This week in Illinois

Economy – Illinois Layoffs
Illinois employers to cut more than 1,100 jobs. The layoffs were made public as part of the WARN Act, a nationwide federal law that requires public notices for a significant subset of job closures. The impending February-March layoffs come on top of a stagnant job climate that saw Illinois suffer a net loss of approximately 3,000 nonfarm payroll positions in calendar year 2015.

The largest concentration of job cuts in this monthly cycle encompasses approximately 750 layoffs announced by Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI). The faith-based nonprofit expects to shut down 40 separate programs and let go approximately 43 percent of its staff. Nursing homes, nursing care facilities, senior day care centers, mental health counseling facilities and a wide variety of social-work facilities are affected by the announcement. LSSI states that their operations are being severely affected by declining reimbursements from the State of Illinois. Illinois has been trying to operate without a budget since July 1, 2015, and is now in its eighth month without a budget.

Economy – Outmigration from Illinois
Economists continue find more people leaving Illinois than coming in. In the most recent data released by U-Haul, Illinois ranks 50th in terms of the surplus of cargo vehicles moving out over cargo vehicles moving in. U-Haul’s numbers closely align to numbers released this week by moving-van service provider Atlas Van Lines, which placed Illinois 48th of the 50 states. The numbers released this week by U-Haul and Atlas van Lines were anticipated in January 2016 by United Van Lines, which released numbers earlier this year that also placed Illinois 48th of the 50 states in terms of household cargo departures and arrivals.

The stagnant Illinois job picture is treated as much of the cause for this phenomenon. Net migrations affect working families because of the wide variety of Illinois professionalism and areas of workplace expertise, including medicine, accounting, retailing and many other professions and crafts, whose members cannot survive and thrive unless they have a supply of potential customers.

Net cargo-space departures tracked by U-Haul in 2015 appear to be concentrated in Downstate Illinois. In sharp contrast to Downstate, the equipment lessor states that Chicago is “the No. 5 growth city” it is tracking nationwide, close in status to red-hot destinations such as northern California (Concord, Roseville, Sacramento) and central Texas (Austin, College Station). U-Haul’s competitor Penske Truck Rental has also stated that Chicago is an attractive moving destination at this time.

General Assembly – President Obama 
President Obama backs redistricting reform in address to General Assembly. President Barack Obama addressed a special joint session of the Illinois General Assembly this week. Along with general remarks in favor of political comity and in support of the White House’s agenda in Washington, the President spoke in favor of action of a specific reform on Springfield’s agenda this year: legislative remapping.

Calling for reform in the way legislative maps are drawn, Obama criticized unnamed districts that are drawn to look like “earmuffs” or “spaghetti.” These maps and their oddly-shaped districts are factors of strategic importance in the elections of new members of Illinois legislative districts and members of Congress. Governor Bruce Rauner has strongly supported legislative redistricting reform. An increasing number of reformers are calling for this key task to be moved from partisan politicians to a nonpartisan commission. Illinois must be re-mapped after each decennial U.S. census. The next remap cycle sis scheduled to be held in 2021.

Local Government
Governor applauds bipartisan local government consolidation legislation. Governor Bruce Rauner joined Lt. Governor Sanguinetti, legislative leaders and local elected officials last week to announce four bipartisan pieces of legislation to streamline local government delivering more control to local communities.

“Today we are one step closer to empowering our local communities and giving them the necessary tools to rein in their out of control costs,” Governor Rauner said. “These four bills are just the start of delivering more value to taxpayers by reducing layers of redundant bureaucracy. I want to thank the Lt. Governor and the Task Force for their hard work, and I look forward to working with the legislature to get these bills passed.”

“I believe the recommendations put forward today will have a tremendous impact on the people of Illinois,” said Lt. Governor Sanguinetti. “It was an honor to serve as the Chairman of the Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates Task Force. I look forward to continue working with members of the Task Force as we work to streamline local government and make it more efficient for the taxpayers of Illinois.”

According to the US Census of Government, Illinois has more local units of government than any other state in the nation at 6,963. Illinois also has the second-highest effective property tax rate in the nation. These four pieces of legislation help reduce state barriers to consolidation, and empower taxpayers and local leaders to pursue efficient and effective government.

"These bills will reduce costs and improve efficiency, and that will help taxpayers across Illinois,” said Rep. Tom Demmer, a House Republican member of the Task Force.

For more information on the proposed legislation, please visit The Caucus Blog.

Transportation – O’Hare Airport
New O’Hare gate construction will build out gate space for American Airlines. By agreement between the Chicago Department of Aviation and American Airlines, the planning process will begin for the construction of five new gates at O’Hare International Airport to handle American’s worldwide flight operations.

Under the terms of the agreement, Chicago-area general funds tax revenues will not be required to build the new takeoff-and-landing gates. In return, however, for the use of airline revenue and tied passenger-ticket service fee revenue for the new construction, O’Hare management will agree to allocate these new gates to American Airlines and to no other airline.

American Airlines, which flies out of O’Hare Airport in competition with key rival United, uses O’Hare as a global hub. Frequent AA flights take off from O’Hare to American’s other hub cities, including Charlotte, North Carolina; Dallas; Los Angeles; Miami; New York City; Philadelphia; Phoenix; and Washington, D.C/Reagan National. Increased consumer demand for services to and from O’Hare, acclaimed as one of the world’s busiest airports, was credited for the gate announcement.

Transportation
3-P window opens: could reduce congestion on I-55, Stevenson Expressway. The announcement by Governor Rauner of a 3-P process to add at least two additional new highway lanes to Interstate 55 in the Chicago area, including the portion designated as the Stevenson Expressway, offers potential hope to motorists caught in traffic on the busy Chicago-area highway.

Interstate 55, which is now lined with warehouses and light-industrial facilities from Chicago as far south as Braidwood, Illinois, is currently operating far above its design capacity. Approximately 170,000 motor vehicles use a heavily-trafficked 25-mile-long segment of I-55 highway daily. With conventional tax revenues falling far short of the monies necessary to build and maintain additional I-55 traffic lanes, the opening of a planning process for 3-P lanes could un-jam the process of unsnarling the often-congested highway.

The announcement is preliminary in nature and does not specify a path forward. In jurisdictions that have gone the 3-P route to build new urban traffic lanes, electronic toll payments are generally levied upon moving traffic. Owners of the vehicle can then be charged a fee for use of the 3-P lane or lanes. The newly-built lanes often enjoy faster-moving traffic than the conventional lanes, giving fee-payers an incentive to use the lanes.