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Question of the day

Thursday, Jul 17, 2008

* We do this question every now and then, and since I’m busy with a story, I’ll just toss this breaking news out there

Democrat Barack Obama’s presidential campaign says it raised $52 million last month. […]

Last week the campaign of Republican John McCain reported raising more than 22 million in June, which was his best month of the year.

* Question: More broadly than just money, how do your think our US Senator’s presidential campaign is going?

- Posted by Rich Miller   63 Comments      

Reality check

Thursday, Jul 17, 2008

* This buried nugget is something that has been overlooked this week during the House veto override session…

With 27 members of the House absent, lawmakers had a hard time overriding the governor’s vetoes, many of which needed a three-fifths majority, or 71 votes, to pass.

* The result?

Only six of those 33 [override] motions to restore the funding passed, worth about $480 million.

Lots of legislators voted with their feet this week. They knew this game was essentially a farce. As long as the Senate refuses to return, their votes were meaningless, except as political cover and a vehicle to put the onus on the other chamber.

* This point was also buried or (mostly) not even mentioned in most stories

House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) refused to call legislation this week that would raise more money to avoid the cuts, including a measure that would allow the administration to dip into other state funds to cover expenses.

Jones spokeswoman Cindy Davidsmeyer also cited Madigan’s decision for why the Senate also wasn’t in town. “They didn’t pass the revenue, so there is no reason to come back,” Davidsmeyer said. […]

Blagojevich called the House overrides “totally irresponsible” and said he won’t call the Senate back to Springfield unless the House passes a meaningful revenue bill.

Restoring vetoed money without adding at least some revenue streams is not the most responsible thing the House has ever done.

* But this gives the wrong impression

Republicans, who opposed many of the motions to restore the cuts, complained the House votes were about political posturing that toys with groups in need of help. […]

House Republicans and allies of Blagojevich joined together to blast House Democrats for trying to promise money out of a budget that had none to offer.

They’ve joined the Senate in arguing the House wants more spending but doesn’t want to make the tough votes for money-generating measures needed to pay for it.

Because the House Democrats had far fewer than 60 members in town yesterday, every one of those successful veto override motions passed with GOP votes.

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      

Fire, aim, ready

Thursday, Jul 17, 2008

* The AP finally updated their over-the-top story from yesterday which completely bought the claim by some Downstate Republicans that Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago) had injected racial hatred into a committee debate. But maybe they should’ve just retracted the whole thing. The lede is the same from yesterday morning

Three Republican state representatives accused a Democratic colleague of spreading “racial hatred” during a committee meeting Wednesday and demanded that the speaker of the House investigate the incident.

“That type of racial hatred that was displayed in committee went out with the ’70s, and I respectfully request that you review the transcript,” Rep. Jim Sacia, R-Pecatonica, said on the House floor.

* And this paragraph was added later

A recording of the hearing shows that while Davis alleged some lawmakers want to keep crime rates up so that prisons stay full, the racial content was minimal: She argued that her fellow African-American legislators must fight hard for legislation to help former criminals go straight.

* The only people who really injected race into the debate yesterday were the Republicans making the accusations

Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Greenville, alleged that Davis specifically said some lawmakers want to keep prisons filled with “black people from Chicago.”

He called it “Alice in Wonderland kind of stuff” to suggest any lawmaker would want to keep crime rates up. Suggesting a racial motivation is even worse, he said.

“That is a criminal insult and she should be sanctioned,” Stephens said. Rep. Dennis Reboletti, R-Elmhurst, agreed. He accused Davis of “race-baiting.”

* Sorry, guys, but you’re the ones doing the race-baiting. From the Tribune

But a tape of the hearing shows that Davis never accused the Republicans of protecting prisons on the basis of race. In fact, she said it was a matter of economics.

“Illinois must recognize there’s some people in the Illinois General Assembly who have prisons in their district and their whole objective is to keep them filled,” Davis said at the hearing. “Anything — anything — that would create an atmosphere to get those prisons with fewer people, were threatened to close, it’s a war. ‘We’ve got to have those prisoners. They got to come down here from Chicago and we got to keep em filled because that’s how we get work. That’s our economy. We no longer plant corn. We no longer have farms. We don’t raise cows and pigs. We keep prisoners.’ So if you don’t have prisoners you will not have the economy to keep their livelihood going.”

* What Rep. Davis did was impugn the motives of Downstaters with prisons in their districts. That was over the line. But if anybody ought to be “sanctioned” (and I’m not arguing for sanctions, just throwing their words back at them) it should be the legislators who shouted the bogus claims about “racial hatred.”

“Her comments were definitely racial,” [Rep. Jim Sacia] said after the hearing. “They were directed at white Republicans. It was totally unacceptable.”

What does their reaction say about those legislators? Davis talked economics and they heard race. Not a banner day.

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      

The stunt was goofy, but the problem is real

Thursday, Jul 17, 2008

* From what I gather, yesterday’s announcement by Gov. Rod Blagojevich that he wanted to “help” Chicago fight crime by sending in more police and possibly the National Guard was an “off script” moment.

Blagojevich had apparently mused about the idea in private, and then kinda blurted it out at a bill signing ceremony. Oops. Here’s how it started..

“Something is wrong, and this violence has to stop. And we have to do something constructively to try and make that violence stop,” he said. “Maybe, we can play a role and provide more manpower so that the mayor doesn’t have to make that choice between taking a police officer from, let’s say, the North Side and putting that police officer on the street in the South Side.”

* And then after the governor mentioned the state cops and the National Guard, he decided to take it one step further

“The mayor can be a great help in this in getting the House Democratic leadership to pass that big capital program,” he said.

* To which the House Speaker’s office replied

“My guess is the governor may be smarting because the mayor was quoted publicly as saying he tried to convince [Blagojevich] to have a more common-sense approach to the capital plan, and that advice was ignored,” Brown said. […]

“Making sure that kids aren’t shot and guns aren’t in the hands of bad guys is far from political,” [Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero] said.

* And the mayor’s office was not amused

“It is, at the very least, a little disconcerting that we’re only hearing about this as the media does,” she said.

* But the governor does have a good point about the violence

The governor noted 16 children — “almost one child a day” — have been gunned down in Chicago since June 26. The shooting death toll for Chicago Public School students stands at 29 since last fall.

“Twenty-eight of those kids are African-American and Latino. Hard to imagine that that would be acceptable if that were, in fact, the case in other parts of the city or in a middle-class suburb somewhere. . . . Something is wrong, and this violence has to stop,” he said.

* And this response from the city’s police department seems a bit odd, considering

But [police department spokeswoman Monique Bond] took issue with the governor’s contention that crime is “out of control” in Chicago.

In fact, she said if the current murder rate holds in the city, 2008 may end with fewer than 500 homicides and that it is expected to be one of the least deadly years in the city in the last 40 years.

It’s kinda weird that the cops think that 500 murders is something to be proud of.

In the end, this was a goofy stunt. But Chicago is overrun by gangs. Nobody knows how many gang members there are, but one report has the Gangster Disciples alone with 70,000 Chicago-area members.

Was the governor’s splash a goofy stunt? Yes. Is there an urgent problem in Chicago? Heck yes. Will the leaders be able to put aside their egos and work on that problem? Ha.

* Related…

* Daley’s $1 mil. push to buy back guns misfires

* Daley: Media has made cops timid

* Daley Goes After Media Coverage of Police

* Daley dodges questions about backing cops

* Blagojevich: State Troopers Could Help Stem Chicago Violence

* Blagojevich Answers Questions

* Crime’s up. Why?

- Posted by Rich Miller   57 Comments      

Morning Shorts

Thursday, Jul 17, 2008

* CTA to experiment with seatless rail cars

The standing room-only cars will begin operating within a few months, probably starting on the Brown Line and later expanded to the Red and Blue Lines, CTA President Ron Huberman told the transit agency’s board.

* Parking tickets to be picture perfect

* Daley ties in Special Olympics’ Chicago roots to 2016 bid

* LaSalle County OKs killing stray animals on the spot

* Fannie and Freddie mess

* FBI looking into IndyMac Bancorp

* Illinois to crack down on reckless motorcyclists

* 10th casino license for sale

* State’s 10th casino could be up and running in one year, chairman says

* House lawmakers verbally spar over loans-for-ex-convicts legislation

* State Reps Accuse Colleague Of ‘Racial Hatred’

* Bill sparks Illinois House debate on race, regionalism

* Law could make Cook Co. split easier

“If Cook County can’t improve, can’t change, can’t deliver the government we deserve … we feel we have the right to govern ourselves,” Murphy said.

* McHenry County putting sales tax hike to good use: Roadwork

* GOP presents its case for reform

* Ethics reform kind of slow— like governor

* ‘It’s a matter of setting priorities,’ governor

* Governor signs new gun law

* Obama’s goodie bag

In all, Obama doled out more than $3.6 million in state grants in just the last half of his state legislative career, records show.

* VP Speculation During Obama Stop In Indiana

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   20 Comments      

Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Veto override “program” *** UPDATED WITH ROLL CALLS *** (Use all caps in password)

Wednesday, Jul 16, 2008

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Enter your password to view comments      

Blagojevich may call out National Guard to stem Chicago violence *** UPDATED x2 ***

Wednesday, Jul 16, 2008

* [CHECK UPDATE 3 BELOW] The governor says he might call out the National Guard

With gun violence at a crisis, Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Wednesday said he is in talks with Illinois State Police and the Illinois National Guard to see if more police officers can be deployed to the streets of Chicago.

The governor said Chicago Mayor Richard Daley hasn’t asked for help, but Blagojevich says he’ll call the mayor once he has some concrete suggestions about what help he can provide.

Blagojevich didn’t have many specifics, but he said it’s more likely that state police will be brought in than the National Guard.

He also apparently suggested that retired police officers could be brought back for duty. Interesting that he hasn’t broached the subject with Mayor Daley yet.

Grandstanding again?

*** UPDATE 1 *** The Tribbies have a story online, and it brings up an important point

Just how the State Police would play a significant role is questionable since Blagojevich has only recently begun rebuilding its ranks after union officials say the agency lost more than 10 percent of its positions from 2001 through 2005 and patrolling of many areas, particularly during nights and weekends, is spotty at best.

* They also have a response from the mayor’s office…

“We’re obviously not going to turn away help on a front as important as this,” Heard said. “At the same time, we’re a little puzzled about how it would work. It’s unprecedented. Obviously, help in the form of reducing the number of guns on the street go a long way to addressing the problem.”

* And this…

Blagojevich and Daley have not been politically close. Like Daley, Blagojevich has alienated many leading Democrats in the state—Senate President Emil Jones being a strong exception—over a style of governing that critics contend is dominated more by a personal publicity pop than putting any substance behind it.

No!!!! Really?

*** UPDATE 2 *** IIS has raw audio. Listen or download.

*** UPDATE 3 *** The governor’s press secretary has just issued this clarification…

As mentioned at today’s press conference, Gov. Rod Blagojevich said it was “highly unlikely” that the Illinois National Guard would be sent out to help the Chicago police. The more likely scenario involves the Illinois State Police. The Governor is meeting with law enforcement officials later today to look at options on how the state can help Mayor Daley with more personnel.

The National Guard will only be attending the meeting today for informational purposes.

The only way the National Guard would be involved, if they are involved, is with the use of tactical helicopters that are currently used in narcotic operations. No National Guard troops are being considered. [emphasis added]

So, no troops in the streets.

- Posted by Rich Miller   115 Comments      

This just in… *** No funds sweep bill from House *** Hospital, nursing home, SoS money restored in House *** Pattern develops *** Drug treatment override fails *** Rollcalls Now Online *** House votes to restore $43 million in drug treatment cuts *** Pattern finally breaks *** Elder abuse override rejected *** Big Medicaid delay override fails *** Community services override fails *** House adjourns *** HDems: $420 million restored *** Governor reacts ***

Wednesday, Jul 16, 2008

* 10:59 am - There is quite a lot of dispute over what Rep. Monique Davis said in committee this morning, even among Republicans who were present, so hold your fire in comments. We’re working on getting some audio, but this broke open today when GOP Rep. Jim Sacia rose on a point of personal privilege this morning to protest what he described as outrageous racial remarks during a committee hearing

Three Republicans in the Illinois House are accusing a Democratic colleague of “race-baiting” and spreading “racial hatred.” They’re asking the speaker of the House to investigate comments made this morning by Representative Monique Davis.

The dispute arose when a committee debated legislation to help ex-convicts get jobs and start businesses.

Both sides agree Davis claimed that lawmakers with prisons in their districts oppose that kind of legislation because they want to keep the prisons full.

Outraged Republicans say she made it a racial issue and said they want prisons filled with “black people from Chicago.”

Davis denies she made the statement. More in a bit.

*** UPDATE 1 *** Here are some quotes from some House Republicans about what Rep. Davis may or may not have said during that committee. It appears that AP story may have overstated the GOP unanimity about what happened…

REP. RON STEPHENS: “The Representative from Cook was shouting in a very accusatory tone. At first I thought she was being sarcastic, so I started laughing, and then I realized that she was serious…

“I heard her say the term ‘blacks from Chicago’, but I could have misheard her…

“In all the 22 years that I have been here I have never been accused of being tough on crime in order to keep prison jobs in my district.”

REP. DENNIS REBOLETTI: “I’m not sure if I ever heard her use the term ‘blacks from Chicago’. It was very loud and heated in the room. However, there was a racial overtone to the whole debate.”

REP. JIM SACIA: “I never heard Rep. Davis say ‘blacks from Chicago.”

*** UPDATE 2 *** Kevin has listened to the audio of the committee hearing and says Rep. Davis never made reference to “black people from Chicago,” in the context that has been alleged and reported by the AP. Here’s the relevant quote…

“African-Americans [legislators] down here have to fight harder to stop this continued recidivism because opportunties are denied. But you have to take the names of people with prisons in their districts and see how they vote. They don’t want to stop crime, it’s their livelihood. It is sad when your whole economy is based on the imprisonment of Americans.”

I’m not sure what the heck the howling about racial stuff is based upon.

*** UPDATE 3 *** We now have audio. It’s not the greatest because we couldn’t directly convert the file provided by the House, but click here to listen.

* 11:08 am - This ain’t huge news, but Treasurer Giannoulias admitted yesterday to considering a run for governor

The ongoing budget battle in Springfield is not just upsetting voters. State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias said Tuesday in Galesburg that “to see what’s going on in state government is horrifying.” During a visit with a portion of the editorial board of The Register-Mail, Giannoulias said he is “open” to the idea of running for governor. […]

“If this was a private corporation, if he was the CEO of a private corporation, he would have been fired a long time ago,” Giannoulias said. “Sometimes … you wake up and say ‘you know, I think I could do a better job than the governor.’ I’m thinking about it (running for governor). I don’t stay up at night thinking about it.”

And check out this line…

[Giannoulias] said there’s been a lack of leadership in Illinois for too long, and labeled the Blagojevich administration as “vendetta-driven” government.

Asked to comment, Luis Guerrero, the governor’s director of communications, said by phone that his only comment was “accusations are counter-productive.”

That response might be read as: Keep your mouth shut if you know what’s good for you.

* 11:21 am - If you tuned into the House floor audio/video and are wondering why nothing is happening, the House GOP is caucusing on the budget, capital, etc. They should be back sometime soon.

* 11:24 am -
The negotiations still have a long way to go, particularly over the issue of health insurance payments, but an AFSCME strike doesn’t appear to be imminent

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has agreed to extend its state contract for several more weeks after saying “some progress” was made during two-days of mediated contract negotiations.

*** 11:37 am *** House Speaker Michael Madigan was just asked whether the chamber would advance any revenue generating bills today, including a special funds sweep. The House had been working on a scaled-back $300 million sweep as a counter-measure to the Senate’s $500 million sweep.

Madigan said they would not be moving a funds sweep. No further session is scheduled until November, so that’s apparently that.

*** 12:45 pm *** The House is now debating veto overrides. Here’s the bill in question. The first override attempt of a line item failed, but several House Republicans voted with the Democrats. The second override attempt received far fewer votes. The roll calls aren’t posted yet, but we’re gonna get them for you as well as (hopefully) the analysis of what was in that first override vote. We’ve got a long ways to go, however.

The third motion, to override the governor’s veto which effectively increases the payment cycle for hospitals is being debated right now.

*** 12:53 pm *** The House overrode the governor’s veto which increased the payment cycle on hospitals. They’re debating the same issue for nursing homes now. The pressure will be on the Senate bigtime with that hospital vote.

*** 12:56 pm *** As expected, the nursing home money was restored. Ibid above on Senate pressure.

* 12:58 pm - The SJ-R has some details on the first budget override attempt that failed earlier today…

The House voted 64-26 this afternoon to override the governor’s veto in five spending areas totaling nearly $40 million, including a $27.5 million increase for workers who serve the developmentally disabled. But the motion needed 71 votes to pass.

*** 1:25 pm *** A pattern has been developing so far. Reduction overrides - which require simple majorities - have passed, while line-item overrides - which require three-fifhts votes - are failing. A vote to override a line-item veto for the secretary of state failed badly a few moments ago, but an override motion of a reduction veto in personnel services for the SoS passed with 64 votes.

* 1:30 pm - The same thing just happened with a couple of human services overrides. Line item override failed, reduction override passed.

*** 1:48 pm *** In case you missed the link above, you can find roll calls on the override motions at this link. None have been posted as of yet, however.

*** 2:01 pm *** The House failed to override the governor’s line-item veto of millions of dollars for drug treatment programs. Again, the pattern holds. Line-item veto overrides are failing while reduction overrides are passing.

*** 2:08 pm *** The House Clerk’s office has finally put the override motion rollcalls online. Click here.

*** 2:17 pm *** Another drug treatment veto override attempt is forthcoming. The next one will require just 60 votes and will restore $43 million reduced by the governor.

*** 2:41 pm *** As predicted, the House just voted to restore $43 million in reductions to the state’s drug treatment programs.

*** 2:44 pm *** Again, the House failed to override of a line item veto on school construction grants. The motion received just 60 votes. Maybe if the House Dems had more members they could make some of these votes a bit closer.

*** 2:48 pm *** OK, we finally had a motion fail on a reduction veto. It went by pretty fast, but I think it was a community college veto. The motion came up a vote or two short of the sixty required to pass.

…Adding… It was a community college override. The governor had reduced the base operating grants. Motion 24 if you’re following along.

…Also… A human services reduction veto was not overridden just now (3:10 pm). It was Motion 17, which would have restored $33.5 million in cuts to the community care program.

…And… From the SJ-R, which is also following along

The House shot down restoring $148 million in construction money for Rochester and about two-dozen other school districts who have waited since 2002 for money promised by the state but never delivered. Lawmakers voted 60-26 to restore the money, but it needed 71 votes to pass.

“It’s important to these schools and it’s only living up to the obligation this state has had,” said Rep. Lisa Dugan, D-Bradley.

Then, the House rapidly rejected restoring six chunks of money worth tens of millions of dollars for higher education. That includes $18 million for the MAP grant increase, $10 million for community colleges and millions for grants and improvements at several state universities.

*** 3:17 pm *** An override motion to restore funding to elder abuse programs to the FY 08 level also came up two votes short.

*** 3:35 pm *** After stopping the governor from delaying Medicaid payments to hospitals and nursing homes, the House failed to prevent the governor from moving $185 million of Medicaid payments for prescription drugs, transportation, home health, medical appliances, hospice care and labs to Fiscal Year 10. The motion only required 60 votes, but came up way short.

*** 3:51 pm *** Yet another reduction override failed. This one would’ve restored about $27 million for cuts in community based services for developmentally disabled and mentally ill. The motion came up 2 votes shy. Some tourism vetoes were also sustained when the House couldn’t muster enough votes - one a line item and one a reduction veto.

*** 4:00 pm *** House Speaker Madigan is adjourning the House as I write this. He said he doesn’t intend to call the House back until November, but added that if the need arises he may call them back before that.

*** 4:00 pm *** Speaker Madigan’s spokesman claims the House has voted to restore about $420 million that was vetoed by the governor.

*** 4:37 pm *** From the governor’s press office…

The House passed a budget without approving sufficient revenue sources to pay for it. That is incredibly irresponsible — it’s the equivalent of writing a check that you know will bounce.

For most people, they’d be charged with a misdemeanor. In Springfield, it’s just more games. The Governor acted responsibly. He balanced the budget. The House should be using this time in Springfield to pass revenue measures already approved by the Senate rather than casting blame toward others. This is a problem they created. This is their budget.

- Posted by Rich Miller   73 Comments      

Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Letter to HDems; Autism; Brady; Secession; Con-Con; Voliva (Use all caps in password)

Wednesday, Jul 16, 2008

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Enter your password to view comments      

Question of the day

Wednesday, Jul 16, 2008

* The setup

MillerCoors has picked Chicago for its headquarters.

The company, a joint venture of Molson Coors Brewing Co. and SABMiller PLC, will employ 300 to 400 people and is still finalizing a location downtown. [..]

The firm chose Chicago over Dallas for its new home base and is making a $39.5-million investment, according to a press release from the state. The state is providing an economic package of roughly $18 million, while the city is expected to provide between $2.5 million and $5 million in tax-increment financing subsidies.

The state’s incentives include an $825,000 grant over two years and tax credits totaling $17.5 million over 15 years, according to a spokeswoman for the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

* More

But landing MillerCoors comes at a price of over $20 million in state and city subsidies, raising an oft-asked question in economic development circles: Would it have come here anyway, even without an aid package?

After all, Chicago is hardly a Rust Belt relic. It’s what economic development experts would call a “winner” city, a place with a healthy, diversified economy and cultural and recreational amenities to attract highly skilled workers.

In fact, despite all the worries over lost corporate headquarters, the number of high-paying corporate management jobs—the kind MillerCoors will create—has grown at a heady pace in recent years, according to federal employment data.

* The question: Do you support or oppose economic development efforts like this one? Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller   43 Comments      

House GOP unveils “Agenda for Action”

Wednesday, Jul 16, 2008

* The House GOP held some town-hall meetings last night to unveil a campaign platform for the fall election campaign

House Republicans announced a new “Agenda for Action” Tuesday. It provides a seven-point platform — ranging from true balanced budgets to tough anti-corruption laws — to entice voters to put the GOP back in charge of the chamber in November.

That’s a tall task. Democrats now have a 67-51 advantage and are trying to build a 71-vote supermajority. Both sides know how legislators vote this week will be used in the upcoming elections.

* More

Speaking to a live crowd of about 70 at Forest View Educational Center and an Internet audience, Cross and colleagues accused Gov. Rod Blagojevich, along with House and Senate Democratic majorities, of profligate spending, misplaced priorities, veiled decision-making and failure to listen to constituents.

The Republicans hit hardest at Democratic spending.

“We have this mentality of spending money that we don’t have,” Cross said. “We don’t think about the fact that some day we’ve got to pay the piper. Well the piper’s at the door and has to be paid.”

State Rep. Mark Beaubien, of Barrington Hills, said Cross was generous in calling the recently passed budget $2 billion out of balance. The figure, Beaubien said, is closer to $3 billion.

* That’s the first time I’ve heard the $3 billion deficit figure, and it may not be the only thing the HGOPs are exaggerating

About 60 people attended the Town Hall meeting to participate in the range issues.

Some were broad: “Approve a comprehensive capital program that will reinvigorate Illinois’ economy, create 700,000 new jobs and rebuild and repair Illinois’ crumbling roads, unsafe bridges and overcrowded schools and hospitals.”

Quite a few of those in attendance were candidates, and even Gov. Rod Blagojevich only uses 600,000 as his job creation figure for the capital bill - and that’s undoubtedly overstated.

* You can see the entire agenda by clicking here. Dave Diersen has a few ideas of his own.

* Meanwhile, the House Republicans are divided over how to deal with the budget veto overrides this week and many aren’t looking forward to today’s budget action

Republicans say it’s unfair to force legislators to pick and choose which cuts should be restored now, especially since lawmakers could always come back this fall and do more.

“We ought to be looking at the total package, not playing politics where we’re going to do mine but we’re not going to do yours,” said Rep. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield.

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      

Way too tiny or a good start?

Wednesday, Jul 16, 2008

* As I told you yesterday afternoon, the House advanced a $1.8 billion “capital plan” out of the Executive Committee yesterday. At first, they claimed the proposal would generate about $5 billion, but they were apparently confused. The Dems defended the proposal

The House Democrats are trying to send a signal to the feds that Illinois has the money ready to go to fund the projects most at-risk of losing the federal funds, said Rep. Gary Hannig, a Litchfield Democrat sponsoring the measure [emphasis added]. “This would allow us to make our 20 percent payment. In turn, we would expect the federal government to then come up with the 80 percent. But these are projects that our congressmen have determined and earmarked in a federal transportation bill.”

Steve Brown, Democratic spokesman, said the measure aims to bring in $1.2 billion for highway projects and $600 million for mass transit projects. He said House Democrats proposed those amounts in response to information from the Illinois Department of Transportation about the federal dollar amounts at risk without a state match. But IDOT couldn’t confirm that information or interpretation of the situation. Department spokesman Mike Claffey said IDOT didn’t have a comment but was looking into the legislation.

And as Hannig said, no one really knows when the federal earmarks will expire. “I think the view is that the sooner we try to access this money, the better, clearly.”

* The House Republicans on the committee all voted for the proposal yesterday, but the governor’s office pounced

“This is designed to make sure Illinois doesn’t lose any federal funds,” said Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago). […]

“This House action puts us 1 percent closer to meeting our state’s infrastructure needs,” gubernatorial spokesman Lucio Guerrero said. “Before they start pounding their chests to congratulate themselves, it’s our hope they intend to go back to work and pass the other 99 percent necessary to meet our state’s infrastructure needs.”

* And the Senate Dems were skeptical

But even if the House approves the plan, the Senate does not intend to meet again until after the Nov. 4 general election.

The Senate, led by Blagojevich allies, previously approved the governor’s $34 billion capital construction plan. The House, led by Blagojevich adversaries, defeated that plan on May 31.

Lawmakers last approved a major capital plan in 1999.

“We feel our work is completed,” said Cindy Davidsmeyer, spokeswoman for Senate President Emil Jones Jr., D-Chicago.

* Erickson has the final word

But, given the political gridlock that has enveloped Springfield for the past year, it’s too early to begin revving up the bulldozers.

* Meanwhile, take this with a grain of salt

Tensions between Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and House Speaker Michael Madigan are still simmering in Springfield. Upstate, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley says he tried to play peacemaker - but got shot down. […]

DALEY: It’s a personal feud. It’s the Hatfield and McCoy’s, you know that. When people don’t trust each other in politics or in families, you have issues.

Daley says he’s tried to get the politicians together to smooth things out - but he says they won’t listen to his appeals.

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      

Pay raise politics finally getting some notice

Wednesday, Jul 16, 2008

* Some of the mainstream types are finally taking serious notice of a topic I’ve been discussing with subscribers, column readers and you for months: The legislative pay raise’s impact on the Blagojevich-Jones-Madigan war. From CBS2

Under Springfield’s weird rules, if President Emil Jones convenes his State Senate for just two more days, every legislator immediately gets an almost 12 percent raise, even members of the House who voted overwhelmingly to reject the raise.

But there’s a catch. With many voters angry about their own pay cuts, Jones wants to delay the double-digit raise for legislators until after the November election.

So, important budget business facing the general assembly must wait, too.

“The tail is wagging the entire dog of the $60 billion state budget because a few senators want their pay raise,” said State Rep. Jack Franks.

* And the Tribune

The House is back this week to fight Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s budget cuts, but the Senate is avoiding the Statehouse in a move that protects lawmakers’ chances of getting a post-election pay raise.

Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago) has said there is no need for the Senate to meet because his chamber, unlike the House, has already approved funding plans that would alleviate the need for the governor’s veto of $1.4 billion in spending from the new state budget.

But critics said returning to Springfield also would force the Senate to vote on whether to boost base salaries for lawmakers next summer by 7.5 percent, to $72,985. Jones has not scheduled the Senate to return until after the November election, when it would be less volatile for lawmakers to take a vote. […]

Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Lake Forest), who has fought the pay raise and wants a pre-election vote, contended the Senate is shirking its responsibility to tackle budget issues now because some senators want to protect salary hikes.

“Some people in leadership would rather us not be in Springfield because we would not have to address the pay raise,” she said.

This may have been too “inside baseball” for most publications back in May, but it’s having a serious impact on the Statehouse budget/capital/etc. stalemate and needs more coverage.

However, the Senate’s maneuvering might distract attention from the House Speaker’s role in the ongoing mess, including the fact that funding for cost of living allowance increases is included in the House’s budget bill.

Your thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      

All-Star game open thread

Wednesday, Jul 16, 2008

Cubs lose again.


- Posted by Rich Miller   43 Comments      

Morning Shorts *** UPDATED x1 ***

Wednesday, Jul 16, 2008

*** UPDATE *** ‘’Clout Kids'’ Get Summer Jobs, Part 1 and Part 2

* State Supreme Court keeps lawyer list secret

The list of lawyers licensed to practice in Illinois will remain secret under a ruling Tuesday by the state Supreme Court.

The court rejected a request for the list made by Avvo, a Seattle firm that grades attorneys and posts the results online.

* Weis says cops worry about suspensions

* Weis gets lesson in Chicago politics from aldermen

* Top cop grilled by city council committee

* Weis outlines crime tactics, talks about desire for strong relationship with City Council

* Carothers to Weis: I’m The Boss

* Weis Bringing Back SOS Unit

* Daley Calls Weis Headline “Fabrication

* State says seat belt usage up in Illinois

* Peoria Pundit evicted from hosting service

* Loan program assists efforts to go green

State Sen. David Koehler, D-Peoria, said the new program is a smart way to help out Illinois businesses and simultaneously help the environment.

At a time when many are frustrated with state legislators’ slow progress in settling on a budget, the “Green Energy” is a proactive program that will help Illinois businesses and consumers, he said.

“This is exactly what government should be doing,” Koehler said.

* State to present funds to Cahokia Mounds site on Thursday

* Riders hop Amtrak, dodge gas prices

* New fair-housing group debuts with hearing in Chicago

* Proposed City Colleges tax hike draws fire

Civic Federation President Laurence Msall, who plans to testify Wednesday at a public hearing on the budget, says, “In a time of economic hardship for Chicagoans, exacerbated by enormous recent property and sales tax increases, the federation believes that governments should focus their efforts on reducing costs, not increasing taxes and student fees.”

* No resolution yet in mediated AFSCME contract talks

* Incumbents outraising challengers in suburban congressional races

* Foster revving up 14th District’s cash register

* Foster’s fine line

“Coming out of the blocks, Rep. Foster had to decide whether to take his lead from pro-business Melissa Bean or pro-union Phil Hare,” says William Lane, Washington director of government affairs for Peoria’s Caterpillar Inc., the biggest manufacturer in Mr. Foster’s district. “We would say he chose poorly.”

* Congressional candidates rake in millions

* U.S. Rep. Bean reports $1.5 million in campaign fund

* Kirk, Seals in big money race to 111th Congress

GOP Congressman Mark Kirk and Democratic challenger Dan Seals have already raised nearly $6 million since their first contest two years ago.

* Dan Seals: Looking for Love From New York’s Charles Rangel

* Rep. Roskam with big dollar lead over Democratic rival

* Halvorson ahead in election fundraising

* Durbin’s GOP foe with plenty of money woes

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   10 Comments      

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Wednesday, Jul 16, 2008

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Morning video

Wednesday, Jul 16, 2008

* We’ll talk about this more later today…

Sparkling, flavorful, distinctive!

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

* 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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