Senate Week in Review: Nov. 20 – 24, 2017
Springfield, IL – It was a week for legislators to be back in the district – an opportunity to spend more time working on individual constituent issues and holding local meetings. As the year begins winding down, one of the unresolved issues of 2017 is the less-than-stellar performance of the Illinois economy, according to Sen. Paul Schimpf.
While job creation remains a big concern, some recent news shows the state moving in the right direction.
Slight Improvement in Jobs
A recent report by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) indicates a slight drop in the state’s unemployment from 5.0% to 4.9%. It’s not a huge change, but does represent an increase of 3,400 nonfarm payroll jobs. IDES also adds that September job growth figures were revised upward showing a smaller decline in jobs, -7,900 rather than the -10,800 jobs initially reported.
While it’s obvious job growth is not what it should be, agency Director Jeff Mays pointed to important trend: “Illinois’ unemployment rate remained at 5.0 percent or lower for eight months – the last time that happened was in mid-2007,” said Mays.
There also were positive comments included in the IDES report by the Director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). “The Department continues to see a steady flow of interest from businesses to relocate and grow in Illinois,” said Director Sean McCarthy. “With our world-class assets, Illinois should be leading the pack not lagging behind the national average. We’re seeing results and winning projects, but we still have work to do.”
2017 has been a frustrating year for Senate Republican efforts to revitalize the state’s business/jobs climate. The Caucus continues to push for reforms such as property tax relief, workers’ compensation changes that lower hiring costs, and reducing government and business regulations that divert financial resources away from business expansion. Unfortunately, Democrat leaders’ cooperation on business climate issues this year has been limited.
Small but Important Victory
One positive legislative victory this year was the bipartisan support for the extension of the state’s EDGE program, short for Economic Development for a Growing Economy. The program has been cited in the past by industry publications as an important tool for business expansion and job creation. EDGE was created in 1999 and is the state’s primary jobs incentive program. It’s credited with creating nearly 34,000 jobs and retaining another 46,000 since its inception. The extension was signed into law in August and keeps EDGE in place until June 2020.
The Illinois economy is closely linked to the state’s overall fiscal health. It has closely tracked side-by-side with its struggling economy. Growing the economy and providing opportunity and prosperity for working families is the best long-term way back to fiscal good health. Sen. Schimpf said Senate Republicans will renew their efforts to foster economic growth in the coming year.
Seat Belt Enforcement
The Thanksgiving Day holiday, Nov. 23, marks the start of the holiday season. Illinois’ two agencies that deal with traffic safety are encouraging and warning motorists to “click it or ticket.”
The Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois State Police are promoting the annual campaign to increase seat belt use. IDOT and ISP are partnering with more than 150 law enforcement agencies across the state to increase police patrols and checkpoints. The extra enforcement effort began Nov. 17 and continues through Nov. 27. According to IDOT, not wearing a seat belt drastically increases the occupant's risk of being injured or killed in the event of a crash. Thousands of additional travelers are expected on Illinois roads and highways over the next few weeks.
Disability Parking Enforcement
The holiday season also brings out holiday shoppers and once again this year, the Illinois Secretary of State’s office announced it will conduct statewide parking “stings.” Secretary of State Police will target drivers who illegally park in spaces reserved for persons with disabilities. Penalties for parking in an accessible parking space without a disability placard or license plates include fines of up to $350. Drivers caught misusing a placard face driver’s license suspensions and fines of $600. Penalties increase for subsequent offenses.