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Defining Statehouse moments

Monday, Jun 2, 2014

* This buried little nugget in a Tribune roundup is the most overlooked story of the session so far, but I’m betting that won’t last

During the last few years, lawmakers each were supposed to take 12 unpaid days a year as a recognition of the state’s rocky financial condition. On Friday, lawmakers decided to keep that money when the new budget year starts July 1, providing a minimum $3,100 boost that would return the base salary for their part-time jobs to $67,836, though most lawmakers get an additional $10,000 or so for committee posts.

Yeah, because they did such a great job.

Sheesh.

* And if this next bill is signed into law, those legislative paychecks can never be blocked again

House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton gave a little political payback to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn on Friday as the spring session headed toward the finish line […]

(L)ast summer, Quinn vetoed the money for lawmakers’ paychecks after they ended session without sending him a bill to reform the state’s government worker pension systems. On Friday, Madigan and Cullerton passed a measure that would keep lawmaker paychecks flowing.

“You’ll remember the governor vetoed our salaries in the middle of last summer,” said House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, Madigan’s top lieutenant who maintained the paycheck move was not personal but rather an issue of “separation of powers.” “We didn’t like that very much, and a court said the governor couldn’t do it. But in order to make sure our governor doesn’t try it again, this will ensure that our paychecks come as they are supposed to come.”

What they did was create a continuing appropriation. So, if there is ever another veto, paychecks will still be issued.

* The roof problems at the governor’s mansion are also indicative of the bass-ackwards way our government is run

Over at the Governor’s Mansion, the 44-year-old roof is gasping for life. Water is coming in. Plaster is falling down. Antique furniture has been yanked out of the third-floor Lincoln and Yates bedrooms and stored for safekeeping. Called the “people’s house,” this is the most irresistible metaphor for the neglect and corrosion of our fiscal state. […]

According to Rep. Brauer, there is money in a $3.7 million appropriation to make repairs, though the administration disputes that. Nobody disputes that this is an emergency that has only gotten more expensive by waiting.

Like every other state problem you can think of. […]

While the governor lives in a money-pit fixer-upper, Speaker Mike Madigan operates out of a gilt capitol palace, the renovation of which was downright reverential in its attention to detail. Copper doors, sconces and chandeliers. Nice digs for a Legislature that gets nothing done.

* And speaking of those nice Statehouse digs

In September, Quinn blocked spending on Capitol renovations after questions were raised about how money was spent, from big chandeliers in lawmakers’ offices to newly installed maidens on the grand staircase to three wooden double doors coated in glistening copper that cost nearly $670,000. On Friday, Madigan and Cullerton passed a bill that would take away Quinn’s ability to block spending on Capitol renovations.

Sigh.

* And speaking of Madigan

The budget also included language that authorizes $35 million in school construction in Chicago, funds that will be used to pay for a 1,200 student school in Madigan’s political home turf in the 13th Ward near Midway Airport.

“It’s a new school that’s planned,” Madigan said after the House adjourned shortly before 8 p.m. Friday.

Asked if it would be named in his honor, the longtime speaker smiled and said, “It doesn’t have a name. It’s a brand new building…. There’s severe overcrowding on the southwest side of Chicago.”

The big dogs always eat first here

Renovating the historic Uptown Theatre is the “missing piece” to creating an entertainment district in the North Side neighborhood, proponents say. And that effort just got a $10 million boost.

A House Bill which included the appropriation for the theater — pushed by Senate President John Cullerton (D) — passed both houses of the Illinois Legislature last week. It’s the first major investment in the theater since it was purchased by JAM Productions in 2008.

“We’re happy to help jumpstart that project. Of course we know it’s just upward of $70 million for the theater’s full renovation but he still wanted to jumpstart it,” said Rikeesha Pheon, a spokeswoman for Cullerton. “He thinks it could be the centerpiece of Uptown.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        


42 Comments
  1. - Langhorne - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 10:38 am:

    What?

    What?

    Oh, tone deaf.

    Blow millions on an anti violence boondoggle. But cant fix the roof.

    Quietly sneak legislative pay back up, but cant fund employee health care cost increases


  2. - wordslinger - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 10:40 am:

    –Over at the Governor’s Mansion, the 44-year-old roof …–

    For crying out loud, that was 1970. You’re lucky to get 15-20 years out of a roof in this climate.

    I don’t see the mansion roof as a metaphor for dysfunctional government. I see it as a real-world testament to that the mansion has no constituency. No one has valued it enough to keep it up.

    Let’s not start chasing a half-century of neglect at this money-pit white elephant. Get rid of it. Who needs it?


  3. - SamHall - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 10:41 am:

    Perhaps if we hadn’t spent millions heating the driveway, we could’ve put on a new roof.


  4. - In the Middle - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 10:41 am:

    I’ve never understood why the state pays our lawmakers a salary. Many states don’t.

    Illinois has one of the highest lawmaker salary base in the nation, and our state is one of the worst governed in the nation. I’m not saying there’s causation here… just that we’re getting nothing for our money.


  5. - Upon Further Review - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 10:46 am:

    The Uptown Theater is a white elephant. I cannot see spending so much money on a building that ought to have been demolished thirty-five years ago. Despite its history, the era in which 4,000 plus people would attend the same motion picture screening ended when Eisenhower was in the White House.


  6. - Mighty M. Mouse - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 10:46 am:

    And the [i]beat[/i] goes on…


  7. - wordslinger - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 10:47 am:

    –Nice digs for a Legislature that gets nothing done.–

    There has been some heavy-lifting in recent months and years

    SSM. Conceal carry. Tax increase. Budget cuts. Bills paid down. A pension bill. A workman’s comp. bill. Med marijuana. Fracking. Extended protections for pregnant workers. Wiping arrest records clean for juvies not convicted of a crime.

    You don’t have to agree with all of these things to see some tough votes. And it’s not terribly surprising that the GA was skittish to extend a tax increase in an election year.

    Marin can compete with Kass as to who’s the most self-righteous, but it doesn’t tell the full story.


  8. - Norseman - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 10:49 am:

    Notwithstanding my anger with the solons for a lot of their actions over the recent past, I don’t have a problem with what they’ve done related to their pay. With respect to the furloughs, it would have been problematic for Cullerton and Madigan to have continued the practice after admitting in a brief filed on Quinn’s stunt that they were in violation of the constitution. Yes, I know they still violated the constitution with pension reduction, but two wrongs don’t make a right (do I get the day’s cliche award).

    On the continuing approp, if one is to accept the premise that the Governor can’t withhold their pay, which I do and a lower court ruled that way, then you must accept that this is simply a natural extension to ensure this doesn’t happen. If Quinn doesn’t like it, he can take it to court and we may finally get our Supreme Court ruling on his stunt.

    With respect to the other items - same old garbage from our GA.


  9. - N'ville - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 10:49 am:

    “$10 million here, $35 million there…pretty soon you’re talking big money.”
    -With apologies to Everett Dirksen


  10. - Soccertease - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 10:50 am:

    Good to see our leaders took care of the things that really matter.


  11. - A guy... - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 10:50 am:

    I predicted this Pay Issue would be dealt with back then. For better or worse, it has been. The rest of it looks like what an “exhausted and worn down” legislature does every end of session. Things got worse, lots worse, but the system didn’t change at all. We inmates need a new warden and new guards.


  12. - Arizona Bob - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 10:53 am:

    Time to start the nominations for the “Worst State Legislature in America” contest.

    Illinois would have to be a froont runner for that competition just based on the Spring seesion alone, and they’ll have it nailed once their “pension reform” debacle is overturned for being the unconsitutional shame that it is.

    The only GAs that may come close to Illinois dysfunction, greed and corruption would be California, Louisiana and Rhose Island, although Louisiana has gotten much better after Governor Jindahl was elected.

    Any other nominations?


  13. - uptown progressive - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 10:54 am:

    I was disappointed to see the Uptown Theatre in the budget. The Theatre by some reports never had a profitable year. A venue of that size would create traffic chaos on weekends. No hard numbers on how it would add to the vitality of the community. Ten million could have been used even in Uptown to build and improve a significant number of small, independent creative outlets.


  14. - Upon Further Review - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 10:54 am:

    It seems nuts that there is money for the Uptown Theater, but not the Governor’s Mansion.


  15. - Plutocrat03 - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 10:58 am:

    ‘a metaphor for dysfunctional government’

    Of course it is. The State cannot maintain a critical and necessary structure, but have millions to dole out for goofy projects like the Uptown theater.

    If a developer came in today to ask for zoning to build that theater in that location, they would be turned down flat. Demolish it and put it’s picture in a museum somewhere.


  16. - 47th Ward - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 11:05 am:

    ===On Friday, lawmakers decided to keep that money when the new budget year starts July 1, providing a minimum $3,100 boost that would return the base salary for their part-time jobs to $67,836, though most lawmakers get an additional $10,000 or so for committee posts===

    It’s almost as if they want the term limits referendum to pass. And by a big margin too.


  17. - Wally - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 11:07 am:

    Wanted $100 million for the Obama Library, but can’t find money for a roof replacement at the Executive Mansion!!!


  18. - wordslinger - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 11:08 am:

    – The State cannot maintain a critical and necessary structure,–

    How in the world is the governor’s mansion a “critical and necessary structure?”


  19. - Don't Worry, Be Happy - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 11:15 am:

    I realize this is probably a stretch, but isn’t the elimination of furlough days a de facto pay raise? The constitution bars legislators from voting on a pay raise that takes effect during their term, as this does.


  20. - VanillaMan - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 11:20 am:

    After decades creating a press image that he is just a guy with an old suitcase who stays at Super 8 and fights to keep government humble, Pat Quinn has been exposed as being an incompetent and ineffective governor, dismissed by his own party.

    And speaking about parties, obviously Michael J. Madigan and friends have nothing on King Louis XVI and his Marie Antoinette.

    “Let Illinoisans eat cake!”


  21. - A modest proposal - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 11:20 am:

    I am not sure I agree with the tribune about legislators working part time. It is allegedly a part time job, but lets be honest most of them work around the clock - especially during session.


  22. - wordslinger - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 11:21 am:

    ..– although Louisiana has gotten much better after Governor Jindahl was elected.–

    In what ways? Using taxpayer money to teach “The Flintstones” in history and science?


  23. - The Prince - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 11:22 am:

    The money for the Uptown is a disgrace.


  24. - wordslinger - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 11:22 am:

    –Pat Quinn has been exposed as being an incompetent and ineffective governor, dismissed by his own party.–

    Gee, and I thought he won the nomination. Twice.


  25. - Commander Norton - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 11:29 am:

    The roof needs fixed. But to say that Pat Quinn lives in a dump while Madigan rules from a gilt palace is too clever by half. Quinn doesn’t live here, and I suspect it has nothing to do with the leaky roof.


  26. - Wally - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 11:36 am:

    Just PQ’s now soggy underwear live in the Mansion.


  27. - Union Man - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 11:37 am:

    I’ve seen high schools built for $75 million, middle schools for $35 million and very nice elementary schools in DuPage County for $20 million. So MJM’s ward must be getting a very very nice elementary school!!


  28. - Joe Bidenopolous - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 11:56 am:

    =- In the Middle - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 10:41 am:

    I’ve never understood why the state pays our lawmakers a salary. Many states don’t.==

    If by “many” you mean “zero”, then you are correct, sir/madam


  29. - Old and in the Way - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 12:11 pm:

    AZ Bob
    With regards to Jindal, his approval rating is hovering just above Quinn’s and it’s a deeply red state! The state is in a mess! Most of it due to ‘Bobby’ (not his real name) Jindal’s incompetence. Last spring he tried to eliminate the personal and corporate income taxes in lieu of an increased sales tax! (It’s much higher and more progressive than Illinois BTW) Needless to say even Republicans gaged on that one! Like most of his legislation it went nowhere. I could devote a couple of pages to both his corruption and his incompetence. Next time you mention Louisiana politics you may want to ignore Fox News and actually visit to state!


  30. - The Prince - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 12:18 pm:

    Arizona, Massachusetts and Rhode Island do not have official Governor’s mansions.


  31. - OVERSIGHT - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 1:33 pm:

    “You’ll remember the governor vetoed our salaries in the middle of last summer….We didn’t like that very much, and a court said the governor couldn’t do it. But in order to make sure our governor doesn’t try it again, this will ensure that our paychecks come as they are supposed to come.”

    Isn’t that just amazing, you know, the speed of which the Legislature can work when if affects them personally! They had their pay withheld, filed suit, went to court, pay re-instated, and now passed a law to forever prevent that action in the future.

    State workers lost their paid insurance last year, underwent pension “theft”, filed suit and there they sit…waiting for the courts to address this issue. I’m not sure we will ever get a law passed to prevent this in the future. Oh, wait a minute…we already have a Constitution to prevent these actions in the first place, right?


  32. - Norseman - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 1:46 pm:

    For sale an 1850s mansion formerly used by the governors of Illinois. The three story, brick Italianate structure with multiple bedrooms on the third floor. It’s handicapped accessible with an elevator. The building contains energy efficient LED lighting, rain barrels, solar panels and most recently a community vegetable garden to make it greener and more sustainable. The bottom floor can be used for offices. It has a multiple-car garage with a security office that can monitor the gated driveway, which is electronically heated during the winter. May be used for a bed and breakfast. The mansion has been the site of many important social events, receptions for seven U. S. presidents, wedding receptions for big shots. Requires minor repair work on the roof. Price is negotiable.


  33. - Jen - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 2:16 pm:

    Remember the state employees that got the furlough days - for the 2 years and we have not had a raise since since 2004.


  34. - Norseman - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 2:20 pm:

    === Remember the state employees that got the furlough days - for the 2 years and we have not had a raise since since 2004. ===

    It was 2006. Blago gave an increase in the budget to help his re-election. Didn’t work for the folks I know.


  35. - Anonymous - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 2:49 pm:

    But they can’t find the money to pay the post due contractual raises


  36. - Jake From Elwood - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 2:56 pm:

    Can you fix the roof for the amount of money that the General Assembly stole back from the 12 unpaid days they were to “sacrifice” as their share of the financial crunch? How self-serving.
    $3100 X 177 = $548,700. That would probably cover it, even using prevailing wages, no?


  37. - DuPage Dave - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 3:17 pm:

    Hey fellas- no quibbling. 2004 or 2006, either way it’s a long time with no raises. I’m one of the guys in question.


  38. - Anon. - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 3:19 pm:

    ==I don’t see the mansion roof as a metaphor for dysfunctional government. I see it as a real-world testament to that the mansion has no constituency. No one has valued it enough to keep it up.==

    . . . making it a metaphor for the nuts and bolts work of managing state government, which has no constituency in this administration.


  39. - wordslinger - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 3:29 pm:

    –. . . making it a metaphor for the nuts and bolts work of managing state government, which has no constituency in this administration.–

    Huh?


  40. - RNUG - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 4:22 pm:

    - Norseman - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 1:46 pm:

    You forgot to mention the chicken coop …


  41. - Upon Further Review - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 7:29 pm:

    Who was the last Illinois governor to actually use the mansion as his residence while in office?

    Blagojevich actively disdained the place.

    My question for the great minds here is who was the last Illinois governor to actually live there on a regular basis?


  42. - Concerned Voter - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 7:56 pm:

    Well said - - OVERSIGHT - Monday, Jun 2, 14 @ 1:33 pm:


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