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The further adventures of the OT in Hell button…

Monday, Jul 30, 2007

Yet another loyal Capitol Fax Blog reader has taken his “Overtime in Hell” button on vacation. This time, to Hyannisport, Massachusetts. The reader was a guest of the Kennedy family, believe it or not, and took the photo with Sen. Ted Kennedy’s sailboat Mya in the background.

I was going to ask Ethyl Kennedy to pose with the button, but I failed you there. I hope you enjoy this.

P.S. MYA is the Native American Indian word for “wind.”

One never knows when this overtime might end, so you probably need to get your OT in Hell swag soon. All proceeds benefit Sojourn Center in Springfield.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

This just in…

Monday, Jul 30, 2007

* 11:44 am - Well, this ought to get tongues a-waggin’. House Speaker Michael Madigan has scheduled a meeting of the Committee of the Whole for next Wednesday August 8th. Subject matter: Education.

The hearing was scheduled last Thursday at 1:30 pm, which was before the first meeting with Senate President Emil ones and the other tops on the state budget. Jones’ Majority Leader, Debbie Halvorson and other members of Jones’ leadership team have since said they hope the budget can be done by this weekend. Anyway, this will be treated as a developing item unless I find out something otherwise.

* 12:24 pm - Freshman Sen. Michael Frerichs (D-Gifford) on the negotiations: “I think the four legislative leaders can agree on capital, I think they can reach agreement on revenue… (and) on eduation. But the governor’s health care plan, I think it’s going to be very, very, very difficult if not impossible to reach agreement there.” [Hat tip: IlliniPundit]

* 12:25 pm -
Aaron Chambers has a good column on the exceedingly nasty Operating Engineers’ Local 150 president’s race.

* 1:22 PM - Ruh-roh

Mayor Daley has a whopping $217.7 million hole in his 2008 budget that can only be filled through tax increases, employee layoffs, non-personnel spending cuts or a painful combination of the three, aldermen were told today.

The shortfall is the second-largest in 10 years in the city’s corporate fund alone and is coupled with smaller but still sizeable gaps in the city’s water and sewer funds.

It comes just five months after Daley breezed to re-election on a budget that froze the city’s property tax levy for a third straight year, held the line on all other taxes and fees, and used $94 million of the $1.83 billion Chicago Skyway privatization windfall to finance an array of neighborhood and social programs.

Union leaders accused the city of exaggerating the financial crunch tied to the housing slump to stifle their contract demands. Aldermen claimed just the opposite. They argued that former city Budget Director-turned-Chief Financial Officer Paul Volpe kept the lid on the crisis until after the election. […]

Volpe was in Springfield lobbying for an increase in the telephone surcharge that helped fund Chicago’s 911 emergency center in hopes of shaving the deficit by $50 million. He could not be reached for comment.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      

Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Jones; Transit; Pay hike; Krause; Cigs; Sacia; Firefighters; Poe; LaHood (Use all caps in password)

Monday, Jul 30, 2007

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Voters support Higher Education, while state support has declined

Monday, Jul 30, 2007

(The following is a paid advertisement.)

In 2000, a statewide poll found that 88% of Illinois residents strongly or somewhat agree that a college degree has become as important as a high school diploma used to be. Unfortunately, the level of state funding for higher education is the same as it was nearly a decade ago. It is essential that higher education funding is not lost in the shuffle.

An investment in public higher education will grow leaders in business, education, social services and the private sector, as well as good consumers, good taxpayers and good citizens. The Illinois Higher Education Legislative Coalition is working to turn the tide this year and provide additional funding for higher education in Illinois.

Higher education in Illinois is many things to many people:

✪ 355,684 students attend 48 community colleges

✪ 202,236 students attend 9 public universities on 12 campuses

✪ 31,775 bachelor’s degrees conferred in 2005

✪ 25,158 associate degrees conferred in 2005

✪ 11,826 master’s degrees conferred in 2005

✪ Public institutions of higher learning employ more than 54,000 full time employees.

Making sure that higher education is affordable and pro­vides the highest level of career preparation for Illinois citizens is the common goal that we all must work toward.

- Posted by Capitol Fax Blog Advertising Department   Comments Off      

Question of the day

Monday, Jul 30, 2007

What movie or book would you recommend that somebody watch or read to understand Illinois politics? Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller   67 Comments      

Obamarama - NYT on our country bumpkin legislature

Monday, Jul 30, 2007

* The lede of the latest Barack Obama in Springfield profile succinctly sums up how the national press corps too often views us lowly “flyover” types…

There was something improbable about the new guy from Chicago via Honolulu and Jakarta, Indonesia, the one with the Harvard law degree and the job teaching constitutional law, turning up in Springfield, Ill., in January 1997 among the housewives, ex-mayors and occasional soybean farmer serving in the State Senate.

[Emphasis added.]

From reading the story, it looks like NY Times reporter Janny Scott spent at least some time in Springfield. So, you’d think Scott would have noticed that there is more to the General Assembly’s makeup than what was reported. However, it is, after all, a citizens legislature. Pardon us for not measuring up to the standards of the eastern elite.

As is usual with these Springfield stories emanating from the big outlets, almost nothing new was reported. You got yer Denny Jacobs quotes, the Emil Jones as his mentor stuff, congressional bid against Bobby Rush rehash, highlights of his push for ethics reforms, lowlights of his tiffs with a couple of his fellow African-American Senators, blah, blah, blah. It’s mainly the standard fare.

There was one tiny new revelation, though…

(Sen. Rickey) Hendon, who says he is writing a book on electoral politics called “Backstabbers,” …

I’d read that book.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      

Irrelevance and the budget mess

Monday, Jul 30, 2007

* My syndicated newspaper column this week deals with the growing irrelevance of Gov. Rod Blagojevich…

Two months into a record-breaking overtime legislative session, the four state legislative leaders met last week to talk about the budget, but for the first time ever, they made a point not to invite Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Senate President Emil Jones and House Speaker Michael Madigan, as well as very high level members of the other two legislative caucuses, all described the talks as generally positive.

The governor’s people also described the meeting as a positive event. Jones sat down with the governor later to brief him about the meeting. The governor’s people say Blagojevich also outlined where he wanted the budget talks to go. The governor’s office insisted that the two men are still on the same page. Blagojevich and Jones have been practically welded at the hip all year, so attending a budget negotiation without Blagojevich was seen as a major step by the Senate president, which is why the governor’s office was quick to claim everything was still fine between the two men.

The idea behind the meeting sans governor was that Blagojevich isn’t much of a negotiator. Instead of trying to find mutual solutions, the governor tends to give canned speeches over and over again and endlessly repeats his talking points, particularly about his demand for his much-beloved health insurance plan for the uninsured. He’s also quite abrasive and confrontational during the negotiating sessions, particularly with House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate GOP Leader Frank Watson.

In other words, he was more of a hindrance than a help when it came time to negotiate the budget. On Friday, Blagojevich brought Sen. Watson into his office to discuss “building a relationship,” according to WLS Radio reporter Ryan Hermes. If he had done that sort of thing six months ago, the governor might not have had so many problems this year.

* The Tribune has more on Senate President Emil Jones’ attempt to mediate the budget talks and distance himself from Blagojevich…

Jones has tried to show the governor that there is insufficient support for his plans even in the Senate Democratic caucus, which stood most strongly with Blagojevich over his first term. A few weeks ago, rank-and-file Senate Democrats said Jones gave them a chance to tee off in an animated and frank closed-door discussion in the president’s office, where they made it clear to Blagojevich that boosting school funding outranked his health-care agenda.

Underscoring that point, Jones last week separated the slimmed-down version of the governor’s health plan from his spending plans, isolating it in its own bill.

Jones also has come down from the $1.5 billion he and Blagojevich initially sought for schools, in favor of a $900 million infusion that would be backed by a massive expansion of gambling.

* Finke doesn’t believe that the governor will call an endless series of special sessions, as Blagojevich has threatened to do if he doesn’t get his way on the budget…

Remember how Blagojevich said he would keep lawmakers in session every single day until a budget was passed? That pledge lasted just over a week before he caved to pressure from Jones to give lawmakers a day off.

Maybe the public sees or reads that stuff about special sessions forever and still takes it seriously. No one inside the Capitol does anymore.

* The Daily Herald looks at the governor’s flip-flop on a one-month budget. First he was against it, now he’s for it…

Ironically, just a few weeks ago, it was Blagojevich who cautioned lawmakers that temporary budgets were not a solution and he’d soon stop supporting them because the spending levels are far below what he wants.

“A continuing string of one-month budgets is nothing more than a Republican budget in disguise,” Blagojevich, a Chicago Democrat, said in late June.

Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottehnoff said a temporary budget is better than a government shutdown.

However, House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, said the apparent change by Blagojevich illustrates the difficulty lawmakers have in working with the governor.

“See, that’s his behavior that’s not helpful to this process. It’s behavior that’s not helpful toward negotiating a budget for the people of the state of Illinois,” Madigan told reporters. “We need good, firm leadership. Leadership that unites; does not divide. When the leadership changes its position, changes its direction, it simply doesn’t help.”

* Kurt Erickson has some adjournment predictions…

State Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, suggested that things could be wrapped up by this weekend.

State Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said the General Assembly would be stuck in the Statehouse well into September.

And, House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, sounded like he was joking last week when he said lawmakers might be here in December.

Maybe he wasn’t being silly. In other words, no one really knows when they’ll figure out a way to end the stalemate over the budget.

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      

Morning shorts

Monday, Jul 30, 2007

* Some may remember Tim Ryan from his days working at Play it Again Sam’s. His death provides a human face to many of us who have heard or read about the homeless situation at Springfield’s Lincoln Library. Steve Brown knew Ryan from the old days and writes, “Timmy Ryan was a friendly, funny playful and, yes, sometimes obnoxious drunk. I met him at Play It Again Sam’s. His life had taken a wrong turn several years ago. But as far as I know he never hurt anyone. The altercation was over a box of sandwiches. The alleged attacker wanted the whole box. Timmy thought they should be shared with everyone. Arrangements are pending.”

From the SJ-R

The death of Timothy Ryan, a 45-year-old homeless man whose head was stomped on during an alleged attack by another homeless man, was a shock to those who stayed with both men outside Lincoln Library.

“It’s not like that’s commonplace by any means,” said Tim Hawker, a homeless man who often acts as a spokesman for many who reside at the library, where the beating occurred Thursday night. “Everybody is sorry. We’re going to miss Tim … It’s something you never want to see.”

* Cigarette tax hike may disappoint - Smokers could take revenue to Missouri; New Jersey increase falls short

* Progress Made Towards RTA Funding Bill

* Transit bill backer undaunted

* Obama intern from Glen Carbon arrested

* State’s attorney says lawyers in his office don’t have the right to form a union. Others say that’s not true.

* Taxi Drivers Threaten To Park Cabs On Tuesday - Drivers Plan to Stop Driving To Secure Fare Increases

* Editorial: ComEd rate deal rolls back hike, ends ‘reverse auction’

* Editorial: Smoke-Free Illinois win for workers, residents, visit

* Federation of Indian Association to spare no efforts to make India Day big success

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      

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