The McDermed Dispatch for February 14th

Happy Valentines Day!

Quiet Week in Springfield
         The focus last week in Springfield was primarily on writing and drafting bills. As of Friday, the deadline to file legislation, 3,826 House bills have been filed by members of both parties. We’re back in session tomorrow when the Senate joins us in the House to hear the Governor’s annual budget address. You can listen to it live here at noon. 

A Great Veteran Resource at Manteno
         I toured Manteno Veterans Home last week with fellow Representative Lindsay Parkhurst. The facility, which opened in 1986, is one of only 4 state run veterans homes. The wonderful employees there are dedicated to supporting our state’s veterans and easing their end of life.  
         In addition to housing nearly 300 senior veterans, the Manteno facility holds the only state run veterans homeless program, the Prince Program. They’re doing a terrific job taking homeless veterans off the street and addressing their root problems so that they can begin to stand on their own two feet.

Illinois Credit Continues to Crumble
       Fitch, one of the 3 largest debt rating agencies, has cut Illinois’ credit rating once again. The new rating is only one notch above the lowest possible rating (BBB-) that can be granted to an entity that is viewed as an investment-grade credit risk. The New York-based credit rating house added that they believe that the failure of the State to deal with its fiscal challenges “has fundamentally weakened the state’s financial profile.”
        The January 1st expiration of the stopgap budget that provided appropriations for some of Illinois’ state government has created a serious cash flow situation in many Illinois offices and institutions. Hard-hit entities include public universities, community colleges, agencies that provide community mental health treatment, and agencies that provide attention to elderly persons who are not in residential care.

School Funding Commission Report
        Despite being one of the largest appropriations in the state budget, Illinois currently funds only 26% of the total cost of primary and secondary education. Over the summer the Governor commissioned a group of lawmakers and educators to look revamp Illinois’ education funding formula to provide a more equitable and adequately funded system for all students.
         In its report, the Reform Commission announced that they have reached a consensus on what a new school funding formula framework would look like. The new framework is built upon the idea of “adequacy targets” to be met by schools and school districts; a school district’s eligibility for aid will be partly tied to evidence that one or more of their schools have fallen short of adequacy targets and that, at the same time, the school is making progress toward meeting these targets. The goal of this new paradigm is to concentrate aid on vulnerable students while not, at the same time, rewarding schools and school districts that sit on their hands and maintain a perpetual state of poor performance and outcomes.

Scratch Off Tickets Under Scrutiny
         Recent investigative reports have revealed that many “scratch-off” tickets for Illinois State Lottery games are pulled from public retail store counters and shredded before the prizes printed on the tickets have been awarded. In response to these reports, Rep. Winger has sponsored HJR 26, which asks the Office of the Illinois Auditor General to audit the ticket-sale cycle and report to the General Assembly on whether buyers of Illinois game tickets are getting the prizes promised.