Winger's Weekly Wrap-up

Budget – Stopgap Budget Bill Signed
Money begins to flow after Gov. Rauner signs stopgap budget bill. SB 2047 was signed on Thursday, June 30. Money began to flow on the first day of the new FY17 (Friday, July 1), and continued during the first full week of July. Emergency spending authorizations were concentrated on some of the key areas of state spending and operations that had been deprived of funding in FY16.

However, not all areas cut off from funding in FY16 were funded by the June 2016 budget action. State general revenues remain inadequate to cover many of the commitments previously made by the State. SB 2047 was approved by the House on June 30 by a vote of 105-4-1 and by the Senate on the same day by a vote of 54-0-0. The Governor signed the appropriations bill into law later the same day as P.A. 99-524.

Cash-flow numbers reported by the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA) and the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) continue to indicate that the State is not currently bringing in enough general-funds tax money to meet even the shrunken spending commitments represented by SB 2047. The budget question is expected to be reopened in the November-December 2016 fall veto session.

Budget – K-12 Education
Full funding for schools in 2016-17 school year. The stopgap State budget, enacted on Thursday, June 30, provided a full 12 months of funding for Illinois K-12 public schools. This plan will fully fund the foundation level for the first time in many years, ending the unfair practice of proration and will ensure that all school districts get at least as much funding from the State as they received last year.

The school aid included both general State aid (GSA) and a series of categorical grants provided to many school districts to cover parts of the costs of mandates imposed by the State and other costs of school district operation. In addition, the FY17 K-12 education bill appropriated $361 million over what was distributed last year in FY16 for the 2015-16 school year. It also allocates $250 million for a new statewide equity grant that will be distributed to school districts based on the State Board of Education’s low income grant formula. The plan includes a $75 million increase for early childhood education, and avoids a state bailout of Chicago Public Schools.

Environment – O’Hare Airport “Fly Quiet”
New runway-rotation system takes effect. The runway-rotation guidelines, which went into effect on Wednesday, July 6, are intended to create a more equitable distribution of the burden imposed by flight patterns of heavy jet aircraft into and out of O’Hare Airport during late-night and sleeping hours. The new guidelines have been approved on a test basis, with the test expected to last six months through the third and fourth calendar quarters of 2016. During this time, data will be gathered to indicate the relative success of the new guidelines in reducing the burden of aircraft operational noise. The revised guidelines were approved by local municipalities, the city of Chicago, and the industry as part of the voluntary “Fly Quiet” program.

The testing of the new guidelines marked one of the most significant amendments to “Fly Quiet” since the creation of the O’Hare International Airport expansion program in 1997. Implementation of the new guidelines, even on a test basis, is seen as significant because it marks specific noise-reduction actions agreed to be the industry and intended to be carried out on a reasonably consistent and predictable basis. Up until now, “Fly Quiet” guidelines were published under standards of almost purely voluntary compliance. Pilots flying in and out of the airport were not supposed to fly or bank at certain angles or use their engines in certain ways, but there was no incentive for them to actually comply with these guidelines and O’Hare’s noise-monitoring equipment indicated widespread patterns of noncompliance.

The runway-rotation system takes advantage of O’Hare’s large number of runways to spread out the international airport’s traffic on a week-by-week planning basis. One of the runways that will get frequent use is diagonal runway 14R-32L, which has been slated for eventual closure as O’Hare’s expansion continues. The new Fly Quiet guidelines were devised by consultants working under the direction of the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission, a consortium of local governments with jurisdictions affected by O’Hare International Airport, and have been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Health Care – Zika Virus
As threat of Zika increases, Illinois receives $500,000 federal grant. The grant payments are being provided from unused Ebola funds by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Chicago Department of Public Health. They are meant to cover short-term spending to enable these agencies to prepare for a possible spread of the virus in Illinois.

The Zika virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, is widespread in many countries south of the U.S. border. It has been diagnosed in patients throughout the United States, typically in persons who have recently returned from travels to these countries. As of Wednesday, July 6, 1,123 cases of Zika infection had been diagnosed in the 50 states and reported to the CDC. Another 2,534 cases had been diagnoses in U.S. territories, mostly in Puerto Rico. The virus has been identified as a causal agent causing severe birth defects, including the condition of microcephaly.