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Wednesday, Nov 24, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

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Reader comments closed for the Thanksgiving break

Wednesday, Nov 24, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Always know that I am thankful for each and every one of you. Per tradition, here’s Arlo

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How federal money can be used to indirectly repay the remainder of the state’s Federal Reserve loan

Wednesday, Nov 24, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* May 21

Illinois Democratic leaders announced Thursday that they have agreed to repay federal pandemic-relief loans more than a year earlier than scheduled, saving taxpayers $100 million in interest.

The plan was announced as Democrats who control the House and Senate head into the final 10 days of the legislative session, still struggling to find ways to close a $1.4 billion deficit for the budget that begins July 1.

Washington lent money to in early 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic and containment measures left economies battered and hundreds of thousands on the unemployment line. Illinois borrowed $3.2 billion and has repaid $2 billion. The rest was due by December 2023, but the state has money to pay it earlier.

“The federal loan was a lifeline to keep our state and our economy afloat,” said Senate President Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat. “That our economy has rebounded so strongly that we can now pay it off early is a testament to the resilience of the people and businesses of the great state of Illinois.”

$870 million is remaining on the principal as of today. But the rebounding economy may not be enough to pay the rest of it off, along with $928 million in interfund borrowing.

* Tribune

During the brief debate over a $42 billion state spending plan introduced in the closing hours of this year’s spring session, the Illinois legislature’s Democratic majority outlined less than $3 billion in spending in the coming year from a massive infusion of federal coronavirus relief money.

With the state in line to receive $8.1 billion from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, Democrats said they wanted to spend the money judiciously and avoid creating programs that would continue to demand funding after the one-time federal cash influx was gone. They said this year’s plan for the relief money called for $1 billion in infrastructure spending, with the remainder going to items such as hospitals, violence prevention, and tourism and business recovery.

Left unmentioned as lawmakers were approving the budget, however, was the creation of a state fund that gives Gov. J.B. Pritzker authority to spend billions of dollars from the federal aid without first getting approval from lawmakers.

In the end, the state’s spending plan for the budget year that began July 1 counts on using at least another $2 billion from the pandemic relief funds to make up for “lost revenues,” leaving less than $3.6 billion to budget out over the next three years.

If you go the very last paragraph of the story, you’ll see that $144 million has been spent so far to make up for operational costs last fiscal year at the Department of Corrections and Department of Juvenile Justice.

* Fitch Ratings explained how the Essential Government Services Support Fund works last week in its positive outlook on the state’s credit rating…

Illinois’ legislature also enacted a spending plan for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) aid, focused on one-time investments rather than recurring operating needs. The plan uses $2.8 billion of Illinois’ $8.1 billion ARPA direct aid distribution on infrastructure and other one-time, or pandemic-specific needs. With this initial allocation, the state appears to have avoided the use of ARPA aid for any material ongoing program costs in this budget.

Additionally, as part of the enacted budget, the state created the Essential Government Services Support Fund (EGSSF) and allocated $2 billion of the more than $5 billion in remaining ARPA aid to flow through the fund. Fitch anticipates the state will primarily use the EGSSF as a cash flow management tool that will assist in ensuring compliance with U.S. Treasury guidelines for ARPA direct aid.

The $2 billion is essentially offset from a budgetary perspective with planned repayment of the MLF loan ($1.045 billion) and interfund borrowing ($928 million), though ARPA aid will not be used for the actual repayments. Fitch will carefully assess the state’s plans for the remaining ARPA direct aid which we anticipate will be focused on non-recurring uses.

* Governor’s office…

The Essential Government Services Support Fund was set up to hold funds that are allowed under federal rules to replace lost revenues of the State. At the time the budget was enacted in May, the final rules and guidance from US Treasury was not available – and the Interim Final Rule was only just released shortly before the end of session.

* US Treasury guidance for states on how to calculate lost revenues from the pandemic that was issued shortly before the end of session…

a. States should look at Fiscal Year 2019 base year revenue by looking at the state’s “own source” revenues to calculate (excluding for example, federal revenues or revenues that are passed through to local governments)
b. Using the same base, calculate state’s average annual growth of the past three fiscal years (FY16 – FY19)
c. Apply average annual growth rate multiplier to annual revenues collected
d. Multiplier applies to the revenue collected in each calendar year
e. Calculate each December 31 for actual revenues
f. Compare projected growth revenue to actuals collected

* And using that formula…

GOMB estimates that Fiscal Year 2019 base revenues according to the US Treasury definition/guidance was approximately $47B, and with the multiplier applied, Calendar Year 2020 revenues should have totaled about $53B. Actual revenues in Calendar Year 2020 totaled about $50B.

* Also from the governor’s office…

This mechanism was created for flexibility for the State to adapt to the rules as understanding of them evolved over the course of the year. Including the replacement revenues in a separate account assists the state in reporting to US Treasury as funds are spent.

At least one Republican was quoted in the story saying the General Assembly should have direct spending authority on that pile of cash. From the governor’s office…

GOMB provides monthly reports to the Legislative Budget Oversight Committee and testifies in front of the committee quarterly.

* The point of all this is that the Trib and Fitch both point out that the governor’s office can use the aforementioned $2 billion to make allowable expenditures in order to free up money to do things like repay the $1 billion left on the Federal Reserve loan. The governor’s office, however, says it’s too early in the fiscal year to say how much it will use.

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21,034 new confirmed and probable cases; 87 additional deaths; 1,982 hospitalized; 384 in ICU; 150 on ventilators

Wednesday, Nov 24, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* It hasn’t been a full week since the last IDPH weekly update, but cases are down about 26 percent from last week after a big spike. Deaths are down by 42 percent, but hospitalizations went up 13 percent, from 1,759 to 1,982. ICU admissions are up ten percent. Ventilator usage is essentially the same (152 a week ago and 150 as of last night). Case and test positivity rates are up a little…

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today reported 21,034 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois, including 87 additional deaths since reporting last November 19, 2021.

Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 1,784,900 cases, including 26,313 deaths, in 102 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years. Since reporting on Friday, November 19, 2021, laboratories have reported 632,533 specimens for a total of 38,528,321. As of last night, 1,982 individuals in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 384 patients were in the ICU and 150 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total test from November 17-23, 2021 is 3.3%. The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from November 17-23, 2021 is 4.1%.

A total of 17,031,036 vaccines have been administered in Illinois as of last midnight. The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 64,199 doses. Since reporting on Friday, November 19, 2021, 311,308 doses were reported administered in Illinois. Of Illinois’ total population, approximately 67% has received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and almost 61% of Illinois’ total population is fully vaccinated according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

All data are provisional and will change. Additional information and COVID-19 data can be found at https://dph.illinois.gov/covid19.html. Data on the IDPH website will not be updated over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, but will resume on Monday, November 29, 2021.

Vaccination is the key to ending this pandemic. To find a COVID-19 vaccination location near you, go to www.vaccines.gov.

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A special Thanksgiving message

Wednesday, Nov 24, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Brenden Moore asked several politicos what they were thankful for. This response from Comptroller Susana Mendoza stood out for me...

“For me, it’s my brother still being with us. Last Thanksgiving he was fighting for his life. This Thanksgiving he’s still with us. Complications from COVID-19 cost him his kidneys. But he has a good attitude. He’s a fighter and we’re blessed to have him with us. I’m thankful for the love of family and friends and that we can gather with family and friends including my brother this year. We’ll be celebrating my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday.”

* You may remember that Comptroller Mendoza talked about her brother, Chicago Police Det. Sgt. Joaquin Mendoza, in March

Back in November, I called him on his birthday to wish him a happy birthday and he had a cough. Two days later - he’s only 56 - he was at Northwestern Memorial Hospital fighting for his life for 41 days. And then about a month later - a month he spent in an inpatient rehab - he’s had tremendous complications. He’s suffered mini strokes in his brain while he was in the hospital. Total, complete kidney failure, so he’ll be on dialysis for the rest of his life.

And I share it because I think it’s important for people to know that when we hear about a 99% survival rate, you know, think about my brother’s situation. Sure he survived, and it’s a blessing for us, but it breaks my heart to see the complications for somebody who’s dedicated his life to public service and to protecting the public as he’s going through this. And it’s no joke. This is very real, and we’re thankful that he’s still with us, but many people are going through something similar. Many people have lost their loved ones. And I seriously, both as a sister and as a comptroller, you know, when we have to order things like body bags, it really hits close to home. And I just ask people, please get vaccinated the first chance you get. Please, do everything to protect yourself and protect your loved ones and let’s get through this together.

Phil Ponce then mentioned that her brother had moved in with her

I would just say it’s pretty devastating. And I’m so thankful that I can take care of my brother right now when he needs me. There’s so many families who probably feel completely overwhelmed. And I was one of them. I mean, honestly, I never thought I’d tell you that the easiest part of my life right now is managing billions in state debt, but it truly is. I feel so confident and sure of what I’m doing as the comptroller, but it’s certainly a lot heavier of a lift to try to keep my brother healthy. That’s where we’re at. Thank you for asking. I mean, it is something that I can relate to and I know that we’re not alone. Lots of families in Illinois and across the country are going through similar or even worse scenarios with having lost loved ones. But, it’s real and I just ask you to take care of yourselves, please.

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IDES describes huge obstacles to explain its late report

Wednesday, Nov 24, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Center Square

The Illinois Department of Employment Security is nearly a month late in filing a report about the state’s unemployment trust fund, according to the Illinois Senate Republican Caucus.

A spokesperson for IDES didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Republicans said the legislative leaders received a letter from the Illinois Comptroller that IDES failed to submit necessary financial information on the trust fund’s financial activities and is nearly a month delinquent.

“If regular Illinois businesses and families miss financial reporting they are fined and can even face criminal penalties,” said Illinois Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods. “The governor is not above the law. The UI Trust Fund is deeply in debt and without this report, we have absolutely no idea how big the problem really is.”

Neither the Illinois Comptroller, the House Speaker or Senate President’s office immediately returned a message seeking comment.

* The comptroller and all four legislative leaders were sent this response by the IDES director two weeks ago. It’s quite something, but it basically boils down to IDES has been overwhelmed for more than a year…

Thank you for the letter dated November 4, 2021 regarding financial information necessary for the Annual Comprehensive Financial Report (ACFR). The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) takes its role in providing information essential to completing the ACFR seriously, and we appreciate the opportunity to provide an action plan. The circumstances that caused the delay in the submission of our draft financial statements, footnotes, and Form SCO- 599, Contingencies, Commitments and Related Party Transactions, are described below as well as the estimated timeline to complete.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the time to complete the prior year audit and the complexity and volume of the financial transactions were significant, and on average 2-3 times as many transactions than in the normal course of the Department’s operations. This resulted in a delay in the posting of the initial SFY 2021 Trust Fund transactions to the general ledger. In addition, the Department’s Trust Fund software application prohibits the user from having two years open concurrently, and although we were current in preparing and recording journal entries on our worksheets, we could not upload any journal entries or prepare reconciliations until SFY 2020 was closed.

It is also important to note that our financial operations and Department of Innovation and Technology (DOIT) staffing resources are stretched across five concurrent audits, and we are preparing to begin a sixth:

    ▪ RSM Financial Audit
    ▪ RSM Compliance Audit
    ▪ KPMG Single Audit
    ▪ Emergency Unemployment Relief for Government Entities and Non-Profit Organization (EURGENO) Audit
    ▪ Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistic Audit
    ▪ OAG Performance Review Audit (entrance conference was 10/27/2021)

IBIS Accrual – DOIT resources have been strained due to high volume processing in our benefit system (IBIS), implementation of seven complex new programs, subsequent system adjustments as a result of new and updated federal laws and guidance, and requests from multiple audits. While the IBIS accrual data has been verified, the auditors have requested that the accrual be documented with a daily match to our benefit payment reports.

PUA Accrual – Given the complexity of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program accrual and the fact the Department will need to restate the beginning accrual amounts as a result of the last audit, numbers will need to be pulled internally. The DOIT employee who is qualified and able to do this is currently working on a large data file request for the OAG. Once completed, he will start pulling the data for the PUA accrual.

Overpayments – Due to the complexity and volume of transactions, the process for pulling the data has become far more challenging than in the past. In addition, the new processes for waiving recovery of overpayments in both federal and non-federal programs will require that overpayments be placed in different risk buckets to determine the allowance associated with these receivables.

Cash Reconciliations – Due to the extended length of the last audit and staff shortages, the Department contracted an outside public accounting firm, Crowe LLP, to assist in preparing cash reconciliations.

IDES’ Estimated Timetable to Completion:

IBIS Accrual – The Department is building the IBIS accrual by day per the auditor’s request. We anticipate this will be completed and verified no later than November 12, 2021.

PUA Accrual – DOIT is currently pulling large amounts of data for the OAG for the RSM Financial Audit. Once completed, pulling the data for the PUA accrual will begin. We anticipate this will be completed and verified no later than November 17, 2021.

IBIS Overpayments – The Department is reviewing this large data file for accuracy. We anticipate this will be completed and verified no later than November 12, 2021.

PUA Overpayments – The Department is reviewing this large data file for accuracy. We anticipate this will be completed and verified no later than November 12, 2021.

Cash Reconciliations – The Department is working with staff from Crowe LLP to complete the cash reconciliations. We anticipate these reconciliations will be completed and verified no later than November 17, 2021.

Once these tasks are completed, the Department will prepare and post journal entries to submit to the IOC for GAAP. The Department will then prepare Form SCO-599, the financial statements, and footnotes. We anticipate this to be completed by end of day November 30, 2021.

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Unclear on the concept

Wednesday, Nov 24, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I get some weird emails…

Hi Rich​​,

Just to follow up one last time: Young Americans for Liberty (YAL)—the nation’s most active youth libertarian organization—has just launched a new petition to end the seemingly “endless” COVID-19 pandemic, expecting to garner 100,000 signatures from students, faculty, and alumni in the coming weeks.

See the official press release below. Are you interested in the story?

Thank you,

Luka

Um, petitions don’t end pandemics. Vaccines, proven treatments and mitigations end pandemics.

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D’Amico, trade unions put Kelly over the top

Wednesday, Nov 24, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

Following an unprecedented commitment to a public appointment process, Michael Kelly has been appointed State Representative for the 15th Legislative District, replacing former state Rep. John D’Amico who announced his resignation earlier this month.

The appointment process, as required by law, had to happen within 30 days of the vacancy announced on Nov. 5, 2021.

“We owed it to the people of the 15th Legislative District to make sure public input informed this appointment,” said state Sen. Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago), committeeperson for the 39th Ward. “As a result, we had seven applicants up for consideration who we heard from today for close to four hours and all of the respective elected committeepersons voted for an applicant that represents the values of the 15th Legislative District and the priorities expressed by our communities during the last few weeks.”

Villivalam was the Chief Co-Sponsor of Senate Bill 825, which was signed into law in June and includes a process to the legislative appointment procedure, where none had been before.

Per the new statute, prior to holding today’s meeting to fill the vacancy, the committee made public:

    • The names and contact information for the Committeepersons legally tasked with the appointment
    • Information on how to apply or submit a name for consideration as the appointee
    • The date, time and location of today’s in-district and virtual meeting to fill the vacancy

The appointment committee also sent multiple email blasts, made multiple social media posts, purchased ads in multiple newspapers, contacted members of the press, made themselves publicly available to the communities they serve, and invited press to the in-person and livestreamed appointment meeting.

* Brian Nadig at Nadig Newspapers

Kelly’s appointment to fill out D’Amico’s term was not a surprise. In political circles he was considered the favorite, with the behind-the-scenes backing of D’Amico, who had served in the General Assembly since 2004.

Edgebrook area resident Michael Rabbitt said that he helped start the social justice ministry at the Saint Mary of the Woods Parish and launched Neighbors for Affordable Housing. He said that he would support lifting the statewide ban on rent control, explaining that towns should make their own decision on the matter, and that he supports the proposed 297-unit apartment complex at 8535 W. Higgins Ave., which Alderman Anthony Napolitano (41st) opposes. It would include nearly 60 affordable units.

“I have a track record as a problem solver (and) a community connector,” said Rabbitt, who works as a business transformation leader for Argonne National Laboratory.

Rabbitt, who is supported by SEIU Healthcare and the political group 39th Neighbors United, launched his campaign prior to D’Amico’s retirement announcement and plans to challenge Kelly next year in the primary.

* Rachel Hinton at the Sun-Times

Kelly has worked on previous campaigns for D’Amico, Ald. Samantha Nugent (39th) and her predecessor, Ald. Margaret Laurino, who is D’Amico’s aunt. D’Amico was not part of the process to pick his replacement, but voiced his support after the appointment. […]

As for Kelly, “he voted in two Republican primaries,” [Anthony Joel Quezada, 35th Ward Democratic committeeperson] said. “I just didn’t see a lot of political experience and history, and I didn’t get a lot of calls from community members supporting him. But, again, that does not necessarily speak to the full character of Mr. Kelly. I wish him the best of luck in his next chapter.” […]

Rabbitt has already launched a campaign for the office. Brophy and Melaniphy said they would not run, while Kehoe said she likely wouldn’t either.

Kelly said he took a GOP ballot in 2010 because his union endorsed Judy Baar Topinka in the primary. He took a Republican ballot two years later as a favor to a friend.

Committeeperson Quezada, by the way, had an infinitesimal 0.01 percent of the weighted vote. He talked a lot, but had pretty much zero influence. Rabbitt was already running against D’Amico, which ruled him out.

* D’Amico’s backing and this list of Kelly’s endorsements is what got him the win…

• Chicago Fire Department Local 2 - Jim Tracey
• Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois - Chuck Sullivan
• IBEW Electricians Local 134 - Michael Cudzik
• Carpenters Local - Kevin O’Gorman
• Chicago Laborers District Council, LiUNA - Jim Connolly
• International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 - James Sweeney
• Sprinkler Fitters Local 281 - Tom Collins
• Sheetmetal Workers International Association, SMART Local 265 - John Daniels
• Sheetmetal Workers Local 73 - Ray Suggs
• IBEW Electricians Local 176 - Mike Clemens
• Stationary Engineers Local 399 - John Hanley
• Plumbers Union Local 130 - James Coyne
• Iron Workers Local 62 - Paul Wende
• Teamsters Joint council No. 25 - Terrence Hancock
• Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 137 - Aaron Gurnsey

Kelly read that list at the meeting. Those trade unions are very active in that part of the world. AFSCME and the CTU did not endorse a candidate. Interestingly enough, Sen. Villivalam comes out of SEIU Healthcare, which is apparently backing Rabbitt.

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Open thread

Wednesday, Nov 24, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My brand new laptop died today. How’s your morning going?

…Adding… And all of a sudden, it started. Not sure what, if anything, I did wrong. Bizarre morning, but Ray Wylie Hubbard said it best

The days that I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations, I have really good days.

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*** LIVE COVERAGE ***

Wednesday, Nov 24, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Follow along with ScribbleLive


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Kinzinger thinks he could beat Pritzker, but has doubts about winning a “purity” primary

Tuesday, Nov 23, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Adam Kinzinger was asked during A.D. Quig’s podcast for Crain’s Chicago Business what he thought of the Republican gubernatorial candidate field at the moment

It’s honestly… less than stellar. I like Jesse Sullivan a lot. I think he’s dynamic. Darren Bailey is trying to exist on masks, you know, that’s great, whatever. That will get you a win downstate. You’re not going to win the state of Illinois. It’s a little disappointing when you just look at the fact that in Illinois, you have this race to the far right. And it’s not a far right state. I don’t know how many times I hear people tell me, ‘if you just activate the base, we can win Illinois.’ Well, listen, the base is very activated, and we can’t win Illinois unless we win back the suburbs, right, the suburbs that Republicans used to win all the time.

I think if I ran for governor, I think I’m the only candidate that can win, at least that’s out there now. Maybe Jesse Sulllivan. Again, I like him. But I do recognize the difficulty of a primary in this environment. And I recognize that we’re in a moment where I think there’s some people that would rather torch their chances at winning the Illinois governor’s race than dare vote for somebody that’s a conservative, but doesn’t like Donald Trump. So, you know, it’s a unique moment.

He was asked about Ken Griffin’s money and he said he was uncomfortable with it, but since Gov. Pritzker will spend whatever it takes, then OK. But he didn’t know who Griffin would endorse.

* Kinzinger repeated his mantra about the suburbs, then added

And I think most importantly recognize that we’re not going to win the state House or the state Senate. So you’re gonna have to compromise. And I think looking at a Larry Hogan model or a Charlie Baker model in Vermont, or the governor of New Hampshire, Sununu, and say, ‘Look, some of these guys, for instance, are pro life like I am, but I’m also not going to go out and make my governorship about pro life issues because it’s not a pro life state. So let’s focus on what we can fix on the budget, on poverty and things like that.’ But I’m afraid, again, that they party focus is all going to be on purity. And in that case is going to be a tough win for anybody.

Go check it out.

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Pritzker signs congressional remap bill

Tuesday, Nov 23, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

After reviewing the General Assembly’s congressional maps drawn with 2020 U.S. Census data, Governor JB Pritzker signed the new U.S. House district map that reflects Illinois’ diversity and preserves minority representation in Illinois’ delegation in accordance with the federal Voting Rights Act.

“These maps align with the landmark Voting Rights Act and will ensure all communities are equitably represented in our congressional delegation,” said Governor JB Pritzker.

A landmark achievement of the civil rights movement, the Voting Rights Act prohibits practices and procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color or membership in a protected language minority group. Building on and strengthening that consequential law, the Illinois Voting Rights Act of 2011 ensures redistricting plans are crafted in a way that preserves clusters of minority voters if they are of size or cohesion to exert collective electoral power. The maps signed into law today meet those requirements by creating a second district of significant Latinx representation that reflects the community’s rapid growth on the west side of Chicago.

The district boundaries also account for population changes in the state, particularly in the regions that saw the most population loss as recorded by 2020 U.S. Census.

The Illinois Congressional Redistricting Act of 2021 (HB 1291) takes effect immediately.

There’d been some weird grumbling about him not signing it right away, but I just kept telling people to be patient.

…Adding… Change Illinois…

Never before have Illinoisans seen such a brazen show of how corrosive politician-led redistricting can be for voters and communities across the state. For the third time, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a map, mired in a process lacking transparency, putting partisan self-interests above the needs of people in communities across the state.

The result is a congressional map of predetermined winners and losers in nearly all seventeen districts. The map is undemocratic and leaves all voters without choices, undermining the very elections that are supposed to allow voters to hold officials accountable.

The culmination of the legislative and congressional remapping further exemplifies the need for redistricting to be placed in the hands of independent commissioners who have no political or personal incentives to pervert redistricting as a tool to silence people and secure power for the few. We must forge a better path forward that empowers people in communities with fair elections so they can define their futures.

Current and future generations of Illinoisans deserve fair maps.

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House Republicans float $1.4 billion tax credit

Tuesday, Nov 23, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I’m thinking if they were truly serious about inflation, they wouldn’t be injecting even more money into the economy, but whatever. [That was mostly snark, by the way.] Here’s Center Square

“We may not be able to address at the state level the root causes of inflation, we can and we think it is our responsibility to provide relief,” Bourne said. “And that’s why today we’re proposing inflation tax relief for Illinois families.”

State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, wants to give up to $400 of tax credits to taxpayers under certain income thresholds.

Single tax filers up to $75,000 would get $200 back, joint filers up to $150,000 would get $400 and head of household filers up to $112,500 in income to get $200.

“Four hundred dollars won’t make all the problems go away, but it could have a positive impact,” Demmer said. “It could be an extra week or two of groceries, it could be an extra few utility bills, it could be the difference between being able to buy new shoes or winter coats for your kids.”

To pay for the $1.4 billion plan, Demmer suggested reprioritizing state spending to be offset by some of the $8 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds.

“We can dedicate funds to pay down our unemployment insurance trust fund debt and deliver relief to taxpayers,” Demmer said.

* Federal law banned using ARPA money for tax reduction, but then last week happened

A federal judge has blocked the U.S. Treasury from enforcing a provision of the American Rescue Plan Act that prohibited states from using the pandemic relief funds to offset new tax cuts. […]

The judge described the tax-cut restrictions as “a federal invasion of State sovereignty” that was “unconstitutionally ambiguous” — leaving states guessing as to whether their tax cuts would trigger a repayment of federal funds.

“The Tax Mandate’s restriction on direct or indirect state tax cuts pressures States into adopting a particular — and federally preferred — tax policy,” Coogler wrote. That “may disincentive” states “from considering any tax reductions for fear of forfeiting ARPA funds,”

This plan wouldn’t be ambiguous in the least. But, we’ll see how that all works itself out. The plan probably isn’t going anywhere, obviously, but the media is all abuzz about inflation these days, so I’m sure this will get a lot of coverage.

Ironically, one tool to beat back inflation is raising some taxes. But that should be a national strategy. And since the supply chain bottlenecks are showing signs of easing, there’s probably little harm in some one-time temporary relief.

* From the governor’s office…

For the entirety of the pandemic Republicans have refused to engage on meaningful solutions aimed at helping working families deal with the resulting economic challenges. While Republicans now try and weigh in 18 months too late, this administration is hard at work putting billions of dollars of rental and mortgage assistance, small business grants, and utility assistance into the hands of working families, all of which passed without help from the GOP caucuses.

Adding to the irony is the fact that Republicans staunchly opposed the fair tax which would have provided tax relief to 97 percent of Illinoisans. Since Republicans in Illinois now support providing direct relief for the costs that are weighing on working families, we look forward to their support of President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda and would urge them to share their views on this with their counterparts in Washington.

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Casten gets trade union support while Newman is backed by service workers

Tuesday, Nov 23, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* This morning…

Today, U.S. Congressman Sean Casten (IL-06) announced endorsements from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 701 and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) Local 30.

“Congressman Sean Casten has been a longtime friend and advocate for working families and IBEW,” said Frank Furco, IBEW Local 701’s Business Manager. “Sean never hesitates to stand up for union members and is in lockstep with the IBEW on workers’ rights. As our community continues on the path to economic recovery, Sean has been fighting in Congress to ensure good-paying union jobs are brought to the 6th District. We’re proud to endorse him as the best candidate to fight for workers in the 6th District.”

“Congressman Sean Casten has dedicated his career to creating quality, good-paying jobs, both as an entrepreneur and a Member of Congress,” said Ryan Anderson, IUPAT Local 30’s Business Manager. “Sean has fought tirelessly to protect workers’ rights, ensure safe and fair workplaces, and bring real careers with real benefits to the 6th District. We believe he is the best candidate for workers in the 6th District.”

“Having good-paying union jobs is absolutely essential to a strong and equitable economy,” said Rep. Sean Casten. “I’m thrilled to have the endorsement of two organizations who are composed of so many 6th Districts union workers specializing in telecommunications, utilities, construction, manufacturing, painting, drywall finishing, and so much more. Thanks to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Build Back Better Act, we know that more union jobs are coming to Illinois. I look forward to continuing to be a voice for working families in the 6th District.”

Both Furco and Anderson said they will work hard to make sure their union and family members in the Sixth District learn of their endorsement of Rep. Casten and turn out to vote in next June’s primary.

* This afternoon…

Today, Congresswoman Marie Newman announced that she had received the endorsement of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Illinois State Council in her bid for re-election in Illinois’ new 6th Congressional District.

The SEIU Illinois State Council, comprised of SEIU Healthcare, Local 1, and Local 73, represents thousands of home care and child care providers, security officers, janitors, public employees, medical professionals, first responders and social service workers living and working in Illinois’ new 6th Congressional District.

“Congresswoman Marie Newman is a proven advocate for working men and women in Illinois,” said SEIU State Council President Tom Balanoff. “I know that our members can always count on Congresswoman Newman to stand up for workers rights and fair wages. We are proud to endorse Congresswoman Newman for reelection in Illinois 6th Congressional District.”

“Bold policies aimed at expanding access to child care, home care, and long term care are investments in good union jobs. Congresswoman Newman understands that. She has been an unwavering champion for investments in our caregiving workforce, a workforce much like our membership that is majority women,” said SEIU HCII President Greg Kelley. “Congresswoman Newman is fighting for an economy that works for everyone and has been an active partner in building a workforce that centers racial and gender equity.”

“Congresswoman Newman has stood in solidarity with our members on numerous occasions,” said SEIU Local 73 President Diane Palmer. “Her support for working men and women is resolute and we know that she will never back down on the issues that matter to our membership. Congresswoman Newman stands for working families and is the best choice for labor in this race. We are proud to stand with her.”

“SEIU members have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, working in our hospitals, schools, and office buildings to keep this city and state functioning. These men and women have sacrificed greatly and they deserve tireless support in Washington as we continue the fight for safe and fair working conditions, better wages, and the right to organize. To receive their endorsement is a true honor and I hope to have the opportunity to continue fighting for my SEIU brothers and sisters in Congress,” said Congresswoman Marie Newman.

This really will be an interesting primary.

* Related…

* EMILY’s List Endorses Nikki Budzinski for Congress

  14 Comments      


Question of the day

Tuesday, Nov 23, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* What are you thankful for this year?

  32 Comments      


COVID-19 roundup

Tuesday, Nov 23, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From the Freedom Fighters of Adams County Facebook page…

The cases have been reassigned. Click here. But Sangamon County is no slam dunk by any means for the plaintiffs…

* Nov. 2020: Sangamon County judge dismisses lawsuits challenging Pritzker’s coronavirus orders

* Nov. 2020: 4 central Illinois restaurants ordered to close temporarily for violating COVID-19 mitigations

* Dec. 2020: Sangamon County judge tosses decision voiding Pritzker’s executive orders

* August 2021: Judge sides with Springfield hospital refusing ivermectin to treat COVID-19 patient

* Sept. 2021: Illinois judge to rule on Pritzker’s latest motion to dismiss dining prohibition lawsuit

I assume that the governor’s and attorney general’s offices are fairly pleased. Cook would’ve been better, but Sangamon has been dealing with these cases because the Supreme Court has transferred so many of them to the county. It’s almost become a specialized rocket docket.

* Considering what we already knew, this is predictable…


* This Tribune story mainly focuses on a tiny handful of refuseniks, but check out the actual stats

Under Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s directive, all city employees had until Oct. 15 to report their vaccination status but could choose to undergo regular COVID-19 testing, rather than get shots, through the end of the year. After police unions challenged the vaccine mandate in court, though, a judge suspended the Dec. 31 date for members to be fully inoculated, saying that needed to go through arbitration. Other unions representing city workers are also now seeking the same. […]

(A)s of Friday, 35 police and 26 Fire Department workers were on no-pay status. […]

As of Monday, 84% of Chicago police had reported their vaccination status on the city portal, including the lieutenant. But he is also among the 23% of respondents who indicated they are not fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the Fire Department was at a 97% response rate and, like police, about 23% of them said they aren’t completely inoculated

The vast majority of Chicago cops and firefighters are fully vaccinated and we don’t know how many more are waiting on their second shot. There’s more ground to cover (and will be once the arbitrator rules), but that’s still good news. The paranoid whiners are outliers.

* The big problem here is that infected kids can infect people like their grandparents, who are most susceptible to breakthrough cases. And if the oldsters aren’t vaxed, well, it can be really bad

Coronavirus cases in children in the United States have risen 32% from about two weeks ago, a spike that comes as the country rushes to inoculate children before the winter holiday season, pediatricians said.

More than 140,000 children tested positive for the coronavirus from Nov. 11-18, up from 107,000 in the week ending Nov. 4, according to a statement Monday from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.

* It’s getting out of control in Michigan

Over the previous seven days including Friday, Michigan reported 53,575 new COVID-19 cases, the highest weekly caseload since the pandemic began in March 2020.

As of Sunday, 3,785 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized across the state, including 784 in intensive care units. The vast majority of patients in the ICU and on ventilators, the MHA noted, are unvaccinated.

The state’s record for most adult hospitalizations with confirmed cases of the virus occurred on April 19 with 4,158 inpatients.

* And it’s worse in Minnesota

Federal emergency relief teams from the U.S. Department of Defense are on their way to Minnesota to help doctors and nurses at two Minnesota hospitals. When the rest of the state is celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday, they’ll be fighting the state’s COVID-19 surge.

The shortage of ICU beds is so severe, doctors warn emergency care across the state is being compromised. Hennepin Healthcare says they are turning down up to 50 transfer requests a day for their advanced trauma facilities, as Minnesota grapples with one of the worst infection rates in the country.

“If you get into a car accident in rural Minnesota and are in need of complex trauma care, the additional 12 to 24 hours you have to wait for a bed to open up might mean the difference in long-term functional outcomes,” Dr. Daniel Hoody said. “If you are critically ill with non-COVID illness or COVID illness in a rural hospital not equipped to care for you, the additional wait times might be the difference between life and death.”

Hennepin Healthcare is the state’s largest Level 1 trauma center, and it’s so backed up it had five patients on ventilators in the emergency room Monday. HCMC says it has cancelled or postponed most non-emergency surgeries and procedures.

The National Guard has also been activated.

* On a lighter note, I’m pretty sure my friends and I would’ve done this to get out of going to school back in the day. So I have to admire the effort

A school in the U.K. has warned parents to monitor their children while taking lateral flow COVID tests, after word spread that fruit juice can cause false positive results.

Gateacre School, in the English city of Liverpool, emailed parents on Wednesday to alert them that it had emerged children had become aware that orange juice and other similar drinks can trigger a false positive result on a lateral flow test.

* Related…

* America isn’t headed toward lockdowns, say White House officials

* Treatments will change the pandemic, but they can’t end it alone: Antiviral pills will be a key part of a large toolkit needed to manage the coronavirus, not a silver bullet

* COVID-19 average infections grow by 27% in a week, including 47-student outbreak in Villa Park

* City officials say Chicago will reach 77% vaccination rate by the week’s end

* Despite labor shortages, suburban retailers say they’re ready for Black Friday

  17 Comments      


No Statehouse holiday lights again this year

Tuesday, Nov 23, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Dave Dahl

It’s safety – not money or the pandemic – keeping the holiday lights off the Capitol dome in Springfield this season.

Worker safety is paramount, but Henry Haupt, a spokesman for the Illinois secretary of state’s office, says there’s more: an engineering study determined the observation deck – atop the dome and at the base of the flagpole – can no longer support the light strings, which become heavy with ice and are typically up for a couple of months on either side of the holiday season.

This has been an ongoing problem. From last year

Lights on the Capitol dome won’t be used for the second consecutive year. Engineers have recommended that an observation deck, which is typically used to anchor the lights, should be fortified.

“We are working with the Capital Development Board to procure funding for this project,” said Henry Haupt, spokesman for Secretary of State Jesse White.

This is the third holiday season in a row that we’ve been waiting on CDB to do something. There’s construction around the Statehouse because of the 2019 capital bill, but this little problem can’t be fixed?

* Related…

* Illinois is getting $18 billion from the feds for infrastructure. Plans for spending it are trickling out.

  18 Comments      


Today’s moment of Zen

Tuesday, Nov 23, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* A pal says this adorable video is an accurate visualization of the legislative process and I have to concur…


Heh.

  19 Comments      


Kiplinger rates Illinois the least tax-friendly state for middle class families

Tuesday, Nov 23, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Kiplinger

When creating our State-by-State Guide to Taxes on Middle-Class Families, we estimated the overall income, sales, and property tax burden in each state and the District of Columbia for a hypothetical married couple with two children, combined wages of $77,000, $3,000 of other income, and a $300,000 home. That information also allowed us to cobble together the following list of the 10 least tax-friendly states for middle-class families (the least-friendly state is listed last).

* Illinois came in dead last

    • State Income Tax Range: 4.95% (flat rate)
    • Average Combined State and Local Sales Tax Rate: 8.83%
    • Median Property Tax Rate: $2,165 per $100,000 of assessed home value

Sorry, Illinois, but you’re the least tax-friendly state in the country for middle-class families. For all three taxes we’re tracking – income, sales, and property taxes – you tax middle-income residents at an above average rate (at least). And for one of those taxes, the rates are extremely high. That’s enough to put the Land of Lincoln in the most undesirable spot on our list.

At first blush, the state’s 4.95% flat income tax rate doesn’t seem that steep when compared to other states’ top tax rates. And that’s true if you’re talking about wealthy residents. But for middle-class taxpayers, the income tax rate is on the high end. When we ran tax returns for all 50 states and the District of Columbia for our hypothetical middle-class family, the Illinois income tax bill was tied for the ninth-highest in the country.

Sales taxes in Illinois are high, too. There’s a 6.25% state tax on purchases in Illinois (1% on groceries and prescription drugs). Plus, up to 4.75% in local taxes are tacked on in certain places within the state. All told, the average combined state and local sales tax in Illinois is 8.83%, which is the seventh-highest combined sales tax rate in the U.S.

The tax situation really goes downhill fast for Illinois residents when you look at the property taxes they have to pay. Property taxes in Illinois are the second-highest in the nation. If our hypothetical family purchased a $300,000 home in the state, their average annual property tax bill would be an eye-popping $6,495.

A graduated income tax could’ve eventually eased all those issues, but whatevs. Five of the “most-friendly” states all had graduated income tax rates. The other five had no income tax.

  86 Comments      


Winnebago County seeing big spike

Tuesday, Nov 23, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Jim Hagerty for the Rockford Register Star

The pandemic is far from over in Winnebago County.

That was the message local officials sent to the public Monday as they announced that Winnebago County is now seeing 502 cases of the virus per 100,000 people and a test-positivity rate of 10.1%, indication of another winter surge.

There have been 539 cases reported countywide in the last three days, and a total of 126 people, including two infants, are currently hospitalized.

And with Thanksgiving just days away, Sandra Martell, Winnebago County public health administrator, said she expects the situation to get worse as unvaccinated people from different households gather to celebrate. […]

Dr. Stephen Bartlett, OSF HealthCare’s chief medical officer, said Rockford medical centers are handling the situation well at the moment, but they could be forced to curtail elective surgery and other services if the COVID situation doesn’t improve.

The county’s vax rate is 61.4 percent, among the lowest in the region.

Get your shots, people.

  17 Comments      


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Tuesday, Nov 23, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

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Tuesday, Nov 23, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

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* Isabel’s afternoon briefing
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* Cannabis baron ridicules equity programs: "We’re going to give these assets to felons and people that have two heads and all this kind of stuff"
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