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Friday, May 29, 2009

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A little light reading

Friday, May 29, 2009

* As part of its “Clout goes to college” series, the Chicago Tribune sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the U of I asking for various information on how state legislators and other politicians backed student applicants. The university has now made those documents public.

Much of it is a bit muddled and difficult to get through, but these two in particular show notes and e-mails on specific politicians about applicants. I have only skimmed them, but perhaps you’d like to help with the research….

* Document 1
* Document 2

Background

Hardy said the list - dubbed “Category I” - contains more than 100 potential students each year whose applications legislators and trustees have been asked to check on by constituents, typically parents or other relatives of the applicants. This year, there are about 160 on the list, he said.

He said only some of those are admitted and noted that other universities keep similar lists.

The Tribune says 1,800 pages of documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show 77 percent of the 800 students placed on list since 2005 for admittance to the Urbana-Champaign campus were accepted. Meanwhile, the acceptance rate among other applicants stood at 69 percent. […]

Students accepted from the list who were freshman in 2008 on average ranked in the 76th percentile of their high school class, the Tribune said. The same year, the average high school ranking among all freshman was in the 88th percentile.

- Posted by Rich Miller   43 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - This just in…

Friday, May 29, 2009

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Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Ryg; Taxes; Budget; Payday; PACs; Olson; Harmon; Civil unions (use all caps in password)

Friday, May 29, 2009

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Question of the day

Friday, May 29, 2009

* It’s Friday, we’re all tired, and many of us will be working through the weekend. Let’s lighten it up.

Could you write us a song about the end of session? Set it to any tune you wish. Have fun.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


Tax hike vote today?

Friday, May 29, 2009

* The House is expected to vote on an income tax hike today

A proposed 50 percent increase in the state income tax could be voted on in the Illinois House as early as Friday.

With the clock ticking down on the Legislature’s spring session, the vote will signal whether lawmakers are ready to raise taxes or cut massive amounts of spending.

* Subscribers already know this…

In the Senate, only five Democrats support the Quinn income tax hike, said a spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago. No Republicans support the plan, said Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont.

And, while overly broad, I believe this is true

Between 30 and 40 House Democrats are solidly for the plan, according to sources, with another dozen “leaning” toward voting for it. It needs 60 votes to pass, meaning some Republicans will have to vote for it to pass. Rep. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield, said he doesn’t know of any Republicans who would vote for the plan now, including himse

The guv thinks he has close to 50 in the House, but that means Speaker Madigan will have to twist some arms if it’s gonna pass today. The big question is: Does Madigan even want it to pass? Nobody knows for sure yet. More soon.

* I also believe the Sun-Times’ sources are right

On another front, with Quinn’s push to raise the state income tax from 3 percent to 4.5 percent all but dead, his administration is considering a temporary income tax hike as a Plan B, legislative sources told the Sun-Times.

Publicly, however, Quinn showed no signs of backing off a permanent increase. “We’re hearing all sorts of propositions, but we are not for that plan,” Quinn spokesman Bob Reed said late Thursday when asked whether the administration supports a temporary income tax hike.

…Adding… Yep. The sources were right. From IRN reporter Dave Dahl’s Twitter page

Gov open to temporary tax increase if that’s what it takes.

* The Senate Democrats have demanded that the House act first. There are various reasons for this, but here are a couple

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton today said the fate of a state income tax increase lies across the Capitol in the House, where a significant number of Democrats in the majority are skittish about the political implications of voting to raise taxes.

“Most of the action, if not all of the action, is in the House,” Cullerton said after emerging from talks with House Speaker Michael Madigan and Gov. Pat Quinn. “Any effort on the income tax will be initiated in the House, and the Senate will respond.”

Cullerton is offering some political speak here. While Madigan, the powerful Southwest Side Democrat, holds considerable sway over his members and backs an income-tax increase, he also doesn’t want to put his Democrats at risk and knows that Republicans won’t be offering any votes on an income tax hike.

* The Tribune editorial page was in full swagger today….

Springfield, you’re asking for trouble with voters if you raise the income tax before you pass thorough and meaningful ethics and spending reforms. The results so far have been half-hearted. Put honest government first.

* And if the tax hike doesn’t pass? Well, here’s one option…

One option apparently still being discussed is to give state agencies lump sums of money and tell them they have to make it stretch, rather than lawmakers specifying how much should be spent on each item within an agency. “If you want to give the directors the ability to manage their budgets, they can probably get through to February or March of next year,” Mautino said.

Either that, or they have to cut more than $7 billion. Despite what the Tribune claims, there’s no way to do that. Not even close.

- Posted by Rich Miller   68 Comments      


A look at the meat

Friday, May 29, 2009

* Hopefully, we’ll soon get beyond the “He said, she said” reporting on the campaign reform bill that passed the Senate yesterday and into the meat of the bill. I told subscribers about this a couple of days ago

One politically intriguing provision in the proposal would ban the Illinois Democratic Party from endorsing candidates in its primary elections as well as giving money to primary candidates.

Such a move would mean that House Speaker Michael Madigan, who also is state Democratic chairman, could not engineer the slating of his daughter, Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan, as a candidate for governor against Quinn or use state Democratic Party resources against him.

That provision was apparently demanded of Madigan by Quinn. Heckuva move.

The language wouldn’t apply to the Illinois GOP because it organizes under a different part of the statute. But, there is a bill ready to go which would force the Republicans into the same organizational rules as the Democrats.

* More

The heated debate came after other reform groups criticized a Senate Democratic plan to limit how much money legislative leaders can distribute to rank-and-file legislators.

Senate Democrats want to limit such transfers to $90,000 per year. But that’s far from the $30,000 per election limit recommended by Quinn’s commission.

Those are just cash transfers. “In-kind” contributions - goods and services - would not be capped at all. Here’s the Sun-Times’ take

The other essential ingredient of real campaign finance reform would be caps on how much legislative leaders can transfer from their war chests to allies in tight legislative races.

It’s true that the reform proposal puts a $90,000 limit on those transfers. But — you guessed it — there’s a loophole. There will be no limit on how much legislative leaders can give in “in-kind contributions.”

That means they can spend as much as they want to send out mailers, set up phone banks and buy radio and television advertising to help out a friend in need.

And, remember, these are annual cash caps. A Senator with a four-year term could get $360,000 in annual $90,000 contributions from his or her leader. I explained more about those annual caps last night.

* This is a bizarre little addition

The measure also would permit the creation of “constituent service” committees to collect funds to help pay for operating lawmakers’ district offices.

Those committees appear ripe for potential abuse.

* The Tribune was its usual self, but made some valid points in its editorial today

We’ve never had much faith in the notion that setting limits on campaign contributions would stop the practice of trading cash for political favors. Attempts to do so at the federal level have only shown that resourceful politicians will always find a way to keep the money flowing. Democrats in the Illinois Senate drove home the point Thursday by pushing a “reform” measure so full of loopholes that one government watchdog called it “worse than nothing.”

“Any 2nd grader could figure out a way around it,” said David Morrison, deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. Morrison’s group strongly supports limits on contributions, as does the Illinois Reform Commission, whose recommendations looked like roadkill by the time the Senate Executive Committee took up the bill. Thus we were treated to the spectacle of Gov. Pat Quinn applauding a “landmark” bill opposed by his blue-ribbon reform panel.

The governor threw Pat Collins and the reform commission right under the bus yesterday. They appeared stunned at how fast things moved away from them.

* And even though the editorial boards will go nuts against this bill, Senate President Cullerton was probably right last night when he warned Republicans that voting against the legislation wouldn’t look too great during campaigns next year

Cullerton also told Republican senators it was “crazy dumb” to oppose the bill. “But have at it. I look forward to next year,” he said.

* Related…

* Clout goes to college - Rezko relative is among those admitted to U. of I. in shadow system influenced by trustees and other insiders: Since 2005, about 800 undergraduate students have landed on the clout list for the Urbana-Champaign campus. It’s unknown how many would qualify for entry on their own, but their acceptance rate is higher than average. For the 2008-09 school year, for example, about 77 percent were accepted, compared with 69 percent of all applicants. That’s in spite of the fact that patronage candidates, as a group, had lower average ACT scores and class ranks than all admitted students, records show.

* Firings, FOIA bills advance in legislature

* Ald. Isaac Carothers wore wire for a year

* Chicago alderman indicted: Carothers took money from developer to help get project launched, prosecutors say

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      


Newspapers: Resign

Friday, May 29, 2009

* The calls for US Sen. Roland Burris’ resignation are once again spiking at the editorial boards. He won’t resign, of course, but everybody wants their say and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Tribune

It’s remarkable that he continues to open his mouth thinking anyone will believe a word that comes out. He even boasts of his ruses, claiming Wednesday that he was only trying to “placate” gubernatorial brother Rob Blagojevich during their now notorious November phone call.

* SJ-R

We have listened to the recording and here is what we (and, we believe, almost anyone else) believe we heard: A desperate Roland Burris willing to do just about anything to become a senator, but not wanting to get caught doing just about anything to become a senator. He knows if he holds a fundraising event for the governor and gets the appointment, it’ll look like he bought it. And he knows if he doesn’t come up with money for the governor, he probably won’t get the appointment.

* Bloomington Pantagraph

He didn’t come across as trying to avoid wrongdoing. He came across as trying not to get caught.

He didn’t say there was anything wrong with having a fund raiser for the man who would decide whether to fulfill his wish to become senator. He talked about what the press might do and “so many negative connotations that Burris is trying to buy an appointment.”

* Peoria Journal Star

The more Burris talks, the deeper the hole he digs. He now acknowledges, for instance, that his sworn testimony in Springfield was incomplete because the “one thing you don’t do is to … volunteer information that wasn’t asked. … There was no obligation there.” Say what? “No obligation” for someone who wants to represent Illinois’ interests in the U.S. Senate to come clean under oath? Does he know what the meaning of the word “is” is?

Meanwhile, he insists with a straight face that “I’m not splitting hairs, I’m not walking a crooked line. … I’m as straightforward and honest as I can be.” If this is the best he can do, it’s not good enough.

* Paul Green has the best quote

Perjury cases are notoriously hard to prove, and the U.S. Senate is notoriously slow in dealing with corruption charges against fellow lawmakers. But it may be enough to kill off any lingering hopes on Burris’s part that he might get elected to the Senate seat.

“It’s a very heavy rock to put on an already wobbly canoe,” said Paul Green, director of Roosevelt University’s School of Policy Studies.

* Good point

The call may not show Burris making his fundraising support contingent on getting anything in return. But it definitely paints a portrait of a relationship between Burris and the governor’s camp that was a lot more intimate and involved than anyone had previously let on.

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      


Morning shorts

Friday, May 29, 2009

* 12% behind on mortgages

Borrowers with good credit now make up the largest share of foreclosures as job losses and pay cuts exact their toll.

A record 12 percent of homeowners with a mortgage were behind on their payments in the first quarter, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Thursday. And the trend is predicted to continue until the end of next year, about six months after unemployment is expected to peak.

* Empress Casino in Joliet to reopen June 25, officials say - Fire closed casino in late March

* Ill. health insurance law takes effect June 1

Illinois parents will be able to continue using their health insurance to cover older dependent children beginning June 1.

State insurance officials say the new law will allow adding children up to age 26. It’ll also allow military veterans to be covered by parents up to age 30.

* Fiscal crisis shuts the doors on storied Driscoll Catholic

* Chicago parking: Mayor Richard Daley calls machine meltdown a ‘glitch’

Mayor Richard Daley on Thursday blamed a “computer glitch” for a downtown parking pay-box meltdown.

That’s more than the company that took over running the city’s paid street parking system would say about why some 250 new cash-or-credit payment boxes stopped working for much of Wednesday.

Avis LaVelle, a spokeswoman for Chicago Parking Meters, said company officials have “some suspicions” but don’t want to speculate on the cause of the problem. She said it might be a few days before they announce findings.

Daley said he has asked the company, which leased the city’s 36,000 paid street spots for 75 years in return for a $1.15 billion upfront payment, to perform better.

* Daley tells parking meter company to shape up

Ald. Tom Allen (38th), chairman of the City Council’s Transportation Committee, agreed that the city has little choice but to work with the contractor.

“It was a massive undertaking that we did with very little public comment and two days of deliberation. Now, what are you gonna do? We’ve already cashed their check,” he said.

“Had we not taken their money, there would be a pretty good appetite to revisit this thing. It’s been a disaster.”

* 87% of arrested men on drugs

Nearly 90 percent of the men arrested in the Chicago area last year tested positive for illegal drug use at the time of their arrests, according to a federal report.

The area’s 87 percent rate led among 10 metropolitan areas studied in 2008.

- Posted by Mike Murray   6 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today’s edition of Capitol Fax

Friday, May 29, 2009

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« NEWER POSTS PREVIOUS POSTS »
* Reader comments closed for the weekend
* Rauner vetoes second bill to address gender wage gap
* Munger moves to DCEO
* Preckwinkle mayoral announcement roundup
* Follow the money
* Empty threat? Or does somebody know something we don't?
* A couple of quick debate clips
* Supremes side with hospitals on property taxes
* Report: IEPA stonewalls AG until HGOP leader steps in
* A TIF primer
* Raoul's new ad blasts Harold over abortion rights
* Debate coverage roundup
* Question of the day
* *** LIVE COVERAGE ***
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* Yesterday's stories

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