Weaver Weekly Wrap-up: October 19 - 23
PEORIA, IL – Both houses of the Illinois Legislature met in Springfield this week for a rare fall session day, amid the ongoing budget impasse now well into its fourth month, according to State Sen. Chuck Weaver (R-Peoria).
Meanwhile, the real-world impact of that impasse – and the majority Democrats’ refusal to embrace pro-jobs reforms – are being seen more clearly every day. Two of the three credit rating agencies officially downgraded the state’s credit this week, and new jobs figures highlighted the vital importance of cutting through the logjam to get Illinois’ economy back on track.
The Senate also unanimously approved the recommendation of State Rep. Frank Mautino as the state’s next Auditor General and hosted a speech by the Consul General of the Philippines.
The onset of fall means that Illinois’ farmers are wrapping up the 2015 harvest and preparing their fields for next year. When preparing for Halloween and Thanksgiving celebrations this year, Illinois residents should remember to thank a farmer: 90 percent of the pumpkins grown in the U.S. are raised in Illinois!
Illinois credit woes continue: Fitch and Moody’s downgrade
On Oct. 19, credit rating agency Fitch officially downgraded its rating on $26 billion in Illinois general obligation bonds from A- to BBB+, the worst rating of any state in the country. On Oct. 22, Moody’s followed suit, downgrading Illinois bonds from A3 to Baa1. Moody’s had warned earlier in the week that a skipped pension payment planned for November could affect their rating of Illinois’ debt further.
In downgrading the state’s debt, Fitch cited Illinois’ weak economic recovery compared to the rest of the country – long-term liabilities, ongoing budget gaps, and reduced flexibility as a result of the budget impasse. Fitch also lowered the rating from BBB+ to BBB for bonds on the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, McCormick Place, and Chicago’s motor fuel revenue bonds.
Moody’s also lowered its rating of sales-tax bonds from A3 to Baa1 and lowered the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority and Civics Center bonds from Baa1 to Baa2. Moody’s outlook for Illinois and each additional obligation remains negative.
Fitch downgrade: https://www.fitchratings.com/site/fitch-home/pressrelease?id=992554
Moody’s downgrade: https://www.moodys.com/research/Moodys-downgrades-Illinois-outstanding-27B-of-GO-bonds-to-Baa1--PR_337211
Illinois economy continues to struggle: Change needed
The push continues for much-needed reforms in Springfield, especially those that would improve Illinois’s struggling economy.
According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, Illinois lost nearly 7,000 jobs in the month of September, the fourth straight month of statewide job losses.
At this rate, Illinois will not fully recover from the recession until April 2017 – a year and a half from now – while our neighboring states have already surpassed their pre-recession jobs totals.
Compared to the pre-recession peak for employment, jobs nationwide are up 2.9 percent, but Illinois is still more than 3 percent below its peak.
According to Senator Weaver these aren’t just abstract numbers. These numbers represent people trying to find work, families struggling to make ends meet, and businesses coming to the conclusion that Illinois is not a place to grow.
Senate approves Mautino as Auditor General
The Senate voted unanimously Oct. 20 to approve the appointment of State Rep. Frank Mautino to serve as the next Auditor General of Illinois. Mautino will replace Bill Holland, who has served as Auditor General since 1992, at the end of this year.
The Auditor General oversees state agency budgets and reviews the state’s financial records, issuing about 150 audits of targeted agencies every year. Holland oversaw the high-profile 2005 audit of the Department of Central Management Services that eventually led to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment, and the 2014 audit of former Gov. Pat Quinn’s controversial $54 million Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.
The bipartisan Legislative Audit Commission had recommended Mautino for the post after a nationwide search.