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Question of the day

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

* The House’s budget proposal cuts education by well over $200 million. Here are a few of the cuts

* Early childhood education - $25 million

* General State Aid - $211 million

* Free breakfasts and lunch - $12 million

The Ounce of Prevention Fund claims that the cuts in early childhood education would result in “fewer than 70,000 children” being able to attend preschool this fall in the program. That would be down from 95,000 four years ago. The governor’s introduced budget spared education from cuts.

At the same time, however, prison and other state facility closures have largely been avoided in the House’s budget.

* The Question: Should education be spared from state budget cuts next fiscal year? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments please. Thanks.


- Posted by Rich Miller   67 Comments      


*** UPDATED *** THIS JUST IN… Harriman drops out of congressional race… Costello, Sr. takes himself out of contention… Plummer responds

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

* 12:28 pm - Democratic candidate Brad Harriman’s campaign has just confirmed that he has dropped out of the 12th Congressional District race against Republican Jason Plummer.

* 12:30 - And here’s the press release…

“Today, it is with a heavy heart that I must announce that I am ending my campaign after consultation with my doctor. I know in my heart that this decision is in the best interest of the voters of southern Illinois who deserve a candidate that can withstand the pace that this race will require. My condition has noticeably worsened over the course of the campaign to the point that if I do not address it with surgery, I am facing irreparable damage. While it is non-life threatening, I need to address it now.”

Harriman has lived with the neurological condition without limitation or noticeable change since 2010, though he began noticing worsening symptoms in May and underwent testing to determine whether his condition had worsened. His physician advised of long-term and permanent injury if the condition is left untreated and allowed to worsen over the course of the campaign.

Harriman continues:

“I know the rigors that this campaign will demand, and I know that my health will prevent me from running the kind of campaign that southern Illinoisans should expect. Over the course of the past seven months of this campaign, I have been humbled by the support I have received from hardworking southern Illinoisans, and I will always be grateful to those that invited me into their homes and their businesses. For those individuals and the future of southern Illinois, I have confidence that the democratic county chairmen will work together in the most transparent way possible to select a candidate that will continue to fight for the southern Illinois way of life.”

Harriman was never considered much of a candidate. He wasn’t raising money. His campaign plan was in total disarray (if you could call it that).

Plummer, on the other hand, has had early support from the US Chamber and was looking to a lot of us like a winner. The Democrats will need to pick a strong, well-known candidate… and fast.

*** UPDATE - 1:14 pm *** Incumbent Congressman Jerry Costello, Sr. walked into House Speaker Madigan’s office a few minutes ago. Meanwhile, the DCCC reportedly wants either Costello Sr. or his son, Rep. Jerry Costello, Jr. to run for the seat. Rep. John Bradley’s name has been mentioned to me as well. Bradley has not yet returned my call.

*** UPDATE - 2:05 pm *** Costello, Sr. says he won’t run again

“Brad’s decision to end his campaign due to health problems is understandable, and I wish Brad the very best in the future.

The law is very clear on the procedure to select a successor. The Democratic party chairs from each ofthe12 counties in the congressional district will meet to decide on a candidate to fill the vacancy. Each chairman will have a weighted vote based on the number of Democratic votes cast in the March primary election in their respective county.

Under the law, as the elected Democratic state central committeewoman and committeeman, Barb Brown and I will co-chair the selection committee and will recommend that they follow an open process to select the most qualified candidate. Committeewoman Brown and I will discuss the process with the 12 county chairs and make a public announcement soon.

As you know, I announced last October that I will not seek re-election, and I am not going to reconsider and will not be a candidate for re-election.”

* From Jason Plummer…

“My thoughts and prayers go out to Brad and his family as he deals with his medical condition. He had a distinguished career as an educator and leader in the area, and I wish him the best.

While I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know him on the campaign trail, this race was never about Brad or myself. This race is about and will be about Southern Illinoisians electing a congressman who will represent their values and fight the ballooning federal government.

My campaign will continue to provide residents of the 12th District a new direction to shrink the size of government, reduce regulations on small businesses and best utilize the natural resources of our state.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   62 Comments      


Old man Ricketts has a new problem

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

* Cub family patriarch Joe Ricketts’ PR problems continue. New York Times

[Ricketts] is involved in another effort slated for this summer, a documentary film based on a widely criticized book, “The Roots of Obama’s Rage” by Dinesh D’Souza, which asserts that Mr. Obama is carrying out the “anticolonial” agenda of his Kenyan father.

Mr. Ricketts’s aides said he was one of roughly two dozen investors, providing only 5 percent of the film’s budget. But his involvement shows how the more strident attacks against Mr. Obama, which Mr. Romney’s aides view as counterproductive, continue to find backing even as the Republican Party and the Romney campaign seek to keep the focus on the economy.

The episode involving the proposed Wright advertisement put new attention on the ability of wealthy donors, working with groups independent of the candidates, to shape the presidential race, and stoked further debate about whether outside groups were driving politics to become increasingly negative. […]

In explaining the rejection of the Wright proposal questioning Mr. Obama’s character, which was drafted after Mr. Ricketts held two meetings with the strategists behind it, a top aide said that it reflected “an approach to politics that Mr. Ricketts rejects” and that his role this year would “be focused entirely on questions of fiscal policy, not attacks that seek to divide us socially or culturally.”

Yet the film Mr. Ricketts is helping to finance, called “2016: Obama’s America,” is built on the premise that “Obama has a dream, a dream from his father, that the sins of colonialism be set right and America be downsized,” according to a trailer.

Oops.

Old man Ricketts can’t throw a consultant under the bus this time around. This one is all on him. And it ain’t pretty. Downsizing America to fullfill his African father’s dream of ending colonialism? Yeah. OK.

* More

An early glimpse of his views on Mr. Obama can be found in a June 2010 graduation speech he gave at Bellevue University in Nebraska, for which he is a leading benefactor. Lamenting the banking and auto bailouts, he declared, “Our Republic is under assault from our government,” adding the historical note that “most of the past threats have come from outside our borders.”

He called this “a most dangerous time,” when “people begin to second-guess the American experiment” and “flirt with dead-ends like socialism.” It was in that climate, he said, that he had decided to become more personally involved in politics.

Mr. Ricketts’s aides said he was primarily motivated by his concern for the budget deficit and government spending.

He detests government spending unless, of course, it’s being spent on his family.

* What I want to know is, where the heck is the Chicago media on this story? Why is the NYT scooping them so often on the Ricketts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   97 Comments      


Report: Kirk concealed campaign payments to wife, girlfriend

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

* Oy

Soon after Mark Kirk’s ex-wife announced she would no longer support his 2010 run for the U.S. Senate, he brought her onto his campaign team, then quietly paid her after his victory.

But Kimberly Vertolli, a lawyer who received $40,000 from the campaign, again is at odds with her ex-husband, filing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that Kirk and his then-girlfriend may have broken campaign finance law.

The girlfriend, Dodie McCracken, who works in public relations, has acknowledged receiving more than $143,000 in fees and expenses for her campaign work. A former live-in girlfriend, she is no longer romantically involved with Kirk, according to a campaign aide.

Kirk’s campaign has characterized Vertolli as an aggrieved ex-wife and labeled “groundless” her complaint filed late last year about payments to McCracken.

At the heart of the matter is Vertolli’s assertion that the Kirk campaign may have improperly hidden money to McCracken by paying her through another company working for the campaign. Because the money was not paid directly to McCracken, her name does not appear in Kirk’s federal disclosures.

Go read the whole thing before commenting, please. It appears that payments to both the ex and the girlfriend were deliberately hidden. But there were news stories about the girlfriend being on the payroll, so that wasn’t exactly a secret. Vertolli is another matter. She just inadvertently outed herself as a payroller as well.

On the bright side, all those vile rumors spread by people like Jack Roeser and Andy Martin are now proved false.

- Posted by Rich Miller   48 Comments      


SB: 1849 A Revenue and Jobs Solution

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Last week the Illinois House of Representatives took a stand for bringing jobs and new revenue to Illinois, and we applaud their vote. Experts predict that SB 1849 will create more than 20,000 jobs and more than $200 million in new annual revenue at a time when our state desperately needs them.”

“Getting through the House was the first big step in getting this bill passed,” said Michael Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO. “We want to remind Senate leaders about the importance of getting Illinoisans back to work. SB 1849 is a solution that would put tens of thousands of workers back on the job. Now is the time for the Illinois Senate to show the leadership necessary to restore economic stability.”

SB 1849 will save 30,000 plus agri-business jobs, while creating more than 20,000 new jobs, including nearly 10,000 construction jobs. The state’s unemployment remains hovering around 9 percent. The time for a solution is now. SB 1849 will put Illinoisans back on the job and will produce millions in revenue for the state of Illinois.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Major media pension coverage so far today

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

* Subscribers know a whole lot more about what’s going on with pension reform and what to expect, but let’s check the existing coverage as of this writing. SJ-R

Under the legislation, which would not apply to the state’s judges:

– Employees and retirees will be offered a choice between having access to a state health care plan upon retirement and having their raises count toward their pensions, or keeping the 3 percent compounded annual cost-of-living adjustment that they have today. If they choose to keep retiree health care and pensionable raises, their COLA will be one-half of the urban consumer price index or 3 percent, whichever is less. The COLA will not be compounded.

– If employees and retirees choose the lesser COLA, they will not receive it until age 67 or 5 years after they retire, whichever comes first. This will affect employees who have already retired. Nekritz gave this example: An employee retires at age 55; he or she is now 58 and chooses the new COLA. The new COLA will not kick in until the retiree reaches age 60 and he or she will be without a COLA for the next two years.

– The bill will phase in a shift of the normal pension costs for teachers and university employees to school districts, state universities and community colleges. The normal cost is the total benefits accrued by active employees for the current fiscal year.

– The legislation will have an immediate effective date upon Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature, but employees will be given an unspecified period of time to decide which choice they want to make. Still, the effective date is important. If the legislation passes, some employees have speculated that the courts might strike down the provisions that apply to those who have already retired but uphold them for those who had not yet retired when the governor signs the bill.

* Tribune

Efforts to develop a plan for comprehensive reform of public employee pensions hit a snag Monday as opposition intensified over a provision to shift retirement costs for suburban and Downstate teachers onto local school districts.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, has said the cost shift from state taxpayers to local school property taxpayers should be part of any proposal to curb unsustainable costs for a state worker pension system that is the most underfunded in the nation. A pension bill could come up for a vote as soon as Tuesday as lawmakers scramble to finish their work before a Thursday night deadline.

But even a top member of Madigan’s Democratic leadership team said pushing costs on overburdened suburban property taxpayers is “craziness.” […]

Senate Republicans also said there were attempts to make local school districts — and local taxpayers — make up for any increase in the unfunded liability of the teachers’ retirement system in the future, even if it was caused by a lower return on investments.

* Sun-Times

The plan will not apply to judges in order to sidestep any potential constitutional challenges over separation of powers. Judges in the past have successfully sued to block efforts by the Legislature to withhold cost-of-living increases.

The measure also will not contain any of the changes Mayor Rahm Emanuel sought for the city’s pension systems during a trip to Springfield in early May.

* Daily Herald

While the Illinois Constitution bars a reduction in pension benefits, retirees would be given a choice to either take the less-generous annual pension bumps or potentially lose access to state-funded health care — a benefit Nekritz says isn’t protected by the constitution.

“There’s nothing that protects that,” she said.

The choice that would be given to employees and an accompanying contract, supporters argue, would make the plan constitutionally legal.

Union officials have not agreed to the plan offering those choices, and the Illinois Education Association has been pushing its members to call lawmakers to protest the changes for days.

* Watch the House committee debate, which begins at 9

Embed removed because hearing is over.

…Adding… You should also follow along on the live blog. Speaker Madigan is testifying as I write this at 9:07.

- Posted by Rich Miller   99 Comments      


Today’s headline

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

* From NBC5

Quinn Preps For Busy Week in Springfield

* And this is how he’s prepping, according to the station

Ahead of a busy week in Springfield, Gov. Pat Quinn marched Monday in the Park Ridge Memorial Day Parade and headed off to Wrigley Field to continue honoring veterans.

So, a parade and a ballgame at a decrepit stadium is how he’s preparing for the week? The Senate was in session until 8 o’clock last night, for crying out loud.

…Adding…
And what the heck was that Pravdaesque headline writer thinking? This ain’t the Soviet Union, man.

- Posted by Rich Miller   11 Comments      


Polls: Schneider tied with Dold and Rahm’s on a roll

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

* A new poll conducted for Democrat Brad Schneider shows he is tied with Republican freshman incumbent Bob Dold in the 10th CD. From the pollster…

Schneider is in a dead heat with Dold despite the fact that Dold has a greater than two-to-one name identification advantage (79% to 35%).

Not only is Dold’s vote support well below the traditional safe mark of 50% for an incumbent, but other measures of his political support show signs of weakness and vulnerability. Specifically:

    o Dold has a favorable rating of just 35% favorable and 31% unfavorable. In the old 10th, where voters know him better, his favorable rating is a few points worse at 35%-34%.

    o Dold’s job rating is also tepid. Just 43% rate his performance as “excellent” or “good” while 30% rate his job as “not so good” or “poor.” As with his favorable rating, in the old 10th Dold’s job rating is a little worse at 45%-35%.

After voters hear brief biographical information and positive messages on both candidates (identifying Dold as a pro-choice Republican in the fashion of Mark Kirk who will rein in spending and cut taxes and Schneider as a businessman who will protect Medicare and a woman’s right to choose), Schneider surges ahead of Dold 48% to 41%.

In a race against an incumbent, the structure of the initial vote and who moves is critical. As the table below shows, Schneider firms up his base and takes a decisive lead among Independents. Dold actually loses ground among Independents when voters are better informed about both candidates.

Congressman Dold occupies the most Democratic House seat currently held by a Republican in the country. The new 10th district is comprised of portions of the old 8th, 9th and 10th Congressional Districts. In 2010, the worst year for Democrats in a generation, Dold lost by six points to Dan Seals in the portions of the old 10th that remain in the new 10th. Melissa Bean beat Joe Walsh decisively in the portions of the old 8th that are now in the 10th. The small portion of the new 10th that was in the old 9th is reliably Democratic.

The polling data reinforce the solidly Democratic nature of the new 10th. Specifically:

    o President Barack Obama remains popular with a favorable rating of 56%-38% and a job rating of 54%-45%. Moreover, he leads Governor Mitt Romney 55% to 41%.

    o The generic vote for Congress is seven points Democratic at 48% to 41%.

    o Party identification is nine points Democratic at 47% Democrat and 38% Republican.

If Brad Schneider is able to raise the resources to be competitive in the Chicago media market he is well positioned to take advantage of the weakness of Congressman Dold and the Democratic nature of the new 10th District and pick up the seat for the Democrats.

* Methodology…

(A) telephone survey conducted among 400 likely voters in the Tenth Congressional District of Illinois. Interviews were conducted May 21-23, 2012. The sampling error for this survey is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

* Meanwhile, the Chicago Retail Merchants Association has a new poll about Mayor Rahm Emanuel. From the pollster

Chicago Retail Merchants Association (CRMA), a committee of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA), has released findings from a poll testing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s job approval rating, his impact on the business climate, handling of NATO and the debate surrounding a possible strike from Chicago’s teachers union.

The poll finds Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s job approval rating at 64% while 57% or respondents indicate the Mayor has done an excellent/good job improving the city’s business climate. In addition, 78% of Chicagoans reacted positively to Mayor Emanuel’s handling of the NATO summit. Finally, the poll revealed that 71% of respondents believe teachers should wait for an independent report to be issued before they go on strike.

The poll was conducted by We Ask America on Thursday, May 24th collecting responses from 1,267 registered voters with a margin of error of ±2.76%. CRMA serves as the voice of Chicago retailers employing nearly one out of every five people.

“Retailers employ one out of every five people and is an important voice concerning public policy impacting the City of Chicago,” said David Vite, Chicago Retail Merchants Association.

“The poll indicates that Chicagoans give Mayor Rahm Emanuel high marks on a series of public policy issues, including improving the business climate in Chicago which is of great importance to retailers and job creators.”

* Results

* 1. Do you generally approve or disapprove of the job Mayor Rahm Emanuel is doing?

Approve 64.18%
Disapprove 28.68%
No Opinion 7.13%

2. How would you rate the job Mayor Rahm Emanuel is doing on improving the business climate in Chicago?

Excellent 28.13%
Good 29.23%
Fair 25.55%
Poor 11.29%
No Opinion 5.80%

3. How do you think Mayor Rahm Emanuel handled the NATO summit?

Great Job 55.56%
Good Job 23.28%
Fair Job 12.15%
Poor Job 5.72%
No Opinion 3.29%

4. Finally, as you may be aware, there is a disagreement between the Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Public Schools on a new contract, and the teachers have threatened to go on strike. By law, an independent arbiter will recommend a solution to the impasse on July 16th. However, some are urging teachers to go on strike BEFORE that report comes out. Do you agree or disagree that teachers should wait for that independent report BEFORE going on strike?

Agree 71.55%
Disagree 21.00%
No Opinion 7.45%

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

* House passes ban on cell calls near crash scenes

* Bill banning cell phones in emergency areas goes to Quinn

* Bill to help DNR headed to Quinn’s desk

* Committee votes to give up Peoria-area state park

* Talk of Banning Flavored Cigar Wraps

* Plan prompted by Elgin school stabbing heads for House vote

* Proposal would shield disaster victims from tax hikes

* Illinois lawmakers tackle prison crowding with revamped early release plan moving to House

* Revamped Illinois prison release plan moves to House

* Early prisoner release plan moves a step forward

* Michelle Young: Families deserve a living wage

* Online Powerball gets OK

* Editorial: Tinkering with campaign caps

* State legislators collect big contributions from gaming interests

* House bill would add Powerball to lottery’s online sales

* Ill. House votes to sell Powerball tickets online

* Internet dating safety bill in Illinois would disclose background check policies

* House says ‘Happy Memorial Day’ by passing bill to help veterans

* Illinois House approves Costello bill offering tax credit for hiring veterans

* Letter to the Editor: Susan Garrett on Memorial Day

* Ind., Ill. lawmakers assess shuttered bridge

* Editorial: Let’s only sell county naming rights with prudence

* Gleaming new CTA station raises question: What price architecture?

* RTA seeks consolidation of some services between CTA, Metra, Pace

* After NATO Summit, Murmurs Of Chicago Olympics

* U.S. Rep. Jackson gives Civil War history lesson to highlight Memorial Day

- Posted by Owen Irwin   1 Comment      


Protected: *** UPDATED x2 *** SUBSCRIBERS ONLY: This just in…

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


*** LIVE SESSION COVERAGE ***

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

* Blackberry users click here

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - An important pension update to today’s edition and a big Statehouse roundup

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

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Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today’s edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


What’s the rush on Allied Waste’s landfill bill?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Lots of questions remain unanswered as the House considers Allied Waste’s HB3881. More troubling, lots of questions haven’t even been asked.

Why is Allied Waste in such a hurry to pass as bill that will increase waste hauling costs for towns, businesses and taxpayers?

That answer is clear. Flexing its political muscle to shut down a Cook County landfill and prevent an Illinois family business from expanding helps Allied corner the market, limit competition and increase profits.

But other questions remain unanswered.

Why are so many lawmakers supportive of legislation that hurts a local business, local municipalities and undermines local decision making?

Do green advocates understand that by supporting HB3881, they’re standing in the way of increased environmental protections at Land and Lakes’ Chicago facility and efforts to turn Chicago brownfield land into green space?

Does Allied’s desperate money grab have anything to do with recouping the $11 million in fines it just paid to the City of Chicago for abusing M/WBE contract requirements?

The real question is…what’s the big hurry?

Land and Lakes joins public officials in urging lawmakers to hold off on making any rash decisions before these and other questions can be answered.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Question of the day

Monday, May 28, 2012

* Read the post below and then answer the question: Will the General Assembly avoid an overtime session?

Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments. Thanks.


- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      


Nearing the finish line?

Monday, May 28, 2012

* It ain’t over ’til it’s over, but things appear to be humming right along. Even so, nobody wants to start talking about the end quite yet

(L)egislators tackled some huge problems and seem to be on track to wrap up by Thursday, the last scheduled day of session. But no one will tempt fate by predicting a smooth finish.

“That’s when the wheels go flying off,” warned Rep. Joe Lyons, D-Chicago.

* The budget is a fairly sizable hurdle

The House’s schools plan would cut how much state money suburban schools get by nearly 4 percent. Suburban schools typically rely on state money less than less-wealthy downstate schools, and the House budget would leave alone money for buses — an issue that local officials have focused on in particular in recent years.

But the Senate plan doesn’t cut schools at all, meaning the two sides will either have to compromise soon or pick one plan.

And at least some suburban lawmakers could foresee missing the deadline, a move that would make Republicans more relevant in a legislature dominated by Democrats because budget plans would require more votes for approval. […]

The Senate didn’t meet Saturday, and House lawmakers don’t believe they’ll be bowing to the Senate’s budget plan, which generally doesn’t cut spending as far.

“They’re going to have to come down,” said state Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat. “We cannot, because of our own rules, spend more than what the revenue estimates are. So they’re going to have to come down, there’s no other way around it. I hate to say there is no compromise, but that is a fact.”

* Even the grouchy curmudgeons at the Tribune seem fairly pleased. But they’re not happy with everything

Our concern here is that some lawmakers are more determined to impress voters — See? We saved the day! — than to salvage the nation’s worst-funded pension system. Once more, with feeling:

The only enduring solution to Illinois’ pension debacle is … an enduring solution to Illinois’ pension debacle. That means rolling all employee groups into a legislative package. We’re focused on that because some timid legislators would rather pass reforms affecting some employees today, but leave, say, teachers, police and firefighters for another day — which may never arrive.

Not good enough, lawmakers. You’ve come a long way since the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago presciently warned in 2006 that pension and health costs were driving Illinois toward “financial implosion.” If you leave Illinois pension protocols unreformed, every voter — and every rating agency — will see through your little charade. Settle on fixes that begin to solve the problem right now and keep it from ever recurring.

Maybe an editorial board member ought to run for the General Assembly so the rest of the board can be informed that waving a magic wand does not pass legislation. There are no magic wands.

* Related…

* Record tax hike isn’t fixing Illinois’ problems: Quinn aides are quick to note that Democrats alone didn’t create the pension problem. They point to a 1995 pension law passed under Republican Gov. Jim Edgar. Billed as a way to stabilize the pension system and get it 90 percent funded by 2045, the law backloaded pension payments so that they were minimal in early years but increased over time.

* What’s been done? What’s yet to come?

* Illinois House panel votes to cut education funding by 4 percent

* House committee votes cuts in general state aid to schools

* S. Illinois lawmakers hopeful about Tamms prison funding

* Tinley mental health center closing plan needs more funds, advocates say

* Closer Look: Illinois lawmakers near finish line

* State’s legislators are moving in right direction

* Editorial: Legislators must reform Medicaid, pensions, pass a budget

* Our Opinion: A sense of urgency at the Capitol

* State Considers Tax Break To Video Game Industry: Illinois lawmakers are talking about spending cuts. But they’re also advancing a tax break for one industry. Video games are a huge business. So much that 20 different institutions in Illinois offer classes that teach how to design them. But few jobs are available in this state. Senator Toi Hutchinson, a Democrat from Olympia Fields, is pushing a tax credit for video game companies that set up shop in Illinois… Actually, about 15 states have them. Hutchinson points out Electronic Arts, one of the biggest game makers, left the Chicago area in 2008. She says her plan won’t cost taxpayers, as the credit only would apply once the number of employees goes above a certain level. But not everyone agrees with it. Some Republicans say the state should consider breaks for small businesses, including a roll back of the state’s income tax.

* Medicaid cuts threaten nursing home reforms, advocates say

* Thousands will feel pinch of Illinois’ Medicaid cuts

* Medicaid: Cuts Now, Some Revenue Soon?

* Lenders: High rates key to payday loan business

* Point: Gambling expansion bill is based on ‘supply and demand’

* Counterpoint: Gambling expansion bill is a continuation of failed policies

* Editorial: Put the skids on massive gambling expansion

* Beloit, Rockford casino supporters push ahead

* Word on the Street: Gaming laws catch officials unaware

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      


Did Emanuel open the door to Cub deal?

Monday, May 28, 2012

* Sun-Times

It looks like the controversy over Joe Ricketts’ conservative politics won’t stand in the way of a $300 million deal to renovate Wrigley Field, but it could pave the way for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to play hardball with the Cubs.

With Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts running around doing damage control and admittedly in a weakened political position, it’s advantage Emanuel — which is precisely where Chicago’s controlling mayor likes to be. […]

Emanuel said “the point has been made” and that he sees no need to prolong the dispute, nor will he allow the controversy to sabotage Wrigley negotiations that were rounding third and heading home before Joe Ricketts started the political fire.

“We will [talk] at the appropriate time. … At the appropriate time, they’ll represent their interests, and I’ll represent the taxpayers,” the mayor said.

* Greg Hinz is a bit dubious, and so, by the way, am I

In his comments today, Mr. Emanuel is quoted as saying “the point has been made” and that he “will (talk to the team about Wrigley) at the appropriate time.”

I wouldn’t want to read too much into that. The “appropriate time” might never arrive.

But Tom Ricketts took it as a good sign.

In an interview earlier today on the Mully and Hanley Show on WSCR-AM/670, Mr. Ricketts said he had “pretty good discussions” with the city until the flap. “We need to keep going and put it behind us,” he said.

* And the Tribune wants it slow-walked

A Cubs deal needs to be vetted thoroughly and publicly, in the interest of not treating taxpayers as an ATM.

Take your time, get it right. And then let’s all have a long talk about it.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      


Sorry, Grover

Monday, May 28, 2012

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column was due before the House vote on the cigarette tax hike. So while there is no House vote total in the piece, the prediction was solid

As state legislative support for a cigarette tax hike grew in late May, anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist and other conservatives stepped into the Illinois fray.

A top House Republican said over a week ago that the roll call in favor of a dollar a pack cigarette tax hike was in the double digits within his caucus. The tax would raise $700 million, including the federal match, to help close the Medicaid program’s gaping $2.7 billion budget hole.

In return, Republicans won concessions from the Democrats, particularly when it came to sparing doctors from Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposed Medicaid provider rate cuts.

For the past several decades, the House Republicans’ most reliable campaign supporter has been the Illinois State Medical Society. The House GOP always sticks with the docs, no matter what. The Medical Society was against last year’s workers’ compensation reform agreement that the Senate Republicans, including former gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady, supported. The House Republicans sided with the doctors and took a hard line against it. The decision not to cut physicians’ Medicaid payment rates was a huge win for the House Republicans, so they agreed to put votes on the cigarette tax.

Norquist is probably best known for his anti-tax pledge that most Republican members of Congress have signed, and that he aggressively holds them to whenever they start thinking about revenue enhancements. Norquist first allied himself with tobacco companies in the 1990s as part of the national Republican effort to defeat President Bill Clinton’s health care proposal, which was funded in part by a cigarette tax hike. He has since fought against cigarette tax hikes in numerous states.

Cigarette tax hikes are by far the most popular tax increases with the public. A poll of southern Illinois voters taken by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute last year found that 60 percent of them backed a dollar a pack tax hike. A statewide poll taken in 2010 found that 74 percent of Illinoisans - including 71 percent of Republicans - supported a dollar per pack tax increase.

But Joshua Culling, the state-affairs manager for Norquist’s group, wrote that Cross’ caucus could “ruin the GOP brand in the state for a generation” if it backed the cigarette tax increase. “Tom Cross seems content to cut a deal that will further imperil Illinois’s economic outlook while simultaneously eroding the national party’s messaging on the toxicity of Obamacare,” Culling wrote.

Since April, Cross has done several public events outside Springfield and Chicago to urge that President Obama’s health care reform bill be repealed and said he was adamantly opposed to any moves in Illinois to implement the federal law. That refusal led directly to the death of a bipartisan effort by Democratic state Rep. Frank Mautino to set up a health insurance exchange in Illinois.

But Cross’ attempts at appeasing his party’s right wing apparently didn’t go far enough. In a letter sent to supporters, the Illinois Policy Institute’s director singled out Leader Cross for criticism, saying the Medicaid proposal “destroys the credibility of leaders who talk about economic freedom only to vote in favor of more heavy-handed government.”

And the United Republican Fund, one of the oldest and most conservative GOP organizations in the state, also sent out a press release about the Medicaid compromise and the cigarette tax hike. “The time has come for legislators to stop being the unwitting (or intentional) co-conspirators in the slow demise of our great state. The time has come for leadership and courage. For statesmen instead of politicians. For competence instead of compromise.”

The Republican Party’s more pragmatic, governing wing has been in full retreat for the past few years as national politics has invaded state government as part of the GOP’s messaging against the President from Illinois. That aggressive national push has resulted in far more Illinois Statehouse partisanship, so legislators who supported cigarette tax increases in the past, like Senate Republican Leader Chris Radogno, are now vocally against any tax hike of any sort. Her caucus is even against a proposal to close a loophole that allows commercial roll your own cigarette operations to avoid most state sales taxes.

But, in Illinois, some things still trump national party interests. The Medical Society is one of those things. Sorry, Grover. You may have all the Washington, DC Republicans scared out of their wits, but things are a little different here.

* Related…

* The Medicaid money trail?: Roughly 16 percent of the state’s 47,000 doctors aren’t signed up for the program. Even among those who are, the overwhelming majority infrequently see patients, leaving the care concentrated in the hands of a few, according to a Crain’s analysis of payment records. About 25 percent of Medicaid doctors account for just 0.4 percent of the $2.8 billion paid from 2009 through 2011 and make less than $1,400 a year in the program, Crain’s finds. At the other end, the top 10 percent of Medicaid earners received more than 55 percent of the total payments, making at least $70,000 a year, the analysis shows. The shortage of doctors, particularly specialists, is likely to get worse, experts say. In 2014, an estimated 611,000 additional residents will be eligible for Medicaid, a 22 percent increase over the 2.7 million people with full benefits under the Illinois program. Meanwhile, the rising number of aging baby boomers already is increasing demand for doctors.

* IL House approves cigarette tax hike

* House OKs cigarette tax hike

* Illinois House OKs higher cigarette tax

* Illinois poised to hike cigarette tax by $1 a pack to fund healthcare

* House approves cigarette tax increase

* Governor Pat Quinn Statement on House of Representatives Passage of Cigarette Tax

* House Votes To Make Smokers Pay More

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      


*** LIVE SESSION COVERAGE ***

Monday, May 28, 2012

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


And, we’re back…

Monday, May 28, 2012

* The House is in at noon, the Senate returns at 2 o’clock. Committee are scheduled until 4 o’clock. Here are some late Morning Shorts from my intern Owen Irwin…

* `You shouldn’t be a legislator!’ Illinois lawmaker tells colleague: “I want to know why you’re allowed to do something when someone else isn’t,” Mulligan said in floor debate, looking across the House chamber at Sente. Mulligan suggested that “because you’re considered a target, you’re getting special treatment” from the Democratic leadership of the House. A “target” is an incumbent who the other party considers to be weak enough to possibly be defeated in the next election. As a Democrat from the northern suburbs of Chicago, Sente is part of an endangered species. After Mulligan pressed Sente on whether that was the reason she was being allowed to sponsor the popular legislation, Sente shook her head slightly and didn’t respond. That angered Mulligan, who said to rising shouts from both sides of the chamber: “You should answer questions or you shouldn’t be a legislator!”

* State legislators clamp down on student loan defaulters

* Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon: State needs long-term investment in students

* Finke: Tuition waivers up until end

* Erickson: Scholarships, pay hard cuts to make

* Business incentives transparency bill goes to Quinn

* Quinn gets bill giving courts access to HIV results

* Illinois woman can’t be sued over fake online personas

* Schoenberg sales-tax fraud measure would recover millions, prosecute offenders

* Invasive plants targeted in new boating law

* Bernard Schoenburg: Durbin likes how campaign is unfolding

* Unemployment Falls In Illinois Metro Areas

* Health Advocates Push For Carbon Emission Standards At Coal Plants

* Editorial: Pay Chicago cops overtime for NATO summit duty

* Judge who dropped out of race appointed to seat

* Community Leaders, Funding Partners Celebrate Groundbreaking for Myers Place – a New $13.2 Million Housing Development in Northwest Suburban Chicago

- Posted by Rich Miller   2 Comments      


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