Rep. Bunting’s Springfield news update for March 17

In this issue:

  • Unemployment at 4.5% in Illinois, 3.4% nationally
  • Illinois should balance its budget
  • House Republican Public Safety Legislation
  • Illinois headlines

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Illinois unemployment was 4.5% in January

The latest monthly unemployment report for Illinois showed that the unemployment rate dropped by one tenth of a percentage point to 4.5% in January. The national unemployment rate is lower, at 3.4%.

The report indicated that 14,300 jobs were created in Illinois during the month, with more than half of those in the government sector of the economy. Hospitality jobs – like hotels and restaurants – increased by 6300. The service sector saw a decline, as did information science and professional and business services.

Illinois needs to have truly balanced budgets

For too long Illinois has passed budgets that appear balanced, but turn out to be anything but. Accounting gimmicks and other tricks have led to the passage of large, unbalanced budgets that have driven the state deeper into debt and caused us to have one of the worst credit ratings in the nation. We need to reform our budgeting process to require that all state budgets are truly balanced.

To try to make this a reality, I am co-sponsoring an amendment to the Illinois Constitution which would require exactly that.

Currently the Illinois Constitution requires a balanced budget, but it gives the General Assembly the authority to determine the amount of funds that will be available. The amendment which I am supporting, HJRCA 12, would move that responsibility to the non-partisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, which tracks and reports on Illinois revenue and financial picture. By shifting this responsibility to a non-partisan agency we can get more realistic estimates of the funds available and have a better chance at a truly balanced budget.

House Republicans file package of public safety legislation

House Republicans have filed a series of bills aimed at improving public safety in Illinois. The package of bills focus on countering the growing problem of fentanyl, gun violence and the many problems of the 2021 SAFE-T Act.

One of these bills, HB 1466, would allow qualified retired police officers to be trained as school resource officers so they can be employed by schools who might wish to hire them. Another, HB 3203 would help safeguard the public from accidental contact with fentanyl by allowing pharmacists to sell fentanyl test strips over the counter, while HB 3210 would toughen penalties on those who knowingly sell any drug containing a detectable amount of fentanyl.

The package of bills also includes HB 3214, legislation requiring the Cook County State’s Attorney to file a written statement with the court any time a plea deal is accepted from a defendant charged with any offense having to do with the illegal use or possession of a firearm. House Bill 3209 would better protect victims of crime from being forced to testify at a hearing to deny a defendant pre-trial release. It is meant to correct one of the many flaws in the SAFE-T Act.

Our current bill backlog

When a vendor provides the state with goods and services, they submit the bill to the Illinois Comptroller for payment. The Comptroller processes the paperwork and pays the bill when funds are available in the state’s checking account. Currently the total amount of unpaid bills is $2,794,792,578. This figure changes daily. Last year at this time the state had $4.3 billion in bills awaiting payment. This only includes bills submitted to the Comptroller for payment, not unfunded debts like the state’s pension liability, which is well over $100 billion.

Illinois headlines

House GOP members renew calls for ethics reform in Springfield

‘ComEd Four’ bribery trial to put focus on ex-Speaker Madigan’s power, state’s blurry line between politics and crime

Illinois Supreme Court justices hear debate over the constitutionality of SAFE-T Act

Illinois SAT scores continue to drop since 2019