* 6:35 pm - I’ve been posting a bit at Twitter today, so you might want to check my page every now and then.
The four legislative leaders and the governor are meeting at this moment. We should have a report and video soon after the meeting ends.
We’ll also post a video here of Gov. Quinn talking about the budget in a few minutes. Check back then.
* Patterson headlined this one: “Jim Edgar makes House calls.” Cute …
Gov. Pat Quinn called Edgar to ask if Edgar would call Republican lawmakers to get a real pulse on whether any of them could vote for an income tax increase.
Edgar said he would but told Quinn that Quinn needed to cut more from the budget before asking for one. Edgar talked to one Republican who said the same thing.
That pretty much matches what Edgar told me earlier this year when I called him up to get his take on the budget mess Quinn was inheriting. Edgar said there was likely no way out without a tax increase but that it had to be paired with unpopular budget cuts.
* The Senate has advanced another tax hike bill. A couple of good points from McDermott…
- The latest proposal would raise more money for the state than Quinn’s plan (by about $1.5 billion), thus giving lawmakers more of a reason to go out on the limb of supporting a tax hike. […]
- No one actually expects this new proposal to go anywhere; they just want to vote on something that will allow them to go home to their constituents and claim they fought the good fight on behalf of education, without actually having to institute a politically dangerous tax hike.
Sen. James Meeks on the Senate’s tax hike bill. He claims he’s close to passage…
Meeks also believes his bill is superior to the governor’s tax hike plan…
House Democrats today advanced a 50 percent increase in the state income tax for two years, but final approval remains very much in doubt as the General Assembly nears its Sunday night adjournment deadline.
Democrats have been unable to find enough votes in the House to raise the income tax to help plug a major budget hole and Republicans have said they aren’t ready to vote for a tax hike yet. House Democrats met for a couple hours behind closed doors on Friday but abruptly left the Capitol without taking a vote.
The proposal, approved with all Democratic votes at a House committee, would generate $4.5 billion a year to help stave off massive cuts in state services, according to House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago).
The Illinois House today sent state senators a plan prompted by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s ouster that could lead to voters getting the chance to recall future governors from office.
Gov. Pat Quinn watched as the House voted 109-6 on one of his top reform priorities, a proposal to add the recall of governors to the Illinois Constitution. The state Senate still has to act to put the proposal on next year’s November ballot. Then voters would have to ratify the amendment.
Because of a timing issue, the earliest the Senate could give its approval would be Monday. That would mean the spring legislative session went into overtime past the midnight Sunday adjournment deadline.
Springfield’s own U.S. senator was back at the state Capitol today but not about to get involved in the mess facing state lawmakers.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, shook hands and talked with officials and onlookers at the Capitol today, as lawmakers aim to wrap up their spring legislative session tomorrow night.
* The gaming bill has more trouble in the Senate. Unless the Republicans jump on, opposition from elements of the Black Caucus could sink it. This story was posted earlier today…
With tax hikes stalled at the Capitol, one suburban lawmaker said gambling expansion should be reconsidered as a possible state budget fix.
“I think it should be very strongly considered because we need some kind of revenue to get out of here,” said state Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat and gambling expansion advocate.
* 6:52 pm - Governor Quinn spoke with the media shortly after the recall amendment proposal passed the House. The lack of House support for a tax increase and the budget were the dominant topics. Edgar’s decision to lobby Republican lawmakers on Quinn’s behalf was also a popular topic of discussion.
[John Jackson, visiting professor at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale] said the stream of state officials accused of corruption, such as Thursday’s indictment of Chicago alderman Isaac Carothers on bribery charges, would keep post-Blagojevich reform fresh in the public mind.
“Are these guys paying attention to what’s going on?” Jackson said of Carothers. “What does it take?”
The City of Chicago has a campaign contribution cap on vendors. Carothers allegedly got around that when a developer funneled a contribution through somebody else…
It was further part of the scheme that in order to disguise and conceal the extent of Grand Central Center’s campaign contributions to defendant CAROTHERS, defendant BOENDER directed an employee of Grand Central Center to make a $1,500 donation to the New 29th Ward Democratic Organization and reimbursed that employee for that contribution.
It was further part of the scheme that when defendant CAROTHERS asked defendant BOENDER for his financial support of Candidate A’s campaign, BOENDER, in order to curry favor with defendant CAROTHERS, made campaign contributions to Candidate A in excess of the maximum allowed under federal election law. In order to disguise and conceal the fact that he was making campaign contributions to Candidate A in excess of the maximum allowed under federal election allow, BOENDER directed at least two individuals to make $2,000 donations to Candidate A and reimbursed those individuals for those donations.
Meanwhile, the House did not send along to Quinn contribution-cap legislation that passed the Senate on Thursday over strong objections from government watchdogs and former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins, head of a Quinn-appointed panel charged with cleaning up state government.
More than a dozen House Democrats withheld support in a rare act of rebellion against Speaker Michael Madigan, who negotiated the package with Quinn and Senate President John Cullerton.
“We’re expected to follow along like lemmings and take a loyalty test over and over. This question isn’t a loyalty test,” said Rep. Julie Hamos (D-Evanston), who was among 15 Democrats and 46 Republicans to press Madigan to discharge a tougher plan from his tightly controlled Rules Committee.
The protest didn’t work, and a spokesman for the speaker indicated Madigan intends to push forward with the package he, Quinn and Cullerton negotiated to cap individual contributions at $5,000 and corporation and labor union contributions at $10,000.
At times, reform efforts were stalled by battles of ego and arrogance on both sides. Legislators dismissed outsider ethics advocates as trying to paint them all as corrupt. But some self-described good-government advocates portrayed their agenda as a “my way or the highway” approach and attacked those who opposed any of their reform proposals as supporting the status quo.
Good point Number Two…
In many ways though, the reform push was treated to the same political gamesmanship and horse-trading that typifies any major issues at the statehouse. Most Democrats, who control the House and Senate, hailed their efforts to change the ethical climate in Illinois
“Reform never starts from the top and dribbles down,” said Rep. Bill Black (R-Danville). “Those at the top have a vested interest in what got them to the top and what keeps them at the top. If you really want reform, it has to start at the bottom and work its way up.”
As in “voters.”
* The Daily Herald looks at the meat of the reform bill that passed the Senate…
Unions, businesses and other special interests would be banned from spending money on behalf of candidates under a campaign finance law advancing toward the governor’s desk, a move that substantially restricts outside influence on politics but not without consequences.
Every campaign season, scores of business and labor workers get paid to staff Republican and Democratic campaigns across the state, a practice that would be prohibited effective Jan. 1, 2011 under the reforms.
But the practical impact could be that campaigns become more reliant on the political leaders in each party to provide the paid foot soldiers and staffers that once came from elsewhere. Neither the Republican nor Democratic party organizations would face similar prohibitions.
Despite intensive lobbying by Gov. Pat Quinn, Illinois lawmakers remained unwilling Friday to a 50 percent state income tax increase.
The Illinois House abruptly ended its work day Friday afternoon without voting on the income tax hike, as Quinn had expected earlier in the day.
“There’s not widespread support, there has not been widespread support and there continues not to be widespread support for a tax increase,” said Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago. “He’s (Quinn) asked to defer that for the past several days, and that continues.”
A House committee is scheduled to consider a tax hike bill this morning, although there is no indication when, or if, the bill will get a vote in the full House.
House members said it was increasingly possible that lawmakers would approve what money is available and then adjourn, leaving state agencies to limp along without a complete budget.
“We’ll run out of money. That’s the truth,” warned Rep. Linda Chapa Lavia, an Aurora Democrat who chairs one of the House’s appropriations committees. “We’re going to hit a day of reckoning where there’s not going to be any more money to pay the employees of the state.”
Earlier Friday, Quinn had predicted a House vote on a two-year hike in the income tax, increasing the rate from 3 percent to 4.5 percent. But Republicans opposed the plan, a cornerstone of Quinn’s 2009-’10 budget.
And only 39 House Democrats expressed support for the temporary tax plan in a closed-door caucus, leaving it 21 votes shy of the 60-vote threshold it needs.
“We are hopefully optimistic we will turn the corner,” Quinn spokesman Bob Reed said late Friday.
Senate Democrats have predicted a tax increase would have an easier time in their chamber and on Friday an even bigger tax plan emerged, courtesy of Sen. James Meeks (D-Chicago).
The proposal — which could raise upward of $6 billion — would increase the income tax by 67 percent and expand the sales tax on services such as dry cleaning, video rental, dating services and carpet cleaning. The theory is that a larger tax bite would mean fewer cuts.
A spokesman for Quinn would not comment on Meeks’ proposal. Earlier in the day, Quinn signaled his willingness to support a temporary version of his own tax-increase proposal, calling Friday “D-Day” for approving a budget.
Carol Stream Republican state Rep. Randy Ramey said Republicans are prepared to wait for a seat at the bargaining table and he’d be fine with a government shutdown when the current budget runs out at the end of June.
“Kentucky shut it down for one day, got it solved. Pennsylvania shut it down for one day, got it solved,” Ramey said. “So I think there’s enough pressure out there that we can then sit down and negotiate and get things accomplished.”
Developments are happening quickly. What appears to be the end game now could be vastly different from what actually happens when it’s all said and done.
* Cigarette tax hike lacks support in House: Tax and fee increases already approved by Illinois lawmakers may thwart a push to raise the tax on cigarettes. State Rep. Karen Yarbrough, who is sponsoring the legislation in the House, said there is not enough support yet to approve the tax increase. But she added legislators may change their mind by Sunday, the last scheduled day of the spring legislative session.
* Too many moving parts: Across the rotunda, Sen. John Sullivan, a downstate Democrat, said as the day progressed, it appeared more likely that the legislature would resort to a budget based solely on revenues available. But he wasn’t happy about it. “If we go past the 31st without a full budget being passed, all we’ve done is put off the inevitable,” he said. “We’re going to have to come back at some time and face reality.”
The jobless rate in the metropolitan Chicago rose to 9.9% in April, a level that hasn’t been seen since January 1984.
The seasonally unadjusted April rate, released Friday by the Illinois Department of Employment Security, was 4.5 percentage points higher than last April, when the unemployment rate came in at 5.4%. It was 0.6 percentage points higher than March, a sign that layoffs were continuing to pummel the Chicago-Naperville-Joliet statistical area.
IDES estimated that there were 171,300 fewer people employed in the Chicago-Naperville-Joliet metro area in April, compared with the year-earlier month.
The unemployment rate for just the city of Chicago was 10.6%, up from 6% last April, according to IDES figures.
Despite word that he wore a wire for federal investigators, Ald. Isaac Carothers (29th) said Friday that he would fight the charges against him and had no plans to resign his seat.
“I’ll be at work Monday morning,” he said a day after federal prosecutors indicted him on fraud, bribery and tax charges.
Carothers, a longtime ally of Mayor Richard Daley, declined to discuss the charges, but he defended the Galewood Yards real estate project at the center of the alleged bribery as well as his work as a public servant.
“These allegations are based on things from 2004,” he said. “I’ve been alderman for five years after that. I think we’ve been effective.”
City pension officials have been hit with subpoenas from a federal grand jury trying to determine how a start-up company co-owned by Mayor Daley’s nephew won $68 million in pension investments.
The grand jury issued the subpoenas Wednesday, nearly two months after city pension officials refused to comply with similar subpoenas issued by the City of Chicago’s inspector general, David Hoffman.
Hoffman said Friday that he and federal investigators are now jointly investigating the pension fund investments with DV Urban Realty Partners, a minority certified business co-owned by one of the mayor’s top African-American allies, Allison S. Davis, and Daley’s nephew Robert Vanecko.
City pension officials refused to comply with Hoffman’s subpoenas, arguing he had no authority to demand records from them. The federal grand jury stepped in, demanding records from the pension plans for Chicago municipal employees, laborers, police officers and firefighters, even though the firefighters pension fund refused to invest any money with Davis and Vanecko.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has opened an investigation into the implementation of Chicago’s parking meter privatization deal.
“Our goal is to determine if consumers have been defrauded,” said Madigan spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler, who stressed that the office is not investigating the City of Chicago.
Subpoenas were sent May 19 to Morgan Stanley Infrastructure, the winning bidder for the city’s parking meter franchise; Chicago Parking Meters LLC, a consortium led by the infrastructure group, and LAZ Parking, which is operating the franchise for CPM.
In response to questions, a spokeswoman for Chicago Parking Meters issued a brief statement Friday saying the company, Morgan Stanley and LAZ Parking would give their “full cooperation” to Madigan’s investigation.
Last year, for instance, Illinois State Police troopers seized more than four tons of drugs – 8,320 pounds worth — on Interstate 55.
“Narcotics go in one direction, and cash goes in the other direction,” said Capt. Scott Compton, spokesman for Illinois State Police. “Interstates are certainly the fastest way to get somewhere, and there’s lots of traffic, so you can blend in pretty easily.”