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*** UPDATED x1 *** $100 million to pay off back wages, make CPS pension payment

Thursday, May 29, 2014

[This story has been rewritten after a commenter pointed out something that I missed.]

* Legislators have decided to pay off part of a 2011 debt to state workers

House Bill 3793 contains $50 million that will be used to pay workers at five state agencies who saw their scheduled pay raises canceled in 2011. They’ve been owed the money ever since.

However, the amount is less than half of what is owed to the workers. Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration puts the total amount at $110 million. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees puts it at $112 million. Most, but not all, of the affected workers are members of AFSCME.

But that’s not all they did

It also included $50 million to be applied to the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund, $35 million for school construction grants in Chicago, and $40 million to pay for school maintenance grants for downstate school districts. The bill also contains money for water and sewer projects and to restore a theater in Chicago. […]

“We pay for all the downstate teachers’ retirement money, and we have been giving short shrift to Chicago over the years,” Currie said. “If we were going to fund them the way we’re going to fund their downstate colleagues, we would be spending not $50 million, but $543 million.”

I was orginally incorrect about where that back pay and pension fund money came from. After looking at the bill, the cash was actually appropriated from the General Revenue Fund.

* Back to the capital plan for a second. Sun-Times

The Illinois House has approved legislation that funds continued work on $20 billion worth of capital construction projects and includes spending to help in the renovation of the Uptown Theater and to pay for Chicago teacher pension obligations.

The legislation is part of a $31 billion capital construction program that lawmakers approved in 2009. The package was largely paid for through legalizing video poker, raising taxes on candy, liquor and beauty products and by privatizing the Illinois lottery.

So, in other words, they passed a $31 billion capital plan five years ago, which was designed to spur the state’s economy, and have only spent about a third of the money so far.

* Meanwhile

The Illinois House has voted to expand Medicaid despite Republican concerns about how to pay for it.

Lawmakers voted 75-37 on Wednesday to restore funding for adult dental and podiatry services.

Actually, over a dozen House Republicans voted for the bill

Bost, Cavaletto, Cross, Davidsmeyer, Demmer, David Harris, Hays, McAuliffe, Moffitt, Pritchard, Rosenthal, Senger and Unes.


Senate Bill 741 would rollback several Medicaid program reductions that were cut under sweeping Medicaid reforms approved in 2012. The bill would restore podiatry services and preventative dental care for adults. It would lift the four-prescription limit for people with “severe mental illness.” It would also remove the limit on the number of physical therapy sessions patients can access. The bill allows for more funding for programs that care for children with extensive medical needs, such as those on ventilators. “We are restoring this simply because we have found out from experience that these cuts actually did not save us money. They cost the people of the state of Illinois more money, and they brought suffering and hardship to families. They brought overutilization to our emergency departments and interfered with the delivery of health care to other patients in need,” said Chicago Democratic Rep. Greg Harris, who sponsored the bill. The restorations would cost $221 million upfront. However, the spending would bring in federal matching funds, so Harris said the net cost would be about $125 million in general revenue funding.

Opponents questioned rolling back changes to Medicaid that were put in place to ensure that the system remained sustainable at a time when the state was pushing billions of Medicaid bills from one fiscal year into the next. The reforms now bar the state from shoveling Medicaid bills into future fiscal years. “How are we going to pay for that, and how are we going to sustain the system for the people who need it most?” Rep. Patricia Bellock asked on the House floor today.

Those who have advocated to restore the cuts argue that they do not save the state money in the long run because Medicaid patients are forced to skip preventative care but later call on the system once their health deteriorates into an emergency situation.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Freddie Razzle - Thursday, May 29, 14 @ 10:06 am:

    Bost was on Medicaid bill too.

  2. - Formerly Known As... - Thursday, May 29, 14 @ 10:07 am:

    Using capital funds for other purposes opens up an entirely new world of possibilities. Or can of worms, depending upon one’s perspective.

  3. - Info - Thursday, May 29, 14 @ 10:13 am:

    Capital funds were not used for the $50 million appropriation for scheduled pay raises. These are general revenue fund appropriations.

  4. - Rich Miller - Thursday, May 29, 14 @ 10:21 am:

    Info, you are correct. I went back and looked at the bill. It’s not borrowed money, it’s GRF.

  5. - wordslinger - Thursday, May 29, 14 @ 10:28 am:

    It’s not huge in the great scheme of things, but how did that $10 million for the Uptown Theatre slip in?

    I think JAM Productions owns it. Are they ponying up to restore it?

    Except for a few small events, it’s been closed for more than 30 years, so the market hasn’t been demanding its restoration and re-opening.

    The deferred maintenance has to be off the charts. I hope the $10 million isn’t just the beginning of a state money pit. It’s a big barn.

  6. - Jimmy CrackCorn - Thursday, May 29, 14 @ 10:35 am:

    ==estimates are estimated==

    I was obviously up too late watching the Hawks

  7. - DuPage Dave - Thursday, May 29, 14 @ 10:38 am:

    True, the Uptown would be a money pit to fix up and not worth a dime from the state. Maybe a loan guarantee or subsidized loan if JAM carries the note. But they are looking for free money, of course.

    I saw many a Dead show there back in the day. The fans kept the place pretty lit up for the duration of the show. The next day the colors faded back to normal.

    Maybe it could be kept “as is” and turned into a hippie theme park?? Bring your own kool aid…

  8. - DuPage - Thursday, May 29, 14 @ 11:03 am:

    $35 Million for school construction grants? Is this money going to build for-profit charter schools?
    It seems like out here, most of the school construction involves referendums, voters have to approve raising their property tax. Any reason Rahm can’t do the same in Chicago?

  9. - Norseman - Thursday, May 29, 14 @ 11:06 am:

    Finally, some of the back pay is being funded. Maybe they’ll have the rest of their money by FY 20.

  10. - logic not emotion - Thursday, May 29, 14 @ 11:08 am:

    - wordslinger - Thursday, May 29, 14 @ 10:28 am:
    It’s not huge in the great scheme of things, but how did that $10 million for the Uptown Theatre slip in?

    Word: Stuff like that is exactly why so many in Illinois have no faith in politicians or the system.

  11. - Formerly Known As... - Thursday, May 29, 14 @ 11:10 am:

    @Rich - That was scary. It looked for a moment as though we had officially crossed the Rubicon with our budgeting and funding.

    @wordslinger - that really rubs me the wrong way as well. JAM Productions bought the Uptown Theatre in 2008 for a song. JAM is one of the largest privately held companies in Illinois, regularly grossing between $80Million - $150Million per year for decades. A private enterprise being run for profit needs that $10 million in taxpayer money more than the 600-something CPS schools without libraries? Come on.

  12. - Formerly Known As... - Thursday, May 29, 14 @ 11:18 am:

    Oof. From this past January

    == During the coldest Chicago weather in years, the Uptown Theatre has had its heat turned off, and a giant icicle has formed in its basement — a primary discussion point as representatives from the city and the landmark building appeared in Cook County Circuit Court Wednesday. The hearing followed an inspection last Thursday that raised city concerns over the condition of this grand movie palace === “There was an icicle in the basement that was about 3 feet wide and 30 feet tall, and you see the water dripping on it,” Chicago firefighter Robert Steffens, who was at the inspection, said before the hearing. ==

  13. - a drop in - Thursday, May 29, 14 @ 11:30 am:

    FKA - icicle 3′ by 30′? We could have a winter theme park to rival any of Kentucky’s caves.

  14. - Anonymous - Thursday, May 29, 14 @ 11:57 am:

    To be fair Rich, large capital projects take more than 6 months to award design contracts and another year and a half to complete design before construction is even bid so I’m not surprised that only a third has been spent. Although I’d like to blame GOMB for holding back projects and the CPOs for making procurement a lengthy nightmare, they probably aren’t the main reason this money is being spent slowly.

  15. - Confused - Thursday, May 29, 14 @ 12:58 pm:

    The entire rollback of cut Medicaid programs appears to be less than the difference between estimated and achieved revenue from the cigarette tax. Not saying it’s fiscally responsible to roll them back, just saying in the grand scheme of Illinois Medicaid it’s small potatoes.

  16. - Formerly Known As... - Thursday, May 29, 14 @ 1:54 pm:

    @a drop in - can you imagine? As long as the owners we just gave $10 million to leave the heat off, we can enjoy “Chicago stalactites” every winter.

    Then again, the owners “bought” the place for only $3.2 million. They should be able to keep the heat on now.

    == Without any drama, a venture led by concert promoter Jam Productions Ltd. bought the historic Uptown Theatre on Tuesday for $3.2 million in a court-ordered foreclosure sale. == The sale price was essentially a “credit bid” that covers repayment of about $1.8 million owed on a first mortgage and $1.4 million owed on a second mortgage that’s held by Mr. Mickelson’s group. ==

  17. - Budget Watcher - Thursday, May 29, 14 @ 2:55 pm:

    There’s a lot more in SB741 for hospitals and nursing homes that would entice Republicans to vote yes for this bill rather than attributing their votes to restoration of dental and podiatry services.

  18. - facts are stubborn things - Thursday, May 29, 14 @ 3:31 pm:

    contracts, follow them if you feel like it.

  19. - steve schnorf - Thursday, May 29, 14 @ 8:56 pm:

    FKA, any appropriation is germane to any appropriations bill

  20. - Anonymous - Thursday, May 29, 14 @ 10:19 pm:

    I don’t follow Currie’s logic on CPS pensions. Is she starting to lose her memory? Underfunded Chicago teachers’ pensions are not the State’s problem; they are Chicago’s problem. Years ago the school funding formula was adjusted upward to “reward” Chicago for taking over the CPS pensions, so Chicago already got extra money over the years a different way. I just see this $50M as an election year payoff to delay a CPS pension funding crisis. That $50M could be used instead to pay the rest of the State owed back wages.

  21. - RNUG - Thursday, May 29, 14 @ 10:21 pm:

    Oops … don’t know exactly what happened but - Anonymous - Thursday, May 29, 14 @ 10:19 pm was I …

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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