Budget | Children
Illinois personal income tax revenue stream remains strong, for now. The report on December 2023 State of Illinois revenues, published this week by the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA), closed out the first half of the State’s Fiscal Year 2024. Economic analysts and commentators have remarked on the strength of the overall U.S. economy in calendar year 2023, with many U.S. states having completely recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic. Many sections of North America are seeing a booming economy with record levels of spending and employment.
Unfortunately, CGFA’s numbers – gathered on the basis of tax receipts by the Illinois Department of Revenue and other receivers of State general funds – show that the Land of Lincoln continue to fall short of the numbers posted by states with higher employment totals. While the most-recently-published overall U.S. unemployment rate was 3.7%, signaling “full employment” below 4%, Illinois’ unemployment rate was 4.7% for the same period (November 2023). This was 100 basis points higher than the national average, signaling a comparatively weak Illinois economy and poorer prospects for Illinois consumer spending.
December 2023 sales tax receipt numbers confirm this standstill picture. Illinois sales tax revenues were $1.048 billion in December 2023, up only $17 million (+1.6%) from the year-earlier figure. This percentage of 1.6% was well below inflation during the same period, and signaled a new drop in Illinois consumer spending on taxable goods during the Christmas 2023 shopping season.
Paced by higher withheld collections from Illinois paychecks, Illinois personal income tax receipts formed a single bright spot in this standstill picture. Personal income tax receipts were up 15.9% in December 2023, creating a cash flow to partly match up with Illinois’s sharp increases in FY24 spending. This growth, which outpaces overall FY24 revenue trends through the first half of the fiscal year, is being driven by accounting changes at the Department of revenue. These changes are resulting in a reallocation of over $1 billion into the personal income tax line. Reallocated moneys include $259 million in Illinois corporate income taxes, and $818 million in Illinois personal property replacement tax receipts.
Overall Illinois general funds receipts were up $753 million in the first six months of the fiscal year compared to the same period last year, with $704 million of this increase coming from rising Illinois personal income tax payments and receipts. During this six-month period, more than 90% of the net new money in Illinois’ coffers came from this single budget line item.
New director named for embattled DCFS. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has a wide-ranging set of responsibilities that center on monitoring children at risk and keeping them safe. With a variety of data points showing measurements of social breakdown in all too many Illinois households with children, this is a serious burden on the Department’s local personnel and offices. The top leadership of DCFS, appointed by Gov. Pritzker, has repeatedly been accused of failing to support Illinois children at risk, and failing to support Illinois’s child welfare field service personnel. At one point, DCFS Director Marc D. Smith had more than ten separate findings of contempt of court against him, based upon acknowledged situations of child endangerment, inappropriate housing, and inappropriate treatment. Embattled Director Smith will step down at the end of January 2024.
Governor Pritzker announced this week that he is transferring his director of Juvenile Justice, Heidi Mueller, to head DCFS. The Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice is the custodial guardian of troubled youth who have been committed to the State by Illinois courts. Most of the committal actions that send young people to this Department are actions by juvenile courts, and these actions are triggered when the young people are adjudicated for acts that, if they were committed by an adult, would be criminal offenses.
A recent report by the DCFS inspector general shows that the children looked after by DCFS faced continued challenges in the most recently concluded State operational and fiscal year, FY23. During this twelve-month period, 160 Illinois children died under the watch of DCFS.
“A change in leadership at DCFS is a step in the right direction, but will not solve its systemic problems,” said House Minority Leader Tony McCombie. “House Republicans want to work with the new director to implement good ideas to keep children safe in state care, but will also continue to hold the administration accountable for every day that passes without meaningful reform.”
New law empowers parents of children with special needs. Senate Bill 188, providing important new protections for parents of children with special needs, was enacted in the New Year. The legislation introduced in the Illinois Senate by Sen. Steve McClure and sponsored in the House of Representative by Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer makes it easier for parents to access the health records of their children.
Under prior Illinois law, parents faced hurdles in accessing medical records and test results for children aged 12-17, resulting in challenges when trying to make critical medical decisions.
“This change in the law ensures that a parent or legal HIPAA representative can have access to health records while ensuring that doctors can still withhold the information when any type of abuse is suspected,” said Davidsmeyer.
As a parent and advocate for families in her community, Rep. Nicole La Ha is a strong supporter of the new law, which closes this loophole and ensures that parents of children with special needs have the ability to access necessary medical information. The law will empower parents to make informed decisions and provide the best care for their children.
“Every parent of a child with special needs deserves the peace of mind and confidence that comes with having access to their child’s medical records,” said La Ha. “I’m proud to support this legislation that ensures no parent faces unnecessary complications when seeking important medical information for their child. I want to personally thank Senator McClure for his hard work on this critical piece of legislation.”
SB 188 is a crucial step in supporting families and ensuring that children with special needs receive the care and attention they deserve. La Ha extends her gratitude to her colleagues in the Illinois General Assembly for their support in passing this important legislation.