REDUCTION OF UNPAID BILLS NOT LIKELY TO CONTINUE
The most recent Comptrollers Quarterly report, released by Illinois Comptroller Judy Bar Topinka, revealed that Illinois “moved into fiscal year 2014 with an estimated total bill backlog of $6.1 billion, compared to $7.5 billion one year ago.” This reduction can be explained by the state’s collection of a one-time $1.2 billion tax windfall this spring. These extra revenues were the result of individuals and businesses unloading assets or taking early dividends in order to take advantage of the lower 2012 federal tax rates.
However, the Comptroller says review of fiscal year 2014 revenue projections and state spending obligations shows the bill backlog is poised for a dramatic increase. Topinka said her office is projecting that without pension reform and additional cost-saving efforts the backlog could jump to $7.9 billion as early as August, and could grow to $9 billion by December as the state struggles with more than $4 billion in unpaid and pending bills lapsed from the previous fiscal year, along with almost $2 billion in state employee health insurance and Medicaid obligations.
NEW WEBSITE ANSWERS COMMON CONCEALED-CARRY QUESTIONS
In an effort to help answer Illinois residents questions about the state’s new concealed-carry law, the Illinois
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State police has set up a new website with information on qualifying and applying for a license, associated costs, regulations and prohibitions, and more. The site can be found at www.isp.state.il.us in the right sidebar.
The website also provides information about where to obtain firearms training, what the training course consists of, the type of firearm residents will be able to carry, information for businesses and property owners, and how long it will take to receive a concealed-carry license.
Illinois residents are cautioned that though ISP has begun working on establishing the licensure process for concealed carry, at this time it is still illegal to carry a concealed weapon in Illinois. ISP estimated that it could take six months to set up the system, and another three months to process and screen applicants.
NEW LAWS OFFICIALLY CEDE THOMSON TO FEDS, PROMOTE COMPETITIVE EMPLOYMENT FOR THOSE WITH DISABILITIES
During the week the Governor signed SB 30/PA 98-0070 into law officially ceding jurisdiction of Thomson state prison and surrounding land to the federal government. Also this week several laws to promote competitive employment for those with disabilities were signed into law.
The sale of the facility had already been completed in 2012, so some viewed the legislation as a formality. However, some lawmakers refused to support the measure, stressing the $165 million the federal government paid Illinois for the facility is less than the “fair market value” assessed at $220 million, and lower still than the state’s total $250 million investment in the prison. There was also concern from some opponents that federal law could be easily changed to allow the Thomson facility to house Guantanamo Bay detainees, though the U.S. Attorney General has pledged not to use the correctional center for that purpose.
Illinois received payment for Thomson from the federal government in late October 2012, and in early March the proceeds were deposited into four separate funds for three agencies: $20 million was deposited into the Capital Development Fund, with $15 million directed to the Architect of the Capitol and $5 million to the Capital Development Board.
The remaining $145 million was deposited into three funds overseen by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). Twenty-three million dollars was directed to the Transportation Series A Bond Fund, which finances statewide road and bridge construction projects, and $26 million to the Transportation Series D Bond Fund, a fund created for the Illinois Jobs Now! capital program to be used for school construction projects as well as transportation infrastructure improvements. The remaining $96 million was directed into the Transportation Series B Bond Fund, which primarily funds mass transportation projects. Senate Republicans said they are currently looking into how the revenue is being spent.
Another law signed during the week seeks to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities. House Bill 2591 creates the Illinois Employment First Act, which requires all state agencies to coordinate efforts and pursue collaborations to ensure that state programs, policies, procedures, and funding support the competitive and integrated employment of people with disabilities.
Additionally, the bill creates an Employment and Economic Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities Task Force charged with creating goals and objectives for the state to help drive the implementation of the Illinois Employment First Act and ensure the Act is operational in a reasonable amount of time.