Yesterday in Springfield, a bill I co-sponsored that eliminates pay raises for Illinois lawmakers for the upcoming fiscal year was approved in the House. HB 643 prohibits any raise for the time period from July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018. In addition, mileage reimbursement amounts for members of the House and Senate would continue to be frozen. As lawmakers struggle with Illinois’ immense financial pressures, we need to lead by example. I am more than willing to forego a pay increase or cost-of-living adjustment to send a message that we take the state’s financial woes very seriously and want to be part of the solution.
General Assembly Celebrates Chicago Cubs Day in Springfield
There was a great deal of excitement swirling around the Capitol on Wednesday, as news traveled that Chicago Cubs Owner Tom Ricketts and Hall of Fame Second Baseman Ryne Sandberg were in town for the latest stop of the Cubs Trophy Tour. As our day began, a joint session of the House and Senate gathered to watch the coveted trophy make its way to the front of the House chamber.
Mr. Ricketts spoke to the lawmakers about the three goals set by his family when they became owners of the ball club, including:
- Winning the World Series
- Preserving and improving Wrigley Field
- Doing more for the Wrigleyville community
Legislation to Improve Efficiency within SURS Clears House
This year I am partnering on bipartisan legislation to improve the efficiency to the administration of the State University Retirement System (SURS) Fund. Specifically, HB 368 authorizes the SURS board secretary to issue subpoenas to obtain information to assist in the collection of money due to the system, the determination of the death of a benefit recipient and the obtaining of personal identifying information that aids with the administration of SURS benefits. With its House approval this week, the bill now awaits assignment to a Senate committee.
Rep. Olsen Celebrates University of Illinois Sesquicentennial
Happy 150th Birthday to the University of Illinois! I was honored to attend the University’s Sesquicentennial Luncheon on February 28 with State Rep. Tim Butler, U of I President Tim Killeen, U of I Board Chairman Tim Koritz and many others who wanted to help to celebrate this important milestone. As a 2011 graduate of the University of Illinois and Student Body President during my senior year, I have fond memories of my alma mater and enjoyed returning to campus for this celebration.
Illinois Toll Highway Authority to Eliminate Plastic Coin Collection Buckets
In another move intended to discourage the payment of tolls in cash, the Illinois tollway authority plans to remove the familiar plastic bucket cones into which motorists can throw coins. The cones, which are posted on tollway cash pay lanes, feed coins into electromechanical coin-counting machines. They will be replaced by new electronic touch screens that will accept credit cards, bills, and coins.
The new pay screens will be more convenient for many users than former pay lanes that required exact change in coins. However, many tollway users have mounted small I-PASS transponders in their cars and they no longer pay cash tolls to the highway agency. This switchover will not affect I-PASS users. The Tollway Authority prefers I-PASS use because of administrative costs of handling cash as opposed to electronic payments. On Monday, February 27, the Authority told the press that they still had 100 coin-counting cones deployed on their network of highways, mostly at unmanned tollway exit ramps.
Fire Chiefs Visit Springfield for Annual Lobby Day
I was glad to spend time on Wednesday with Lisle/Woodridge Fire District Chief Keith Krestan. Chief Krestan was part of a coalition of fire chiefs who were in Springfield this week to discuss public safety issues impacting our State. Senator Connelly (R-Lisle) and I met with Chief Krestan to discuss many issues related to the fire service.
State Senate Continues Discussion of “Grand Bargain”
On February 28, the Senate passed five measures as part of the so-called “grand bargain”. However, the Senate did not approve several of the other key elements of the “grand bargain” reform package. I hope that Senators from both sides of the aisle can continue to work together to agree upon a compromise budget with the important reforms our State needs.
As we all know, budget challenges continue to affect the State of Illinois. Unfortunately, the February 2017 monthly revenue report and estimate released by the nonpartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) indicated a continued decline in State general funds tax revenues in February 2017. Personal income tax revenues decreased in February 2017 by $129 million from the same levels of taxes paid in one year earlier. Illinois corporate income tax revenues have practically dried up, with only $9 million (down 81%) received from this source in February 2017.
Olsen Attends Citizen of the Year Event in Darien
Congratulations to Steve Hiatt, the 2017 Darien Citizen of the Year! Darien Mayor Kathleen Weaver and I were among the many elected officials and community members on hand for the celebration last Saturday evening. Steven Hiatt moved to Darien in 1998 and immediately became active in the city's events and organizations. In 2003, he became a member of the Darien Lions Club where he served in many positions of leadership. He has also been a liaison with the Chamber of Commerce for recruiting volunteers and working in various areas for DarienFest. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Darien Historical Society and assists with the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church Food Drive and Toys for Joy. His commitment to the community is inspirational, and I thank him for his public service.
Site Selection Magazine Honors Illinois as Potential Location for Job Creation
A magazine aimed at CEOs and corporate executives has honored Illinois as one of the top states in the U.S. with the most qualifying new and expanded facilities per capita. A total of 434 new job-creating projects of the types tracked by Site Selection were announced in 2016. In the eyes of the magazine, this made Illinois the No. 3 “site selection” state in the U.S. in 2016, with Texas and Ohio as #1 and #2.
Projects tracked by Site Selection include corporate headquarters, manufacturing plants, R&D operations, and logistics sites. They must involve a capital investment off at least $1 million, create at least 20 new jobs, or add at least 20,000 square feet of new floor area. Illinois House Republicans have made a priority in recent years to push for new logistics sites, with the General Assembly enacting changes to Illinois tax law to encourage this class of investment and job-creating activity.
Site Selection noted that almost all of the private-sector investment activities they tracked in 2016 were concentrated in the Chicago area. Of the new Tier 1 job-creating projects noted by the magazine, 424 were located in the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin expanded Chicagoland metropolitan area.
Olsen Tours Ray Graham House and Easter Seals Facility
Last week I was able to tour two facilities that provide critical services to many families in the 81st District. On March 2, I had a wonderful opportunity to meet with Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley President Theresa Forthofer, and tour their Villa Park facility. That same week, Kim Zoeller, President of Ray Graham Association, hosted me at one of their Downers Grove homes for women with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We spent over an hour discussing state issues, especially the challenges surrounding the current budget impasse. Thanks to both of these organizations for the work they do on behalf of families in our district and across the State.
Olsen Mobile Office Hours Continue
I had a great turnout at my last mobile office hours event at the Lisle Public Library and appreciate those who came out to share their views on a variety of topics. I enjoy these opportunities to connect with my constituents, and have scheduled my next mobile office hours event for Friday, March 24, from 10:30 AM until noon at the Downers Grove Public Library, 1050 Curtiss Street, Downers Grove. Additional dates and locations will be added throughout the spring and summer. Visit www.repolsen.com for more information as dates are finalized.