bill that would require all public schools, K-12, have students walk through metal detectors everyday to get to class.

“Why is it that no one gets shot inside of Terminal 1 or Terminal 2 at O’Hare Airport?” he asked.

The bill would tap into federal funds made available this summer to partially pay for the walk-through detectors, which can cost thousands of dollars.

Regional Superintendent Mark Jontry, who oversees schools in DeWitt, Livingston, Logan and McLean Counties, said the idea is well-intentioned, but would result in a unfunded expenses for school districts and create logistical problems.

“Who’s going to be responsible for doing those screenings? Are districts going to be responsible for the cost of hiring additional personnel?” he said. “The concept, on the surface may seem like a good idea, but it presents a number of challenges once you dig into it.”

The detectors would have to be run by a trained professional and need regular servicing and calibration to ensure they work properly. Jontry said such costs would likely fall to local taxpayers.

Ben Schwarm, deputy director with the Illinois Association of School Boards, served on a working group with the Illinois Terrorism Task Force. The law enforcement contingent of the group had a hierarchy of actions that could be taken to “harden” schools from unwanted entry. Schwarm said metal detectors were last on that list.

“It’s just not that effective,” he said. “There’s a thousand things school districts should be doing before they get to that point.”

Article by Cole Lauterbach with Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit ILnews.org

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