CATERPILLAR BUILDING IN NORTH CAROLINA, NOT ILLINOIS
Illinois’ problems with job creation were highlighted during the week when long-time Illinois company Caterpillar acknowledged the state’s poor business and economic climate prevented them from considering Illinois for a significant expansion.
Almost a year ago, Caterpillar Inc. made headlines when a private letter penned by Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman to Governor Pat Quinn was leaked to the media. The missive outlined CAT’s concerns that the state’s massive tax increase would undermine the company’s ability to remain profitable. During the week, fears the company would bypass Illinois for greener pastures were realized.
On February 7, an e-mail was leaked to the Peoria Journal-Star that Caterpillar—prompted by logistical deficiencies, and reinforced by the state’s inhospitable tax policies and bleak budget outlook—is bypassing Illinois to build the company’s new North American manufacturing plant in North Carolina. In a letter to Peoria County, the CAT facility selection team cited, “previously documented concerns about the business climate and the overall fiscal health of the state of Illinois,” that make it impractical to expand in Illinois.
As the largest private sector employer in the state—employing more than 23,000 Illinoisans—CAT’s decision is a blow to the Peoria area and the state as a whole. In the past, Caterpillar has lamented Illinois’ excessive workers’ compensation costs. Serious efforts must be made to right the state’s fiscal ship, roll back the Democrats’ tax increase, and reform Illinois’ tedious regulatory system.
CHICAGO MAYOR WANTS CONTROVERSIAL HANDGUN REGISTRY
In other news, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans to push for a statewide handgun registry that could make felons of downstate and suburban handgun owners.
Mayor Emanuel’s February 9 call for a statewide gun registry is expected to draw fierce opposition from gun advocates and many downstate lawmakers. According to media reports, the Mayor’s proposal would require all Illinois handgun owners to pay a $65 registration fee to the state, and provide the Illinois State Police with personal information, the gun’s make and model, and where and when the gun was purchased.
Currently, state gun owners are required to obtain a Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card, but the actual guns aren’t registered with the state. Penalties for violation of Emanuel’s proposed legislation range from a misdemeanor charge for failure to report a lost or stolen firearm, to a felony charge for residents in possession of an unregistered gun.
The City of Chicago already enforces a strict gun ordinance, requiring handgun owners to register with the city and pay a fee. However, the Mayor says the statewide registry will help solve crime in Chicago, citing Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives statistics showing approximately 56 percent of guns at Chicago crime scenes are from outside city limits. Gun advocates pointed out that Illinois residents are already vetted through the FOID card registration process, and criticized the hefty registration fees associated with the Mayor’s proposal.
IMPLEMENTING COMMONSENSE MEDICAID REFORMS
And on the heels of recent criticism from lawmakers, Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) Director Julie Hamos sent a letter February 7 to the federal government outlining the Department’s intentions to begin implementation of commonsense Medicaid eligibility requirements passed by state lawmakers.
Last week it was learned that the Quinn Administration was trying to expedite expansion of the Medicaid program in Cook County, even as the Administration dragged its heels on pursuing execution of the bipartisan Medicaid reforms signed into law in 2011.
I am pleased to see the Administration pursue a more aggressive stance on Medicaid reform. DHS findings outlined in Director Hamos’ letter suggest nearly six percent of the Department’s monthly medical card mailings from November 2011 were returned “undeliverable with out-of-state addresses.” If six percent of Medicaid recipients were deemed ineligible for benefits for failure to meet residency requirements, that would amount to approximately $650 million in savings each year.
GOVERNOR’S BUDGET ADDRESS IS FEBRUARY 22
Lawmakers will return to Springfield February 22 for the Governor’s annual budget address.