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Talking points memos: Wirtz goes for the stay and Cullerton picks some nits

Monday, Jan 31, 2011

* Rocky Wirtz’s lawyers went on and on in a brief filed with the Supreme Court today about how they thought they had a deal with the attorney general’s office. They originally figured both sides would ask for a stay of the appellate court ruling which declared the capital program unconstitutional. But, no, the AG’s office allegedly reneged on language. So, they couldn’t come to an agreement.

Then they wrote this

Relative to the request for stay and considerations of the status quo and balancing of harms, the challenge to the Acts at issue has been pending for 18 months and should not be a surprise, but allowing the State Parties some breathing time pending review to address
alternative financing for the state projects seems to serve the public interest, and to accommodate the preservation of the status quo pending review. Therefore, Plaintiffs do not object to a stay of the appellate court’s January 26, 2011 opinion and judgment.

OK, so that’s settled. Expect the Supremes to grant a stay. Hopefully, they can do it in less than the nine pages Wirtz’s lawyers took. Either way, immediate disaster will likely be avoided.

* Meanwhile, you’re recall that the other day I told you about Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka’s list of $1 billion in budget cuts that she had earlier said could be eliminated without anyone noticing the impact.

Well, Senate President John Cullerton took issue with some of Topinka’s points and sent her a letter

• You suggest the state save $100 million by rolling back a “giveaway” in the form of universal preschool, requiring those families “financially-able” pay for preschool. The Early Childhood Block Grant is the primary funding source for the State’s effort to enroll children age 3 to 5 in quality preschool. Participation is limited to children most at-risk of academic failure and from low- to moderate-income homes. Financial realities never allowed this laudable program to meet the so-called “preschool for all” threshold despite the massive marketing hype of a previous governor.

• SB3778 in on the Governor’s desk and provides that seniors who meet the Circuit Breaker income limitations may travel free of charge on public transit systems. I join you in encouraging him to sign it. This rolls back a former governor’s effort allowing all seniors, regardless of income, to “ride free.” As a former RTA director you know this was no “free ride” and cost transit agencies millions to subsidize fares. And so, I’m confused as to how the state General Revenue Fund– as opposed to the transit agencies — would save $40 million as you contend.

Cullerton goes on to write that he’s prepared to offer Topinka Senate Bills as a vehicle for any “meaningful, real cuts” she would like to propose.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - jake - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 2:20 pm:

    I am impressed so far with Cullerton. Mostly he says what he means, means what he says, and makes sense. And he seems to manage his caucus in a good way, balancing keeping them organized and focused with also being open to ideas from them.

  2. - Anony - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 2:23 pm:

    PDF link is broken. Please double check. Thanks

  3. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 2:25 pm:

    It’s broken because I forgot to upload the darned thing. Oops. Give it a second or two.

  4. - Anony - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 2:32 pm:

    It works. Thanks!

  5. - Anonymous - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 2:38 pm:

    Maybe if the Wirtz response were shorter they would have realized that you agree in principle, not in principal.

  6. - anon - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 2:44 pm:

    The numbers bantered about in terms of “savings” or “costs” to the transit agencies for this program are highly suspect if not fraudulent. The true cost to any transit agency would be the extra costs of adding service for seniors if demand were so high as to warrent additional busses or trains. Otherwise, a senior, who otherwise would not have ridded public transit except for the free ride, that person is occupying an otherwise empty seat and there is no additional cost. Likewise, if a senior rides free when they otherwise wouldn’t have travelled, may very well be shopping or going to the track and spending money that will ultimately add to state and local tax collections. This would be additional revenue to offset the “cost” of providing free transit. I didn’t see either scenario contemplated in the numbers discussed in the media.

  7. - VanillaMan - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 2:53 pm:

    The Early Childhood Block Grant is handled about as conservatively as possible. What constitutes “at risk” is kept in check by the applications of more students than grant money provided.

    How Cullerton handles the Comptroller of Illinois may be reflective of how receptive he is regarding common folks. He should be aware that most do not see politics behind every proposal and that all proposals should be encouraged. If he responds like this to her, who would be willing to deal with him?

    Cullerton is over reacting and being too combative.

    It is not John Cullerton’s money.

  8. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 2:55 pm:

    ===that person is occupying an otherwise empty seat and there is no additional cost. ===

    You’d think that, but the entire fare subsidy issue comes into play when somebody takes that allegedly free seat. It triggers money that must be paid.

  9. - What's in a name? - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 2:56 pm:

    To anon at 2:44

    How are seniors different than every one else? If we gave 20 somethings free rides maybe they would shop more, maybe they wouldn’t drink and drive.

  10. - VanillaMan - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 2:58 pm:

    Wirtz’s attackers should not smear people before they get all the facts.

    Look. He had no fangs.

    The Bill was unconstitutional because our lawmakers did not do their jobs, not because Rocky took it to Court.

  11. - Small Town Liberal - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 3:00 pm:

    - The Bill was unconstitutional because our lawmakers did not do their jobs, not because Rocky took it to Court. -

    I wasn’t aware you represented the majority opinion of the Supreme Court, Vman.

  12. - What's in a name? - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 3:00 pm:


    I thought Cullerton’s letter was fairly cordial. the act of publishing it may be a bit heavy handed but the language seems friendly and restrained.

  13. - Joe from Joliet - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 3:01 pm:

    Seems like rational, adult interaction between C & T. Now if we can get any two legislators from opposing parties to simultaneously behave likewise, we may just get this state moving forward.

    I know, I know. I’m sorry.

  14. - Jaded - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 3:22 pm:

    I think Cullerton has done a really good job so far as the Senate President, but sometimes I think he forgets he’s Senate Prsident and thinks he’s still running the bill box on the House floor.

  15. - anon - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 3:23 pm:

    We do give 20 somethings a free ride on New Year’s Eve, essentially, when the CTA is a penny. My point is that the whole debate should be much more nuanced than “free” versus the full or reduced fare cost seniors might pay. Any policies that encourage more mass transit usage need to be weighed against costs such as reduced fare revenue, higher operating costs and the like and benefits such as reduced congestion, fewer fatalities or auto accidents, and increased mobility of the population, which is an economic benefit for everyone. And to Rich’s point, I would just like to see where the agencies can point to higher costs because of increased demands for service. It certainly isn’t $40 million or whatever number they have been throwing around.
    Maybe we should examine all the tax subsidies seniors receive and subject them to income tests, including property tax subsidies and the like whose only qualification is having obtained old age.

  16. - What's in a name? - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 3:28 pm:

    To anon at 3:23

    I agree with you. Such an analysis is the domain of the legislature which make the Blago Amendatory Veto look all the more improper and ill advised.

  17. - wordslinger - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 3:56 pm:

    You can argue all you want about philosophy, but Cullerton is smarter than anyone in Springfield except Madigan. That’s why Madigan chose him.

    Rocky was looking for a deal and didn’t get one.

    He got bad advice; I don’t believe he was looking scrap the capital plan on Constitutional grounds. He thought the lawsuit would save him a couple of bucks.

    He doesn’t roll that way and is trying to make it better now. I think he will — he’s a good Illinois citizen.

  18. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 4:08 pm:


    Topinka’s smackdown was cordial, yet well-deserved.

    Democrats have endured 3-4 years of Republican “leaders” offering up half-baked ideas, Magic Beans, and fudged accounting. Instead of offering meaningful solutions and a willingness to work together for the common good, Republicans have been sniping from the sidelines.

    Unlike the Chicago Tribune, I gave Republicans their due for their willingness to engage in meaningful work to reduce the costs of the state’s Medicaid system. I suspect the Tribune editorial board didn’t mention the Republicans’ involvement because 1) they don’t want to give Democrats credit for bipartisanship, and 2) the editorial was really a set-up for claiming the reforms failed, and they don’t want to tarnish the GOP.

    That said, everyone told me that the Republicans on the bipartisan task force comported themselves well.

    The Tribune pointed out that this bipartisan progress - $800 million or more in savings - was made with little fanfare or public notice.

    I think its no coincidence that good things happen when the spotlight is turned off and partisan interests aren’t whipping up hyperbolic editorials and over-simplified news stories through a gullible press.

    The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle applies to sausage-making.

  19. - What's in a page number? - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 4:20 pm:

    To be fair, the brief filed on Rocky’s behalf is really only about 3 pages long. How long was the State’s?

  20. - Moved To Missouri - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 4:30 pm:

    My (now former) school district had an excellent preschool program, but have yet to be paid anything for the 2009-10 school year. As the superintendent said, “We can’t afford programs we were told would be paid for by the state.” The cost for the two 20-student classes (AM and PM) was roughly $90K, and there was a waiting list to get in.
    When the school polled incoming pre-k parents about a tuition-based program, only 8 (yes, EIGHT!) wanted anything to do with it.

  21. - right side - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 6:00 pm:

    Sounds like cullerton is still a little miffed topinka didn’t go along with his blatantly illegal atempt to cut off Quinn’s cabinet nominees. That was an amatur stunt for sure…..releasing petty letters to Rich won’t help much.

  22. - park - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 6:27 pm:

    I hope John C hasn’t joined Quinn’s “we can’t find any of the Blago/Jones programs that we can cut” club. So far the only ideas the D’s have come forward with is to cut State employee’s benefits. That ought to save a buck twenty-five.

  23. - anon - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 6:35 pm:

    JBT…what’s she thinking?

  24. - VanillaMan - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 11:02 pm:

    Cullerton’s wit is going to get him into trouble. Few like a smart-alec leader who seems to enjoy showing others how smart they are without them getting to a point where they just get sick of it.

    Cullerton wants to be Big Time? Then how about showing the other statewide elected officials some of the earned respect they have.

    Topinka has been elected statewide a whole lotta times. As far as I am aware, that is a whole lotta times more than John Cullerton.

    Not to mention that he should be more gentlemanly with the ladies.

    As for any claims that “they did it!”, that is ancient history. A GOP majority? Please. How about finding a justification my Kindergardener wouldn’t use?

  25. - dave - Tuesday, Feb 1, 11 @ 9:42 am:

    Not to mention that he should be more gentlemanly with the ladies.


  26. - jerry 101 - Tuesday, Feb 1, 11 @ 10:27 am:

    Not to mention that he should be more gentlemanly with the ladies.

    That’s more than a bit sexist. Would you tell Cullerton to be a bit more gentlemanly if he wrote such a letter to Dan Rutherford?

    Making sexist comments like that hurts your overall point, that is if you have one besides taking issue with Cullerton being a big old meanie head (to use a term that a kindergartener would be familiar with).

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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