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Governor Signs Bipartisan Higher Education Bill
In a rare showing of bipartisanship in Springfield on April 22, the House and Senate approved SB 2059, which provided $600 million in emergency stopgap funding for Illinois’ colleges and universities, and for Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants for students from lower income brackets. On Monday, April 25, Governor Bruce Rauner signed the bill into law, making it possible for the Comptroller’s office to begin transferring lifeline funding to Illinois’ nine universities, 12 campuses, 39 community college districts and approximately 120,000 MAP grant recipients.

The money provided by SB 2059 will help keep operations going and enable students to remain active in classroom learning. Full funding awaits continued work by the General Assembly to enact constitutional balanced budgets for FY16 and FY17. Illinois higher education has not received operational funding from the State since July 1, 2015, when FY16 began.

Sandack Participates in Career Day at El Sierra Elementary School
On Friday I had a great time participating in “Career Day” at El Sierra Elementary School in Downers Grove. I had an opportunity to talk with Mrs. O’Connor’s 1st grade class and with Mrs. Claver’s 3rd grade class about Illinois government. With the younger students I explained the different layers and roles of government. We also discussed the importance of voting and being an informed and involved citizen. The students had a lot of great questions and overall, everyone had a great time and a lot was learned about our processes.
The older students came up with an idea for a bill and we had a mock session where the bill was amended, debated and voted upon. The students decided they would like a bill that stated that kids should not have to wear helmets while riding a bike. The bill was amended, and a good debate and exchange of opinions took place. While Mrs. Claver made a very compelling argument in favor of children wearing bicycle helmets, when the “bill” came up for a final vote, it was approved. We all had a good time during the mock session, and the students learned the process of how a bill becomes a law.

Governor Rauner Organizes Task Force against Health Care Fraud
The task force, created earlier in April 2016 by executive order, has been asked to look into possible fraud, waste, and abuse in state-administered health care programs. Illinois taxpayers pay $19 billion a year to administer and pass through payments on state-run health care programs. Most of this money is paid directly by state taxpayers to Illinois, and a large subset is paid through federal taxes paid by Illinoisans to Washington, D.C.-based programs in which both Illinois and the federal government collaborate and provide funds.

Rauner has asked the task force to review the best practices currently used by the private sector to examine and control soaring health care costs. Other states’ efforts to reduce Medicaid fraud and other forms of public sector health care abuse are also to be looked at. The task force will work with data managers skilled at “big data” analytics to uncover statistical patterns indicative of non-optimal health care billing and spending.

The task force has been asked to write a report that will:
  • Make recommendations for policy changes the State needs to consider 
  • Refer specific cases of wrongful reimbursements to authorities to seek recovery on behalf of Illinois taxpayers.
IL Comptroller Presents Budget Impasse and Financial Information at Lisle Budget Town Hall 
Close to 100 people attended a Budget Town Hall meeting held last week on Tuesday on the campus of Benedictine University in Lisle. I was joined at the event by State Representative Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville) and Senator Michael Connelly (R- Wheaton). State Representative Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) coordinated the event but could not attend due to a family emergency.  In addition to a very informative presentation by our State Comptroller, a question and answer period was included on the agenda.
Munger did a great job bringing the severity of Illinois’ financial crisis into focus for the attendees of the event, by comparing the state’s obligations and debt in line with what an Illinois family could experience. The chart to the right provides an “apples to apples” look at the depth and severity of the state’s financial crisis and drives home the point that we must stop spending money we don’t have. For the purposes of the comparison, six zeros were removed for every state vs home finance item.

Maker of Specialty Polymers Consolidates Jobs in Chicagoland
A materials maker, which operates plants in Batavia, Illinois and in greater Cleveland, has announced plans to close its Ohio plant and to consolidate operations in Illinois. The move is expected to be complete by the end of 2016.Techmer PM’s Batavia plant compounds chemicals into additive concentrates, which are then sold to end-manufacturers. The 26 Techmer employees currently based in northern Ohio will be offered jobs in Batavia, Illinois or at the firm’s facility in eastern Tennessee. Techmer PM also announced that their Batavia plant had been designated as a “Midwest Center of Excellence.” Techmer PM currently operates seven production facilities throughout the U.S. 

New Study Confirms that Illinoisans Pay Highest Property Taxes in Nation
The study, published by CoreLogic, compares property taxes paid with the value of the real property being taxed. According to CoreLogic, the median property tax paid nationwide is 1.31% of the property being taxed, while the median Illinois tax is twice that, or 2.67% of value. This measurement scale makes Illinois the highest-property-tax state in the U.S., with New York second at 2.53% of value.

The CoreLogic data indicates that if an Illinois homeowner is occupying a house valued at $200,000, the homeowner will be paying a median annual property tax bill of $5,340. As always, individual homeowners’ experiences may vary. Different localities within Illinois will have different property tax rates; and within localities, different property owners may enjoy the effect of specific property tax relief measures. For example, senior citizen homeowners benefit from the Senior Citizens Homestead Property Tax Exemption, which automatically subtracts some of the value from the assessed value of the senior citizen’s house before the tax bill is generated.

According to CoreLogic, neighboring states have lower property tax rates than Illinois- 1.95% in Wisconsin, 1.69% in Iowa, 1.26% in Missouri, and 0.88% in Indiana. CoreLogic’s data, published this week, agrees with previously public state-by-state surveys by firms such as WalletHub, which have also found Illinois to be one of the worst states in the nation.

Sandack Honors Local Eagle Scout with House Certificate
Yesterday it was my pleasure to attend the Eagle Court of Honor for Emmet Elisha. This bright young man from Downers Grove’s Boy Scout Troop 80 was honored for achieving the highest rank in scouting, and as part of the ceremony I presented him with a certificate of achievement from the IL House of Representatives. For his Eagle project, Emmet constructed two self-watering garden boxes at St. Joseph School. Students from the school’s science classes will benefit from Emmet’s permanent community improvement project by having a new opportunity to learn about the natural processes in a controlled environment. Congratulations Emmet, for attaining this prestigious rank in scouting!

First of its Kind Veterans Summit Held in DuPage County
Last Wednesday Republican Leader Jim Durkin and State Representative Christine Winger hosted a Veterans Summit in Bloomingdale. While a scheduling conflict prevented me from attending, the event brought together more than 30 organizations that had never met together as a group. The purpose behind the event was to share information and best practices with organizations, agencies and institutions that come into contact with veterans. While there are many programs and services available to veterans transitioning back to civilian life, many veterans are not taking advantage of the resources available to them. Dialogue at the summit focused on how to raise awareness in an effort to reach and help more veterans. Those who attended the summit agreed it was very worthwhile, and plans are in the works to put this type of summit together in other counties across the state.

Upcoming Events in District 81
Plans continue to come together for a full summer and fall of free community outreach events that will be sponsored by my office. Please note the following dates, and attend any or all of these helpful and informational events:
  • June 4: Children’s Safety Expo, 9:00 AM until noon, Lakeview Junior High School, 701 Plainfield Road in Downers Grove. This event will feature over 40 participants with demonstrations throughout the morning. Back by popular demand will be the Traveling World of Reptiles show at 10:00 AM and a Touch-A-Truck area where children can see and touch about 25 different vehicles, including police squad cars, ambulances, a SWAT vehicle and several large trucks and utility vehicles. A medical helicopter will be part of the display from 9:30-11:30 AM.
  • June 21: Senior Fair
  • August 6: Document Shredding Event
  • August 13: Understanding and Challenging your Property Tax Assessment
  • August 31: Jobs Fair
  • September 10: Veterans Fair
Please call my Downers Grove office at (630) 737-0504 or visit ronsandack.org to learn more about these and other events that could be added to the schedule.


This week State Representative Ron Sandack Joined Dupage County legislators and Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger for a Budget Town Hall meeting on the campus of Benedictine University in Lisle. Close to 100 people attended the informational event which included a question and answer session. If you could not attend, you may watch a complete video of the event through the link above.

To enlarge the image to the left, please click on it.

After months of political gamesmanship that made a mockery of the serious issue of property tax relief, on Friday lawmakers finally approved a real bill that seeks to freeze property taxes for most Illinoisans.

Bill co-sponsor Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) said HB 696 seeks to immediately freeze property taxes for all non-home-rule units of government, including schools, by eliminating taxing bodies’ ability to take advantage of a law that allows for annual tax increases. “The Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL) has become a tool that governments use to tap more money each year regardless of need,” said Sandack. “Over time, this has led to citizens being completely overtaxed to the point where some are losing their homes.”

Beginning in levy year 2015, HB 696 would reset the PTELL extension limitation annual escalator from today’s level of 5% or the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to 0%. For taxpayers, this means that units of government may not take additional tax dollars from residents without first passing a referendum. “Taxpayers are at their limit, and they are desperate for the kind of tax relief that this bill will provide,” Sandack said.

A similar bill, HB 695, which would have provided for a statewide property tax freeze for all taxing bodies, was defeated earlier in the week. While Sandack said he would have preferred that HB 695 be adopted, the measure simply did not have the required number of votes needed for passage. “HB 695 would have preempted home-rule status, so a supermajority vote, or 71 votes, was needed for passage,” said Sandack. “Obviously the best outcome would be for every Illinoisan to be taxed under the same PTELL guidelines, but given the political realities of Illinois and especially Chicago, we had to go with a version that excluded home-rule communities. With home-rule units excluded, the bill only required a simple majority of votes for passage. We can still consider the passage of HB 696 as a big win for taxpayers in most Illinois communities.”

Because bills must receive three formal readings before a vote can occur, Sandack said HBs 695 and 696 were the only two legitimate property tax freeze bills brought to the floor of the House this year for a proper vote. A Democrat initiative in the form of an amendment to a bill on 2nd Reading was brought for an insincere vote at least 15 times throughout the year. The bill sponsor never moved his bill to 3rd Reading for an official vote. “The Democrats were poking fun at a very serious matter, and held their show votes to gather fodder for campaign season,” Sandack said. “It was all part of the drama that unfolded in Springfield at a time when we should have been focusing on a budget and on bills that help the people we are elected to serve.”

HB 696 is now pending in the Senate, where Senate President John Cullerton has signed on as the Chief Sponsor. “I hope the President of the Senate recognizes how important property tax relief is and agrees to allow the bill to be fully vetted and considered and considered before the entire Senate,” said Sandack.
House Bill Deadline Brings a Flurry of Activity
Friday marked the deadline for all substantive bills to be approved in the House if they have a chance of becoming a law this year. Whereas a few weeks ago we spent the most of our time in committees vetting bills, last week we spent long hours on the House floor considering those bills that received a favorable vote at the committee level. Just a few of the more noteworthy bills include:
  • HB 696 (approved 71-31): I am a House a co-sponsor of this important bill which freezes property taxes for citizens living in non-Home Rule Communities. A similar version of the bill which would have frozen property taxes statewide was defeated earlier in the week. HB 695 eliminates taxing bodies’ ability to raise taxes annually, by setting the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law’s annual escalator to 0% rather than at 5% or the consumer price index. HB 696 and the similar initiative HB 695 were the only two real property tax relief bills brought to the floor this year for final votes. Over the last several months a politically-motivated and insincere tax freeze bill was brought to the floor on 2nd reading many times; not once did the Democrat sponsor of the bill bring the legislation to the floor for a final vote. When HB 696 was debated on the House floor I was very outspoken in my support of this genuine property tax relief bill. You can watch my comments here.
  • HB 4501 (approved 93-19): I am also a co-sponsor of this bill, which expands the power already enjoyed by DuPage County with regard to consolidation. DuPage County is a model for efficiency in government, and with the approval of their pilot program for the consolidating and elimination of redundant and unnecessary layers of government, officials in DuPage have estimated their savings at:
    • $116 million through shared services
    • $20 million through reforms to employee benefits for county employees
    • $6.9 million through a partnership with Kane County for youth detention services which allowed for the closing of the county’s youth home
Illinois currently has more than 7,000 individual units of government; the highest in the nation, and the provisions of HB 4501 will go far in reducing the inefficiencies that plague our government systems. The elements of HB 4501were also included in the list of recommendations recently brought forward by the state’s Task Force on Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates.
  • HB 5522 (approved 90-13): By adding a new layer of transparency to units of government, this bill addresses corruption and waste by requiring local governments and school districts with operating budgets of at least $1 million to maintain websites that provide access to documents about budgets, spending and operations. By making these documents available on line, costs associated with records requests made through the Freedom of Information Act will also be reduced.
  • SB 2059 (approved 106-2): A stopgap measure that allows Illinois’ universities and community colleges to remain open during the budget impasse was approved on Friday morning. The legislation also provides funding for one semester of Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants. Through an amendment to SB 2059, $600 million in existing Educational Assistance Fund (EAF) money will be utilized to provide short-term funding for schools that face an uncertain future due to the General Assembly’s inability to pass a budget. While each public four-year institution will receive an allocation that will see them through the end of August, the Illinois Community College Board will receive a lump sum of $74,142,300 to disperse to struggling community colleges across the state. The Illinois Senate also approved the bill on Friday, and Governor Rauner said he will sign it right away.
  • HJRCA5 (approved 95-10): This legislation would put a question to voters this November to let them determine if the office of Lieutenant Governor should be eliminated in Illinois. Specifically, the office would be eliminated with the term that would begin in 2019. A similar measure failed in the Senate last week, so the future of this ballot initiative is uncertain.
Mark your Calendar for Upcoming Sandack Events
Community outreach is an important element of the work I do as your State Representative. Please mark your calendars for these upcoming events:

This Week
  • Tuesday, April 26: Budget Town Hall Featuring Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger, 7:00-9:00 PM, Room 411 Goodwin Hall on the campus of Benedictine University in Lisle. I will partner with State Representatives Jeanne Ives and Grant Wehrli and Senator Michael Connelly for this event. Comptroller Munger will discuss the budget impasse and other state financial topics and will take questions from the audience.
  • Wednesday, April 27: Veterans Summit, 8:30 AM until 1:00 PM at the Bloomingdale Golf Club, 181 Glen Ellyn Road in Bloomingdale. I will join House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, State Representative Christine Winger and other lawmakers for a discussion and informational presentation about resources available to new veterans and how to improve their access to services they have earned. Harry Sawyer of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and other experts will be the primary presenters at this event.
Summer Events
  • June 4: Children’s Safety Expo, 9:00 AM until noon, Lakeview Junior High School, 701 Plainfield Road in Downers Grove. This event will feature over 40 participants with demonstrations throughout the morning. Back by popular demand will be the Traveling World of Reptiles show at 10:00 AM and a Touch-A-Truck area where children can see and touch about 25 different vehicles, including police squad cars, ambulances, a SWAT vehicle and several large trucks and utility vehicles. A medical helicopter will be part of the display from 9:30-11:30 AM.
  • June 21: Senior Fair
  • August 6: Document Shredding Event
  • August 13: Understanding and Challenging your Property Tax Assessment
  • August 31: Jobs Fair
  • September 10: Veterans Fair
District 81 Residents Participate in “Page for a Day” Program in Springfield
It’s always a special treat when families from the 81st District visit the State Capitol. Last week it was my pleasure to host Jack Durvis of Downers Grove and Vivian Lo and Ellie Coderee of Lisle in Springfield.

These three bright children got to experience Springfield politics up close by participating in the Page for a Day Program. If your child would like to view the House of Representatives in action from the House floor, please let my Springfield office assist with scheduling a visit. You may reach that office at (217) 782-6578.

Bipartisan Bill Sets New Standard for Health Insurance Networks in Illinois
Bipartisan legislation was filed last week that establishes new standards for adequacy, accessibility and transparency of all health insurance plans sold in the state. HB 6562 would require insurance companies to file specific information with the Illinois Department of Insurance before marketing any health plan, including details about the professionals and institutions covered by the plan, and a requirement that “in-network” physicians and hospitals be located a reasonable distance from insured people’s homes. Perhaps most important, this bill requires insurance companies to let insured people know in a timely manner when a physician or care facility is no longer in-network. Especially in rural areas where people already drive long distances to receive medical care, these new provisions add a much-needed new layer of consumer protection. The bill is expected to be considered in May of this year.

Lawmakers in Home Districts this Week; Return for Session’s Final Month on May 3
When session adjourned on Friday afternoon, lawmakers returned to their home districts, where we will spend this week tending to the needs of our constituents locally. When we return to Springfield on May 3, we will return to committees, where we will begin hearing Senate Bills and were successful in that chamber this year. Similarly, the Senate will spend the month of May considering the bills we approved up to this point. May is the month when the next fiscal year’s budget is traditionally presented and approved. This is certainly a non-traditional year, in that committees have been meeting to discuss the Fiscal Year 2017 budget while we still have no FY 16 budget on the books. It is my sincere hope that the General Assembly and the Governor can come to an agreement on spending and revenue. Taxpayers will benefit if we can finish all of our work by the normal adjournment date for the spring session of May 31.
In an effort to keep the doors open at struggling Illinois universities during this unprecedented budget impasse, State Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) has signed on as a co-sponsor of a stopgap measure to provide emergency funding.

HB 2344 would utilize $600 million in available Educational Assistance Fund (EAF) money to provide a short-term solution for universities that face an uncertain future due to the lack of a state budget. “This is a creative solution that solves an immediate crisis without adding to Illinois’ debt,” said Sandack. “We can no longer wait for a budgetary solution to help our state-funded universities, as we’ve been told that one institution is preparing to close its doors on May 1st and others have said they cannot guarantee they will be able to offer a fall semester. The problem is intensified by the May 1 date when all students must declare where they will attend school in the fall.”

Through HB 2344, almost $360 million in EAF money would be channeled to Chicago State, Governors State, Northeastern Illinois, Southern Illinois, Eastern Illinois, Illinois State, Northern Illinois and Western Illinois Universities, the University of Illinois and the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy to cover expenses incurred through the end of August. In September, tuition and room and board dollars for the fall semester flow to these institutions, providing them with much-needed revenue to cover their basic operational expenses.”

In addition, close to $200 million would also be allocated from the EAF to fund one semester of Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants for students from lower income brackets. “Our institutions of higher learning have not received a dime of their state funding since July 1 of last year, and we cannot allow our college students to be caught in the crossfire of the budget battle,” Sandack said.

A third component of HB 2344 would provide the universities with an opportunity to save millions through reforms to the existing procurement code. “Obviously, the best course of action would be the immediate approval of a balanced budget by the General Assembly,” said Sandack. “But in the absence of a budget, this measure will fund university operations across the state until their own funding streams produce revenue.”
State Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) will partner next week with State Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger, Senator Michael Connelly (R-Wheaton) and State Representatives Grant Wherli (R-Naperville) and Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) for a Budget Town Hall to be held on Tuesday, April 26 at Benedictine University in Lisle. The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place from 7:00-9:00 PM in Room 411 of Goodwin Hall on the University’s campus at 5700 College Road.

Munger will discuss the budget stalemate and other financial issues, and a question and answer period will be a part of the event. “It’s my pleasure to participate in this informative meeting and I encourage my constituents to come and learn about the financial state of Illinois, the budget impasse and how these issues affect them,” said Sandack. “The Q & A period should be especially beneficial, and I thank the Comptroller for making herself available to field questions from the public.”
As Budget Crunch Deepens, Republicans offer Real Solutions
The State has now entered its tenth month without a balanced budget, making Illinois the only state that has not yet enacted a spending plan for the current fiscal year. No plans have been enacted to control and continue State spending during this period. Many providers of essential social healthcare services, including vital services for seniors, veterans, persons with challenges relating to mental health or developmental disability, and victims of domestic and sexual violence, have been affected by this lack of budget appropriations. Many of these entities have been forced by cash-flow realities to reduce services. Some of these service providers have been forced to layoff personnel and in some cases to completely shut their doors.

In this impasse, House Republicans and House Democrats have responded in different ways. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin has joined Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno in co-sponsoring HB 6553, a “lifeline” bill. Supported by members of the House Republican Caucus, HB 6553 would allocate $1.3 billion in funding to providers of community services in areas where it is most needed. The measure is backed by transfers of real money, including proceeds to the State from immediate pension reform measures. HB 6553 is backed by Governor Bruce Rauner, who has assured General Assembly members of both parties that he will participate in negotiations to finalize what spending items should be covered in this measure. The Governor has told Illinois House Members and Senators that he expects to be able to sign a “lifeline” bill similar to HB 6553 if it conforms to the broad outlines of this proposal, is passed by both houses of the General Assembly, and is transmitted to his desk.

In contrast to the Republicans’ lifeline proposal, last week House Democrats filed House Amendment #1 to SB 2046. SB 2046 attempts to deal with the deepening crisis facing Illinois social service by spending more than $3 billion in completely imaginary money. SB 2046 allocates these appropriations, from an empty bank account, to state stakeholders from non-existent General Revenue Fund cash flows.

Like other Illinois elected officials, Governor Bruce Rauner is bound by the balanced-budget requirements of the Constitution of Illinois. Governor Rauner’s office has told the General Assembly that the Governor cannot and will not sign SB 2046 as amended. Although this statement has been made, the Illinois House voted for SB 2046 on Tuesday, April 12 on partisan lines with a roll call of 65-42-3. The bill was sent to the Illinois Senate for further debate.

Comptroller Tells Lawmakers to Get in Line like Everyone Else for Payments
For many months, Democrats in Springfield have tried to spend more state money without a budget and revenue source for their additional appropriations. This, of course, was a political strategy. Rather than actually working on badly needed reforms and honestly working to complete a real budget, they continued to pass new spending bills -without a revenue source- so they could say they were trying to take care of people. Through their actions, Democrats pretended they were funding vital services, even though there was no new money for their new spending. How could they logically support new spending without new money? They repeatedly said the Comptroller could simply determine what bills to pay and what bills not to pay. Well, the Democrats should have been careful what they asked for.

Over the weekend, Comptroller Leslie Munger announced that beginning immediately, payments for lawmaker and constitutional officer salaries would be put into the same queue as the state’s current $7 billion backlog of bills. According to Munger, this would result in a delay in payment for legislators and statewide elected officials of at least two months and perhaps even longer. Munger prioritizes the bills in the backlog, so it will be up to her discretion to determine when to pay them.

Manar Education Funding Reform Bill Clears Key Senate Committee
As promised last week, I have my eye on Senator Andy Manar’s latest attempt to rewrite the school funding formula in a way that would take state funding away from suburban school districts and channel those funds to Chicago and downstate schools. Last week his legislation, Amendment #1 to SB 231, was approved by the Senate Executive Committee in a 10-1 vote with six members voting “present.” I was disappointed to learn that the Senate appears to be moving quickly on this bill since we do not fully understand the true impact the legislation would have on each individual school district. The Illinois State Board of Education has been asked to provide this critical information and their analysts are working on it. I find it irresponsible for lawmakers to vote on a bill before they know exactly how their constituents back home would be affected by it. Manar’s bill will now be heard on the Senate floor, and if approved it will move over to the House for consideration.
Meanwhile, last week the House Education Funding Task Force met again, and two panels of school superintendents spoke in detail about their local struggles involving funding. I have served on that task force since its inception, and as your voice on that committee, I will fight to protect the local tax dollars we spend to ensure our children have quality schools. I fully agree that we must restore fairness to education funding in Illinois, but I will not support a measure that pits school districts against each other and sends more resources to struggling districts at the expense of DuPage taxpayers.

While a fair and affordable school funding solution is found, a simple first step would be to provide our schools with 100% of the funding they are currently promised through the Illinois statutes. Governor Rauner has presented a proposal which would increase K-12 funding by $120 million next year. His plan, which I support, would, for the first time in seven years, fully fund the foundation level of $6,119 per student, essentially ending the current practice of “proration,” where dollars delivered represent only a percentage of what was promised. Just giving schools the money they deserve would go far in helping districts meet their financial obligations. When Governor Rauner took office, schools were funded at a prorated rate of 89%. Last year he raised that funding level to 92% and pledged at the time that his goal was full funding of the foundation level. At a minimum, our districts certainly deserve this.

Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) announces further Increase in State Jobless Rate
The U-3 unemployment rate is limited to persons who are participants in the labor force, are completely unemployed, and are engaged in an ongoing search for employment. Over the most recently calculated 30-day period, this rate increased 0.1% from the U-3 rate of 6.4% in February to 6.5% in March 2016. The March 2016 jobless rate was 60 basis points above the comparative year-earlier Illinois rate of 5.9% in March 2015, and was 150 basis points above the nationwide unemployment rate of 5.0%. During the past 12 months, the nationwide jobless rate has declined by 0.5%, from 5.5% to 5.0%; but during the same period the unemployment rate faced by Illinois has increased by 0.6%, from 5.9% to 6.5%. In addition to U-3 unemployment, other ways exist to count additional unemployed and under-employed Illinois workers. These alternative pathways, such as U-5 and U-6, generate even higher numbers for Illinois joblessness.

The IDES reported that Illinois’ weakest employment sector in terms of net jobs created/lost was once again manufacturing, with a net loss of 3,100 jobs in March 2016. This job loss included not only the closures of entire plants and divisions, as publicly reported under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining (WARN) Act, but also the marginal loss of single headcount positions that are found to be redundant. In cases like these, a single factory worker or members of a single work station are let go and not replaced.

Illinois actually increased the total number of nonfarm payroll jobs posted within State lines in March 2016 by 14,700 job positions over February, with strength concentrated in leisure, hospitality, construction, and financial activities. Despite this increase, U-3 unemployment rates increased in line with the return of additional adult Illinoisans to the labor force and their resumption of an active search for work. Illinois, in March 2016, remained 46,100 jobs short of the peak employment level achieved by employers and employees within the State in September 2000. Although more than fifteen years have taken place since this peak employment month, the State continues to generate fewer nonfarm payroll jobs than it had in that long-ago month.

March Private-Sector Layoff Filings total nearly 900 Illinois Jobs
Under the Illinois Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, large employers (defined as employers with 75 or more full-time employees) must make a public filing of intent to reduce their workforces by at least 250 employees or by at least 33% of their workforce. Unless the employers have been forced through circumstances outside its control to shut down at once, the WARN Act requires them to provide at least 60 days’ advance notice of the layoff.

The largest single job loss posted in March 2016 was posted by Stoller Wholesale, a wholesaler of alcoholic beverages. Stoller was merged into a nationwide alcohol distribution holding company in 2013. After a transition period, the new parent holding company (Dallas-based Glazer’s) has announced its intent to shut down the 170-job Stoller warehouse in Elk Grove Village. The closure on June 1 was explained as being due to the redundancy of Stoller’s to the parent firm’s operations. Stoller’s WARN Act posting, like the other ones on this list, was filed in March 2016 and is included in the month-long WARN Act summary.

The largest single March 2016 announcement of lost Illinois manufacturing jobs was posted by Assembled Products, a unit of Wisconsin-based Jason Incorporated; Assembled Products is a maker of metal stampings. Eighty-one Assembled Products workers are expected to be laid off in Buffalo Grove, starting May 15. At the Chicago facility of paper packaging-maker WestRock, 49 jobs are expected to be permanently moved starting May 11. WestRock has formed a joint venture with a Mexican packaging company, a move that is expected to include the transfer of some the firm’s manufacturing work to its partner. Most of the job losses published this month were geographically located in the Chicago area.

DuPage Student Shadows Rep. Sandack for a Day in Springfield
Last week I spent a day with a Hinsdale Central student who was completing an assignment from her AP Government and Politics Class. She interviewed me to learn about the responsibilities of a lawmaker, watched me engage with lobbying groups that visited my office, and attended all of my committee meetings before joining me on the House floor as an official page for the afternoon. This bright young lady got a good look at how Springfield operates, both behind the scenes and in public session. I’m certain she learned a lot about the process and I wish her well as she finishes her senior year of high school.

Number of Confirmed Illinois Zika Virus Cases Hits Double Digits
The tenth case of Zika has just been confirmed in Illinois, with two of the cases occurring among pregnant women. Infection with the mosquito-borne virus has been tied to microcephaly in fetuses, stillbirths, miscarriages, and the adult neurological condition Guillain-Barre syndrome. Public health officials in some Latin American countries are so alarmed by the rapidly spreading outbreak that they have taken the extraordinary step of advising women across their countries not to attempt to have a child. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control is advising women who are pregnant, or who are attempting to conceive, to avoid travel to Zika-affected areas.

The attention of U.S. public health authorities is now moving toward the possibility that Zika-infected mosquitoes may enter the United States. As of April 6, all 346 confirmed cases of Zika virus infection are associated with travel, and no confirmed cases are associated with transmission from mosquito to person within the United States. It is not yet known whether it is possible for infected humans to bring the virus back into the United States and become vectors of the infection through getting bitten by American mosquitoes. Experts are calling for redoubled efforts within the United States to reopen public health programs aimed at strict mosquito control, a pathway to public health that was partly abandoned in the 50 U.S. states after the invention of DDT sharply reduced transmission of malaria and yellow fever in the 1940s.

New Proposal Would Charge Illinois Drivers by the Mile
With the familiar “gas tax” generating inadequate funds to maintain Illinois roads, bridges, and highways, increasing attention is being given in Springfield to the enactment of a new, supplemental tax on mileage and the right to operate a motor vehicle. The proposal was advocated last week by Democrat Senate President John Cullerton. However, due to a barrage of negative feedback, on Friday he backed away from the bill and said he would not be advancing it this year.

Under the Cullerton proposal, owners of motor vehicles licensed in Illinois would be asked to choose between three separate taxes, each intended to collect 1.5 cents per mile. The amount charged and collected would rise or fall depending on the level of surveillance the driver would agree to have imposed on his or her motor vehicle, with the highest level of taxation tied to the lowest level of surveillance. Under agreement A, the owner of a motor vehicle would allow an odometer reader/transponder to be placed in his or her vehicle, and would pay a tax of 1.5 cents per mile based on the number of miles sensed by the machine mounted inside the vehicle. This would represent light surveillance, with the State knowing how many miles the vehicle is driven during any segment of time but not knowing where the vehicle is at all times, and would subject the driver/owner of the motor vehicle to a medium level of additional taxation.

Under agreement B, the owner would agree to a “smart” odometer/transponder to be mounted in his or her vehicle. The machine would read the same total mileage, but it would know and report specifically where the vehicle is at all times and would make automatic deductions for miles driven outside of Illinois state lines or on Illinois toll roads. Vehicle owners submitting to agreement B would pay a lower total tax bill, because the 1.5 cents/mile would not be charged outside Illinois or on these specialty highways. This would represent substantial surveillance, with the State knowing where the vehicle is physically located at all times, and would subject the driver/owner of the motor vehicle to the lightest level of additional taxation.

Under agreement C, which would be reserved for persons opting out of surveillance of this sort, the owner of the motor vehicle would be deemed to drive the vehicle 30,000 miles/year and would pay a tax of 1.5 cents/mile on that basis. Any mile less than 30,000 miles/year driven by the vehicle would represent a supplemental penalty to be paid by the owner of the motor vehicle for opting away from light or substantial surveillance.

The Cullerton proposal could be coupled with a program that would allow mileage taxpayers to apply for and claim a refund of the motor fuel taxes they pay. The proposal may be discussed and amended in the state Senate. If it is approved in the Senate, it will move to the Illinois House for further discussion and debate.

Summer and Fall Community Outreach Events Planned for District 81
My staff and I are finalizing the details for a variety of helpful events that will be held throughout the 81st District in the summer and fall. I will kick off my events on June 4 with a Children’s Safety Expo which will be held from 9:00 AM until noon at Lakeview Junior High School, 701 Plainfield Road in Downers Grove. It will feature over 40 participants with demonstrations throughout the morning. Back by popular demand will be the Traveling World of Reptiles show at 10:00 AM and a Touch-A-Truck area where children can see and touch about 25 different vehicles, including police squad cars, ambulances, a SWAT vehicle and several large trucks and utility vehicles. A medical helicopter will be part of the display from 9:30-11:30 AM.
Other events will include:
  • June 21: Senior Fair
  • August 6: Document Shredding Event
  • August 31: Jobs Fair
  • September 10: Veterans Fair
  • Date to be Determined: Understanding and Challenging your Property Tax Assessment
We hope to add additional events, so check my web site often at www.ronsandack.org for updates and details.