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Downstate Dems running away from guv’s plan

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

This is probably the most important story written so far about the political impact of the governor’s lottery/education plan. After hinting about big problems with downstate Democrats last week, I had hoped to write a story just like this in a day or two, but the Post-Dispatch beat me to it.

Downstate Democrats, fearful that Chicago schools will get most of the jackpot in a proposed $10 billion privatization of the state lottery, are quietly organizing a possible rebellion against their party’s own governor over the controversial plan.

“When you’re talking about selling the lottery for $10 billion, that can do a lot for a lot of different schools,” said state Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Norris City. “If all the money is going to Chicago, there’s no way I’m going to support this.”

Phelps and other downstate Democrats said they are concerned that the proposal by Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich will end a lottery revenue stream that aids schools statewide, trading it in for a Chicago-centric school revitalization plan.

Details of the plan are still incomplete, and the administration denies it will be geared toward Chicago. But critics point to an appearance that the plan is being created primarily to placate a Chicago-based state senator who been threatening to challenge Blagojevich’s re-election bid in November.

“All of our schools in the state should be treated equally,” said state Rep. Thomas Holbrook, D-Belleville. “That’s what I would not request, but demand of any program that would make such a fundamental change to the lottery system.”

One of the downstate legislators, Rep. Kurt Granberg, D-Carlyle, began calling southern Illinois colleagues within the party last week to discuss strategy, and said he intends to follow up with letters to Democratic lawmakers throughout the region this week. Granberg said he hopes downstate Democrats will, as a group, threaten to oppose the measure unless they get assurances that “a substantial portion” of the program benefits downstate schools.

Read the whole thing.

It’s amazing to me that the AP hasn’t picked up on this piece yet.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - anon - Tuesday, May 30, 06 @ 10:43 am:

    Does anyone really believe that this plan will ever be put into langauge with a bill number. With the sole purpose of getting Meeks off the ballot, why even introduce it in November. He wouldn’t be the first person Blago royally screwed.

  2. - Bluefish - Tuesday, May 30, 06 @ 10:45 am:

    I’m curious to see if any suburban Democrats come out in favor of this scheme. I’d have to think they’re in a similar boat as the downstaters - tight or failing school budgets, rising property taxes with no relief in sight, and a funding scheme that diverts huge bucks to Chicago. It won’t play well here.

  3. - ron - Tuesday, May 30, 06 @ 10:48 am:

    this plan(?) , if you can call it one, has about as much of a chance at being succcessful as i have at picking the winning lottery numbers. blago’s assumptions about returns and revenue expectations would be laughable, if they were not so sad to think our state is being managed or should i say mismanaged.

  4. - Anon sequitur - Tuesday, May 30, 06 @ 10:57 am:

    Is it possible to get information by zip code, or even legislative/senate district, of how much money is played on the Lottery on a daily, monthly or annual basis? It would be interesting to see where Lottery revenue actually comes from before getting upset about where the “profits” may go.

    (PS. I grew up Downstate and I don’t think the State does enough for rural schools, but facts are facts. We ought to know the facts before we go off on this issue.)

  5. - Pat Collins - Tuesday, May 30, 06 @ 11:00 am:

    Don’t forget, Brandon Phelp’s relative (brother?) lost his seat last redistricting because there were more illegal aliens in Chicago than people though. It’s why Rod ran for Gov, he thought it was HIS seat going away.

    Maybe some payback here?

  6. - Down in Flames - Tuesday, May 30, 06 @ 11:03 am:

    With property tax reassessments coming out on the north side of Chicago, and the Governor’s proposal doing nothing about the reliance on property taxes for school funding, you can bet that a big number of Chicago legislators aren’t on board either.

  7. - Team Sleep - Tuesday, May 30, 06 @ 11:10 am:

    I can’t believe it’s taken this long for elected downstate Dems to criticize/question Blago. After all he has NOT done for them, and after three full years of unkept promises, the envelope has finally been bent. Congrats, Blago, you’ve alienated even more people than thought possible. Your reliance on Southern Illinois to win the Dem primary in 2002 and the strong support you got in Southern Illinois during the general election were all a dog-and-pony show. I kind of see this as a parallel to the large amoung of Republicans in Congress are starting to shy away from Dubya and his low poll numbers. And Granberg coming up with strategy? He must REALLY be scared of getting the boot.

  8. - Si Se Puede - Tuesday, May 30, 06 @ 11:31 am:

    Pat, please promise me that when all us “illegals” become citizens, register to vote and start running things in this state, that you will move to some other state where your xenophobia is more appreciated.

  9. - bored now - Tuesday, May 30, 06 @ 11:48 am:

    not to state the obvious, but the problems we have in educational funding stem from the “everyone shares equally from state revenues” quota. while i have no idea which are in worse shape — inner city schools or rural schools (and i think we ought to know OBJECTIVELY, if that’s at all possible here in illinois) — the fact is that we have schools in dire straits, and we need to fix those first.

    the shortsightedness of phelps, holbrook and granberg is despicable. is it any wonder that illinois is considered one of the worst run states in the country?

  10. - Cassandra - Tuesday, May 30, 06 @ 11:51 am:

    Any suburbanite who believes that the lottery school funding scam will result in lower property taxes or even a slowing of their p/t increases deserves to get priced out of his/her suburban home.

    Unless some type of permanent, ongoing, property tax relief is written into the LAW (highly unlikely), the lotto will do nothing to relieve suburban education costs. Suburbs will get little of the money and even higher property taxes will be required when the four year splurge of what they do get is over.

    While I agree that downstaters should be concerned about where the money will go, I would point out the property taxes downstate are much lower than Chicago property taxes. Apparently many downstate communities don’t care enough about education to tax themselves highly for it, unlike most Chicago and suburban communities.

    The lottery is a campaign gambit and JBT has an enormous opportunity to simultaneously point out
    its huge flaws and present a more realistic and balanced plan which does not penalize citizens
    who are already taxing themselves to the gills
    for educations.

  11. Pingback Res et Rationes » Blog Archive » Illinois Politics - Tuesday, May 30, 06 @ 11:55 am:

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  12. - Merlin - Tuesday, May 30, 06 @ 11:58 am:

    What can the guv sell off to appease the downstate dems? Maybe the Shawnee National Forest? How does the Allstate National Forest sound?

  13. - press - Tuesday, May 30, 06 @ 12:01 pm:

    Has anyone seen a postive article/editorial on the Gov’s press release plan? I have not. It doesn’t appear that their visits to editorial boards helped at all. In fact, it looks like it hurt. More legislators will run from this thing as it continues to fall. Pat, what happened to David Phelps is a totally different issue. David Phelps was given a job by the Blago administration, so a “payback” wouldn’t make sense. Brandon Phelps and the other downstaters are just wisely putting some distance between themselves and this unpopular plan.

  14. - Si Se Puede - Tuesday, May 30, 06 @ 12:39 pm:

    Is it too late for Sen. Meeks to circulate?

    Actually, I don’t think Meeks ever really wanted to run for Gov., but he painted himself in a corner and he was determined to hold up his pledge. The Gov’s proposal gave him the way out– as lame as it is.

  15. - steve schnorf - Tuesday, May 30, 06 @ 1:41 pm:

    I wasn’t quite sure what you meant with your last comment. All districts don’t share equally in the state $ for education. Is that what you were saying?

  16. - Truthful James - Tuesday, May 30, 06 @ 2:00 pm:

    I see nobody Running Away from the Governor’s Plan

    All the comments look like the only thing they want is a bigger slice of the pie

    And here is how it is done. Last GA, the martire Winkel 750 solution picked up an additional $1.4 Billion in chips beyond what the tax swap was. Now the downstaters can fleet up to that amount and give Chicago what Meeks needs.

    And don’t forget the money from the Federal income tax cuts. That swag rolls in as well.

    Whose money is it anyway? It is the governor’s of course.

  17. - bored now - Tuesday, May 30, 06 @ 2:08 pm:

    no. there is an attitude, as exhibited by those in this article, that state funds *should* be divided equally. the worst schools need a lot of help, and good schools don’t. local officials should be *glad* that their schools aren’t on the needs list; it certainly makes it easier to sell property…

  18. - puzzler - Tuesday, May 30, 06 @ 2:24 pm:

    How to fix school funding in Illinois:
    1) Do away with all property tax exemptions including the extra exemption for taxpayers over 65,regardless of their income. Our legislature keeps increasing the maximum income level for the senior freeze. Seniors who make less than $50,000 are considered in dire need of tax relief in Illinois, even though $50,000 is well above the median family income in most Illinois counties. Why does the state legislature, who does not levy or collect property taxes, or depend on property tax revenue for support have the right to create exemptions anyway?
    2) Stop giving school aid to school districts where the total Equalized Assessed Value is growing by leaps and bounds. These welathy school districts are guaranteed a minimum amount of state school aid per pupil even though they are reaping the benefits of exponential growth.

  19. - NW burbs - Tuesday, May 30, 06 @ 2:36 pm:

    Despite all the pooh-poohing in the media and the water cooler, Blago comes out on top with this idea/deal no matter what…

    - We’re all talking about his idea. Is it good? Is it a bribe? Would it work? How well? How much is really involved? What goes where?

    ….And all Judy can say with her gravely voice is it stinks, and then offer no plan in response. (Hint to Judy for Guv people: get someone besides your candidate to do this criticizing. It’s turning into bad form and makes her sound sour.)

    - Meeks is essentially off the ballot, even if he still has time to circulate and whether or not this deal goes through. Blago has secured his left flank. If the deal fails — he blames the GOP and downstate Dems. If it goes through he’s figured out a way to secure millions (billions) for schools statewide… and, again, either way Meeks ain’t running.

  20. - Truthful James - Tuesday, May 30, 06 @ 2:54 pm:

    Bless you all. Let’s think outside the box. Every increase in State Funding, every increase in local funding has not increased the Education Value delivered by the public school system. Employers have to train high school graduates in arithmetic and English. Colleges have to remediate entering freshmen to the tune of $2 Billion direct cost a year. Our education can not compete with that of Western Europe, Eastern Asia and India. Even our Advance Placement courses are at the bottom of the barrel.

    Throwing money at a monopoly does not work. remember the goot old days of American cars rolling off the assembly lines with mucho defects.

    Quality got scared into the unions and the car companies when strong competition from Honda, Nissan, and Toyota came on the scene. Prices dropped (relatively) as well.

    When our state agencies try to fake quality by dumbing down the tests and norming up the results, how can you keep a straight face? Your children are the pawns in a flim flam game.

    The system is broken Think the Titanic would not hve sunk if you paid the skipper more money? There was a design flaw. (Water tight compartments did not reach high enough.) When it hit the iceberg, Titanic sunk. The iceberg is the 21st century world economy in which we must compete — or sink.

    We need to do three things and fast, lest we lose more generations.

    First, we need to make remdial education a requirement for welfare payments. Those many who were effectively warehoused and spit out are now parents, but can not play their role in early education.

    Second we must reform the State Agency, establish unflinching standards and accredit every school of any type that qualifies. This Agency will also periodically requalify teachers in the subject matter they are instructing.

    Third we must vest every student equally in education funds. Enable the parent full competitive choice — public, charter, private, parochial (religious classes taught after school as they are now being taught in what the Catholics call CCD), and even home schooling.

    If Choice tuition is less than vested, the money returns to the home District to be used to improve its programs.

    Anything less is cheating the students, the parents and the taxpayers and rewarding a broken system and its employees.

    It is close to time to choose up sides.

    Money is not the solution, it is the excuse.

  21. - Truthful James - Tuesday, May 30, 06 @ 2:57 pm:

    NW Burbs

    You are correct — but it is not right

    As if politics was all that mattered here.

  22. - ron - Tuesday, May 30, 06 @ 3:01 pm:

    i sure hope meeks is better at preaching than politics. i am glad he is a minister, otherwise i would strongly suggest he not take up poker either. he bluffed and lost big time. he will get nothing for this in the end. blago should start a new reality series this fall. let’s make a deal for state assets

  23. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, May 30, 06 @ 5:28 pm:

    bored now — the problem is that the Governor’s funding proposal diverts money from downstate schools over the longterm to provide short term cash for Chicago. Those downstate schools are already financially failing now — 85% of schools are on the financial watchlist. That they are not academically failing yet is only a matter of time, and is practically guaranteed by the Governor’s proposal. And I can assure you that, just like the south suburbs, skyrocketing property taxes are the main reason businesses can no longer afford to be in downstate Illinois and families cannot afford to live there.

    So, it’s not a question of dividing the pie so that everybody’s piece is the same size. Downstate schools have a financial need that is just as great proportionally, but the governor wants to take their slice and give it to Chicago.

  24. - Grubnednarb - Tuesday, May 30, 06 @ 6:02 pm:

    As objectively noted by Charles Wheeler, former statehouse reporter and current professor at UI Springfield (Tribune Chase and Pearson):
    “If you look at this through the lens of politics, IT’S A MASTER STROKE. It removed
    [Meeks]this probably fatal impediment to his re-election. If the plan comes up in the post election fall veto session and fails, Blagojevich can blame Republicans and entrenched educational interests for dooming it. THAT’S THE BEAUTY OF IT FROM A POLITICAL POINT OVF VIEW.”

    Not to mention that Topinka has no plan yet as she admitted during the City Desk debate. Regardless of the merits of the Governor’s propsal, one can only hope that the resultannt discussion and debate

  25. - Grubnednarb - Tuesday, May 30, 06 @ 6:07 pm:

    FINISHING MY PREVIOUS SENTENCE: might lead to some eventual bipartisan solution to the fact that the State of Illinois woefully fails to meet its constituional obligation to fund education adequately.

  26. - steve schnorf - Tuesday, May 30, 06 @ 6:57 pm:

    If there truly was a constitutional obligation, then it would be fairly easy to enforce. The problem is, in the opinion of the only people whose opinion counts, our constitutional language does not appear to create a specific responsibility for the state to fund at any specific level.

  27. - grubnednarb - Tuesday, May 30, 06 @ 8:38 pm:

    I studied the Missouri constitution “way back when” - before the current version of the Illinois constitution. I stand corrected - strike the word constitutional from my preceding remark.

  28. - bored now - Tuesday, May 30, 06 @ 9:50 pm:

    ydd: i don’t think the governor’s plan was or is a serious alternative. i assume it’s purpose was to freeze the race, which it effectively did. what stuck in my craw was holbrook’s quote: “All of our schools in the state should be treated equally.”

    we probably do not disagree on this one…

  29. - RickG - Wednesday, May 31, 06 @ 7:28 am:

    Pat, I definitely don’t think that’s the case.

    David Phelps is Brandon’s Uncle. He lost his seat in the 2002 election, but not exactly because of Blagojevich. Don’t want to get into details of redistricting here, but I just don’t think those two events (Blago running and Phelps eliminated) are related.

    Besides, David Phelps has a cushy job as an IDOT admin. now.

  30. - Minion - Wednesday, May 31, 06 @ 5:18 pm:

    maybe whoever the gov finds to sponsor this will get the trophy for the century club (i.e. 100 no votes). If taken today, you probably would get the black caucus and maybe a few libs like Fritchey and Osterman. I certainly don’t see any GOPs voting for it.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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