Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner met with the four legislative leaders this week in Springfield to discuss the ongoing budget impasse, although no major progress resulted from the discussion.
Progress was made, however, in the Illinois House this week on other issues, as House Speaker Michael Madigan finally allowed a popular, bipartisan initiative to advance that would help fund local governments, 911 call centers, programs for low-income residents and veterans, and help pay lottery winners. The House also passed another bipartisan initiative to reform the state’s unemployment system, something Senate Republicans have pointed to as a way to help Illinois’ job market.
Governor Rauner also continues to negotiate with the White House in an attempt to make sure the Syrian refugee program is properly vetting potential refugees.
Meanwhile, field conditions for farmers across the state are improving, as winter officially starts later this month.
Budget meeting yields little results
After a highly anticipated meeting between the Governor and the four legislative leaders, no agreement was reached on budgetary matters. Illinois has been without a state budget since July 1.
Governor Rauner hosted the meeting at his Capitol office. The meeting opened with a live video stream of the four legislative leaders and the Governor offering their own views on the budget impasse. That was followed by a private meeting between participants.
Democrat leaders continue to embrace the status quo, saying the budget and new revenue need to be addressed before considering any reforms.
Republicans continued their call for the state to enact a balanced budget and pass critical reforms, which are needed to boost Illinois’ economy, create more jobs, and move Illinois forward, such as property tax relief, workers’ compensation reform, and redistricting reform.
Governor Rauner and the four legislative leaders are planning on meeting again next week.
Bi-partisan legislation that funds local governments, 911 centers heads to Senate
The House returned to Springfield this week and took up a number of pieces of legislation.
A product of compromise between Governor Rauner, Republicans and Democrats, Senate Bill 2039 appropriates funding to local governments, 911 call centers, lottery winners, Special Olympics, HIV/Aids Prevention, the state portion of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, police and fire training, veterans’ homes, and other programs.
The majority of the bill appropriates funding that is not part of the General Revenue Fund (GRF), including motor fuel tax distributions that go to local governments for purposes including snow plowing and road repair.
Most of the funding included in the bill comes from either federal sources or special state funds that are designed to fund specific programs. However, there are two line items that utilize GRF money, including $10 million to the Secretary of State to pay for electrical bills and maintenance at state buildings and $18 million to fund shelters for victims of domestic violence.
The Senate is expected to take up the measure when they return to Springfield on Dec. 7.
Pro-growth, pro-jobs measure heads to Governor
Legislation aimed at reforming the state’s unemployment insurance system is on its way to the Governor’s desk.
House Bill 1285 strengthens the standards for employee misconduct, stops Social Security age- and disability-based benefits from reducing unemployment benefits, and eliminates issues that could have increased taxes on employers by $470 million in 2016.
The bill is the result of six months of negotiations with legislators, labor leaders, employers and other stakeholders, led by the Governor’s office.
Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) says this is a great first step in making Illinois more competitive, so the state can attract more jobs and investment.
Still no agreement on accepting Syrian refugees
It has been two weeks since Governor Rauner ordered a temporary halt to the process of accepting Syrian refugees into Illinois, and his administration says there still isn’t an agreement in place with the White House to move the process forward again.
Rauner says a pause in accepting Syrian refugees was needed in order to review the security process that is used to vet people who are seeking to come to the United States. This week, the White House offered to allow states to have access to background data on refugees, but only after resettlement. The Rauner Administration, however, says they need access to the information before refugees are settled, to protect Illinois citizens.
Rauner first ordered the halt to the process after the terrorist attacks in France. Media reports indicate at least two of the attackers entered Europe by posing as asylum seekers.
Conditions improving for Illinois farmers
Thanks to a mild autumn season and late rains, farmers have seen field conditions steadily improve as they head into the winter months. According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s December report, 90 percent of Illinois topsoil is rated as having adequate or surplus moisture, with 82 percent of subsoil receiving the same mark.
Many Illinois farmers raise winter wheat, which is planted in the fall, goes dormant during the winter, and is harvested in late spring or early summer. Currently, 67 percent of winter wheat acres are rated as good or excellent.
Illinois pastures that suffered through a very dry period late in the summer, are beginning to rebound, with 45 percent of pasture acres rated as good or excellent.