In this edition of the Windhorst Weekly, I’ve got information and updates on a variety of issues. First up is information on an upcoming “Night at the Ball Park” event for my summer reading program. I’ve got information on the ongoing failure of DCFS to comply with court orders and a new call for hearings into systemic problems at the agency, updates on the status of the state’s budget, our unemployment insurance trust fund debt, and a new hotline for individuals experiencing mental health issues. It is my honor to serve you in Springfield. Thank you for reading!
Windhorst, Severin, and Jacobs Host Summer Reading Club Night at the Ball Park Event July 29 in Marion!
For the 4th year in a row, I am proud to be sponsoring a summer reading program for students in the 118th district in first through fourth grades. This year, I am once again partnering with State Rep. Dave Severin and State Rep. Paul Jacobs for a joint ‘Night at the Ballpark’ event on July 29th at Rent One Ball Park in Marion. This year we will be hosting students for the opening ceremony of the Colt League International World Series event and the 8:00 PM baseball game. Details are below! I hope to see you and your summer reader there!
State Representative Patrick Windhorst’s “Once Upon a Time” summer reading club challenges 1st through 4th graders to read 8 books during their summer break. Books for local library programs are also acceptable and books over 150 pages may count for 2 books.
Once a student completes the book reading, please fill out the form and have a parent or guardian verify that the books were read.
Those students that read 8 books this summer will receive an official Illinois House of Representatives Certificate of Recognition, a coupon for a free custard from Culver’s, a free Krispy Kreme donut, and 2 free tickets to the opening game of the Colt League World Series Friday, July 29, 2022 for a special night celebrating summer readers! More information will follow. Rep. Windhorst will also have informational brochures on state and local programs available. Please return the signed and completed form by July 22, 2022.
Completed forms can be mailed to: State Representative Patrick Windhorst, 2 N. Vine Street, Suite 5A, Harrisburg,
IL 62946 or scanned and emailed to Windhorst@ILHouseGOP.org.
CHILDREN – Eight children have died on DCFS’ watch in last eight months; GOP Leader Durkin calls for hearings on DCFS failures.
Eight children have died since December while cases of neglect or abuse were under investigation by the Department of Children and Family Services.
The DCFS director has been held in contempt of court a dozen times since January for the agency’s failures in properly caring for or protecting children.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services continues to get negative attention for how children under their watch are treated. A leading statehouse Republican wants answers.
Pritzker has said his administration is working through the problems with bed availability for children in DCFS. He has also said they’re still working through problems he said were created under the previous administration.
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said the governor has only given lip service to the problems as contempt of court charges stack up against the agency’s director.
“They treat a contempt of court citation as if it’s a jaywalking violation,” Durkin said. “This is just so wrong. These are children’s lives that are at stake. The governor likes to blame everyone else except his own agency. He takes no responsibility.”
Since December, Durkin notes the DCFS director has been found in contempt a dozen times. Then there’s a recent audit Durkin said is devastating showing the department didn’t have proper records on 192 of 195 cases.
“And that was a requirement under a law that J.B. Pritzker signed within the last two years so his agency is not even following the law that they had championed,” Durkin said.
On Tuesday, July 12, Leader Durkin sent a letter to Governor Pritzker, House Speaker Chris Welch, and Appropriations – Human Services Chairperson Camille Lilly calling for further hearings regarding the continued failures of DCFS to protect vulnerable children. Durkin’s letter reads as follows:
In January, I called for a hearing into the ongoing failures at the Department of Children and Family Services. While a meeting of the Appropriations Human Services Committee was called, several questions my caucus had were left unanswered. As chairperson, you promised to hold subsequent hearings that would get to the substance of our inquiries. To date, none have been held or scheduled on this topic, and in the intervening time, some startling issues have come to light.
At the time of the hearing in January, DCFS Director Marc Smith had been held in contempt of court three times. As of today, he has been held in contempt a staggering 12 times. The latest order involves a 15-year-old girl who has been kept in psychiatric care well beyond clinical and medical necessity despite having been ready for discharge since January 14 of this year.
In May of this year, a state audit was released, finding that the department had failed to implement reforms contained in a 2021 law signed by Governor Pritzker. The report found that DCFS failed the children in its care in many ways, including, but not limited to, not providing adequate medical care and not properly tracking possible neglect cases.
In 192 out of 195 cases studied, the report found that DCFS could not provide the most basic home safety checklists, which are mandated by state law when a child leaves state care and is returned to their home. These checklists are used to ensure a child’s basic safety needs are met, including making sure that their homes have working smoke detectors and that poisons and firearms are secured.
State law also requires that DCFS provide aftercare services to a child and their family for at least six months, but in the 50 cases surveyed, 29 did not have at least six months of documented aftercare services. The audit also found deficiencies in medical care and insufficient tracking of vaccines resulting in some children receiving too many and some receiving too few.
I hope you will agree that it is time for a renewed focus on the ongoing crisis at DCFS and will convene hearings, inviting DCFS Director Smith and representatives from the Pritzker Administration to testify. The children of Illinois need a functioning DCFS and as elected representatives, it is our responsibility to get to the bottom of this matter to ensure their safety.
BUDGET – Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability reports on FY22 State revenues.
The CGFA report included State revenue numbers for June, the final month of Fiscal Year 2022. For the first time in history, Illinois reported more than $50 billion in general funds receipts. Over two-thirds of this money, more than $35.9 billion, came from corporate and personal income tax payments. The federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), enacted in March 2021, was by far the most significant single factor in the Illinois budget picture in FY22. Most of the ARPA money transferred to Illinois under this federal Act went to the State, and to beneficiary local governments and school districts. During the twelve-month period beginning on July 1, 2021, local governments, school districts and the State created jobs that increased State income tax receipts. Newly employed people bought goods and paid State sales tax.
This was good news for the State’s current financial condition; however, the report also indicates that the strong revenues for FY22 were paced by a massive one-time infusion of federal tax money. Meanwhile, runaway inflation and recession worries continue to loom on the horizon because of this cash infusion, and the long-term forecast of Illinois’ economic health remains unclear.
CGFA does not expect this trend of soaring revenues to continue into FY23. The office, a nonpartisan budget forecasting arm of the Illinois General Assembly, warned lawmakers at the close of the FY22 fiscal year that they see “reduced revenue expectations for the upcoming fiscal year” in FY23. The one-time nature of much of ARPA’s cash infusion, together with challenging economic conditions relating to inflation, are seen as likely to create a revenue slowdown as Springfield moves into FY23.
Fiscal Year 2022 budget numbers and analysis; Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund liabilities.
When the FY22 budget was originally enacted last year, general funds revenues had been expected to be $44.367 billion (including $2 billion in APRA funds). By April 2022, expected FY22 revenues were revised to be $49.186 billion (including $1.5 billion in ARPA funds). These additional funds led to the passage of a FY22 supplemental budget bill in that month.
As FY22 ended in June, FY22 general funds receipts were $51.070 billion, including $736 million in ARPA funds. This represents a $6.703 billion cash windfall from the originally enacted FY22 budget, and a $1.884 billion windfall compared to the FY22 supplemental budget framework. The FY22 supplemental budget bill included close to $4.8 billion in new spending, debt paydown, establishment of a rainy day fund, and election-year tax rebates and incentives.
The future plans for the extra $1.884 billion in FY22 revenue are uncertain. One major economic pressure that the state is facing is a $1.812 billion outstanding debt owed by the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund. Even after the avalanche of FY22 ARPA and general funds, a sum that could have fully addressed the UI Trust Fund’s liability, this massive debt remains. Facing a $4.5 billion debt, Illinois Democrats allocated $2.7 billion in ARPA funds for deposit into the UI Trust Fund to partially pay down the debt. This partial paydown left a massive liability in place, which set the stage for an additional tax on jobs shortly after the election through increased rates for employers and reduced benefits for workers.
Reps. Ugaste, Marron Urge Governor, Legislative Leaders to Call for Special Session to Pay Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund Debt.
This week, State Representatives Dan Ugaste (R-Geneva) and Mike Marron (R-Fithian) urged Governor Pritzker and Illinois legislative leaders to call for a Special Session of the General Assembly. They requested this action to allow the General Assembly to pass legislation paying the remaining debt in the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund. In a letter sent to Governor Pritzker, Speaker of the House Emanuel “Chris” Welch, and Senate President Don Harmon, the representatives pressed this action to relieve future fiscal burdens from Illinois businesses and residents using surplus revenue from Fiscal Year 2022.
“The General Assembly’s decision to not pay off our UI Trust Fund debt in full this spring will negatively impact Illinoisans down the road,” said Rep. Ugaste. “Illinois residents are on the hook for $1.8 billion, which will result in future fiscal burdens that are preventable. Rep. Marron and I are calling for this Special Session to avoid the unnecessary interest penalties and tax hikes that are tied to delaying this responsibility.”
State Rep. Mike Marron says he and Rep. Ugaste are demanding the Special Session to pay off Illinois’ Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund debt because of the failure by the supermajority party to properly address the issue in the abbreviated Spring 2022 Session.
“Governor Pritzker and the majority party should have already done this, but they prioritized pork barrel spending for Democrat legislators and their districts over doing the financially responsible thing and paying off our unemployment insurance debt in full,” Marron said. “Employers and those individuals that would need to depend on unemployment insurance in the case of a future disaster or some other circumstance should not be facing tax hikes and benefit cuts so Democrats can play election year politics with spending projects. We are urging Governor Pritzker to call a Special Session to address unemployment insurance debt because it quite simply is the morally and fiscally responsible thing to do.”
Resulting from multiple sweeping emergency declarations issued by Governor Pritzker starting with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the State of Illinois experienced a significant increase in unemployment claims. The federal government allowed states to borrow money to meet this increased need, and Illinois’ Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund was liable for more than $4 billion, plus interest, owed to the United States Department of Labor.
Since the money became available, House Republicans urged the General Assembly to fully pay off the debt owed to the federal government using existing American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, but their requests were unheeded. There remains a $1.8 billion liability. Reps. Ugaste and Marron are now calling on Governor Pritzker, Speaker Welch, and Senate President Harmon to apply surplus revenue from FY22 to this debt and stop interest payments.
The House of Representatives is currently scheduled to return to Springfield for veto session in late November and early December.
The letter sent to Governor Pritzker, Speaker Welch, and Senate President Harmon can be found here.
JOBS – Report on May 2022 unemployment in Illinois metropolitan areas.
The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) reports monthly on the local unemployment numbers posted within fourteen major Illinois metropolitan areas. These areas contain most of the population of Illinois; three of the 14 areas encompass the major counties of Metro Chicago.
The IDES report for May 2022, which is based on preliminary numbers gathered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed a continued drop in unemployment in most of the regions of Illinois compared to the pandemic-affected numbers posted in May 2021. However, three metro areas showed no year-over-year improvement during this period of dramatic nationwide economic recovery: these are areas where the unemployment rate was just as high, or higher, in May 2022 as it had been in May 2021. The three areas, and their unemployment rates as of May 2022, were Danville (6.1% unemployment), Decatur (7.1%), and Kankakee (6.2%).
Mental Health and Suicide – Call 988
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide or experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis, 988 provides connection to 24/7, free and confidential support from certified crisis workers. Learn more at Illinois988.com
My office in Harrisburg can be reached at 618-294-8703 or you can reach me by email at Windhorst@ILHouseGOP.org. Check out RepWindhorst.com for more information or send me a message at RepWindhorst.com/contact.