Senate Week in Review: September 26-30, 2022

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. JB Pritzker is touting a sweep of the Illinois unemployment trust fund paid for by businesses, while leaving those same businesses and their employees with the tab for $1.3 billion more.

In other news, the Illinois Department of Transportation is looking for snowplow operators as part of its annual snowbird program, and motorists are encouraged to be careful when encountering farm equipment on the roads during harvest.

And the Illinois State Board of Education is asking people to recognize the accomplishments of local school board members.

Pritzker’s unemployment payment leaves businesses, employees on the hook

Pritzker recently held a press conference to tout a fund sweep of $450 million in Illinois business tax dollars from the state Unemployment Insurance (UI) trust fund. The Illinois UI trust fund was severely depleted during the pandemic because of large numbers of unemployment claims, including hundreds of millions in unemployment fraud that the Pritzker Administration failed to effectively combat.

After the recent payment, the state’s UI trust fund still faces a debt of $1.3 billion, leaving Illinois as one of only five states still owing money on its UI trust fund loan.

Illinois received $8.1 billion from the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). Thirty-one states used their ARPA money to eliminate their UI trust fund deficits and replenish their fund balances. Instead of following suit, Pritzker and his legislative allies waited for ARPA funds to be depleted by other proposals and programs, including personal pork projects for Democratic lawmakers.

The situation leaves Illinois businesses and employees on the hook for the remainder of trust fund deficit, which will likely mean higher taxes. If the debt isn’t repaid by Nov. 10, Illinois employers will lose part of the Federal Unemployment Tax Act credit for 2023. This would mean that unemployment tax per employee would increase next year from $93.96 to $173.28 for a minimum rate-taxed employee, and from $988.20 to $1,326.72 for a maximum rate-taxed employee.

IDOT hiring snowbirds

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is hiring Snow Removal Operators and Winter Salaried Highway Maintainers. The jobs, which are often referred to as snowbirds, involve operating IDOT snowplows to help clear the roads during winter weather. The department is responsible for maintaining more than 45,000 lane miles.

Applications may be submitted online at https://illinois.jobs2web.com/https://illinois.jobs2web.com/. IDOT is also hosting open houses to help people submit applications. More information is available at https://www.illinois.gov/news/press-release.25480.html.

Watch for farm equipment on roads

As Illinois’ corn and soybean producers get under way harvesting their crops, rural roads and even some city streets will be seeing a major uptick in farm equipment traffic.

Drivers should be aware that most agriculture equipment will be travelling much more slowly than car traffic. According to the University of Illinois Extension Service, a car travelling at 55 mph takes five seconds to brake 300 feet, the length of a football field, to avoid rear-ending farm equipment travelling at 15 mph.

Most pieces of farm equipment are very large, and the operators have limited visibility, especially at the rear of the equipment, so motorists should exercise caution when approaching them on the roadway. The Extension Service recommends that motorists assume that the driver of the implement cannot see them, slow down when they see farm equipment, give themselves plenty of space, be prepared to stop, and make sure the farmer is not preparing to turn before attempting to pass them.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, only 6 percent of the state’s corn has been harvested, along with just 2 percent of soybeans. But the agency says that 47 percent of the Illinois corn crop is considered mature, along with 63 percent of soybeans. This means that farmers will soon be hitting the fields hard.

Nominations open to honor school board members

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) is asking members of the public to nominate outstanding school board members for the Thomas Lay Burroughs Award.

The annual award is presented every year to an outstanding member of an Illinois school board.

According to ISBE, the Thomas Lay Burroughs Award honors members for outstanding accomplishment in one of three areas, including:

  • Personal leadership in improving student learning, closing achievement gaps, and supporting educational excellence; and/or 
  • Personal leadership in expanding educational opportunities for underserved students; and/or 
  • Personal leadership in resolving a crisis or major difficulty with the result of more equitable outcomes for students.

Nominations of  school board members who have provided outstanding leadership may be submitted online at https://www.isbe.net/Pages/thomas-lay-burroughs-award.aspx.

Brian Stewart

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