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The dancing governor

Friday, Aug 31, 2007

Go to the 17:50 point in this video as soon as you possibly can…


- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Governor begins Health Care expansion *** Updated x1 ***

Friday, Aug 31, 2007

* Governor snubs legislators, expands health care plan

The $16 million expansion of the state’s All Kids program will cover people between 19 and 21 years old, and represents the first wave of health care expansion promised by the governor this month.

But critics warned the governor is making a serious mistake by snubbing legislative input and leaving taxpayers on the hook for what could be “an open-ended entitlement program.”

Blagojevich announced the expansion in Chicago, and a spokeswoman said it would be paid for by dipping into unspecified funds within the state budget.

* Governor could stretch health care plan

Surrounded by health-care advocates in the play room of a children’s hospital, Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Thursday that he would act without the legislature to expand state health insurance coverage for seriously ill young adults

The proposal, dubbed the All Kids Bridge, would extend coverage for 19-year-olds who would have been dropped from the state’s All Kids program.

“I’m going to continue to use all of the executive authority that the constitution gives me as the governor to expand health care for people,” Blagojevich said, speaking at a news conference in La Rabida Children’s Hospital on Chicago’s South Side. “And if the legislature won’t do it, then I’m going to do it.”

* Governor starts expanding health care for young adults

Money for All Kids Bridge will come from cutting waste and “pork” projects from the budget, Blagojevich said Thursday, although his aides previously have said new health spending would come from shifting money and controlling costs in existing programs.

Blagojevich said his new spending does not require approval from the General Assembly because he is changing eligibility rules for existing programs rather than creating new ones But his rule changes probably will have to go to a legislative committee, giving lawmakers a chance to block his actions.

Illinois Sen. Kwame Raoul, a Chicago Democrat, praised the governor’s actions at Thursday’s news conference.

* Governor moves on health care without approval

That’s part of why critics complain that Blagojevich’s expanded health programs are likely to run out of cash before the end of the current budget year. Blagojevich, though, refuses to wait for the General Assembly to approve the new spending.

“What am I supposed to do? Just give up on health care because they can’t say no to a lobbyist?” Blagojevich said. “We’re not supposed to call ‘em out when they make priorities that are just crassly political. And they’re sellin’ out the interests of their constituents because some lobbyist tells ‘em they can’t support a way to pay for health care. I believe you’re supposed to fight for it.”

* With state late, hospitals wait

Spokeswomen for Hynes and Madigan said the governor’s long review period made it much harder to borrow the $1.2 billion in time. DeJong said the governor took so long to sign the bill because he wanted to give it a “careful review.”

“While we had a tight time frame to pull this together, we were able to secure everyone’s sign-off needed, including the comptroller, treasurer and ratings agencies, except the attorney general, who missed last week’s deadline,” DeJong said.

Sen. Jeff Schoenberg (D-Evanston), who spent last week trying to cobble together enough political support for the deal, said the program fell victim to “the lack of communication and mistrust that exists at the state Capitol.”

He said it will take another vote of the legislature to make the 2007 payments unless “a miracle happens” and the state is able to borrow the $1.2 billion within 10 days.

*** UPDATE *** From the Bond Buyer earlier this week. They beat the Tribune to that story above…

Illinois finance officials and the state Attorney General’s office accused each other of scuttling the state’s proposed $1 billion general obligation note sale that was expected to generate as much as $80 million in additional Medicaid matching funds and pay off a backlog of Medicaid bills.

The GO certificates were to sell competitively this past Monday and be repaid within 60 days, possibly with revenues generated through the state’s hospital assessment tax that is used to leverage about $600 million more in federal matching Medicaid dollars annually.

The state’s treasurer and comptroller must approve short-term financings, and the attorney general typically signs off on all bond transactions. The state faced a deadline of this coming Friday, 60 days past the close of fiscal 2007, to close on the deal in order to count the proceeds under a fiscal 2007 supplemental appropriation that would allow the state to distribute the proceeds to hospitals under the assessment program. For accounting purposes, state law permits a 60-day lapse period for paying bills for 2007 and collecting revenues to count toward the prior year.

“While we had a tight timeframe to pull this together, we were able to secure everyone’s sign-off needed, including the comptroller, treasurer, and rating agencies, with the exception of the attorney general, who missed last week’s deadline,” budget office spokesman Justin DeJong said this week. “We’re disappointed because an opportunity has been missed to help both the state and hospitals providing care to our Medicaid clients, but we’re committed to finding a way to make this work despite this set-back.”

The deal was pulled together quickly in recent weeks, but lawyers working on the transaction warned last week that Gov. Rod Blagojevich needed to sign the $59 billion, fiscal 2008 budget before the state could proceed. The governor acted on the budget last Thursday, but the attorney general’s office raised other questions over the transaction and did not sign off by late last week when the state had hoped to post a notice of sale, according to budget officials.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office sharply denied any responsibility in the sale’s delay, stressing that its approval is needed solely on the final documentation and not for the state to proceed with the transaction. Madigan chief of staff Ann Spillane blamed the deal’s troubled timing on the governor’s failure to sign the supplemental appropriation in a timely fashion after its passage this spring. “The governor’s office botched the hospital assessment program by not signing the bill until Aug. 13 and is now looking for someone to blame,” she said, adding that staff lawyers had conceptually agreed to the borrowing although they were still reviewing various details.

- Posted by Paul Richardson   Comments Off      


Never-ending budget debacle

Friday, Aug 31, 2007

* Editorial: Beware the blade of Blago

Meanwhile, as if the tax dollars already wasted on the overtime sessions weren’t enough, now Illinois taxpayers get to spend even more on a court battle over whether the governor can call even more special sessions - the Legislature has “in no way completed all the business necessary” - to squander even more of their money.

* Rep. Mitchell and others decry downstate project cuts

Still, while Decatur’s CeaseFire anti-violence program, Good Samaritan Inn, Salvation Army and other agencies saw some funding slashed in the district of state Rep. Bob Flider, D-Mount Zion, projects requested by Mitchell survived the ax.

But Mitchell said some people complaining now about the process have been silent for too long in criticizing what they see as a stranglehold that Chicago Democrats have on state government. The governor has kept some schools and communities in Republican districts from receiving money that had been appropriated to them in the past, he said.

* Tribune Editorial Board interview with Dick Durbin

On feuding Democrats in Illinois:

I received a letter about two months ago from a group in Chicago asking me if I would go to Springfield and mediate their difficulties. I said I’d rather go to Iraq — and I meant it. I’m very disappointed as a Democrat that it has reached this point. I cannot explain it other than there are personal elements involved here that have unfortunately transcended the real issues and there is not a good spirit of cooperation and compromise.

When we passed the federal highway bill we brought more federal funds back to Illinois than ever in our history. The stars all lined up. It’s a huge pot of money. We’ve never had this much federal money available for our state. It all requires a [state] match. Unfortunately, our budget in the state can’t accommodate that match. I begged the governor and all the leaders — “If you can’t agree on anything else, please don’t miss out on this opportunity for federal funds.” It looks like we missed a year of construction. We’re just squandering these opportunities to bring federal resources in.

* Editorial: Governor’s lawsuit pointless and petty

* Budget cuts hurt agencies

* Budget cuts hurt museums too

* State budget cuts could hit Springfield park district

- Posted by Paul Richardson   Comments Off      


Cook Co. & Chicago News

Friday, Aug 31, 2007

* Cook Co. hospitals may charge $3 for prescriptions

While Stroger himself would not say how much he pays for prescriptions under the county health insurance plan, most of the county’s highest-paid employees pay only $5 for theirs.

“He’s sticking it to the people who can least afford it,” said Ed Shurna of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. “To make the county’s poorest people pay almost as much as someone making six figures is completely unfair.”

* Tribune Editorial: A costly peace for the Chicago public school system

The Chicago system has seen some inroads with innovative education and management strategies. The schools have improved.

But they have so far to go. And the overriding message of this teachers contract is that the status quo is just fine, thank you.

Excuse us. The status quo plus 4 percent a year. And virtually no structural reforms.

The Illinois legislature did little this year to demand change in public schools. And Chicago school management has demanded even less.

* Teamsters reject 10-year city pact; more here

* Department of Administrative Hearings chief stepping down

* Sheriff Dart to talk to Shakman about hiring

- Posted by Paul Richardson   Comments Off      


Morning Shorts

Friday, Aug 31, 2007

* PrairieStateBlue: Latest ins and out of IL-18

The most interesting thing about the article though isn’t that Myerscough decided not to run, but rather how involved the DCCC has already been. They spoke with Myerscough before her decision not to run (who said that she came away from the meeting thinking that IL-18 was more winnable than she thought) and have also reportedly spoken with Edley and Grawey. It’s clear the DCCC thinks that this district can be in play.

* Instead of Congress, Darin LaHood to run for State’s Attorney

* Worth noting, coaches earn way more than governors

* New law gives foreclosure notice to help renters

* Questions around Ceasefire effectiveness; more here

* Blog thoughts on CeaseFire here and here

* Plane used by Blagojevich getting a makeover

* Poshard to answer plagiarism claims; more here and here and here and here

* Friday Beer Blogging: More Animals Edition

- Posted by Paul Richardson   Comments Off      


Budget cut backlash

Thursday, Aug 30, 2007

* Sun-Times Editorial: Gov’s cuts just don’t add up

The governor says he is pushing forward with his plans — without legislative approval — because he is trying to improve the lives of Illinois citizens. But his methods shouldn’t include using taxpayer money to reward friends and punish enemies. And they shouldn’t include taking money from one good cause to fund another.

* Governor cuts HIV funds

Among the “pork” that was cut: $70,000 for Better Existence with HIV ( BEHIV ) ; $50,000 for Vital Bridges; $100,000 for Howard Brown towards HIV prevention; $70,000 for Chicago House towards housing and job training; and more than $154,000 for Bonaventure House. Meanwhile, Blagojevich made sure to push through 3.5 percent salary increases for statewide elected officers, just one week after approving a 9.6 percent salary increase.

BEHIV’s executive director Eric Nelson told Windy City Times that what he finds most “frustrating and unbelievable” is the way the governor chose what he would eliminate. Nelson felt that the Democrats’ “pet projects” were eliminated, while Republicans’ were left alone in order to curry favor.

“There is always so much more to the story than he lets on,” Nelson said, pointing out that a $500,000 bike trail project for Romeoville that was approved could have covered all the HIV prevention and education “pork” that was sliced.

* Governor’s budget cuts hit public radio, TV

The reductions mean public broadcasting will receive as much as 30 percent less this year from state government than last year, said Chet Tomczyk, president and CEO of WTVP-TV in Peoria, and a board member of the national Association of Public Television Stations and the Illinois Public Broadcasting Council.

“For stations, it’s going to be a fairly significant cut,” Tomczyk said today.

“We had to make some difficult decisions about what the state can really afford and what our most critical spending priorities should be,” said Justin DeJong, spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget. “We think we ended up with a budget that better reflects the needs and values of the people of our state.”

* Is CeaseFire worth your $13 million?

A state audit questioned CeaseFire’s effectiveness and why nearly $264,000 in expenditures couldn’t be accounted for. The findings come a week after Gov. Blagojevich vetoed $6.25 million in funding for the group, which uses ex-gang members to resolve conflicts.

A state audit questioned CeaseFire’s effectiveness and why nearly $264,000 in expenditures couldn’t be accounted for. The findings come a week after Gov. Blagojevich vetoed $6.25 million in funding for the group, which uses ex-gang members to resolve conflicts.

Auditor General William Holland said no state standards are in place to measure CeaseFire’s work. Holland did his own analysis.

* CeaseFire criticized over bookkeeping

* Daley rips gov for cutting gang negotiation funds

* Press Release: IL Assoc. of Rehab Facilities asks for veto override of Gov cuts

* Press Release: Aids foundation of Chicago blasts Gov’s cuts

* Daley assaults Blago over choice of cuts

- Posted by Paul Richardson   Comments Off      


Democratic Party disUnity

Thursday, Aug 30, 2007

* Eric Zorn: Governor can pull rank, but he shouldn’t

Otherwise, Quinlan said, House or Senate leaders could simply schedule the session for the year 2025, rendering the power meaningless.

It’s a fair point, and one Quinlan is making (speaking of 10 years in the future) in a suit filed on Blagojevich’s behalf last week against House Speaker Michael Madigan…

o I played the “3 a.m. Christmas morning” card on top of Quinlan’s “2025″ card.

If, I asked him in a message, the governor’s power to yank the leashes of the legislators and drag them into their respective chambers is truly unlimited under Illinois law, as his suit argues, then does anything stop him from dragging them from their beds at 3 a.m. seven days a week right through all the holidays until they made his priorities their own?

Quinlan didn’t get back to me Wednesday, but Blagojevich’s press office told me no, nothing limits a governor’s power to call special sessions.

* Democrats still at odds over mass transit legislation

If the measure were to find its way to the governor’s desk, however, Gov. Rod Blagojevich says he will veto the proposal because it violates his campaign pledge to not raise taxes.

On Wednesday, in a written statement, the governor reiterated his opposition and again called on lawmakers to support his plan to raise taxes on businesses, which was rejected unanimously in the House last spring.

”I do not support the plan to require people to pay a higher sales tax and real estate transfer tax,” he wrote. “That just ends up hurting the very people who rely on mass transit. We shouldn’t take more money from working people when there are major corporations doing business in Illinois who benefit from a strong mass transit system, but aren’t paying their fair share to help maintain it.”

* House panel OKs plan for CTA

Combined with matching money from the state and funds already in the budget, the new taxes would make the entire package worth about $525 million, said Democratic state Rep. Julie Hamos, chairwoman of the House Mass Transit Committee.

Hamos’ committee approved the bill Wednesday with a bipartisan 15-4 vote. She said the full House will consider it when it meets next Tuesday in Springfield.

* Kadner: Durbin says leaders put us in an ‘awful’ state

When U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) stopped by the Daily Southtown offices for a chat with the editorial board Wednesday. I asked him what he thought of his Democratic colleagues, who control the governor’s mansion, state Senate and state House.

“The situation has deteriorated so badly,” the state’s senior U.S. senator said. “It’s gotten entirely too personal among the leaders. There’s been little effort at compromise or cooperation.

“It’s awful.”

Darn right.

* Let courts decide Madigan-Blago suit, says Lt. Gov. Quinn

* Joe Calomino: State budget process needs reform and transparency

- Posted by Paul Richardson   Comments Off      


Morning Shorts

Thursday, Aug 30, 2007

* Bernie Schoenburg: Governor changes flight habits after bad publicity

The way he’s been acting lately – slashing health care funding along with what he calls “pork” from the state budget, and suing a leader of his own party — it almost seems as if Gov. Rod Blagojevich likes bad publicity. But it does appear that he’s changed his flying habits a bit in response to bad press.

* Jake Parrillo blog: ‘IL 2010 for Gov’ web operation playbook (H/T: IlliniPundit)

* Sneed: Blago, Lauzen

* Jennifer Hunter: Despite union declines, Dems still court labor votes

“The political reach and institutional capability of the labor movement far outreaches its membership numbers,” she says. And unions put a lot of their resources into political efforts, both on the local and national level.

Labor is one of the few organized groups that can walk precincts and mobilize workers. “Their resources remain considerable,” Milkman said.

And, most important for Democrats, union membership is highest in states politically crucial to the party during a general election.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly half of the 15.4 million union members live in six states: California, New York, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

And those who study labor, such as Cornfield, believe the movement will only get stronger because of the vast immigration to the United States — a replay of the trend in the early 20th century that led immigrants to form the modern labor movement. If experts like Cornfield are right, it is a fortuitous development for the Democrats, one that should allow them to really celebrate this Labor Day.

* New law prevents sex offenders from voting at schools

* Governor partially veto’s bill requiring eye exams

* Blagojevich appealing dismissal of fighter-wing lawsuit

* Daley: Hike gas tax 5 cents

* Russ Stewart: Gene Moore rejects ‘Michael Vick’ Syndrome

- Posted by Paul Richardson   Comments Off      


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