This has become nearly as ridiculous as it is frustrating. People – real people in the real world — are fed up. And they blame all of us.
I’m prepared to do something about this, and so is Leader Radogno. We have made it clear that the Senate will offer solutions and leadership. Today, we are filing more than a dozen proposals containing the contents of our budget and reform plan. The intent is to quickly pass them in this new session.
It is my hope that the Illinois House and you, Mr. Governor, will join us.
From Cullerton’s office…
The Senate Assignments Committee assigned the components of the so-called “grand bargain” plan to the following committees. This was done to position them for public input and committee hearings later this month.
Believe me, I recognize that this is not an easy task. But it’s time for the Senate to step up and provide leadership.
We’ve done this before.
Eight years ago today, the Illinois Senate ushered in a new era when Senator Radogno and I were first elected to lead our caucuses.
Many of you may have forgotten, or perhaps were lucky enough to have never known the personal political wars that had consumed this chamber and much of state government at the time.
A governor by the name of Blagojevich presided over that 2009 inauguration ceremony. And right after we got the gavel away from him, we – the Illinois Senate– began an impeachment trial that would remove him from office.
So we’ve seen some pretty bad times. And we’ve gotten through them by working together.
That was the promise Leader Radogno and I made eight years ago. And together … we have worked. We’ve made historic changes in Illinois.
Look, I’ll be the first to complain that we – the Senate - don’t get the credit or attention we deserve.
That could be because we tend to cooperate rather than tear each other apart.
Too often, if there’s no conflict, there’s no coverage.
And as if to prove his point, there were just four reporters in the Senate press box yesterday.
As Reid Wilson of The Hill recently found, there are a striking number of U.S. state governors who never held elected office prior to winning their state’s governorship. About a quarter of them — 13 of 50 — won their first electoral victory of any kind to become the top official in their respective states. Those 13 governors are: Rick Scott (R-FL), Bruce Rauner (R-IL), Eric Holcomb (R-IN), Matt Bevin (R-KY), Larry Hogan (R-MD), Rick Snyder (R-MI), Eric Greitens (R-MO), Pete Ricketts (R-NE), Doug Burgum (R-ND), Tom Wolf (D-PA), Terry McAuliffe (D-VA), Jim Justice (D-WV), and Matt Mead (R-WY).
While many of these governors did have significant experience in and around politics and government, they, like Trump, bypassed service in lower-level elected jobs prior to winning their current offices. […]
Unlike the 2018 Senate map, where Democrats will be hard-pressed to cut into the Republicans’ 52-48 majority because they already control 25 of the 33 seats up for election next year, the 2017-2018 slate of governors provides many opportunities for Democrats. Republicans currently control 33 of 50 governorships, while Democrats hold only 16 (there’s one independent, Bill Walker of Alaska). Of the 38 governorships being contested over the next two years, Republicans already hold 27 and Democrats control 10 (Walker is also up for reelection). […]
Now, on to the nine Republican-held seats where neither side starts as a clear favorite, the majority of which will be open seats.
Five of these seats are in the Midwest, a region that swung hard to Donald Trump in 2016 with the exception of heavily Democratic Illinois, where Clinton did about a tenth of a point better than Barack Obama did in 2012. It is no surprise, then, that Gov. Bruce Rauner (R-IL) , a wealthy self-funder, is perhaps the most vulnerable incumbent in the country. […]
Republicans start the 2017-2018 gubernatorial cycle in an impressive but vulnerable position. The governorships being contested over the next two years combined with the tendency for the president’s party to lose ground in midterms suggests that the Democrats are positioned to start 2019 with more governorships than they hold right now, but nothing is guaranteed.
Unlimited money for Rauner and some initial liberal Democratic resistance to the idea of a self-funder for their own party could change things in a hurry, however.
* The Question: What other factors bode well for Rauner’s reelection?
Yeah, you may not love the guy, but please answer the question without snark. Put on your thinking caps.
“I, like all of us here, are saddened, sickened and angry with the daily news reports of shootings and murders in the city of Chicago. This must come to an end,” said Durkin, frequently pounding a lectern to accentuate his message.
“We must take the streets back from those cowardly thugs who have destroyed neighborhoods and families. And this must be done with federal, state and local collaboration. We cannot go through another summer like we have witnessed in these past few years,” he said.
Durkin pledged to work with the Democratic majority in the legislature and with Emanuel to make streets safer and to ensure the safety of children following a year that saw more than 760 gun deaths in the city.
“While we have problems with our budget, no one should feel good about what is happening. We need to do more as a legislative body. Society needs to do more as well,” Durkin said.
“So, as I said, I will work with anyone to stop this. It’s personal for so many members of this body. It’s personal for people in this crowd. It’s personal for everyone in the state of Illinois who believes that everyone has a right to grow up safe and to be able to pursue the American dream without danger,” he said.
* Look, I’m glad that the Leader spoke out on this so forcefully. Too many Statehouse politicians have tried to dodge or ignore the issue. And this is not just a Chicago issue. When otherwise well-meaning people flee city neighborhoods because of violence they can inadvertently bring some of those problems with them. It’s the way immigration works. Some folks find greener pastures and others follow.
Even so, “taking the streets back” from “thugs” sounds a lot like “turn the cops loose.” And, indeed, in our quick conversation Durkin spoke about the low morale of the city’s police force after being second-guessed so often.
The U.S. Justice Department will conclude in a report to be released Friday that the Chicago Police Department displayed a pattern and practice of violating residents’ constitutional rights over years, a law enforcement official said Wednesday.
The official, who is familiar with the findings, spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly. He declined to offer details. Based on investigative reports on other big cities, Chicago’s could run well over 100 pages.
The Chicago Police Department has been dogged by a reputation for brutality, particularly in minority communities, so a finding of at least some violations isn’t a big surprise. Chicago has one of the nation’s largest police departments with about 12,000 officers, and the report stems from an investigation launched in 2015 after the release of video showing a white officer fatally shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times. Among the questions Justice Department investigators were expected to examine was whether Chicago officers are prone to excessive force and racial bias.
(I)n an op-ed Wednesday in The (Springfield) State Journal-Register, Madigan also promoted a tax surcharge on income of more than $1 million to fund education and an increase in the state’s minimum wage.
Voters overwhelmingly approved those ideas two years ago in non-binding referendums, yet Madigan hasn’t advanced either concept in bill form since then. He admitted he put those issues on the ballot to increase Democratic turnout (he also admitted it didn’t work out too well), but where’s the legislation?
* Meanwhile, the Senate President has worked out a deal with his chamber’s Republicans that involves a minimum wage increase that’s a dollar an hour higher than Madigan’s referendum proposed. Maybe Madigan could follow his own advice and get on board with that one…
“Let me suggest that as we move forward let us work to end the acrimony and find the best in each other,” Madigan said after he was sworn in.
In accepting a 17th term in the position he has held for all but two of the past 33 years, Madigan laid out an agenda that he said would boost economic growth in the state without competing in a “race to the bottom” on issues like workers’ compensation and collective bargaining, a shot at Rauner’s policy agenda.
Cullerton is working on deals involving those issues. The collective bargaining stuff is basically just what the state has already allowed Chicago to do. And if Cullerton’s liberals (and he has lots of them) can go along with his workers’ comp reforms, then why shouldn’t Madigan also try to engage?
ILGOP Releases Robocalls
Holding House Democrats Responsible for Their Madigan Vote
House Democrats have a terrible and deceptive habit of following Boss Madigan’s orders in Springfield and pocketing his campaign cash while faking “independence” to their constituents. The Illinois Republican Party is committed to making sure that voters know their representatives sold them out yesterday.
That’s why today, the ILGOP is releasing robocalls in 18 House Districts, informing constituents that their state representative backed Boss Madigan against their wishes.
Laura Fine, Anna Moeller, Fred Crespo, Deb Conroy, Marty Moylan, Michelle Mussman, Elaine Nekritz, Carol Sente, Sam Yingling, Michael Halpin, Stephanie Kifowit, Sue Scherer, Natalie Manley, Dan Beiser, Jay Hoffman, Katie Stuart, Jerry Costello, Brandon Phelps
After two years, there are indications that Illinois may begin to address the issues that have led to an extended budget stalemate, credit deterioration, and Fitch Ratings placing the state of Illinois’ current ‘BBB+’ Issuer Default Rating (IDR) on Rating Watch Negative. Although the legislature did not take action during the “lame duck” session that ended with the installation of the new legislature today, the state senate has put forth a series of bills that have the potential to lead to a compromise that will resolve the impasse.
Fitch has stated that failure to enact measures that lead to ongoing budget balance would trigger a downgrade. The Senate bills reportedly include raising the state income tax and other revenue measures, debt issuance to reduce accumulated budgetary liabilities, pension reforms, aid to Chicago public schools, and non-budgetary reforms sought by the governor, including a freeze on property taxes, workers compensation reform, and some form of term limits. These proposals, if they proceed through the full legislature and are signed by the governor, have the potential to stabilize the Illinois IDR and related ratings if they lead to a structurally balanced budget and reduce accumulated budget liabilities. However, Fitch notes that previous signs of progress have not always come to fruition. Fitch will assess any legislation enacted by the state to determine if it provides permanent, comprehensive solutions to the budget stalemate and sets the state on a path toward ongoing budgetary balance.
Fitch has previously indicated that the Rating Watch would be resolved by the end of January. The expected timing of Fitch’s review is unchanged.
I really doubt this will be resolved by the end of January, but we’ll see.
* Meanwhile, from Moody’s…
While unfunded pension liabilities will continue weighing on the City of Chicago’s (Ba1 negative) credit profile, plans to significantly increase contributions with higher taxes is a favorable departure from prior funding practices. However, the liquidity crisis at Chicago Public Schools (CPS – B3 negative) is worsening amid a continued budget impasse at the state level, Moody’s Investors Service says in two new research reports released today.
While Chicago and CPS are legally separate entities with distinct credit profiles, they share the same tax base and have some overlapping governance.
In “City of Chicago: Frequently Asked Questions,” Moody’s says despite the city’s expanding economy, revenue growth, and healthy liquidity, its pension burden is likely to remain among the highest of any rated, major local government for many years.
“While Chicago’s recent tax increases will provide revenue to significantly increase pension funding, the city’s unfunded pension liabilities exceed seven times its revenue and are projected to grow for at least 15 more years,” says Matt Butler, Vice President of Moody’s.
Moody’s says there is a limit on Chicago’s ability to raise taxes on its citizens and businesses, because each increase tempers the appetite for further tax hikes that could be needed. Within the last two years, there has been numerous tax increases by overlapping governments, including Chicago, CPS and Cook County, IL (A2 stable), with new revenue slated for funding pensions instead of government services.
In a separate report, “Chicago Public Schools: Frequently Asked Questions,” Moody’s states CPS’ fiscal pressures are intensifying due to depletion of reserves following years of imbalanced operations, unrealistic budget assumptions, and escalating pension costs.
“CPS’ deteriorating credit profile reflects years of budget imbalance which have completely drained operating reserves, leaving the district with minimal protection against further budget pressures,” said Naomi Richman, Managing Director of Moody’s.
Coinciding with the sharp drop in fund balance, CPS’ liquidity has fallen considerably and the district has turned to issuing short-term tax anticipation notes to support its operations. Its recent $730 million offering is strictly for capital improvements and cannot be used for operating expenses.
CPS has also assumed material growth in state aid that for the last two years has not materialized, worsening its budget imbalance. Rising pension costs have also exacerbated CPS’ finances and these costs will continue to grow annually.
Moody’s says CPS could consider more difficult options to address its finances should the State of Illinois (Baa2 negative) be unable or unwilling to provide additional relief: levy for debt service on GO alternate revenue bonds, stop making employer pension contributions, or seek state authorization to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy.
As CPS’ credit deteriorates, it could have an impact on the city’s credit profile. CPS is integral to Chicago’s economy and tax base, and CPS’ budget pressures could impair the city’s ability to raise revenue.
Should CPS levy for debt service, the subsequent property tax increase for Chicago residents and businesses could weaken the city’s political and practical ability to increase tax revenues in the future.
Rauner, who presided over the Senate inauguration, wasn’t scheduled to make any remarks, but he offered some nonetheless.
“As my grandfather used to tell me every time I’d come to get advice, he’d say ‘Bruce, reasonable people can reasonably disagree.’ There are different ways to solve problems, different ideas, different solutions,” the governor said. “We all need to battle for what we firmly believe is right, but I hope the Good Lord grants us the wisdom to find common ground … to listen and respect to (sic) the other ideas, to come to the solution for a better future.”
That’s pretty much what I’ve been saying for the past two years in response to the governor’s relentless Turnaround Agenda push. Remember “Find another way”?
I’m glad to hear him finally mouth the words, but let’s hope he’s not just faking it for the cameras.
Rauner complimented all senators for their service. He was in his drop-the-g’s mode, as he said he believes what TEDDY ROOSEVELT believed, that it is “necessary and important to be in the arena, covered in blood, covered in mud, covered in sweat, gettin’ hit and attacked and sufferin,’ but in there workin,’ in there battlin’. … You’re in there takin’ the arrows. And I know how hard it is. … Thank you for your service.”
A group of people including one dressed in a giant fake head resembling that of House Speaker Mike Madigan didn’t get what they wanted.
The current leadership in the General Assembly including Madigan, John Cullerton, Christine Radogno, and Jim Durkin is staying as is. Much to the chagrin of the Illinois Policy Institute, which organized a protest outside the House inauguration ceremony at UIS. […]
The protest came complete with a man dressed in a Mike Madigan oversized cartoon head — same one the Institute — which has received money from Governor Rauner — rolled out prior to the election when they produced a documentary largely critical of Madigan.
Outside of the Sangamon Auditorium Wednesday, where newly elected House members were sworn in to start the 100th General Assembly, the conservative Illinois Policy Institute staged an anti-Madigan demonstration. However, they appeared to be both outnumbered and outshouted by union demonstrators chanting “We like Mike” and other pro-Madigan slogans.
According to WTTW, there were hundreds of pro-Madigan demonstrators, mainly from the Laborers Union, but also from other unions. A pic is here.
Former state Rep. Ron Sandack — who abruptly resigned last year amid an extortion scam involving “inappropriate online conversations” — is Springfield’s newest lobbyist.
Sandack, who was lured into a scheme that ended in him feeling compelled to send money to a woman he met online, was listed as registering as a lobbyist on Tuesday, according to the Illinois Secretary of State’s lobbyist database. He is registered with the firm Gaido & Fintzen, LLC. Sandack intends to lobby the Illinois General Assembly and Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office, according to records. The firm, where Sandack is a partner, had previously not done lobbying in Springfield.
After going dark on social media for several months, Sandack reappeared in November. Sandack on Wednesday in a Facebook post congratulated the members of the 100th Illinois General Assembly.
“After the celebrating is over, I hope all can finally work together to truly address Illinois’ dire financial challenges; our great State deserves no less. Cheers … now get to work,” Sandack wrote.
Up until a few years ago, Sandack was pretty highly respected in the House. But he made a ton of enemies with sharp and often personal attacks on the floor when he became the governor’s de facto floor leader. Not a lot of tears were shed when he abruptly departed.
Unsurprisingly, his lobbyist registration form shows he doesn’t yet have any actual Statehouse clients. If he does somehow succeed at this new endeavor, it’ll be one of the greatest comebacks in Springfield history.