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Friday, Feb 27, 2015

* These guys are in Springfield tonight, so you’ll know where to find me

Beautiful in go-go boots, she waltzes to the bar

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - More on the state grant suspensions

Friday, Feb 27, 2015

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Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Fundraiser/event list

Friday, Feb 27, 2015

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How can we miss you if you won’t go away?

Friday, Feb 27, 2015

* AP

Former Gov. Pat Quinn says pushing consumer rights and organizing are in his immediate future during his first public appearance since leaving office.

Quinn addressed students and lawyers Friday at a Loyola University School of Law panel on forced arbitration.

The Democrat later told reporters that Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget is the “worst” he’s seen in Illinois history because it’s unfair to “everyday people.”

There wouldn’t have been a problem in the first place if A) Quinn hadn’t made the income tax hike temporary, or had at least ramped it down in a more responsible manner; or B) Quinn hadn’t signed this fiscal year’s horrifically irresponsible budget into law.

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      


Question of the day

Friday, Feb 27, 2015

* Stu Ellis at the Decatur Herald and Review writes about Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed elimination of the $1.8 million funding line for agriculture education

The elimination of that line item in his proposed budget apparently was made because his staff could see no need for agricultural education, despite the recommendation by the State Board of Education that the line item be raised to $3 million in the next fiscal year. So called “shared sacrifice” might diminish $1.8 million by several thousand, but it should not lead to total elimination.

The $1.8 million line item stimulates over $11.8 million in net earnings of agriculture education students in their yearly, work-based learning and agri-science projects. It generates another $2.1 million in partial matches from a statewide partnership. It spawns $1.7. million in funds and volunteer hours generated for local school vocational-agriculture programs. It pays for curriculum development that is used by over 50 percent of vocational agriculture teachers nationally. And it provides a pipeline for students to enter agricultural careers.

Elimination of the funds would mean deterioration of the agriculture education network which provides the structure to one of the top vocational programs in the nation. Data collection of programs, teacher information and student achievement will be lost. Professional education opportunities for vocational-agriculture teachers would be eliminated. Program growth would stagnate and would no longer provide employees for an important part of the Illinois economy.

The loss of the agriculture education line item would eliminate $620,000 in incentive grants that go to 321 local agriculture programs taught by 381 teachers at the secondary level. That money provides local programs with funds to meet goals for success and continuation of their program. While a local vocational agriculture program may not close in a school district due to the loss of the incentive grants, it would negatively affect program quality and the number of programs would deteriorate and decline.

* This will have a big impact on local FFA programs

First-year Flanagan-Cornell FFA Advisor Jessica Collins has a reason to be nervous about the upcoming annual auction on March 7. That’s because Gov. Bruce Rauner recently submitted his proposal for the 2016 fiscal budget for Illinois.

Among the proposed budget cuts is the elimination of crucial agricultural education funding. When the Flanagan-Cornell FFA program says it relies on the success of these auctions to fund future activities, nothing could be more truthful.

* From the Twitters…


* The Question: Caption?

- Posted by Rich Miller   78 Comments      


Supreme Court justice ordered to testify

Friday, Feb 27, 2015

* Crain’s

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier has been ordered to give testimony in a civil case that accuses State Farm Insurance of fraudulently concealing the extent of its involvement in his campaign.

Karmeier and State Farm had fought against requiring the justice to give a deposition in the case, which was filed in 2012 in U.S. District Court in East St. Louis and seeks $8 billion in damages. But Judge David Herndon rejected those arguments.

The plaintiffs can question Karmeier under oath “as to his knowledge concerning all aspects of his campaign including his decision-making process for running for the position in the first place and the persons with whom he consulted to make that decision, how the campaign was managed, how the campaign was financed, who was involved in the decision-making and strategy of the campaign,” Herndon ruled yesterday. “Without allowing the inquiry, there will never be light on the facts of this case and the federal rules will be thwarted.” […]

Herndon also granted the plaintiffs’ request to depose an attorney for State Farm, Robert Schultz, who served as a member of the judicial evaluation committee for the Illinois State Bar Association when Karmeier was elected to the Illinois high court in 2004. Schultz now works for State Farm.

Karmeier’s opponent in the election had written a lower court opinion upholding a $1.05 billion verdict against State Farm. After winning election, Karmeier cast the crucial fourth deciding vote to overturn that decision.

There’s whole a lot of smoke in this case, but nobody has yet even come close to proving that a fire actually exists. It’ll sure be interesting to see what he says under oath.

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      


Chicago downgraded

Friday, Feb 27, 2015

* Greg Hinz

In a blow to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, one of the major bond-rating services today downgraded Chicago’s credit to just two levels above junk, saying the city has not been able to adequately control the soaring cost of worker pensions.

In a statement, Moody’s Investors Service moved city debt to Baa2 from Baa1, and kept the city on a negative outlook. The latter means that there is a likelihood, though not a certainty, that its credit will be further downgraded in coming months.

In response, Emanuel’s office today noted that two other ratings services, Fitch and S&P, have affirmed the city’s credit rating, and characterized the Moody’s view as an outlier “out of step with the other rating agencies, (and) ignoring the progress that has been achieved.”

But the action adds another element of uncertainty for the city and Emanuel just days after the mayor was forced into an April 7 runoff election for a new term.

Moody’s, which also lowered its rating on some sales-tax and water debt, said it acted because of “expected growth in Chicago’s already highly elevated unfunded pension liabilities and continued growth in costs to service those liabilities.”

* Tribune

Even if recent state pension changes survive a court challenge, the ratings statement said, “we expect Chicago’s unfunded pension liabilities — and the costs of servicing those liabilities — to continue to grow, placing significant strain on the city’s financial operations.”

The drop, to a rating of Baa2, could drive up borrowing costs for the city and cause problems with some of Chicago’s current interest-rate swap contracts.

Those problems with the swap contracts could be severe.

* To the Moody’s report

WHAT COULD MAKE THE RATINGS GO DOWN

• Determination by the IL Supreme Court that the State of Illinois’s pension reform package is unconstitutional, which, depending on the court’s rationale, could increase the risk that the city’s own pension reform would be overturned

• Determination by a court of law that the city’s reform of its Municipal and Laborer plans is unconstitutional

• Continued growth in the city’s unfunded pension liabilities

• Growth in direct and overlapping debt

• Narrowing of the city’s financial reserves

Those first three are very likely. That last one is likely, too, if the state takes Chicago’s income tax revenue sharing cash.

Budget proposals have consequences, folks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   59 Comments      


Today’s number: 4-6 weeks

Friday, Feb 27, 2015

* Sun-Times

Derrick Rose had surgery Friday morning to repair the torn medial meniscus in his right knee. The Bulls said the surgery went well and Rose walked out after the procedure.

Bulls GM Gar Forman said Rose is expected to return in four to six weeks. […]

Unlike his previous two surgeries, Rose was “full weight-bearing” after this one, meaning rehab will begin Saturday.

Many folks thought he was gone forever after his latest injury.

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Human service cuts and state grant suspensions

Friday, Feb 27, 2015

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Stating the obvious

Friday, Feb 27, 2015

* A Bloomberg story quotes some Illinois’ “debt investors” as saying the state can’t rely solely on budget cuts alone

“I’m very skeptical that his budget will be able to achieve balance by doing what he’s doing,” said Jim Schwartz, head of the municipal credit research team at New York-based BlackRock, which oversees $116 billion in munis. “The best way from his view is let’s cut spending, and I just look at it as very aggressive.” […]

“I don’t think they’re going to be able to get to the level that they need to with budget cuts alone,” said Dan Heckman, a senior fixed-income strategist in Kansas City at U.S. Bank Wealth Management, which oversees $126 billion. […]

Moody’s Investors Service said in a Feb. 24 report that the state’s political landscape will make it tough to enact the governor’s proposals without raising revenue. […]

“There’s going to have to be some balance between revenue enhancements and cutbacks on spending,” said Heckman, whose firm holds less Illinois debt than indicated in its benchmark. […]

“The feeling out there is that they have a lot of room to raise taxes, and theoretically they could,” said Peter Hayes, head of munis at BlackRock. “Eventually there will be some moment, some day of reckoning which makes everybody wake up and say we really need to pass something.”

* Related…

* $167M cuts to DCFS include major foster care program

* Home services program loses millions in Rauner’s proposal

* Social-service agencies fear painful cuts under Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget plan

* Gov. Rauner proposes hard-hitting budget cuts - University administration prepares response to proposal

* Western to ‘wait and see’ over Rauner’s budget proposal

* Supporting Efforts to Advance Adult Dental Coverage and Access in Medicaid

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 - Double-down *** They really make this too easy…

Friday, Feb 27, 2015

* The same editorial board which defended candidate Bruce Rauner’s refusal to talk specifics about his magic beans budget ideas during the campaign, and has since refused to write about specifics of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget cuts, is now demanding to know specifics about Chuy Garcia’s budget ideas.

* And that very same editorial board, which was so unconcerned about specifics during the 2014 campaign and the FY 2016 budget, is now demanding that Mayor Rahm Emanuel get specific and “tell us the whole truth” about how he’ll keep the city’s finances on an even keel.

Care to guess which editorial board that is?

*** UPDATE *** The editorial board doubled down this afternoon with a little ditty entitled: “Emanuel, Garcia: Tell voters how you’ll fix CPS”

We’ve been waiting — along with voters — to hear mayoral candidates tackle the budget issue head on, with specifics. […]

The campaign debate so far has focused on hot-button education issues — charter schools, the closing of those elementary schools, student standardized testing and whether to elect a Chicago school board. All of those are important. But none matters as much as the looming budget crisis.

Hilarious.

- Posted by Rich Miller   60 Comments      


Crain’s: “Market-based” solution is rigged

Friday, Feb 27, 2015

* Exelon argues that its bill to keep its nuke plants open is a “market based” solution. But is it? An analysis by Crain’s is highly skeptical

The measure would slap an electric-bill surcharge of about $2 a month on the average household served by Commonwealth Edison and Ameren Illinois, creating more than $300 million of extra annual revenue to be distributed over the next five years to low-carbon energy sources. Those include obvious examples such as wind and solar—but also nuclear energy, which, unlike coal or natural gas, emits no carbon.

The legislation effectively would funnel most if not all of the $300 million to Exelon’s Illinois nuclear plants, the largest state fleet in the nation. But Chicago-based Exelon, which also owns ComEd, went out of its way to argue that the bill allows low-carbon sources of all types to bid for the special credits to be made available via an auction conducted by the Illinois Power Agency. […]

But the bill places such great limits on bidders other than Exelon’s Illinois nukes that Exelon is highly likely to win most if not all of the credits.

For example, generators with contracts of five years or longer to sell their output can’t bid. That keeps out most existing wind farms and utility-scale solar, which have such contracts. For those few wind farms that sell into the wholesale markets, they’re only eligible if they don’t already have renewable energy credit from Illinois or some other state. That’s a relatively small pool of projects, renewable industry representatives say.

The bill also limits eligible hydro producers to no more than 3 megawatts. The capacity of Exelon’s Illinois plants collectively is more than 11,600 megawatts. There are no nearby clean coal plants to speak of, so those won’t be bidding. […]

Once again, as it has before, Exelon refused to say whether its Illinois fleet as a whole is profitable. (In an analysis, Crain’s showed previously that it is.)

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Even more problems for Schock

Friday, Feb 27, 2015

* Drip, drip, drip

Rep. Aaron Schock attended dinner and drinks in 2011 at Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace and at a swank nightclub London — and never disclosed receiving a single gift on his financial disclosure form.

This past September, the Illinois Republican held a golf fundraiser — the “Aaron Schock Golf Classic” — at Anne Arundell Mannor in Maryland, but never reported a payment for use of the golf course and facilities on his campaign finance forms. […]

On the multi-day trip to London in June 2011, Schock attended several elaborate dinners as the guest of a person invited by the Prince of Wales Foundation. Guests were also given a customized china plate with a personalized inscription on the last day of the festivities.

Schock cannot accept a gift — including food and beverage — exceeding $50 from any source. There is an exception for close personal friends. He would have had to get approval in writing from the House Ethics Committee for any gifts worth more than $250 from personal friends, and he would have had to report accepting a gift on his annual financial disclosure forms. […]

“It is the PAC’s understanding that all required expenses in connection with this event have been paid,” a spokesman for Schock said in a statement. “However, if it is determined at the conclusion of the review that any required expenses remain unpaid, the PAC will make prompt payment. Congressman Schock takes his compliance responsibilities seriously which is why he has initiated a proactive review of this issue and others.”

Schock’s trip to London is also part of his internal audit. His office is reviewing compliance procedures in his official office, campaign and leadership PACs, it has said.

* And if you missed it the other night, click here for the Daily Show’s take.

*** UPDATE *** What kind of a guy bills taxpayers for a $40,000 job to make his office look like Downton Abbey? Sheesh

Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock repaid $40,000 from his personal checking account for redecorations to his congressional office in the style of the TV show “Downton Abbey,” according to financial records reviewed by The Associated Press.

Schock paid $35,000 earlier this month to the owner of the Illinois decorating firm Euro Trash, and $5,000 more on Thursday, the records showed. His official House expense account had previously paid the group for its services.

- Posted by Rich Miller   129 Comments      


« NEWER POSTS PREVIOUS POSTS »
* Economic trouble ahead?
* Chicago loses another great
* Today's quotable
* Question of the day
* *** UPDATED x1 *** A curious little e-mail survey
* Ploy or not, Chicago has to administer exams
* The master of understatement strikes again
* AG Madigan's "top 10" list
* The battle for Willie Wilson
* Motorcycle safety spending up while mass transit, Amtrak and DNR cut
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Cancer screening cuts decried
* Rookie mistakes
* Today's number: 2
* Two more problems for Aaron Schock
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