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Thursday, Jan 31, 2013

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Quote of the day

Thursday, Jan 31, 2013

* Careful what you pray for

“I don’t have enough words to say thank you. All I can say is I’ll give you my whole heart and soul,” State Sen. Toi Hutchison said Wednesday as a group of African-American ministers prayed that the other black candidates- Robin Kelly, Alderman Anthony Beale and State Senator Napoleon Harris  would remove themselves from the ballot. They believe by having one black candidate, it would be easier for an African-American to win on February 26.

Not long after that prayer, Napoleon Harris dropped out - and endorsed Robin Kelly.

Oops.

Also, after whacking Kelly for accepting Harris’ endorsement, who is pro-life and against gay marriage, you gotta wonder if any of those ministers endorsing Hutchinson feel the same way.

* Related…

* Gun violence a big issue at 2nd District candidates debate

* Gun violence takes center stage in Congressional race

* VIDEO: 2nd CD candidates’ debate

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      


Why did Illinois yank its bond issue?

Thursday, Jan 31, 2013

* Reuters looks into why Illinois withdrew its bond issue this week

Illinois yanked a $500 million general obligation bond issue slated for Wednesday because of credit concerns that could boost its borrowing costs, in the latest financial blow to the state, which has failed to fix its bloated public pensions.

Investment banks that planned to bid on the debt indicated investors would demand higher yields on the 25-year bonds, said John Sinsheimer, Illinois’ capital markets director.

“We were getting indications of higher spreads than we were anticipating,” said Sinsheimer, who declined to discuss specific spread levels. “We felt it was prudent to pull the deal for the time being.”

Illinois is already faced with the highest spreads - 137 basis points in the latest week - over Municipal Market Data’s benchmark triple-A scale among states and cities tracked by MMD, a unit of Thomson Reuters. By contrast, the spread for California, another low-rated, high-debt issuance state, was only 48 basis points in the week ended Jan. 25. […]

Tim McGregor, director of municipal fixed income at Northern Trust, said the state probably would have had little difficulty selling the bonds on Wednesday “with a little bit of yield” given low supplies of debt in the $3.7 trillion municipal market and yield-hungry investors. He added that if Illinois wants to attract lower rates in the market, it needs to fix its finances, particularly pensions.

“Spreads won’t tighten just because they want them to tighten,” he said, adding the state needs to impress the market by tackling pension reforms.

Either way, it was probably prudent to let the furor over the rating reduction die down for a while.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


New way to file taxes for couples in civil unions

Thursday, Jan 31, 2013

* People in civil unions can now file their taxes electronically

[Department of Revenue spokesperson Sue Hofer] said couples in civil unions can file electronically this year as a result of a software upgrade at the revenue agency. Last year, the first tax year for civil unions in Illinois, paper returns were required.

“It’s not fair to say, because you’re in a civil union, you have to file paper returns,” said Hofer.

A “civil union income report” also is required that allows state and federal returns to be matched for online filing.

The revenue department does not separately track civil-union returns, but nearly 5,200 civil unions were reported statewide from the time of legalization in June 2011 through the end of 2012.

* The Civil Rights Agenda responded via press release…

Because the federal government does not recognize civil unions, couples cannot file joint federal tax returns, so each partner in a civil union must prepare their tax returns twice.

“Taxes are such a headache and that is especially true if you are in a civil union,” said Anthony Martinez, Executive Director of The Civil Rights Agenda. “We received a large amount of calls and emails last year asking about filing taxes when a couple is in a civil union. The process is complicated and lengthy and includes the couple doing their taxes twice, once as if they were single and once as if they were married. The process also creates a large amount of unique paperwork. ,We are pleased that the Department has taken steps to ease the burden of filing taxes when you are in a civil union. Hopefully, the new Schedule will make a painstaking process a little bit easier.”

“The fact that there has to be a special schedule created for couples in civil union highlights that civil unions are not equal to marriage,” stated Rick Garcia, Director of the Equal Marriage Illinois Project and Senior Policy Advisor for The Civil Rights Agenda “The couples file their Illinois taxes as if they are married, but then have to use a special schedule that creates extra steps. Although these changes are welcome, we still must point out that civil unions are a separate institution from marriage and do not provide the same rights or responsibilities.”

Thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      


Dems to target Davis

Thursday, Jan 31, 2013

* From a press release…

Building on its successful 2012 record, House Majority PAC today announced it will run political programs in 10 Congressional Districts to target vulnerable Republicans, beginning in 2013. The Republican members of Congress are Michele Bachmann (MN-06), Mike Coffman (CO-06), Gary Miller (CA-31), Rodney Davis (IL-13), Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-08), Michael Grimm (NY-11), Joe Heck (NV-03), David Joyce (OH-14), John Kline (MN-02) and Steve Southerland (FL-02).

Each of these Republicans represents a competitive district and has an out-of-touch, extreme record.

Over the course of 2013, House Majority PAC will execute individually tailored plans in each of these 10 districts, to include earned and paid media, online communications and social networking. These efforts will lay the groundwork for increased political activity leading up to Election Day in 2014.

“In 2012, House Majority PAC built a strong record of success and in 2013 we are ready to hit the ground running to hold these Republicans accountable and communicate with swing voters about their extreme records and backwards priorities,” said Alixandria Lapp, Executive Director of House Majority PAC. “Whether it’s supporting the end of Medicare as we know it, backing tax cuts for the wealthy, working to roll back the clock on women’s rights or opposing stem cell research, these Republicans are simply out of step with the districts they represent. House Majority PAC will work to ensure voters know the truth.”

During the 2012 cycle, House Majority PAC spent approximately $36 million, amassing a record that independent observers termed “impressive” and “winning.” The Democratic candidate won in 63 percent of the races in which House Majority PAC spent a significant sum. And of the 10 races in which House Majority PAC spent the most money, Democrats won eight. [Emphasis added.]

I have my doubts about the potential for success there. The district has a ton of college students, from Bloomington, to Champaign to Edwardsville and everything in between. They tend to vote Democratic, but they don’t vote big in off-year elections. If Davis had lost last year, he’d be my favorite to win in 2014.

But maybe you have a different idea. Let’s hear it.

- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      


Reform and renewal

Thursday, Jan 31, 2013

* Not good

The Illinois Department of Corrections filled a high-ranking prison administrator’s position with a man who had political clout but whose qualifications fell far short of the agency’s own job-description requirements, a state investigation has found.

The Illinois Executive Ethics Commission, in a report released Wednesday, did not name the administrator or the prison where he works. But it indicated he had prior experience only in teaching theater, as an assistant manager at a “movie store,” and managing an office for his father’s political campaign. The report did not name the father.

The agency’s description for the job cited the need for extensive educational and practical experience in criminology, penal administration and prison supervision. Corrections Director S.A. “Tony” Godinez, who is named in the report, acknowledged that the job required the ability to run the entire prison in an emergency.

The commission recommended that Gov. Pat Quinn’s office “take appropriate action” in the case of the employee because he wasn’t qualified. But one of Quinn’s lawyers responded that a review of the employee’s status showed that he “has achieved the requisite education and employment experience” for the job.

It’s the second time in less than three months that Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza has found hiring violations in in the Quinn administration. Meza reported in November that he found 10 violations of hiring law at the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

The report is here.

* Meanwhile

The state’s top ethics watchdog Wednesday accused a campaign consultant for state Sen. Napoleon Harris of misusing family leave time from his state job so he could do legislative campaign work.

State Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza recommended that University Park resident Curtis Thompson be barred from future state employment because of his alleged actions.

“Mr. Thompson sought [family] leave on a fraudulent basis, submitted a false [family leave] form and attempted to cover up his fraudulent activity by stating that he had resigned,” Meza’s report said.

Thompson, a one-time $66,612-a-year administrator at the Department of Central Management Services, obtained family leave time from the agency in January 2012 ostensibly to care for his terminally ill father in Alabama, Meza alleged.

But instead, the report said, Thompson did political work for parts of three months, leading up to the March 20, 2012 Democratic primary where Harris prevailed in a three-way race in the 15th Senate District.

Meza’s report does not explicitly name Harris as the legislative candidate for whom Thompson worked while on family leave from the state, and an aide to Meza would neither confirm nor deny Harris was the candidate.

That report is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      


Schock stumbles on why he opposes gay marriage

Thursday, Jan 31, 2013

* Republican Congressman Aaron Schock reiterated his opposition yesterday to gay marriage during a Springfield media availability. But when asked why he opposed gay marriage, the potential gubernatorial candidate hesitated and stumbled. Watch

He did recover a bit, but overall, not stellar.

Many thanks to BlueRoomStream.com for the video. Subscribers have access to Schock’s complete remarks.

* Related…

* Rep. Schock holding big-bucks GOP fundraiser in Chicago

* VIDEO: Schock Stumps for Moore

* Schock: GOP serious about possible government shutdown

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      


Pampered, spoiled and unable to care for themselves

Thursday, Jan 31, 2013

* Will Caskey, a regular commenter here and one of the state’s top opposition researchers, penned an op-ed for Crain’s about Debbie Halvorson’s self-published memoir “Playing With The Big Boys” and extrapolates what the real problem is in Illinois

I have read her 147-page book and find that it unintentionally provides some insights into how Springfield works — or, more precisely, doesn’t work. Take, for example, her explanation for voting for then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s ill-fated Gross Receipts Tax despite not liking it at all:

    I quickly piped up and said that it was a terrible idea and it wouldn’t work. I was told otherwise and to watch it move through the legislature. Under my breath I was mouthing, ‘Not with my vote’…Those of us on the Senate Executive Committee (which is made up solely of Senate leadership) were pressured to vote on the measure to move it to the full Senate for discussion.

In Ms. Halvorson’s view, her voting record isn’t her fault; then-Senate President Emil Jones or, later, U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi are to blame. Even worse, as the memoirist tells it, Ms. Pelosi didn’t listen to Ms. Halvorson’s advice about her own district […]

Write it down, ladies: “Playing ball with the big boys” means doing whatever the big boys say even when you think it’s awful. And then you lose your election and self-publish a book about it. Ms. Halvorson’s career is a tragedy in two parts: She did what she was told, and then there were consequences.

* The problem

(L)eaders in both legislative chambers in Illinois have an unusual amount of power: Committees are a formality at best, and legislation is almost always advanced as amendments to empty “shell bills” after last-minute deals. Rank-and-file legislators have almost no reason to raise their own money, or advance their own bills and whip their own votes, or show any other typical political skill. All they have to do is show up and vote as they’re told. And it works, right up until they try to move up into Congress, where a decent campaign costs over $2 million and no one is interested in giving them that much money.

That explains what happened to Ms. Halvorson. She went from Springfield to Washington and got clobbered.

And that, in a nutshell, is Illinois: We suck because of strong party leadership, not despite it. Ms. Halvorson and politicians like her are just the logical outcome of a top-heavy power structure. The setup has its benefits, sometimes, when both chambers and the governor have a minimally functional relationship. But whether that relationship exists or not, individual members are free to be knuckleheads, so they are. Democrats in Illinois don’t have to be smart, or good at their own fundraising, or effective at legislating, so they aren’t. When they face tough votes, they complain about having to take them instead of following the best path to re-election. When they have to raise their own money, they complain that the party hasn’t come through. When they face the consequences to their own actions and records, they’re astonished.

* However, it’s not always this way. Kurt Erickson takes a look at how sub-caucuses have often held sway in the Illinois GA

In the frenzied final hours of the 2005 spring session of the Illinois General Assembly, the push to finalize a new state budget suddenly ground to a halt when a bloc of Democratic lawmakers announced they couldn’t support the spending plan.

Without their votes, there was no way the Democratic majority could adopt a budget without Republican input, raising speculation that the session could go into overtime.

Facing the prospect of being stuck in Springfield during the summer months, House Speaker Michael Madigan called the members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus into his private office near the House floor to try to find a way to meet their needs and keep the budget-making process on track. Hours later, members of the caucus announced they were back on board. No terms of the negotiations were ever outlined, but Republicans pointed to the insertion into the budget of hundreds of millions of dollars for local projects as an example of how the deal likely was sealed. […]

The incident is just one example of the role that caucuses can play in the legislative process. And, with Democrats now holding super-majorities in the Senate and the House, the informal coalitions could become an even bigger factor in what gets done and what doesn’t on the floor of the House and Senate. […]

In theory, the majorities held by Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton could allow them to ignore the threat of a veto from the governor.

Cullerton, however, believes the possibility of that happening is “exaggerated’’ because of the diverse nature of the Democratic caucus. In other words, just because they are Democrats doesn’t mean they see eye to eye on every issue.

“We have numerous caucuses. We have to compromise within our caucuses,” Cullerton says.

And last year, Senate Democratic incumbents raised hundreds of thousands of dollars on their own, which was then supplemented by money from their leader. It was quite impressive.

* But, yeah, legislative leaders are often like ward committeemen and their members are like constituents. They are coddled and serviced into submission. And when that doesn’t work, the hammer comes down.

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      


Question of the day

Thursday, Jan 31, 2013

* First, click here and take another look at House Speaker Michael Madigan’s letter to the AFL-CIO about declining to attend the pension reform summit and labor’s response.

* Then, check out the media coverage…

* Madigan letter to unions: Drop dead

* Madigan: Too late for union summit on pensions

* Madigan scolds unions for ‘no cooperation’ on pensions, state’s fiscal plight

* Madigan: ‘No cooperation’ from unions on pensions

* Madigan brushes off labor group’s call for a summit on pensions

* Madigan says ‘no’ to union pension summit

* The Question: Should public employee unions be more willing to negotiate a pension reform deal that doesn’t involve higher taxes and does involve benefit cuts? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.


survey software

- Posted by Rich Miller   140 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Crosstabs and a supplement to today’s edition

Thursday, Jan 31, 2013

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

Thursday, Jan 31, 2013

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