Week in Review: Childcare shortage, college tuition, jobs and more

Hammond & Elik named heads of Illinois House Republican budget team. House Republican Leader Tony McCombie announced the House Republicans’ budget team on Friday, naming Deputy Leader Norine Hammond as Chief Budgeteer for the caucus for the 103rd General Assembly as well as announcing that Representative Amy Elik will be elevated to Deputy Budgeteer.
“I am pleased that Deputy Leader Norine Hammond has accepted my appointment as Chief Budgeteer. Her in-depth experience in appropriations and policy makes her the perfect candidate for this important role,” said Leader Tony McCombie. “I have no doubt that she will work tirelessly to ensure that the budget benefits all citizens of Illinois and I look forward to the positive impact her input will have on the state. Furthermore, her dedication to serving the people of Illinois ensures that their needs and concerns will be considered in the budgeting process.”

As a member of the Higher Education Committee, Hammond has worked for increased funding for universities and community colleges throughout Illinois. She has successfully passed legislation to tackle the teacher shortage; keep Illinois students attending Illinois colleges and universities; and fairly fund public K-12 education. She has also been a strong advocate for procurement reform and other cost-cutting measures which keep dollars focused on strategic goals instead of overhead and administrative costs.

“Representative Amy Elik has spent the past twenty-eight years working as a Certified Public Accountant and auditor for businesses and government bodies. She is a valuable voice for sensible fiscal management and good government budgeting practices within our caucus. Representative Elik will provide critical support to the process and to Deputy Leader Hammond in improving the most important piece of legislation to come out of the State House annually,” Leader McCombie continued.

Rep. Elik has previously served on the House Republican budget team, the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, and other relevant financial committees which have prepared her to take on this role in the budget process.

The House Republican budget team will be announcing further priorities at a press conference in the Capitol’s Blue Room on Tuesday, January 31st. Learn more about the House Republicans’ caucus news and initiatives and connect on social media at ilhousegop.org.

House Republicans sponsor legislation to alleviate child care worker shortage. There is an acute shortage of child care workers in many parts of Illinois, with many parents experiencing a tough challenge to find an available slot that is convenient to their workplace, commute, or living area. In cases where slots are available, the worker shortage is helping to further swell the cost of child day care. Child care is especially expensive in regions of Illinois where the cost of housing is also spiking upward, creating additional challenges to those who want to buy homes and raises families. Many House Republicans are looking at measures to alleviate this child care worker shortage.

Representative Amy Elik is the sponsor of HB 1341, a bill to create the new Child Care Reimbursement Act. Many child care workers face financial challenges because they have young children of their own. This Act, if passed into law, will create a new program to reimburse all child care workers for any amounts they themselves have paid for child care services provided to their own children aged 5 or younger at a day care center. By knowing that their own children will be cared for, these workers will be able to re-enter the child care workforce.

Representative Steve Reick is sponsoring HB 1240, legislation aimed at reducing the burden of credentialism in Illinois child care. This bill would enable current experienced child care workers to be exempted from any new qualifications imposed by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) upon Illinois child care service providers by regulation. Regulators are always looking for ways to increase requirements, including requirements for education qualifications and certifications, on the job qualifications of the professions and crafts that they regulate. In some cases, these increased qualification requirements can add to existing worker shortages. These and other House Republican bills will be considered in the spring 2023 session of the 103rd General Assembly.

Opponents win restraining order against new gun ban law. The temporary retaining order prevents enforcement of the January 2023 Illinois gun ban law upon specified plaintiffs. The new law also requires Illinoisans to register, and report to authorities, certain types of firearms they may own and have in their possession.

Citing constitutional grounds, Effingham County Circuit Judge Joshua Morrison has issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the new law. The order was issued on Friday, January 20. The text of the judge’s order sets forth multiple reasons to presume that the law will be judged unconstitutional at trial. Democratic Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul has appealed the judge’s order.

Other lawsuits, including a federal court lawsuit by the Illinois State Rifle Association, have also been filed against the new Illinois gun ban law. A key element of the Illinois statute purports to ban certain gun magazines, but in January 2023 floor debate the proponents of the bill could not point to State or federal case law to uphold the constitutionality of such a ban. As well as pointing out the lack of case law, these lawsuits also point out constitutionally questionable facets of the new enactment, including concerns that the enactment violates the federal Second Amendment. Litigation will continue. The controversial gun bill was enacted early in January 2023 by Democrats in the “lame duck” 102nd General Assembly.

University of Illinois raises tuition for incoming students. The 1.9% tuition hike was approved by the University’s board of trustees. It will be imposed on students from within Illinois who win admission for the 2023-24 school year to the campuses at Urbana-Champaign and at Chicago. The in-state tuition at Urbana-Champaign will increase to $12,712/year, plus fees and student expenses. Parallel but slightly higher (up to 2.5%) increases will be imposed on students at the same campuses from outside Illinois (out-of-state U.S., and abroad).

By state law, persons who are already enrolled in the University’s programs are held harmless from tuition increases like these. The University of Illinois system is celebrating record enrollment in its three-campus system during the current 2022-23 school year, with 94,861 students enrolling last fall. These current enrollees, if they continue their studies next fall, will be among the beneficiaries of this hold-harmless tuition policy. However, existing enrollees are also charged fees for non-tuition services such as university housing, and these fees are also scheduled to increase for the 2023-24 school year.

Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund debt finally paid off. The appropriation of $1.37 billion was a key ask of House Republicans and the Illinois business community. These funds represented money appropriated by Washington, D.C. to the State of Illinois for COVID-19 relief, and this transfer relieves the State’s unemployment insurance system of some (but not all) of the burden imposed on this system by federally-mandated and State-mandated COVID-19 shutdown orders.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit North America in March 2020, public health authorities and Gov. Pritzker ordered many Illinois places of business and enterprise to shut down or to confine themselves to remote work processes. In addition to creating much hardship in the day-to-day lives of Illinoisans, these orders forced the layoffs of hundreds of thousands of Illinois residents. Illinois unemployment rose to double-digit levels, and significant sums of money were paid out in unemployment benefits. Much of this money was paid out by the Illinois Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, which compiled a deficit in calendar years 2020 through 2022 of almost $5 billion. Ever since the outbreak of the pandemic, the Trust Fund has been working to pay back this debt and re-launch itself as a cash balance with the standing to prepare for future economic downturns.

Senate Bill 2801, an appropriations bill enacted by the lame-duck 102nd General Assembly, does two things. It appropriates $1.37 billion from state GRF to the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund to enable this Trust Fund to clear the remaining deficit. In addition, SB 2801 appropriates $450 million from state GRF to the Trust Fund. This money, defined as a loan, will serve as a temporary rainy-day fund. The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) has already begun to charge higher unemployment insurance (UI) taxes on many Illinois employers in order to raise the Fund’s own resources, enable this loan to be paid back to GRF, and build a larger trust fund for future needs.

The Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund appropriation and loan measure, SB 2801, was signed into law on January 23 as PA 102-1121.

State publishes unemployment numbers for final month of 2022, including Illinois metro areas. The December 2022 Illinois unemployment rate was 4.7%, making Illinois 49th among the 50 states in terms of employment. Nearby states have much lower unemployment numbers (Missouri: 2.8%, Indiana and Iowa: 3.1%; Wisconsin: 3.2%). Only Nevada, with casino-hotel operations still struggling in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, had a higher statewide unemployment rate than Illinois.

As reported by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), the Illinois December 2022 unemployment rate of 4.7% was unchanged from the same rate in November 2022. This stability masked the effects of continued changes in the Illinois economy as a whole, with jobs continuing to shift from professional and business services to the growth sectors of education, health care, and government. Professional and business services have been the backbone of Illinois’ economy in recent decades, but continuing trends in technological efficiency and work placement are starting to take a toll on this sector (down 3,000 jobs in December 2022). Education, health care, and government services gained 7,000 jobs during the same period.

IDES also reported this week on Illinois December 2022 joblessness as calculated by metro areas. Sprawling Chicagoland is divided up into three metro areas, which cover greater Chicago, Lake County (and adjacent Kenosha, Wisconsin), and Kane County centering on Elgin, Illinois. Many of Illinois’ metro areas had jobless rates in December 2022 that were actually lower than the 4.7% number in Illinois as a whole, with low unemployment marked be regions (Metro-East, Quad Cities) where prosperity could be spilling over from bordering states. The Metro-East jobless rate was 3.4% in December 2022, and the Quad Cities rate was 3.7%. Traditionally industrial Decatur, Kankakee, and Rockford continued to have jobless rates above 5%.

Tax-related outmigration continues. A survey of data from the public and private sector, including the U.S. Census Bureau, indicates that approximately 141,656 former Illinois residents moved to other states in 2022. The great majority of them picked a state with a tax structure that is more economically-friendly than Illinois. The list of leading states with 2022 outmigration was headed by California, with 343,000 emigrants, New York, with 300,000 persons leaving, and Illinois.

The list of states with net gains was heading by the two largest U.S. states without a state income tax, Florida (up 319,000) and Texas (up 231,000). Other major net gains were enjoyed by North Carolina (up 100,000), Tennessee (up 82,000) and Georgia (up 81,000). Almost all of the migration patterning showed movement from the U.S. North to the U.S. South and the U.S. West (except California), with Rocky Mountain states joining the South as focuses of net U.S. migration. Former Illinoisans are continuing to leave Illinois for other states with more jobs and lower tax burdens.