* I don’t believe that I’ve ever seen anything quite like the press release that Joe Berrios’ campaign just sent out. Berrios, of course, is running for Cook County Assessor, is the chairman of the county Democratic Party and is a Statehouse lobbyist.
One of Berrios’ lobbying clients is the Illinois Coin Machine Operators Association. Berrios was instrumental in pushing the original video poker law, which will put the machines in taverns, clubs and truck stops all over the state.
This afternoon, the House passed a trailer bill which has been sharply (and somewhat unfairly) criticized by the Illinois Gaming Board’s chairman as too lenient on possible criminals. The bill now goes to the governor. Berrios lobbied for that one, too.
Oddly enough, Berrios’ campaign sent out a press release touting his lobbying involvement…
Cook County Assessor candidate Joseph Berrios on Wednesday praised Illinois lawmakers for passing a bill with the potential to create $500 million in jobs and revenue for the state during a tough economic crisis.
House Bill 4927, which was sponsored by State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) and State Sen. Terry Link (D-Waukegan) in the Senate, will allow truck stops to legally host paying video gambling machines under Illinois’ video gaming law. The bill now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn for his signature.
“At a time when the state is struggling for revenue, this measure will bring in $250 million to $500 million a year for use in state capital projects like roads and school construction,” said Berrios, who lobbied for the measure on behalf of the Illinois Coin Operators’ Association. “It’s a win-win for the state. Our unemployment rate is at an all-time high and our schools are crumbling. This new revenue will help in so many ways.”
The bill, which had bi-partisan support, was presented to lawmakers as a way to make Illinois’ original law more efficient and profitable, in part by allowing truck stops and VFW halls to host the machines. The state has already legalized video gambling in bars and restaurants, though it will probably be the end of this year before the state’s Gaming Board formally allows the official start of video gambling in those establishments.
“I’m pleased that I could help get this bill passed during such a difficult fiscal time,” Berrios said. “However, as I have noted since last fall, once I become Assessor I will resign as a lobbyist and my sole priority will be serving the people of Cook County with fairness and efficiency.”
Berrios has been a commissioner on the Cook County Board of Review, which oversees property tax appeals, since 1988. He won the Democratic nomination for Cook County Assessor in February. Prior to being elected five times as commissioner, he served three terms as an Illinois state representative. He is chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party. Berrios was the first Hispanic elected chairman of the party, a commissioner to the Board of Review and to the Illinois General Assembly.
I guess I can see his point here, especially the part about mentioning how he’s stepping down as a lobster if he’s elected. But it’s just weird to me that his campaign would be touting his lobbying business, particularly since most regular folks hear “lobbyist” and think “bad guy.”
What’s next? A press release touting his fight against the governor’s proposed cigarette tax increase on behalf of Altria? Probably not.
*** UPDATE *** The Forrest Claypool campaign has responded. From a press release…
Citizens for Claypool campaign manager Tom Bowen released the following statement in response to a release by gambling lobbyist Joe Berrios’ political campaign.
“How much did the gambling industry pay you to say that?” said Bowen
Earlier this week, Independent Candidate for Assessor Forrest Claypool called on Mr. Berrios to disclose his ties and contracts to the gambling industry in order to provide the voters of Cook County a way to judge the extent of Mr. Berrios’ conflicts of interest.
* I met with Attorney General Lisa Madigan yesterday to take a look at her tax returns. As we’ve discussed before, her campaign originally refused to release the returns, but then Madigan called and offered to let me take a look at them.
Pretty much all the income the couple reported for 2009 was AG Madigan’s state salary. Madigan’s husband Patrick has been focusing his time as a stay-at-home father and reported less than $1,000 in income from his cartoonist gig. They reported a $3,000 capital gains loss and had an adjusted gross income of just under $137,000. They paid $14,518 in federal taxes.
Patrick did much better in 2008, earning $66,880. The couple reported an adjusted gross income of $187,6612 and paid $38,432 in federal taxes. She showed me the 2007 returns as well, and they were pretty much the same. $126,656 in income for Lisa, $31,966 for Patrick, an AGR of $160,452 and $27,749 in federal taxes.
Bottom line: No surprises.
* AG Madigan’s Republican opponent Steve Kim e-mailed me his 2009 tax returns yesterday. Kim reported $69,204 in income and paid $11,314 in federal taxes. He reported income from three different sources, his law firm ($54,207 in passive income), the Korea UIC Education Group ($35,000 in nonpassive income) and S & C Corp ($20,003 in nonpassive losses).
* The Bill Brady campaign was saying this week that Jason Plummer didn’t have to disclose his income tax returns because Lisa Madigan hadn’t done it, so this story ought to be the end of the lame excuses and I am absolutely certain that Plummer will be following through soon and keeping his campaign promise to always be scrupulously transparent and accountable.
* 12:26 pm - The governor’s office is officially filing the AV right now at Index.
* The governor claims in the AV that the legislature “has taken only half a step towards reforming” the convention industry. “As long as I have been Governor, my message has been clear: when it comes to reform, half measures do not suffice.” Heh.
* “For the authority to fully fuel the Illinois economy, we must also eliminate tax increases that are counter-productive to the purpose of the bill.” Wow. It’s almost like this is pure snark.
The above passage is, of course, about the “departure” tax on taxicab rides from Chicago’s two airports.
* The governor states that the bill violates Article IV, Section 13 of the Illinois Constitution by specifically naming James Reilly as the new McPier trustee. The Article: “The General Assembly shall pass no special or local law when a general law is or can be made applicable.”
* Quinn also complains in the AV that there is no mechanism to replace Reilly. But that was addressed in a trailer proposal sponsored by Speaker Madigan and which passed Exec this morning.
* As I told subscribers the other day, Quinn’s “real” reason for this veto is to give two of the big McPier unions control over the two smallest unions, the Riggers and the Decorators, by allowing them to absorb the unions. “Reducing the number of the Authority’s work jurisdictions will allow the Authority to continue to offer service superior to that found in other large convention destinations,” Quinn wrote.
* Here’s the official language for that passage on the Riggers and Decorators…
The Authority shall not recognize (l) more than a single bargaining unit for employees engaged in drayage, rigging, and related duties and (ll) more than a single bargaining unit for employees engaged in carpentry, decorating and related duties.
Translation: “Drayage” means Teamsters, so they get the Riggers. The Carpenters Union gets the Decorators.
* Expect a veto override perhaps as early this afternoon by the Senate.
* 12:40 pm - The governor has announced a 1 o’clock Statehouse press conference to discuss the AV. We’ll have video.
* 12:57 pm - The Senate will apparently not take up the AV today. From the Senate Democrats…
Committees will not be scheduled for this evening and there will be no major floor action. Tonight, the Senate we will read in messages from the House, the Governor. Additionally, we will file all concurrence motions and read in any new Senate bills and resolutions.
After a Committee on Assignments meeting, we will make committee announcements. We plan to start committees around 9:30 on Thursday morning.
* 1:06 pm - More from the Senate Democrats…
The Senate intends to override the Governor’s McPier AV. A joint statement from Cullerton and Radogno will be issued shortly.
* 1:45 pm - From a press release…
JOINT STATEMENT REGARDING THE GOVERNOR’S VETO OF McCORMICK PLACE REFORM LEGISLATION (SB28)
SPRINGFIELD, Illinois - Moments ago, Governor Pat Quinn vetoed Senate Bill 28, the McPier reform legislation that was born out of months-long bipartisan negotiations by key stakeholders and top legislative leaders.
Illinois Senate President John Cullerton and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno helped to craft the agreed reforms in Senate Bill 28. As leaders of their caucuses, both worked diligently to earn bipartisan passage of the legislation earlier this month.
Numerous associations, organizations and industries have long complained of the high surcharges and bureaucratic guidelines that have reduced the attractiveness of hosting conventions and trade shows at McCormick Place.
Just this week, the National Restaurant Association held its annual trade show at McCormick Place, bringing with it an estimated $100 million of economic activity to Chicago. After more than six decades of making McCormick Place its annual convention headquarters, officials of the association announced that, unless the reforms in Senate Bill 28 become law, a new home will be chosen for its future events. Additionally, officials of the National Housewares Show issued a similar statement this week.
For this reason Senate leaders expressed disappointment in the governor’s veto decisions:
“Governor Pat Quinn’s decision today to veto key elements of the bipartisan McPier Reform Package has the potential to destabilize one of the most productive economic engines in the State of Illinois.
After months of public hearings and discussions with stakeholders, members of the Illinois General Assembly passed this reform package to stop the pattern of canceled trade shows and wary convention decision makers who found other venues more attractive, affordable and with less red tape. Democrats and Republicans came to retain and grow tens of thousands of jobs and reaffirm a commitment to investing in tourism for the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois.
This proposal cuts bureaucracy, establishes strict ethics standards, and recognizes the importance of attracting new and returning convention business through aggressive promotion. Without providing an alternative funding source, the Governor’s veto decimates a well-thought-out plan to show off our world-class facilities.
By working together, we created a significant reform plan that will bring millions of visitors and billions of dollars in economic investment to our state. Our negotiations lasted for weeks. But, we believe an override of the Governor’s veto is a prudent course of action.”
The Senate will begin the override process in committee on Thursday morning.
*** 2:31 pm *** Gov. Quinn’s press conference, part 1…
*** 3:30 pm *** The governor’s office claims that the “trade show people” are OK with his changes…
“If [Mr. Quinn’s] changes go through it will produce a stronger bill that trade shows would like. If not, the trade show people are satisfied with the current bill….The trade show people are OK with the gov’s action.”
The [tax] amnesty program is expected to generate about $250 million. From Oct. 1 to Nov. 8, people can make good on taxes owed that were accumulated between June 30, 2002, and July 1, 2009. The bill also allows the state to sell debt to private collection agencies. […]
The wide-ranging [Emergency Budget Act] bill also calls for the state to take out a loan against money it would receive in future years from the national tobacco settlement, a deal worth about $1.2 billion in upfront money. Republicans warned the move is shortsighted because the state uses annual money from the tobacco settlement to fund a variety of programs, including $580 million in prescription drug assistance.
The bill further authorizes Quinn to borrow money from restricted state funds, which previously were “swept” of money to divert to other state expenses and not repaid. This bill requires the money to be repaid with interest, although skeptical lawmakers doubt that will happen. Currie said the administration expects to borrow about $1 billion from the funds. The bill also requires lawmakers, statewide officials and top agency employees to take 12 furlough days in the next budget year. […]
Currie said the [state budget] bill calls for $26.2 billion in general fund spending, the part of the budget over which the state has the most control. She said that is about $400 million less than the current budget, reflecting a 5 percent across-the-board cut in spending for operations.
* The setup is about Rep. Bob Biggins’ vote-switch on the pension borrowing plan. As you’ll no doubt recall, Biggins voted “No” the first time the bill was called, then voted “Yes” the second time. From the Sun-Times…
Cross condemned Biggins for skipping a House GOP caucus on the borrowing plan and opting instead to meet with Quinn’s chief of staff, Jerry Stermer. Cross said he’d “heard some scuttlebutt” about a possible deal Biggins cut with Quinn in exchange for his vote.
Biggins denied discussing with Stermer a possible job in the Quinn administration, which could significantly increase the nine-term lawmaker’s pension.
“I asked for nothing,” Biggins said in a hallway behind the House as one of his GOP colleagues passed by and could be heard muttering “two-faced son of a b—-.”
Some on Cross’ leadership team said there likely will be discussions about expelling Biggins from the House Republican caucus.
* As I’ve often said before, this whole “living in the governor’s mansion” issue is silly. I defended Rod Blagojevih time and time again on it, and grew sick of the whining from Springfieldians that the guy didn’t want his kids going to school here. I didn’t blame him one bit, particularly since he wasn’t all that popular with state employees, thousands of whom also send their kids to school here.
Gov. Quinn, however, promised he’d live in the mansion, and the Tribune reports that he hasn’t really done so…
…Quinn stays at the ornate, taxpayer-funded house only sporadically. During his first year in office, Quinn slept there 55 nights, mostly while lawmakers were in session. He didn’t spend more than three consecutive nights in the executive mansion.
He over-promised, plain and simple. But the fact that he doesn’t live in an “ornate, taxpayer-funded” mansion does not, as the Tribune story claims, “belies the populist image” Quinn projects. If anything, living in his own modest Chicago home is far more populist, as far as I believe.
* The real meat of the Tribune story, however, is that Quinn has on at least a couple of occasions appeared to misuse his state plane to go back and forth between Springfield and Chicago…
On a handful of occasions, Quinn took a state plane to Springfield during the day, only to fly back to Chicago the same night. Among these cases were trips to attend a campaign fundraiser and his aunt’s funeral. Quinn defended the funeral round trip as an appropriate use of taxpayer money because he was honoring a woman who was a “citizen of Illinois for eight decades.” […]
On June 29, Quinn met with Mayor Richard Daley in Chicago before flying to Springfield to huddle with Democratic legislative leaders. Quinn was there for just over two hours before flying back to Chicago, where he hosted an evening campaign fundraiser at the downtown Hyatt.
Quinn said his use of the plane was appropriate and he did not make the round trip because of the fundraiser, but because he planned to attend the annual Rainbow/PUSH meeting in Chicago the following morning. […]
On Oct. 10, Quinn flew from Chicago in the afternoon to host a Springfield reception for his former Northwestern University law classmates, then flew back to Chicago about five hours later. On Dec. 19, Quinn flew to Springfield to host a holiday open house and staff party before returning to Chicago a few hours later.
He should give that stuff a rest. And the campaign use ought to be strictly verboten.
* Speaking of the state plane, the Tribune also had a piece on that today…
Lawmakers are proposing a wide variety of ways to cut the woefully out-of-balance budget, but curbing their use of state aircraft is not at the top of the list.
Dozens of lawmakers fly between Chicago and Springfield on the state’s fleet of four executive airplanes at discounted rates subsidized by taxpayers, according to Illinois Department of Transportation records.
Legislators who’ve taken the most flights defended their use of state planes, saying they would get reimbursed for mileage if they drove.
It’s a legit hit, but I doubt they mind too much.
* Graphic: Top Illinois legislators using state aircraft
* The House Executive Committee voted today to move a proposal to the floor which allows video gaming in bars and restaurants that have off-track betting parlors in them. The new trend is to put the OTBs into large entertainment centers, so the proposal would ensure that those facilities were not put at a disadvantage against other bars and restaurants in the area, according to its sponsor, Rep. Lou Lang.
Rep. Bob Biggins asked a most unusual question during the committee’s debate, however. Watch…
* Meanwhile, the disinformation campaign against the main video poker “trailer bill” is still in full force. From the Sun-Times…
(T)he Illinois Senate has passed a bill that also passed out of a House committee on Monday. The bill would take away the board’s discretion, allowing it to bar only those who are convicted of a gambling-related felony.
The reality, Jaffe says, is that most of those caught dabbling in illegal video poker wind up convicted only of lesser charges.
“I am absolutely opposed to what the Legislature is trying to do,” Jaffe says. “They are taking away discretion from the board. It gives an exemption to people who have been involved in criminal activity.”
Also, I’ve talked to several people who swear on their mother that Jaffe’s own Gaming Board staff signed off on this video poker bill in order to bring some clarity to how tavern owners and fraternal organizations like the VFW could be denied a license.
* So, how did the group of ten House Democrats who pushed for extensive budget cuts do yesterday? It was, at best, a mixed bag.
The House did pass a $200 million Medicaid cut pushed by the group, which House Majority Leader Barb Currie referred to as “the only real savings” the House approved yesterday.
But a proposal to make state retirees pay health insurance premiums failed. A measure to cut the budgets of constitutional officers fell short. The $400 million in education cuts (K-12 and higher ed) were overwhelmingly rejected in committee. Reducing state mileage reimbursements to 39 cents per mile from 50 cents failed. Eliminating state paid stipends for some local elected officials died.
A proposal, however, by Elgin state Rep. Keith Farnham advanced to the full House that would limit the travel allowance for lawmakers to 39 cents for the next year. It also would reduce lawmakers’ travel allowance for housing and meals - currently $139 a day - to $111. […]
Meanwhile, a proposal that could potentially save $300 million by canceling and rebidding state contracts for a total of more than $1.2 billion also cleared the committee.
“There’s a pattern of renewing contracts just year after year,” Jakobsson said. “We just renew them and don’t ask questions.”
Rep. Elaine Nekritz was one of the chief motivators behind the move to cut the budget. She tried to put the best face on the defeats to my intern Barton Lorimor. Have a look…
* House Speaker Michael Madigan just passed a “clean-up” measure for the McCormick Place reform bill out of his Executive Committee. Click here to read it.
Among other things, the proposal requires McCormick Place to follow the state’s procurement code, rather than allowing it to have a “substantially similar” procurement process. It also provides for a means to oust the new trustee, or czar, provides for appointing his replacement in case of a vacancy, subjects him to the governor’s constitutional removal authority, and makes it even more clear that he is subject to the one-year revolving door prohibition.
These appear to be Gov. Quinn’s reforms. The governor has not yet issued any statement on his expected amendatory veto of the original McCormick Place bill. Click here today to see its status.
* As I told you last night, Gov. Quinn’s campaign blasted Sen. Bill Brady for voting to double the taxicab “departure tax” which is included in the McPier reform bill. Here is the Brady campaign’s response…
Governor Quinn is pushing a 33 percent income tax increase on the taxpayers of Illinois, a dozen tax increases on Illinois’s job creators and fee hikes on citizens. Despite the efforts at distraction – that’s the Quinn record. Bill Brady opposes the Quinn tax increases.
The city of Chicago – and people of Illinois – anxiously await his action on the bipartisan solution passed by the legislature to keep as many as 66,000 jobs in the Chicago area convention and trade show industry.
McCormick Place has approximately 3 million visitors a year—most of whom are out-of-town conventioneers who spend their money on everything from airline tickets and taxi rides to hotel rooms and theater tickets. Democrats and Republicans worked together to impose labor work rule reforms, eliminate costly mark-ups and put in place professional management that will make McCormick Place competitive again in the convention industry. At the same time, the cost to the state and its taxpayers will be reduced by more than $300 million in the coming years with stringent ethical standards and sunshine that eliminates backroom deals.
This week the National Restaurant Association – which for 61 years has come to McCormick Place for its annual trade show – announced it will move elsewhere unless the reforms become law. This one trade show brings more than $100 million annually into the city.
Governor Quinn needs to set aside the political rhetoric and sign the McCormick Place reforms into law. If he continues to kowtow to political interests – Chicago stands to lose one its prime economic engines.
Tribune Co. plans to pay top executives and managers bonuses of $16.2 million when its bankruptcy reorganization plan takes effect, the company said in a court filing.
The Chicago-based company — owner of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and broadcast outlets — said in a revised reorganization plan filed Monday that it will pay $10.3 million in incentive compensation to its top 19 executives, who earned the maximum amount possible for their performances last year, and $1.3 million to other employees who made “valuable contributions.”
Under a separate bonus program that rewards some of the same executives, another $4.6 million will be paid out to business unit leaders, the filing said.
The payouts follow a move in February to award $42 million in bonuses under the same programs to top managers for their work last year.
There is no doubt a university presidency is a difficult, 24/7 job. But the fact that new U of I President Michael Hogan’s salary of $620,000 is more than the $177,412 that Gov. Pat Quinn earns and President Barack Obama’s $400,000 salary shows how university administrator salaries have gotten out of hand.
* No Invasive Asian Carp Turn Up in Recent Fish Kill
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources led the effort to poison two and a half miles of the Little Calumet River. It’s just a few miles from the lake.
With mounted police lining the route, teachers decried Schools CEO Ron Huberman’s plan to raise class sizes to 35 — causing up to 3,000 Chicago Teachers Union layoffs — to battle an estimated $600 million deficit.
* Stroger vetoes bill requiring board vote on pay raises
Daley’s 2010 budget was precariously balanced by draining revenues from the $1.15 billion deal that privatized Chicago parking meters and ordering city employees to take unpaid furlough days that amounted to a nine percent pay cut.
Since then, top mayoral aides have been forced to propose a $160 million short-term borrowing to bankroll back pay raises for Chicago police officers mandated by an independent arbitrator.
Foreclosed and abandoned Chicago buildings are “the same type of disaster as the BP oil slick” in Louisiana, a Northwest Side alderman said today, demanding a full-court press by city, state and federal officials and by banks that owned the buildings.
“It’s not an exaggeration,” said Ald. Richard Mell (33rd). “They’re having the same devastating effect in communities and neighborhoods as the oil slick is.
Lawrence became enraged at the previous council meeting when his request to ask questions of Aurora Housing Authority appointee Avis Miller was denied by Weisner. Lawrence is a longtime thorn in the side of the authority, questioning its use of tax dollars and the conditions of many of the authority’s properties. He routinely calls for the dismantling of the board.
Weisner has said he denied Lawrence’s line of questioning so as not to allow Lawrence to unfairly “rip into” Miller
Chrysler is an economic engine for the Rock River Valley that must be fueled. In today’s Register Star print edition, we run an exclusive report that the plant may be in line for a 592,000-square-foot expansion that would be a welcome addition to the local economy.
However, as encouraging as it seems that the expansion may happen in Belvidere as soon as this fall, we know that nothing is certain until the first shovel is turned.
That makes it imperative for local, state and federal representatives to do whatever is legally and morally necessary to get the deal done.
* As I told you earlier, Gov. Quinn is expected to issue an amendatory veto on the McCormick Place reform bill soon. He’s going to use the so-called “departure tax” hike as an excuse, according to an e-mail from his campaign. The reform bill doubles the tax on cab rides leaving O’Hare and Midway airports to fund Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau, with 25 percent going to Rosemont’s convention center. Take it away, Quinn campaign…
As we know, Brady voted for the McPier reforms and is urging for it to be signed as is. However, the reform doubles the departure tax. It is raised by 100%.
This from the person who recently signed the “no tax pledge” - and has spent the last few months publicly railing against any taxes - yet he voted for this tax increase.
One of the first chances he had to vote for a hike in taxes, he took it.
And someone should ask him if he knows where the money from the departure tax goes. This tax is already going to McPier and it collects about $8 million annually. This is estimated to collect another $8 million, 75% of the new revenue would go to CCTB to help market McPier. 25% of this would go to also market the Rosemont convention center.
Here is the Brady campaign press release issued after I wrote that Quinn would likely AV the McPier bill…
Bill Brady, Candidate for Governor, released the following statement on McCormick Place Reform today;
Why is Pat Quinn standing against jobs and reform? This is a clear opportunity to be on the side of growth and to make a clean break from insider Illinois politics. Today the bill went to the Governor’s desk; he has no more excuses. He should sign the bill. This is bipartisan and has widespread support for a good reason: It will mean jobs and reform.
Several trade shows have canceled here and others waiting before making future commitments. This could mean the loss of a billion dollars in local spending. As I said last week, Pat Quinn has failed the children of Chicago by opposing the Meeks school voucher bill, and he is failing the people of the Pullman neighborhood.
I hope Governor Quinn, on behalf of the people of Chicago, gets this one right and signs the bill.
* 6:14 pm - The House is now debating a motion to reconsider the pension borrowing bill, which came up one vote short. Rep. David Miller made the motion to reconsider, and he is expected to vote “Yes” when the actual bill comes up for a vote.
But if that happens, and Miller votes “Yes,” GOP Rep. Pritchard just told my intern Barton Lorimor that he is switching from “Yes” to “No.” Pritchard wouldn’t say why he was switching his vote. But Pritchard’s decision comes after an hour-long House Republican caucus meeting.
So, if Miller votes for it and Pritchard votes against it and nobody else changes their mind, then they’re still at 70 - one vote short.
* UPDATE 1 - 6:32 pm - We went back to talk to Pritchard and he’s actually going to vote “Present.” Same dif. Video in a bit.
* UPDATE 2 - 6:34 pm - Rep. David Miller’s motion to reconsider finally was called for a vote after a long delay. Apparently, they were looking for some missing members. The motion passed with 71 votes.
* OK, now a verification. And it passed.
* UPDATE 3 - 6:39 pm - As I mentioned below, Gov. Quinn stormed onto the House floor during House GOP Leader Tom Cross’ speech against the pension borrowing bill. Quinn stopped in the middle of the chamber, turned and glared at Cross. Watch it…
* UPDATE 4 - 6:41 pm - Rep. Pritchard just explained his vote. He said he’s voting “Present” because he wants some bipartisanship. Odd.
* UPDATE 5 - 6:45 pm - Crain’s just fell for an old Rod Blagojevich spin. Blagojevich used to say he was “signing” a bill when he was actually using his amendatory veto powers. An AV isn’t a signature. Period. Subscribers already knew what was going on, but here you go…
Gov. Pat Quinn is expected this week to sign the long-awaited bill to overhaul operations at McCormick Place, though the measure will come with a few changes, according to legislative and convention officials familiar with the situation.
Mr. Quinn could sign his amended version of the bill as soon as Wednesday.
Sources weren’t aware of the specific changes Mr. Quinn will make to the bill, but the governor has raised repeated concerns about numerous issues. Those include a lack of a succession plan for the interim trustee — expected to be Jim Reilly, chairman of the Regional Transportation Authority and liaison to the legislative panel that examines operations at McCormick Place — as well as securing oversight of changes made by the trustee and addressing organized labor’s concerns, to avoid legal challenges.
If Mr. Quinn does present an amended bill, legislators will have the choice of supporting it or overriding it.
Sources said legislators would more than likely overturn his amended bill since the measure in its current form unanimously passed the House and Senate.
* UPDATE 6 - 6:48 pm - Word from the floor is that the Democrats have picked up a Republican vote to replace Rep. Pritchard’s flip-flop. Stay tuned, but this looks like it may pass now. The word is, from several sources, that the new HGOP member is Rep. Bob Biggins.
* UPDATE 7 - 6:55 pm - After ducking reporters for more than an hour and spending time in both House Speaker Michael Madigan’s office and Gov. Quinn’s office, Rep. David Miller is now saying that the pension bond bill will save money. This after he voted “No” the first time around. Video in a bit.
But Miller, who had sought to raise taxes in prior years to help the state’s bleak finances, said he would vote for borrowing “because it’s the right thing to do” now.
“You’ve got to do the mature thing which is to at least get us through this crisis, no matter how bad it is,” Miller told reporters after the vote.
Miller said he’s not sure how his vote will impact his run for comptroller, but said his focus today was not on his future but the people he represents now.
“At some point you have to do some soul searching about why you’re here in the first place.”
He said he was not offered anything in return for his vote by the governor.
* UPDATE 8 - 7:03 pm - The pension borrowing bill passed with 71 votes and 44 voting no. Rep. Bob Biggins did, indeed, vote “Yes” on the bill.
* UPDATE 9 - 7:56 pm - There’s been a strong rumor in the building that Rep. Biggins switched his vote to “Yes” on the pension borrowing bill in exchange for a job. I’ll have more for subscribers tomorrow, but House GOP Leader Tom Cross just said he has heard the same rumors. He also talked about what he said to Rep. Pritchard to get him to change his vote. Video in a bit.
* UPDATE 11 - 8:15 pm - The Emergency Budget Act just passed with 67 votes. The bill gives extraordinary budget powers to the governor, among many other things House GOP Leader Tom Cross said a bit ago that just about everything would pass now that the pension borrowing bill cleared the chamber. Looks like he was right. The budget bill is up now.
* UPDATE 12 - 8:30 pm - And the budget just passed. It all seems so anti climactic.
* UPDATE 13 - 8:43 pm - The BIMP just passed.
* UPDATE 14 - 9:23 pm - And they’re done for the night.
* GOP Rep. Don Moffitt is a moderate Republican who was thought to be maybe leaning towards voting for the pension borrowing plan. My intern Barton Lorimor caught up with Moffitt after the House GOP caucus meeting a while ago and Moffitt said he’s sticking with his fellow HGOPs against the borrowing plan. Watch…
House GOP Leader Tom Cross affirmed that his caucus is united on the pension bond plan…
op executives with the International Home + Housewares Show fired off an email to Gov. Pat Quinn today, saying they could not recommend Chicago as the show’s venue for 2012 and beyond when their board meets later this week unless the governor signs the McCormick Place overhaul legislation.
“The lack of signature to this bill will ultimately send us and other vitally important trade show business elsewhere,” the email stated. It was signed by Phil Brandl, president of the International Housewares Association, and Mia Rampersad, the group’s vice president/trade shows. The association’s show has been a cornerstone of the city’s convention business since 1939.
If the bill is not signed, “the letter is pretty specific as to what will happen,” Mr. Brandl said. If Mr. Quinn signs it, renewing in Chicago “will be a much simpler process.”
The show is prepared to renew for “three to five years” in Chicago if the legislation is signed, Mr. Brandl said. The show attracted nearly 60,000 participants in March and injected an estimated $82 million into Chicago’s economy, he said.
* Quinn’s office has issued a press release announcing the governor’s support of university borrowing…
Governor Pat Quinn today spoke with University of Illinois President Stanley O. Ikenberry and Southern Illinois University President Glenn Poshard regarding a legislative initiative to allow state universities to borrow money to cover expenses during the current economic crisis.
“After careful consideration, I believe it is in the best interest of Illinois taxpayers to include state university borrowing in the comprehensive borrowing bill now before the Illinois General Assembly.
The university presidents and I agree that this is a more fiscally-responsible way of addressing the state universities’ financial issues while also protecting the interests of Illinois taxpayers. A comprehensive plan will result in a stronger response from the bond market, more manageable and competitive interest rates on state bonds and ultimately lower costs to taxpayers.
Proceeds from a comprehensive borrowing plan will be used to pay for vital state services, including university expenses.”
ontinuing to deflect notions that President Barack Obama isn’t backing him, Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias announced today two White House officials will be coming to Illinois next month to campaign for him.
Secretary of Education and former Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan will join Giannoulias on the campaign trail on June 17, followed two days later by Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, the campaign said. Duncan and Giannoulias have been friends for years and both were among a group with then state-senator Obama that regularly played basketball together.
* UPDATE 1 - 2:39 pm - The House Executive Committee voted on several budget-cutting ideas this afternoon. An amendment pushed by Rep. Elaine Nekritz to lower state employee mileage reimbursement failed, 4-0 with seven abstentions. Another amendment making state retirees pay more for their health insurance premiums failed. But a proposal to suspend per diem payments to legislators for one year was approved.
* UPDATE 3 - 2:39 pm - All amendments proposed by the coalition of Democrats pushing for cuts were either killed by the House Appropriations General Services Committee this afternoon or were withdrawn. One such proposal would’ve cut statewide officers’ budgets by 5 percent.
And here’s a press release from the Responsible Budget Coalition…
“Lawmakers have returned to Springfield to work towards a spending plan for the coming fiscal year, but appear no closer to approving a real, responsible budget with adequate new revenue to meet the state’s obligations and prevent devastating cuts to vital services and jobs.
“Instead, too many legislators are proposing to repeat and compound past mistakes by slashing education, health care, human services and jobs, and failing to pay the state’s bills.
“For example, under Senate Bill 3660, legislators—for the second straight year—would abandon their constitutional responsibility to set appropriations for essential public services. Instead, they would cede to the governor vast powers to reduce or eliminate such services. This is not part of a responsible, comprehensive solution that sets Illinois on a path to adequately fund vital programs, pay our bills, and avoid repetition of the problems that have landed us in a $13 billion revenue hole. The Responsible Budget Coalition demands a comprehensive solution to the problem.
* UPDATE 4 - 3:52 pm - After refusing to vote for the pension bond bill a couple of weeks ago, some House Republicans are now complaining that the Democrats are loading up the borrowing bill with amendments designed to entice them to vote for the bill - like specific borrowing proposals that have already been introduced by House Republicans.
So, the House Democrats have now moved to table all the amendments except one. That one would authorize an additional $1.5 billion in borrowing authority for school construction. It passed with 78 votes, including numerous Republicans. [That one was withdrawn as well.]
Welcome to silly season.
* UPDATE 5 - 4:47 pm - The pension borrowing bill fell just one vote short, 70-46-1. Democratic Reps. Jack Franks and David Miller (the Democratic nominee for comptroller) voted “No.” GOP Rep. Beth Coulson voted “Present.”
Republican “Yes” votes were Black, Pritchard. GOP Rep. Jerry Mitchell has an excused absence. Republican Reps. Raymond Poe and Rich Brauer, who have a whole lot of AFSCME members in their districts, voted “No.” The roll call will eventually be posted here.
* Speaker Madigan is on the floor now talking with Rep. Miller. We hope to have his explanation for his “No” vote and Rep. Coulson’s explanation for her “Present” vote soon.
* UPDATE 6 - 5:01 pm - Rep. David Miller has just moved to reconsider the vote.
The Republicans have asked for an immediate caucus. They’ve asked for an hour.
Not exactly the most courageous vote I’ve ever seen in the Illinois General Assembly.
Coulson said she wants to get the budget out of the way before considering the borrowing bill, but she also said she wants to “look at the municipality [pension] reforms” before she’s be ready to vote for the borrowing bill. Doesn’t sound like she’ll be a “Yes,” but that still doesn’t explain her “Present” vote.
House Republican leader Tom Cross was berating Democrats for being irresponsible with state finances when Gov. Pat Quinn suddenly sprinted into the House, stomped down the center aisle and stood, hands on hips, glaring at Cross.
* We had a bit of fun with my refusal to cut my hair or trim my beard yesterday. In response, my old buddy Jak Tichenor sent me a photo from the latest “Illinois Lawmakers” program I did with him. And since we’ve had caption contests on just about everybody else in politics, I thought it was probably only fair to do it to myself. I have a strong feeling that I’m gonna regret this, but whatever…
Gov. Pat Quinn took some oblique shots at political insider Jim Reilly Monday as he explained why he remains undecided on whether to sign the McCormick Place overhaul legislation.
The bill would name Reilly, chairman of the Regional Transportation Authority, as trustee, with broad decision-making power to oversee restructuring the Chicago convention center. Quinn said he wanted to be sure the legislation had adequate checks and balances in place. […]
The governor twice cited the scandal at commuter rail agency Metra, which is among several transit agencies overseen by the RTA. Federal authorities are probing the late Metra chief Phil Pagano’s receipt of $475,000 in unauthorized vacation pay.
In making his case for more oversight provisions in the McPier legislation, Quinn said Metra had been run by someone “who Metra thought, and RTA felt, was doing a good job.'’
Quinn also says he’s worried that one or two unions could file a lawsuit…
Speaking at an unrelated news conference, Quinn said he wants to make certain other terms of the reform don’t bring on a “cloud of litigation.”
Some McCormick Place unions are opposed to the proposal’s far-reaching changes in work rules. The intent is to lower costs for exhibitors.
“Without signing the bill which has passed the House and Senate, I cannot endorse Chicago as the most viable option for the restaurant’s show,” said [Mary Pat Heftman, executive vice president of the National Restaurant Association convention[.
A video gambling bill strongly opposed by state regulators advanced in a House committee today and now awaits a vote that could send it to the governor.
The state’s top gambling regulator predicted House lawmakers would pass the legislation, which he said would give amnesty to operators who have illegally operated video poker machines in bars for years.
“It’s a disaster,” said Aaron Jaffe, chairman of the Illinois Gaming Board. “I have no idea all the power plays that are going on down there (Springfield) right now, but I can tell you that they are all listening to the wrong people.”
As we’ve already discussed, Jaffe views tavern owners and places like VFWs who have “amusement only” video poker machines and have paid out as dangerous mob-connected criminals. That’s why he thinks this bill is a “disaster.” The bill requires a felony conviction before a tavern owner or facility operator can be denied a license to have the new, regulated video poker machines. “Disaster” is a bit much. More…
The problem for regulators is that in most cases. the owners of bars and even some of those rounded up in video gambling raids are never convicted. Many could plead guilty to lesser crimes that don’t fall under the gambling statutes. And bar owners, in particular, often face only a fine from the state’s liquor control commission.
Illinois Gaming Board Administrator Mark Ostrowski said the changes would make it essentially impossible to deny applications based on past instances of illegal machine use. He said convictions are rare.
But state Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat sponsoring the proposal, said the Gaming Board brought this provision on itself by having vague regulations in this area.
Lang said the board’s stance was new violations would disqualify someone but past violations “may keep” someone from getting a license. He considered that inconsistent.
* As I told subscribers this morning, the House Democrats are advancing a plan to convince the Republicans to support the pension borrowing bill, which requires a super-majority to pass. The Tribune has part of the story…
To entice Republican support to get the 71 votes needed for approval, they would tie pension borrowing to approving new bonds to pay for road and school construction.
Democrats still are not confident that Republicans would support the combined package, but noted that in the past, GOP members voted for additional highway bonding and school construction and might fear criticism for failing to bring jobs and pork projects back to their home districts.
One House Republican, Rep. Bill Black of Danville, said he’s willing to vote to borrow for pensions. “I don’t see how you can leave here and not borrow money,” said Black, a member of House GOP leadership who is not seeking re-election.
This might actually roll. We’ll see. The bill is here.
The emergency plan advanced Monday out of a key House committee would simply tell the governor he doesn’t have to make the pension payment until he has the money to do so.
That plan requires only a simple majority and, in theory, would be easier to pass. But it socks taxpayers with substantially higher interest charges. The borrowing plan would cost nearly $1 billion in interest over eight years. Skipping the pension payment incurs 8.5 percent interest and by the time the state makes up the shortfall, the interest cost is predicted at as much as $37 billion.
Even the Democrat sponsoring the deferred payment plan said it’s not a great option. “But it may turn out by the end of the week to be our only shot,” said Chicago state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie.
She advised colleagues that there will be another vote this week on borrowing. “And I advise you to take me up on that offer.”
It’s unclear if these ideas from rank-and-file Democrats will get approved — or even debated —this week as lawmakers jockey to preserve their unique budget interests with state money tight.
State Rep. Bob Flider, D-Mount Zion, for example, opposes the having retirees pay for health insurance.
“It’s amazing we could ever agree on anything because we’re so diverse,” said Flider. “But I also feel people are reasonable. My feeling is, give people their shot at whatever proposal they’d like to put forward.”
…Adding… Rep. Feigenholtz’s proposal to cut Medicaid by $200 million just passed out of a House committee 13.2.
* A 5 percent reduction to the operating budgets of state agencies, saving about $300 million, and the General Assembly, saving about $2.5 million.
* $300 million in cuts to K-12 education.
* $100 million in cuts to higher education.
* $200 million in Medicaid cuts.
* Renegotiating contracts and putting some up for new bids, which legislators say could save up to $300 million.
* $4 million in cuts to local subsidies for assessors, supervisors and coroners.
* Cutting the reimbursement rate for car travel from to 50 cents a mile to 39 cents a mile, which legislators say could save $6 million.
* Eliminating salaries for members of part time boards and commissions, which would save an estimated $2.5 million.
* State Retirees would pay health care premiums according to a sliding scale based on their income, saving the state an estimated $100 million in fiscal year 2011.
However, Quinn did seem to approve of $1.2 billion in cuts outlined by some Democratic lawmakers unhappy with how the budget process has played out.
“Just about all of the things they’ve talked about I’ve tried already,” Quinn said. “If there’s a renewed vision by members of the Legislature, both houses, majority vote, that they can get done, that’s fine by me.”
“It’s hard for me to get too specific because I don’t have my people in place. The best information we have is often a two year old audit.
“Clearly the Medicaid system has to be put on managed care. You saw the mismanagement of All Kids, people should be have to be eligible.” The state audit of All Kids, a state health plan for children, said the program spent $70 million, but $55 million of that was spent on children who do not live in Illinois.
He also talked about K-12 public school cuts, saying they should be spread out among more education programs and grants “so that in the end we see a 2 to 3 percent cut.” Gov. Pat Quinn proposes a 17 percent cut in funding at the classroom level, Brady said.
“There’s no area of state government that’s not going to have to play a role” in cutting the budget, said Brady.
* And Sen. Dan Kotowski issued a press release this morning about his own budget idea, which was included with that House Democratic plan above…
Kotowski’s major contribution to the reform package is legislation calling for Results Budgeting (also known as Budgeting for Outcomes). Results Budgeting starts by defining spending priorities (such as job creation, education, human services, transportation, and public safety) and identifying how much revenue is actually available. It then requires the creation of performance-based measurements for these priorities and encourages state agencies to find creative ways to achieve these goals with limited resources. This process also includes built-in accountability and transparency by requiring the Governor to develop a state-wide reporting system comparing actual results with budgeted results. These measurements and results will then be posted on the State Comptroller’s web site for public viewing and evaluation.
* Attorney General Lisa Madigan called this morning and asked me to meet her when she gets to town so she can show me her tax returns.
Madigan’s campaign manager refused on Friday to release the returns after I’d requested them. I asked for them after speaking with Bill Brady’s campaign, which mocked requests for Jason Plummer’s returns because AG Madigan hadn’t disclosed hers. Madigan is now second in line to the governor’s office since the state does not currently have a lt. governor. I was told yesterday that Lisa Madigan was not fully aware that the returns were specifically requested by me, but only knew that Brady was trying to drag her into the debate.
Madigan’s release will likely put even more pressure on Republican lt. governor nominee Jason Plummer to disclose his returns. Plummer has adamantly refused to do so, but now that the Brady campaign has directly tied Madigan’s tax returns to Plummer, it’ll be even more difficult to continue his refusal.
* Late yesterday, the Illinois Republican Party issued a press release demanding that Attorney General Madigan release her tax returns…
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady’s Response to Lisa Madigan’s Refusal to Release Her Tax Returns
CHICAGO - Lisa Madigan’s spokesperson dodged questions as to whether the Attorney General would release her tax returns. At the same time, Governor Quinn made the following statement regarding this very issue: “When these candidates play peek-a-boo, or not at all, with their tax returns, I think there’s legitimate questions to be asked.” Answers to the following simple questions would be a good start:
What is Lisa Madigan hiding?
When will the de-facto Governor, Mike Madigan, release his tax returns?
Will Pat Quinn apply the same standards he touts and ask both Madigans to open their tax returns for public viewing?
“People are fed up with single-party rule and the Democratic Party’s hypocritical stances regarding transparency,” said Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady. “They expect stronger leadership from both Governor Quinn and de facto Governor Mike Madigan. All they are getting is political gamesmanship.”
Again, now that AG Madigan is releasing her returns, that IL GOP statement just puts more pressure on Plummer. Talk about irony. Yesterday’s repeated demand by Mark Kirk that Alexi Giannoulias disclose his own tax returns (as soon as he files them) doesn’t help Plummer’s case, either. I’ll ask about Speaker Madigan’s returns today, along with the other three legislative leaders, including the two Republicans.
…ADDING… Oops. I forgot to mention that Lisa Madigan’s Republican opponent, Steve Kim, has also agreed to disclose his tax returns. Chalk up another loss for Plummer.
Plummer’s position is less defensible than Brady’s early refusal to release his returns. Plummer is a complete unknown. He is 27 years old and does not have an extensive record on which the public can judge him. He has said he will not draw a salary if elected. That’s a nice gesture, but it also invites the inevitable question of what he will live on without a state salary. Let’s not forget that some of the testimony in the George Ryan trial focused on Ryan always having money but not having bank records showing where it came from.
We’ll concede that releasing one’s personal income tax information can be uncomfortable. For someone like Plummer, with extensive business interests and family wealth, it can be quite a hassle. As an electorate, we need to be aware that, taken to its extreme, the discomfort of releasing income tax returns could keep quality candidates from seeking office. Should a state representative candidate be expected to release his or her tax returns? A county treasurer? An alderman?
But if you expect to be a step away from being governor, you ought to be ready for the attendant hassle. Your discomfort is a fair trade for the voters’ trust.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady voted for legislation as an Illinois state senator in 2003 that could have benefited his business interests as a developer, according to a published report. ‘ […]
The following year in November, Brady voted to enact legislation giving local government the authority to take land for sewers near the interchange. That would have helped Brady’s development and property value. […]
His campaign spokeswoman Jaime Elich said Monday that Brady’s actions involving the interchange development were “normal business dealings.”
“Senator Brady has recused himself of voting when in fact he is concerned about a conflict of interest,” she said in an e-mailed statement.
“Normal business dealings” does not mean there is no conflict. Voting on legislation that directly impacts one’s business, and only one’s business, is a conflict of interest, plain and simple.
* Sweep conducted at Jacksonville nursing home: Top officials from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office conducted a sweep at a Jacksonville nursing home Monday to check for violations of state law and regulations.
* Illinois AG unveils new aid to protect seniors from scams
* Attorney general often rules in favor of agencies in FOIA cases: Some redacted information, such as signatures of assistant attorneys general who sign letters that contain rulings on FOIA matters, is kept because of a concern about identity theft, said Cara Smith, who heads the public access counselor’s office. The names of lawyers do appear in print.