Illinois Insights: An Update from Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies (4/20)

April 20, 2023

Note: There will be no Illinois Insights update tomorrow, April 21st. We’ll be back in your inbox on Monday, April 24th.


IDPH Reports 6 Illinois Counties at an Elevated Community Level for COVID-19, from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

As regulators OK omicron booster, Chicago’s health chief says vaccine rate here could improve: “Chicago Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a briefing that the city’s vaccine rate outpaces most of the country and more residents continue to get the vaccine every day, but the uptake rate is still not ideal, especially amongst older residents, who are at a higher risk for developing a more severe COVID-19 illness,” by Crain’s Chicago Business.


Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson speaks to joint session in Springfield

Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson made his ceremonial trip to Springfield yesterday ahead of his May 15 inauguration to address a joint session of the Illinois General Assembly. Johnson discussed public safety, education, economic security, and the relationship between Chicago and the rest of Illinois.

The Mayor-elect’s speech focused on unity between Chicago and the rest of Illinois and racial unity within the city. He vowed to fight for racial equality for the city’s Black and Brown populations and to house and integrate migrant asylum seekers into Chicago’s community.

In his speech, Johnson championed a variety of his campaign proposals, which include revising state education spending from an evidence-based funding model and increasing the distribution of state funds to the Local Government Distribution Fund – initiatives he claims are long overdue and would benefit the entire state.

While he did not offer specifics regarding his plans to implement a transfer tax on high-end home sales, a trading tax, and a jet fuel tax – all of which would require legislative approval – he told Springfield that the city will look to their recent budgeting processes that resulted in surpluses as a model for the Chicago budget.

Johnson also proposed a number initiatives aimed at addressing public safety, including increasing the number of CPD detectives by 200, reopening city mental health clinics, increasing mental health funding for youths and police officers, and boosting job opportunities to increase youth employment.


Governors State University union ends strike after reaching tentative agreement with administration: “Administrators at Governors State University and the school’s faculty and staff union have reached a tentative agreement, ending a strike that began April 11, according to union officials,” by the Chicago Tribune.

Bears stadium development could hinge on TIF money — a financial tool that’s had varying success in Arlington Heights: “The tax subsidy tool has come under increased scrutiny now that a TIF has been suggested as a potential funding mechanism to help draw the Chicago Bears to redevelop the closed Arlington International Racecourse, a 326-acre site the team bought earlier this year for $197 million. In November, the Village Board approved a predevelopment agreement that specifies a TIF as a potential funding tool for the project,” by the Chicago Tribune.

Illinois Senate committee hears array of ideas on implementing an elected school board in Chicago: “A special committee of the Illinois Senate on Monday evening heard an array of perspectives from the public during the final hearing on the logistics of an elected school board in Chicago, with ideas ranging from reducing the number of seats on the board to providing compensation to those who sit on it,” by the Chicago Tribune.

Illinois assault weapons ban withstands appeal in federal court: “The federal appeals court in Chicago on Tuesday denied a request to block the Illinois assault weapons ban while it faces legal challenges,” by the Chicago Sun-Times.


Mayor Lightfoot releases Mid-Year Budget Forecast 

On Tuesday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her financial team released the 2022-2026 Mid-Year Budget Forecast, featuring a budget shortfall of just $85 million, the smallest budget deficit a mayor has left their successor and the lowest sustained budget gaps in decades.

The gap is significantly smaller than the summer 2022 forecast, which predicted a $475 million deficit in 2024 and $550 million the following year, and even smaller than the updated estimates from January, which showed 2024 and 2025 deficits cut down by about $190 million total.

According to the report, issued four months earlier than usual, the historically low budget gap comes from higher-than-expected revenue tied to an “accelerated economic recovery” and the “impact of stimulus and inflation on city revenues.”

The mid-year budget forecast also assumes Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson will keep Lightfoot’s initiative to implement an automatic escalator that ties annual property tax increases to the inflation rate and forgo his campaign promise not to raise property taxes.

Budget Committee Chair and 3rd Ward Ald. Pat Dowell said if Lightfoot’s numbers hold, it would be “great news” for the city. But, she added, “It’s way too early to make this rosy forecast. Experience shows us that a more meaningful forecast comes into view the closer we get to the budget process and after the city audit.”

Aldermen pay tribute to exiting colleagues, mayor during the City Council’s final meeting of the term

Members of Chicago’s City Council on Wednesday commemorated outgoing Mayor Lori Lightfoot and their aldermanic colleagues during the last full City Council meeting before a new council and Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson are sworn in on May 15.

Despite rising tensions in recent months between the mayor and City Council, even Lightfoot’s most vocal critics applauded her notable and historic work over the past four years, including navigating the city through the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing a casino to Chicago, investing in the city’s South and West neighborhoods, and extending the Red Line into areas lacking transportation.

Lightfoot, who has not held a formal news conference since finishing third in the race for mayor on Feb. 28 and who has declined invitations from local news organizations to discuss her tenure, passed up the opportunity to address the City Council as mayor one last time.

Instead, Ald. Ed Burke (14) – the city’s longest-serving alderman in history – offered words of wisdom. Reciting an often-used quote, Burke said: “In politics, there are no permanent enemies, no permanent friends. Only permanent interests … If I have failed during these past 54 years in achieving that goal, please permit me to apologize.” Burke is scheduled to stand trial on Nov. 6 on 14 counts of corruption.

Wednesday marked the final City Council meeting for the following aldermen: Ald. Sophia King (4), Ald. Leslie Hairston (5), Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6), Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10), Ald. Anabel Abarca (12), Ald. Ed Burke (14), Ald. Howard Brookins (21), Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26), Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30), Ald. Tom Tunney (44), Ald. James Cappleman (46) and Ald. Harry Osterman (48).  The City Council also honored former 34th Ward Ald. Carrie Austin, who retired in March following her 2021 indictment on federal bribery charges.


100-year water agreement with Joliet approved: “On Monday, the Chicago City Council Committee on Finance passed an ordinance (O2023-1333) recommending the approval of a key agreement with the city of Joliet that will see Chicago supply Lake Michigan water to Joliet for at least the next 100 years. The City Council then passed it as a part of the omnibus on Wednesday,” by The Daily Line.

Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson working to put his stamp on City Council reorganization: “Brandon Johnson’s allies and transition advisers are working behind the scenes to put the mayor-elect’s stamp on the new City Council by tweaking the reorganization approved last month and installing more Johnson loyalists as key committee chairs,” by the Chicago Sun-Times.

Finance committee approves $74M in TIF assistance, holds hearing on tweaked Water For All proposal: “The City Council Committee on Finance on Monday approved $74 million in TIF assistance for various developments across the city,” by The Daily Line.

Paul Vallas outspent Brandon Johnson nearly 2-to-1 in losing mayoral bid: “Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas outspent Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson by a nearly 2-to-1 margin leading up to Vallas losing in April in the race to become Chicago’s next mayor,” by the Chicago Tribune.  

Violent gathering of youths downtown takes center stage at South Side meeting on police superintendent search: “More than 150 South Side residents and community stakeholders gathered at St. Sabina Church in Auburn Gresham Wednesday to give feedback on the ongoing search for the next superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, with last weekend’s downtown violence on the minds of many,” by the Chicago Tribune.

Aldermen discuss transferring power to release IG reports away from corporation counsel to top watchdog: “Members of the City Council Committee on Ethics and Government Oversight on Tuesday discussed an updated version of a proposed ordinance (O2022-2928) from Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22) and Ald. Maria Hadden (49) that would shift control over who decides which reports from the Office of the Inspector General are made public from the city’s law department to the inspector’s office,” by The Daily Line.


Beltway Briefing: Battles in and for the Senate

Dave McCormick, a former undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs and a well-funded former hedge fund CEO, has released a new book and is launching a new PAC. It’s fueling speculation he might run again for a Pennsylvania Senate seat in 2024, after narrowly losing to Mehmet Oz last year. Meanwhile, there are calls for 89-year-old Senator Feinstein (D-Calif.) to resign because of her prolonged absence from the Senate due to her health.

Public Strategies’ Howard Schweitzer, Mark Alderman, and Kaitlyn Martin ponder whether McCormick may be the GOP’s ticket to a 2024 win in Pennsylvania and discuss how Sen. Feinstein’s temporary replacement or permanent resignation could impact the Senate Democrats.

Listen to the full Beltway Briefing here.

Cozen Currents: The Taxman Cometh, But Which Taxman?

  • Congress isn’t in its tax heyday like it was in 2017 or 2021, but tax policy is far from dormant as the Biden administration focuses on implementing the Inflation Reduction Act tax agenda and a major tax cliff looms on the horizon.
  • Both Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan and Securities and Exchange Commission Gary Gensler are viewed as progressive regulators, but their approaches are distinctly different.
  • Julie Su’s confirmation to succeed Marty Walsh as secretary of Labor is far from certain, but as acting secretary, she’s already overseeing President Biden’s ambitious labor agenda.

Read the Cozen Currents article here.


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