The Bellock Bulletin: March 31

Dear Neighbor,

I wanted to take a moment to update you on important developments from the past week. The Illinois House of Representatives voted 69-48 on March 24 to approve an Emergency Budget Bill (HB 318) to close a $1.6 Billion funding shortfall for the current FY 15 budget, which runs through June 30. The State Senate approved the bill on Thursday and it was signed into law by the Governor that afternoon.

Over 80% of the funding gap will be filled by utilizing unused money in various special state funds not needed for what they were allocated for during the current year, amounting to approx. $1.3 Billion. The remaining amount comes from an across-the-board spending reduction of 2.25% across all state programs through June 30; excluding payments for pensions, state employee health care, and funding for services for the mentally ill, developmentally disabled, and autistic children. Child care funding for low-income families will also continue for the duration of the current fiscal year.

Our bipartisan agreement minimizes the impact on the most vulnerable children and families in our community while we get the state budget back on solid ground. Tough times require tough decisions, and that is what we have made. The good news is, funding for our most vital priorities will continue undisrupted while we work on developing a budget for the new fiscal year that begins on July 1.

Below please feel welcome to browse through a series of updates on other issues of interest from the past week. As always, I appreciate hearing from you if you have any questions or concerns by calling my District Office at (630) 852-8633 or by e-mailing me at Your feedback is always welcome and appreciated. Also find me on Facebook at "State Representative Patti Bellock". 

Best wishes to you and your family for a safe and blessed Easter holiday.

Respectfully Yours,

Patti Bellock
Deputy Minority Leader
State Representative, 47th District 

FY15 Budget Solution
  • Governor Rauner & General Assembly take steps to resolve FY15 budget shortfall.  Faced with a $1.6 billion FY15 budget deficit upon taking office, Governor Bruce Rauner almost immediately asked for executive powers to reorganize spending and enable the State to get through the fiscal year, which covers spending needs through June 30, 2015. 
Without immediate action, the State would have been unable to make payroll at Illinois prisons, low-income working families would lose their child care assistance, court reporters would be laid off and money for services for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled would run out.  In addition, inaction would have further delayed and perhaps jeopardized critical categorical school funding and State aid payments.

After negotiations in which House Republicans were full participants, the General Assembly agreed this week to language contained in HB 317 and HB 318.  HB 317, an appropriations bill, made cuts and transfers in State spending.  HB 318, a budget implementation bill, granted the Governor the legal authority to carry out and implement the cuts in spending and spending transfers made in HB 317.  Together, these bills work to fill critical holes in the deliberately unbalanced FY15 budget passed by majority Democrats and signed by former Governor Quinn.

Approximately $1.3 billion of the moves occurred in the form of budget transfers from various funds, and approximately $400 million was in the form of an across-the-board budget cut.  The HB 317-HB 318 package created $97 million in budgetary flexibility that can be used to respond to specific challenges, including the challenge of school districts that have run out of reserves.     

The House vote on HB 317 was 72-45-0 and the House vote on HB 318 was 69-48-0, with all House Republicans voting in favor of the measures.  The Senate followed up by approving both bills on Thursday, March 26, sending the measures to Governor Rauner for final action.  Rauner signed both bills into law.

FY16 Budget – Revenue Hearing
  • House panel hears FY16 revenue estimates.  The House Revenue and Finance Committee heard testimony on Friday, March 27 from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA), the Governor's Office of Management and Budget (GOMB), and the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) on expected State revenues in FY16, the spending period that will begin on July 1, 2015.
Spending pressures in FY16 are being driven by the continuing phase-down of the "temporary" January 2011 income tax increase.  CGFA estimates that the State's cash intake from the income tax hike is dropping by nearly $5 billion over the two-year period starting in FY14 and leveling off in FY16.  This matches the two-year period marked by a drop in the State's personal income tax rate from 5.00% to 3.75%.  GOMB's numbers and IDOR's numbers closely match these estimates.

General Assembly – House Committee Deadline
  • House committees advance 512 bills to floor.  Including action in “committee deadline week,” which ended on Friday, March 27, the Illinois House advanced 512 bills from committee to the House floor in the 2015 spring session.  House committees began meeting in February to take testimony and hear advocacy from witnesses, proponents and opponents for and against the measures filed by House members.  This work was finished up this week.  After the conclusion of the two-week “Easter break,” the House and its committees will consider floor action and amendments to the House bills that advanced out of committee.  The House will also start looking at bills coming over from the state Senate. 
Illinois Economy – Unemployment
  • Jobless rate falls to 6.0% in February.  The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) announced on Tuesday, March 24 that the unemployment rate for February 2015 fell to 6.0% from 6.1% in January.  While an estimated 391,100 workers remained jobless in February, the overall numbers indicated that Illinois could be coming out of recession-scale unemployment numbers for the first time since the 2000s.  13,800 net new jobs were created in February, all in the private sector.
Illinois’ jobless numbers remained higher than the national average, which was 5.5% in February.  However, the new Prairie State figures represented an improvement of almost two full percentage points from the deep-recession figure of 7.9% posted twelve months earlier in February 2014.  Economists and commentators often use “year-over-year” unemployment figures, particularly for specific states and metropolitan areas, as a tactic to reduce false signals resulting from random fluctuations in the overall numbers.

Most areas of Illinois employment showed strength in February, with two key sectors – trade, transportation and utilities, and professional and business services – each adding more than 5,000 net new paid positions statewide.  Three areas of weakness were statewide manufacturing, which lost 800 jobs statewide, educational and health services, which gave up 1,400 positions, and government, which yielded 1,600 positions. 

IDES has rolled out a new, automated database for the use of Illinois residents seeking jobs and in possession of vital skill sets.  Illinois Job Link offers a wide variety of positions and opportunities.

College of DuPage
  • House Republicans continue push for audit of troubled expense accounts.  After the story of mammoth expense-account spending by senior executives of the College of DuPage broke earlier this year, House Republican taxpayer advocates began calling for a deeper inquiry into the financial reality behind the troubled college management team’s books.  The College’s board recently approved a severance package of benefits totaling $763,000 for the college’s president.
DuPage County lawmakers have made this a key focus area in 2015.  HR 55, a resolution requesting that the Illinois Auditor General conduct a performance audit of the College of DuPage to cover fiscal years 2011 through 2014, was unanimously approved in House committee on Wednesday, March 25.  HR 55’s lead co-sponsors are Representatives Jeanne Ives, Jim Durkin, Patti Bellock, Peter Breen, and Ron Sandack.

Fair Share
  • State employees file lawsuit, seek clarification.  Three Illinois state employees filed a lawsuit on Monday, March 23 to seek legal clarification of their right to not make mandatory payments to labor unions in lieu of union dues.  Called “fair share” payments, the funds raised by their mandatory payments are supposed to recompense public-sector labor unions for the administrative burden of representing all of the members of a unionized State office or workforce.  Governor Bruce Rauner has publicly called for granting freedom to Illinois State workers to decide whether or not to belong to a union and pay dues.  
Kraft Foods
  • Longtime Chicago-area firm, Kraft Foods, announces deal to be acquired.  The acquisition partner is Pittsburgh-based HJ Heinz, backed by 3G Capital and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.  Buffett’s longtime interest in established American consumer brands turned to the owner of “Jell-O” jellied desserts, “Kool-Aid” sweet drinks, “Kraft” cheeses, “Maxwell House” coffee, “Oscar Mayer” prepared meats, and “Planters” nuts, as well as a wide variety of other consumer products.  The deal, announced on Wednesday, March 25, was slated to present Kraft Foods shareholders with approximately $50 billion in cash and Kraft Heinz stock based on market trading prices posted on that day.  
Medical Cannabis
  • Card applicants top 2,500; challenges remain.  The Illinois Department of Public Health told the Belleville-News-Democrat on Monday, March 23 that the Department has received more than 2,500 requests for cards that will enable the holder to enter a permitted dispensary and purchase medical cannabis.  The Department has walked many of these applicants and their physician care providers through the complex application process, and has mailed out approximately 1,600 approval letters.  However, as of March 2015 no dispensaries have opened to legally sell cannabis in Illinois.
Submarine “Illinois” – launch date nears
  • Illinois helps U.S. Navy prepare for launch of new submarine.  The capital ship, which will be called the “U.S.S. Illinois” when it enters commissioned service, is in the final stages of being fitted out on the East Coast and is expected to be launched later in 2015.  Chicago business leaders are helping train two key members of the crew – the culinary specialists who will man the submersible boat’s tiny galley.
The “Illinois” will be the first U.S. Navy capital ship to bear this name since an obsolete battleship commissioned in 1897.  Efforts to build a new American super-battleship in the 1940s to carry on the heritage of the Prairie State did not survive the end of World War II in 1945.  The Aurora-based U.S.S. Illinois Commissioning Committee is leading fundraising efforts to properly celebrate two separate events: the new vessel’s approaching launch and its commission.

University of Illinois
  • Champaign-Urbana medical school plans approved by board of trustees.  Seeking to utilize its globally-ranked standing in materials research and development, the University of Illinois this month finalized plans to oversee the construction of a new medical school adjacent to its primary Champaign-Urbana campus.   The plans were described on Sunday, March 22 by the USA Today.
Week in Review
  • Get the Week in Review emailed directly to your inbox!  Sign up today to get a first-hand look at the continuing legislative and fiscal challenges facing policymakers in Springfield.  For news about the 2015 spring session, Illinois’ budget challenges and the leadership of Governor Bruce Rauner, the Week in Review is more essential than ever as a way to follow major Illinois issues, questions, and trends.

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