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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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Gas Tax

When Gov. J.B. Pritzker and state lawmakers doubled the gas tax in 2019, they built in automatic annual increases. The next boost hits July 1. Perfect timing, as Pritzker spends $6 million to ask Illinoisans to take a drive.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is encouraging road trips just in time for drivers to catch the next boost in the state’s gas tax.

The law that doubled Illinois’ state portion of the gas tax also automatically boosts the tax every July 1 based on inflation – a move that saved state lawmakers from the political backlash of voting for future gas tax increases. The gas tax is next set to increase by one-half penny per gallon starting July 1, according to the Illinois Department of Revenue.

The boost will mean the average driver in Illinois will be paying $105.67 more per year than they did before the gas tax doubled.

July 1 will mark Illinois’ third motor fuel tax increase in as many years. Rates doubled to $0.38 per gallon from $0.19 in July 2019, then to $0.387 in 2020 and will hit $0.392 on July 1.

After the last automatic increase in 2020, Illinois’ average gas taxes ranked third highest in the nation. Illinois is one of the few states that charge sales taxes atop all the other taxes and fees, essentially taxing the taxes on a gallon of gas.

Pritzker is currently pushing Illinoisans and drivers from neighboring states to take a road trip in Illinois. The “Time For Me to Drive” campaign is a $6 million initiative aimed at jump-starting state tourism.

Read more from Illinois Policy here.

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2020 CensusIllinois will lose one member from the U.S. House of Representatives because of continued population declines.

It was expected Illinois would lose representation, based on year-over-year annual Census estimates showing the state losing an estimated 253,000 residents over the past ten years.

Official numbers from the 10-year Census were released Monday.

“Total U.S. Pop 331,449,281, an increase of 7.4 percent over the 2010 Census, lower than the previous growth rate of 9.7 percent,” Acting Director of the U.S. Census Bureau Ron Jarmin said. “That was the second slowest in U.S. History.”

Counts are based on the number of people living in each state as of April 1, 2020.

In 2010, Illinois had a resident population of nearly 12,830,632 million and 18 U.S. Representatives, down from 19 from the 2000 census. For 2020, Illinois lost another seat and will now have just 17 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Census officials announced Monday. The total resident population was 12,812,739 for 2020.

Illinois was one of seven states that will lose one seat for the Congress that will be seated in 2023.

Illinois has lost ten seats in the U.S. House over the past 110 years, according to Census data. In 1910, Illinois had 27 members of the U.S. House. That dropped by one in 1940, another one in 1950, another in 1960 and then two in 1990 with one every ten years since then.

Read more here.

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker is proposing tax increases on businesses just months after they led the charge against his progressive income tax initiative.

Pritzker wants lawmakers’ help in passing a budget that he said “removes corporate loopholes” by clawing nearly $1 billion from Illinois businesses a year after thousands were closed by his pandemic-induced executive orders.

Pritzker gave his budget address Wednesday afternoon. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the governor presented virtually from the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

“I had bolder plans for our state budget than what I am going to present to you today. It would be a lie to suggest otherwise,” he said. “But as all our families have had to make hard choices over the last year, so too does state government. And right now, we need to pass a balanced budget that finds the right equilibrium between tightening our belts and preventing more hardships for Illinoisans already carrying a heavy load.”

His $41.6 billion budget proposal includes no new income tax hikes, something he warned would happen if the state didn’t scrap its flat tax protection in the Illinois Constitution.

In revising the revenue forecast up and erasing the budget gap with extended borrowing, Pritzker now estimates the state will have a budget surplus.

The state was facing a $3.9 billion budget shortfall in November. Pritzker said he has closed that gap. They borrowed from the federal Municipal Liquidity Facility fund, Illinois’ treasury funds, and other accounts controlled by the state comptroller. He said a November estimate was conservative and the state plans to pay what’s due in federal loan repayments early. Pritzker expects to end the current fiscal year with a $77 million surplus and increase that to $120 million if lawmakers follow his lead.

Illinois’ Constitution requires lawmakers to enact a balanced budget, but that requirement is often sidestepped with overly-optimistic revenue estimates.

Read more here.

Related:Illinois GOP launches FirePritzker.org while Democrats say Republicans don’t have pandemic recovery plan

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The plywood over the windows, which cost taxpayers $30,000, was starting to come down Thursday. That’s after nearly a week of a heightened security presence based on a threat that never materialized.

Last week, images of construction crews putting plywood over the windows of the Illinois State Capitol were mixed with images of armed Illinois National Guard soldiers blocking streets and creating a perimeter around the complex.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday ordered 250 soldiers from the Illinois National Guard to support security at the capitol and other state government buildings in Springfield. The move was in response to a threat the FBI said involved possible armed protests at the state capitals of every state leading up to the inauguration of President Joe Biden Wednesday.

Such protests never materialized in Illinois.

Read on here.

Related:Now-closed McCormick Place COVID-19 hospital cost taxpayers $15M to staff, run

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Even subtracting COVID-19 deaths, Illinois still suffered its largest population drop in modern history in the first year of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s fiscal policies, including 20 new tax and fee hikes, as well as his pandemic response.

(Click on image to enlarge)

Illinois recorded a seventh straight year of population loss, but the drop was historic – 79,487 residents from July 2019 to July 2020, the most since World War II and the second largest of any state in raw numbers or percentage of population.

Data released by the U.S. Census Bureau Dec. 22 shows only New York lost a greater number or share of residents during the year.

The data marks the seventh consecutive year Illinois has experienced population decline, the longest streak in state history. That streak is the second-longest in the nation, behind only West Virginia, which has battled population decline for eight consecutive years. Meanwhile, Connecticut is the only other state to experience seven consecutive years of population decline. However, Illinois holds the distinct title of suffering the most consecutive years of worsening population decline, being the only state where population loss has accelerated each year for the past seven years.

Read more here.

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That brought the total cost to build and run the short-lived facility to about $81.1 million, including construction costs. The emergency facility will not reopen, state officials say.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot (from left), Gov. J.B. Pritzker and U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, touring the $65.9 million emergency coronavirus hospital at McCormick Place on April 17 — the day Pritzker announced the first five patients had been transferred there. Only 33 more would follow, as a feared COVID-19 crush at hospitals eased.
(Tyler LaRiviere / Sun-Times)

As the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers raced to build a $66 million emergency COVID-19 field hospital inside McCormick Place last spring, state and city officials scrambled to find the staff, equipment and supplies to run it.

The tab for all of that was another $20.3 million, records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show, though state officials say two vendors returned a total of $5.2 million of “unspent funds.”

That brought the total cost of building and staffing the short-lived, makeshift coronavirus hospital to about $81.1 million.

State and city officials say they expect most of the costs for the McCormick Place hospital to be covered by the federal government.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency spent $19 million to staff and operate the hospital. City Hall put in another $1.3 million for materials and supplies.

The McCormick Place field hospital, built by Walsh Construction, one of Chicago’s most politically well-connected contractors, opened in mid-April. It was shut down only weeks later, on May 8, as the demand for hospital beds for coronavirus patients eased, and it was deemed by state and city officials to no longer be needed.

Read more of the Sun*Times Watchdog report here.

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Supporters of a plan to create a graduated income tax rate system in Illinois are conceding the race.

“We are undoubtedly disappointed with this result but are proud of the millions of Illinoisans who cast their ballots in support of tax fairness in this election,” said Quentin Fulks, who led the Vote Yes for Fairness campaign. “Now lawmakers must address a multibillion dollar budget gap without the ability to ask the wealthy to pay their fair share.”

The amendment required either 60% of those voting on the amendment to vote yes, or a simple majority of all ballots cast in the election must favor it. The most recent figures show the proposal to change the state’s constitutional requirement of a flat income tax rate lost outright by hundreds of thousands of votes.

With about 97% of the state’s precincts reporting, unofficial results show 55% of voters were against the proposal.

“It is clear that Illinoisans do not trust this legislature and this administration to spend more of their precious tax dollars without restraint,” said Illinois Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Todd Maisch.

Read on here.

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