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Senate Week in Review: District office building destroyed in fire, Ray Graham Association receives award, Enterprise Zone hearings begin, and more

A compiled review of Senate activities from the week.

Springfield, Ill. – State Sen. Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) said the building that he recently moved his district office into suffered a damaging fire early Monday morning.  The building is destroyed and investigations are ongoing to determine the cause of the fire.  Sen. Sandack said his unit suffered mostly smoke and water damage, and he was able to recover some of the office items.  At this time, it is unclear where Sen. Sandack will relocate his district office and he is currently operating remotely.  Constituents are still able to contact Sen. Sandack at 630-737-0504, 217-782-8107 for his Springfield office, or by e-mail at senatorsandack@gmail.com

“The fire has certainly been difficult on us all,” Sen. Sandack said.  “I had only been in there a few weeks, but there were others in the building that had been there for several years.  I truly feel for them and cannot imagine what they are going through.  Godspeed to them all.”

If you were unable to watch Sen. Sandack’s inaugural show, “Capitol Agenda with Senator Sandack,” it is now on his website under the Media tab.  Sen. Sandack welcomed State Sen. Matt Murphy (R-Palatine) as his first guest to talk about the many issues facing Illinois.  Sen. Sandack’s website is www.senatorsandack.com.

Sen. Sandack was on hand Tuesday, Mar. 13 for a check presentation to Ray Graham Association by AT&T.

AT&T announced Ray Graham Association as the winner of an “AT&T Investing in Illinois Award,” which aims to provide recognition to organizations and programs that are improving the lives of those in their communities through their services. 

The award from AT&T gives Ray Graham Association public recognition and a contribution of $1,000 to be used to fund their Monarch services, which are programs designed to assist young adults who have recently graduated high school. 

“We are fortunate that very committed and caring groups are working to improve the quality of life for many residents of Lisle and DuPage County area,” Sen. Sandack said.  “Ray Graham Association does tremendous work and I was pleased to see them recognized in this way.”

Ray Graham Association supports more than 2,000 DuPage County residents with disabilities and their families to live in and contribute to their community.  Through their programming, residents are assisted in finding employment, provided with post high school options, given independence in a variety of residential settings, and many other services.

A series of Senate hearings focused on a statewide review of Illinois’ enterprise zones kicked off in Carbondale March 15, while a half-billion-dollar state bond sale earlier in the week prompted words of caution from a major bond agency, according to Sen. Sandack.

The bipartisan Special Senate Committee on Enterprise Zone Extensions met at Southern Illinois University’s Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center, beginning the first of several statewide hearings to evaluate the state’s enterprise zones. Enterprise zones are widely regarded as an effective economic development tool, with a proven record of creating jobs and spurring business investment by offering attractive tax incentives to employers.

Senator Sandack explained that Illinois has almost 100 enterprise zones, established 30 years ago to create jobs and spur economic growth. With several enterprise zones scheduled to expire in the coming year, lawmakers have begun reviewing the program.

Since being established, the zones have contributed to the creation of more than 900,000 jobs and led to nearly $50 billion in associated revenue. Bipartisan legislation, Senate Bill 3688, has been introduced to extend the length of the zones by 25 years, create up to 10 new zones over the next 10 years, and implement transparency and accountability for these zones.

Lawmakers anticipate the public hearing and review period will provide helpful feedback from business and community leaders that will enable the state to improve effectiveness of the zones going forward. As the state looks to improve the economy and create jobs, many legislators say that enterprise zones should be a key component of that growth.

Growing the economy and addressing the state’s fiscal problems were underscored early this week when the state borrowed $575 million for capital construction bonds March 13.

Illinois received another reminder of the costs and risks of its ongoing budget woes when the state paid a 4.19 percent interest rate with the latest bond sale, up from 3.9 percent in January. The Bond Buyer, a financial newspaper, reported “Illinois continues to pay an interest-rate penalty for its fiscal challenges, which include mammoth unfunded pension liabilities, an $8 billion backlog in bills and rising Medicaid expenses….”

With the state’s credit rating ranking at or near the bottom in the nation, Illinois taxpayers are paying about 1.5 percent more in interest charges than the best-rated government bonds.

Illinois is already saddled with the worst credit rating in the nation by one of the major bond rating firms, and state lawmakers received a warning from another rating agency. The Fitch Ratings service cautioned before the bond sale “additional payment deferrals in the budget, could lead to negative rating action.”

This is significant because avoiding those additional payment deferrals will require a budget that cuts at least $2.7 billion out of the Medicaid program and holds almost all other areas of the budget to zero or negative growth.

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