ACMHAI Legislative Report – April 2022

Government Strategy Associates

 Legislature Wraps Up Business Early

The General Assembly ended their business on April 9th, nearly eight weeks earlier than the normally scheduled May31st adjournment. To get their business complete, they pulled an all-nighter passing a $46.5 billion budget. The Governor signed the budget ten days later on April 19th. The operating budget includes more than $12 billion for elementary, secondary and higher education, nearly $9 billion for human services, and more than $2 billion for public safety.

The budget plan includes $350 million toward the evidence-based formula that will disperse funding through a tier system and property tax relief grants to the state’s K-12 school districts. For early education, the legislature’s plan increased the state board of education’s Early Childhood block grant to $598.1 million, a 10% increase from last year.

Mental/Behavioral Health: $170M increase from FY22, which includes Mental Health and Substance Use Medicaid rate increases (to learn more about the incredible advocacy behind this investment, view this fact sheet).

Intellectual/Developmental Disability Services: Appropriations remained the same as the Governor’s initial proposal, which included $2 billion for services for people with developmental disabilities, including funds for the implementation of the second phase of the Guidehouse rate study (though the second phase of implementation is not fully covered through this appropriation). Included in this is $94.8M to support mid-year implementation of a $1.00 an hour rate increase for DSPs and the CILA Rate Study calculator; $45.1M to fund the annualization of the FY22 rate increases and liability changes; $69.6M to support 700 new PUNS placements, a 5.9% increase in the Home-Based program liability, a 2% mid-year grant COLA, and additional support for the DD service delivery system.

The budget also puts $1 billion into the Budget Stabilization Fund, a state rainy-day fund. This year lawmakers committed an additional $500 million more than required into state pension funds which will reduce long-term liabilities by an estimated $1.8 billion.

The Community Mental Health validation legislation, Senate Bill 3215, passed the House and Senate and has been sent to Governor Pritzker. The Governor has 60 days to take action on the legislation. We will be contacting his office and urging his support.

State Receives Credit Rating Increase

In late April, Illinois received a credit rating upgrade from Moody’s Investors Service, a bond credit rating agency. This is the second credit rating upgrade from Moody’s since this time last year. Credit ratings are one way to assess a state’s financial health because it is a common way bond buyers and investors assess the risk of buying bonds from a state. This can affect how easily it is for a state to borrow money.  The agency also cited Illinois’ recent payments to decrease its pension debts and into its financial reserves, such as its “rainy day” fund. Even with the upgrade, Illinois continues to have the lowest rated general obligation bonds of any state.  It is like one of my kids bragging about being taller than me. Sure its growth but it’s not a major accomplishment.

Budget Includes Breaks to Fight Inflation

Democrats pushed a spending plan they argue fights near-record inflation by giving $1.8 billion back to taxpayers. Republicans countered that this is an election year budget filled with gimmicks. The tax relief provisions include the following:

  • The state’s 1% sales tax on groceries will be suspended for the entirety of the new fiscal year, which officials say will save taxpayers up to $400 million through July 1, 2023.
  • The state’s fuel tax, which was slated to increase in July due to inflation, will instead be frozen at $.39 a gallon through Jan. 1, 2023, with a taxpayer savings of $70 million.
  • Property tax rebates of up to $300 per household will be included in the budget.
  • Expansion of the earned income tax credit from 18 to 20 percent of the federal EITC.
  • Direct checks from the state will be sent. Each individual will be eligible for a check of up to $50, with households also receiving $100 per child. (Income limits of $200,000 per individual taxpayer, or $400,000 for joint filers)
  • The package also includes a “Back to School” tax relief for families and teachers for school supplies and clothing items.

Public Safety Measures Finalized at the End of Session

The budget includes another $200 million to be steered toward public safety measures. In addition, many bills were passed in the waning days of session to address crime prevention and enforcement.

  • House Bill 1568 incentivizes police training at Illinois community colleges and help with talent retention.
  • House Bill 1321 creates the First Responder Behavioral Health grant program to help first responders
  • House Bill 1091 creates and defines the new charge of organized retail crime, in which groups or individuals commit assault or battery while stealing from a retail establishment. It would also allow prosecutors to charge the individuals who direct other individuals to commit the theft for them with the goal of reselling the merchandise. This also allows the attorney general to impanel a statewide grand jury to prosecute these crimes.
  • House Bill 4736 begins a co-responder pilot program to help crime victims locate and access the resources they need to help recover from their incidents and help them with crisis management.
  • House Bill 4383 bans the sale and possession of “ghost guns.” The ban applies to both normal firearms with serial numbers removed or homemade weapons made using a kit or a 3D printer.
  • House Bill 3699 targets carjacking prevention. This bill provides grants to local law enforcement to combat carjacking. It also permits police to access cameras on expressways investigate carjackings, shootings and other violent crimes. Another measure will increase cameras on expressways in Cook and the collar counties.

Get used to hearing about these initiatives. They will be mentioned in campaign mailers and tv commercials prior to the June 28th primary and before November’s general elections.

COVID on the Rise Again/IDPH Promotes Treatment Options

IDPH officials noted that the COVID case rate has been slowly rising in the state with reported 24,646 new confirmed and probable cases, including 46 deaths since during the last week of April. IDPH noted a total of 3,138,682 cases, including 33,614 deaths, in 102 counties in Illinois since the beginning of the pandemic.

IDPH Acting Director Amaal Tokars said Illinois remains strongly positioned to respond in the event of a new COVID-19 surge. The department has been supporting pharmacies and healthcare providers in efforts to increase their inventories of the various FDA-authorized treatment. There are over 2,200 treatment locations in Illinois – including all the major retail pharmacies – and that over 96.7% of the state’s population is within a 10-mile radius of one of these locations.

Key Dates Relative to the June 28th Primary

May 13: Last day to register to receive a mail-in ballot

May 19: Early in-person voting begins at your county clerk’s office

June 12: Last day to register online to vote in Illinois. You can still register to vote in-person, up until and on election day (June 28).

June 23: Last day for election officials to receive your mail-in ballot (so make sure your mail-in ballot is postmarked before this date)

June 28: Illinois state-wide primary election. Polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.