As I always say, a committee vote usually means little in the House, but this might be another exception to the rule. House Bill 750 - the income/sales tax increase - cleared the House Education Appropriations Committee this morning on a vote of 12-3 with six abstentions.
Here are the services that would be taxed for the first time under Amendment One of the bill, which is the version the committee approved…
* Arts entertainment and recreation.
* Personal and laundry services.
* Personal and household goods repair and
* Travel arrangement and reservation services
* Investigation and security services.
* Services to buildings and dwellings.
* Other support services.
* Employment services.
* Car washes.
* Landscaping and architectural services.
* Specialized design.
* Lessors of miniwarehouses and self-storage units
* Rental and leasing (not auto).
* Nonscheduled air transportation.
* Taxi and limo.
* Scenic and sightseeing transportation.
* Navigational services to shipping and salvage
* Motor vehicle towing.
* Couriers (air and local).
Senate President Emil Jones has said he won’t call any tax hike for a vote except the governor’s gross receipts tax, so this definitely sets up an intercameral showdown. As of a few minutes ago, Senators were still waiting on an actual GRT bill, and it’s not known if they’ll see one this week.
The governor, of course, has said he will veto any income and/or sales tax increase.
I’m an agnostic when it comes to campaign reform plans. It’s not that I don’t believe in reform, I do. It’s just that sometimes the arguments from the reform groups are so over the top that they undercut their own case.
The general rule in political journalism these days is that all contributions, no matter how small, are somehow tainted with corruption. That’s simply not true.
But it always makes for a good story, which is one reason we see so many of them. Reform group hyperventilates about corruption, big headlines follow.
Election reform activists on Wednesday proposed strict new campaign contribution limits in Illinois, saying the state’s long tradition of unfettered political donations has devastated public trust in state government.
Illinoisans “perceive that their government is for sale” after years of scandals involving the state’s unusual no-limit campaign finance system, reform activist Cindi Canary told an Illinois House committee. “Unlimited contributions â€¦ damage our democracy.” […]
Lawmakers pointed out that federal limits haven’t cleaned up politics in Washington…
This counter-argument is exactly right. DC is a cesspool of corruption, yet it imposes super-restrictive campaign finance regulations on itself. Moving to that system absolutely does not guarantee cleaner elections. Ask Jack Abramoff.
Also, an intricate system of campaign finance laws makes it way too easy to write pimpy little stories about how Candidate X “violated the law,” even though the violation may have been trivial and completely unintended. That potential is what really worries a lot of legislators.
At one point in the hearing of the House Election and Campaign Reform Committee, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, D-Orland Park, expressed anger that the presentation by the reform activists “makes it sound like we don’t return calls of people who don’t make contributions.”
McCarthy may have been overstating his case, but legislators receive hundreds of calls a week from non-contributing constituents, and most are conscientious about returning those calls. Nobody ever writes stories about that.
The measure also would limit to $20,000 per election what legislative leaders could give to individual legislators.
That’s something that sounds great on its face and I’ve been leaning towards it for years. Leaders have way too much influence.
I was talking to an old-timer the other day about when he was first elected to the House (he’s now a lobbyist). He recalled that in the late 70’s the House Democratic campaign fund had about $5,000 in the bank. These days, they raise almost that, on average, every single day.
But he was quick to add that this didn’t mean legislators were necessarily any more free from some type of party leadership influence. In Chicago and Cook County, local committeemen raised all the money for their legislators. Elsewhere, county chairmen were heavily involved in fundraising.
Anyway, the point is that despite what you often read, this isn’t a completely black and white issue. There’s a lot of gray and, believe it or not, there are a lot of decent people in politics.
Let this sink in: From 1997 to 2005, 48 percent of corporations with annual sales of $50 million or more paid no corporate income taxes, according to Blagojevich’s office of management and budget. […]
Scott Reeder, bureau chief for Small Newspaper Group in Springfield, reported in February that Boeing took to flying executives over the ocean when signing sales agreements to avoid taxation policies. […]
In the meantime, be skeptical — of the television commercials, the data, the projections, the doomsday scenarios. If it means playing “chicken” with big businesses threatening to leave the state, deal me in.
No argument from me that big business needs to pay its fair share. But one major quibble: McQueary writes about companies grossing more than $50 million a year, but the governor’s GRT proposal kicks in at a mere $1 million a year gross. A well-run family restaurant would gross that easily - hardly a big business.
â€œIt does not have support in this chamber,â€ said state Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley.
* Schoenburg: Governor’s latest PR move puts pressure on nonprofits
“Here we have a state worker, on state time, using state equipment to generate a state-owned note that solicits providers with state contracts to use provided talking points to lobby their legislators to support the governor’s health-care proposals. […]
“The intimation is that support for the governor’s program will support our organization,” the social service agency person said. “If we do not, we have no way of knowing where we’ll stand after the dust settles.”
* According to Michael Sneed, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. opposes the GRT…
The injury will not stop Jackson, however, from battling Gov. Blagojevich’s proposed gross receipt tax, claiming it will devastate small businesses.
I had a long talk yesterday with people running both the Naisy Dolar and Berny Stone races in the 50th Ward runoff election. Dolar seems set to run a better campaign than she did in the first round, but Stone has also ramped up his efforts, bringing in Mike Noonan, one of the top campaign operatives in the state. I’ll have more on this specific race later.
As we all know, lots of incuments were forced into primary runoffs, but many of them didn’t bother to run even half-decent campaigns. There was not much mail touting their specific achievements and almost nothing attacking their opponents. That will change for many incuments in the coming weeks as the Machine gears up to fight back.
And it looks like some of them will be able to tap into a big warchest. From the Tribune…
Some of Mayor Richard Daley’s most loyal supporters from his Bridgeport power base and from the business community have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to a newly created political account for Daley-endorsed aldermen who face strong challengers.
While labor unions have spent massive amounts trying to defeat the mayor’s City Council allies, Daley personally has given very little from his campaign fund to embattled aldermen who almost always vote with him. […]
But state records show that an obscure campaign fund established two months ago has quickly collected almost $300,000 for council candidates. The fund, led by longtime Daley supporter and real estate magnate Elzie Higginbottom, has received most of its biggest donations from clout-heavy 11th Ward players, including former top mayoral aide Timothy Degnan and Fred Barbara, a Bridgeport businessman and Daley friend.
The largest single donor to the effort, known as the First C.D. Victory PAC, was Commonwealth Edison, which provides electricity to Chicago under a franchise agreement with City Hall. […]
Almost $100,000 from the new fund already has gone to council incumbents opposed by union-backed candidates. The beneficiaries include Ald. Madeline Haithcock (2nd), Dorothy Tillman (3rd), Shirley Coleman (16th) and Lona Lane (18th).
Take a look at the committee’s details. Tons of developers are on the contribution lists, plus Machine stalwarts like Tim Degnan and Fred Barbara. ComEd’s PAC and top officials with the company have contributed $67,000. The Illinois Merchants PAC (read: “Big Box Ordinance”) kicked in $25,000.
The fund was apparently started to help Congressman Bobby Rush, but Rush bowed out as an officer in February and now the money is being funnelled to various aldermen.
* More local stories…
* 18th ward candidate decides to stay in the race; some say flip flop points to fraud
State Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville, the Senate’s lead negotiator with the two utilities in the continuing controversy over recent rate hikes, said Wednesday that he was “hopeful” that an announcement might be made today.
“The people I’ve spoken to over the last few days thought that Al Sanchez deserved a civic award for the hard work he has done for the city of Chicago over 31 years of service,” Breen said. “So this is kind of a sad day for a very fine man. He’s disappointed and sorry about all of this but I think he’s very hopeful.”
Not a huge surprise, except possibly the overhwhelming majority. From the AP…
The Illinois House today approved making the presidential primary election earlier to favor favorite son Barack Obama. Lawmakers voted 110-to-four to move the primary from March 20th to February Fifth next year.
House Speaker Michael Madigan sponsored the measure.
He says moving the date would benefit Obama — a freshman U-S senator and fellow Democrat. He says presidential nominations often are decided by the time Illinois voters get to choose.
The Senate still has to take up the measure before it gets to the governor’s desk. The governor has promised to sign it.
*** UPDATE *** Off topic, but related to the 2008 campaign, the highlight of today’s House Government Reform Committee’s grilling of General Services Administration chief Lurita Doan was a PowerPoint presentation prepared by the White House political office which was allegedly shown at a GSA meeting.
The presentation was about upcoming 2008 political targets in the US House and Senate. A Democratic committee member claims two GSA witnesses say the director asked at the end of the presentation what could be done to help these candidates.
Setting aside the fact that doing something like this at a government office in Chicago or Springfield would probably result in an immediate FBI raid (slight exaggeration), check out the video below starting at “5:14.”
The title of the slide is “Battle for the Senate 2008.”
Illinois’ upcoming US Senate race between Dick Durbin and an as yet undetermined Republican candidate is listed as “non competitive” by Karl Rove…
Not surprising at all, of course, but food for thought.
Also, if you enlarge the image you’ll see that no Illinois Congressional races are listed in another slide (at 8:05) of the top 20 House targets for 2008.
AFSCME Organized labor paid for polls in some aldermanic races two weeks ago. The polls were conducted by Mark Penn. Remember, however, that turnout is probably going to be extremely low in next month’s runoff election, so the biggest question is who will actually vote. Polls will have a tough time guaging that right now.
Here are some quick, topline results…
* 2nd Ward - Fioretti 50, Haithcock 24
* 3rd Ward - Dowell 53, Tillman 35
* 16th Ward - Thompson 45, Coleman 40 (After negative “push” questions about Ald. Coleman’s vote against “living wage” ordinance and other stuff, Thompson leads 52-32)
* 21st Ward - Jones 41, Brookins 40
* 32nd Ward - Waguespack 47, Matlack 33 (Tons of Machine hacks deployed to this ward for Ald. Matlack, but other polls also show the incumbent in very serious trouble)
* 35th Ward - Colon 52, Colom 47 (Ald. Mell is reportedly in big for Vilma Colom)
* 49th Ward - Joe Moore 47, Gordon 42 (I’m hearing from lots of sources that Ald. Moore is in big trouble there, with Gordon signs popping up all over the place)
* 50th Ward - Dolar 48, Stone 44 (Biggest question is who turns out to vote in an extremely low turnout election, with the betting that Ald. Stone’s base will vote. He also has a top-notch campaign manager now.)
*** UPDATE *** Naisy Dolar’s own poll has her leading Ald. Stone 47-40. From the executive summary…
This [Goodwin Simon Victoria Research] memorandum reports on the findings of a poll taken in the 50th Ward of Chicago March 18-20, 2007. Four hundred registered, likely voters for the April 17 municipal runoff election were interviewed. […]
* Stoneâ€™s… job rating is 43% positive to 55% negative… A majority of voters (53%) agree that â€œBernie Stone has been around for too long and it is time to give someone new a chance.â€ Only 38% choose the alternative, â€œBernie Stone has done a good job as Alderman for the last 33 years and deserves to be re-elected.â€
* In contrast, Naisy Dolarâ€™s name recognition is climbing steadily and her ratings are overwhelmingly positive. Currently about six in ten voters recognize and can rate Dolar, and those ratings are a very strong 52% favorable to only 6% unfavorable. […]
* The initial trial heat is 47% for Dolar, 40% for Stone, and 13% Undecided. […]
* On a list of eight local issues, when voters are asked whether they think Bernie Stone or a â€œnew Alderman like Naisy Dolarâ€ would be better on each issue, there is not one single issue where 33-year veteran Bernie Stone is viewed as the better choice.
Last Friday, I told you that the Illinois Press Association has formally come out against the governor’s gross receipts tax. The IPA has also “instructed staff to encourage all IPA members to publish stories focusing on the community or local impact of the proposed GRT.”
Except for my syndicated column and a very brief mention in a Decatur Herald & Review editorial (”The Illinois Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Press Association have stated they are opposed to the tax.”), I can’tfind any other mention of the development in Illinois newspapers.
Some questions must have been raised internally, however, because the IPA sent out another press release yesterday…
In deciding to oppose the GRT the IPA board was careful not to mix the business interests of newspapers with the editorial responsibilities of reporting on the proposed tax plan. However, the board believes that it is important that newspapers provide the public with the necessary information to make an informed decision about the potential financial impact of the GRT on the State of Illinois.
IPA Board President Carter Newton expressed the boardâ€™s sentiment. â€œWe are very worried about the long-term effect this tax will have on the businesses and citizens in our communities. We think it will result in higher prices for all goods and services, and ultimately cost jobs. We believe our newspapers are in a unique position to explore this story better than anyone,â€ he said.
Newton added that newspapers are the premier voice for community information and have an ethical responsibility to tell as many of the peopleâ€™s stories as possible. Consequently, the IPA board is encouraging member newspapers to write news stories that focus on â€œthe community or local impact of GRT.â€
Newspaper pundits are often quick to write about their own perceived intent of politicians, so today’s question is: Why do you think newspapers in this state appear to be so reluctant to publish anything about their own association’s declarations?
* I’m hearing this possibility - that nothing major might be done on anything this year - more and more at the Statehouse….
Despite widespread consensus in Springfield about the need to provide more money to Illinois schools, disagreement over where those funds should come from is growing deeper and has education advocates scrambling to avoid a stalemate that could mean no new funding at all. […]
With the two plans so fundamentally different, and with both sides digging in their heels, there appears to be a real danger that the common goal of giving more money for schools could become bogged down on the issue of how to do it. […]
“Political infighting can’t become an excuse for not getting anything done,'’ [said IFT spokesman Dave Comerford].
That’s a frequent danger with controversial issues lately in Springfield, where the Democrats who control all levers of state government have been fractured by in-party showdowns, often between Madigan and Jones.
* The Tribune has a he said-she said piece today about the tax hikes, with both business and the Blagojevich administration claiming the other side is distorting the GRT issue. It also notes that both business and the governor have created websites to promote their tax agendas.
* The very end of the Tribune piece notes that a group called the Illinois State Black Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the governor’s plan. Not much is known about the organization, but the governor’s press release touting the endorsement was issued after Crain’s reported that a much better known African-American biz group had come out against the proposal.
A group that represents African-American businesses has given what its president describes as a â€œthumbs downâ€ to Gov. Rod Blagojevichâ€™s proposed $6.3-billion gross-receipts tax.
Echoing concerns of other, larger business organizations, members of the Alliance of Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs (ABLE) posed sharp questions and fired a series of rhetorical shots when two senior gubernatorial aides met with the group earlier this month.
While ABLE formally decided to further review the matter and to examine a possible â€œalternative solutionâ€ to the stateâ€™s financial needs, President Hermene Hartman says the organization in fact opposes the proposal.
Looks like they’re running a rapid response operation over at the guv’s office.
* I’ve heard that casinos were probably the biggest stumbling block to passing a statewide smoking ban. That situation may be changing, but casino-area legislators may still not be on board yet…
Calling it a strategic move, the co-sponsor of a Senate bill to ban smoking in all public, indoor workplaces in Illinois, said a new amendment would push back the compliance date for casinos.
“We expect to pick up some votes,” Sen. John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said. “If you don’t pass the bill then the whole thing is a delayed effective date.”
Sen. Terry Link, D-Vernon Hills, sponsor of the legislation, said the amendment is a compromise for members who expressed concern about unfair competition for casinos that border other states. When Senate Bill 500 was debated in committee, several senators said those casinos would face unfair competition from states that do not have smoking bans, he said.
“We’re answering the concerns,” Link said. “They all feel that within a three-year period the other states will be non-smoking, too. So then, it’ll be an even playing field.”
* And the Sun-Times editorializes today in favor of a statewide smoking ban.
But though we wish the act included a provision similar to the one in Chicago’s ordinance permitting smoking in tobacco shops/bars where 65 percent of the sales are of tobacco or tobacco accessories, we believe its time has come and urge its passage. Twenty-one other states have responded to popular consensus on this issue. It’s time Illinois did, too.
* I had a piece on this in today’s Capitol Fax, but it turns out Crain’s is also on the story…
Exelon Corp., Ameren Corp. and other power plant owners in Illinois are negotiating with key state senators on a package of up to $150 million to help low-income consumers and others hardest hit by recent electric rate hikes.
Both sides hoped to wrap up talks by late Tuesday or early Wednesday, people familiar with the discussions say. If an agreement is reached, Senate President Emil Jones would not call for a floor vote later this week on legislation that would return Ameren and Commonwealth Edison Co.â€™s rates to last yearâ€™s levels and freeze them there for at least a year, these people say.
But they caution that the discussions may not ultimately lead to a compromise as companies haggle over how much each should give to the effort â€” or whether to contribute anything at all.
If the package of concessions is finalized, the money would go for rebates to Downstate customers hit with increases of as much as 200% because they use electric heat. Utilities gave those who heat their homes with electricity heavy rebates that expired this year. Others targeted for assistance include low-income users and seniors on fixed incomes.
But if rate relief is appropriate for a group of customers, why isnâ€™t it appropriate for ALL customers. This proposal kind of reminds me of a bank robber who admits he took the money, but doesnâ€™t give it all back.
House Speaker Michael Madigan offered a new twist in the electric rate debate Tuesday, proposing that Illinois get into the electricity business to help cash-strapped consumers.
Madigan, D-Chicago, introduced a measure to create a not-for-profit Illinois Power Authority that could buy, generate or sell electricity. Madigan spokesman Steve Brown says that setup could spur competition to drive down electric rates.
The measure could ratchet up pressure on utilities Ameren and ComEd as they negotiate with state lawmakers on relief for consumers. Brown said it might “change their perspective.”
Constitutional issues aside, that’s a decision for their classroom teachers, not a crew of idle moralists in Springfield with their one-size-fits-all fantasies and their ill-concealed pro-prayer agenda.
With a Democrat in the White House, Duckworth would likely have sufficient clout to get a job in Washington, possibly even in the Cabinet. Illinois’ senators Democrats Barack Obama and Dick Durbin — one a candidate for president, the other a key Senate leader — were major backers of her unsuccessful suburban congressional campaign.
* Allegations Health Facilities Planning Board members’ of meeting sent to panel
* McLaughlin: Cash and sunshine needed for transportation network
The Illinois Department of Transportation has a system for rating and funding infrastructure projects, but the public and most elected officials have no idea how the process works — which means they would be hard-pressed to explain how the state is spending their money.
* Sweet: Chicagoan on popular Obama youtube ad: I ‘own’ rights to 1984:
Rosenblum attorney William R. Coulson — whose wife is state Rep. Beth Coulson (R-Glenview) — said they have not taken any legal action — “yet” but are “monitoring” the situation, serving “notice to the world the Orwell novel is still under copyright.”
* Cool reception for Stroger when he shows up for jury duty