“They need to come back and get to work and fund the CTA,” Blagojevich told reporters at a news conference. […]
“They need to be prepared to be there every to work,” Blagojevich said.
The political dynamic changes in Springfield come the new year, when once again a simple majority is all that’s required to pass legislation. That also means the influence of Republicans, who’ve had a seat at the table since the start of June, once again wanes. Democrats control the House, Senate and governor’s mansion.
He also had this to say, which I find very interesting…
Blagojevich also appeared to try to put some pressure back on Mayor Richard M. Daley, saying he’d discussed with Daley the idea of tapping into the city’s cash reserves from selling the Skyway as a way to stave off the Jan. 20 CTA cuts. [Emphasis added]
*** 2:07 pm *** Statement from Speaker Madigan’s spokesman…
“The governor has not informed the office of this decision. I am certain the members of the House will be ready to fully consider all the legislation he plans to introduce for this special session.”
*** 2:25 pm *** Letter the Governor sent to legislators…
OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
December 20, 2007
Honorable members of the General Assembly:
As you know, despite the immediate and growing need to fund the Chicagoland mass transit system, Speaker Madigan decided to cancel session this week. This delay leaves millions of people waiting in uncertainty. I had hoped to receive legislation on my desk before the end of the calendar year. I considered calling a special session this week, but was informed by the legislative leaders that many of their members would be unavailable, and that it would be counterproductive to call them in right before their holiday break.
It has been ninety-two days since the Senate approved a capital plan with bipartisan support. That plan also provided for $200 million in interim relief for mass transit. In the three months since, the House has taken no action. Additionally, twice in the past four months I have been forced to bail out the Chicago Transit Authority to avoid crippling service cuts and fare hikes. In the absence of a permanent funding source, these bailouts have totaled almost $100 million.
Transit riders deserve better. The people of this state deserve better. As such, I am writing to notify you that I will call for a Special Session after the holiday break, beginning January 2, 2008, and to ask you to work quickly to pass a statewide infrastructure plan, so that there is also sufficient support for a long-term solution to mass transit funding. As I have said before, I support Representative Saviano’s plan, or a comparable plan, to provide mass transit funding by redirecting the sales tax on gasoline in the RTA region. This legislation received a near-majority of 57 votes on November 28, even though many members were absent or failed to vote on the measure.
With the RTA prepared to implement drastic layoffs, service cuts and fare increases on January 20 if no agreement is reached, our time is running out. You must focus on passing legislation in this short timeframe. There will be only 18 days to work before the transit doomsday, so you should be prepared to meet as often as needed during that period.
I am providing this notice now so that all members of the General Assembly can make arrangements to be present, and be prepared to vote. Let’s start the New Year on a great note by passing a long-term solution for mass transit. The citizens of Illinois are relying on us to get the job done.
*** 5:05 pm *** Email thoughts from Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff commenting on the line in the Tribune story…
The Governor didn’t say he’d discussed with Daley the idea of tapping into the city’s cash reserves from selling the Skyway as a way to stave off the Jan. 20 CTA cuts. He said downstate lawmakers have been grumbling about how Mayor Daley keeps insisting the state should bail out the CTA and not tie it to funding for downstate infrastructure projects; but meanwhile the city of Chicago - which has millions in the bank from the Skyway deal - hasn’t stepped up to help meet the CTA’s needs. We are pushing for passage of a long-term solution for mass transit, but the City-state funding disparity combined with the City’s reluctance to back a statewide capital plan, contributes to the challenge of winning support for transit funding in Springfield.
* Here are the winners from our final round in the annual Golden Horshoe contest…
* JoAnn Sullivan was an easy winner in the “Best legislative secretary” category. She always gives above and beyond the call of duty and is one of the nicest human beings you’ll ever meet, which is somewhat ironic considering that she works for Speaker Madigan.
* I’ve met Beth Goncher from Rep. Tim Schmitz’s district office and dealt with her on various matters and she definitely lives up to the hype in comments yesterday. She gets the “Best district office administrator” award hands down.
Thanks to all who voted.
By the way, Linda Brown, Dan Brady’s Springfield secretary, is retiring at the end of this month. Her party is at the Pasfield House tonight.
* Someone asked yesterday for a list of all our winners. Here it is…
* State legislator who best empitomizes public service: Tie - Rep. Frank Mautino and Rep. Julie Hamos
* Most effective local mayor of a city with less than one million people: The late Rosemont Mayor Don Stephens
* The Illinois US Congressman who shows true statesmanlike qualities of putting country over party: Ray LaHood
* The Illinois union, association, etc. that has the most positive impact on Illinois government: CUB
* Best political bar/restaurant in Springfield: Boone’s Saloon
* Best statewide officeholder: Lisa Madigan
* Best state legislative staffer: Tie - Ellen McElroy-Kenworth and Liz Brown
* Best press spokesperson: The “Spin Sisters” (Abby Ottenhoff and Rebecca Rausch)
* Best lobbyist: Bill Anderson
* Best Capitol Fax Blog commenter: “Bill”
* Best legislative secretary: JoAnn Sullivan
* Best district office administrator: Beth Goncher
* Mayor Davlin mentioned this idea to me a week ago, but it didn’t seem like it was going anywhere, although Davlin was very hot on the concept…
[Rep. Raymond Poe], a Springfield Republican, is pushing the idea of holding harness races — and the betting that goes with them — at the Illinois State Fairgrounds beyond the limited run of the 10-day fair itself.
“The facility is there,” Poe said. “Someone could come in and make it work. I think it would be a great revenue source.”
Poe’s idea has already been raised in gaming discussions between House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, and House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.
“I brought it up with the speaker,” Cross said Wednesday. “It was not rejected.”
But neither is it on the front burner, Cross said. A number of other gambling issues have been on the table longer, and negotiators think they are closer to resolving those without injecting a new element into the debate.
The racing wouldn’t be year-round, but I’m wondering whether they’d put a year-round “racino” at the facility, with slot machines, etc. They could really upgrade the fairgrounds with revenue like that. Plus, it would give us somewhere else to go after long session days.
Experts will tell you gambling is a lousy way for the state to raise money. It’s not stable, doesn’t grow with the economy and isn’t progressive. But gambling is the only revenue-raising plan with a prayer of passing, and even then, it’s a long shot. Unfortunately, our hopes have to rest on a gambling boom to avert the CTA’s day of doom.
* Remember during the 2001 holiday season when Corinne Wood was running for the GOP nomination for governor? She ran a TV ad of her sitting in what I remember was her beautifully decorated home, wearing a red dress. I don’t remember all she said, but she ended with something like: “And have a merry Christmas”
Pundits jibber-jabbered over the appropriateness of wishing voters “Merry Christmas” in a political ad. Some were shocked, as I remember it, some were underwhelmed with Wood’s presentation.
Well, the extremely early Iowa caucuses have prompted several presidential candidates to run their own holiday season ads. Let’s look at some of them, shall we?
…Adding… As I write this, there’s a slight problem with YouTube. Just hit the “play” button and the videos will load.
* There’s something about Mike Huckabee that I really like. Yeah, I know there are issues with his background, but the man is a born communicator. Still, anyone who knows anything about bigtime television ads knows that every tiny detail is taken into consideration. So it bothers me that Huckabee would so obviously lie that there is no Holy Cross in this spot when his TV Cross is as visible as that gigantic Cross near Effingham off of I-57. Anyway, here’s the spot…
* Giuliani wishes for “Peace with strength” and “secure borders” in his ad, which is a bit weird, but here it is…
…Adding… I used the wrong ad. LOL. Oops. Here’s the “real” one, sans pentagram…
Sorry about that, and thanks to a commenter for setting me straight. That ain’t always easy. :)
* Obama’s is next. Is that the word “Christmas” in a liberal Democrat’s ad? What will the atheists say?
* And, finally, Hillary Clinton, alone with her presents…
* Jim Thompson called yesterday to bust my chops about something. I gave as good as I got, as you might imagine, but it was mostly in fun. I really let the profanity fly, though, about his goofy idea to have the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority buy Wrigley Field and then lease it back to the billionaire(s) who buy(s) the team from the Tribune Co.
One of Big Jim’s arguments was to point out that the state helped subsidize the Soldier Field renovation (a publicly owned stadium, by the way), helped build the United Center and, of course, there was that White Sox deal that Thompson, himself, played such a large role in bringing to fruition. So why not help the Cubs?
I can’t tell you what Wrigley Field is really worth, but I can tell you what the team claimed it was worth earlier this year in an appraisal submitted to the Cook County assessor’s office: $12.3 million.
Yep, that’s all, barely more than the $7.9 million that former Sox slugger Frank Thomas got on the sale of his Oak Brook mansion a few years ago, or almost equal to the $12 million the Cubs will pay new Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome for his salary for each of the next four seasons.
The assessment was submitted to Cook County Assessort Jim Houlihan, whose own laughably low assessment of just $20.5 million ought to be remembered by every property tax payer in the county whenever they write that annual tax check.
And how much did the Cubs pay in property taxes this year? $1,151,487, according to Brown.
The park is essentially off the roles, no matter how much Mother Tribune whines about its assessment. The team is already heavily subsidized by taxpayers. They don’t need and shouldn’t get another subsidy.
If the state were paying its bills on time, if its roads were in decent shape with a long-term plan for keeping them that way, if its school system had a fair method of doling out tax dollars and if there were adequate funding for mass transit systems, maybe — maybe — we could find some merit in this plan.
Yet all we see is another error in the score book.
“While generally I’m a fan of small schools, you have to have some critical mass to run a viable school. When you get down to 150 or 175 students, you don’t have enough students in each grade to run a full menu of activities,” Duncan said. “Educationally [consolidation is] the right move.”
* McQueary: All I want for Christmas is pension reform; more here
A report released this week by the Pew Charitable Trusts, a respected Pennsylvania-based policy institute, describes Illinois’ pension liability as among the worst in the nation. The report is significant because it compares the pension health of all 50 states, providing context to the political kaleidescope through which Illinois’ pension health often is viewed. Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s office will give a sunny perspective of the state system; his opponents’ view couldn’t be more bleak.
So here is what Pew said:
“Illinois has double the trouble of most states: a severely underfunded pension system and some of the steepest bills in the country for retiree health care benefits. On the pension side, Illinois has one of the poorest-funded systems in the country.”
Oh, and the day offered one New Year’s present from John Daley. He wants a report on how much money officials have spent over the years to modernize the technology in their offices. Which suggests that, come 2008, Daley will ask those officials two crucial questions:
How many actual jobs have you eliminated because of all the automation money you’ve spent?
And how much new revenue has all that new technology generated for Cook County?
* 10% budget cuts would be a disaster, Cook Co. officials tell board
One by one, Cook County officials on Wednesday described a dim future for the public if the County Board forces them to cut spending by 10 percent.
Patients will die, the head of the health system warned. Criminals could run free, State’s Atty. Richard Devine said.