Senator Barickman’s Senate Week in Review: Feb 1 – 5

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Bruce Rauner has begun working with lawmakers to implement reforms from his Jan. 27 “State of the State” address, focusing his efforts during the week on improving the way state agencies purchase goods and services.

Also this week, an economic-development group was created via executive order to attract businesses and encourage jobs growth in Illinois, and a new legislative resolution would allow the state’s transportation department to explore adding managed lanes to Interstate 55 as a way to reduce congestion, create jobs and spur economic development.

Despite an ongoing budget impasse with Democrat legislative leaders, Rauner is moving ahead with a series of changes he says will make state government more efficient and effective for Illinois residents.

Also during the week, Comptroller Leslie Munger warned that Illinois’ debt could top $6 billion if a state budget is not in place by the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

Procurement reform can save Illinois $500 million per year

Gov. Rauner teamed with Republican lawmakers from across the state, including Senator Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington), on Feb. 2 to call for changes to Illinois’ antiquated and unnecessarily complex procurement system. They say the changes could save the state $500 million annually.

The reforms would increase flexibility and efficiency, protect and support Illinois businesses, and streamline the procurement reporting structure. Suggested reforms include:

“We know that our current procurement code drives up costs for taxpayers, delays important construction projects and makes it hard for Illinois businesses to work with the state,” said Sen. Barickman. “It’s our job to make the state more efficient, transparent, and responsive. That’s exactly what this bill will do.”

Senator Barickman is also a co-sponsor of legislation that would use the savings from procurement reforms to help fund the state’s universities, community colleges and the Monetary Award Program (MAP grants). Due to the ongoing budget impasse, higher education and the MAP grant program have gone unfunded.

Attracting business and creating jobs

Gov. Rauner signed an executive order Feb. 3 directing the Illinois Department of Commerce to work with the newly-formed Illinois Business and Economic Development Corporation (ILBEDC) to attract businesses and investment, and encourage job growth and economic development throughout Illinois.

“This Executive Order formally establishes collaborative efforts between the Department of Commerce and the Illinois Business and Economic Development Corporation to jump-start economic development in our state,” Rauner said. “ILBEDC will make us more competitive to put Illinois back in the game after years of sitting on the sidelines, idly watching neighboring states and others lure businesses and jobs away from Illinois. This collaboration will field a highly competitive, proactive organization focused strictly on business development and job creation.”

The Department of Commerce will collaborate with ILBEDC to more efficiently pursue economic development through the use of private sector resources and expertise. Private economic development organizations are used in 16 other states including Indiana, Ohio and Florida.

“We’ve lost tens of thousands of jobs and residents to other states in recent years,” Commerce Department Director Jim Schultz said. “The corporation will employ economic development best practices to help reverse these trends and bring businesses back to Illinois, while working with the Department of Commerce to maintain high standards of transparency and accountability.”

Illinois Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman Matt Gambs applauded the Governor’s action. “The best way to improve Illinois for everyone is to improve the state’s economy,” Gambs said.  “Creating this new economic development corporation will be a great benefit for Illinois’ business community, because investment in our economy means jobs and that’s good for everyone.”

More information about ILBEDC is available at http://www.ilbedc.org/.

IDOT to explore addition of managed lanes to I-55

A legislative resolution was introduced this week that would allow the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to pursue adding managed lanes to Interstate 55 under a private-public partnership, which the Rauner administration said will deliver project benefits more quickly and at a reduced cost.

The plan seeks to reduce congestion and increase convenience for motorists using an innovative approach. Similar proposals have been used successfully in other states, and could serve as a model for future improvements to Illinois’ extensive transportation infrastructure.

The I-55 managed lanes project would add at least one lane in each direction to a critical travel corridor between Interstate 355 (Veterans Memorial Tollway) and Interstate 90/94 (Dan Ryan Expressway). The 25-mile section accommodates 170,000 vehicles a day, but suffers from long, unreliable travel times, resulting in frustrating commutes for workers and increased costs for the delivery of goods and services.

Options for the additional lanes currently being explored include tolled and untolled carpool lanes and express tolling lanes. The state will complete the federal environmental studies later this year to identify the preferred option. 

Using a P3 on this project could save taxpayers an estimated $425 million in construction costs. Possible toll revenues from the project and P3 financing sources would be available to pay for construction, operation, and maintenance costs. Construction could start as early as next year and wrap up in 2019.

Comptroller cautions budget impasse means more debt

On Feb. 2, Comptroller Munger said Illinois is on track to accumulate an additional $6.2 billion in debt during Fiscal Year 2016. The debt, she says, can be attributed to lower revenues from the phase-out of the 2011 income tax increase, and the lack of a state budget approved by the General Assembly.

The drop in tax rates on Jan. 1, 2015, contributes to about $5 billion of the expected debt. Also factoring into the debt spike is the state’s rate of spending, which has largely been determined by court orders and consent decrees as the state continues to operate without a budget for the eighth month in a row. As a result, spending has been set at Fiscal Year 2015 levels, or what is required to maintain existing service levels, regardless of the cost or the revenues available.

The Comptroller underscored that $6.2 billion more in debt is particularly troublesome for a state already operating with a multi-billion-dollar backlog of bills.

Illinois ranks 31st based on hiring reports

Gallup’s Jobs Creation Index released a ranking Jan. 27 of states, based on workers’ reports of hiring activity at their place of unemployment.

Based on those reports, Illinois ranks 31st, lower than eight of its neighboring states. Wisconsin ranks 9th, Michigan ranks 12th, Ohio ranks 13th, Indiana ranks 17th, Tennessee ranks 20th, Missouri ranks 22nd, Iowa ranks 25th, and Kentucky ranks 26th.

According to the report, Minnesota ranks 1st and Alaska ranks 50th.

More information is available at http://www.gallup.com/poll/188870/minnesota-top-state-job-creation-index.aspx?g_source=Economy&g_medium=newsfeed&g_campaign=tiles .

Illinois film industry generates $330 million in 2015

The Illinois FILM Office announced Feb. 2 that Illinois’ film industry generated $330 million in Illinois spending in 2015, an 18 percent increase over the previous year, and employing thousands of Illinois residents.

In 2015, the FILM Office worked with 291 television, commercial and film projects, representing the state’s multidimensional film infrastructure.

Due to sustained growth and strong local support for the film industry, Chicago, Illinois was once again named one of the top 10 best places to live and work as a filmmaker by MovieMaker Magazine.

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