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Friday, May 23, 2008

For Willie McBride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

This just in…

Friday, May 23, 2008

* 3:02 pm - The Senate has passed SB 1102 - part of the FY 2009 budget - with 36 votes.

Sen. Bomke just said he accidentally voted “Yes” on the bill. Oops.

The Senate will not vote on the $16 billion pension obligation bond plan until next week.

They are currently debating SB 1103 - another piece of the budget. Sen. Dahl is currently complaining about the complete lack of funds for a new veterans’ home in his district. He is not a happy camper, to say the least and is promising a fight.

Listen or watch here

* 3:08 pm - Kevin was complaining about this earlier today while he was sitting in a committee hearing trying to text me

Doormen for a Senate committee are telling reporters they can’t text message on cell phones during committee hearings under the general rule of electronic devices not being allowed. […]

The reasoning given was the noise is distracting to others in the committee.

I was just told that the Senate Dem tops weren’t aware of this action and that it wouldn’t happen again. That’s good news, because I have live-blogged committees with my iPhone, and other reporters take notes on laptops, which are also “electronic devices.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Question of the day

Friday, May 23, 2008

* The setup

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency says preliminary results from tests show the state’s drinking water is safe.

Officials took samples from across Illinois in March to test for unregulated pharmaceuticals or personal care products. […]

Officials say they tested for 57 chemicals. Seventeen chemicals were detected at low levels.

But the EPA says there is no cause for immediate concern.

* The question: Do you typically drink tap water or bottled water? Why?

- Posted by Rich Miller   46 Comments      

Reform and Renewal *** UPDATED x2 ***

Friday, May 23, 2008

* There is a simple explanation for this revelation

Long under fire for installing political donors on state boards and commissions, Gov. Rod Blagojevich was criticized in a state audit released publicly Thursday for failing to make enough board appointments.

Auditor General William Holland found about one third of state panels do not have the legally required number of appointees.

They included boards overseeing elevator safety, ethanol research, lottery tickets for breast cancer research, student loans, and Downstate teacher pensions, among others. No appointments were made for nearly one of five boards and commissions out of scores the auditor general sampled between July 2005 and July 2007. Those included basic hospital services, HIV/AIDS, regional economic development and capital punishment reform.

A cynic might say that since the governor is no longer allegedly selling appointments, he no longer has any interest in filling the slots.

I’m not saying, I’m just saying.

* As I write this (9:57 am), the Senate is debating the ethics bill, which would bar Blagojevich from raising cash from contractors doing business with or submitting bids to agencies under his control.

*** 10:09 AM UPDATE *** The Senate just approved the ethics bill without a single dissenting vote. It now goes to the House, but the governor has threated to “improve” it with an amendatory veto.

*** 11:24 AM UPDATE *** News stories about the ethics bill’s passage are now online: Daily Herald, Post-Dispatch, Tribune, and Illinois Issues.

* Last-minute fundraising is therefore a top priority

Gov. Rod Blagojevich rarely appears in public these days, but he popped up Wednesday night at Tavern on Rush for an intimate political fundraiser that was a classic display of cash and clout.

Blagojevich was greeted outside by trusted adviser and longtime fundraiser John Wyma, whose deep ties to the governor have made him a highly sought lobbyist with companies seeking contracts from state agencies and the Illinois Tollway.

And waiting inside was Blagojevich’s tollway chairman and more than a dozen campaign contributors, including at least one businessman with tollway and state contracts.

* While the ethics bill is causing some urgency at Friends of Blagojevich, the Trib report focused on the timing of the funder in relation to the Tony Rezko trial…

“At the very time a jury’s considering whether Mr. Rezko engaged in criminal fundraising practices and major decisions are being made on spending and contracts at the Capitol, it sure doesn’t seem like there have been many lessons learned,” said state Sen. Jeff Schoenberg (D-Evanston). “This is much more than bad timing,” he Schoenberg said. “We have to shut these practices down for good.”

* Related…

* Auditor: Governor’s Office Way Behind in Appointments

* Cellini lawyer: Billing gifts to hotel permitted

- Posted by Rich Miller   71 Comments      

Hit piece *** UPDATED x2 ***

Friday, May 23, 2008

* I don’t completely buy into this logic

A political campaign stunt meant to draw attention to the nation’s high oil prices backfired Thursday when hundreds of motorists seeking cheap gas caused a massive traffic jam in north suburban Lincolnshire before most were turned away.

I wasn’t there, of course, but if people did line up for a mile and a half as reported, then Dan Seals’ stunt wildly succeeded in getting his message across.

* Even so, the Tribune focused almost solely on the negative…

Come they did, causing a lunchtime traffic nightmare that left Lincolnshire Police Chief Randy Melvin fuming. He had almost half of his 25-officer staff directing traffic, which nearly came to a standstill.

When was the last time that a congressional candidate in Illinois got that kind of response? Yet, the Tribune claims it was a “nightmare.”

* And…

“This was a very disappointing experience, and we will remember it come election time,” businessman Rick Hirschhaut complained in an e-mail. “Mr. Seals just demonstrated that he is a typical politician. What he says and what he does are not the same thing—just a lot of over-promising.”

A quick Google search would have shown the Tribune that Hirschaut and Kirk have a relationship, leading me to believe that the reporting was way out of whack.

Plus, Hirschaut apparently wasn’t even at the event. Why no harsh interviews from motorists waiting in line? I’d find that more believable.

* Only about 50 motorists got their discounts, which is the biggest downside to the stunt. This angle, however, is probably just a distraction

North Shore Congressional candidate Dan Seals was offering gas for $1.85 at a station in Lincolnshire and making up the difference himself, but opponent Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) says the stunt amounts to vote buying.

* So, when Kirk hands out food, drinks, balloons, buttons and other tschotkes he’s buying votes as well? Please. As Larry notes with tongue firmly planted in cheek…

I’ll be heading out of country to avoid the inevitable prosecution from Patrick Fitzgerald regarding the vast amounts of beer I have [drunk] over the years paid for by campaigns.

* And Rob points out this factoid…

Republican Luke Puckett, also a challenger just like Dan Seals, pumped free gas a month ago in South Bend while bending drivers’ ears about his plans to drill for oil in pristine natural areas of California and Alaska

* From that Indiana story

Luke Puckett gave away 250 gallons of gas in 30 minutes at the Marathon station on East Ironwood. He said he was giving away free gas to draw more attention to the oil problem and the need for change.

Most people would do just about anything for five free gallons of gas right now, so waiting in a line that stretched around the building wasn’t a big deal.

Notice the vastly different spin from the news provider. Compare that to the Tribune…

Only about 50 motorists who waited in a 1.5-mile line of cars for more than an hour actually made it to the pumps at a Marathon station at Milwaukee Avenue and Half Day Road, where for one hour Democratic congressional candidate Dan Seals offered motorists the chance to buy as many as 10 gallons of gas for $1.85 per gallon.

Some motorists may have been upset about not getting the freebie, but I doubt that missing out will cause them to vote against the only candidate who tried to give them a break. I didn’t see a single negative quote from motorists in any of the news stories posted online.

* There was obviously a huge pushback from Kirk’s office. The Daily Herald’s story was originally entitled “Political gas giveaway works,” but was then changed to “Political gas giveaway jams traffic, raises questions.”

*** UPDATE *** Now, this is a reasonable GOP response. From the state Republican party…

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Andy McKenna today called on Tenth Congressional District Democrat Candidate Dan Seals to reimburse local police departments for the cost of providing traffic management to deal with a campaign stunt that backfired.

*** UPDATE 2 *** Rob got an e-mail from the Seals campaign…

Feel free to let folks know we are picking up the cost. We’ve already been in touch with the dept today to get the final amount and we talked to them in advance of the event regarding the cost as well.

- Posted by Rich Miller   84 Comments      

Surprise! Senate won’t vote on pay raise rejection

Friday, May 23, 2008

* This is no surprise. Sen. Hendon won’t bring the pay raise rejection legislation to the Senate floor for a vote

Sen. Rickey Hendon (D-Chicago), chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, told Republican senators who asked for a chance to vote the pay raises up or down that he won’t allow those measures—or any legislation that doesn’t deal with the budget—to advance by the May 31 adjournment deadline.

* Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Lake Forest), who opposes the pay raise, claimed that Senate Presidet Emil Jones and other SDem leaders “promised” there would be a vote on the issue. Without a vote in both chambers to kill them, the pay raises will automatically take effect after 30 session days from the date the plan was submitted…

Jones, who told reporters earlier this month that “I need a pay raise,” denied he promised a vote on the raises. Despite backing the raises, Jones claimed he is “fighting like heck” to get Hendon to let the pay-raise resolution come up for a vote.

* I’m sure he’s fighting hard to get that pay raise resolution called. And then there’s this bit of schtick…

Jones “is not chairman of rules, he is president of the Senate,” Hendon, a strong Jones ally, told the committee. “And he can do a lot of things that he wants to do. But as long as I am chairman of rules, I am going to make a lot of the decisions here.”

* Somewhat related…

* Officials resigned to ‘bare-bones spending

* GOP Senators storm out of budget committee

* Brady: Budget is a sham

* State delay may leave schools in the lurch

* Senate panel advances pension borrowing plan

* Pension idea advances

* Editorial: Don’t trust state government - Illinois needs a capital bill, but we doubt that leaders will spend money fairly, honestly

* Comptroller Hynes raps gov’s fiscal policies - Education budget ’stagnating, shrinking’

* U of I Faces $17 Million Budget Gap

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      

Daley’s tired excuses

Friday, May 23, 2008

* After the feds announced a big corruption bust involving real estate developers and contractors allegedly bribing Zoning and Buildings departments workers, Mayor Daley tried out several defense. First up, anger

The mayor called the alleged behavior “appalling and regrettable”

* Prosecutors said the corruption was “systemic.” So Daley gave us the predictable “bad apples” defense…

As Daley often does after corruption charges are leveled, he insisted that the accused are not representative of most employees in his administration.

“You cannot condemn everybody for a few,” Daley said. “I don’t know if it’s systemic, but you can’t indict everybody on that.”

* Then there was the familiar “I’m the one responsible for rooting out the corruption in the first place,” line that Gov. Rod Blagojevich so often employs…

Daley noted that the investigation originated with the former federal prosecutor he hired to root out City Hall corruption from within. Never mind that Daley and Inspector General David Hoffman have been at loggerheads for months and the mayor’s office has been undermining Hoffman behind the scenes.

* Don’t forget the “This is Chicago, people are corrupt,” argument…

“I wish I could get it right once and for all. You wish you could. But, people who take money from the private sector or public sector are gonna get caught. It’s a great job. They lose their job. They lose their health benefits. They lose their pension. These are good paying jobs,” he said.

“You do everything. You try to put GPS on people. You try to go after the developers or contractors — whoever wants to bribe the system. It takes two to tango. It takes two people — both a public employee and the private sector. They’re both gonna be caught.”

Perhaps you can think of more excuses that Daley missed.

* More on what was going on

Authorities said the inspectors would often tell developers that their work would pass even though they had never seen the properties in question.

Corners were cut at developments around the city and at a South Loop hotel. Inspections of everything from plumbing to fire systems were undermined, said David Colen, assistant inspector-in-charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Chicago.


- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      

Morning Shorts

Friday, May 23, 2008

* Long weekend ahead for Rezko jurors

* Jury gone until Tuesday

* Dan Ryan, Stevenson on IDOT wish list

* Will IDOT’s ambitions match its budget?

* State roads chief says bridge repair gets the money first

* State pot for road upgrades includes funds for new bridge

* Road, bridge repairs only priorities for state highway funds

* Illinois halts ‘Yo-Yo’ rides after Calif. fair collapse

* Photo ID ruling hurts poor voters

* Cyberbullying legislation OKd by Illinois House

* Friday Beer Blogging: Utopia Edition

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   12 Comments      

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Friday, May 23, 2008

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Rod and Rosti *** UPDATED x1 ***

Thursday, May 22, 2008

* I don’t know how we missed this story from Monday

llinois’ first lady wouldn’t rule out her husband as a candidate to replace U.S. Sen. Barack Obama in Congress if Obama wins the Oval Office in November.

Patti Blagojevich was answering questions during a mock press conference with a group of fourth-graders from Harristown Elementary School on Monday when she was asked: “If Senator Obama resigns his Senate seat, is Governor Blagojevich interested in his position?”

The first lady wouldn’t say no.

“That’s an interesting question. What happens is if Senator Obama becomes president of the United States, then he can no longer be a senator,” Mrs. Blagojevich told the class. “I think picking that person alone is going to be a tough job. It will only come after really careful thought over who will be the best person for the job and who will be the best person to serve Illinois.”.

Please, spare us this indignity.

* National Journal columnist John Mercurio had this take today…

With the Illinois governor about as popular as President Bush, it wouldn’t hurt McCain to publicize Mrs. Blago’s musings.

There are only so many messages a candidate can use at once, but tying Obama to his “political godfather,” who is pushing another legislative pay raise yet regularly borrows money interest free from his campaign fund, and to a horrifically unpopular and scandal-plagued governor who might wind up in the Senate might be a fun theme to develop.

* Meanwhile, speaking of corrupt Northwest Side politicians, the Illlinois GOP just sent out this press release…

Congressional candidate Dan Seals this week invited former congressman and convicted felon Dan Rostenkowski to lecture to night school students about federal policymaking and then took money from Rostenkowski in front of the class, according to student reports.

Seals, who was hired as an instructor to facilitate 10 night school classes this spring at Northwestern’s School of Continuing Studies, invited Rostenkowski to teach students Tuesday night. According to students in the class, after Rostenkowski’s presentation, the convicted felon handed Seals an envelope and said he hoped the contents would help Seals’ campaign. […]

“Dan Seals should be ashamed for taking dirty money from one of the most corrupt members of Congress in American history in front of innocent students,” said Lance Trover, spokesman for the Illinois Republican Party. “Dan Seals has a track record of unethical campaign practices and should go back to school for a class in personal ethics,”

Rosti was nowhere near “one of the most corrupt members of Congress in American history,” but whatever.

…Adding… Seals has a new campaign gimmick

With gas prices topping $4 per gallon, Democratic congressional candidate Dan Seals of Wilmette is offering motorists in Lincolnshire the opportunity to buy gasoline at $1.85 a gallon at a service station on Milwaukee Avenue from noon to 1 p.m. today.

Seals says he’ll use money from his campaign fund to reimburse motorists the difference between the current price of gas and $1.85 per gallon for purchases of up to 10 gallons—all in an effort to highlight the rising price of gas since Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk became the 10th District representative on the North Shore.

*** UPDATE *** Kirk claims Seals is violating the law

“The Dan Seals campaign may risk violating federal law by reimbursing voters’ gasoline expenses in an effort to influence their votes,” Kirk’s office said in a news release. “On its face, his action violates Title 18, Section 597 of U.S. Code.”

The law in question calls for a fine of $10,000 and/or a year in prison for offering to “make an expenditure to any person, either to vote or withhold his vote, or to vote for or against any candidate,” according to a Kirk campaign news release.

- Posted by Rich Miller   72 Comments      

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

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Big fed bust in Chicago *** UPDATED x1 ***

Thursday, May 22, 2008

* From a press release…

Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Thomas P. Brady, Postal Inspector-in-Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and David Hoffman, Inspector General for the City of Chicago, will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. today, Thursday May 22, 2008, to announce federal public corruption charges against 15 defendants, including developers, contractors and seven City of Chicago inspectors or other employees, who were arrested yesterday and today for allegedly receiving and paying bribes regarding City building, zoning and construction permits. […]

The defendants will appear 3 p.m. today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin Ashman in U.S. District Court in Chicago. [emphasis added]

* Tribune

The case includes developers, contractors and City of Chicago inspectors or other employees who were arrested yesterday and today for allegedly receiving and paying bribes regarding City building, zoning and construction permits, the U.S. attorney’s office announced. […]

The investigation targeted employees who allegedly took money to influence zoning applications or alter building plans, authorities said. It was not immediately clear when those charged would make their first appearances at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse.

* Sun-Times

An $87,108-a-year city plumbing inspector was picked up by federal agents this morning, touching off a new round of charges involving allegations of corruption and bribery in the city of Chicago’s Building and Zoning Departments.

Mario Olivella, a 10-year city employee, was one of 15 people — including seven city employees — arrested Wednesday and today in the latest chapter of a joint investigation between Inspector General David Hoffman’s office and the federal government.

*** UPDATE *** Fitzgerald’s office has just released the names. Read the press release by clicking here.

* From the release…

Dumitru Curescu, 46, his wife, Lavinia Curescu, 42, both of Skokie;
Vasile Fofiu, 57, of Skokie; Beny Garneata, 43,of Lincolnwood; Mario Olivella, 40, of Chicago; Teofil Scorte, 27, of Morton Grove; and William Wellhausen, 50, of Chicago – were charged with conspiracy to bribe City officials between June and December 2007 regarding a condominium conversion project […]

Two defendants – Ronald Piekarz, 47, of Chicago, and MacArthur Milam, 56, of Chicago, were charged with conspiring with Garneata, Phyllis Mendenhall, an inquiry aide in the Buildings Department, and others to commit bribery between October and December 2007. […]

Phyllis Mendenhall, 54, of Chicago, a city employee since 1979 and an inquiry aide in the Buildings Department, was charged with bribery […]

Petru Cladovan, 48, of Prospect Heights, a contractor and developer who owns ABC Construction & Plumbing, was the owner and developer of two properties – one located at 2754 West Washington Blvd., and the other located at 2734 North Fairfield. He was charged with paying bribes through CW1 to city officials […]

Anthony Valentino, 65,of Chicago, a city employee since 2001 and an investigator in the Zoning Department, was charged with bribery for allegedly accepting three $500 cash payments from CW1 in June and August 2007 […]

Thomas Ziroli, about to turn 62, of Chicago, a city employe since 1997 and a ventilation and furnace inspector in the Buildings Department, was charged with bribery for allegedly accepting a $500 cash bribe from CW1 on Aug. 8, 2007 […]

Louis Burns, 52, of Chicago, a city employee since 2005 and a clerk in the former Department of Construction and Permits (DCAP) until it merged this year with the Buildings Department where he now works, was charged with bribery for allegedly accepting bribe payments of $250 and $150, respectively, on July 11, 2007 and Aug. 7, 2007, from CW1 […]

Lucian Muresan, 34, of Chicago, a general contractor who owned two buildings located at 857 and 859 North Hermitage Ave., was charged with bribery for allegedly paying bribes through CW1 to city officials, believing that CW1 was passing the payments to a zoning inspector

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      

Question of the day

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Former Chicago Bulls center Bill Cartwright is in Springfield this week. John Patterson asked his readers yesterday for captions to this photo of Cartwright and Speaker Madigan. I decided to steal his photo and his idea for our question of the day. Hope he doesn’t mind…

- Posted by Rich Miller   47 Comments      

Tax debate rages while drivers fume

Thursday, May 22, 2008

* Kristen McQueary is fed up with the pandering about a gasoline sales tax holiday…

Bending to consumer outcry, a group of House Republicans in Springfield called for suspending the state’s gasoline tax until Labor Day.

Supporters estimated the tax break would save motorists about $45 total during the next few months. Sounds like a good idea. Put a little more money in your pocket, right?


Suspending the gas tax is a political gimmick that purports to be consumer friendly while allowing politicians to mask their inattentiveness to our 40-year increasingly dependent relationship on foreign oil.

While blame falls largely to our national leaders who failed to make sound, progressive energy policy a top priority, lawmakers in Springfield could be adopting more forward-thinking proposals as well. A short-term gas tax holiday is the unimaginative solution of knee-jerk politicians who want to soak up 30-second sound bites and a little newspaper ink and then go back to shuffling around the Statehouse.

* McQueary has an innovative solution: Personal responsibility…

Saving $45 during the next three months easily could be achieved simply by driving less and driving smarter.

* CBS 2 took a more populist approach with its story…

Tired of seeing the price at the pump jump every time you need to buy gasoline? Well, the record-high price of gasoline in the Chicago area is linked to a record-high rate of taxation: nearly 20 percent of the Chicago price.

As CBS 2 Political Editor Mike Flannery reports, tax refugees wait in long lines on Indianapolis Boulevard in Northwest Indiana. They jockey for position at a pump, lured by prices that are 20 cents a gallon or more cheaper than just a few blocks away back in Illinois.

“It was $4.20. I can come over here and get it for $3.93,” said Tikvah Wadley, one of the many fleeing Illinois taxes.


…Adding… The State Journal-Register’s editorial board is a bit confused

With gasoline now having topped $4 a gallon, we still think suspending the state sales tax on gasoline is a bad idea. […]

FIRST, the gas tax pays for the roads we drive on. As the cost of gasoline and diesel fuel rises, so does the cost of road maintenance. Given the ongoing impasse in the General Assembly over the state’s budget, this is hardly the time to cut off a guaranteed revenue stream for a function so vital.

The state’s share of the sales tax on gasoline is deposited into the General Revenue Fund, not the Road Fund. There’s a separate tax on gas (charged by the gallon) that goes into the Road Fund. Thanks to a commenter for pointing me to the editorial.

- Posted by Rich Miller   73 Comments      

Budget roundup *** UPDATED x1 ***

Thursday, May 22, 2008

* The House was first out of the gate

Using only Democratic votes, the House approved two state budgets contained in more than two dozen bills. One version keeps state funding for the fiscal year that begins July 1 essentially the same as this year. The other version — dubbed a “Christmas tree budget” because of all of the goodies in it — greatly expands funding for education, health care and other programs.

* Actually, there are several different budget combinations in those bills passed by the House yesterday, all on party lines

“Today was an exercise in futility or a farce or a scam or whatever you want to call it,” said House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego. “It’s a budget at the end of the day that’s $3 billion out of whack.”

* That’s true, but the House’s budget plan would allow the Senate and the governor to pick and choose what they wanted to keep. And Speaker Madigan had this to say to the Republicans yesterday

“You had your opportunity. You had your choice. What’s the complaint? There’s never been, since 1991, so much participation in budget making as there has been over the last several weeks,” [Madigan] said.

The “opening up” of the process, however, could also generate election year ammunition to hurt vulnerable Republicans. By forcing them to reject the menu of budget options crafted exclusively by Democrats, their opponents could argue they failed to vote for any budget.

Also true.

* Meanwhile, the Senate was putting together its own, more modest proposal in the traditional manner…

In a role reversal, the Senate Democrats focused on holding down spending growth, as demonstrated by a move to largely use a $200 million boost in education funding—far less than last year’s $550 million increase—to simply make sure no schools get less next year. Senate Democrats are calling for a $1.3 billion spending increase. Nearly half of that would address the spiraling costs in the Medicaid and FamilyCare programs. But they would not support Blagojevich’s desire to expand state subsidized health-care programs. That includes rejecting the governor’s request to double the breast and cervical cancer screening program to $10 million.

* There appears room for compromise

[Senate Democratic budget negotiator Donne Trotter] said the more austere House budget is in line with what Senate Democrats think is affordable.

“It’s 80 percent to 85 percent like ours,” Trotter said. “There’s plenty of time (before May 31) to reconcile the rest.”

* But not all is well

Rep. Frank Mautino (D-Spring Valley) said outlines of the Senate plan sounded “pretty decent.” But Mautino, a budget expert, questioned whether the House would approve the pension bond proposal.

* And the governor is hanging over their heads

[Blagojevich] could try to keep lawmakers in town if they don’t approve key items he wants, such as $16 billion in borrowing to pay down massive pension fund debt and a new statewide construction plan.

* And

Blagojevich’s office would only say [yesterday] that it is still reviewing the House budget bills. The governor could veto a budget that isn’t to his liking, forcing lawmakers to return to Springfield to possibly overturn the veto.

Or, he could use reduction and line item vetoes and they won’t have to come back until after the November election. Nobody knows for sure what he’ll do.

* Considering the opposition to an overtime session by Senate Democrats, there is an expectation that Gov. Blagojevich won’t call members in for an overtime session. Plus, there’s this factor

The federal corruption trial of Tony Rezko, one of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s political inner circle, may prompt the governor to be open to negotiating a deal, said state Rep. Patrick Verschoore, D-Milan.

“He’s got his problems and I don’t think he wants to call an overtime session,” he said.

* Yesterday’s one high point

One of the few things both sides of the aisle could agree upon Wednesday was to take a break when former Bulls center Bill Cartwright stopped by to regale them with the olden days of glory when the championship teams also had a guy named Michael Jordan.

* Related…

* Blagojevich tells high court to lobby lawmakers for construction money

* Gov. meets with lawmakers to push infrastructure expansion plan

* Push for Slots Continues in Illinois

* Vote on levee tax likely in July; new sales tax gets gov’s signature

* While IDOT employees picket, governor’s office takes little action

*** UPDATE *** Ray Long has some Senate budget details

Trotter, the Senate Democratic budget point man, said the Senate is looking at increasing spending in next year’s budget by $1.3 billion.

Along with the $300 million increase for pensions, he said, the rest of the increases would be distributed like this:

–$600 million into Medicaid and FamilyCare programs to address the rising costs of health care programs already in place. It would not pay for expansions in health care that Blagojevich has long sought. A Senate committee has already rejected the governor’s proposal for doubling the funding for breast and cervical cancer screenings.

–$200 million for boosts in cost-of-living increases for workers caring for patients with developmental disabilities and for residents in nursing homes.

–$200 million more for schools. A huge portion of this would be used to make sure no schools would get less money next school year. It’s a significantly lower increase than last year’s exceptional $550 million increase in school funding, but Trotter said the lower increase this year is a result of economic times and the “extraordinary” boost last year.

The budget proposal does not include increases for union workers covered by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which is bargaining a contract with the administration, Trotter said.

That includes the pension obligation bond. Without it, the pension contribution rises to $800 million.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      

Jones loans himself cash

Thursday, May 22, 2008

* Illinois law bans politicians from dipping into their campaign funds for personal use. But there is a loophole. They can loan themselves cash

Before championing a big legislative pay increase, Illinois Senate President Emil Jones provided himself with tens of thousands of dollars in interest-free loans from his campaign fund.

* According to the Sun-Times, just two other legislators loaned themselves money from their funds during the last six-month filing period, which ended December 31st. Jones wisecracked just a few days ago that he needed a pay raises and food stamps, but the Sun-Times found this in Jones’ campaign reports…

Since 1989, the South Side Democrat has taken out $120,528 in personal loans from his political fund and repaid $96,900 of that amount — leaving nearly $25,000 unaccounted for.

Just last year, Jones withdrew $5,800 from his fund in 20 separate loans of $200 or $300 each between July and December.

In October alone, he had eight disbursements of $300 apiece over a 23-day period.

* And the paper had this reaction from a goo-goo…

“It absolutely looks like a slush fund,” says Cindi Canary, director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. “He is living under a whole set of rules that no one else in the public is.” […]

As chairman of his political fund, Jones decides the loan terms — and whether the loans ever need to be repaid.

Jones’ spokesperson declined comment to the Sun-Times. I had asked about this a few months ago and was told that Jones took out the loans for personal items during session last year.

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      

Morning Shorts

Thursday, May 22, 2008

* Sneed: U.S. Rep Jan Schakowsky and others might be surprised to hear Gov. Blagojevich, who would pick Obama’s replacement, is eyeing Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth.

* Ward: My dinner with a wiser and humbler Oberweis

I really wanted to know what he’d learned from the losses. Jim said, “You can’t do it by yourself. I’ve made mistakes and I’m trying to correct them. I need to have more confidence in my own beliefs and opinions and then make the right decisions.” He repeated the upcoming campaign would be only about the issues. In fact, Jim told me even if Foster continues to go negative, he won’t!

* March special election drained county budgets

* Private Funding Uneven in Public Schools

* Illinois Board of Trustees to vote on next year’s budget

* Bill pushes funding boost for ambulance services

* Illinoisans to Lose Wine Shipping Rights June 1

* Utility soon can’t use customer money for ads

* Botterman award honors activists

* Fioretti and Daley often part ways

* Editorial: Beaux-arts, not faux arts: Protect historic ’streetwall’

* Spielman: Chicago Police detectives — other than those assigned to the FBI’s violent crimes task force — will no longer respond to bank robberies in Chicago, under a policy change unveiled this week that rankled the police union.

* Editorial: Get the lead out

* The Watchdogs: After eight months, Michigan authorities now say their first inclination was right: Orlando Jones — godson of the late County Board President John Stroger and business partner of indicted political figure Tony Rezko — killed himself.

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* More shenanigans!
* Saturday campaign money report
* *** UPDATED x2 *** Shenanigans!
* Tribune drops bombshell on Biss running mate
* Reader comments closed for the weekend
* Rauner: "Madigan has rigged the Democratic primary for Pritzker"
* New Ives radio ad claims Democrats are trying to help Rauner, while Brady does Rauner robocall
* *** UPDATED x1 - DGA responds *** Elections board says DGA should file disclosure for Ives ad
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY: Jones; IEA/IFT; Reis; Mitchell; Edgar
* ISRA, Drury both try to claim Raoul inserted "poison pill" into gun bill
* Pro-life group launches GOTV effort for Lipinski
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Rauner opens new online track against Ives
* Erika Harold still can't remember comments, but says "I was wrong"
* Rauner calls Madigan "a unified force of bad, of evil"
* Sen. Duckworth gets involved in another state central committee race
* *** UPDATED x2 *** Has Pritzker gone to ground?
* Illinois House Bill HB 4900 Wastes Government Resources
* McCann, barred from SGOP caucus meeting, claims Rauner threatened to "destroy you and your family"
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Caption contest!
* Obama mailer kerfuffle in Lipinski district
* Rauner attended Quincy campaign event after Quincy veterans' home presser
* After spending millions in Dem primary, Rauner accuses "Washington liberals" of "hijacking" the GOP primary
* Yesterday's stories

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* As primaries loom, downstate Democrats look for a way back
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* Like our roundup? Share it around.
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* Man accidentally shot at Englewood apartment
* Man shot while standing on sidewalk in Homan Square
* 3 injured, 2 critically, in DeKalb crash
* Missing 76-year-old man last seen driving in Park Manor
* Police: 1 shot dead, 1 grazed by bullet while driving in Back of the Yards

* Turtle racing's had a long, slow burn in Chicago
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* 'Saturday Night Live': John Goodman, Fred Armisen make surprise appearances
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* Loyola headed to Sweet 16 after Clayton Custer hits game-winning shot in final seconds
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» A Feisty Debate, Offshore Accounts — And Some Side-Eye
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» How Parking Ticket Debt Punishes Black Drivers In Chicago; The Best Illinois Movies
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» #642 Songs About the Music Industry & Antibalas
» March 15, 2018 - Full Show
» Illinois Has Issues: Gov Candidates Talk Marijuana
» Rauner: Replace Legionnaires’-Stricken VA Home With New ‘Ultra-Modern’ Facility

* As primaries loom, downstate Democrats look for a way back
* Pritzker defends putting $69.5 million of his fortune into campaign
* Statehouse Insider: Sadly, the primary campaign is coming to an end
* Bernard Schoenburg: My predictions for Tuesday's primary election
* Our View: A recap of The State Journal-Register’s endorsements
* Bernard Schoenburg: Guessing who will be celebrating Tuesday night
* Madeleine Doubek: Time to end gerrymandering in Illinois
* United Way: Reporting results that matter
* Illinois governor race more fierce, costly as primary nears
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* The primary election is Tuesday. Here's what you need to know before you vote.
* Good cause, fellowship, food draws thousands to Mennonite Relief Sale
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* Tucker: Washington not worried about male wage crisis
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* Wednesday, March 14, 2018
* Monday, 3/12/2018
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* 3 Technologies that Education Needs, But Have Not Been Created
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* February Flooding Information
* IEMA Urges People to Prepare for Severe Weather
* Governor issues state disaster proclamation for flooding in Iroquois, Kankakee, Vermilion Counties
* Winter Storm Warnings for Areas Along and North of I-80
* IEMA Encourages People to Prepare for Earthquakes

* Counterclockwise: the story of Galaxy S phones, part 2
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