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***. UPDATE *** Big trouble for tax bill

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2011

* If you’re watching the live blog, you know that the “CME bill” passed the Senate with 36 votes, but has maybe 5 House Republicans prepared to vote for it. So, unless the House Demorats can carry this on their own it’s not gonna pass. The bill is being debated in the House as I write this, so stay tuned.

*** UPDATE *** The bill received just 8 votes. 99 voted against.

* By the way, the House has control of the budget bill, so the Senate has to wait for the Housr to take action, which may not happen until the House decides to do something about the CME bill situation, if anything.

* 5:18 pm - Democratic leaders are meeting in Leader Cross’ office to find out what he wants. 

* 5:48 pm - The revamped House CME bill will reportedly use a mechanism to more accurately figure out what percentage of CME’s income should be taxed. Also, lower EITC.

* 6:25 pm - If… If the House can resolve CME soon then they might return tomorrow.   Senate might then return next month.

* 7:04 pm - House has adjourned to the call of the chair.

- Posted by Rich Miller   63 Comments      


Tenaska’s Rose Colored Glasses

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2011

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

According to Tenaska’s own estimates, the Taylorville Energy Center will cost Illinois electricity customers an average of $286 million a year for the next thirty years– or $9 billion total. What’s most worrisome about this big number is that Tenaska’s estimates are only a best-case scenario and assume the Taylorville Energy Center will be built on time and on budget.

While Tenaska sees this project through rose-colored glasses, the rest of us just see red.

Not only would Illinois electricity customers be on the hook paying seven times the market price of electricity from the Taylorville EnergyCenter, Tenaska thinks we should cover cost overruns that pile up during the construction and operation of the plant too.

Tenaska can make all the predictions and promises they want, but there are no guarantees when it comes to this project. A power plant relying on the same unproven technology as the Taylorville Energy Center is currently under construction in Edwardsport, Indiana, and this project is already $1 billion dollars over budget! And, of course, it’s Indiana consumers who are footing most of that bill.

Members of the Illinois legislature may vote on Tenaska’s proposal today, but it’s not too late to take action.

Let your legislator know
right now that you oppose the Taylorville Energy Center and that you don’t want to be responsible for the costs when this project goes in the red.

Visit www.STOPCoalition.com to learn more.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY: This just in…

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2011

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Rate the ad

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2011

* Former Gov. Jim Edgar appears in a new radio ad on behalf of slots at tracks. It’s been running on the Illinois Radio Network and several dozen Downstate stations since Thanksgiving, according to the person behind the ads. Rate it…

It’s highly doubtful, by the way, that we’ll see any progress on gaming today, or tomorrow, if the session lasts goes long (the governor’s office is predicting an adjournment today).

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


Stop Older Worker Discrimination Now! – Repeal the Social Security Unemployment Offset

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2011

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

FACT: The Social Security Unemployment Offset reduces unemployment benefits for those receiving Social Security by an amount equal to half of the individual’s Social Security payment.

This means that jobless Illinoisans suffer with denied or reduced unemployment benefits simply because of their age.

FACT: Illinois is one of only two states in the nation that has not taken action to repeal the Social Security Unemployment Offset (Louisiana is the other).

Illinois needs to get on board with the rest of the nation and repeal this discriminatory law.

FACT: Employers pay fully into the unemployment fund for all their workers, regardless of age.

All workers should receive their full unemployment benefit, regardless of age.

FACT: Legislation to repeal the Offset has been introduced every year for the last decade in Illinois and consistently enjoys bipartisan support. However, the bill has never been heard in committee or on the floor.

Illinois lawmakers must step up to the plate and allow a vote on this issue.


It’s time to repeal the Social Security Unemployment Offset! Support Senate Bill 144/House Bill 96.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Question of the day

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2011

* Politicians who claim exemptions from the Freedom of Information Act because they’re using private cell phones or computers were shot down by Attorney General Lisa Madigan this month

(P)lenty of officials took advantage of that loophole. Their reasoning was simple: Because the communication happened on a private cell phone or computer, it’s not in the government’s possession and thus can’t be considered a public record.

An opinion issued by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office on Nov. 15 changes that. The opinion stemmed from the city of Champaign’s denial of a reporter’s request for documents pertaining to public business, even if those documents were in private cell phone, Twitter or email accounts.

The [city of Champaign] partially denied the request by saying the documents were not in its possession. That explanation violated the intent of the Freedom of Information Act, the attorney general’s office said.

“Whether information is a ‘public record’ is not determined by where, how, or on what device that record was created; rather, the question is whether that record was prepared by or used by one or more members of a public body in conducting the affairs of government,” wrote Michael Luke, counsel to Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

From Madigan’s summary

(T)he Attorney General noted that not requiring the city to produce the records would allow any public body to completely circumvent the requirements of FOIA by conducting public business on private equipment. Finally, the Attorney General found the city’s argument that the release of communications from private devices would have First Amendment implications to be unpersuasive. Consequently, the city was found to be in violation of the requirements of FOIA, having incorrectly denied the records request.

* Gov. Pat Quinn has a private cellphone. He has also claimed his calls are exempt from FOIA. The attorney general’s office wouldn’t specifically comment on the governor’s issue, but it sure looks to me like he’s gonna have to fork over that information now.

And Quinn isn’t alone. It’s been assumed for a long time that private cellphone use was just that: Private. Oops.

* The Question: Do you agree with this AG Madigan opinion? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.


- Posted by Rich Miller   87 Comments      


Budget deal at hand while tax cut package advances

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2011

* If you were watching yesterday’s ScribbleLive blog, you know there’s a new budget deal

Tinley Park Mental Health Center and six other state facilities would stay open in the short term and nearly 1,900 layoffs would be avoided under a deal struck Monday night, according to leading Democrats and Republicans.

The outline of an agreement was worked out in the Capitol office of Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who huddled with lawmakers from both parties for more than two hours.

Emerging from Quinn’s office, Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno said details are still being crafted, but a measure “will be very clear that the facilities are to stay open pending any kind of orderly transition of those that may need to close in the future.”

“We’ll avoid that chaos that we were afraid would happen with what the governor had proposed,” said Radogno, of Lemont.

* Some details

The agreement would keep the facilities open only for the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends June 30. Their long-term fates are still being reviewed, Vaught said.

Vaught said the agreement also calls for reducing state payments to a variety of special-purpose funds. The state’s $55 million contribution to the workers’ compensation fund, for instance, would be cut by $10 million. About $95 million that ordinarily would go to pension systems would instead be diverted to preventing the closures.

There would be enough reductions that some services in the Department of Human Services could get some additional money, Vaught said. The biggest beneficiaries would be community mental health services, which would get $30 million, and substance abuse programs, which would get $28 million.

* In other news, if you watched the House Revenue Committee hearing yesterday, you know that the tax cut package was approved, but it wasn’t exactly an enthusiastic approval

A $250 million corporate tax-break package aimed at keeping Chicago’s financial exchanges and Sears from bolting Illinois wobbled out of a House committee Monday amid signs the measure faces legislative trouble.

CME Group Inc., which owns the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, and Sears Holdings Corp. would stand to gain $100 million in tax savings under the legislation, which is poised for a full House vote after advancing out of that chamber’s Revenue and Finance Committee by a 6-0 vote. Democrats accounted for all of the “yes” votes, while two GOP members voted “present.”

* It didn’t help matters much that CME’s lobbyist didn’t show up

One Republican, Rep. Sandy Cole (R-Grayslake), went so far as to scold CME for not showing up at the hearing to answer questions from legislators despite the firm’s threats to move if state lawmakers don’t cut its $150 million state tax bill. Cole voted “present” on the package. The tax break also would benefit the Chicago Board Options Exchange, which also has threatened to move operations out of state.

“I’m really surprised they’re not here,” Cole said incredulously. “We’re talking about voting on this huge deal that they initiated … and there’s nobody here.”

A CME spokesman declined comment on the company’s absence, though the firm did put its support of Bradley’s amendment on the record.

* Leader Cross dumped all over the bill

Though the slimmed-down package was crafted in a bipartisan manner, by Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, and Rep. David Harris, R-Arlington Heights, there appears to be continuing resistance from Republicans.

House Republican leader Tom Cross questioned how many more companies will come forward asking for tax breaks.

“If we do this tomorrow, who’s going to be knocking on our door next week? Who’s going to be knocking on our door in January? And everybody is going to say they’ve got a compelling case,” Cross said.

Illinois cannot keep going down a road that addresses one company at time, he said, arguing for a comprehensive rather than piecemeal approach.

Cross is mainly upset about Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposed add-ons

Quinn’s budget director, David Vaught, didn’t flatly oppose the tax package but told the committee “there’s a little more work that needs to be done to achieve more balance in the bill.”

* And Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie is about the most unenthusiastic co-sponsor imaginable

Currie, a co-sponsor of the bill, said she also has “serious questions about the top-heavy nature of this and whether we should jump whenever another state says it is going to take a business.”

“We’re here essentially because there are two companies holding a gun to our heads,” Currie said.

Harris, though, said the state is still on shaky financial ground.

“The state would be on (even) less firm financial ground if some of these large corporations decided to locate elsewhere,” he said.

* Meanwhile, District 300 types scored a victory over Sears and Hoffman Estates, but they still aren’t happy

Lawmakers’ preliminary approval Monday came at a sometimes contentious hearing where Community Unit District 300 officials continued to strike a nerve with state officials.

“I know that we have been a thorn in your side,” Superintendent Michael Bregy said near the beginning of his remarks. “We respect the difficult work that you do.”

Late the night before, Bregy sent out a scathing criticism of the most recent proposal. But most of his concerns were eased before the beginning of the hearing, and afterward, Bregy released a statement saying he was “reluctantly satisfied.”

“While we have achieved huge progress over the past few months, make no mistake that the end result was a huge compromise,” Bregy said. “We are reluctantly satisfied with the compromise plan. It is a very bittersweet victory for our community.”

Nevertheless, the school district’s unconventional lobbying techniques drew a rebuke from lawmakers of both parties. The committee chairman, Democratic state Rep. John Bradley of downstate Marion, raised his voice occasionally like an angry teacher in an unruly classroom, saying once he was “not happy” with District 300’s recent tone.

D300 spends over $10,000 a year per student. The school attended by Rep. Bradley’s kids spends a bit over $6,000. There wasn’t much sympathy for Bregy, but Bradley wisely held his tongue so he could get the deal done.

* Related and a roundup…

* Press Release: EDA issues clarified; D300 “reluctantly satisfied”

* Fun fact: District 300’s lobbyist

* D-300 ‘reluctantly satisfied’ with final EDA legislation

* Video: Bradley on CME tax breaks

* Editorial: ‘Crony capitalism’ finding a foothold in Illinois, unfortunately

* ADDED: Editorial: Illinois shouldn’t fix its pension problems by breaking promises

* Vote expected today to cancel pensions for one-day teachers

* Pension double dipping could end soon

* Video: Tom Cross, Bob Molaro and double dipping

* Editorial: What’s it going to take?

* Editorial: Make time for pension reform, action on waivers

* MEBCO Lawsuit Targets New Mississippi River Bridge, IDOT

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      


Illinois to allow same sex couples to file joint tax returns

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2011

* This is an interesting development

Starting in January, Illinois will allow couples who obtained civil-union licenses this year to file joint state income tax returns, a symbolic change that likely won’t save couples money but that one gay-rights group called an important step.

Monday’s announcement comes after Illinois became the seventh state, along with the District of Columbia, to give same-sex couples significant legal protections. Gov. Pat Quinn signed the state’s civil union law in January.

That bill included the right to decide medical care for an ailing partner and the right to inherit property, but it didn’t include the ability for same-sex couples to file a joint tax return.

While federal law does not allow same-sex couples to submit taxes together, Quinn pushed for the state to make the change after signing the civil union bill, Illinois Department of Revenue spokeswoman Susan Hofer said Monday.

* Equality Illinois has been pushing for this ever since the civil unions law took effect. From a press release

“Since the beginning of June when same-sex couples first started entering into civil unions, no one could speak with certainty about how this new status would affect state tax policy,” Randy Hannig, Director of Public Policy for Equality Illinois, said. “We immediately reached out to the Illinois Department of Revenue and started the process of figuring out a solid solution to this problem. Illinois law specifies that couples in a civil union are afforded the same rights and benefits as married spouses, so why should same-sex couples’ state tax status be any different?”

Under the new guidelines issued by the Department of Revenue, same-sex couples in a civil union may elect to file state taxes as “married, filed jointly” or “married, filed separately” – the same options opposite-sex married couples may choose. If applicable, couples would check a box for “same-sex civil union return.” In order to determine the adjusted gross income to include on state filings, couples will have to complete a pro forma federal IRS return.

* From Illinois Issues’ blog

Those in civil unions would still have to file separate federal returns as single because the federal government does not recognize their partnerships. Couples who do not wish to file a joint return would still file as married but would be able to file separate state returns.

Hofer said joint filing for state taxes will not result in large tax benefits for couples — the substantial benefit comes at the federal level for couples with disparate incomes. If one person has a much smaller income, it can move the household into a lower tax bracket than the individual was in. “In Illinois because we are a flat tax state, you really aren’t going to see any significant change to your taxes. … With the state, everybody pays a 5 percent flat tax. But there will be some benefits.” She said that exemptions such as for property taxes or education expenses, could be applied a couple’s total income instead of just an individual’s earnings.

Thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   10 Comments      


Joe Walsh tells candidate he’s running in another district

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2011

* Roll Call had the scoop

Rep. Joe Walsh may switch races to run in Illinois’ 8th district instead of against Rep. Randy Hultgren in the GOP primary next year, according to two well-placed Republican sources.

Walsh met with an aspiring GOP candidate in the 8th district, DuPage County Superintendent of Education Darlene Ruscitti, this afternoon and told her he planned to run there instead, according to a source with knowledge of the encounter

* Ruscitti confirmed the meeting to the Daily Herald. Walsh wouldn’t talk

“I did meet with him,” Darlene Ruscitti, the DuPage County regional superintendent of education who has announced plans to run in the 8th District GOP primary, said Monday evening.

But she deferred all other questions to Walsh, saying, “I would just talk to Joe.”

Neither Walsh nor his spokesman, Justin Roth, returned calls seeking comment.

“What happened is he called her for the meeting,” a senior Republican operative told the Daily Herald Monday. “He sat down and said, ‘I’m running in the 8th (Congressional District).’”

* If Walsh wins that primary, he’d be up against either Tammy Duckworth or Raja Krishnamoorthi, who are battling it out in the Democratic primary. A blast e-mail from Duckworth’s campaign manager…

Remember when we told you that the thought of running against Tammy had sent Rep. Joe Walsh running to a new district?

Guess who’s back…

It looks like the residents of the 14th district didn’t want Tea Party hero Joe Walsh representing them. Walsh is shopping around for a district to run in - and Roll Call reports that his latest bad idea is to run against Tammy.

Donate $10 now to show Joe Walsh that we don’t want him here either.

Tammy’s never backed down from a fight in her life and she certainly won’t back down from this one. But now that Joe Walsh is back, she’ll need all the help she can get.

Bring it on,

Josh

Josh Levin
Campaign Manager
Duckworth for Congress

* And a press release from Raja’s campaign…

On September 21, Congressman Joe Walsh announced that he would seek election the Illinois’ 14th Congressional district instead of his 8th district. His decision was clear indication that he saw the writing on the wall - constituents across Schaumburg, Elgin, Lombard, Elmhurst and the rest of the district reject Joe Walsh and his misguided Tea Party values. Voters in the 8th District are hungry for real solutions to job creation for the middle class, not media antics and shallow talking points. Now, Joe Walsh has changed his mind and decided to run in the 8th District.

“Joe Walsh is clearly unelectable,” said Campaign Spokesman Mike Murray. “His radical Tea Party agenda, combined with his personal problems, have made him unviable even in the Republican-leaning 14th District.”

“With his decision to run for re-election in the 8th District, Walsh is clearly trying to postpone his inevitable electoral defeat from March to November,” continued Murray. “Walsh hopes that a few extra months will allow voters to forget his cheap antics, bad policies, and his utter failure to provide economic solutions as our representative. Raja is in this race to make sure that will never happen.”

Raja Krishnamoorthi, Democratic Congressional candidate for Illinois’ 8th District, has led the charge against Walsh and the job-killing Tea Party agenda. Since May, Raja actively stood up to Congressman Walsh and provided voters with sound solutions to restoring middle class prosperity and job creation.

“I got in this race to take on the Tea Party and stand up for the middle-class and small businesses,” said Krishnamoorthi. “As a candidate who is also president of a local small business, I am uniquely positioned to challenge Joe Walsh and his misguided economic agenda. I am the only candidate on the Democratic side with the economic experience needed to challenge Joe Walsh and the Tea Party’s economic agenda.”

I’ve tried contacting Walsh. I’ll let you know if he gets back to me, so watch for an update.

In the meantime, discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   63 Comments      


*** LIVE VETO SESSION UPDATES ***

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2011

* BlackBerry users click here, iPad and iPhone users remember to use the “two-finger” scrolling method…

- Posted by Rich Miller   4 Comments      


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Tuesday, Nov 29, 2011

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* Zombies!!!
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