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As much as we’d all like it, there is no magic wand

Monday, Oct 31, 2011

* The State Journal-Register published an angry editorial demanding action right freaking now on a solution to the state’s terrible problem with past-due bills. While eloquent at times, there was only one paragraph on what’s holding up a solution

Republicans are dead set on a “no borrowing” pledge, even though they concede that the current situation forces ordinary Illinoisans to carry the state’s debt load. Gov. Pat Quinn has pursued a borrowing plan that is too big. Rank-and-file Democrats say they’re hamstrung by the GOP.

Borrowing requires a three-fifths majority in both chambers. It’s never easy, and it’s impossible if one political party is dead set against any borrowing. It’s also impossible as long as Gov. Quinn is sticking to a large borrowing plan.

The Republicans want more cuts to pay off the old bills, but they’ve yet to put those cuts into an actual bill, and even they agree that their idea wouldn’t pay off all bills right away. Until they show their hand, or the Democrats can come up with cuts on their own (don’t bet your house on that ever happening) this thing is going nowhere. Gaming expansion would’ve provided some money for old bills, but Quinn is against that, too. So, everybody will just do their best to ignore the problem for as long as they can.

Obviously, what’s needed here is some sort of consensus, but there is no magic wand we can wave to achieve that consensus or even figure out what it should look like. I’m stumped as well.

* But there was some progress on facility closures, mainly for political reasons

Illinois House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, said he and other legislative leaders will work with him on shifting existing funds around in the budget to find the approximately $230 million needed to keep open the prisons, mental health centers, and developmental centers.

Cross said those seven facilities have one thing in common.

“To be blunt with this, I think (the governor’s) goal was to generate support for increased spending and/or his restructuring plan, and I think he thinks he needs to aim at Republicans. They were mainly Republican districts,” he said.

* Meanwhile, speaking of delays

The clock will be ticking on efforts to overhaul the state’s pension systems when lawmakers return to the Capitol next month for the final three days of the fall veto session.

Although Republican leaders in the House say they can put up half of the votes, 30, on a controversial reform plan, Democratic leaders aren’t yet committing to a vote.

Any delay on a vote in the House could leave the Senate without enough time to debate the measure before heading home until next year on Nov. 10.

“I would be really surprised if anything happens on pension reform,” said state Sen. Shane Cultra, an Onarga Republican.

I’m pretty sure I agree with Cultra.

* Waiting until the spring is also a possibility

Even so, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, an Orland Park Democrat who chairs the House Personnel and Pensions Committee, said backers might not want to call the bill for a vote unless they’re sure it will pass, because “it could be more of a hindrance to get something done in the future.”

If it is brought back during the Legislature’s spring session, he said, “I think the support would be there with the general public.”

Again, there is no magic wand that can be waved to find a majority on this bill in both chambers.

* But there was progress on some issues, even if they didn’t come up for a vote

Without giving away many details, Kotowski laid out what he calls a “framework” for an eventual agreement.

First, Sears’ 20-year-old tax deal with Hoffman Estates would be extended so the company could recover some of the millions it says it has spent on roads and bridges in the area. Whether Sears would have to give up any of the $125 million in total tax benefits it’s seeking is unclear as the company keeps some of the details of its proposal secret.

Then, Sears would be penalized if it left for another state while the deal was still in effect.

And finally, more money would be sent to District 300. How much is still unclear, as money the school district would get might have to come at the expense of other local governments or Sears.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


29 Comments
  1. - steve schnorf - Monday, Oct 31, 11 @ 2:21 pm:

    Really, as much as anything, the JR was complaining that with half of the veto session gone, the issue hasn’t even come up.


  2. - Anon - Monday, Oct 31, 11 @ 2:21 pm:

    Unless there is someing in the legislation that makes it mandatory for the legislature to put in their part of the contributions then nothing gets solved. Just changing the current retirement plans once again just kicks the can down the road.


  3. - Rich Miller - Monday, Oct 31, 11 @ 2:24 pm:

    Steve, the issue has come up, repeatedly. It hasn’t been voted on yet because there’s nothing to vote on.


  4. - too obvious - Monday, Oct 31, 11 @ 2:24 pm:

    Typical of GOP in this state. Talk about cuts but won’t put any on the table. Hard to be more worthless than the Dems in this state but somehow they manage.


  5. - Leroy - Monday, Oct 31, 11 @ 2:25 pm:

    meh, folks with disabilities and mental illness don’t vote or write checks.


  6. - Leroy - Monday, Oct 31, 11 @ 2:26 pm:

    ok that previous comment was harsh, but the sentiment should be acknowledged.


  7. - Cassiopeia - Monday, Oct 31, 11 @ 2:28 pm:

    With all the actions that have been announced by the Governor’s office the one surprising action that has been missing is a true freeze on hiring. Agencies continue to hire new people and hardly a single exempt position is ever vacant for very long.


  8. - steve schnorf - Monday, Oct 31, 11 @ 2:46 pm:

    Good point, Rich. I should have said hasn’t come up officially. No committee hearings, no reports of leaders meetings on the subject, etc.


  9. - Michelle Flaherty - Monday, Oct 31, 11 @ 2:55 pm:

    Here’s my guess on how that leaders’ meeting would go:
    OK, who wants to borrow money to pay the backlog?
    Cullerton: Sure
    Madigan: Present
    Cross: No
    Radogno: Hell, no.

    Ok, moving on to other business … cutting existing employees’ pensions …


  10. - steve schnorf - Monday, Oct 31, 11 @ 3:06 pm:

    MF, “OK, Tom, Chris, what do you suggest that maybe Mike and John and I could try to agree to?”


  11. - VanillaMan - Monday, Oct 31, 11 @ 3:06 pm:

    If this state government isn’t good enough to pay for now, imagine how much worse it will look to future generations forced to pay off the debts it is creating.

    I understand borrowing for something good, not this. Borrowing is taxing children. With interest.


  12. - Rich Miller - Monday, Oct 31, 11 @ 3:08 pm:

    VMan, nobody is talking about generational borrowing here. They’re talking 4-8 years.


  13. - Nagidam - Monday, Oct 31, 11 @ 3:13 pm:

    Part of the tax increase was supposed to be used to pay off the potential bond deal we are talking about. The Governor could use that money to pay down debt but he isn’t. He just wants to spend more and more money.


  14. - Look at it this way - Monday, Oct 31, 11 @ 4:14 pm:

    Rich, you say: “…it hasn’t been voted on yet because there’s nothing to vote on.” You’re kinda right…sorta.

    To be clear, there have been efforts to address this. Consider Sen. Sullivan’s partnership with the Springfield Chamber of Commerce back in May - a total of $6.176 billion in debt restructuring. In fact, they had a press conference on May 25th.

    Sullivan sponsored:
    SB342 - $1.482 billion for non-gov’t debt (private business, third party vendors).
    SB343 - $1.134 b for Group Health Insurance.
    SB344 - $800 million for Corporate Tax Refund
    SB345 - $2.76 billion for Gov’t Debt (schools, universities, local govts).

    On May 29, Sullivan called SB342 in the Senate. It lost 19-23-04.

    While it is nice that the State Journal Register and the AP have decided to highlight the “deadbeat” state of Illinois, it’s too bad that the media continues to look toward Quinn for a solution.

    Perhaps Sullivan’s items need some tweaking, but the concept of bonding this debt is so logical and helps solve such huge problems, that the GOP has gone on the talking point warpath causing reasonable Democrats to pull off these “risky” votes.

    Kudos to the Springfield Chamber for trying to get their members paid. Shame on the GOP, the IPI, the State Chamber and everyone else who continues to villify the legitimate efforts to pay what we owe to vendors.

    Even Dan Rutherford has flip-flopped. First saying that if the GA passed legislation to bond out debt, he’d personally reach out to bond houses to tell them not to invest in Illinois. Seriously. Now, he’s changed his tune a bit. He kinda wants to pay vendors now.

    Bottom line. This is polarized partisan politics. Plain and simple. Too bad for vendors, too bad for Illinois.


  15. - Plutocrat03 - Monday, Oct 31, 11 @ 4:16 pm:

    And when the bill for the new borrowing comes due?

    Clank - goes the can down the road……


  16. - Rich Miller - Monday, Oct 31, 11 @ 4:20 pm:

    I’m aware of Sullivan’s bill. I covered it. But it hasn’t yet come up in veto session. And you can’t really blame the SGOPs for the defeat of a bill that only got 19 votes. Yeah, everybody knew it was going down, so many people who might’ve backed it didn’t. But it still went down in flames.


  17. - Truth Seeker - Monday, Oct 31, 11 @ 4:21 pm:

    Again, republicans, politically, have much to gain by standing pat. Let the democrats make the cuts and provide the explanations.


  18. - Wickedred - Monday, Oct 31, 11 @ 4:23 pm:

    Leroy, that’s why it’s so convenient and easy to target the aged, the mentally ill and the developmentally disabled. They don’t give money to campaigns and, (for the most part) they don’t vote. Although they can, and a lot of people that I support in my work DO.
    People who work with and for these groups are becoming more vocal, as are their families and guardians. Do they have enough money to carry any clout? Of course not.
    Everyone involved could see this was a blatant attack on Quinn’s part on areas with Republicans in office. Shame on him for going after those who can’t defend themselves. He’s gonna feel the pain of that from now on. He may not care or he may not think so, but going after these groups was not a smart move.


  19. - Michelle Flaherty - Monday, Oct 31, 11 @ 4:24 pm:

    I’m confused. Is the GA supposed to bring back the doomed bills for another vote or is the GA supposed to ignore the issue?
    What does the media want? It’s hard enough to try to read Pat Quinn’s mind, now we have to interpret the vague call to action or edit boards?


  20. - Rich Miller - Monday, Oct 31, 11 @ 4:28 pm:

    Wickedred, seniors vote in higher percentages than anybody else.


  21. - Look at it this way - Monday, Oct 31, 11 @ 4:29 pm:

    Youre right Rich, but that’s my point. The GOP IS to blame, because debt restructuring does solve a lot of problems.

    1) It pays vendors what we owe.
    2) It ensures that interest rates for borrowing are much lower.
    3) It cuts the amount of $ available for spending because bonds have to be paid first.

    But, the GOP continues to simply say, “We’re not going to take out another credit card - digging us deeper into to debt.”

    Or, an even bigger lie…

    “We can’t borrow our way out of debt.”

    It’s not NEW borrowing. They know this.

    It’s totally insincere, but it works. They get those simple points out there and everybody believes it.

    Now, Quinn does have a role in all this, that is true. Scary isn’t it?


  22. - Rich Miller - Monday, Oct 31, 11 @ 4:33 pm:

    All points I have made many times in the past. But politics is the art of the possible, and borrowing ain’t possible without a sea change in attitude.


  23. - Wickedred - Monday, Oct 31, 11 @ 7:35 pm:

    Rich, yes, you got me there. They have some good lobbiests in the AARP and the like also. But they tend to get overlooked for moneys when cuts are to be made.


  24. - Give Me A Break - Monday, Oct 31, 11 @ 7:41 pm:

    I would not say the Gov. is “targeting” people with disabilities, he is targeting where the bulk of GRF goes (social programs and education). As a gangster once said when asked why he robbed banks? Because that is where the money is.

    You simply can’t cut without touching human services as many of the members of the General Assembly are becoming too aware of.


  25. - Michelle Flaherty - Monday, Oct 31, 11 @ 7:52 pm:

    keep in mind the big providers lobbied against rate cuts and in favor of extending payment cycle in this budget. When push came to shove the backlog was better than the alternative for them.


  26. - steve schnorf - Monday, Oct 31, 11 @ 8:12 pm:

    Calling Willie Sutton a gangster is stretching it


  27. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Nov 1, 11 @ 8:09 am:

    –I understand borrowing for something good, not this. Borrowing is taxing children. With interest.–

    Clueless. You’ve already borrowed from the people you’re stiffing. They have bills to pay, payrolls to make — and yes, children, too.

    Willie Sutton was a bank robber. There’s been no shortage of real gangsters in Illinois politics over the years.


  28. - Leroy - Tuesday, Nov 1, 11 @ 9:14 am:

    Michelle - that was contextual, and i guarantee you it wasn’t a choice between lobster and long johns silver.

    Hospitals and nursing homes have been getting paid in 30 days or less for the last 3 years, meanwhile, the other human service providers have seen their payments drag out as a result.

    I think what your comment is missing is the expectation of parity in payments. Hospitals and nursing homes now have longer payments, but the delays to other providers didn’t improve one bit!


  29. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Nov 1, 11 @ 9:29 am:

    Excellent editorial by the SJR. The facts don’t lie.

    The General Assembly’s priorities right now cannot adequately be described in this space. Fill in your own favorite adjective-filled Hunter S. Thompson description of Nixon or the Watergate burglars, and that will suffice.

    Now that ComEd is all tucked away warm, cozy and safe, let’s consider the other, most-pressing need facing our citizens in these anxious times: a tax break for CME.

    Distressing news from them yesterday. As they struggle in this business wasteland that we call Illinois, they sadly reported that they had profits of only $316 million in the third quarter, a heartbreaking 29% increase from the previous year.

    Brave little souls that they are, they made no mention in the world’s financial press of how the state of Illinois is destroying them with its taxes. No mention of that at all, funny enough.

    Sen. Cullteron, Mayor Emanuel, save them, save them. How can you expect them to stay in this awful place with rising profits of more than $300 million a quarter?

    http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20111101/NEWS01/111109999/cme-profit-rises-29-beats-estimates


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