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Comptroller Counts $5.82 billion in Unpaid Bills


Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka announced the October 2014 count of unpaid state bills increased $500 million compared to last month. The massive $5.82 billion figure includes $2.72 billion in bills actually presented to the Comptroller for payment.  
An additional $2.2 billion was in the pipeline process throughout various State agencies as of Tuesday, September 30, and additional past-due spending reflected lagging vouchers in comparison with fall 2013. More information on Illinois’ unpaid bills is available on the Comptroller’s monthly spreadsheet of the State’s cash-flow condition, “Monthly Money Matters”.


Fuel Prices Down...Why? Thanks in Part to Fracking.
More than 2 million U.S. oil and gas wells outside of Illinois have utilized hydraulic-fracturing technology, leading to new nationwide production of more than 4 million barrels of oil per day. Fracking is responsible for allowing oil companies to unlock large reserves of oil and natural gas that were previously inaccessible. This technological advancement has led to a U.S. oil boom and has helped to lower gas prices in Illinois.
Meanwhile in Illinois, negotiations continue on new rules that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources will use to regulate future fracking in Illinois. The General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) met on Tuesday, October 14 in Chicago and learned that progress on finalizing these rules is being made.  The Committee will meet again on November 6 in Chicago, and its members express hope that the rules will be final by that date.  JCAR is a twelve-member bipartisan legislative panel that oversees the administrative rulemaking activity of the State.

Enough with Corporate Handouts

As reported in Crain's Chicago Business by Joe Cahill

Amazon Inc. is scheduled to open a warehouse in Illinois that will employ 1,000 people by 2017. But Governor Quinn has not told taxpayers what Illinois will give Amazon in return.

It's not really a question of what, but how much.A spokesman for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity acknowledges the state is likely to pick up a share of the costs of the new facility. “We expect that we will be negotiating a subsidy agreement with Amazon,” the spokesman says.

Click here to read more.


Is more money the answer for education?

Speaking to the Illinois Principals Association last week, State Superintendent of Schools Chris Koch decried what he called the drastically underfunded status of Illinois public schools and said that an allocation of an additional $3 billion to $4 billion per year in State school aid to public school districts is needed to fully fund the education budget.  The additional aid would be in addition to increased payments also due from taxpayers to the State-financed teacher pension system.  

State Spending on Education has Grown 61%

Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) reports, other than in fiscal year 2009, when Illinois received more than $1 billion in K-12 federal stimulus funds, state funding for education is at an all time high. State funding, which totaled $9.4 billion in fiscal year 2013, has grown 61%. In addition, average funding per pupil is also at an all time high at $11,842.

As always, if you have any questions or comments about the topics discussed in this newsletter, or any other part of state government, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (815) 547-3436 or by email at sosnowski@ilhousegop.org.
After two years of construction and reduced speeds on the I-90 expressway between Elgin and Rockford, all lanes are open.


State Representative Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford) was on hand for a ceremony removing construction barrels officially opening two new lanes on the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) to motorists between Elgin and Rockford. 


More information on Jane Addams construction and other state road projects can be found by visiting the official Illinois Tollway website.

Newly-Released Emails Confirm Politics Part of Troubled Quinn Program
“…we are trying to get the base out…”

On Wednesday, October 8, and Thursday, October 9, members of the Legislative Audit Commission met to evaluate and further investigate key audit findings in Governor Pat Quinn’s disgraced Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI). The Commission continued its inquiries into the scandal-ridden NRI program, a $54.5 million taxpayer-funded program. Revelations since the program’s operation in 2010 indicate that money officially allocated to violence-reduction initiatives in challenged neighborhoods may actually have been expended as political walking-around money.  The physical focus of the NRI program was on urban neighborhoods in the city of Chicago.  The NRI program peaked during the weeks just before and after the November 2010 gubernatorial election, in which Pat Quinn won election to a full term by a margin of less than 1 percent of the statewide electorate.

Prior to the meeting, on Tuesday, Oct. 7, former Quinn chief of staff Jack Lavin turned over personal emails subpoenaed by the Legislative Audit Commission that tie the 2010 election and Quinn’s campaign to the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative. In a Sept. 5, 2010 email to Ben Nuckels, then Quinn’s campaign manager, Lavin outlined strategies to appeal to African-American voters. “If we are trying to get the base out and that’s the key to our victory, we better prioritize correctly,” Lavin wrote. “The African-American community tends to break late so we have some time. The Gov’s Neighborhood Recovery Initiative will also help on the jobs and anti-violence messages.”

Day one of NRI audit hearings highlighted gross mismanagement and a serious lack of oversight. In a marathon 12-hour hearing of the Legislative Audit Commission in Chicago Wednesday, October 8, the Commission questioned several key players in Governor Quinn’s troubled Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI).
To read more click here.

 
Illinois Employers Warn of New Layoffs

New layoff notices indicate at least 600 jobs will be lost in Illinois during the fall of 2014. State law requires businesses with at least 75 full-time employees to provide their workers and the State with at least 60 days’ notice of pending plant closures of mass layoffs. For a list of potential layoffs and more information click here.

Illinois employment numbers have been sluggish since the “Great Recession” and our state’s poor economic growth policies do nothing to attract or retain businesses. Moody’s Standard and Poor’s ranked Illinois 50th in projected job growth, the worst rate of job growth of any state in the country for 2014. As a state, we must seek to reduce personal income taxes, fix the high costs of workers’ compensation, reduce business taxes to encourage growth, and reduce spending and free giveaways. We must move from a tax and spend policy to a pro-growth approach.

New Questions Raised about Quinn’s Illiana Expressway Project

The proposed 47 –mile Illiana Expressway would connect Indiana’s Interstate 65 with Illinois’ Interstate 55 near Wilmington, Illinois.  A high-speed, limited-access highway, expected to be operated by a private-sector partner, would charge a toll for trucks and passenger cars. The project has become a top priority for the Governor despite questions over funding and whether or not the Illiana Corridor project is necessary. Part of the financing for the project is expected to come from the tolls that will be charged to motorists, but some of the cash flow may have to come from the State’s hard-pressed Road Fund.
 
Opponents of the $1.5 billion road projects argue that the financial resources required to complete this project could benefit other much needed transportation projects. According to an Infrastructure Report Card, Illinois roads and bridges are currently rated a C- which is reflective of chronic delayed maintenance and under investment across most major categories like roads, transit, waterways, and rail.
 
To read more click here.


As always, if you have any questions or comments about the topics discussed in this newsletter, or any other part of state government, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (815) 547-3436 or by email at sosnowski@ilhousegop.org.

Rockford, IL...Earl Williams, President of the Winnebago-Boone Farm Bureau® and fellow board members presented the 2014 Friend of Agriculture Award to State Representative Joe Sosnowski along with other local legislators on Wednesday, October 15, at the Illinois Machine Shed restaurant in Rockford, IL. 


The Friend of Agriculture Award honors State and Federal legislators who understand the importance of Illinois Agriculture. Legislators receiving this award recognize the far-reaching benefits of Illinois’ agricultural products and the importance farmers play in providing quality food, fiber, and fuel for our State, Nation, and World. 

The 2014 Friend of Agriculture Award was presented to Congressman Adam Kinzinger, 16th District (represented by John Walsh, Field Representative); Congresswomen Cheri Bustos, 17th District (unable to attend); State Senator Steve Stadelman, 34th District; State Senator Dave Syverson, 35th District (unable to attend); State Senator Tim Bivins, 45th District (unable to attend); State Representative John Cabello, 68th District; State Representative Joe Sosnowski, 69th District; State Representative Robert Pritchard, 70th District; and State Representative Brian Stewart, 89th District. 
 

Photo Caption: The 2014 Friend of Agriculture Award presented by the Winnebago-Boone Farm Bureau on Wednesday, October 15th at the Illinois Machine Shedd Restaurant, Rockford, IL to the following legislators (L to R): State Representative Robert Pritchard, 70th District; State Senator Steve Stadelman, 34th District; Earl Williams, President of the Winnebago-Boone Farm Bureau®; State Representative Brian Stewart, 89th District; State Representative John Cabello, 68th District; Representative Joe Sosnowski, 69th District; and John Walsh, Field Rep. on behalf of Congressman Adam Kinzinger, 16th District.
SYCAMORE – Local legislators have invited several state agencies to DeKalb to help residents take advantage of programs to lower their mortgages, avoid foreclosures and keep their homes. The program which includes seminars and one-on-one counseling is being hosted by State Representatives Bob Pritchard (R-Sycamore) and Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford), and Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford).

“Too many northern Illinois families are still being affected by the mortgage crisis and struggling to make mortgage payments and keep their homes,” Pritchard said. “The Illinois Foreclosure Prevention team of state agencies will provide counselors, explain the foreclosure process, offer information about state programs, and give suggestions on avoiding costly foreclosure.”

The event will be held on Saturday September 27 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Community Outreach Building, 2500 N. Annie Glidden Road in DeKalb. Participating will be the Illinois Housing Development Authority, Illinois Department of Employment Security, Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation and Attorney General.

To receive the most helpful counseling, you should bring a number of personal documents, Pritchard advised. “Bring your mortgage statement, tax returns for the past two years, two months of recent paystubs and bank statements, documentation of other income, recent utility bills, and your budget of household expenses,” he said. “Don’t worry if you don’t have all these documents on September 27, the counselors can still help you get the process started.”

“The Mortgage Relief Project will offer important advice and one-on-one counseling for strained Illinois homeowners who are trying to keep their homes,” Sosnowski said. “I strongly encourage all residents who are behind on or struggling to make mortgage payments to attend the seminar and gain access to programs available in Illinois that can prevent foreclosure.”

More information is available by contacting the Department of Financial and Professional Regulations at 1-800-532-8785, Rep. Pritchard at (815) 748-3494, or Rep. Sosnowski at (815) 547-3436.
ROCKFORD – Domestic violence legislation sponsored by State Representative Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford) to allow prosecutors to charge repeat domestic abusers with a higher-level felony was signed into law on Monday, August 18, 2014.

House Bill 4653 provides that any prior convictions for domestic battery, or for any offense which is substantially similar, that occurs in another jurisdiction will trigger penalty enhancements.

Activating higher felony penalties for those charged with domestic abuse will give prosecutors more tools to stop abuse, Sosnowski says.

“These enhanced penalties seek to prevent domestic abusers who show a longstanding pattern of violence, despite the intervention of the criminal justice system, from potentially victimizing more people,” says Sosnowski.

Under current law, a prior conviction for domestic battery or a substantially similar offense within Illinois may trigger penalty enhancements; however, a prior conviction for domestic battery or a substantially similar offense that occurred in another state may not trigger the same penalty enhancements. This bill will make the statute consistent so that an alleged abuser's complete criminal history is taken into consideration when determining charges.

The idea for this legislation was brought forward to Rep. Sosnowski by Winnebago County State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato.

“Domestic Violence is a priority concern for the Office of the State’s Attorney. Seeking appropriate penalties for offenders is a goal; whether a prior conviction is in Illinois or another jurisdiction, it should count,” Bruscato says.

For more information please visit www.joesosnowski.org, or contact State Rep. Joe Sosnowski at (815) 547-3436.