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Illinois Govt

Rauner calls for collaboration during State of the State address

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Gov. Bruce Rauner delivered a mostly predictable State of the State address Wednesday, calling on lawmakers to work together to fix Illinois’ many fiscal issues while also pushing familiar policies that target his nemesis in the General Assembly, House Speaker Michael Madigan.

In front of a joint session of the legislature, the governor received a Bronx cheer when he said he planned to introduce a balanced budget in the coming weeks. While Rauner has claimed to submit balanced budgets in the past, Democrats and some Republicans say that’s not true.

“This year, I hope you guys will pass it instead of ignoring it,” Rauner said in response to the mock ovation, which quickly turned to groans.

Rauner said leaders from both parties worked together in the fall to pitch Chicago to online retail giant Amazon. Chicago is among the finalists hoping to land Amazon’s second North American headquarters.

“Governor, mayor, General Assembly, city council, businesses and nonprofits, Republicans and Democrats collaborated to compete for 15 years of growth, with 168,000 potential jobs and $129 billion in cumulative new GDP,” he said.

There are more opportunities to pursue, Rauner said, but to be successful, political opponents will have to work together.

“It takes a collaborative effort, a forget-about-the-politics-and-roll-up-our-sleeves kind of approach,” he said. “It requires a laser-like focus on economic development and job creation and a bipartisan dedication to restore public trust.”

Rauner spent much of his address on familiar themes: The need for substantive economic reforms to help grow jobs, and property tax relief to help overly burdened homeowners and businesses.

“Home values in some parts of our state are half what they were 10 years ago, yet property taxes are twice as high,” Rauner said. “Small businesses often have to cut staff to pay their taxes. Elderly couples on fixed incomes are too often pushed out of their homes because they cannot afford their property taxes.”

Targeting Madigan, who has been House speaker for all but two years since 1983, the governor again called for term limits.

“Eighty percent of the state’s voters want term limits,” Rauner said. “The other 20 percent, it seems, are seated in this chamber and in elected Illinois courts. It is past time to make this good governance move. Put term limits on the ballot and let the people decide.”

Rauner also referenced an executive order he signed two weeks ago that prevents elected legislators from practicing before the state property tax appeal board. Both Madigan and Democratic Senate President John Cullerton are tax attorneys.

On jobs, Rauner said the state has “planted the seeds of growth in our economy.”

“We’ve put 120,000 people to work. We’ve brought and kept business here: Amazon, General Mills, Nucor Steel, Brandt Industries and many more,” he said.

In response, Wirepoints.com founder Mark Glennon, a former venture capitalist, disagreed with the governor.

“Our job growth has been horribly underperforming compared to other states,” Glennon said. “We haven’t planted seeds. We haven’t even taken that first step. … Unfortunately, I’m not terribly optimistic based on what I heard today.”

Illinois has had slow jobs growth and a higher unemployment rate than the national average. One example is manufacturing jobs. President Donald Trump touted 200,000 new manufacturing jobs added across the county in all of 2017 during his Tuesday State of the Union address, but Illinois snagged only 7,700 of those manufacturing jobs while neighboring states’ gains outpaced Illinois’.

Just as Rauner didn’t offer much new, Democrats’ response also was largely predictable.

State Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, delivered House Democrats’ official response, critizing the governor for not working with the General Assembly and for the state’s fiscal woes.

“Time and again the governor has refused to work with us to pass a balanced budget,” Lang said. “He forced the state into budgetary chaos for more than 700 days,” referencing a two-year standoff between Rauner and the General Assembly that led to last summer’s $5 billion income tax increase over the governor’s veto.

Calling Rauner an absentee governor, Lang said he has a choice.

“He can choose to continue down his path of destruction. He can abdicate his constitutional responsibilities,” Lang said. “If that is his choice, the General Assembly will continue to move forward without him.”

At a news conference, Cullerton’s comments echoed those of Lang.

“We haven’t had a leaders’ meeting with the governor in more than a year. At the end of the day, I don’t care if he’s a lone wolf or a head cheerleader, what the state needs is a governor to take charge engage and do the job, and that just hasn’t happened.”

Wednesday’s address, Rauner’s fourth, comes amid a divisive gubernatorial campaign in which the first-term governor faces a primary challenge from a former supporter.

Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, decided to run in the March 20 Republican primary after she says Rauner abandoned his own party over issues such as spending, immigration and taxpayer-funded abortions. On the Democrats’ side, billionaire J.B Pritzker has launched an expensive ad campaign that targets Rauner even though Pritzker has several primary opponents.

During his address, Rauner acknowledged the #MeToo movement that swept the country last fall in the wake of allegations of rampant sexual harassment in Hollywood, the media and Springfield. He announced he will sign an executive order that will strengthen the policies that ensure all government employees under his jurisdiction have reliable and responsive outlets for reporting acts of sexual misconduct.

“The order creates a chief compliance office in the executive branch; stipulates reviews of allegations in 10 days or less; and requires training on best investigation practices by the end of this year, and every two years thereafter,” Rauner said. “These are powerful protections that the legislature should emulate.”

Many lawmakers and staff wore black Wednesday in a show of support for women at the capitol and across Illinois who have been victims of sexual harassment and abuse.

Rauner’s executive order announcement comes a week after a newly appointed legislative inspector general all but cleared a state senator of sexual harassment allegations leveled during a dramatic House committee hearing last fall.

Rauner is scheduled to deliver his budget address in front of both chambers on Feb. 14. The only hints he gave on what would be in his budget were some of the same reforms he’s pushed for in the past.

“I don’t know anyone in this chamber, or in this state, who isn’t frustrated when we spend beyond our means, or borrow to cover deficits, or let pension issues go unresolved,” Rauner said.

Despite last year’s tax increase, Illinois’ current budget is more than $2 billion out of whack. The state’s pension systems are underfunded by more than $130 billion and Illinois has the highest workers’ compensation costs in the Midwest.

“Rhode Island reformed its pensions. California enacted term limits,” Rauner said. “Massachusetts changed its group health plans and lowered workers’ comp rates. We have the power to take similar steps. The question is whether we have the will to take them.”

Rob Karr, president and CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants, sided with Rauner’s reform efforts in his response to the State of the State address.

“Retailers are a critical economic engine for the state, but our industry continues to operate on razor thin margins as regulations, mandates and taxes continue to squeeze Main Street retailers,” Karr said. “We share the governor’s belief that more business reforms are needed to lift up our state, which will only bolster productivity, economic growth and wages.”

Glennon wasn’t optimistic that the budget Rauner proposes will truly be balanced.

“I can only imagine that it’s going to have a bunch of phony savings in it, and it’s not going to be balanced,” Glennon said.

 

Article By Dan McCaleb and Greg Bishop. For more Illinois News Network content, visit ILNews.org – Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner delivers his fourth State of the State address Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2018. Image courtesy of BlueRoomStream.

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.

Illinois Govt

Rep. Jimenez’s Legislation to Move State Jobs Back to the Capital City Signed into Law

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State Representative Sara Wojcicki Jimenez’s push to return state jobs to the capital city today culminated in the signing of a new law mandating that Sangamon County be the default location for state positions in agencies under the Governor. House Bill 4295 directs state agencies to set a geographic location for each job, and if there isn’t a geographic necessity for the state job, then it should be located in Sangamon County.

“For all of my time as state representative, I have made it a priority to push State agencies to identify positions within State government that can and should be located in Sangamon County. A recent report identified hundreds of jobs that could potentially be relocated to the capital city. By making Sangamon County the default location for state jobs in state law, it sends a clear signal that state jobs should be in the capital city, unless they need to be located somewhere else in the state to best serve our residents,” said State Representative Jimenez (R-Leland Grove), the legislation’s chief sponsor.

Rep. Jimenez previously spearheaded passage of a resolution urging agencies under the Governor to compile a report listing the number of state employees in each county, including justification for the location. The report released indicates the potential for nearly 400 jobs to move back to the capital city. The new preference contained in House Bill 4295 takes the next step in the process, requiring the Director of Central Management Services to relocate to Sangamon County all State employment positions under the Personnel Code that are not required by their nature or function to be located in another area. It also requires that all new positions created be located in the Capitol City unless required to be located in another specific location.

The relocation provisions will apply to currently vacant positions and as they become vacant in the future.

“The home of Illinois’ state government should also be home base for as many state government employees as possible. That will help streamline the process of providing services and also save taxpayer dollars in the long run – two improvements we need now more than ever,” Representative Jimenez said.

For more information and detail about this bill, previous efforts and the report from 2016, visit www.repsara.com.

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2018 Election

New automatic voter registration law won’t slow efforts to reach out to potential new voters face-to-face

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A new automatic voter registration law in Illinois won’t slow efforts to reach out to potential new voters in an old-fashioned way.

Sharon Alter is vice president of voter services and co-chair of voter service with the League of Women Voters of Illinois. She says in-person, face-to-face registration always will have a place of importance.

“People still like the personal contact,” Alter said. “And that contact is important not just with prospective older voters, but also prospective younger voters. During the course of the in-person voter registration, some voting questions can come up, so there’s an education process, especially for a first-time voter.”

The League of Women Voters of Illinois is a non-partisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

Portions of the automatic voter registration law have begun to roll out. Earlier this month, Illinois’ Department of Motor Vehicle employees began to check for a customer’s voter registration online and allow citizens to sign-up if they wish to “opt-in”. Eventually, any eligible resident interacting with the DMV automatically will be registered to vote.

“The League of Women Voters Illinois is part of a coalition that supported the passage of this legislation,” Alter said. “Obviously, what all of us have to do is an education campaign. And that education campaign for voters about the process and the alternative here is just beginning.”

Illinois previously opened up online and same-day registration as part of a sweeping change to election laws in 2014. Alter says that didn’t really slow the demand for in-person sign-ups.

“When online voter registration started, as lot of people thought in-person voter registration would die out, but it really hasn’t,” Alter said. “And I would say at least for a while, even with automatic voter registration, in-person voter registration will still continue.”

Alter says she’s noticed a recent increase in voting interest across the board, but particularly among younger citizens.

“There’s an undercurrent of activism and interest and that’s across the board in ages, but particularly among younger voters,” Alter said. “A number of organizations have increased their membership, certainly since the November 2016 election, including the League of Women Voters.

Meanwhile, as part of the state’s membership in a national voter database, Illinois is required to try to reach people who are eligible to vote but who aren’t registered.
That means the state soon will spend $240,000 to send letters to unregistered voters.

 

Article by Scot Bertram, for more news visit ILnews.org

 

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Illinois Govt

Rauner says taxpayers could save $3.5 billion if consolidation recommendations enacted

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Illinois taxpayers could save more than $3 billion a year from government consolidation and mandate relief, according to Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Rauner signed House Bill 5123 Monday in DuPage County that allows for affected county clerks to absorb the county’s election commission, a move the governor’s office said will save $300,000, improve efficiency and streamline election reporting in DuPage County.

DuPage County had some election reporting problems on election night for this year’s March 20 primary. The Daily Herald reported elections officials with the county’s election commission failed to test ballot-like cards for it’s optical scan voting machines.

County Clerk Paul Hinds, who will be taking over elections operations for the county under the law Rauner signed, said Monday the consolidation will be good for taxpayers and voters.

“I look forward to a smooth transition moving the duties from the election commission to the county clerk’s office and I will work with the chairman and the county board to administer secure and accountable elections,” Hinds said.

County Chairman Dan Cronin said DuPage County has been a testing ground for consolidation for the past 6 years, saving taxpayers $120 million.

“We have focused on service and cost sharing, collaboration and working with our local and state partners to imagine new ways to deliver public services in the most efficient manner possible,” Cronin said.

Rauner said this needs to happen all over the state. If lawmakers passed all of Rauner’s proposed recommendations, he said taxpayers would save big.

“The estimate was we’d save Illinois taxpayers $3.5 billion per year,” Rauner said. “$3.5 billion per year if we actually implemented the 27 recommendations our task force laid out.”

The Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates Task Force created by a Rauner executive order issued a report in December 2015 that laid out ways “to reduce the heavy burden on Illinois taxpayers by empowering citizens and government officials to streamline local government through consolidation and eliminating unnecessary state mandates,” Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti said in the report.

Among the 27 recommendations was a mix of ideas to consolidate and to reduce mandates.

For consolidation, recommendations included, among others, a moratorium on creating new local governments, expand DuPage County’s pilot program to all 102 counties, allow township consolidations with coterminous municipalities, incentivize school district consolidation, and encourage sharing of public equipment, facilities and other resources regionally.

Mandates to be repealed, the report suggested, included prevailing wage laws, providing third-party contract mandate relief for school districts, making collective bargaining permissive rather than mandatory, eliminating minimum manning from collective bargaining, merging downstate and suburban public safety pension funds into a single fund, and others.

“I do want to thank members of the General Assembly on a bipartisan basis, (House Bill 5123) got passed, also 10 other bills got passed that took small pieces of our recommendations and got them into law,” Rauner said. “All steps in the right direction. We need to keep working every day, every session, get more legislation passed to lift the mandates, allow consolidation of government, and bring more efficient, effective government to the people of Illinois.”

Illinois has nearly 7,000 units of local government, hundreds more than any other state, something Rauner said goes hand in hand with the state’s second-highest property tax burden.

“We suffer In Illinois from some of the highest property taxes in America and it is not a coincidence that we also have more units of local government that any state in America,” Rauner said.

But Rauner doesn’t just want to give consolidation power to local elected officials, he wants voters to have also have a say.

“People are outraged,” Rauner said. “If we give power to the people, give power to the homeowners and the voters, rather than only elected officials, we’ll see dramatic change and lower property taxes as a result.”

 

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

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