* 5:24 pm - The show will go on as planned…
U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens denied a request by former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to delay his June 3 corruption trial.
Blagojevich had sought a delay until the high court ruled on unrelated cases challenging the federal honest-services fraud law. The justice’s ruling was announced by the court’s public information office. No written decision was issued.
- Posted by Rich Miller
|Behind the headlines
Friday, May 28, 2010
* The Senate gave final approval to a tax amnesty plan yesterday, with one member voting against it…
The “tax-amnesty” bill (SB377) is expected to raise $250 million from tax scofflaws who might otherwise never pay. The deal is that, as long as they pay before Nov. 8, they get out of the usual fines.
The bill now goes to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn — who, of course, is looking for every dime these days.
The bill passed almost unanimously, with just one “no” vote: Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, the Republican nominee for governor and Quinn’s election opponent in November.
We haven’t yet been able to ask Brady about his opposition. Other opponents have generally complained that the measure rewards people who have failed to pay their taxes, letting them off the hook for fines they should pay, while not offering anything to taxpayers who’ve paid on time.
There may be at least two reasons besides the gubernatorial candidate’s issue stance and the political season for that “No” vote. The first, of course, is the fact that Brady didn’t pay state income taxes in 2008, as well as asking for and receiving a $1,616 refund.
The second is that Brady’s tax returns showed he underpaid his federal income taxes by $137,800 and paid a $4,388 penalty in 2004.
* Speaking of taxes…
The Illinois Senate on Thursday endorsed a taxpayer-backed retail development that supporters say will bring thousands of jobs to Southern Illinois.
The proposal, approved on a 34-17 vote, would use sales tax receipts to subsidize Swansea developer Bruce Holland’s plans for a “destination development” on 400-acres in Marion.
Senate approval came after a failed bid by officials in Mount Vernon to expand the project to their community. Mount Vernon Mayor Mary Jane Chesley told senators that the proposal will put her community at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to drawing retailers and consumers. […]
“This bill will take away from the City of Mount Vernon,” said state Sen. John Jones, R-Mount Vernon. “I cannot stand by and let the city of Mount Vernon be destroyed.”
Sen. Brady voted for the bill and Gov. Quinn is expected to sign it, which will make this the “Worst Law Ever.”
* The Tribune editorial board is either without a clue or deliberately not telling the truth…
The bill on Quinn’s desk was written by the coin machine industry’s lobbyists and hustled through the legislature with no input from state regulators or the public. Nothing good ever comes of that.
The Gaming Board’s staff long ago signed off on the bill when approached by gaming lobbyists. The proposal had public hearings in both chambers, which the Gaming Board and gaming opponents attended and testified to.
* And, of course, the governor’s McPier AV was overridden. But all this talk by the naysayers that Chicago is just not up to competing against Las Vegas and Orlando is hooey…
The National Restaurant Assn., which wrapped up its annual show Tuesday with more than 58,000 attending, is among those that have considered leaving.
The NRA, which had the fourth-largest show in Chicago last year, saw a 6% increase in attendance this year.
* Related and a roundup…
* Lawmakers punt unbalanced state budget back to Quinn
* Madigan: Lawmakers Won’t Return to Springfield Yet
* Sweeny: Borrowing out; $6.6 billion deficit still in for Illinois budget
* Martire: Objective look at our state isn’t pretty
* Illinois Lawmakers Override Governor’s Veto on McPier Bill
* Senate, House override Quinn’s McPier veto
* Lawmakers reject Quinn’s veto of convention bill
* McPier overhaul is law as lawmakers reject Quinn’s veto
* Lawmakers reject Quinn’s veto of convention bill
* Senate Passes STAR Bonds Bill
* STAR bonds pass Senate
* State Senate OKs STAR bonds bill
* Bill with special tax breaks for developer goes to Ill. governor
* STAR Bond bill passes State Senate
* Daily Herald: Quinn must veto looser poker rules
* Ill. Bill Seeks to Protect Juvenile Prostitutes
* Environmentalists Praise IL Solar Energy Bill
* Legislators, about to get raises, pass Boland bill opposing R.I. County raises
* Quinn can keep transparency door open
- Posted by Rich Miller
|Question of the day
Friday, May 28, 2010
* As you know, I vowed not to cut my hair or trim my beard until the General Assembly adjourned for the summer. Since the session doesn’t appear to be over, do you think I should ignore my wife, loved ones and friends and keep the promise? Or should I go ahead and cut and trim?
As always, explain your answer, please.
- Posted by Rich Miller
* Voices for Illinois Children has published a graph which shows unemployment rates for Illinois (in blue) and the US (in red) during the deep recession of the early 1980s. Click on the pic for a larger image…
This shows two things:
1) Illinois’ unemployment rate has tracked closely with, but has always hovered above the national rate for decades. Most of us who watch this stuff already know that, but too many people don’t. This has always been a problem here and it’s mainly because we’ve relied so much on manufacturing. During the 1980s, many of those jobs moved to the non-union South. In the 1990s, they went to Mexico. Now, they’re going to China, although a friend of mine is losing his factory job soon because the plant is moving to Mexico.
Here’s a more up-to-date graph of Illinois and US unemployment since January of 2008…
Closely tracked, but always above. This is the way it’s always been here.
2) I’ll let Voices for Illinois Children’s Larry Joseph explain this one…
In January 1983, Illinois was in the depths of a severe recession. Unemployment in the state had reached 12.9 percent, substantially higher than the current rate of 11.5 percent.
Nonetheless, the General Assembly and the Governor instituted a temporary 18-month income tax increase to bolster state revenues. The individual income tax was raised from 2.5 percent to 3 percent and the corporate income tax from 4 percent to 4.8 percent.
During the first quarter of 1983, the state’s unemployment rate was 12.9 percent, up from 8.3 percent in mid-1981. By the third quarter of 1984, after the income tax surcharge had expired, unemployment had fallen to 8.7 percent — a drop of more than 4 percentage points. Over the same period of time, nation-wide unemployment declined from 10.4 percent to 7.4 percent.
There is no indication that the tax increase had an adverse impact on the state’s economy. The recovery in Illinois was shaped primarily by macroeconomic conditions, not by changes in state tax policy. [Emphasis added.]
We need to be far less concerned with our income tax rates and far more concerned with doing things that create jobs. With corporations and individuals spending money on debt reduction rather than expansion or purchasing, the government needs to step in and fill the void. [Hat tip: Progress Illinois]
The unemployment rate in the Chicago metropolitan area continued to improve in April, falling to 10.7 percent from 11.2 percent in March, the Illinois Department of Employment Security reported today.
The rate was up from 9.8 percent in April 2009 and was above year-ago levels in all 12 metropolitan areas for the 35th straight month, but the increases have been consistently smaller in each of the four most recent months, IDES said. The rate was 11.3 percent in February.
The Chicago metropolitan area lost 84,500 jobs last month from a year earlier.
“Four consecutive months of smaller increases in (the unemployment) rate is encouraging because it offers another measure that indicates this national recession might be nearing an end,” IDES Director Maureen O’Donnell said in a statement. “Knowing that unemployment rates look to the past, and knowing that Illinois has added more than 51,000 jobs so far this year, suggests that we are closer to escaping the pressure that the Great Recession has exerted on our local job markets.”
- Posted by Rich Miller
* Budgetary cluelessness…
On what could be the final legislative day until November, Gov. Quinn’s bid to borrow $3.7 billion to pay for state pensions stalled in the Senate, where GOP gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady and fellow Republicans withheld support.
“We’ve been able to stave off more pension borrowing on the backs of our children and grandchildren,” said Brady, of Bloomington.
The governor proposed borrowing for the pension payment over 8 years. That’s hardly an intergenerational debt. However, skipping the pension payment will cost tens of billions of dollars due to lost interest on investments over the next few decades. That truly is intergenerational, and that’s what Brady and his fellows just caused, unless the Senate can find the votes for the borrowing plan. From Kate Grossman, a Sun-Times editorial page editor…
Skipping a pension payment costs much more than borrowing. If the state skips, it could lose at least $20 billion in investment income over 20 years. Borrowing $3.7 billion now would cost about $1 billion.
We urge the Republicans and the two wayward Democrats who don’t support pension borrowing to mull over this simple math for the next two weeks.
* Political cluelessness…
[Democratic Sen. Heather Steans] said she may be able to support a smaller borrowing effort if it was part of a budget package that also included more spending cuts and a way to raise revenue, such as an income tax increase.
Yeah. An income tax hike in a year like this. That’ll happen.
* Logrolling isn’t illegal, but it doesn’t appear to have happened on the pension borrowing proposal in the Senate…
[Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno] also said the Quinn administration approached Republicans with “promises of facilities or perks or money for their districts in exchange for votes. It’s unsavory at best or illegal.”
Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, said previously he had been contacted by Quinn about supporting the borrowing plan. He said nothing was offered.
“No, and I didn’t ask for anything,” Bomke said. “He just asked if I would vote for it. I said, `Governor, why do you need me? You’ve got 37 (Democratic senate) votes.”’
Notice that Bomke didn’t say he was opposed to borrowing, just that the Democrats should do it on their own. The State Journal-Register is fed up with this attitude…
Their political party before their state. Their Republican colleagues before their constituents. The leader of their caucus before the taxpayers.
Those were the choices state Reps. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield, and Rich Brauer, R-Petersburg, made on Tuesday night. Poe and Brauer voted against a plan to borrow $3.7 billion to make the state’s full payment, on time, to the pension systems.
And the Pantagraph makes a good point…
Consider Tuesday’s vote on a borrowing plan.
Two Republicans were said to have “broken ranks” because they voted with the Democratic majority to approve the proposal.
Republican state party chairman Pat Brady almost seemed more concerned that Rep. Bob Biggins, R-Elmhurst, missed a Republican caucus meeting than the fact that Biggins was one of only two Republicans who voted for the borrowing plan. State Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville, was the other.
Does anyone think it was a coincidence that the two Republicans who voted in favor of the plan aren’t up for re-election?
* This is what will happen now…
“Without the borrowing to make the pension payment, the pension payments get in line with everybody else,” Madigan said. “They become a matter for the governor and the comptroller in terms of managing the cash-flow.”
Also, the governor received some extraordinary powers from the General Assembly this week…
But other options may exist. Part of the emergency budget powers granted to Quinn allow him to tap surpluses in special state accounts to cover state spending, though the money must be paid back within 18 months with 1 percent interest.
Quinn already proposed borrowing $1 billion from those accounts, but lawmakers didn’t limit how much he could take so long as it doesn’t impede the cause or effort for which the account was created. The Senate’s budget pointman said upward of $3 billion might be available for the governor’s use.
A few budget highlights…
*Borrow $1.2 billion against future tobacco settlement proceeds.
*Allow Gov. Pat Quinn to hold up to $2 billion of state spending in reserve.
*Allow Quinn to borrow money from restricted state funds.
*Give state until Dec. 31, instead of Aug. 31, to pay bills left over from this year.
*Eliminate cost-of-living pay increases for state lawmakers next year.
*Cut daily expense money for lawmakers from $139 to $111 next year.
*Cut mileage rate paid to lawmakers from 50 cents to 39 cents.
* Borrowing out; $6.6 billion deficit still in for Illinois budget
* Madigan: Lawmakers Won’t Return to Springfield Yet: The House approved — but the Senate would not consider — a bill to borrow the money to make pension payments. Madigan says an “emergency budget act” gives Gov. Pat Quinn enough latitude to try to make things work. “We acknowledge that we’re running a deficit, like 47 other states,” says Madigan. “Gov. Quinn is entitled to extraordinary budget powers, the ability to borrow from other funds.”
* Kadner: Miller says his vote just the ‘Right Thing’
- Posted by Rich Miller
*** UPDATE - 1:48 pm *** Quinn’s campaign finally whacks back at Brady on his votes…
A far more serious breach that deserves immediate investigation is Brady’s repeated votes on legislation that served to financially benefit himself and his business interests. Senator Brady can’t possibly claim he didn’t know there was a conflict of interest.
The people of Illinois who pay his salary need to know why Senator Brady repeatedly voted on bills that he knew would promote development projects in which he plainly had a substantial and personal financial interest.”
They couldn’t have done that on Sunday or Monday? Sheesh.
[ *** End of Update *** ]
* As we’ll see in a bit, this isn’t the first time that Bill Brady has demanded that Lisa Madigan investigate Pat Quinn’s fundraising. From a press release…
Gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady is calling for an investigation into Governor Pat Quinn’s acceptance of $75,000 in campaign cash from the Teamsters Union just before his amendatory veto on McCormick Place that would have benefitted the union.
“It’s appears to be another shameful example of pay-to-play politics,” Brady said. “The people of Illinois deserve a thorough investigation.” Brady will ask Attorney General Lisa Madigan to begin the investigation.
* My Sun-Times column today is about how both of these candidates are under a cloud…
I’ve been wondering all week why Gov. Quinn’s campaign has all but ignored an explosive but little-noticed story.
Quinn has been silent about the revelation that his Republican opponent Bill Brady had voted for three different bills that directly helped his struggling real estate company develop a project in Champaign.
The area that Brady was developing had no sewer system, and Champaign was having trouble buying the property easements to lay pipe, so the town asked the General Assembly to give it “quick take” powers that would allow them to seize the land for a fair price.
A very high-level Democrat who is often the target of media investigations told me the other day that he would be sent to prison if he voted to directly benefit his own business.
It’s one thing if, say, a farmer votes for a bill backed by the Illinois Farm Bureau that would help lots of farmers throughout the state.
It’s quite another thing if that same farmer voted for a bill which helped only himself.
This ought to be big news, and it’s full of rich targets for campaign press releases.
“Brady voted to pad his own pockets,” is one hit that springs to mind. The “sewer” stuff writes itself.
The same guy who didn’t pay federal income taxes for two straight years was involved in a project subsidized in part by federal funds. But Quinn’s campaign didn’t take the bait.
He should’ve done something, because now the governor has found himself on the defensive.
Last year right about this time, Quinn got into trouble when it was revealed that a campaign staffer was asking lobbyists to set up fund-raisers. This happened near the scheduled end of the spring legislative session, so all of those lobbyists had bills awaiting the governor’s signature or veto.
The lobbyists leaked the story, and Quinn was forced to apologize. He vowed not to do any more fund-raising until after the session was over.
Apparently, that promise didn’t apply to this year’s spring session.
On Thursday, my buddy Greg Hinz at Crain’s Chicago Business broke the story that the governor had received some very large campaign checks — totaling $75,000 — from the Teamsters Union in late April. At the time, the Teamsters were fighting legislative attempts to change McCormick Place’s union work rules. The work-rule changes remained in the McPier reform bill that passed both chambers, and the Teamsters were furious. They threatened to sue to block the changes.
Not coincidentally, Quinn has been saying that he was worried that the bill would prompt lawsuits.
Quinn eventually decided to slap the bill with an amendatory veto. Buried within the text was a provision that killed off a small McPier union and handed its members to the Teamsters.
Think of it as a consolation prize.
The Legislature voted to override Quinn’s veto Thursday.
Quinn alienated every public employee union in the state last month when he signed a pension reform bill into law. Those unions contribute millions of dollars to campaigns, and they’re not giving him any money now. He couldn’t afford to also alienate the big unions at McPier.
So, it was pretty much a given that his amendatory veto was pure politics. What we didn’t know at the time, however, was that Quinn had already taken a large pile of cash from the Teamsters.
When Quinn got into that fund-raising trouble last year, Brady almost immediately called on Attorney General Lisa Madigan to investigate.
Maybe she ought to take a look at both of them.
And call me paranoid, but I can’t help but wonder if that’s why Quinn has been so strangely silent about his opponent’s serious ethical lapse.
* By the way, the Tribune followed up on Greg Hinz’s piece without any attribution. And notice the lede…
Only a month before Gov. Pat Quinn rewrote legislation to help the Teamsters at the McCormick Place convention center, the labor group gave the Democratic governor $75,000 in political donations, his campaign acknowledged Thursday.
That’s a crisp, concise AP Style lede with everything you really need to know up front. Now, contrast that with the lede on the story about how Brady voted three times on bills that directly benefited his real estate company…
On the southwest fringe of Champaign along Interstate Highway 57 stands the Curtis Road interchange, its ornate limestone overpass and decorative red-brick towers surrounded by acres of open farmland.
You have to read 25 grafs into the piece before you find the Brady bills stuff.
Sure makes you wonder why the two stories are so different.
- Posted by Rich Miller
Friday, May 28, 2010
* Employment signs pointing up in Illinois, officials say
The department called the trend toward month-to-month declines a significant sign of an improving job market. Through the first four months of the year, the state has added 51,000 jobs compared to the same period of 2009.
* Chicago’s unemployment rate fell to 10.7 percent in April
* Metro-east jobless rate falls by more than 2 percent
* 13 local counties see unemployment rates dip in April
* Decatur April unemployment at 12.8 percent
* Flags at half-staff to honor slain Chicago cop
* Illinois lags some states in combating hospital-acquired infections
* Ameren to seek rate rehearing Friday
Ameren Corp. plans to ask state regulators Friday for another hearing on its request for higher electric and natural-gas delivery rates after the original $130 million proposal was cut to $10 million.
At the same time, the company announced Thursday that it will pass cheaper wholesale electric costs on to Illinois customers June 1.
* Ameren dropping rates by 6 percent
A typical residential customer who uses 10,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year will save approximately $68, or about 6 percent on their total annual bill for electricity, said Johnson.
* No. 1 in felony drug cases
In Cook County, drug crimes represented a bigger share of felony cases than any other major county in the United States, according to a federal study released Thursday.
The Justice Department study — a snapshot of 39 counties in May 2006 — found that drug crimes were the most serious charge filed against 57 percent of felony defendants in Cook County.
Also in Cook County, only 9 percent of the felony cases involved violent crimes, the lowest percentage in the United States, according to the study. The percentage of property crimes and public crimes, such as driving under the influence, were in the average range among the 39 counties.
* Daley: ‘Understands’ what prompted home intruder shooting
* Daley blames beach arrests on drinking, texting high schoolers
* Daley blames suburbanites for city beach unrest
* Curfew breakers to be sent to parks
* New CTA L cars temporarily pulled out of service
Bombardier, the Pennsylvania manufacturer of the L cars, has been working on a modification tol improve the brakes, according to the CTA, which said the trains haven’t experienced any brake failures but that, under certain conditions a component was found to be affected by vibrations, whch the transit agency said could, over time result in a loss of braking friction.
* New CTA rail cars temporarily sidelined
* Chicago Teachers Union Election Gets Tougher for Incumbent
Just 500 votes separated CTU President Marilyn Stewart from her toughest challenger in last Friday’s election. More than 19,000 teachers cast ballots. Stewart didn’t get enough votes to avoid a runoff.
Last night, third place finisher Deborah Lynch announced she’s throwing her support behind challenger Karen Lewis. The fourth place finisher has also endorsed Lewis.
* Navistar critics say company wasn’t listening to them
* Southtown Star: No hiding the report, Oak Lawn
* Kane coroner makes first court appearance on misconduct charges
* Winnebago County Board freezes 3 salaries, some bonuses cut
* [Quad Cities] businesses prepare to bid for Thomson contracts
* Video: Inside [Normal’s] new baseball stadium
* Blagojevich judge says he won’t start over with jury screening
* American Blagojevich Idol: The Awesome Reality Show That Could Be
- Posted by Barton Lorimor
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* I went to bed last night with a toothache and woke up with half my face swollen up. Not good. So, I’m gonna get me some medical attention. Barton will put up Morning Shorts and some videos. I’ll be back later.
*** UPDATE *** Strong antibiotics and pain killers were prescribed and now I’m back to work. Sorry for the delay, and particular apologies to subscribers for not publishing something today. I was a little freaked out when I woke up and saw my face was all swollen, and I’m usually not easily freaked.
- Posted by Rich Miller
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