This electronic newsletter is an opportunity for you to learn more about what we’ve accomplished in Illinois government, and how you can get involved. Whether it’s volunteering in a Serve Illinois volunteer project, receiving state services, or learning about new laws and programs, I want to ensure that you know what’s happening in your government.
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2013 Fiscal Year Budget
On Feb 22, Governor Quinn delivered his fiscal year 2013 budget to the General Assembly, a plan for budget stability through major reductions and efficiencies, pension and Medicaid stabilization, fundamental tax reform, and jobs and economic growth. The Governor proposed a budget that takes necessary steps to restore fiscal stability to Illinois, ensure job growth and a strong education for children across the state The new budgeting process, Budgeting for Results, ensures that the proposed budget is based on existing revenues and funding policy priorities to help keep Illinois moving forward. Since taking office, Governor Quinn has significantly reduced discretionary spending, achieving more reductions than any Governor in recent memory. Governor Quinn has reduced his own budget by 9 percent and is asking all constitutional officers to do the same. In addition, this year’s budget has reduced discretionary spending to below 2008 levels. For more information and copies of Governor Quinn’s operating and capital budget proposals for fiscal year 2013, please visit Budget.Illinois.gov.
On Feb 12, Governor Quinn proposed the Lincoln Amendment to the Illinois Constitution, which would allow citizens to enact ethic reforms in the executive, legislative and judicial branches in both state and local governments, including school districts. If approved, the Lincoln Amendment would appear on the November 2012 ballot. By gathering 8 percent of the public votes, ethical standards regarding campaign finance reform, conflict-of-interest voting, pay-to-play abuses, patronage abuse, and misuse of taxpayer funds would be amended. This amendment is part of Governor Quinn’s call for increased government transparency.
On Feb 9, Governor Quinn announced that Illinois has accepted terms to a national settlement with five of the nation’s largest banks. Under the settlement, more than $1 billion will go to help struggling Illinois homeowners and those affected by improper foreclosures. The settlement will provide direct assistance to distressed homeowners, including assistance for families to modify the terms of their mortgages and providing help to homeowners who owe more on their mortgage than the current value of their homes. For more information, visit www.nationalforeclosuresettlement.com.
Belleville Forensic Lab Opens
On Feb 10, Governor Quinn was joined by state and local officials to break ground on the new $37.8 million State Police Metro-East Forensic Science Laboratory in Belleville. The facility will provide the Illinois State Police (ISP) with enhanced crime-solving abilities and is funded by Governor Quinn’s Illinois Jobs Now! capital construction program, creating approximately 260 construction jobs. The facility replaces the ISP’s current leased facility in Fairview Heights. The larger space will allow for increased technology, staffing, and casework growth. State-of-the-art crime scene services such as trace and drug chemistry, polygraph, latent prints, firearms and forensic biology/DNA testing will allow the ISP to keep pace with scientific developments to investigate crimes and arrest offenders. The facility is expected to be completed in 2013.
Second Annual Rain Barrel Contest
On Feb 16, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) announced that the 2nd Annual Rain Barrel Contest is now underway. Similar to last year, IDOT is teaming up with the Illinois Correctional Industries for the contest that involves students around the state. Students from third grade through high school are able to submit an artistic design for the exterior of a rain barrel pertaining to Earth Day or the environment. Submissions must be made through a school’s principal or teacher, and a school can make one submission in each of the three age divisions: third-fifth grade, sixth-eighth grade and senior high school. Artwork must be postmarked by March 30, and winners will be announced April 22. For more information, please contact Steve Massey, IDOT Sustainable Practices Manager at (815)-434-8414.
Combating Unemployment Fraud
On Feb 8, the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) announced an initiative that will garnish tax returns of people found to be wrongfully collecting unemployment insurance benefits. This initiative is expected to save $40 million each year, will increase tax equality and reduce operating costs for Illinois businesses. In addition, IDES is seeking to garnish federal tax returns to recover $158 million from individuals who refuse to enter into a payment plan. More than $1 million has already been collected. These programs are part of Governor Quinn’s bipartisan reforms that are expected to save businesses more than $400 million while providing 16 percent unemployment insurance tax reductions for companies that did not lay off workers and punish those that defraud the unemployment insurance program.
Working Families Tax Relief
On Feb 4, Governor Quinn encouraged working families across Illinois to learn about tax relief and how to apply for the Illinois Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The law doubles the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) over two years, saving low-income workers an extra $105 million per year; however, taxpayers must include it on their tax returns. The Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) partnered with the Center for Economic Progress (CEP) Tax Counseling Project to provide free tax preparation assistance at tax assistance centers across the state. Services are provided free of charge to families making less than $50,000 annually and individuals making less than $25,000 annual income. DHS also funds the Tax Assistance Program (TAP), which recruits tax professionals to volunteer to assist low-income families in Chicago and the suburbs. For more information, visit www.revenue.state.il.us or www.dhs.state.il.us, or call (312)-630-0273 for the Tax Counseling Project and (312)-409-1555 for the Tax Assistance Program.
Foreclosure Prevention Network
On Feb 1, Governor Quinn launched the Illinois Foreclosure Prevention Network (IFPN). The IFPN will be a one-stop shop for families facing foreclosure. Mortgage payment assistance, foreclosure prevention events and tips on how to avoid mortgage fraud are some of the resources the IFPN will make available. The Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) and the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) are working together to establish this free resource so Illinois residents can remain in their homes. For more information, visit www.ihda.org or call 1-855-446-6300.
$623 Million for Illinois Schools
On Feb 16, Governor Quinn announced that Illinois school districts will receive a total of more than $623 million from Illinois Jobs Now! that will allow 31 school districts to build, expand, repair and update new and existing buildings and create 4,000 construction jobs. For more information, visit www.cdb.state.il.us.
New Veterans’ Benefits Website
On Feb 3, the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA) launched the new online tool, “Stand Up and Be Counted.” The website was designed to assist Veterans and their dependents with various benefits. Those who register through the website will be contacted within 48 hours by a local Veterans Service Officer (VSO) to help navigate the many federal, state and local resources available. VSOs are trained to provide accurate, up-to-date information, answer questions and assist with a variety of paperwork. For more information, visit www.veterans.illinois.gov or call 1-800-437-9824.
Tuskegee Airmen Memorial Trail Dedicated in Honor of Black History Month
On Feb 20, Governor Quinn joined local leaders in Markham, Illinois to dedicate the Tuskegee Airmen Memorial Trail. This memorial honors the fighter group’s valiant service to the United States during World War II while celebrating the Airmen’s commitment to our country and important place in black history. The Tuskegee Airmen was the first group of black pilots to ever fly for the U.S. Military. The unit flew more than 15,000 combat sorties for more than 1,500 missions, and by the end of the war had earned more than 900 citations, including 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses. The Tuskegee Airmen continue to serve our country today as an organization working to provide youth with education opportunities. The Tuskegee Airmen Memorial trail will be the stretch of Interstate 57 between Exit 339 at Sauk Trail Road and Exit 358 at Wentworth Avenue in Chicago. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will place signs at these points to mark the historic trail.
Governor Quinn Launches Illinois Pathways Initiative
On Feb 9, Governor Quinn joined business and education leaders to launch the Illinois Pathways Initiative. This initiative is an innovative public-private partnership between Illinois’ public education institutions and the business community to foster Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) learning. This is part of Governor Quinn’s plan to reform and improve education in Illinois by providing for strong collaboration in Illinois’ business and education communities to prepare students for the jobs of today and tomorrow. Networks will include PreK-12 and higher education institutions working together with employers, industry associations, labor organizations and other education partners. The initiative is funded through $3.2 million in federal Race to the Top education funds. For more information, visit www.illinoisworknet.com/ilpathways.