By Bob Balgemann


The 100th Illinois General Assembly to govern this state will convene Wednesday, Jan. 11 in Springfield.

Among those participating in that historic event will be three legislators who represent Boone County: Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, and Reps. Bob Pritchard, R-Sycamore, and Joe Sosnowski, R-Rockford.

Then, it will be time to get back to business.

Both state House members are hoping the two Democratic-laden chambers will come together in the beginning of a new century of doing the people’s business, and what’s in residents’ best interests.

Yet, Sosnowski, who with Pritchard was re-elected Nov. 8, points to problems such as continued publicly-funded subsidies to support the Quad Cities and Clinton nuclear power plants, which were approved as the 99th General Assembly’s tenure wound down late last year.

He said Exelon in recent months had been threatening to close its two plants if the state Legislature did not approve even more subsidies along with rate increases. (There are four other such plants in Illinois, including one in nearby Byron).

Initially, he said many in opposition to proposed legislation referred to it as the Exelon Bailout Bill.

Senate Bill 2814 received bipartisan support and passed, 63-38, with opposition from Sosnowski and Pritchard. Support came from Reps. John Cabello, R-Machesney Park, and Jack Franks, D-Marengo.

As a result, Sosnowski said Exelon will be required to keep the Quad Cities and Clinton plants open for the next 10 years in exchange for more than $200 million annually in taxpayer-funded subsidies. There also will be at least $220 million a year in funding for the wind and solar energy industries.

In a concession to ease financial worries, he said Exelon agreed to a rate cap. But, he added that was misleading “and residential and commercial business owners will now have to deal with their own financial struggles to cover additional electricity costs. This is an economic supply and demand issue with nuclear energy. Exelon claimed a rate increase was inevitable if the plants stayed open or closed, but Illinois already produces 40 percent more energy than it uses, and there is a planned, $1-billion electrical generating natural gas facility expansion in Grundy County. This bill [SB 2814] protected nuclear energy jobs over other commercial jobs and did absolutely nothing to fix Illinois’ core problems with attracting and maintaining access to good-paying jobs.”

Sosnowski simply stated, “Illinois cannot continue to provide financial incentives and corporate bailouts for business. You give one handout and others will seek the same. Sears and Exelon got theirs. Who’s next?”

Meanwhile, Rep. Pritchard pointed to the latest report from the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois. Using a specially developed computer model, it provides projections of the state’s fiscal imbalance and various paths to climb out of its fiscal hole.

The report used state revenue and expenditure numbers taken from the Illinois Comptroller’s Office over the last 20 years to project results from different fiscal scenarios.

Bottom line is it predicts a $13-billion deficit in the next fiscal year and even bigger deficits in years to come unless severe measures are taken quickly.

“Researchers found that this is not a problem that can be solved easily, in just a few years, through any single action,” Rep. Pritchard said. “They concluded there is a need for sweeping policy changes to state tax increases, expanding the tax base, budget cuts, and economic growth. While the report noted that enacting policies to encourage economic growth will have limited short-term impact, they could contribute to fiscal balance in the long term. This is something the governor [Bruce Rauner] has been attempting to drive home to other legislative leaders.”

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