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JBNH

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker addressees the New Hampshire Democratic Convention on Saturday, June 18, 2022

MANCHESTER, N.H. — New Hampshire Democrats zeroed in on abortion rights during their annual convention here Saturday, bringing in Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker to prop up the campaigns of Sen. Maggie Hassan and governor candidate Tom Sherman, who will likely ease through September’s primary but face tough races heading into November’s general election.

“The Republican Party is so afraid of the power and influence women have achieved in our society that they are seeking to shame and criminalize your very autonomy,” said Pritzker, who leads a state that has a law that codifies Roe v. Wade.

It’s a subject that generated the most applause throughout the day, including during a speech by Marty Walsh, Secretary of Labor and the former mayor of Boston (Massachusetts also has codified Roe). For the record, Walsh told the crowd, he’s not running for president.

Pritzker’s name, on the other hand, has popped up repeatedly as a potential future presidential candidate, most recently when it was announced he’d be speaking Saturday in New Hampshire. But the Democratic governor’s political team says Pritzker is only focused on his reelection and on helping elect Democrats across the country who support abortion rights.

Pritzker, a self-described “Ukrainian-American, Jewish, Democratic, billionaire, businessman,” was scheduled to travel to Maine after leaving New Hampshire to campaign for Democratic Gov. Janet Mills.

By the end of his speech, Pritzker had won over a cadre of Belknap County delegates who enthusiastically told a POLITICO reporter that they’d like to see him run for higher office.

“I think he should be our next president,” Johnna Davis, co-chair of the Belknap County Democrats, said as a couple other delegates seated in her row nodded along. “He’s got great energy. He’s perfect.”

Oy. Read more of the story here.

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Gov.-Pritzker-signing

Two bills on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk would spend $20 million to add license plate monitoring cameras to 6,600 miles of highways in 22 counties. Civil rights groups fret about abuse. Illinois State Police can’t say they increase safety.

Two bills on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk could expand Illinois highway camera monitoring program to cover 6,600 more miles of road across 22 counties as the General Assembly looks to crack down on expressway crime before November elections.

House Bill 260 and House Bill 448 – passed alongside 80 other proposals in the final day of the legislative session – would see the governor expand a license plate monitoring pilot program from Cook County to the rest of Illinois with $20 million in new funding.

The measure would add hundreds of new cameras while increasing the number of crimes the cameras can be used to investigate and number of parties who can prosecute them.

While lawmakers argue the bills could assist in the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed on state expressways, the Illinois State Police note they have been unable to quantify the number of crimes solved by the cameras during the Cook County pilot program.

Civil liberty groups opposed to the devices said there is a lack of transparency that leaves the program ripe for abuse. There is no information on how cameras are placed, there is a ban on drivers reviewing footage when charged with violations and there are requirements for law enforcement to delete video 120 days after recording – essentially destroying the evidence.

ISP spokesman Melaney Arnold said the agency would finalize and share camera locations only after the bill was signed into law. The new legislation notably excludes explicit guidance on which roadways would receive the additional monitoring.

More here.

Related:Highway camera expansion covering 6,600 miles of road in 22 counties awaits Pritzker’s signature

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JBP

We’ll accept the checks and rebates coming to Illinoisans — but with no illusions about the timing

You heard that most of us will soon be getting some free money — or, if you prefer, some of your tax money — from the state of Illinois in the form of small payments, right? Plus, if you own property, the extra property tax rebates that are planned.

We have provided coverage of the tax relief that Gov. J.B. Pritzker first touted in his February budget address, as well as the final package in the budget that passed the General Assembly this month — only after a drawn-out final day of the legislative session that started on a Friday and lasted until dawn the following Saturday. You can be forgiven if you didn’t quite follow it all. Or you can be forgiven if you’re just not excited about it, or even if you’re suspicious of it. But the budget does include a number of enticements for taxpayers. Among them:

  • Doubling the property tax rebate to qualifying homeowners, up to $300 per household.
  • Direct tax rebates to taxpayers of $50 per individual and $100 per child, up to three children per family, for households with annual incomes below $200,000 per taxpayer.
  • Suspending the 1% grocery tax.
  • Freezing the inflationary increase in the motor fuel tax.
  • A suspension of the state sales tax on back-to-school purchases for a limited period in August.
  • Permanently expanding the earned income tax credit to 20% of the federal credit, up from 18%.

Read more of the Daily Herald editorial here.

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JB Pissed

Illinois reported the largest outmigration of residents of any state during 2021, marking the 8th consecutive year of population decline in Illinois. Chicago similarly saw more residents move away than any metropolitan area in the nation.

Illinois saw the largest departure of state residents in the nation during 2021, with 68% of Illinoisans who moved saying goodbye and heading for more affordable locales, a new study found.

The annual migration report from Allied Van Lines and Zillow found this trend was reflected in the state’s largest city, Chicago, which reported the most outbound moves of any metropolitan area in the nation.

The 2021 report marks a record-setting 8th consecutive year of population decline for Illinois.

Most residents leaving Illinois traveled to states with warmer climates where housing prices were significantly cheaper. South Carolina, Tennessee and North Carolina ranked highest for inbound moves nationally.

The report found most Chicagoans leaving the state were most likely to take up residence in Phoenix, Los Angeles or Houston.

Census data shows Illinois’ population declined by 113,776 from July 1, 2020, through July 1, 2021. No other Midwestern or neighboring state saw a population decline of more than 17,000.

The major reasons Illinoisans have chosen to leave the state are for better housing and employment opportunities, both of which have been made worse by poor public policy in Illinois.

More here.

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Purchase of stock highlights weakness of Pritzker’s blind-trust arrangement in preventing conflicts of interest for billionaire governor’s holdings.

JBP

The blind trust set up to manage Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s vast wealth bought stock in one of the state’s biggest Medicaid contractors in 2020, the same year his administration made several decisions that benefited the company’s bottom line.

The purchase of stock in health insurance giant Centene Corp. was made on behalf of the billionaire governor by trustees at Northern Trust, appointed by Pritzker to independently manage his portfolio to separate those investment decisions from his role as the state’s most powerful elected official.

The investment in Centene — which collected more than $2.6 billion from state Medicaid contracts in the first half of 2021 alone — demonstrates the pitfalls of a blind-trust arrangement that still leaves the nation’s richest governor open to potential conflicts of interest.

The acquisition by Pritzker’s trust came despite his campaign pledge to purge his personal portfolio of companies holding state contracts. He also promised, as governor-elect, to make charitable contributions matching gains in his trust’s holdings from entities that hold state contracts.

The issue of stock purchases by elected officials is now being debated in Congress, which is considering an array of strengthened stock disclosure laws aimed at stopping lawmakers from profiting from their access to insider information. The stock holdings of judges and federal banking officials also have come under scrutiny.

Experts interviewed by the Better Government Association say the governor could have avoided the potential conflict by instructing his trust managers to refrain from investing in state contractors. Pritzker’s spokespeople declined to say whether he ever considered doing so.

“I don’t see why a trustee couldn’t operate within those bounds — especially given that he seems to have acknowledged the potential of a conflict with his pledge” to divest of companies that hold state contracts, said Eleanor Eagan of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, based in Washington, D.C.

Neither Pritzker representatives nor the managers of his trust would say how much the investment in Centene is worth to Pritzker’s bottom line. They also declined to say specifically when the stock purchase was made.

Read more from the Better Government Association here.

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JB Payoff

Saying private dollars shouldn’t be used to pay public employees, an Illinois lawmaker has introduced legislation that would prevent Gov. J.B. Pritzker from paying state employees out of his pocket on top of the salaries taxpayers already pay for.

Pritzker doles out $1.5 million a year to subsidize the salaries of 15 employees in his administration in addition to the $1.6 million taxpayers pay.

Senate Bill 2213 introduced by state Sen. Jason Plummer, R-Edwardsville, provides that no state employee may receive compensation from any private party for their work within the scope of his or her employment by a state agency.

“Pretty audacious that it is even happening, but on top of that, the complete lack of transparency on the issue is what really caught my attention as well,” said Plummer.

During a recent appropriations committee hearing, Pritzker Chief of Staff Anne Caprara, who is getting more than half of her nearly $300,000 salary from the governor, contended the practice follows all ethical guidelines.

“His priorities are retaining and attracting the best possible people to work for state government and to work for his office personally,” said Caprara.

Pritzker, who ranked 318th on Forbes 400 richest people in America list in 2021 with a net worth of $3.6 billion, is heir to the Hyatt hotel chain.

Read more here.

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JBMask

Illinois’ indoor mask mandate will be lifted on Feb. 28, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday, a change that comes as the state’s largest coronavirus surge to date continues to subside and Democratic governors across the country have begun loosening rules in response to improving data and an increasingly pandemic-weary public.

Pritzker is not dropping masking rules for schools, however, as his administration seeks to overturn last week’s court ruling that called into question his legal authority for mandating face coverings, quarantines, and, for school staff, vaccinations or testing.

“All of us are getting tired of wearing masks, that’s for sure,” Pritzker said during a Wednesday morning appearance in Champaign. “I have to say an enormous compliment to the people of Illinois. We have done such a good job — you have done such a good job of keeping each other safe.”

He said a change in mask mandates for schools will come in “weeks hence.”

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike told lawmakers during a briefing Wednesday that the administration would assess the effect of lifting the mask mandate in indoor public places other than schools before making a decision on masks in schools.

State health officials also told lawmakers that mask rules would continue to apply in health care settings, congregate facilities such as prisons and group homes, and on public transportation. Chicago and other municipalities will be able to continue enforcing stricter rules.

Read more here.

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Springfield

Illinois taxpayers are on the hook for nearly double the debt burden of just 12 years ago. That’s according to a new report on the fiscal state of the state.

Truth In Accounting (TIA) has been evaluating state governments for how much debt the state has versus how much they bring in. Their Financial State of the States 2021 published Tuesday.

For all 50 states, the total amount of state government debt taxpayers must pay back is $1.5 trillion at the end of fiscal year 2020.

For Illinois, TIA Research Director Bill Bergman said the amount owed per taxpayer went from about $30,000 in 2009 to $57,000 in the most recent report.

“In other words, it’s almost doubled since 2009,” Bergman said. “That’s significant for a few reasons, including the beginning of that period was in the middle of the worst economic and financial crisis since the Great Depression and Illinois has only deteriorated since then despite the massive recovery in financial markets since 2009. That’s scary.”

Only two other states were in worse financial condition than Illinois. New Jersey’s taxpayer burden is at $58,300 and Connecticut’s burden is at $62,500 per taxpayer. Only 11 states had taxpayer surpluses. The rest are considered “Sinkhole States” by TIA.

Read more here.

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Labor Day

A new analysis puts Illinois near the bottom of the hardest working states in the country.

The personal finance website WalletHub looked at more than 10 indicators from average work week hours to the share of workers with multiple jobs to determine the rankings. Illinois was ranked as the 43rd hardest-working state in the nation. Alaska and North Dakota took the top two spots as the hardest working states. New Mexico came in at No. 50.

Analyst Jill Gonzalez said workers in downstate Illinois likely helped the state’s ranking.

“That is where we see a leveling of the work week,” Gonzalez said. “In Chicago, we typically are seeing a shorter work week, and places where they are heavily relying on agriculture, we see a longer work week.”

Americans put in an average of 1,767 hours per year as of 2021, according to the World Economic Forum. That is 435 hours per year more than Germans work, but 357 fewer than Mexicans do.

Alaska has the longest hours worked per week at 42, which is 14% longer than in Utah, the state with the shortest week at 37 hours.

The category that pushed Illinois down in the rankings was the lowest annual volunteer hours per resident, in which Illinois ranked 47th in the country.

Read on here.

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Butter Cow

Gov. Pritzker and First Lady MK Pritzker unveil the Illinois State Fair’s 2021 butter cow.

SPRINGFIELD – The final preparation for the opening of the 2021 Illinois State Fair (which begins today) took place Wednesday with the traditional unveiling of the butter cow.

This year’s sculpture, which marks the 100th anniversary of the fair’s butter cow, is entitled “Embracing Tradition.” It features a dairy farmer embracing a cow. Hidden within the sculpture are 13 hearts, signifying the 13 essential nutrients found naturally in milk.

“After a year where the world stopped, I felt including an exhibitor embracing the cow signifies the joy our youth are experiencing as they return to the fair,” butter cow sculptor Sarah Pratt, of Iowa, said in a news release. “You only get one chance to celebrate the 100th anniversary and I hope this year’s Butter Cow will invoke those feelings of nostalgia people have experienced for generations.”

Gov. JB Pritzker and First Lady MK Pritzker took part in the ceremony along with Department of Agriculture Director Jerry Costello II, Midwest Dairy Association board member Donald Mackinson, and this year’s Miss Illinois County Fair Queen Kelsi Kessler.

Read more here.

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