Pritzker Proposal Could Give Jack Franks Still Another Republican to Appoint to County Board

The Chicago Tribune story on the upcoming legislative session contains a paragraph that could have implications to the McHenry County Board.

Here it is:

“Pritzker…wants the General Assembly to pass legislation barring lawmakers from lobbying other levels of government, because there’s ‘too much undue influence that a mayor can have on a state legislator or vice versa.'”

In McHenry County Board member Pam Althoff is a lobbyist for the medical marijuana industry.

If she were forced to resign, Democrat Jack Franks would be able to appoint his second Republican to a District 4 seat.

State Rep. David McSweeney introduced the following, House Bill 292, which is related:

Amends the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act.

Provides that no member of the General Assembly shall, during his or her term of office, negotiate for employment with a lobbying entity if that lobbying entity engages in lobbying with members of the General Assembly during that member’s term of office.

Provides that no former member that is registered as a lobbyist shall lobby regarding a bill that he or she voted on during his or her term of office as a member of the General Assembly. Amends the Lobbyist Registration Act.

Provides that a person required to be registered under the Act, his or her spouse, and his or her immediate family members living with that person may not serve as a member of a county board.

Amends the Counties Code to provide that no person is eligible to hold office as a county board member, commissioner, or executive if he or she is required to be registered as a lobbyist under the Lobbyist Registration Act. Makes conforming changes.

Unemployment Down, Pritzker Takes Credit

From the Pritzker Administration:

Illinois Unemployment Rate Drops to New Historical Low in December

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) announced today that the unemployment rate fell -0.1 percentage point to 3.7 percent, a new historical low, while nonfarm payrolls added +8,000 jobs in December, based on preliminary data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and released by IDES.

The November monthly change in payrolls was revised from the preliminary report from -17,200 to -13,400 jobs.

The state’s unemployment rate is +0.2 percentage points higher than the national unemployment rate reported for December 2019, which was 3.5 percent, unchanged from the previous month.

The Illinois unemployment rate was down -0.6 percentage point from a year ago when it was 4.3 percent.

Illinois payroll employment has shown variability since the beginning of the year, as have national payrolls. 

Average payroll employment in Illinois during the October to December three-month period, which provides a more stable measure of payroll employment change, was up +900 jobs, compared to the September to November three-month period.

The largest average gains were found in

  • Educational and Health Services (+2,900),
  • Leisure and Hospitality (+1,900) and
  • Government (+1,700).

“Over the past year, Governor Pritzker has worked hard to improve Illinois’ economy and create the conditions for good jobs around the state that will build long-term economic success,” said Deputy Governor Dan Hynes.

“From the bipartisan balanced budget and historic Rebuild Illinois infrastructure plan to lifting up workers and families by raising the minimum wage, this administration is creating an economy that works for everyone.”

“Governor Pritzker has implemented a number of policies and strategies that continue to address the needs of the diverse Illinois workforce,” said Erin Guthrie, Acting Director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. “The Five-Year Economic and Rebuild Illinois Plans, coupled with the minimum wage increase, are steps that will help create a symbiotic environment in which businesses and workers can thrive.”

Compared to a year ago, nonfarm payroll employment increased by +45,000 jobs with the largest gains in: Educational and Health Services (+17,100), Leisure and Hospitality (+16,900), and Government (+13,400). The industry sectors with the largest over-the-year declines were: Trade, Transportation and Utilities (-4,600), Manufacturing (-1,900) and Construction (-1,200). Illinois nonfarm payrolls were up +0.7 percent over-the-year as compared to the nation’s +1.4 percent over-the-year gain in December.

The number of unemployed workers decreased from the prior month, -2.4 percent to 240,100, a new record low, and was down -13.2 percent over the same month for the prior year. The labor force was down -0.3 percent over-the-month but up +0.1 percent over-the-year. The unemployment rate identifies those individuals who are out of work and seeking employment.

An individual who exhausts or is ineligible for benefits is still reflected in the unemployment rate if they actively seek work. IDES maintains the state’s largest job search engine, Illinois Job Link (IJL), to help connect jobseekers to employers who are hiring, which recently showed 60,792 posted resumes with 90,561 jobs available.

Seasonally Adjusted Unemployment Rates

Illinois Seasonally Adjusted Nonfarm Jobs – by Major Industry

  • 2014-2018 seasonally adjusted labor force data for Illinois, and all other states, have been revised as required by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  The monthly historical revisions to state labor force estimates reflect new national benchmark controls, state working-age population controls, seasonal factors, as well as updated total nonfarm jobs and unemployment benefits claims inputs.  Illinois labor force data were also smoothed to eliminate large monthly changes as a result of volatility in the monthly Census Population Survey (CPS) and national benchmarking. For these reasons, the comments and tables citing unemployment rates in previous news releases/materials may no longer be valid.
  •  Monthly seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for Illinois and the Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights Metropolitan Division are available here.
  •  Monthly 1990-2018 seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll employment data for Illinois have been revised. To control for potential survey error, the estimates are benchmarked annually to universal counts derived primarily from unemployment insurance tax reports.
  •  Not seasonally adjusted jobs data with industry detail are available here. “Other Services” include activities in three broad categories: personal and laundry; repair and maintenance; and religious, grant making, civic and professional organizations.  Seasonally adjusted data for subsectors within industries are not available.

IL-14: Jim Oberweis on the Issues in the Past Four Months

Jim Oberweis

From October 2 through now, is Oberweis ready for the election based on issues outlined in new video and last week’s debate?

Early Sunday morning, a YouTube video released on Friday from the Veterans Helping Veterans Talk Show that was recorded back on October 2 and is a nearly 30 minute in-depth interview with State Senator and 14th district Republican candidate Jim Oberweis, was found and watched.

On this video, Oberweis prioritizes his platform as three-fold:

  • Economic policy
  • Immigration
  • Healthcare including prescription drug pricing

On the latter two topics, the host asks Oberweis a lot of questions. An additional guest, whom the audience learns is an immigration attorney, asks Oberweis questions, too, especially on immigration.

Given it’s Sunday and the Sunday talk shows will likely be dominated by reviewing the first week of the Senate impeachment trial, perhaps watching this video of Oberweis on issues back in early October, and comparing it to the recent congressional debate this past week, and see if Oberweis is better prepared now in late January to compete with Congresswoman Lauren Underwood in the fall, if he wins the Republican primary.

The video is nearly 30 minutes long, and hearing Oberweis’ answers about the 2020 congressional elections, and nearly four months, 2 newspaper mailers from the Oberweis campaign, one TV commercial and what was seen at last week’s debate, in the past four months, has Oberweis grown into a better candidate on the issues?

The link to the debate article, with video of the debate, is below:

Money Doesn’t Seem to Make A Difference in Education

From Wirepoints, reprinted with permission:

Illinois spends 30 to 50 percent more than its neighbors on education, but results haven’t budged

Illinois already spends up to 50 percent more than its neighbors on education, but politicians on both sides are committed to spending even more. 

Gov. Bruce Rauner boosted state spending on education year after year despite the two-year budget impasse and his dire warnings of the state’s collapsing finances. Now it’s Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s turn to spend more each year. 

What Illinoisans may not know, however, is that before Rauner even spent a dime, Illinois was already spending more federal, state and local dollars on a per student basis than any other state in the Midwest – and far more than its neighbors.

. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest nationwide numbers, Illinois spent a total of $15,337 per student on education in 2017. That’s $5,000 more per student – or 53 percent more – than Indiana spends in total. It’s also $3,300 more than Wisconsin, its closest-spending neighbor.

That spending disparity has likely only grown three years and billions in additional spending later.

What about outcomes?

Unfortunately, that additional funding hasn’t translated into better outcomes for Illinois students.

Illinois’ National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores for math and reading have remained essentially flat over the decade, even as total per student spending has grown by over 40 percent.

And it’s not as if Illinois test scores have plateaued – that all that spending is simply maintaining high scores that our neighbors haven’t matched.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

Illinois’ NAEP scores are mostly lower when compared to its neighbors. Indiana spends far less than Illinois does, but Indiana’s results are far better across the board. Ditto for Wisconsin. Missouri, Iowa and Kentucky have also largely outperformed Illinois.

In a nutshell: Illinois spends far more than its neighbors on education and yet its politicians are committed to spending hundreds of millions of dollars more every year. All to achieve student outcomes that haven’t improved in a decade and are, in most cases, worse than in neighboring states.

That’s actually unsurprising, as researchhas shownfor decades that there is little correlation between spending and improved educational outcomes.

But even if there is correlation, as some studies have recently suggested (and still others question), Illinois will still have a hard time improving outcomes. That’s because the state misspends billions in education dollars year after year on its bloated education bureaucracy.

Illinois has far too many school districts, too much executive pay and too many administrators draining money that should be going to classrooms. Too much is also going toward retirements, benefit-boosting perks and the state’s regressive pension funding scheme

We lay all that out in Administrators over kids: Seven ways Illinois’ education bureaucracy siphons money from classrooms.

Eric Hanushek of the Hoover Institution has written extensively on the issue of poor spending practices. His research finds that states can’t “just drop in a pile of money and expect good performance to come out,” and that, “We really cannot get around the necessity of focusing on how money is spent on schools.”

That’s as true for Illinois as it is for any state.

Rather than squeeze billions more out of Illinoisans with ever higher taxes – including a progressive tax –lawmakers should reform the bloated system already in place: Consolidate school districts, cut back on perks that nobody in the private sector gets, and reform pensions – starting with a pension amendment to the state’s constitution.

A bureaucratic rollback and pension reform is what Illinois needs to redirect billions of dollars back to the classrooms that need it most.

More on the Public Pension Problem

From The Center Square:

Op-Ed: The 1%: Illinois’ pension millionaires

More than 129,000 Illinois public pensioners will see expected payouts of $1 million or more during retirement.

Illinois is home to a small, powerful and protected class of wealth. 

Their profits are immense.

They bear little to no risk.

And the state’s social safety net has been gutted to pay for their privileges, which are closely guarded by politicians. Sound familiar? 

These are Illinois’ pension millionaires. 

Among the state’s 12.7 million residents, they constitute the 1%. 

More than 129,000 Illinois public retirees will collect estimated payouts of more than $1 million each over the course of their retirements, according to new analysis from the Illinois Policy Institute. 

No public-sector worker should be personally shamed for getting a great deal.

Those who choose a life of public service deserve honor and praise. 

At the same time, it’s crucial that Illinoisans understand these retirement benefits and call for reform.

They have resulted in cuts to core services and constant calls for tax hikes across the state for more than two decades.

They’re also pushing the pension funds toward insolvency. Extreme payouts and early retirements are the norm across Illinois’ five state-run retirement systems:

  • More than 22,000 retirees in the State Universities Retirement System (43%) will receive an expected lifetime payout of more than $1 million, with 42% retiring before their 60th birthday.
  • More than 31,000 retirees in the State Employees’ Retirement System (51%) will receive an expected lifetime payout of more than $1 million, with half retiring before age 60.
  • Nearly 75,000 retirees in the Teachers’ Retirement System (68%) will receive an expected lifetime payout of more than $1 million, with more than half retiring before age 60.
  • The remaining pension millionaires at the state level are spread across the Judges’ Retirement System (nearly 900, or 94%) and the General Assembly Retirement System (more than 200, or 67%).

Meanwhile, the average 401(k) balance nationwide for people aged 60 to 69 is $195,500, according to CNBC. 

These numbers can be difficult to believe.

So they’re often spun.

There are four common “buts” used to justify the status quo: 

1) But these benefits attract top talent 

In fact, these benefits have made important fields like teaching much less attractive in Illinois.

That’s because in order to pay for the extreme benefits promised in the past, new teachers are enrolled in an unfair “Tier 2” retirement plan that is so lousy it will likely result in a lawsuit when the first Tier 2 worker vests on Jan. 1, 2021.

2) But these workers don’t get Social Security 

In fact, almost all state employees in SERS are eligible for Social Security benefits on top of their pensions, which average $1.7 million for career workers. 

For other public retirees in Illinois, trading million-dollar payouts for a Social Security check would be a serious downgrade.

The average Social Security benefit for 2019 is $17,532 per year. And the earliest anyone can qualify for Social Security is age 62, with the full retirement age pegged at 67 for anyone born after 1960. 

3) But workers paid into the system 

The average state worker or teacher in Illinois retires before age 60, takes home a lifetime pension benefit of more than $1 million and contributes less than 10% of that amount to the system – the rest is covered by taxpayers. 

4) But politicians underfunded the system 

Illinois pensions were underfunded because they were overpromised. Like a teenage barback trying to front a monthly payment on a Lamborghini, state politicians have kicked the can, borrowed and lied to keep up appearances. Illinois state and local governments now spend the most in the nation – about double the national average – on pensions as a share of their budgets.

Consider that the state spends about one-third less today, adjusted for inflation, than it did in the year 2000 on core services including child protection, state police and college money for poor students. During that time, pension spending increased 501%

Paying more is not an option. Backing reforms for a fair pension system should be the No. 1 priority for Illinois state lawmakers.

And other states can show them how. 

A pension constitutional amendment in Illinois that matches states such as Hawaii and Michigan would allow for changes to retirement ages, capping maximum pensionable salaries, and doing away with guaranteed permanent benefit increases in favor of a true cost-of-living adjustment pegged to inflation.

All of this can be done without cutting a dime from the checks of current retirees.

These changes to “future” benefits have been enacted in Arizona, where they had support from union leaders who realized pensions were in peril. If Illinoisans work together, commonsense pension reform can ensure state government works for everyone. Not just the 1%.

Austin Berg is a Chicago-based writer with the Illinois Policy Institute who wrote this column for The Center Square. Austin can be reached at aberg@illinoispolicy.org.

Another Unintended Consequence from “Reform” Legislation

Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman relays another unintended consequence of a “reform” proposal.

This time it is the effort to make it easier for black men who have been incarcerated to get jobs.

On many application forms, there is (was) a box to be checked if one were an ex-con.

The question could be asked, but only after an initial evaluation of a person’s qualifications was completed.

Chapman quotes Pat Quinn from 2014:

“This law will help ensure that people across Illinois get a fair shot to reach their full potential through their skills and qualifications, rather than past history.”

Here’s what Jennifer Doleac, an economics professor at Texas A&M who is affiliated with the University of Chicago Crime Lab, discovered:

“Current evidence suggests that Ban the Box may not increase employment for people with criminal records, and might even reduce it. Delaying information about job applicants’ criminal histories leads employers to statistically discriminate against groups that are more likely to have a recent conviction.”

Chapman observes, “In a triumph of perversity, the people who were supposed to gain ended up worse off.”

University of California at Santa Barbara Ph.D. candidate Ryan Sherrard found the same result.

Chapman writes,

“After such a law is passed, his study found, African American men get fewer job callbacks — and white applicants get more. In places that ban the box, black ex-offenders are likelier to end up back in jail than before.”

Employers assumed the worst about black men, not the best.

Chapman suggests repealing such laws.

“Sometimes the best way to do good is to stop doing harm.”

Longmeadow Bridge Toll to be Reduced for Algonquin and Kane County Residents

Chris Lauzen

McHenry County residents of the village of Algonquin to receive same discounted toll as Kane County residents

The Kane County Board’s Transportation Committee has given preliminary approval of the toll structure for the Longmeadow Parkway toll bridge over the Fox River, scheduled to open in 2022.

The Longmeadow Parkway, once completed, will connect Huntley Road in southwestern Algonquin with the bridge over the Fox River through northern Carpentersville and connect with Algonquin Road/IL Route 62 in Barrington Hills.

Throughout Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen’s (R, Aurora) two terms, he has spearheaded the completion of the bridge and transportation corridor linking two municipalities which cross from McHenry County to Kane County with an additional transportation corridor to cross the Fox River into the Cook County northwest suburbs as well as local traffic in and around Dundee Township.

The toll schedule for passenger vehicles is recommended at 95 cents per crossing.

An unlimited use annual pass will be offered for purchase and include a significant discount for Kane County residents and village of Algonquin residents in McHenry County. The annual pass pricing and large commercial truck tolls is recommended on the following schedule:

  • $200/year for Kane County residents and all village of Algonquin residents in McHenry County
  • $300/year for all other frequent users of the toll bridge outside of Kane County and the village of Algonquin
  • Large commercial trucks ineligible for annual pass will pay the following toll schedule:
    • $7 with an I-PASS
    • $8.50 without one

The $200/year pass usage for residents is expected to pay for itself for once/day round trip usage within a year. More frequent use of the bridge will pay for the annual pass faster.

Drivers who do not purchase the annual pass will be paying 95 cents per crossing through their Illinois Tolls I-PASS transponder account.

The toll is being charged to pay off the $28 million in bonds to finance the bridge as quickly as possible.

Chris Kious

At last Tuesday’s Transportation Committee meeting, Board Member Chris Kious (D, Algonquin) introduced three resolutions which the committee defeated to attempt to protest issues some residents near the Longmeadow Parkway bridge/corridor have expressed over the years:

  • Eliminate the parkway toll. It received the support only of county board member Jarett Sanchez (D, Carpentersville).
  • Place tolls on all other county-controlled roadways. Kious said the resolution was an effort to have all county residents experience the same burdens his constituents will feel when using Longmeadow.
  • Suggested naming the toll bridge after County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen. Kious blames Lauzen for the project moving forward.

The full Kane County Board will need to approve the Transportation Committee’s recommendation for the toll schedule. The full approval will likely be at the next county board meeting on February 11.

H/T: James Fuller, Daily Herald reporter for confirming with Kane County Department of Transportation the definition of an Algonquin resident in McHenry County is based solely on living in the municipality, and not unincorporated McHenry County residents in the 60102 ZIP code.

The link to Fuller’s full story in the Herald is below:

Illinois 66th District: Allen Skillicorn Communication with LWV Not Received On Time

Allen Skillicorn

At this point on Saturday night on the 25th, it is unclear why there is a discrepancy with the League of Women Voters (LWV) of McHenry County not receiving and reading Skillicorn statement concerning his scheduling conflict

“What we have here, is; failure to communicate!”

From the movie Cool Hand Luke
.

The iconic quote, first said by actor Strother Martin’s character in the classic 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke, is relevant to the Friday article where State Representative Allen Skillicorn said a statement would be read at the forum explaining his absence.

The video posted on Republican primary opponent’s Carolyn Schofield’s Facebook page says otherwise. Queue it to the 2:08 mark, and unmute the sound icon to hear it (sound quality poor, but enough to hear what the moderator said):

Our first candidate forum and since my opponent didn’t show, per policy I only got 2 minutes to make a statement. How rude to not even respond. Is this how the people of D66 deserve to be represented?

Posted by Carolyn Schofield for IL State Representative District 66 on Thursday, January 23, 2020

This quote from LWV of McHenry County is clear:

“Mr. Skillicorn chose not to communicate either through email, written communication or through text.”

LWV of McHenry County moderator, 1/23/20
.

Did Skillicorn send his communication electronically and it was not received?

Or did Skillicorn send his communication too late, to be read at the forum?

As with anything else that is written on McHenry County Blog, it is with the lens of the truth and full context. Something went wrong from the article published on the 24th and what actually happened at McHenry County College on the night of the 23rd as shown in the video recorded at MCC.

In light of some developments since the initial publication of this article, here are some additional facts for 66th district voters to know, with additions since initial publication in bold print:

  • No one at McHenry County Blog is working in collusion with Skillicorn’s primary opponent against his renomination. We are aware of what he is/was saying on his campaign Facebook page, but Skillicorn is mistaken.
  • Skillicorn has been requested to send the email he sent to McHenry County Blog in order to help determine if the communication issue is his, the LWV of McHenry County, or a complete technical issue
  • McHenry County Blog published an article announcing Skillicorn’s “Four Town Halls in Four Weeks” on January 14 from a Skillicorn press release, sent on Monday, January 10.
    • Nos. 1, 3, & 4 are scheduled for Saturdays
    • No. 2 is scheduled for Thursday setting up the conflict with LWV Forum
  • McHenry County Blog received a press release from LWV of McHenry County on Saturday, dated January 18, article published Monday, January 20
  • The LWV of McHenry County posted on their Facebook page on January 10 of the candidates’ forum for January 23
  • While at this point, it is unknown when the candidates were notified of the January 23 forum, it had to have been on or before the 10th
  • It is unknown when Skillicorn reserved Algonquin Village Hall for his one non-Saturday town hall meeting
  • For disclosure, Carolyn Schofield is the publicity chair of the LWV of McHenry County
  • In Skillicorn’s communication that for some unknown reason did not reach LWV of McHenry County in time to be read at Thursday’s forum and published on the 24th, he confirmed two additional candidates’ forums he would attend:
    • February 5th at McHenry County Republican Party hosted forum at the Crystal Lake Headquarters
    • February 27th hosted by the Kane County Young Republicans at the Elgin Township building in southern Elgin near Elgin Community College
  • Skillicorn’s communication posted on the blog on the 24th, makes no mention of his participation at the candidates’ forum being hosted by the LWV of Elgin Area Rutland-Dundee Committee for 6:30PM at the Rakow Senior Center in Carpentersville on February 4th
    • In addition to the 66th district, congressional Republicans for the 6th district and Democrats for the 22nd legislative district state senate candidates will participate
    • This forum is scheduled on the same night as President Trump’s delivery of the State of the Union to the joint session of Congress. 6th congressional district candidate Jeanne Ives has scheduled a watch party for the President that evening, which will eliminate the congressional candidates’ forum with her absence
    • Given the conflict with the State of the Union, there is a chance this forum may be rescheduled
    • Carolyn Schofield, to our knowledge, is not a member of the Elgin Area Rutland-Dundee Committee of LWV hosting the event
    • Unlike LWV of McHenry County rule which prohibited Schofield’s full participation at the January 23rd forum, Skillicorn missing February 4th will NOT prevent Schofield’s full participation in Carpentersville

COMMENTARY: It’s 2020, beginning of the 3rd decade of the 21st century, and there were easily 5 days between the press release from LWV McHenry County and the 23rd of January.

Skillicorn uses all forms of electronic communication including social media which makes this communication issue strange.

Currently, Skillicorn is under investigation by the Legislative Inspector General concerning events of June 1st.

The Ethics Complaint relating to June 1st is still being investigated by the Legislative Inspector General, but Skillicorn told POLITICO last week there was proof he was in Springfield on the 1st.

Mr. Skillicorn would do well to cooperate and tell the whole truth concerning June 1st, and assist McHenry County Blog with determining the whole truth about January 23rd per emails sent to him privately.

Posting an accusation I am working with his opponent, Ms. Schofield does nothing to resolve the confusion of what happened on the 23rd and why Skillicorn’s statement was not read and LWV claiming it was not received.

When the Ethics complaint was filed on January 14, I voluntarily defended Skillicorn, and expected him to do the right thing, as a Christian, concerning the questions of June 1st.

I still hold out the hope he will do just that concerning the Ethics complaint, and will cooperate with McHenry County Blog to determine what happened concerning the 23rd of January.

If LWV of McHenry County was in error with what was said at the MCC candidates’ forum on Thursday, it is expected LWV of McHenry County will do the right thing and help clear up the apparent confusion.

IL 14 – Rezin Mails 20-Page Introduction Piece

Never seen anything like the 20-page mailing from State Senator Sue Rezin that was just delivered in the 14th congressional district.

Jim Obeweis made an introductory mailing and Rezin’s attacks it and him as if she thought the race for the GOP nomination was a two-way contest.

Maybe it is, but since no one has released a recent poll, there’s no way to know.

One of my goals for McHenry County Blog has always to let candidates and public officials speak for themselves, rather than have to go through the filter of a newspaper.

In a very real way, that was how communication worked when I first ran for office in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

There was so much newspaper advertising that when one sent in a press release, the odds were good that it would be printed in the all but one weekly newspapers covering McHenry County. (Only the Woodstock Sentinel published more than once a week. It was five days, I think.)

In any event, the mailing sent out by Rezin follows:

A mailing from Jim Oberweis also arrived recently (concurrently in some households.)

Skillicorn Announces Grants He Initiated

The last time state legislators allowed themselves the privilege of deciding where some tax money would go, it was called “member initiatives.”

Going back to the “good old days” it was called pork.

One far southern Illinois Republican, C.L. McCormick famously allocated funds for a bridge without roads on either side.

When questioned about the decision, he observed that after the bridge was finished, the roads would come.

In today’s iteration, State Rep. Allen Skillicorn calls such money “District Improvement Funds.”

His press release is below:

District Improvements Funded

Crystal Lake, IL – State Representative Allen Skillicorn announces the 66th District recipients of grants and the Build Illinois Bond Fund for local projects.

The Village of Algonquin and Dundee Township Park District received grants for local park projects.

These grants help communities acquire open space and develop and improve recreational facilities and are funded through the state’s Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) program, administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). The OSLAD program can provide up to one-half of a project’s funds.

Also appropriated are the following Build Illinois Bond Fund projects:

“Congratulations to the recipients of the IDNR grants for local park projects as they are an integral part of our communities,” Skillicorn said, “I look forward to the completion of the Build Illinois projects as well which sustain our infrastructure for all constituents.”

McHenry Police Activity

From the McHenry Police Department:

Time Period: Thursday 01/16/2020 thru Wednesday 01/22/2020

During this time period the McHenry Police Department:

  • Handled 546 calls for service
  • Investigated 22 Motor Vehicle Accidents
  • Conducted 193 Traffic Stops
  • Conducted over 129 Business Checks and Foot Patrols
  • Handled calls for service involving Domestic Disputes
  • Handled call for service involving crisis intervention
  • Arrested individuals on State criminal charges

Training:

Sergeant Clesen graduated from Northwestern University’s 10-week School of Police Staff and Command.  During the program, which was hosted by the Buffalo Grove Police Department, Sergeant Clesen received upper-level college instruction by top law enforcement executives on topics including leadership, human resources, employee relations, organizational behavior, applied statistics, planning and policy development, and budgeting and resource allocation.

Home Visits to Babies Voluntary in Beginnning

From the Pritzker Administration:

Gov. Pritzker Commits to Universal Home Visits for Eligible Families by 2025

Following historic investments in early childhood, governor builds on commitment to making Illinois best state in nation to raise a family, expanding 12,500 slots by 2025; 500 additional children will be served this year

Joined by leading advocates for early childhood education and care, Governor JB Pritzker announced a plan to reach universal home visits for eligible families in Illinois by 2025.

This announcement follows the governor’s historic investments in early childhood funding in the FY20 budget and builds on his commitment to making Illinois the best state in the nation for families raising young children.
 
“Home visitation supports parents in their all-important role as their child’s first teacher and I’m so proud to announce that we’re putting Illinois on a path to providing universal home visiting services for our most vulnerable families and kids,” said Governor JB Pritzker. 

“By doing so, we are helping children become better prepared for success in school — expanding their vocabularies, fostering their love of reading and helping them develop social-emotional learning skills.

“Illinois is now on a path to be the best state in the nation for families to raise young children and this administration will not rest until we reach every child in need.”
 
Voluntary home visiting programs provide eligible families with coaching and support, beginning with pregnancy and continuing throughout the first years of the lives of their children.

These programs currently serve 20,000 families in Illinois and will be expanded to an additional 12,500 families over the next five years as a result of the governor’s commitment.
 
Early childhood experts point to the first three years of a child’s life as critical developmentally; 80 percent of a child’s brain is developed by age 3.
 
This year, the administration will expand the program by an initial 500 families with $4.25 million in funding, as well as develop the plan to maximize federal dollars and expand the program to universal access for eligible families.

This planning will also include an assessment of compensation and other factors relevant to attracting and retaining the necessary staff for this expanded program.
 
The Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development will work closely with all relevant state agencies in this work, including the State Board of Education and the Departments of Human Services, Children and Family Services, Public Health and Healthcare and Family Services. 
 
The Governor directed agencies to build a plan that will accommodate the following approximate increases in enrollment:

• FY22: expand by 2,000 slots
• FY23: expand by 3,000 slots
• FY24: expand by 3,500 slots
• FY25: expand by 3,500 slots

In late December, the administration announced that it secured $40.2 million in federal funding over the next three years to improve early childhood programs across Illinois. Priorities for that funding include investment in the early childhood workforce through scholarships and increased funding to programs to raise staff salaries, particularly in rural areas of the state.
 
The state received notification last week that it will also receive $18.6 million per year in additional federal child care funding. Today, the governor also announced that he is directing the Department of Human Services to use the entirety of the additional funding to strengthen quality in child care programs. These funds will be used to build increased coaching and supports for child care professionals, expand training and skills for those caring for our youngest children and improve compensation to continue attracting quality teachers to the profession.
 
Also in December, the Governor convened a commission of leading early childhood experts to make recommendations to revamp the state’s approach to early childhood funding efforts to make them more equitable. He also announced that he was increasing child care reimbursement rates for all center and home-based providers statewide by 5 percent and by 20 percent in rural areas.
 
In the bipartisan state budget that the Governor signed into law in June, he increased early childhood funding by $50 million, expanded child care assistance to serve 20,000 more children and made the state’s largest investment ever in early childhood programs and facilities. 

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In Hawaii the home visit program was mandatory and child protective services were sometimes notified.

Estimated Cost of Bob Miller’s Local 150 Contract for the Algonquin Township Road District

From Illinois Leaks, republished with permission:

Algonquin Township Road District – Bob Miller’s gift to the taxpayers to be forever remembered -$1,797,232.00 and beyond

BY KIRK ALLEN ON JANUARY 24, 2020 • ( LEAVE A COMMENT )

McHenry Co. (ECWd)-

Bob Miller defending township government at a McHenry County Township Consolidation Task Force meeting.

The former Algonquin Township Road District Highway Commissioner, Bob Miller, signed a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) just weeks before leaving office after losing his re-election efforts. 

The signing of that agreement eludes his memory though as his position on the subject is he knows of no records relating to that agreement. 

We covered that memory loss in this article.

While many have focused their anger on the legal bills the current highway commissioner has incurred in relation to the termination of three employees on his first day in the office, and the subsequent legal battles of fighting a union contract, there are some valid reasons related to those expenses that need some explanations. 

However, before we get into those issues in Part II and Part III of this series, we will start from the beginning of the CBA and its impact on the taxpayers.

  • Employees will pay NO MORE than 10% of the cost for Health Insurance that must be provided by the Road District.  Taxpayers pick up the rest.
  • Employees pay NOTHING for Life Insurance that the Road District is required to provide. Taxpayers pick up that entire tab.
  • Cost of living increases by 1.5% every year for the first 4 years, 2% for the 5th year of the CBA.
  • Employees shall receive a $.25 cent per hour wage increase, per quarter on January 1, March 1, June 1, and September 1 until their wage reaches the highest rate of pay, $33.00 an hour.

For those that missed it, per quarter normally means just that, but not the case with the Bob Miller CBA. 

Rather than actually increasing wages every quarter, the contract outlines it increases on January 1, then again two months later on March 1, then again three months later, and again three months later.

One would have normally expected the elected official would have caught the increases happening sooner than each quarter, which is yet another increased burden on the taxpayers for years to come.

  • Nonunion current payroll for Road District workers was approximately $440,064.00.
  • Post-CBA payroll for Road District workers jumps to approximately $799,510.40 and will climb even higher based on the above-mandated increases every quarter and every year.
  • Cost of a union contract to the taxpayers based on current figures – $359.446.40 per year.

Run that $359.446.40 per year number out 5 years and the taxpayers have been provided a burden of over $1,797,232.00 Million dollars above what they would have had to pay without the CBA signed by Bob Miller as his parting gift after losing an election.

As if $1.797 Million dollars is not bad enough, it will be even higher when the applicable raises get included.

While we understand legal bills were substantial, few understand the real reason as to why Andrew Gasser took the steps he took. 

While it is easy to look back and judge his actions now that the results are known, key points have never been shared which provide what many will consider worthy reasoning, and yes, others will disagree.

But for now, the taxpayers can thank Bob Miller for what will become a multi-million dollar taxpayer burden they would have never had if it weren’t for the Union Contract.

Even if the legal bills on this matter were to exceed a million dollars, its a drop in the bucket compared to what the taxpayers will have to pay just in wage-related increases and pension benefits because of Miller’s actions.

We say Miller’s actions purposely. 

While we understand the employees can take the steps to unionize, we believe if there would have been proper collective bargaining that took place under the new administration it would have ensured to some degree a better deal for the taxpayers.

As it stands, Miller owns this one and please don’t forget, those new burdens on the taxpayers are tied to that lifetime pension benefit. 

That being the case, once again the taxpayers carry the freight as long as these people are working and or drawing a pension.

No matter what side of the ongoing Road District issues people lean towards, we can assure you Part II and Part III are going to put a lot of things in perspective and finally provide some answers as to why certain actions were taken by the current Road District Highway Commissioner.

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Wilcox Reports

From State Senator Craig Wilcox:

Senate Week in Review: Jan. 20 – 24, 2020

​​​​McHenry, IL. –A major issue with the state’s Automatic Voter Registration program is raising questions about the integrity of Illinois’ elections.

Meanwhile, as the Illinois General Assembly gears up for the spring session, and the process of filing new legislation begins, Senate Republicans continue to push for fair political maps.

Locally, I had the privilege of participating in an Eagle Scout ceremony recognizing the accomplishments of a special young man.

Non-citizens “accidentally” registered to vote

According to media reports, more than 500 people who are not citizens and are not legally eligible to vote in elections, were registered to vote through the state’s Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) system, which was signed into law in 2017.

The AVR system automatically registers voters when they apply for a driver’s license or state ID card, unless the individual opts out of the process.

Between July 2, 2018, and December 13, 2019, the registration information of 574 people was “improperly forwarded” to the Illinois State Board of Elections, according to a December 18, 2019 letter from the Illinois Secretary of State’s office to the elections board.

The 574 individuals had all checked a “no” box on a question asking if they were US citizens.

According to the Secretary of State’s office, the issue was due to a “programming error” involved with the registration process.

The Illinois State Board of Elections notified the local election authorities where the individuals reside, and has sent letters to the individuals themselves.

Of the improperly registered voters, 126 live in Chicago, 135 in other parts of Cook County, 56 in DuPage County, 54 in Lake County, 1 in Christian County, and 1 in Sangamon County.

All 19 Republican members of the Illinois Senate sent a letter to the Secretary of State’s office seeking further information about the issue.

The request included information on which locations erroneously registered voters, what investigatory steps would be taken and what would be done to prevent situations like this in the future. 

“It is imperative the residents of Illinois know their elections are being managed and conducted in a lawful manner, and ensuring our laws are being implemented correctly is a practical matter, not a partisan one,” the letter stated. 

Since being signed into law in August of 2017, the Illinois AVR system registered more than 600,000 individuals to vote.

Push for fair maps continues

As a new legislative session begins, Senate Republicans are again calling on the chamber to take action fixing the current partisan practice of drawing gerrymandered or politically-manipulated maps.

Every ten years, the state is required to redraw legislative and Congressional districts to match the results of the most recent census. Illinois currently has a “winner take all” system where one party has the complete power to draw the maps, which typically leads to confusing and strangely shaped or “gerrymandered” districts.

They note that the maps are typically drawn not to represent the people of Illinois and their communities best, but to offer the party in power the best chance at electoral success. The process is often criticized for allowing politicians to pick their districts, instead of the people choosing their representatives.

Unfortunately, numerous attempts throughout the years to fix the politically-biased system were blocked by legislative leaders and lawsuits. Still, the Illinois General Assembly does have the power to put the question of whether to fix the current system on the ballot for voters to decide. The Senators noted the concept of fair maps has broad bipartisan support, and that current Governor JB Pritzker expressed his support for the idea, along with former President Barack Obama making the issue a key component of his speech to the General Assembly in 2016.

Legislative process begins anew

State Senators and Representatives are finalizing their legislative agendas and filing their proposals in legislative form. With the spring legislative session set to begin on January 28th, lawmakers need to file their bills soon so the ideas can be acted upon in the coming months. 

The deadline for the introduction of substantive bills in the Senate, which deal with new laws and changes to existing laws, is on February 14th.

Those bills then have until March 27th to be heard in committees, and until April 24th to be called for a vote in the chamber. After that, the Senate considers legislation that has passed the House and appropriations or spending bills, which will form the state’s budget. The session is scheduled to adjourn on May 31st.

Recognizing an Eagle Scout

I had the pleasure recently to present a Senate Resolution to Conor Rada of Boy Scout Troop 679 for attaining the rank of Eagle Scout. The Eagle Scout Award is Scouting’s highest rank. The award ceremony highlights the courage, determination and perseverance of our youth, and gives me great hope for the future leaders of our communities. It was also great to see some “older” Eagle Scouts in attendance showing support. Only about 4 percent of Boy Scouts earn the Eagle Scout rank each year, so it is a phenomenal achievement.