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Our (painful) graph of the day

Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010

* Click the pic for a better look at this graph of year-over-year revenue receipts for major taxes. The blue line represents personal income taxes, the green line is total tax collection. This is for all states


The graph is from the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, which claims that Illinois’ tax receipts in the fourth quarter of last calendar year plunged 6.9 percent compared to the same quarter a year earlier.

From the dot points…

This is a record fifth consecutive quarter that total tax revenues and collections from two major sources — personal income tax and sales tax — declined on a year-over-year basis.


* A map showing how individual states fared. Again, click the pic for a better look…

The gloomy national state budget outlook…

Despite indications that the national recession may be over, the revenue situation remained gloomy in most states in the fourth quarter of 2009. Many states have been reporting shortfalls in revenue compared to projections used for this year’s enacted budgets. While stock indices are well above their lows and some other indicators point to strengthening in the economy, overall conditions remain weak. Nonetheless, retail sales and consumption have stabilized and we expect more states to begin seeing year-over-year growth in some revenue sources over the next few months, particularly the sales tax.

However, even with growth, tax revenue is likely to remain below its prerecession peak for quite some time. State tax revenue will continue to be insufficient to support current spending commitments, and more spending cuts and tax increases are most likely on the way for many states — particularly those that did not take significant actions to balance revenues and expenditures in their FY 2010 budgets.

Sound familiar?

Go read the whole thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      

Question of the day

Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010

* The College Democrats at Northwestern University are bringing in Rod Blagojevich for a publicity stunt… er… um… speaking engagement

As stated on the event’s Facebook page, a Northwestern faculty panel including law Professor Tonja Jacobi, Political Science Professor Donald Gordon and Medill Professor Donna Leff, will interview the former governor, and students will be allowed to ask questions afterward.

Why a group of Democrats thinks this is a good idea is simply beyond me, but whatever. Free country and all that.


Blagojevich (WCAS ’79) will have 15 minutes to plead his case before an NU faculty panel can begin asking questions, Rockoff said. The panel will include Law Professor Tonja Jacobi, Political Science Professor Donald Gordon and Medill Professor Donna Leff, the Communication senior said.

“The majority of the event will be an interplay between the faculty panel and the former governor,” he said.

After the faculty panel has finished, students will have the opportunity to ask questions, Rockoff said.

“Our belief is that students at Northwestern are interested in debating this issue,” he said. “They will be interested to see this kind of dialogue.”

* The Question: What questions would you ask RRB if you attended this function? Try to avoid snark, please.

- Posted by Rich Miller   56 Comments      

“Magic Money” and other budget news

Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010

* Everybody always wants to spend more money. That’s nothing new. They even want to spend more state tax money during the greatest fiscal crisis this state has ever had. Not surprising, considering the way people are.

The Southern Illinoisan today editorialized on behalf of a bill that would divert about $500,000 a year from the sales tax on wine to benefit the state’s fledgling wine-making industry. Normally, that might be a great idea, especially considering the much-needed tourism dollars the wine industry draws to southern Illinois.

And, frankly, $500,000 ain’t a whole lot of money, so I can see why Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) could sponsor the proposal with a mostly clean conscience. Although his reaction to his bill’s defeat in the House Revenue Committee was more than a little over the top

Bost was disappointed when his bill didn’t get out of committee Thursday, and accused state Democrats of wanting to control the state’s revenue stream.

“It’s an abuse of powers. It does not allow me to represent my district,” Bost said.

Anyway, the Southern proposed a middle ground

But perhaps there is some area for compromise, some tweaking of the legislation that would create the wine fund without shorting the general fund.

Yep. The answer is magic money! Unless they mean raising the sales tax, which they didn’t specify.

Money has to come from somewhere. Perhaps the Southern could offer to give up its state sales tax exemptions on newsprint, ink, equipment, etc. Until then, proposing a magic money solution is not a responsible alternative.

* Meanwhile, Mayor Daley talked to reporters yesterday about the state budget. Hizzoner made it clear that cuts must come before tax hikes

“You just can’t increase taxes and say, ‘That’s the answer,’ ” Daley told reporters. “That’s not the total answer. If you think that is, you’re kidding yourself.” […]

“You have to streamline government,” said the mayor, who has cut some spending and raised taxes and fees to balance the city’s precarious budget in recent years. “You have to look at priorities and figure out if there’s waste, inefficiency and corruption, anything, because you have to look at that.”

Daley did not offer to give up the municipal revenue sharing program, however. The mayor also said the lt. governor’s office should be kept alive

” In the long run, you need a governor and a lt governor working together like that because there’s a responsibility when he or she is out of state, incapacitated. They can take over. It’s just like the presidency. I think they should run together.”

But he did threaten to privatize McCormick Place.

* Some more federal money? At least for a while, and for new recipients

A White House compromise proposal on health care reform would boost funding for Illinois and other states facing newly eligible participants in their cash-strapped Medicaid programs. […]

Under the White House proposal, states would get 100% federal funding for any newly eligible Medicaid participants for four years, from 2014 to 2017, with 95% reimbursement in the following two years and 90% after that. Normally, the federal government reimburses half of Medicaid expenditures in Illinois, although that was boosted temporarily by last year’s stimulus program.

“It gives states plenty of time to adjust to these new responsibilities and gives them additional financing pretty much forever,” Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, said in a conference call for reporters.

However, the summary of the proposal didn’t address other details that concern some Illinois hospitals, such as the schedule for phasing out additional Medicaid payments they get for treating an above-average number of Medicaid patients.

* Chicago Tonight hosted a long discussion about the state budget last night. Have a look

* Related…

* Illinois not expecting budget crisis to extend to personal tax refunds

* Budget crisis means a pay cut for some county officials

* 9 laid off in UI facilities department

* Naperville considers joining push for statewide pensions: The state Constitution outlaws diminishing employee benefits, but [Assistant City Manager Dan] DiSanto said one option would be for the state to create a second tier of benefits for new hires.

* Tryon Legislation to Bring Transparency to State Budget

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      

Fox looks at “Madigoons”

Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010

* Fox Chicago took a look at legislative staffers who also go off payroll to work on political campaigns. They focus solely on the House Democratic staff, whom they refer to as “Madigoons“…

“What they really are, are political workers with side jobs in the off season,” Means said. “They keep them employed so they’ll be around for the next political season. And that really does seem to me to be the tail wagging the dog.”

FOX Chicago News examined three years of legislative payroll records, and then compared them with political campaign expenditures. We found 34 Democratic House employees under the control of Speaker Madigan taking off from their jobs for weeks, sometimes months at a time.

From what I was told a couple of weeks ago by Fox, they could only find four or so House Republican staffers who dropped off state payroll. I thought that number seemed quite small, since they’re staffing most of the same campaigns as the Democrats. The HGOP number isn’t in the story, however. Maybe a follow-up is planned. I dunno.

…Adding… Dane Placko just called. He said they’re planning a story on the Republicans tonight. He eventually found a total of 13 HGOP staffers who also worked on campaigns. More than originally, but still not a lot by comparison. I’m looking forward to the piece.

Back to the story

But Decremer took off seven months in 2007, four months in 2008 and another four months in 2009. He has made more than $40,000 from political campaigns.

His specialty? Challenging the petitions of candidates Madigan wants off the ballot.

And with Illinois facing a $13 billion deficit, with all these people bouncing on and off the payroll, it begs the question–

“Is that a job we need in state government?”

Former Federal Prosecutor Patrick Collins chaired the Illinois Reform Commission, which lost its battle to curb the clout of the legislative leaders.

“Is that a job we need in state government? Because if it can go unfilled for four or five or six months at a crack, I can guarantee you there’s a cheaper way to provide that service to the people of the State of Illinois,” Collins said.

That’s certainly one way of looking at it, and I won’t dispute its validity. But when the GA isn’t in session, all of its staff just isn’t needed. Then again

But that’s not what our investigation found. When the legislature was battling Gov. Rod Blagojevich over a budget stalemate in 2008, with plenty of work to do, nearly half of Madigan’s staff was off the state payroll doing political work.

Analysts, program specialists, legal assistants and even the house photographer bounced on and off the state payroll. His specialty is campaign mailings.

While on leave, those state workers collect paychecks from political campaigns. We counted a total of $728,000 in political pay the past three years.

“We’ve had so much in Illinois where politics drives our government. I think it would be a good time for government to essentially take the priority role,” said former prosecutor Collins.

Actually, nobody was doing much during that stalemate, but I see the point.

Watch the video…


- Posted by Rich Miller   127 Comments      

Morning Shorts

Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010

* Bankruptcies up in central Illinois

Bankruptcies in the region jumped more than 18 percent in 2009, despite federal changes that took effect in 2008 and made it harder to wipe out debt. More than 10,700 central Illinoisans filed for bankruptcy last year.

* CTA snow removal violates union deal, arbitrator says

The CTA continued to use its outside snow-removal contractor, Christy Webber & Co. Inc., to clear and salt station walkways and platforms, instead of calling on the CTA’s unionized janitors, during the snowfall that occurred Sunday and Monday.

* A year later, no answers in parking ticket probe

Chicago police say their investigation into the matter continues, but many questions remain in what ranks as one of What’s Your Problem’s most bizarre cases.

* Firms to Submit Proposals to Redevelop Union Station

* City to settle suit with wrongly imprisoned man

* Judge: Aldermen May Have to Testify

Attorneys for Calvin Boender have subpoenaed 10 aldermen for testimony about their knowledge of how Boender’s development, Galewood Yards, won approval from the city.

* It Pays To Have An Alderman In Your Pocket

The developer who allegedly bribed Ike Carothers got more than just a zoning change.

* How open is an “open” council meeting?

* Aldermen Raise Questions About City’s School Closures

* Daley Against Moratorium on School Closings

* Huberman Defends Practice of Closing Schools Before City Council

* CEO vows to change school-closing process

Huberman conceded that reforms he announced a few months ago didn’t go far enough and said he will hold public hearings to gather input on needed changes.

* Time to reconsider school mandates

While we’re not willing to go so far as to support an Illinois bill that would let school districts ignore mandates that aren’t funded, we wholeheartedly agree that mandates need to be examined through a new lens - one that acknowledges the difficult economic situation our schools face.

* School districts ax teachers, blame state for financial meltdown

* Ax falls in Oswego

The Oswego School Board voted 6 to 1 to approve a $5.5 million reduction plan that would include 80 employee reductions, furlough days and program cuts, the first phase of reductions to help balance a budget for the upcoming school year.

* D204 gets mixed news on state funding

According to Assistant Superintendent for Business Dave Holm, the district estimates it will receive between $3.5 million and $4 million in federal funds that Springfield will use to make three general state aid payments to District 204. The state owes the district more than $7.8 million for the 2010 budget.

Bur earlier this month District 204 — like many others in the area — informed its residents that state funding for next year is, what Holm called, “the big unknown.”

* District 300 slashes budget $4.6 million

* Moline schools prepare for nearly $4 million in cuts

* District 150 approves new superintendent’s contract

* Unit 5 board to review $7.48 million in cuts Wednesday

* Cuts wouldn’t hit classroom teachers, Milton says

His proposal to eliminate 56 teaching positions applies to non-classroom teachers, he said, such as reading coaches, post-secondary coaches and teacher leaders.

“Classroom teachers are OK,” Milton said.

Of the district’s 1,201 certified teachers, 427 work outside the classroom in various academic support roles, according to Alexander Ikejiaku, the district’s personnel director.

* Our Opinion: Spare front-line workers from school cuts

* Buffalo Grove Says ‘Stop’ To Red Light Cameras

* Hoffman Estates OKs red-light cameras

* Belvidere police union takes benefits concerns to council

* Rockford delays bond sale for flood-damaged homes

The city found out Monday that a $10 million line of credit with Associated Bank, which has been funding the Rockford Local Development Corp.’s purchase of the homes, has been extended for 60 days. City leaders also learned they may be able to further extend the line of credit with another bank after the city closes with Associated, said Ald. Carl Wasco, chairman of the Finance and Personnel Committee.

* Rock Island aldermen approve plan for $3.1 million grant

* Fiscal budget hearing dates set in Gurnee

* City to follow recommendation to focus on developing hydropower operations at Quincy, Clarksville

* Downtown [Peoria] hotel project scaled back; state bond sought

Also, according to a document from the Illinois Finance Authority, the project’s estimated cost is $90.2 million, down from the original $102 million.

City Manager Scott Moore said on Monday that city officials received a debt payment schedule on revisions to the project but are waiting for changes to the overall plans from developer Gary Matthews of East Peoria-based EM Properties.

* NIU’s proton-therapy cancer center back to square one

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   Comments Off      

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Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Turner on WVON

Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010

* 7:46 am - Rep. Art Turner is on WVON Radio right now talking about his campaign for lt. governor, race, the Democratic Party and Gov. Pat Quinn. Listen by clicking here. Help live-blog in comments if you can.

* 8:00 am -
End. Since nobody apparently saw the link in time to comment, this is now an open thread on Rep. Turner’s argument in favor of his appointment to the ballot.

…Adding… I was working during the interview, but I did catch this quote by Rep. Turner about Sen. Rickey Hendon’s candidacy for lt. governor…

“Sen. Hendon was only in this race to stop me from winning.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      

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