Dan's Capitol View 4-26-16

New Higher Education stop-gap funding proposal signed into law

I’m pleased to report that finally emergency funding is on its way to universities, community colleges, and students waiting for their MAP grants.

The new plan passed last week and signed into law Monday is a bi-partisan effort on which I worked diligently. It will provide $600 million from the Educational Assistance Fund to fund a four- month emergency appropriation to universities and one semester of MAP grants.  The money is available, and Comptroller Munger said she will begin processing payments immediately.

After ten months without funding, our universities were drowning, but last week we worked together to throw them a $600 million lifeline. It’s not a permanent solution, but it is a solid emergency funding plan to get needed dollars to universities and ensure students get their MAP grants while we continue to negotiate a full budget.  I sincerely hope this spirit of bi-partisan cooperation will carry over to those negotiations.

Comptroller Munger issues order delaying lawmakers’ pay 

Based on the continued lack of a balanced budget for FY16, Comptroller Munger has directed her staff to move the issuance of paychecks for elected State officials from a group of bills that are paid immediately and on schedule, to a separate group of bills that are paid after a delay.  The move affects pay for all constitutional officers in statewide elective positions, including herself, and affects pay for the 177 members of the Illinois General Assembly – 118 House members and 59 senators.

Constitutional amendment would allow Illinois voters to abolish office of Lt. Governor

Illinois has had a constitutional Office of the Lieutenant Governor since being admitted to statehood in 1818.  For almost 200 years, most Illinois Lieutenant Governors have served quiet terms without succeeding to the office of Governor or performing other significant tasks.  Seven U.S. states do not have a Lieutenant Governor. 

HJRCA 5 authorizes the people of Illinois to vote in November 2016 on abolishing the office of Illinois Lieutenant Governor.  If the amendment is approved, the elected Illinois Attorney General (who is the person next in line under existing law) would become the successor to the Governor who is first in line.  The measure was approved by the House on Friday by an overwhelming bi-partisan vote of  95-10-0. The measure now moves to the Senate for further consideration and debate. 

House votes unanimously in favor of bill to suspend Vehicle Registration late fee 

Since the Secretary of State’s Office has stopped sending motorists mailed reminders that their vehicle registration is about to expire, many have found themselves facing extra fines for renewing late.  The Illinois House passed legislation last week to help with that.

House Bill 4334 carves out a late fee “holiday” that will last as long as the reminders aren’t being mailed out.  A second partial “holiday” is included that would provide a defense in court for motorists stopped and cited for driving on an expired registration for 30 days after it expires.

Pay –by-the-mile tax on motorists withdrawn

In recent weeks Senate President John Cullerton unveiled a plan to track Illinois motorists and then tax them by the mile. The plan proposed different per-mile tax rates depending on the level of “surveillance” the motorist agreed to.  Public disapproval was strong and swift and last week President Cullerton withdrew the plan from consideration.

Gas prices up 18 cents per gallon 

According to a report published last week by GasBuddy.com, the average price for a gallon of gas has increased from $2.06 a week earlier to $2.20.  Prices are expected to continue rising due to greater demand from drivers as the summer season approaches. 

Efforts to increase Illinois motor fuel supplies have been stymied by federal government policies such as actions related to the Keystone/Phase 4 pipeline.  The Phase 1 segment of the Keystone pipeline system has been built and delivers substantial quantities of liquid fuel from western Canada to central and southern Illinois, but construction of Keystone/Phase 4 has been blocked by actions in Washington, D.C.  Nationwide “Clean Air Act” mandates also affect the prices of motor fuel sold in ozone noncompliance areas which include larger metropolitan areas in Illinois.