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Friday, May 24, 2019

* The House is reconvening Sunday at 4 o’clock. I’ll probably have a live coverage post up and maybe do some limited blogging because I don’t expect them to do much, but one never knows. I may also post some updates tomorrow if something breaks loose.

Meanwhile, crank it up for Bruce

We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Illinois separatist interviewed on Fox News show

Friday, May 24, 2019

* Eastern Bloc leader Rep. Brad Halbrook (R-Shelbyville) was on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program last night

CARLSON: I mean, part of the reason, the impetus for this has got to be financial. I mean, nobody wants to be saddled with the debt. They’re really unresolvable, debt problems that Chicago has, I assume that’s part of this, right?

HOLBROOK: Well, part of it. Yes, I mean, you know, Chicago is drowning in debt. They’re drowning in unfunded pension liabilities. Illinois is same, you know, there’s a $250 billion by some estimates of unfunded pension liabilities, and it continues to grow every day.

You know, that’s part of it. The financial aspect is a big factor. But we see kind of an overreaching population out of the city that kind of has a different idea about how to live their life, and they continue to impose their will on us.

You know, when it comes to the life and unborn, the Second Amendment, minimum wage is a big issue. And they’re just many other issues that they — that they’re having in the city that we’re just not having in the rest of the state of Illinois.

CARLSON: So fewer drive-by shootings outside of Chicago, I would imagine. So how does Chicago feel about this?

HOLBROOK: Well, there’s folks in Chicago, I get e-mail and phone calls every day that say, “Hey, we live in Chicago. We live in Cook County, we’re with you.” We do get some folks that call or e-mail say it’s a bad idea, be careful what we wish for. But we’re getting way more positive e- mail, comments - social media comments, way more positive than the negative.

CARLSON: I mean, Chicago as a state, what would that look like? Would that be the most dysfunctional state out of 51?

HOLBROOK: Some might say that.

CARLSON: Some might say that. You know what, I like your reticence, your subtlety. You’re obviously not from Chicago. Representative, thank you very much. Good to see you tonight.

HOLBROOK: Thank you.

I got news for you, Rep. Halbrook: Bruce Rauner still would’ve lost last year with Chicago votes not counted. Suburban Cook County and most of the collars aren’t on board with much of your agenda.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      

House’s newest freshman ponders tax vote

Friday, May 24, 2019

* Rep. Nathan Reitz was appointed to the House this month after Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Smithton) resigned to take a job at IDNR. The BND’s Joseph Bustos talked to the newbie about several topics, including the governor’s proposed graduated income tax plan

In an interview, Reitz, the former shift supervisor at the Dynegy-owned Baldwin Power Plant, wouldn’t give a definitive answer on whether he would vote differently than Costello on the issue.

“Right now I’m still looking at everything and at the end of the day I have to do what’s best for all the people in my district, and lowering taxes on the middle class is definitely my focus right now and will always be my focus,” Reitz said. […]

Nathan Reitz’s appointment this month was followed by a call from the Illinois GOP for the younger Reitz to follow in Costello’s footsteps and oppose a graduated income tax system. […]

“I’ve spoken to several people and told them I have to do what’s best for the people in the 116th district,” Reitz said. “They will be the people that ultimately have the decision to bring me back to Springfield in two years. If the fair tax is something that needs to happen to make that a possibility, we probably need to sit down and look at it.”

If “lowering taxes on the middle class” is his focus, then he can theoretically make the argument that this particular proposal would do that for all but a few of his constituents. Do you think he may have just tipped his hand?

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      

Gatehouse cuts jobs to the marrow while spending $100 million on stock

Friday, May 24, 2019

* Hmm

Shareholders of the parent company of newspaper chain GateHouse Media Inc., New Media Investment Group Inc., rejected a proposed compensation plan that includes $1.7 million for GateHouse CEO Kirk Davis.

The vote, which occurred Thursday, comes as shares of New Media Investment Group (NYSE: NEWM) are trading at all-time lows, and less than a month after the company’s longtime chairman, Wesley R. Edens, resigned from that role and was replaced by New Media CEO Mike Reed.

The vote also coincided with the eliminations of dozens of jobs at GateHouse-owned newspapers, including at least six journalists at the Providence Journal, another six at the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, and several more at the New Bedford Standard-Times and the Herald News in Fall River.

* That might seem satisfying to Gatehouse haters, but scroll down

In addition to the vote on compensation, shareholders on Thursday also approved the company spending $100 million to buy back its own stock, a measure that’s typically taken by companies to increase their share price.

* $100 million could employ a whole lot of Gatehouse reporters

Another major blow for newspapers. GateHouse Media, one of the largest publishers in the United States with 156 daily newspapers and 328 weeklies, slashed jobs across the country Thursday. The official number is unknown, but it appears to be at least several dozen. […]

The Columbus Dispatch cut six positions [Thursday], including feature columnist Joe Blundo, who volunteered to cut back to one column a week. […]

Six were laid off from the Worcester (Massachusetts) Telegram & Gazette and, in a tweet, Worcester Magazine’s Bill Shaner said the magazine’s editor, Walter Bird, and arts editor, Josh Lyford, were laid off, leaving Shaner as the only full-timer left.

At the Daily Commercial in Leesburg (Florida), two were let go, including executive editor Tom McNiff. The paper is now left with just six people to put out a seven-day-a-week paper. Three were let go at The St. Augustine (Florida) Record, including its executive editor. Other Florida papers impacted included the Gainesville Sun and Ocala Star-Banner.

The Beaver County (Pennsylvania) Times laid off an employee who had been at the paper for 35 years. That newsroom had 60 staffers in the early 2000s, but is now down to 12 to put out a three-section paper six days a week. […]

There were also cuts at the Canton (Illinois) Daily Ledger and Tuscaloosa (Alabama) News, including Ben Jones, who covered the University of Alabama football program. Other jobs were eliminated at the Hagerstown (Maryland) Herald-Mail and several papers in in Illinois, including the Peoria Journal Star and Rockford Register Star.


GateHouse Media is making another round of layoffs at newspapers across the country, and Central Illinois isn’t coming out unscathed.

Peoria Journal Star staff photographer Ron Johnson was informed of his layoff while covering the Greater Peoria Honor Flight in Washington, D.C., a source said. Two copy editors with decades of experience were also laid off Thursday. Pagination was recently outsourced from Peoria to GateHouse’s hub in Austin, Texas. […]

At the Canton Daily Ledger, sports editor Shelby Burget tweeted he was laid off at 1 p.m. Thursday. Pekin Daily Times executive editor Jeanette Brickner’s last day was Thursday. Galesburg Register-Mail columnist Tom Loewy was also eliminated.

* Rushton

“The thing that we always have to think about and remember is that our first objective is always what’s the best thing for our shareholders, since we’re a public company,” [Michael Reed, GateHouse chief executive officer] told Doctor. This month, New Media Investment Group, GateHouse’s holding company, paid nearly $100 million in dividends, mostly to institutional investors. At 38 cents per share, the dividend has risen while the stock price has declined, from $25 in 2015 to $10 today, with same-store revenue falling by more than 5 percent annually in 2017 and again in 2018. Lee Enterprises, which owns the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and 45 other papers, hasn’t paid a dividend since 2008. Gannett, second only to GateHouse in number of papers owned, sliced its dividend in 2015 and most recently paid 16 cents per share.

Against this backdrop, SJ-R editor Angie Muhs, once a GateHouse Editor of the Year, resigned this month and was walked out of the building. She reportedly told her staff she hoped her departure would save sufficient salary to prevent more layoffs. She might have been gone no matter what – GateHouse has signaled a move to centralized management that would have a single editor assigned to oversee multiple newspapers.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      

Leader Brady upbeat on budget talks

Friday, May 24, 2019

* Finke

Interestingly, the budget, which was a major sticking point during former Gov. Bruce Rauner’s term, is progressing well, [Senate GOP Leader Bill Brady] said.

“The budget, I think, is close,” he said. “I think the budget is probably the most workable portion of this.”

* More

Brady emphasized the group wants to make greater investments in nursing homes and education, and said a tax on Medicaid managed care organizations could free up general revenue spending by allowing the state to “maximize federal reimbursement” for Medicaid spending.

* And

Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, emerged from the governor’s office after the hour-long meeting and said they talked about the budget. He said he thinks it’s close thanks to April’s revenue windfall and projected increased money captured from taxpayers.

“We’ve been able to see the governor make some positive steps by not doing the pension short,” Brady said.

April revenue came in $1.5 billion more than expected. Pritzker indicated that would keep him from going ahead with a plan to pay less than needed into the state’s underfunded pension systems. He had suggested lowering the amount the state would put in and extending the pension ramp several years, an idea that was criticized by members on both sides of the aisle.

Brady said the governor also indicated he would walk some taxes back because of April’s windfall. However, Brady said some problematic items remained on the table.

“Repatriation in the federal tax code that will bring dollars back to Illinois that they want to tax that I think will keep those dollars from coming back to Illinois,” Brady said. “That will not help economic development.”

Brady also said yesterday that he met with the governor in the morning. The two are staying in close contact.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      

Capital bill roundup

Friday, May 24, 2019

* The four leaders met with the governor yesterday

As the spring session of the General Assembly ticks toward its conclusion, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said he needs to see far more details on a capital plan before he’ll be able to convince House Republicans to support it.

Durkin said a late afternoon meeting between Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the other legislative leaders failed to produce many details of the $41.5 billion capital plan, including how to pay for it.

“There still has not been anything put on paper for us to take back to the caucus,” Durkin said. “I know we’re a few days (from adjournment), but things need to speed up. If Democrats are looking for support from my caucus, I just can’t go in with general statements.” […]

“It’s going to be important for funding this,” Durkin said of gambling. “There’s no clarity, no consensus on that, either.”

* More

Republican Senate Leader Bill Brady, of Bloomington, called it a “nice meeting,” while House GOP Leader Jim Durkin, of Western Springs, said there’s still “no clarity, no consensus” on a range of issues with just seven days remaining in the legislative session. […]

The meeting added “some clarity” on a capital improvements bill, Durkin said, but “still not anything to put on paper.”

“Democrats, if they’re looking for support from my caucus, I just can’t go in with general statements, I need to see a plan in place,” he said. […]

Brady called Democrats “reserved about talking about details” on some of the capital spending until the group can “define the revenues” that will be received from some proposals that are still in limbo. Still, he said he thought “things can be worked through,” and he also said a gambling expansion bill could add more revenue for vertical infrastructure.

“I’d rather not give up on a vertical plan,” he said. “But horizontal is obviously a high priority for us.”

* And

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said infrastructure was another topic, but he said the Democrats started the process late and no bill has been filed with the details.

“We could have done this earlier, but you know what, we’re in the minority and we’ll manage, but I can’t sell something that is going to be left to guess or something that doesn’t have something specific in it,” Durkin said. […]

Durkin said what’s been proposed will be hard to sell to Republicans.

“I will just say there’s a lot of taxes that we’re seeing,” Durkin said.

The leaders meet with the governor again on Monday.

* Related…

* Illinois lawmakers continue to craft gambling expansion plans as deadline looms: “Anything can change here,” Rita said.

* Governor defends slew of proposed tax increases to fund infrastructure plan: “It’s important that they’re stable revenue sources because you need to go bond them out, and in order to get people to buy the bond you have to have a stable source to pay the bonds,” Pritzker said Wednesday. “So that’s why we did that.”

* Tollway promises new vote after chairman approves subcontract with former employer: HBK’s subcontract is anticipated to be less than $150,000, which comes out to be .5 percent of the total contract, tollway officials said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   4 Comments      

Cannabis roundup

Friday, May 24, 2019

* ¯\_(ツ)_/¯…

* I took a polite pass on this poll yesterday

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: A solid majority of Illinois residents favor legalizing recreational marijuana, a new poll has found.

According to Tulchin Research, 65 percent of downstate voters support legalization, compared to 33 percent who oppose. The numbers are similar in western Illinois (64 percent favor, 32 percent oppose) and in northern Illinois (61 percent favor, 36 percent oppose).

The poll surveyed 600 voters across three regions of swing state legislative districts. Downstate polling was done in state House Districts 76 and 112, western polling in state House Districts 45, 48, and 49. Northern House Districts 51, 53, 61 and 62 also were surveyed. Representatives of those districts are all Democrats: Lance Yednock (76th), Katie Stuart (112th), Diane Pappas (45th), Terra Costa Howard (48th), Karina Villa (49th), Mary Edly-Allen (51st), Mark Walker (53rd), Joyce Mason (61st) and Sam Yingling (62nd).

“Our polling finds that legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana is backed by wide margins across all three of these regions and that majorities in each region would be more likely to vote for a state legislative candidate who backs legalization,” the poll memo states.

First of all, it’s totally false to claim the poll shows “A solid majority of Illinois residents” favor anything. It says no such thing and the pollster himself does not even make this claim. The poll also doesn’t show regional sentiment. The above story is a complete misreading of the actual results.

This is not a statewide poll. It’s a survey of 600 people scattered over nine of 118 House districts divided into three regions of 200 respondents each. Those four “Northern” districts would have just 50 respondents per district. I just didn’t think it provided worthwhile numbers, so I passed.

* Related…

* If Pot is Legalized in Illinois, What Happens to Medical Marijuana?: “Why would we keep a medical program, if there’s a recreational source around and you could skip seeing the doctor and just go get it yourself? It’s that you’ll miss out on the monitoring with one’s other medications, for instance,” said Dr. Leslie Mendoza Temple, a physician in Glenview who chaired the state government’s now-disbanded Medical Marijuana Advisory Board. “We would want to be sure we’re monitoring for abuse, toxicity. And you wouldn’t have those checks in place if one were just using it without kind of any medical supervision, if you’re using it for medical purposes.”

* Report: Michigan recreational pot market to rival Colorado’s

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      

House Revenue Committee approves Senate income tax rate bill

Friday, May 24, 2019

* The House Revenue Committee approved SB687 this morning, which is the Senate Democrats’ income tax rate bill that tweaked the governor’s proposed rates.

The bill passed on a partisan roll call. Democratic Reps. Sam Yingling and Jonathan Carroll were not present for the hearing and were replaced with substitute Dems. The two have said in the past that they opposed the graduated income tax proposal, but Carroll voted to send the constitutional amendment to the floor the other day. You’d think if they were still solidly against the governor’s plan they would’ve made it a point to attend today’s hearing.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      

The Credit Union Difference

Friday, May 24, 2019

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Not everywhere you store your money is the same. Credit unions are not-for-profit, member owned cooperatives that exist to serve their members and community, meaning people pool their savings to provide each other affordable credit.

Benefits of credit union membership include:

Better Rates and Lower Fees – Because credit unions are member-owned, members reap the benefits of earnings. These earnings are returned to members through lower loan rates, higher savings rates and contributions to offset fees.

Better Financial Education - Because credit unions aren’t focused on making a profit, they value educating each of their members on which financial option would be best for their situation rather than what would better the credit union. From July 2017 through June 2018, Illinois credit unions conducted 1,041 youth presentations that reached nearly 30,000 students and 549 adult presentations that reached over 14,000.

Better Service - Credit unions offer full and fair service to all their members and credit union membership tends to be concentrated in the working class of Americans. Overall, 61% of credit union members who rely primarily on their credit union for financial services have incomes between $25,000 and $100,000.

*data from CUNA

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      

Congratulations, Rhiannon!

Friday, May 24, 2019

* Way back in January, we learned that one of our longtime commenters “HangingOn” was worried about having to choose between paying for her daughter Rhiannon’s 8th grade graduation gown or her school lunches because she hadn’t received her contractually negotiated state employee step pay raises.

HangingOn was owed around $7,200 in back pay and was having all sorts of financial troubles. Her daughter had survived brain cancer, but has developmental issues due to her surgery and radiation treatment. Life was becoming very difficult and HangingOn was at her wit’s end.

At my urging, HangingOn set up a GoFundMe account asking for a mere $100. After we discussed her story, y’all stepped up and contributed an impressive $5,710.

* HangingOn sent me an email last night with good news about her daughter…

Rhiannon graduated!

Thanks to you and everyone else that helped make it a special experience. … And it would have been hard to manage without you and the wonderful people from the blog!


Here’s Rhiannon with her diploma…

I love you people.

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      

Read the Lightfoot tea leaves

Friday, May 24, 2019

* Tribune

Snagging a Chicago casino, getting help with city pensions and landing an infrastructure bill are at the top of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s list of priorities as Illinois lawmakers head into the legislature’s final week.

The city’s new mayor said a casino was “a big priority” for her in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly’s closing days and that she’s had productive conversations about it. She said her team also is working on other issues and discussing her administration’s priorities with lawmakers.

“We are making sure that we’ve got our wish list down there,” Lightfoot said Thursday after an unrelated news conference. “So we’re firing on a lot of different cylinders to make sure that the city of Chicago gets its fair share of resources from Springfield.” […]

She told the Tribune that she’s aware of the timing of when Chicago needs to have her first spending plan in place and when Illinois voters might be asked to overhaul the state’s tax code — a proposition that has been touted as a tax hike for the wealthy.

“There is a finite number of people who are high net worth, and the vast majority of them in the state live in the city of Chicago. So, we have every interest in making sure that solving Chicago’s fiscal issues are aligned with the state and vice versa,” Lightfoot said last week. “We’re going to go first. That’s just the nature of the timing. If we clobber people with outsized taxes, it’s going to make making the case for the fair tax that much more challenging. We are all in. We support the governor’s program, but it’s important that we are looking at this issue holistically and Chicago’s fiscal circumstances have to be part of the calculus as well, and I think they get that.”

My read: Help the city with its priorities now or it sure would be a shame if something happened to that tax plan you’ve got on the ballot next year.

Your turn.

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      

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Friday, May 24, 2019

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Friday, May 24, 2019

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* Reader comments closed until Sunday afternoon
* Illinois separatist interviewed on Fox News show
* House's newest freshman ponders tax vote
* Gatehouse cuts jobs to the marrow while spending $100 million on stock
* Leader Brady upbeat on budget talks
* Capital bill roundup
* Cannabis roundup
* House Revenue Committee approves Senate income tax rate bill
* The Credit Union Difference
* Congratulations, Rhiannon!
* Read the Lightfoot tea leaves
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