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More poll numbers from Crain’s

Wednesday, Jun 27, 2012

* Crain’s has some new poll numbers out about Gov. Pat Quinn’s job approval and disapproval ratings. But deciphering the results is a bit difficult

Only 23 percent say they approve (including 5 percent who strongly approve), versus 46 percent who are dissatisfied with the governor. But 24 percent have mixed feelings and 7 percent say they’re not sure.

That “mixed feelings” category basically lets respondents cop out of taking a stand. Plus, they already have categories like “lean toward disapprove” and “lean toward approve” that are, by definition, mixed feelings.

* Some of you pointed out yesterday that these are Internet polls. I asked Greg Hinz about the topic…

The sample is randomly selected from Ipsos’ data base, weighted to Illinois’ current population of adults by gender, age, education, ethnicity and region.

* Back to the poll. While 28 percent say the corruption problem is “getting a little better” and 38 percent said it was staying the same, 17 percent said it was “getting much worse”

* Check out the wrong track numbers

* Also, according to the poll, 53 percent either strongly or somewhat disapprove of the way Gov. Quinn is handling gas prices. Not sure what that means.

Go check out all the poll questions and get back to us with your thoughts.

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      

A very good law

Wednesday, Jun 27, 2012

* I think I may have told you that my mom worked for the Department of Defense as a civilian when I was a teenager. Because of this, I went to three different high schools as we bounced around the country and then moved to Europe (where I graduated high school). My brother Devin went to three different 1st Grades at one point.

So, I do have some experience with the problems that military families face as they move from place to place. This new Illinois law should be a big help to many of those families. From a press release

Senate Bill 275, sponsored by Illinois State Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and State Representative Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley), provides for temporary expedited professional and educational licenses for active duty members of the military and their spouses. State agencies that issue occupational licenses, including the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation and the State Board of Education, will be able to grant temporary licenses to military members and spouses who hold credentials in other states in more than 50 professions, such as teachers, doctors, nurses, dentists, plumbers, paramedics, social workers, dieticians and therapists. […]

In addition to temporary, 6-month licenses, the Act allows IDFPR to consider all relevant experience and training a servicemember has gained through military service towards meeting certain permanent state licensing requirements. These provisions will help military members and their spouses more easily navigate the patchwork of non-uniform regulations across all 50 states. The law takes effect Jan. 1.

* From the blog

The First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden spoke to the nation’s Governors and their spouses in February about how they could support military spouses by making it easier for their licenses to transfer as they move from state to state.

You can appreciate that there are hundreds of issues that the First Lady and Dr. Biden could have addressed but they focused on supporting our nation’s military spouses and in this case the 100,000 military spouses in the country who serve in professions that require state licenses.

Back in February, only 11 states had pro-spouse legislation in-place.

[Yesterday], Illinois became the 23rd state to adopt pro-military spouse license portability measures.

* Background

In states without the eased restrictions, military spouses spend too much time compiling and transferring documents and being retested, and many decide it’s too much trouble, Marcus Beauregard, the Defense Department’s state liaison chief, told American Forces Press Service in a June 22 interview. “We started looking at how to truncate that time,” he said.

States require licenses for those in virtually every medical occupation, as well as teaching, social work, cosmetology and other fields, and the requirements vary from state to state, Beauregard said. Of working military spouses, one-third work in fields that require licenses, and most of those are medical, he said.

To ease the burden, some new state laws allow military spouses to transfer an out-of-state license with an endorsement of the office that issued it, Beauregard said, while others will accept the licenses with documents that validate the license or the holder’s clean business record, and other states issue temporary licenses for spouses to do business.

“We don’t ask them to lower any standards,” he said. “We just ask them to encompass military spouses in licensure more quickly.”

* More

“I cannot tell you the number of months I’ve spent waiting around for licensing paperwork to catch up so that I can continue with my own nursing career,” said Courtney Sensenig, of Chicago, who has moved eight times because of her husband’s Navy career.

Sensenig, who is licensed in three states and specializes in obstetrics, said many of her friends have similar stories.

“Some find the process so cumbersome and difficult that they give up and decide not to work in their profession,” she said. “This adds so much hardship to our lives. It’s also a loss … to our community.”

* Here’s a map with states in green that have similar laws or policies. States in yellow are considering legislation this year. States in red have nothing yet…

* This was bipartisan legislation. Senate GOP Leader Christine Radogno attended yesterday’s event with Gov. Quinn and the First Lady, so please keep your comments focused on the law, not the stupid DC talking points. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      

Speculation, spin abound on Jackson, Jr.

Wednesday, Jun 27, 2012

* WLS Radio

[Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. spokesman Frank Watkins] told Dempsey that the reason his office waited for two weeks to make the announcement was because of “family considerations.”

* Sneed

U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s sudden “medical” leave of absence this month is due to a case of the “shpilkes.”

◆Translation: Jackson’s got the jitters.

◆Explanation: Jackson’s litany of ailments, which includes a tough political schedule, a shaky marriage and a federal probe — also includes a past history of adultery. That can cause a stapled stomach to reflux over news the feds arrested his buddy, Raghuveer Nayak, a top Dem fund-raiser who flew Jackson’s “social acquaintance” to Chicago on at least two occasions.

* Tribune

Jackson’s surgery was a duodenal switch, which involves removing part of the stomach and reconfiguring the intestine to reduce the size of the small bowel. The procedure changes how the body absorbs nutrients, and lack of absorption of some vitamins and minerals can cause fatigue, doctors said.

“People who undergo gastric bypass surgery often have chronic problems with nutritional deficiency and may lack micronutrients like iron, calcium, vitamin B complex and may need to be on vitamin supplements,” said Dr. David Zich, a doctor of internal medicine and emergency medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “It takes careful attention to diet, and for people who have varying schedules and are constantly on the go, oftentimes a diet is the first to go when we are rushing and trying to meet a schedule.”

* Carol Marin

Ald. Sandi Jackson, the congressman’s wife, has acknowledged to Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mike Sneed that this has been a very difficult time for the couple.

* NBC 5 did manage to get something beyond the standard spin from Jackson’s office

“Some people think it’s suspect, but ironically, we were going to acknowledge last week that the congressman was going to take a leave. In fact, we were prepared to make a statement last week when the news broke that Nayak was arrested, but we postponed that announcement, because this has nothing to do with the Nayak arrest. There’s no connection between the two,” said Bryant.

* And CBS2 has more on the timing

Although it’s only been a day since Jackson announced he’s suffering from exhaustion and has been on medical leave, House Minority Whip U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said he was first told of the situation last Friday.

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      

Question of the day

Wednesday, Jun 27, 2012

* The setup

Indiana’s Republican Governor, Mitch Daniels, once considered a potential candidate for U.S. president, will become the next president of Purdue University after a vote by the school’s board of trustees on Thursday.

Daniels will become the 12th president in Purdue’s 143-year history in January at the end of his second term as governor, his spokeswoman, Jane Jankowski, said. His salary as governor is $107,000

Purdue trustee and search committee chairman Michael Berghoff said Daniels, 63, was recruited for the job and was interviewed at length three times, earning the unanimous support of the search committee.

* The Question: What do you think Gov. Pat Quinn will do in retirement? Snark is heavily encouraged, of course.

- Posted by Rich Miller   161 Comments      

Question of the day

Tuesday, Jun 26, 2012

* From an e-mail that I just now received…

Celente Launches 2nd American Revolution:
Puts His Money Where His Heart Is

KINGSTON, NY, 26 June 2012 — Gerald Celente’s forecast is clear – The 2nd American Revolution is on the horizon. And this American Patriot has done more than just sign up to join the fight, he’s established its headquarters.

Inspired by its potent symbolic value, Celente has purchased the 1750s “Franz Roggen House,” a stately stone colonial set on the northeast corner of John and Crown Streets, in Kingston’s historic Stockade District. This is the only intersection in the United States that boasts pre-revolutionary stone buildings on all four corners.

“Kingston played a critical role in the 1st American Revolution and was, for a short while, the capitol of New York State,” observes Celente. “Here is where I’m taking my stand to start the 2nd American Revolution.”

And how is Celente going to win the 2nd American Revolution? With a voter strike…

“Stay Home, Don’t Vote!”

Celente’s Revolutionary call to arms begins with a voter’s strike. “Stay Home, Don’t Vote” is his campaign slogan. “People have been conned into believing that if you don’t vote you’ve lost the right to complain. That’s political baloney,” fumes Celente. “The true case is exactly the opposite. This is a two-headed, one party system. Republican or Democrat, considering their track records, it’s clear nothing can be expected from either Presidential candidate other than the perpetuation of the destructive and criminal policies that have brought America to its current state of perpetual crisis and socioeconomic decline. Ditto for Congress.”

“What self-respecting person would cast a vote for a lesser of two evils?” asks Celente. “Not only is it immoral and undignified, it’s destructive. Lesser or greater, evil is evil. By supporting one evil or the other, the voter becomes an accessory to the crime. Only a true intellectual revolution can restore dignity, trust, morality, decency and compassion.”

“Anything else is just more of the same. Stay Home, Don’t Vote!”

* The Question: What other off-the-wall political ideas have you heard lately?

- Posted by Rich Miller   52 Comments      

It may sound hinky, but it’s not unusual at all

Tuesday, Jun 26, 2012

* Some candidates are being kicked off a southern Illinois county’s ballot, and the GOP is crying foul

A Democrat-controlled election board in a southern Illinois county has kicked four Republican candidates off the November ballot for using paper clips instead of staples on their filings.

The Jackson County GOP calls the action by the county’s election board undemocratic.

The appointed board is comprised of State’s Attorney Mike Wepsiec, Sheriff Robert Burns and Clerk Larry Reinhardt. It disqualified GOP candidates for county board, circuit clerk, coroner and state’s attorney.

* The Illinois Republican Party has got itself in an uproar about Speaker Madigan-style “bully tactics.” From a press release…

Southern Illinois Democrats use Madigan’s bully tactics to kick women off ballot in local races

Examples of the complete disregard Southern Illinois Democrats have for open and transparent elections continue to surface. We already know that the Democratic chairmen in the 12th Congressional District are knighting their candidate behind closed doors, but this week we learned Speaker Madigan’s “Chicago-bully” practices of the 1970’s has now been exported to local races in Southern Illinois.

Speaker Madigan’s allies in Jackson County are resorting to backroom tactics to remove legitimate candidates from the ballot in local elections. “This is also an apparent ‘war on women’ Madigan has launched in Southern Illinois. This is the first complete slate of candidates on the ballot by the GOP in Jackson County, led by Chairwoman Gloria Campos and includes Illinois Federation of Republican Women member Terri Bryant,” said Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady.

“I’m not surprised by this move at all,” added Brady. “Mike Madigan and Pat Quinn have already exported all of the jobs out of Southern Illinois, the only thing they could import is their ‘1970’s Chicago-style’ form of democracy.”

* OK, this is what Illinois state law has to say about petition sheets

Such sheets before being filed shall be neatly fastened together in book form, by placing the sheets in a pile and fastening them together at one edge in a secure and suitable manner, and the sheets shall then be numbered consecutively.

* From an old buddy who is an election law attorney and has worked for both Democrats and Republicans…

“The statute does not say staples and most of the pros do not use staples.

“Whether they are securely fastened together is sometimes tested by grabbing a portion and holding it up and see whether the rest of the package follows. Anything with paper clips will not. Binder clips, maybe, etc. I use ACCO binders, heavy gauge wire, nylon reinforced athletic shoe laces, etc.”

Like it or not, paper clips just don’t really cut it under state law. Maybe the law should be changed. I don’t know. We have a whole lot of election laws that almost look like they were designed by lawyers to guarantee plenty of income opportunities for themselves and to disadvantage candidates who can’t afford attorneys. But it is what it is.

- Posted by Rich Miller   66 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 - Walker also tones it down *** Indiana tones down boasts as poaching effort appears to stall

Tuesday, Jun 26, 2012

* Way back in October of 2011, the Indiana Business Journal did a story on the Hoosier State’s attempts at poaching businesses from Illinois. The story included this number

So far this year, 16 Illinois businesses have said they plan to consolidate or locate operations in Indiana, creating a projected 1,564 jobs in the state, according to the Indiana Economic Development Corp. That includes four consolidations or relocations in central Indiana that are projected to yield as many as 424 jobs. [Emphasis added.]

Back then, Indiana officials were crowing constantly about their attempts to woo businesses and jobs from Illinois

Within three days of Illinois’ decision to raise personal and corporate income taxes, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. received 30 unsolicited e-mails from companies interested in exploring business opportunities in Indiana. One of the e-mails, said Indiana Secretary of Commerce Mitch Roob, lamented: “The new marketing slogan for Illinois must be: ‘Come for the higher taxes, stay for the corruption.’”

Also from back then

Daniels told WLS Radio’s The Don and Roma Show, that while Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants a casino to stop Chicagoans from gambling in Hammond, Indiana, Emanuel should have other concerns.

“What he ought to worry more about is the stampede of businesses leaving Illinois. You know your traffic gal Wendy left out one traffic hazard, you stand near the state line now you might get hit by a moving van,” Daniels said Thursday.

“We are talking and signing up businesses left and right…”

* But Indiana has a new commerce secretary these days, and he’s being a bit more diplomatic about his state’s activities

Indiana Commerce Secretary Dan Hasler, a former executive at the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and an Illinois native, said Indiana never had a goal for the number of businesses it wanted to poach.

“I think it’s about what we expected,” Hasler said of the 1,563 jobs and $294.1 million in investments that firms with Illinois connections plan to make in Indiana. “The situation for a business operating in Illinois and Indiana is so dramatically different. [Emphasis added.]

“I was just with a group of site selectors this morning. I said, ‘You know what, everyone wants Illinois to do better.’ We are better served by a strong Midwest than just a strong Indiana.

“I can guarantee you most people in China don’t know about Indiana. But they have heard about the Midwest, the breadbasket, the heartland of America, Chicago, that’s what we need strong, and we will all benefit from that. But some of our neighboring states need to get their game on.”

And check out the numbers highlighted in the first and last excerpts. In October of last year, Indiana officials claimed their state had poached 1,564 jobs from Illinois. Several months later, their number is one job less than that: 1,563.

Kinda makes you wonder whether Indiana’s poaching effort has stalled, or their numbers can’t be believed.

*** UPDATE *** Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is also taking a far more conciliatory approach these days

Mr. Walker sought to downplay recent friction with Mr. Quinn, which arose after the two governors battled over who would be home to specific companies and plants.

“I’m not here to poach businesses,” Mr. Walker said. In fact, “it’s in our best interests to have a strong Illinois and particularly Chicago.”

The reason is that Chicago’s international stature helps lure companies to the region that otherwise never would have considered locating in Wisconsin, Mr. Walker said. If they come to Chicago, they may expand north of the border.

Will wonders never cease?

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      

Illinois’ energy and economic future is looking brighter than ever

Tuesday, Jun 26, 2012

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- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      

Report: Chicago taxpayers pay $274 a year for teacher pensions, while everyone else pays $110

Tuesday, Jun 26, 2012

* The Sun-Times’ Abdon Pallasch takes a look at the disparities caused by the state picking up the employer contribution tab for suburban and Downstate schools, while not doing so for Chicago

Most Chicago property taxpayers pay $164 a year more than their suburban and downstate counterparts under the state’s uneven teacher pension funding system, according to numbers the Chicago Public Schools provided to the Sun-Times. […]

(E)very year through state income taxes, sales taxes and other fees paid to the state, the average Illinois resident — including Chicago residents — pays $110 a year to fund the pensions of suburban and downstate teachers, according to estimates Gov. Quinn’s budget office provided to the Sun-Times. […]

In Chicago, the Chicago Public Schools funds its teacher pensions without help from the state based on money it collects from taxes on Chicago property owners.

That means the average property owner in Chicago pays $164 a year, according to estimates by the Chicago Public Schools.

That means Chicago residents pay twice — once to the state for suburban and downstate teachers and once to the city for Chicago teachers.

Suburban and downstate residents pay only once.

The CPS’ pension fund does get some state money, but that wasn’t calculated in the report.


* Related…

* School officials dispute governor’s take on ‘reserve’ funds: Carol Baker, Urbana’s director of business, said the data doesn’t take into account that the school district is holding onto money from Carle Physician Group’s property taxes, which are being disputed in court. “We can’t spend it,” Baker said, because the school district may have to pay it back on short notice. Plus, Baker said, money intended for transportation or building improvements can’t be spent to pay for pensions. “It’s a huge generalization to say that money is available,” Baker said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      

Ethics board fines Assessor Berrios $10,000

Tuesday, Jun 26, 2012

* The Sun-Times obtained a Cook County Board of Ethics report that blasts Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios for showing a “knowing and flagrant disregard of both the letter and spirit of the ethical standards that all public officials are required to adhere to” for hiring his sister and his son. The board fined Berrios, who is also the Cook County Democratic Party Chairman, $10,000. The full report is here. AP’s summary

The Cook County ethics board has ordered the county’s assessor to fire two of the three relatives who work in the government tax office.

Joe Berrios was elected in 2010 to run the office. The Chicago Sun-Times reports the ethics board determined Berrios violated his fiduciary duties as well as a prohibition on hiring relatives laid out in the county’s ethics ordinance.

The Sun-Times reports it obtained a “confidential” document with the ethics board’s finding. The report, signed by ethics board chairwoman Roseann Oliver, concluded the hiring by Berrios of his family members as county employees undermined the public trust.

* But, according to the Sun-Times, Berrios is unrepentant

Berrios, learned about the report when the Sun-Times contacted him Monday. He shrugged it off saying the ethics board doesn’t have jurisdiction over his office.

“To me it’s not big deal, because I’ve been told by the state’s attorney they have no power over us,” Berrios said, adding: “In fact the state’s attorney hired outside counsel for me in this case.”

Asked whether he’s going to consider removing his relatives from the payroll, Berrios said: “I’m not going to do anything until my attorney tells me what the hell I should do.”

He said his relatives work 40 hours a week and were “instrumental” in helping the county get second installment tax bills, set to arrive in property owners’ mailboxes in the coming days, out on time — the first time in 30-plus years. The assessor sets the value of real estate for taxing purposes.

“I expect more out of them than anybody who works for me.”

He says his relatives are more than qualified to do the job, noting that they worked for him when he was at the county’s tax appeals Board of Review and the ethics board didn’t come after him then. He also notes that he didn’t technically “hire” his relatives, but instead “transferred” them to his office.

Berrios adamantly denies he’s an old-school politician stacking the payroll with friends and family.

“If I was an old school politician, I would have picked up the phone, had someone else hire them and I wouldn’t even be answering these questions,” Berrios said.

* This is from January

Berrios insists he cleared things with human resources officials and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, and says that while some job titles may have changed, the jobs did not

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      

Congressman Jackson discloses leave of absence two weeks into the leave of absence

Tuesday, Jun 26, 2012

* This was one odd press release

U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. began a medical leave of absence from Congress on June 10 and is being treated for exhaustion, his office said on Monday.

The offices of the Chicago Democrat, who has served in Congress since 1995, remain open to serve constituents, said a statement from Jackson spokesman Frank Watkins.

“He asks that you respect his family’s privacy,” the statement said.

* So, he’s been out of action for two weeks? And he’s just now telling anybody? There’s much speculation about what caused this “exhaustion,” but the Sun-Times reports it’s about his marriage

Exhausted and, according to a friend, fighting to save his marriage, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. announced Monday he’s been on a previously-undisclosed medical leave of absence for the past two weeks.

“I know he has been under a lot of pressure,” said a Jackson friend in Washington, D.C. “He’s been fighting really hard to save his marriage. And he had a tough election. There’s been a lot of stuff.”

* Jackson’s office is denying that the leave had anything to do with lsat week’s arrest of an old friend

Just last week, a longtime friend of Jackson’s, Raghuveer Nayak, was arrested on federal fraud charges involving Nayak’s surgical centers. Nayak was at the center of the U.S. Senate seat scandal that sent former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to prison.

But Nayak has already flipped on Jackson, and the feds have never pursued charges against the congressman, so it seemed like the guy was in the clear, at least with the FBI. He’s still facing ethics complaints in the House. But this is still pretty odd

News of his illness came as a surprise, as his office has repeatedly sent out press releases quoting him and his Twitter account has been active even while he has been on leave.

* Jackson has a history of being tight-lipped, by the way

Seven years ago, Jackson took even longer to publicly disclose medical treatment. In March 2005, he ended weeks of speculation by revealing that his trimmed-down figure was the result of weight-loss surgery performed about three months earlier. Jackson underwent a duodenal switch, described as a minimally invasive surgery that involves cutting out a part of a patient’s stomach.

* Meanwhile, in other scandal news

A House committee charged with determining possible discipline for indicted Rep. Derrick Smith will convene for the first time this week.

The House Select Committee on Discipline will meet at 10 a.m. Wednesday in Chicago.

It’s the second step in a process that allows the House of Representatives to determine if Smith should face some kind of professional discipline.

Smith, a Chicago Democrat, was indicted in April on a federal bribery charge, after authorities recorded him allegedly accepting a $7,000 bribe. The case is pending in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois.

The first phase of the process involved the House Special Investigating Committee, which was formed to look into the allegations against Smith and determine if there was enough evidence to proceed with possible discipline. Members of that committee announced June 6 that there was sufficient reason to move forward.

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      

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Tuesday, Jun 26, 2012

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Tuesday, Jun 26, 2012

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Question of the day

Monday, Jun 25, 2012

* It’s boring around here today. Let’s do a caption contest instead of a question. Madigan usually spices things up, so have at it…

- Posted by Rich Miller   66 Comments      

Dems go with Enyart, but did they do themselves any favors?

Monday, Jun 25, 2012

* As expected, retired National Guard General Bill Enyart got the nod for the 12th District Democratic slot

Democratic leaders on Saturday chose Belleville attorney and retired Illinois National Guard Commander Bill Enyart as the party’s nominee in the race for the 12th Congressional District seat in southern Illinois. […]

Democrats had to find a new nominee after Brad Harriman dropped out last month for medical reasons. Incumbent Rep. Jerry Costello, who is retiring after 24 years in office, was a member of the selection committee.

Enyart, who will face Republican Jason Plummer this fall, said he’s ready to hit the campaign trail.

“We can’t buy this election, but we can outwork them,” said Enyart, who has never held elected public office.

* Enyart immediately hit Plummer on a sore spot

During the interview with the panel, Enyart said he would be willing to release his tax records — something Plummer has taken political heat for failing to do.

Enyart said that he had copies of tax records from 1983 and would contact the IRS to get records that date back even further.

“I challenge Jason Plummer to do the same,” he said.

* But Plummer isn’t going to a be a pushover, no matter how infamous that WTTW interview made him. He has a statewide campaign and a congressional primary under his belt. Enyart has never run for anything. Plummer has raised a bunch of money, the US Chamber is pumping cash into his effort, and he has a ground game. Enyart has nothing. Plummer will win more votes than a usual Republican would in Madison County because he’s from there and his father is very bigtime. And the Democrats really needed somebody who could appeal to the more “southern” counties outside the Metro East. I don’t think they did that here. Enyart is an unknown, untested candidate up against a battle-tested, well-funded opponent.

Enyart is still better than Harriman, but the Democrats, so far, appear to have only marginally increased their chances against Plummer. I’d say, right now, it still leans in the Republican’s favor there.

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      

Poll: No cost shift, but reform pensions

Monday, Jun 25, 2012

* Crain’s has a new poll. Here’s one of the results for the hot-button issue that’s supposedly holding up pension reform talks

Asked whether teacher pensions should be paid for through state taxes, equalizing the pension bill everywhere, or through raising local taxes so that each school district pays only for its own teachers, 45 percent back the current state system, with 28 percent preferring a switch to local funding. A relatively high 28 percent say they don’t know what to do or have no opinion.

Crain’s didn’t publish its exact questions, but a phrase like “equalizing the pension bill everywhere” could easily lead respondents into being for the status quo. It’s also not true. “Everywhere” in Illinois would necessarily include Chicago. And the state doesn’t currently pick up Chicago’s share of the employer pension contribution.

It also appears that lots of people just don’t understand this situation. It hasn’t been debated nearly as much as most other pension issues, mainly because nobody ever talked about the fact that Chicago pays its employer share into its pension fund, while the state picks up the employer share for suburban and Downstate schools.

* Overall, though, Illinoisans want to reform the current pension program, according to the poll

* They do disagree somewhat on the details

* From Crain’s

Presented with four options that lawmakers have discussed to offset the pension plans’ collective $83 billion in unfunded liabilities, survey respondents give majority support to only one, with 57 percent saying that workers should have to contribute 3 percent more from their paychecks to keep their current pension benefits; 26 percent say no.

But pushing back the retirement age to 67 draws only 47 percent support (with 20 percent strongly backing that option) and 37 percent opposed. And asked whether workers should be forced to choose between paying 3 percent more or losing their state-provided retirement health care, Illinois residents are split 42 percent against and 40 percent in favor. The difference is well within the poll’s credibility interval of plus or minus 4.9 percent.

Similarly, those surveyed reject a measure now pending in pension talks in Springfield that would require local school districts and taxpayers to pick up teacher retirement costs that now are funded by the state.


- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      

Grants for budget votes

Monday, Jun 25, 2012

* When the House Republicans pulled their support for the budget over a disagreement on pension reform, the House Democrats had to find votes to pass a very lean budget without GOP help. That meant freeing up a bit of money for pet projects. The AP has a story today on some of those line items

A close look at the state budget shows a handful of grants that take money away from general services and divert it to specific groups: $400,000 for a neighborhood development group on Chicago’s south side, $1.1 million to bus children to religious schools, $750,000 for a commission on Latino families. The list goes on. […]

The Chicagoland Regional College Program is supposed to get $2 million. The program provides financial aid to students who attend one of six Chicago-area colleges and who also work at a UPS shipping facility in Hodgkins, southwest of Chicago.

How will the money be used? Which legislator asked for it to be put in the budget? An administrator with the program said they would not discuss the issue until Gov. Pat Quinn signs the budget into law.

The budget includes $400,000 for the Brainerd Community Development Corp. on Chicago’s south side. The group shares a building with Democratic Rep. Monique Davis, who has a track record of arranging state aid for the organization. The Chicago Sun-Times has reported that Brainerd employees have collected signatures for her nominating petitions, examined opponents’ petitions and donated to her campaign.

Davis said through an aide that the grant will help Brainerd Community Development provide job training, GED classes, computer courses and other services for the neighborhood. But she would not answer questions about how the grant came to be included in the budget.

* Meanwhile, some people still say they haven’t seen any budget cuts. They do exist. For instance

Jeff Squibb, spokesman for the state Department of Agriculture, said agriculture’s budget has been reduced by 40 percent since 2008

* Related…

* State’s fiscal woes impact ag department

* SJ-R: Approve fees to help DNR

* Up in smoke: Tobacco taxes

* Activists applaud Quinn for closing Tamms

- Posted by Rich Miller   11 Comments      

Unlimited corporate spending still legal after Supremes weigh in

Monday, Jun 25, 2012

* Montana strikes out

The Supreme Court on Monday reaffirmed its 2-year-old decision allowing corporations to spend freely to influence elections. The justices struck down a Montana law limiting corporate campaign spending.

By a 5-4 vote, the court’s conservative justices said the decision in the Citizens United case in 2010 applies to state campaign finance laws and guarantees corporate and labor union interests the right to spend freely to advocate for or against candidates for state and local offices. […]

The same five justices said in 2010 that corporations have a constitutional right to be heard in election campaigns. The decision paved the way for unlimited spending by corporations and labor unions in elections for Congress and the president, as long as the dollars are independent of the campaigns they are intended to help. The decision, grounded in the freedom of speech, appeared to apply equally to state contests.

But Montana aggressively defended its 1912 law against a challenge from corporations seeking to be free of spending limits, and the state Supreme Court sided with the state. The state court said a history of corruption showed the need for the limits, even as Justice Anthony Kennedy declared in his Citizens United opinion that independent expenditures by corporations “do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”

* From Justice Breyer’s dissent, which was joined by Ginsburg, Sotomaor and Kagan…

In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Court concluded that “independent expenditures, includ­ing those made by corporations, do not give rise to corrup­tion or the appearance of corruption.” 558 U. S. ___, ___ (2010) (slip op., at 42). I disagree with the Court’s holding for the reasons expressed in Justice Stevens’ dissent in that case. As Justice Stevens explained, “technically in­ dependent expenditures can be corrupting in much the same way as direct contributions.” Id., at ___ (slip op., at 67–68). Indeed, Justice Stevens recounted a “substantial body of evidence” suggesting that “[m]any corporate independent expenditures . . . had become essentially inter­changeable with direct contributions in their capacity to generate quid pro quo arrangements.” Id., at ___ (slip op., at 64–65).

Moreover, even if I were to accept Citizens United, this Court’s legal conclusion should not bar the Montana Su­preme Court’s finding, made on the record before it, that independent expenditures by corporations did in fact lead to corruption or the appearance of corruption in Montana. Given the history and political landscape in Montana, that court concluded that the State had a compelling interest in limiting independent expenditures by corporations.

- Posted by Rich Miller   59 Comments      

No trade, but a lack of good will

Monday, Jun 25, 2012

* I saw some news reports last week and decided to follow up. Here’s my statewide syndicated newspaper column

Several downstate Illinois legislators were furious last week that Gov. Pat Quinn decided to go ahead and close some state facilities, including prisons, in their districts.

They weren’t just upset about the lost jobs, however. Some also claim Quinn broke an agreement regarding the closings.

“If the governor proceeds with this, he has gone back on his word,” Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) told a crowd gathered to protest the planned closures last week.

Bost and others indicated that the deal was made over revenue issues but didn’t get more specific. Bost did not return a phone call, but he was almost surely referring to the cigarette tax increase.

“We believe the governor’s office was working members for votes on certain legislative initiatives in exchange for keeping facilities open,” said Sara Wojcicki Jimenez, spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego).

She said there was no deal discussed among the four legislative leaders and the governor, but she did say when pressed that the cigarette tax hike was among those “legislative initiatives.”

Bost and several other House Republicans voted for the $1-per-pack tax hike, which received the bare minimum majority of 60 votes in that chamber. The roll call was carefully structured in a bipartisan manner so the bill could pass without forcing politically endangered members to vote in favor of it.

No Senate Republicans voted for the cigarette tax increase, but the Senate Democrats have repeatedly passed cigarette tax hikes on their own in the past. The House Democrats couldn’t (or wouldn’t) muster enough votes to do so.

“False,” replied Kelly Kraft, a top official with the governor’s budget office, when told of the supposed dealings between Quinn and some GOP House members.

There were a ton of rumors floating around during the last few days of the spring session on what exactly was going on with the facility closures. One downstate Democrat, who represents a district where a prison was slated for closing, insisted that a Quinn administration official had testified in a House committee meeting toward the end of the session that if the General Assembly put money back in the budget to keep the targeted facilities open the governor would probably do so.

But Rep. Luis Arroyo (D-Chicago), who chairs the House Appropriations Public Safety Committee, and the committee’s minority spokesman, Rep. David Reis (R-Ste. Marie), both said no such claim was ever made by the governor’s office at any of their hearings.

Instead, the Quinn official merely said when pressed on the budget question that maybe the administration would consider keeping the facilities open but made clear that she could not speak for the governor, according to Arroyo and Reis.

And it turns out the cigarette tax trade rumors could be false as well.

“To my knowledge there never was a deal,” said Rep. Jim Watson (R-Jacksonville).

Watson was one of the House Republicans who voted for the cigarette tax hike and has a facility in his district that’s slated for closure in August.

Apparently, members on both sides of the aisle attempted to push their leaders to force some sort of a quid pro quo with Quinn on the cigarette tax hike and the facility closings. But that never happened.

Quinn was obviously making deals near the end of the session, so an eagerness to cut a deal on the cigarette tax increase was understandable at the time.

What appears to have happened on the cigarette tax issue was that legislators voted for the higher tax with the hope that it would persuade Quinn to reconsider closing the detention and mental health centers.

Quinn apparently ignored the wishes of the House members who stuck out their necks for him. At the Statehouse, that’s almost as bad as breaking a deal with them.

They probably won’t be helping out the governor any time soon.

* Related…

* Erickson: Springfield insiders speculate Gov. Pat Quinn’s plan to close prisons merely ploy to garner support

- Posted by Rich Miller   11 Comments      

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