by Frank Conklin, The Chicago Times

July 20, 2021

SPRINGFIELD, IL — Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Tuesday that if the Illinois National Guard is not reimbursed for providing security to the United States Capitol following the Jan. 6 attack, it will have to cut training and take time off.

Following the Jan 6 Capitol building breach by protestors, hundreds of members of the Illinois Guard were deployed to Washington, D.C. to pick up the slack in security after the failure of Federally run Capitol police to do their job.

Pritzker stated that if the United States Senate does not consider reimbursement legislation soon, the state Guard will have to reduce exercises and weekend training and implement service member furloughs.

“Even as the events of Jan. 6 were still unfolding, heroes from across the nation fearlessly mobilized in defense of their country, and every day that our debts to them go unpaid is an insult to their service.” Pritzker said in a statement.

After the Capitol attack, 25,000 Guard members from across the country provided security.  Many Guard members were forced by Congress to sleep in parking garages with little rations.

Some remained until the end of May to assist local law enforcement.


by Frank Conklin, The Chicago Times

July 20, 2021

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Illinois Democrat Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned on Tuesday that stricter mitigations may be reinstated in areas experiencing an increase in COVID cases.  This coming after his announced re-election bid.

Pritzker urged anyone who has not been immunized to get vaccinated and stated that the state will continue to monitor COVID metrics such as positivity rate, case numbers, and hospitalizations.

Pritzker said. “The delta variant is challenging. Our next neighbor, Missouri, is the worst state in the country and that bleeds over into Illinois. It has in southern Illinois and Metro East you’ve seen an awful lot of people have gotten sick or gone to the hospital.”

Data shows that positivity rates and coronavirus-related hospitalizations are increasing in western and southern Illinois. 


Office of Governor J. B. Pritzker

July 13, 2021

CHICAGO – Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) today announced an $8 million expansion of the Apprenticeship Illinois program. Through a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), DCEO will expand innovative and high-quality apprenticeship programs to prepare Illinoisans for jobs in high-demand industries. Through the expansion, the State aims to serve an additional 750 apprentices across key industries, with plans to reach underserved populations as well as industries heavily impacted by COVID-19.
The State of Illinois will leverage $2 million in USDOL funding under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and $6 million of additional funding under the USDOL State Apprenticeship Expansion, Equity and Innovation grant program, to develop innovative new pathways in communities throughout the state while ensuring these training programs are aligned with current labor market/force needs. The State will also seek to boost capacity of existing apprenticeship pathways in all sectors which are offered in partnership with hundreds of employer-led navigator partners across the state.
“During this unprecedented time for workers and companies, the investments we are making today to grow apprenticeships will help more Illinoisans get back to work in well-paying jobs, while developing strong talent pipelines for the future,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “From day one, my administration has focused on expanding workforce training, like apprenticeships, so that residents, regardless of where they live, can enter 21st century career pathways. With these investments, hundreds of additional Illinoisans will be able to gain the skills they need for successful careers as we continue to build a strong recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic for all of our residents.”

DCEO will expand apprenticeship opportunities geared toward restoring the creative arts and entertainment sector, while increasing training opportunities for underserved populations. Apprenticeship expansion dollars will also grow the capacity of pathways currently offered and which have been impacted during the crisis – including those ranging from healthcare to hospitality, tech to transportation, manufacturing and more.

“DCEO is proud to expand the Apprenticeship Illinois program, providing workers access to comprehensive training and credentials that will help them excel in the jobs and career paths our Illinois employers are looking to fill today,” said DCEO Acting Director Sylvia Garcia. “This is one of many ways that under Governor Pritzker’s leadership, the State continues to partner with Illinois businesses and communities to grow and develop our workforce and help residents compete and thrive in today’s economy.”
The State will seek to launch a new pathway to upskill workers in the creative arts & entertainment industry sector. Through this first-ever pathway, the State will supplement funds for workers in the creative, hospitality and service sectors to participate in training programs that build capacity for underrepresented populations for jobs in these industries. The program was informed by a workforce study conducted by the Arts Alliance of Illinois, which found over 60 percent of workers from arts related businesses and organizations in Illinois have either been laid off or furloughed during the pandemic.
“The arts and entertainment industry was among the first to be shuttered due to COVID-19, forcing devastating consequences for workers in every corner of Illinois,” said Claire Rice, Executive Director of the Arts Alliance.  “New investments by the State to develop first-ever apprenticeship training pathways come at a crucial time and will help as we work to achieve greater diversity in our industry. We are grateful for the Pritzker administration’s swift response to the challenges facing our industry through a number of economic relief measures – including this one that will help give workers in the arts and entertainment sector an opportunity to gain new skills to support career progression.”
To increase equity in the workforce, DCEO and its partners will also leverage program expansion dollars to increase apprenticeship participation by underrepresented populations – including low-income individuals, older workers, women, returning citizens, persons with disabilities, veterans, youth and more.
To reach more residents across the state, particularly in underserved communities, DCEO will utilize the DCEO navigator and intermediary partnership models first piloted last year, and as a result of the Pritzker administration’s efforts to invest an additional $4.7 million to grow the program. These apprenticeship partners will work to recruit from areas of the state which are underrepresented – including rural areas – and to prioritize diversity and inclusion within the Apprenticeship Illinois community.

“The Apprenticeship program provides a standard of excellence in the development of valuable, marketable skills for our teammates, while providing access to opportunity for people within our community who may not have had that access through any other means,” said Jeff Horvath, Vice President of TerraSource of Belleville. “That is a win for our company and a win for the individual – these apprenticeships let us “grow our own” talent, adding good jobs to the St. Clair County and Metro-East St. Louis economy by filling roles that are critical to the growth of our business.”

The Apprenticeship Expansion Program design is centered on supporting businesses and individuals. Expanding apprenticeships helps businesses with their current and future workforce needs as well as individuals with a career pathway, which includes work-based learning. DCEO will accept proposals that expand registered apprenticeships in Illinois. A fundamental goal of this NOFO is to increase apprenticeship opportunities for minorities and targeted populations that are underrepresented in registered apprenticeship occupations in Illinois. 
“We have more than a thousand employers in our community that provide our students with workplace learning opportunities with the goal of helping to develop their talent pipeline,” said Dr. Lazaro Lopez Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning for High School District 214, in Arlington Heights, Illinois.  “Many of these employers are engaging with our district to offer youth apprenticeships as a workforce development tool. Students are ready for their future by gaining valuable work experience, earning competitive wages and industry credentials without taking on student debt, with a pathway to economic mobility right in our backyard.”
Funding will be provided for 10 -12 navigators and 16-20 intermediary grantees, who will develop industry aligned curriculum to train participants; and navigators who will work with employers to match residents to skills training opportunities.  Applicants will be prioritized based on the quality of their proposal, demonstrated plans to serve targeted populations outlined in the Illinois WIOA Unified Plan, as well as projects to serve industries recovering from the pandemic.
In addition to expanding apprenticeship networks throughout the state, the Pritzker administration is focused on building apprenticeship capacity in a number of ways. This includes the launch of the apprenticeship tax credit program to incentivize apprenticeships at small and large sized businesses, creation of new apprenticeship networks in all ten economic development regions, and the work to stand up the Illinois Works program within DCEO, which will soon launch additional grants to expand pre-apprenticeship training programs in the trades.
The NOFO application is located on Apprenticeship Illinois website, with a deadline of September 15, at 5:00 p.m.  Informational webinars will be held on July 13th and July 14th, at 1:00 pm and you can register to participate online. Residents and employers seeking to join the Apprenticeship Illinois program may also visit the website to learn more and to find their local apprenticeship navigator.

Office of Governor J. B. Pritzker


Illinois Department of Transportation

July 2, 2021

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Transportation announced today that proposals are being accepted through Aug. 31 from downstate transit providers as part of the Rebuild Illinois Transit Capital Grant Program. This second round of three grant cycles seeks applications to distribute $110 million for projects that will expand and improve service, increase transportation options and enhance quality of life.

“A cornerstone of our historic Rebuild Illinois infrastructure plan is investing in transportation systems that bring communities closer together, and the Transit Capital Program is how we get there,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “For too long, downstate Illinois projects were neglected, but I’m committed to prioritizing good infrastructure in downstate communities. To date, we’ve funded over two dozen projects, like new buses in Jo Daviess and a public transportation hub in Bloomington, and I encourage municipalities to apply for a portion of the $110 million second round of grants. Together, we can build accessible local infrastructure, support this generation and the next, make sure we have good jobs and the roads to get there, and build an Illinois where opportunity is just around every corner – and thanks to Rebuild Illinois, we’re well on our way.”

Through IDOT’s Rebuild Illinois Transit Capital Grant Program, $355 million will be awarded via competitive grants to transit providers outside the Chicago area. Among the projects funded so far include rehabbed and renovated bus stations and passenger information kiosks for the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, a new transportation center in downtown Bloomington, and a new building to serve as a headquarters, training facility and dispatch center for the West Central Mass Transit District in Jacksonville.

“Transit providers large and small fulfill an essential role in so many of our communities and play a vital part in the state’s overall multimodal transportation network,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. “These grant opportunities through the governor’s capital program make sure we get them the resources they need to strengthen service and continue to grow.”

A webinar on the program and applications are at IDOT’s Public Transportation Providers page at Invitations for an informational webinar to be held July 14 to address specific questions and review the application process will be sent to eligible transit providers.

Awards will be announced this fall, with the final round of applications occurring in 2023.

Gov. JB Pritzker’s historic and bipartisan Rebuild Illinois capital program identifies a total of $4.5 billion – $3 billion in bonding and $1.5 billion in new pay-as-you-go funding – to invest in transit throughout the state.

Passed in 2019, Rebuild Illinois is investing a total of $33.2 billion over six years into the state’s aging transportation system, creating jobs and promoting economic growth. Rebuild Illinois is not only the largest capital program in state history, but also the first that touches all modes of transportation: roads and bridges, transit, waterways, freight and passenger rail, aviation, and bicycle and pedestrian accommodations.

Illinois Department of Transportation


by Frank Conklin, The Chicago Times

June 6, 2021

SPRINGFIELD — After promising as a candidate that he would reject partisan maps drawn by either party, Democrat Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a measure drawn by Democrats on Friday establishing legislative district boundaries to control elections for the next ten years.  No matter your political party, it should be apparent we have elected a lying opportunist.  How can you trust anyone that lies to your face with a smile?

As a candidate in 2018, Pritzker advocated for an impartial committee to draft maps, removing political factors from the process.  He promised to veto any map created by politicians.  The Governor has now proven to be a complete partisan liar.  Earlier this month, he backtracked on his promise, claiming that the independent procedure never materialized and he stated that he would reject an unfair map.  However, who defines what is unfair but those in power.  According to Republican sources they were never allowed to view the data used or allowed to fully take part in the process.  Obviously the only independent procedure was done by the Democrats.

Senator Dan McConchie, the minority leader in the Senate, described it as the work of political insiders who used flawed data to further cement their control of Illinois, which is ranked one of the worst governed states in the Union.  This decline was initiated and curated by Democrat control and policies implemented over the decades.  Just ask Mike Madigan and look at your property tax bill.

According to McConchie, Pritzker “. . . cares more about keeping power for his political friends than fair elections where the people of Illinois can pick their elected officials, instead of politicians picking their voters…he proved today that he’s just another old-school, tax-raising politician who cannot be trusted.”

To reflect demographic trends and safeguard voting rights, political borders must be adjusted following each decennial Census.  Delays caused by the COVID-19 epidemic have delayed the release of detailed census data until late summer.

Republicans and many left-leaning activists slammed the maps and their production, claiming that Democrats used obsolete Census data.  Democrats cited a June 30 deadline for the Legislature to develop maps, but that constitutionally mandated deadline simply marked the end of Democrats’ exclusive control over them beyond that date.  Clearly this is a grab for more power.

We have elected a power-hungry gang of hypocrites, liars, and con artists that will diminish your political and economic rights.  No wonder residents are fleeing the state.  No matter your party affiliation, beware of who you elect.  Ask what are their true intentions?

Frank Conklin, Illinois Political Reporter/Columnist for The Chicago Times.  Views and comments expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the official position of The Chicago Times.


by Frank Conklin, The Chicago Times

June 1, 2021

SPRINGFIELD, IL — Illinois lawmakers stayed up to the wee hours Tuesday in Springfield, passing a budget proposal and other bills.  Legislators did not get around to debating the proposed $42.2 billion budget until after 11:30 p.m. and passed the bill at 2:30 am.

The bill will now be sent to Gov. Pritzker for signature.  In addition, lawmakers passed a comprehensive election bill that includes relocating the primary from March 15 to June 28 next year.  They also approved a package of ineffective ethics reforms for legislators.

Illinois lawmakers began putting together a state budget on Monday, based on tax revenue sources that have recovered much faster than expected from the global pandemic, as well as $2.5 billion in spending from a multiyear federal relief package.

The plan put together on the last day of the spring session incorporates only a portion of the $8 billion in COVID-19 relief money Illinois expects from Congress last winter – but that pot includes $1 billion in additional construction projects, a fund that was only known to Democrats until Monday.

House Majority Leader Greg Harris declared a balanced budget, which includes the $350 million extra for public schools promised in a 2017 school-funding overhaul, but which Gov. Pritzker initially said would have to be skipped for the second year in a row.

In comparison to the rest of the legislative agenda, which had to be completed by midnight, after which adopting legislation required a three-fifths majority vote, the budget was expected to be a relatively easy lift.  Following the deadly 2019 Aurora warehouse shooting, there was a contentious plan to tighten gun ownership restrictions, as well as a pandemic-interrupted ethics overhaul that appeared in bipartisan form early Monday evening.

The Senate proposal would prohibit sitting legislators from lobbying other government units, a practice exposed in a fall 2019 bribery indictment, and establish a six-month cooling-off period to end the long-despised practice of a legislator resigning one day and lobbying ex-colleagues the next.  However, Chicago, which has its own program, is exempt from the creation of a statewide registration system for lobbyists at all levels of government.  The conflicting systems opening loopholes prompted a question from reporters attending a briefing on the measure.

The budget plan paints a much brighter picture than the “pain” – deep budget cuts – that Pritzker predicted would be unavoidable after voters soundly rejected his proposed constitutional amendment in November, which would have allowed for a graduated income tax system that would have taxed the wealthy more harshly and generated an extra $3 billion per year.

The ballot initiative was denounced by Republicans as a blank check for free-spending Democrats, who control both houses of the General Assembly and the governorship.  They persisted in their claims that Pritzker had more than enough money as revenues continued to exceed expectations.

Their reward was a promise from Pritzker to cut fewer of the business and job-creating incentives they negotiated with the Democrat in 2019, tax breaks that the governor lauded at the time but now refers to as unaffordable “loopholes.”  To raise $636 million in additional revenue, Democrats drafting the budget planned to cut three programs.  Pritzker proposed eliminating eight incentivized spending programs in February.

Illinois’ allotment of the American Rescue Plan Act would provide $1.5 billion to pandemic-affected areas of the state.  Hundreds of millions of dollars would be set aside for the Department of Human Services to help the homeless, prevent suicide, counsel schoolchildren through the trauma of the previous year, and provide services “for our first responders who have gone through a year of hell and deserve all the support we can give them,” according to Harris.  The tourism and hospitality industries, which are in bad shape, would receive $528 million.

Illinois borrowed $5 billion from the federal government to pay unemployment benefits to those who were displaced as a result of the pandemic.  ARPA would contribute $100 million to cover the interest on the loan, but principal repayment would be deferred.

However, another massive debt has been paid off.  At the height of the pandemic last summer, the state owed $1.2 billion on a $3.2 billion federal loan, which was due in December 2023.  Pritzker and legislative leaders announced ten days ago that they would pay off the loan early to save $100 million in interest.

In addition to the ongoing $51 billion Rebuild Illinois infrastructure plan approved in 2019, the ARPA cache is providing $1 billion for additional construction projects leading up to the 2022 election season.

House Republican budget negotiator Rep. Tom Demmer of Dixon questioned Harris on how projects are chosen.   It is the “normal process,” according to Harris, for legislators and state agencies to make requests for work to be done.