Senator Syverson’s Week in Review: October 26 – 30, 2015

SPRINGFIELD – As the state’s budget impasse is about to enter its fifth month, State Senator Syverson continues his call for passing a balanced budget and moving forward on critical reforms needed to boost Illinois’ economy and create more jobs. This comes as Gov. Bruce Rauner announced plans to host a Nov. 18 budget meeting with legislative leaders to help forge a compromise to end the gridlock.

Also during the week, new data on Illinois’ economy gave further proof to the importance of passing pro-jobs, pro-growth legislation.

Meanwhile, the city of Chicago doubled down on a tax-first spending plan, passing a budget with 10 new tax and fee hikes that will cost taxpayers in the city more than $750 million.

Budget meeting scheduled Nov. 18

Gov. Rauner announced plans during the week to host a meeting with the four legislative caucus leaders on Nov. 18 in an effort to end the budget impasse. Republicans are calling for a balanced budget and pro-jobs reforms to turn Illinois’ unfriendly business climate and fiscal climate around. These reforms include workers’ compensation reform and term limits for elected officials.

The Governor said an agenda for the Nov. 18 meeting will be circulated prior to the meeting.

Struggling economy causing jobs loss, population drain

Seventeen years have passed since 1998, but one thing has barely changed: the number of jobs in Illinois.

A new report during the week found that total nonfarm employment in Illinois is currently about 5.91 million – the same as it was in July 1998.

By comparison, Illinois’ neighbors have fared much better, even with smaller populations. Over the same time period, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, Iowa gained 128,000 jobs, Indiana gained 150,000, and Wisconsin grew by more than 188,000 – all while Illinois remained flat.

In the past few months, Illinois’ economy has shown troubling signs of heading in the wrong direction. In the last month alone, Illinois lost nearly 7,000 jobs, including 1,800 manufacturing jobs. The state has lost manufacturing jobs in eight of nine months so far this year.

Sadly, the impact won’t take long to see.

According to the latest data from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), on average, Illinois is losing one person and $50,000 of taxable income every seven minutes.

Republicans have long argued that a struggling economy leads to the loss of residents and businesses and therefore, loss in tax revenue – and only structural reform of the broken system is going to turn it around and help solve the state’s budget woes.

Rauner: More workers’ comp reforms needed

While a Crain’s report shows the 2011 workers’ compensation reform package is helping to reduce costs for businesses, Senator Syverson says more needs to be done to make Illinois competitive again.

The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute recently released a study that shows medical payments for workers’ compensation claims have fallen by nearly 15 percent, to an average of $14,513 per claim, down from 17,140 per claim in 2010-2011. Illinois’ average medical payment per claim, however, is still 19 percent higher than the 17 states that handle 60 percent of the nation’s workers’ compensation cases. The Illinois Policy Institute says that “medical costs have gone down, but other non-hospital costs remain higher than other states included in the study.”

Senate Republicans and Gov. Rauner continues to push for reforms that address causation in the workers’ compensation system. Reform proposals include changes that require an injury claim to be directly related to employment, and one that corrects the current definition of work-related travel. 

Illinois still has the seventh-highest workers’ compensation costs in the country, and Gov. Rauner and Republicans continue to push for a reform package that will bring back manufacturing jobs and restore Illinois’ economy.

Chicago approves record property tax hike

On Oct. 28, the Chicago City Council voted 36-14 to pass Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2016 city budget, which includes a record $588 million property tax hike. 

The property tax hike represents the biggest such tax hike in modern Chicago history, adding a further burden to residents already paying the second-highest property taxes of any state in the country, according to the national Tax Foundation.

The budget contained a total package of $755 million in higher taxes, including property tax hikes; a new garbage collection fee; a new tax on online streaming services like Netflix; and fee hikes on taxis and ride-sharing services.

Chicago has raised taxes 12 times over the past three years, according to the Illinois Policy Institute.

Illinois number one in pumpkin production

The Land of Lincoln leads the nation in pumpkin production, growing more than 90 percent of the pumpkins in the United States. Nationwide, 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins are grown every year.

Those worried a moderate drought this fall would have a major impact on pumpkins can breathe a sigh of relief, as research shows pumpkins thrive in dry conditions. The key reason for this is their long roots are able to capture moisture deep in the ground.

Only a small percentage of Illinois pumpkins become Jack-o’-lanterns and Halloween ornaments – the vast majority (85 percent) are canned at the Libby pumpkin processing plant in Morton, which is known as the “Pumpkin Capital of the World.”

Sycamore native is “Soldier of the Year”

Army Spc. Jared Tansley of Sycamore recently won the U.S. Army’s Best Warrior Competition. The four-day competition included fitness tests such as 12-mile rucksack march and land navigation course, as well as weapons based exercises and knowledge tests. The 23 year-old infantryman is currently with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Squadron, stationed in Vilseck, Germany. Spc. Tansley says his plan is to train as a Ranger beginning in January.

2015 harvest nearly complete, but concerns remain for farmers

Only a few crop acres remain unharvested across Illinois. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, both the corn and soybean harvests currently stand at 93 percent complete. Winter wheat, which is often planted after soybeans are harvested, has now been planted on 84 percent of planned acres.

Many farmers are now waiting for soil temperatures to cool off enough to apply their fall fertilizers. USDA samples of soil temperatures showed a range of 45.6 degrees in Northern Illinois, to 56.6 degrees in Southern Illinois.

Farmers are also watching recent rains closely, hoping to reverse a weeks-long trend of below-average precipitation. Topsoil moisture was rated at 59 percent short or very short, with subsoil at 47 percent short or very short.

Most pressing for Illinois farmers however, are much tighter financial pressures this year due to a combination of reduced yields and lower prices for their crops, combined with an increase to the costs of inputs required to grow the crop.

Click here to learn more from agriculture professionals about what impact the financial crunch may have on farmers and the entire state.

Dave Syverson

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