In This Issue:
Session Ends; Discussing the Results
Third Budget Proposal Passes
Omnibus Medicaid Reform Brings Relief
A Few Bills of Note: Economic Development Credits, Election Law, 9-1-1 Funding, Capital Funding, Procurement Code, and Two More Ballot Questions
Answers to Questions about Broadband Service
May 5, 2014
Sessions Ends; Discussing the Results
The House adjourned Friday night and the Senate closed its session about 1 a.m. Saturday after passing a number of significant bills and the budget. The General Assembly will be in recess until the fall veto session on November 19.
Beginning Wednesday, I will be speaking at meetings around the district about the session highlights and impact upon citizens. I hope you will join me for one of these discussions, in particular the four town hall meetings over coffee. I will be in Garden Prairie on June 14, Big Rock on June 21 and Campton Hills and Genoa on June 28. For details, look for a postcard in the mail, visit my website (www.PritchardStateRep.com) or call the district office.
Third Budget Proposal Passes
As I predicted last week, the House and Senate finally came to a resolution on the FY2015 Budget that allocated spending between the $38 billion in revenue from making the income tax increase permanent, and the $34.5 billion in revenue from allowing the income tax increase to sunset. The final budget of $35.3 billion relies on $650 million from interfund borrowing, $197 million from growth in income tax collections, continuing a $40 million hospital assessment and delayed payments of employee health insurance claims and unpaid bills.
Most programs and funding levels remain the same from FY2014 to FY2015. K-12 general state aid increases about $117 million from last year but the amount per student remains at 89 percent of the legislative target amount.
Funding was not included for the Joliet mental health facility or the Murphysboro facility for drunk drivers. Child care was cut $24 million while the Home Services Program budget was increased $80 million which could be transferred for mental health, developmental disabilities and community based services. Central Management Services received an additional $1 million for expanding the broadband network.
Without changing the scope of state programs, paying unpaid bills or accounting for the expansion of Medicaid rolls; the legislature is continuing to dig a deeper fiscal hole for our state and school districts. Some project the FY2015 budget will add as much as $4.8 billion to our state debt.
While support was not present this spring for continuing the income tax increase, adding a 3 percent tax on incomes over $1 million, or various expansions to sales taxes and other fees, that could change after the election. When retiring or defeated legislators (lame ducks) are no longer accountable to their electorate, they often vote for things they rejected earlier.
Omnibus Medicaid Reform Brings Relief
Nursing homes, supportive living facilities, home health care providers and hospitals have been working for years to update their rates for care under the Public Aid Code. Not only did SB741 address those issues, but it also extended the hospital assessment program that was due to sunset and it restored some of the services that were restricted under the SMART Act such as adult dental and podiatry services.
Enacting the reforms in SB741 will help Illinois capture $400 million in new federal Medicaid funding without any state match. For seniors in nursing homes, this legislation contains a Managed Care Bill of Rights to ensure access to quality care.
Given that Illinois Medicaid has been plagued with payment delays, this bill establishes a 30-day payment requirement, expedited payment authorization and sets late-payment interest charges for enrollees covered by managed care. It also takes important steps in care coordination by subjecting Managed Care Organizations to the Managed Care Reform Act and Patients’ Rights Act ensuring prompt payments without prior approval for emergency services.
In addition, the legislation advances the cause of better mental health care by allowing specialized mental health rehabilitation facilities (SMHRFs) to reopen in underserved areas while providing safeguards through surveys, inspections, provisional licensure, and transparency measurers. Story text
A Few Bills of Note:
SB 346 reforms the EDGE Tax Credit program and extends the Manufacturers’ Purchase Credit for six month. The Speaker said in testimony that he ran out of time to make reforms in the MPC program and wants to combine it with the Manufacturer’s Machinery and Equipment Exemption in the fall.
The new law allows small businesses with less than 100 employees to apply for the Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) Tax Credit. Previously small businesses had to invest a minimum of $1 million in the business to be eligible for the tax credit. However, applicants will now have to affirm that but for the credit, they would not have completed the project in Illinois.
Major changes were made to the “special EDGE” tax credit that allows applicants to use EDGE credits for paying their employee withholding taxes. To be able to use credits in this manner, a company must now hire at least 65 percent of its new employees in high poverty and high unemployment areas, and agree to make public their income tax information.
HB105 calls for a second non-binding ballot referendum about increasing the minimum wage and includes numerous changes to the election laws for just the 2014 election. The bill eliminates the need to show a photo ID for early voting, allows in-person absentee voting for college students, allows same-day voter registration for grace period voting, and allows early voting up to the second day before the election. The bill also precludes an employer from requiring an employee to use vacation time or any paid leave time to serve as an election judge.
HB961 requires the Department of Revenue and Comptroller to transfer the local government share of income taxes to the Local Government Distributive Fund within 60 days. Currently these transfers can take much longer which often results in economic hardships for municipalities, counties and townships.
HB2453 extends the Wireless Emergency Telephone Safety Act for a year and adjusts distribution of funds collected for 9-1-1 systems. It also allows the City of Chicago to raise wire and wireless phone taxes. The bill adopts several recommendations of the 9-1-1 Advisory Board including audited financial reports and consistent accounting standards for all 9-1-1 systems.
HB3794 makes appropriation of $1 billion to the Department of Transportation for “shovel ready” projects in their five-year-plan and $100 million for municipality, county and township road projects. I will post the allocations for units of local government in my district on my website.
HB 5491 clarifies some of the language in the procurement code and makes changes requested by the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and public universities. One of the Chamber’s provisions clarifies subcontracts and makes it easier for prime contractors to purchase goods and supplies incidental to the project. Universities achieved procurement exemptions for research, medical services, placement of students in externships, and broadcast programming and license rights.
HB5755 authorizes a third non-binding ballot question in the fall election called the Women’s Health Referendum Act. It asks voters “Shall any health insurance plan in Illinois that provides prescription drug coverage be required to include prescription birth control as a part of the coverage?” The ballot question is unnecessary since state and federal laws already require such coverage.
Answers to Questions About Broadband Service
Last week executives from the Illinois Division of Frontier Communications came to Springfield to talk about the company’s investment in broadband service to its customers. Mike Flynn, president of the Illinois Division (shown on the left), said Frontier has increased broadband availability to 89.7 percent of its market. Frontier is Illinois’ second largest local exchange carrier.
I have been a strong advocate for extending broadband service across our state. High-speed internet service is critical to the success of businesses and essential for schools, libraries, local units of government and healthcare providers. Also shown are Karen Boswell, Illinois External Affairs; and Tom Kuschman, General Manager for the DeKalb District.
I am looking forward to spending time traveling around the district this summer to hear your thoughts, attend town celebrations, and look for ways to make rebuild Illinois. You can follow my schedule on my website.
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