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CAPITOL RECAP: JRTC Holdings will enter negotiations with state for $70 million purchase of Thompson Center

CAPITOL RECAP: JRTC Holdings will enter negotiations with state for $70 million purchase of Thompson Center

By CAPITOL NEWS ILLINOIS

CHICAGO – Plans are moving ahead for the sale of the James R. Thompson Center at 100 West Randolph Street in Chicago.

Gov. JB Pritzker announced on Wednesday, Dec. 15, plans to enter into exclusive negotiations with JRTC Holdings, LLC, for the purposes of acquiring and redeveloping the Thompson Center that houses office space for 50 state agencies and more than 2,800 state workers.

“Today I’m proud to announce that for the first time, we’re taking a massive step forward with a plan that will result in the sale of the Thompson Center and that will save taxpayers $800 million,” Pritzker said. “I came into office with a promise to manage state government resources more efficiently and to support local governments. By returning vital real estate in downtown Chicago to private ownership, tens of millions in revenue will be generated for Chicago Public Schools and for property taxpayers.”

After a review of submitted proposals, the state will move ahead with a public-private partnership structure, which includes:

• An up-front payment of $70 million to the state for the purchase of the property.

• The selected purchaser preserving and substantially renovating the JRTC.

• The state purchasing and occupying approximately 425,000 square feet of newly renovated, Class-A office space at the JRTC.

• The state saving approximately $20 million a year for the next 30 years through operating cost reductions and lease consolidations alone.

The redevelopment of the JRTC is expected to result in thousands of new construction jobs, new tax revenues for Cook County, the city of Chicago, and its sister agencies.

The 17-story building encompasses 1.2 million square feet and has annual operating costs of $17 million. Due to prolonged deferred maintenance and delayed capital projects, the estimated cost to bring the JRTC into a state of good repair exceeds $325 million, according to data from the Illinois Department of Central Management Services.

Finalization of the purchase agreement is expected by March 2022. The closing on the property is anticipated in the summer of 2022. Renovations are expected to take two years.

JRTC Holdings, LLC is owned and controlled by real estate developer Michael W. Reschke.

* * *

MIDWIVES LICENSURE: Colleen Marotta has delivered hundreds of babies.

Marotta, 43, of Arlington Heights, became a nurse in 2001. Ten years later, she became a certified professional midwife, or CPM. When Marotta was a CPM the law barred her from delivering babies in Illinois, forcing her to drive to Wisconsin to deliver babies there.

On Tuesday, Dec. 14, Gov. JB Pritzker signed a bill that allows the certification and licensure of certified professional midwives in Illinois. The new law sets qualification and educational standards for CPMs. It is effective on Oct. 1, 2022.

“With the legislation I sign today, the lifesaving and life-giving work midwives perform will be legally recognized here in Illinois. It’s a victory decades in the making and one that recognizes the full worth and value of midwives in reproductive care,” Pritzker said. “Most importantly, it ensures safe home births for every mother who chooses to deliver out-of-hospital – another step forward advancing health equity in communities across our state.”

The 2020 report to the General Assembly by the Illinois Task Force on Infant and Maternal Mortality Among African Americans stated that the pregnancy-related mortality rate in Illinois is 23 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, a severe maternal morbidity rate of 51.4 per 10,000 births, and an infant mortality rate of 6.5 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. In all of these categories, African American mothers and infants die or are injured at significantly higher rates than their white counterparts.

In addition to attending at-home births, CPMs provide supervision, prenatal and post-natal care and advice to a pregnant woman during a low-risk pregnancy, labor and post-partum, as well as providing normal newborn care.

“Although our work is far from done, this is a good step that will reduce child and maternal mortality in Illinois,” state Rep. Mary E. Flowers, D-Chicago, said. “This moment is years in the making and I look forward to continuing to work with the governor and my colleagues in the General Assembly to improve maternal health outcomes for low-income women.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has led more expecting mothers to turn to home births attended by midwives, instead of traditional hospital births, Marotta said.

“It provides autonomy, choice and support for the mother,” Marotta said. “As well as having whomever the mother, whomever they want in their labor space.”

* * *

DISASTER PROCLAMATION: In the wake of Friday, Dec. 10, storms that left six dead at an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, a disaster proclamation was issued Monday, Dec. 13, for 28 counties in southern and central Illinois. The proclamation will bring personnel or equipment from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to assist with storm recovery.

“My administration is committed to standing with Edwardsville and all of the surrounding communities affected in every aspect of the immediate recovery, as well as on the road to rebuilding,” said Gov. JB Pritzker, who issued the proclamation. “Yesterday, I authorized a state disaster proclamation for Madison County, as well as all storm-impacted counties, to facilitate recovery efforts, as well as the pursuit of additional federal resources. We are working directly with the White House and FEMA to ensure access to all federal resources for this community. And, as local entities work to secure federal reimbursements and recovery dollars, we will assist every step of the way.”

The National Weather Service issued a preliminary report that an EF3 tornado struck the Edwardsville area, downing trees, interrupting power service and ripping the roof of an Amazon warehouse, killing six and causing multiple injuries. Tornadoes were also confirmed in Cass, Menard, Bond, Shelby and Coles counties.

The counties included in the disaster declaration include Bond, Cass, Champaign, Coles, Edgar, Effingham, Fayette, Ford, Greene, Grundy, Iroquois, Jackson, Jersey, Kankakee, Lawrence, Livingston, Logan, Macon, Macoupin, Madison, Montgomery, Morgan, Moultrie, Pike, Sangamon, Shelby, Tazewell and Woodford.

Pritzker was back at the site of the 593,000-square-foot warehouse on Monday morning with Rep. Amy Elik, R-Fosterburg, and Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, to announce the disaster proclamation.

* * *

PENSION REPORT: The state saw its unfunded pension liability decrease in fiscal year 2021, due in large part to investment returns exceeding 20 percent, according to a new report from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability released Wednesday, Dec. 8.

Unfunded liabilities – or the amount of debt the state pension funds owe that they can’t afford to pay – dropped by nearly 10 percent, to $130 billion in FY 2021 from $144 billion in the previous fiscal year. That put the state’s five pension funds at 46.5 percent funded, up from 39 percent the previous year.

It’s the third decrease to unfunded liabilities in the last 15 years. Otherwise, unfunded liabilities have risen annually from $42.2 billion in 2007.

But the report also noted that not much has changed to alleviate the underlying financial pressures that have caused unfunded liabilities to triple since the financial crisis of 2007-2008.

The returns of 22.9-25.2 percent for FY 2021, which ended June 30, far exceeded the anticipated 6.5 percent to 7 percent returns.

The report was otherwise substantially similar to countless other pension reports in recent years, particularly because it once again called on the state to revamp the much-maligned 1994 “Edgar Ramp” 50-year plan to bring the state’s five pension funds to 90 percent funded by 2045.

The actual target should be a 100 percent within the next 25 years or preferably sooner, according to a letter attached to the COGFA report from its actuary, Segal Consulting. Only then would the state begin to see sustained reductions to its unfunded pension liabilities.

But increasing pension payments is easier said than done, Alexis Sturm, director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, said in a letter accompanying the report.

Changes to the current 90 percent target must be reviewed “carefully within the context of the impact on the state’s budget,” she wrote.

The $8.6 billion pension payment in FY 2021 was 20 percent of the state’s $42.9 billion General Revenue Fund budget, and pensions are routinely the state’s largest GRF expense outside of K-12 education.

According to the report, if the state wants to contribute at a rate approved by actuaries, it will need to contribute nearly $14.9 billion in FY 2023, which begins July 1, or 38 percent higher than what is provided for via the Edgar Ramp.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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