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This just in… Governor finally takes action on budget - Medicaid, School Transportation, Regional Superintends are cut

Thursday, Jun 30, 2011

* 8:00 pm - I’ll post the files in a minute. This is from a Gov. Pat Quinn press release…

“Line by line, I have carefully examined the budget passed by the General Assembly and identified areas for improvement and reduction. I also re-prioritized government spending to protect our state’s core principles.

“The first step in this process was a technical review of the numbers. In assessing each line-item, I discovered and eliminated double-appropriations by more than $336 million. Next, I reduced bureaucracy costs by more than $11 million.

“I then evaluated the proposed spending against last year’s levels. The state will maintain current spending levels for school transportation by reducing the General Assembly’s proposed amount by $89 million, and returning to the amount that was spent in fiscal year 2011.

“Finally, state government must continue to address its Medicaid obligations. Neglecting our bills today only creates bigger problems tomorrow. With this in mind, I implemented a line-item cut to Medicaid in the amount of $276 million.

“From day one, I have stressed the need to invest in education by reducing high administrative costs and reallocating those funds to the classroom, particularly in early childhood education. Implementing a budget is not a one-day event, but rather a year-round process filled with robust debate and difficult decisions. Today, I enacted a fiscal year 2012 budget of $32.987 billion. Overall, I reduced the budget passed by the General Assembly by $376 million. With these reductions, I am implementing smart efficiencies that support Illinois on its continuing path to fiscal and economic recovery.”

* These are the bills he altered…

Line Item Vetoed

HB 117 AN ACT concerning appropriations

HB 123 AN ACT concerning appropriations

HB 132 AN ACT concerning appropriations

Reduction and Line Item Vetoed

HB 327 AN ACT concerning appropriations

Reduction Vetoed

HB 3717 AN ACT concerning appropriations

* 8:06 pm - Of those $376 million in vetoes Quin touted, $276 million comes from Medicaid via “cost savings through a rate cut for hospitals to reduce Medicaid liability.” The General Assembly had put off over a billion dollars in Medicaid payments without reducing rates for hospitals. Gov. Quinn added that “Expedited hospitals, which include ’safety net’ hospitals, would not be affected by any payment cycle increases resulting from this reduction.”

* Another $89 million is from school transportation, to make it level with the current fiscal year. Quinn cut transportation funding last year. Legislators tried to restore it.

* And over $11 million was cut from the regional schools superintendents, zeroing them out. The governor claimed these lines “can be funded from other state funds.” Quinn has been trying to get rid of the regional school superintendents all year.

* The rest of the vetoes, totaling more than $336 million, were for double-appropriated items contained in two separate bills. Click here to see the complete list.

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


Question of the day

Thursday, Jun 30, 2011

* Governor Pat Quinn has a new Twitter account

Acccording to the Associated Press, the governor’s office has launched an official Twitter feed and Flickr photo page, which they say the governor will use to get feedback from people around the state. His office says that when the governor tweets, his missives will be marked with “-GOV.”

Quinn’s inaugural tweets Wednesday evening included a shout out to the Biotechnology Industry Organization, a national biotechnology group that presented Gov. Quinn with its “Governor of the Year” award in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.

He also thanked U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) for his welcome to the online community. Sen. Durbin launched his own Twitter feed in early March.

The governor’s account is here. I went through the list of people he’s following and noticed that his first follow appeared to be, um, me.

* The Question: Any Twitter advice for Gov. Quinn? Snark is encouraged, of course, but in the spirit of things, try to keep your anwer under 140 characters.

- Posted by Rich Miller   52 Comments      


Crime and punishment

Thursday, Jun 30, 2011

* A few weeks ago, an Arlington Heights man received worldwide attention for being a Good Samaritan

A 54-year-old Chicago-area man who found and returned more than $17,000 in cash credits his deceased parents for teaching him right from wrong.

Robert Adams of Arlington Heights says he was waiting to use an ATM in Rolling Meadows when he noticed a clear plastic bag containing mostly $20 and $100 bills.

Adams tried to return the bag with “Chase” written on it to a nearby bank branch, but employees said it didn’t belong to them. Police determined it was under the care of Loomis, an armored truck company.

Alas

A man who told Rolling Meadows police he found $17,000 cash outside a bank ATM was arrested Wednesday for allegedly lying about where he found the loot.

Authorities say Robert J. Adams found the bag of cash near an ATM in a Walgreens store in Midlothian.

On June 6, police responded to 2641 Kirchoff Road in Rolling Meadows, where Adams told them he found about $17,000 outside the Chase Bank ATM, Rolling Meadows police said.

Oops

The truth — ferreted out after an investigation that took hours of police work (“Too many,” Chief Scanlan says) and a security camera recording from the Midlothian Walgreens — is that Adams took that bag of money in Midlothian.

“I see it. I picked it up. I walk out in the parking lot,” Adams says. “It’s pretty obvious I’m on security cameras. … Of course, 20-20 hindsight, I should have gone back into Walgreens and turned it in.”

Instead, “I started thinking like the 54-year-old man I am,” Adams says, explaining how, even though he is single, he didn’t want to explain that he had taken half a day off work in a failed hope to visit a much younger woman in Midlothian. “As to why I didn’t just go back in and turn it in, I don’t have the answer for that.”

He blames the heat, the traffic, his poor judgment and “the one side of my brain” that’s “a little Blagojevich-like.”

He may have a Blagojevich-like brain, but at least he wasn’t charged with multiple felony counts. He wound up paying a $500 fine, which is half what a former Gov. Pat Quinn employee was hit with

A state ethics panel slapped a former top aide to Gov. Pat Quinn with a $1,000 fine for doing campaign work for the governor while on state time.

The Executive Ethics Commission posted its sanction this week against Carolyn Brown Hodge, a former deputy chief of staff in Quinn’s office who resigned after the Chicago Sun-Times brought her potential ethics violations to light in 2009.

Between January and June 2009, Hodge “on multiple occasions … used her state-issued computer to send a series of emails of a political nature, either from her state email account or from her private email account,” the ethics panel noted.

Hodge’s correspondences occurred during the state work day and were sent to a top operative in the Quinn campaign and to an official in the Illinois Democratic County Chairmen’s Association.

* Speaking of discipline

Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford said today that he is reviewing possible disciplinary action against an employee who sent an email to fellow workers giving early notice about a contribution-matching program for the Bright Start college savings program.

Rutherford said it was “inappropriate” and “wrong” for the employee to tell colleagues about the promotion before there was time for the general public to receive notice about the program, which quickly ran out of funds.

“It was a mistake. I’ve taken responsibility for it,” Rutherford said following an appearance before the City Club of Chicago. “We are going through the disciplinary actions and hopefully we can have this thing rectified the way it should be.” […]

Rutherford said he has not yet met with the employee who sent the email, but said he believes the intention was not to give insiders an unfair advantage but rather spread the word about the promotion. Rutherford would not discuss specifics about potential disciplinary action, saying he is reviewing options with attorneys and the agency’s ethics officer.

* Back to Blagojevich for a moment. Patrick Collins is now counting on the public to clean things up

“I don’t think you can indict your way to reform,” said Patrick M. Collins, a former federal prosecutor who was appointed by the current governor to lead an Illinois Reform Commission soon after Mr. Blagojevich’s career began to unravel. “There still is a structural ethics deficit in Illinois that won’t be cured by indictment or legislation. Ultimately, the long-term solution for Illinois is a more engaged public who steps up and demands better government before the next scandal develops.”

* And this is rich

A Rod Blagojevich spokesman says a Florida-based airline’s new ad that pokes fun at the impeached Illinois governor’s convictions is “in poor taste.” Low-budget carrier Spirit Airlines’ website ad touts “F-ing golden” low fares.

Poor taste? Rod Blagojevich’s PR guy actually claims that something is in poor taste? I have no words for this.

* Related…

* Illinois likely to see fierce battle over gun control

* Registry of freed killers proposed for Illinois - Legislation to list murderers for 10 years after their release goes to Quinn

* Editorial: Make DCFS follow the law: Is the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services going to be allowed to brazenly disregard the law? In 2007 state legislators passed a bill that required DCFS to make public its files if a child under its care died. So when 3-year-old Joseph Schoolfield died in 2009, DCFS should have released his entire case file except for some exempt items such as medical reports. Instead it recently released a report that condensed hundreds of pages of records into an 11-page summary.

* Dana-Thomas House targeted by copper thief

* UIS spends $31,000 to fight SJ-R lawsuit

* City gives rationale for not disclosing Cahnman report

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      


Quinn heading to Asia

Thursday, Jun 30, 2011

* Gov. Pat Quinn said yesterday that he’s planning to lead a trade mission to Asia this September

The itinerary includes stops in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tokyo, he said.

Mr. Quinn met with State Department officials earlier [yesterday] to discuss the trip, which will run from Sept. 16-28, according to an aide.

The governor mentioned the trip when he was asked what initiatives his administration was planning to help the biotechnology industry in Illinois. But an aide said the trade mission is aimed at helping a broad spectrum of Illinois businesses. The state hasn’t started lining up companies to participate yet, the aide said. […]

In January, Illinois signed an agreement with the Beijing International Brand Management Center to promote Illinois products and services in China. China is the state’s third-largest export market, and Illinois is one of the top five agricultural exporters to China.

Gov. Jim Thompson made several productive visits to Asia. Gov. Jim Edgar also traveled to China in 1996. I’ve already put myself on the press list for the excursion, although I’m not sure I’ll be able to do any live-blogging if I do decide to make the trip. A friend told me last year that the Chinese blocked access to this website during his trip. I’m not sure why. I guess I’ll have to check on that if I go.

* In other news, the governor received a major business award yesterday

A national biotechnology group has named Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn its “governor of the year.”

The Biotechnology Industry Organization presented the award to Quinn on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. The award recognizes leadership and support of the biosciences industry.

The group cites Quinn’s support for tax credits for investment in new business ventures and for small businesses that create jobs.

A whole lot of companies are at that convention, billed as “the world’s largest gathering of the biotechnology industry.” The group has 1,100 corporate members, so I understand why Quinn went. I just hope he was working on the budget during the plane ride.

Also, so he’s now Governor BIO as well as Soy Boy? OK.

* Closer to home, this corporate siting decision will be interesting to watch

Ready-mix concrete company Ozinga Bros. is considering building a cement plant on Chicago’s Southeast Side, but it also has been wooed by Indiana officials to locate the plant in that state.

Building the $250 million plant would create almost 100 jobs and secure a more reliable supply of cement for Ozinga, Marty Ozinga IV, executive vice president of the company’s Chicago division, said Wednesday.

Construction of the plant could start sometime next year, but Mokena-based Ozinga Bros. is waiting on approval of its plans from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

The plant would be off Torrence Avenue at Lake Calumet. The site, which was a former Cargill grain elevator, was bought by Ozinga Bros. in 2004, Ozinga said.

Ozinga ran for Congress as a Republican a few years back. He was soundly thumped by Debbie Halvorson.

* This is a typical DC maneuver, but it has an Illinois twist

A billion-dollar “technical revision” added to a patent bill passed by the House last week could provide huge financial benefits to one pharmaceutical company and a law firm.

On the surface, the barely noticed amendment simply clarifies a process by which the Food and Drug Administration approves a patent for a brand-name drug, and gives the manufacturer 60 days to apply for an extension with the U.S. Patent and Trade Office.

In reality, the measure could give a New Jersey drugmaker, The Medicines Co., 2½ more years of patent protection for its lucrative blood thinner Angiomax. It would also save the law firm WilmerHale $214 million it would owe the drug company under a malpractice lawsuit if a generic alternative is sold in the United States before June 15, 2015. […]

The company sued [after it missed a patent extension deadline by one day], and last August a federal district court ruled in its favor, ordering the patent office to recognize The Medicines Co.’s application as timely and saying the FDA and the patent office need to better coordinate their rules. APP Pharmaceuticals LLC of Illinois, which wants to market a generic brand of Angiomax, has appealed that ruling.

So, guess who persuaded the US House to reopen the vote on the bill? Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.

The House on Thursday had originally voted against the amendment to the patent bill, only to have the vote reopened after Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) protested that Members were still voting when it was gaveled down.

Yep. Jackson went to bat for a New Jersey company and a DC law firm at the expense of an Illinois pharmaceutical manufacturer with more than 1,800 employees. Heckuva job, Jesse.

* And while this isn’t exactly a business recruitment story, it is a quality of life story, so they’re closely related

Illinois beaches along Lake Michigan have the sixth-worst water quality in the country, a study released Wednesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council found.

* But this may help

A report on Illinois beaches released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council suggests that the use of border collies to harass gulls has helped reduce water contamination levels at area beaches.

The annual NRDC assessment says the difference was most apparent at 57th Street and 63rd Street beaches, where the first use of collies in 2008 coincided with significantly smaller percentages of days on which water contamination exceed state standards.

What’s more, the following year, when collies were not used, contimination levels climbed, and in 2010, when the collies were used again, levels fell again.

* Related…

* Private manager takes over Lottery operations Friday: Illinois’ private lottery manager takes over operations Friday, with both the company and the state envisioning greatly increased sales and more money for state coffers.

* Job-seeking public finds fewer online job postings: The number of online advertised job postings in Illinois fell 5.6 percent in June from May, but rose 15.5 percent from June 2010, a report released by the Conference Board Wednesday showed. There were 167,600 online advertised job vacancies this month, down from 177,500 in May and up from 145,100 in June 2010. Online advertised job vacancies nationally dipped 2.2 percent from May to 4.37 million and were up 20.9 percent from 3.62 million in June 2010.

* Bill Clinton kicks off U.S. jobs confab in Chicago

* Grease from Taste of Chicago to become biodiesel fuel

* Navy Pier to keep Children’s Museum under latest plan: The plan foresees a major expansion of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, with construction of a distinctively shaped new building, sources said. The proposal also calls for increased green space and upgraded landscaping, more restaurants, and improved retail offerings at Navy Pier.

* Losing Bears games to lockout could wallop Chicago’s economy: Players and owners bickering about how to divide an estimated $9  billion in annual revenue aren’t the only ones who stand the lose if a deal to end the NFL’s ongoing labor impasse doesn’t end soon. Chicago’s already fragile economy would suffer another late hit. It won’t just be football-starved fans with something at stake. Everyday Chicagoans will find themselves stuck in the middle. While this labor feud appears to be between millionaire players and billionaire owners, they are far from the only ones with fur in this fight.

* Illinois farmers optimistic about corn, soybeans

* Vista breaks ground on Lindenhurst medical office building

* Amazon ends deal with 25,000 California websites

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      


Expect budget action today

Thursday, Jun 30, 2011

* One way or another, the governor has to act on the budget today

The fiscal year ends at midnight Thursday, so Quinn will want to have a new budget in place before that.

The Democratic governor isn’t a fan of the budget lawmakers sent him. He says it shortchanges education, human services and other critical needs.

But there is little Quinn can do. He has the power to cut appropriations but not to add to them.

Major spending increases would require blocking the entire budget and telling lawmakers to start over, which isn’t likely to happen.

Whatever he does, expect an attempt at making a big splash, although it will not include a public appearance. The governor’s schedule includes no planned events.

* Meanwhile, the pain continues unabated

The state has finished the fiscal year owing Knox County around $795,000 as Springfield’s financial woes continue to pressure local governments.

The new state budget year begins July 1 but the state is still four months behind in its distribution of income taxes to the county for the current fiscal year, leaving a $255,000 hole in the county’s general fund.

Also in arrears are salary reimbursements for the state’s attorney, supervisor of assessments and public defender. The state is six months or more behind in payments for each of those salaries, with the total amount outstanding close to $140,000. […]

The county has had to use creative methods to compensate for the delays in state funding, including shifting money from the county’s landfill account to its general fund to make up for the loss. Some county employees took lower raises than were agreed in their union contracts.

I know I’ve said this countless times already, but the state continues to be one of the biggest problems in Illinois’ economy.

* And while state budget cuts are obviously needed, they create yet another drag on the economy. From the Wall Street Journal

Weakness in the state and local government sector has been a drag on the recovery, as governments of states, counties, school districts and other entities cut spending and jobs amid diminished revenue. The state and local government sector subtracted 0.5% from U.S. gross domestic product growth in the first quarter—one factor behind the sluggish 1.9% quarterly growth rate, adjusted for inflation.

Despite the improved tax revenue, the government sector is expected to continue weighing on growth. That’s because the estimated $135 billion in federal stimulus funds that states have used to balance their budgets through the recession is now gone, which explains in part why states continue to cut services despite growing tax collections.

“With more employment cuts on the horizon, the sector will continue to exert a large drag on the U.S. economy,” Gregory Daco, an economist with research firm IHS Global Insight, wrote in a note to clients.

* I don’t know whether this is just bureaucratic incompetence or a lack of money, but one local economy is suffering because the state hasn’t replaced a sewer pump

Work to get the campgrounds and concession stand at Illini State Park reopened may begin within days — but it still may be “several weeks” before the project is completed.

A faulty sewage pump has kept the campgrounds, showers and flush toilets closed since May 2 and prevented C.P.’s Ice Cream from opening for the summer season.

The shutdown also has cut sharply into critical summer revenue from campers and visitors for many Marseilles businesses. […]

A petition drive earlier this month organized by the Illinois River Area Chamber of Commerce garnered 2,133 signatures, including many from out of town.

The petition, which urged prompt action on the pump repair, was sent on June 17 to Gov. Pat Quinn, with copies to Mautino, state Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, and state Rep. Pam Roth, R-Morris.

Hey, IDNR, it’s almost July.

* And the lack of a signed gaming expansion bill is causing cutbacks at Fairmount

Fairmount Park will end its live racing meet three weeks early this season — on Sept. 9 — after the Illinois Racing Board on Tuesday approved a request from Fairmount president and chief executive Brian Zander to reduce the schedule because of a shortage of money… The board had originally awarded the track 75 racing days last September on the hope that the Illinois Legislature would pass a gaming expansion bill.

* Related…

* Property tax appeal board could get extra money

* Naperville chamber hears from Quinn’s budget guru: “In this last session, we saw the committees going deeper into the works, larger parts of committees actually working, asking questions, making suggestions, making changes,” Vaught said. “And I think that’s a significant process improvement.”

* Highway Districts On State Chopping Block

* Quinn makes no commitment to casino bill during Rockford visit

* Civic group urges cutting City Council, privatizing Midway

- Posted by Rich Miller   11 Comments      


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