In March, when the General Assembly committed $2.7 billion to the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, every Republican opposed the measure because the Democrats’ bill didn’t erase the entire $4.5 billion deficit, a position they’d established almost a year earlier.
On Tuesday, Gov. JB Pritzker had a press conference to announce plans to resolve the remaining balance. Subject to lawmaker approval, $1.36 billion will directly pay off the outstanding balance and the state will loan $450 million, interest free, to the fund. Over the next decade, the fund can pay back that money, and the state will funnel it to reserve funds.
The deal is a result of the “agreed bill” process, which involves representatives of business owners and workers in addition to lawmakers (including Republicans) and executive branch officials. A release from Pritzker’s office included glowing quotes from Republican legislators state Sen. Sue Rezin, Morris, and state Reps. Mike Marron, Fithian and Dan Ugaste, St. Charles.
Democrats clearly won a bet on their ability to solve the problem over the course of several months without having the deficit exposed as a liability during campaign season. Meanwhile Republicans can proclaim ideological consistency throughout and now have a chance to cast votes proving a willingness to cooperate, undercutting charges of simply being “the party of no,” a difficult badge to shirk whilst constituting legislative monitories.
More importantly, heading into annual budget preparations, is how jointly solving a major pandemic-era problem might pave the way for even more action to improve the long-term fiscal forecast.
STATE-MENT GIFTS: I’m not the greatest gift giver – nor all that good about crafting my own wish list – so each year I spend a few column inches sharing reader inspirations.
The first order of business is promoting EnjoyIllinois.com, the state tourism website, which has both a page dedicated to products made in Illinois (enjoyillinois.com/illinois-made) and an annual gift guide (tinyurl.com/MadeInIL22).
As expected, the list includes loads of food and drink items, but there also are suggestions that might be a bit more shelf-stable (if shipped carefully!) such as items from Mississippi Mud Pottery in Alton, Wild Cherry Spoon Co. in Moline, Starved Rock Hot Glass in Ottawa and Buffalo Bluff Hemp Farm in Shawnee Hills.
The website is well worth exploring, but I’d also like to hear from readers. Reach out with your favorite local gift item and I’ll share select answers in future columns. (Reminder: You can never go wrong with local restaurant gift cards.)
For those able to travel, the state Department of Agriculture is running its Illinois Product Holiday Market Friday through Sunday north of the Governor’s Mansion in Springfield with more than 30 vendors, live entertainment and an all-ages ornament workshop. Visit illinoisproductholidaymarket.com for details.