* I don’t believe that I’ve ever seen anything quite like the press release that Joe Berrios’ campaign just sent out. Berrios, of course, is running for Cook County Assessor, is the chairman of the county Democratic Party and is a Statehouse lobbyist.
One of Berrios’ lobbying clients is the Illinois Coin Machine Operators Association. Berrios was instrumental in pushing the original video poker law, which will put the machines in taverns, clubs and truck stops all over the state.
This afternoon, the House passed a trailer bill which has been sharply (and somewhat unfairly) criticized by the Illinois Gaming Board’s chairman as too lenient on possible criminals. The bill now goes to the governor. Berrios lobbied for that one, too.
Oddly enough, Berrios’ campaign sent out a press release touting his lobbying involvement…
Cook County Assessor candidate Joseph Berrios on Wednesday praised Illinois lawmakers for passing a bill with the potential to create $500 million in jobs and revenue for the state during a tough economic crisis.
House Bill 4927, which was sponsored by State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) and State Sen. Terry Link (D-Waukegan) in the Senate, will allow truck stops to legally host paying video gambling machines under Illinois’ video gaming law. The bill now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn for his signature.
“At a time when the state is struggling for revenue, this measure will bring in $250 million to $500 million a year for use in state capital projects like roads and school construction,” said Berrios, who lobbied for the measure on behalf of the Illinois Coin Operators’ Association. “It’s a win-win for the state. Our unemployment rate is at an all-time high and our schools are crumbling. This new revenue will help in so many ways.”
The bill, which had bi-partisan support, was presented to lawmakers as a way to make Illinois’ original law more efficient and profitable, in part by allowing truck stops and VFW halls to host the machines. The state has already legalized video gambling in bars and restaurants, though it will probably be the end of this year before the state’s Gaming Board formally allows the official start of video gambling in those establishments.
“I’m pleased that I could help get this bill passed during such a difficult fiscal time,” Berrios said. “However, as I have noted since last fall, once I become Assessor I will resign as a lobbyist and my sole priority will be serving the people of Cook County with fairness and efficiency.”
Berrios has been a commissioner on the Cook County Board of Review, which oversees property tax appeals, since 1988. He won the Democratic nomination for Cook County Assessor in February. Prior to being elected five times as commissioner, he served three terms as an Illinois state representative. He is chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party. Berrios was the first Hispanic elected chairman of the party, a commissioner to the Board of Review and to the Illinois General Assembly.
I guess I can see his point here, especially the part about mentioning how he’s stepping down as a lobster if he’s elected. But it’s just weird to me that his campaign would be touting his lobbying business, particularly since most regular folks hear “lobbyist” and think “bad guy.”
What’s next? A press release touting his fight against the governor’s proposed cigarette tax increase on behalf of Altria? Probably not.
*** UPDATE *** The Forrest Claypool campaign has responded. From a press release…
Citizens for Claypool campaign manager Tom Bowen released the following statement in response to a release by gambling lobbyist Joe Berrios’ political campaign.
“How much did the gambling industry pay you to say that?” said Bowen
Earlier this week, Independent Candidate for Assessor Forrest Claypool called on Mr. Berrios to disclose his ties and contracts to the gambling industry in order to provide the voters of Cook County a way to judge the extent of Mr. Berrios’ conflicts of interest.
* I met with Attorney General Lisa Madigan yesterday to take a look at her tax returns. As we’ve discussed before, her campaign originally refused to release the returns, but then Madigan called and offered to let me take a look at them.
Pretty much all the income the couple reported for 2009 was AG Madigan’s state salary. Madigan’s husband Patrick has been focusing his time as a stay-at-home father and reported less than $1,000 in income from his cartoonist gig. They reported a $3,000 capital gains loss and had an adjusted gross income of just under $137,000. They paid $14,518 in federal taxes.
Patrick did much better in 2008, earning $66,880. The couple reported an adjusted gross income of $187,6612 and paid $38,432 in federal taxes. She showed me the 2007 returns as well, and they were pretty much the same. $126,656 in income for Lisa, $31,966 for Patrick, an AGR of $160,452 and $27,749 in federal taxes.
Bottom line: No surprises.
* AG Madigan’s Republican opponent Steve Kim e-mailed me his 2009 tax returns yesterday. Kim reported $69,204 in income and paid $11,314 in federal taxes. He reported income from three different sources, his law firm ($54,207 in passive income), the Korea UIC Education Group ($35,000 in nonpassive income) and S & C Corp ($20,003 in nonpassive losses).
* The Bill Brady campaign was saying this week that Jason Plummer didn’t have to disclose his income tax returns because Lisa Madigan hadn’t done it, so this story ought to be the end of the lame excuses and I am absolutely certain that Plummer will be following through soon and keeping his campaign promise to always be scrupulously transparent and accountable.
* 12:26 pm - The governor’s office is officially filing the AV right now at Index.
* The governor claims in the AV that the legislature “has taken only half a step towards reforming” the convention industry. “As long as I have been Governor, my message has been clear: when it comes to reform, half measures do not suffice.” Heh.
* “For the authority to fully fuel the Illinois economy, we must also eliminate tax increases that are counter-productive to the purpose of the bill.” Wow. It’s almost like this is pure snark.
The above passage is, of course, about the “departure” tax on taxicab rides from Chicago’s two airports.
* The governor states that the bill violates Article IV, Section 13 of the Illinois Constitution by specifically naming James Reilly as the new McPier trustee. The Article: “The General Assembly shall pass no special or local law when a general law is or can be made applicable.”
* Quinn also complains in the AV that there is no mechanism to replace Reilly. But that was addressed in a trailer proposal sponsored by Speaker Madigan and which passed Exec this morning.
* As I told subscribers the other day, Quinn’s “real” reason for this veto is to give two of the big McPier unions control over the two smallest unions, the Riggers and the Decorators, by allowing them to absorb the unions. “Reducing the number of the Authority’s work jurisdictions will allow the Authority to continue to offer service superior to that found in other large convention destinations,” Quinn wrote.
* Here’s the official language for that passage on the Riggers and Decorators…
The Authority shall not recognize (l) more than a single bargaining unit for employees engaged in drayage, rigging, and related duties and (ll) more than a single bargaining unit for employees engaged in carpentry, decorating and related duties.
Translation: “Drayage” means Teamsters, so they get the Riggers. The Carpenters Union gets the Decorators.
* Expect a veto override perhaps as early this afternoon by the Senate.
* 12:40 pm - The governor has announced a 1 o’clock Statehouse press conference to discuss the AV. We’ll have video.
* 12:57 pm - The Senate will apparently not take up the AV today. From the Senate Democrats…
Committees will not be scheduled for this evening and there will be no major floor action. Tonight, the Senate we will read in messages from the House, the Governor. Additionally, we will file all concurrence motions and read in any new Senate bills and resolutions.
After a Committee on Assignments meeting, we will make committee announcements. We plan to start committees around 9:30 on Thursday morning.
* 1:06 pm - More from the Senate Democrats…
The Senate intends to override the Governor’s McPier AV. A joint statement from Cullerton and Radogno will be issued shortly.
* 1:45 pm - From a press release…
JOINT STATEMENT REGARDING THE GOVERNOR’S VETO OF McCORMICK PLACE REFORM LEGISLATION (SB28)
SPRINGFIELD, Illinois - Moments ago, Governor Pat Quinn vetoed Senate Bill 28, the McPier reform legislation that was born out of months-long bipartisan negotiations by key stakeholders and top legislative leaders.
Illinois Senate President John Cullerton and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno helped to craft the agreed reforms in Senate Bill 28. As leaders of their caucuses, both worked diligently to earn bipartisan passage of the legislation earlier this month.
Numerous associations, organizations and industries have long complained of the high surcharges and bureaucratic guidelines that have reduced the attractiveness of hosting conventions and trade shows at McCormick Place.
Just this week, the National Restaurant Association held its annual trade show at McCormick Place, bringing with it an estimated $100 million of economic activity to Chicago. After more than six decades of making McCormick Place its annual convention headquarters, officials of the association announced that, unless the reforms in Senate Bill 28 become law, a new home will be chosen for its future events. Additionally, officials of the National Housewares Show issued a similar statement this week.
For this reason Senate leaders expressed disappointment in the governor’s veto decisions:
“Governor Pat Quinn’s decision today to veto key elements of the bipartisan McPier Reform Package has the potential to destabilize one of the most productive economic engines in the State of Illinois.
After months of public hearings and discussions with stakeholders, members of the Illinois General Assembly passed this reform package to stop the pattern of canceled trade shows and wary convention decision makers who found other venues more attractive, affordable and with less red tape. Democrats and Republicans came to retain and grow tens of thousands of jobs and reaffirm a commitment to investing in tourism for the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois.
This proposal cuts bureaucracy, establishes strict ethics standards, and recognizes the importance of attracting new and returning convention business through aggressive promotion. Without providing an alternative funding source, the Governor’s veto decimates a well-thought-out plan to show off our world-class facilities.
By working together, we created a significant reform plan that will bring millions of visitors and billions of dollars in economic investment to our state. Our negotiations lasted for weeks. But, we believe an override of the Governor’s veto is a prudent course of action.”
The Senate will begin the override process in committee on Thursday morning.
*** 2:31 pm *** Gov. Quinn’s press conference, part 1…
*** 3:30 pm *** The governor’s office claims that the “trade show people” are OK with his changes…
“If [Mr. Quinn’s] changes go through it will produce a stronger bill that trade shows would like. If not, the trade show people are satisfied with the current bill….The trade show people are OK with the gov’s action.”
The [tax] amnesty program is expected to generate about $250 million. From Oct. 1 to Nov. 8, people can make good on taxes owed that were accumulated between June 30, 2002, and July 1, 2009. The bill also allows the state to sell debt to private collection agencies. […]
The wide-ranging [Emergency Budget Act] bill also calls for the state to take out a loan against money it would receive in future years from the national tobacco settlement, a deal worth about $1.2 billion in upfront money. Republicans warned the move is shortsighted because the state uses annual money from the tobacco settlement to fund a variety of programs, including $580 million in prescription drug assistance.
The bill further authorizes Quinn to borrow money from restricted state funds, which previously were “swept” of money to divert to other state expenses and not repaid. This bill requires the money to be repaid with interest, although skeptical lawmakers doubt that will happen. Currie said the administration expects to borrow about $1 billion from the funds. The bill also requires lawmakers, statewide officials and top agency employees to take 12 furlough days in the next budget year. […]
Currie said the [state budget] bill calls for $26.2 billion in general fund spending, the part of the budget over which the state has the most control. She said that is about $400 million less than the current budget, reflecting a 5 percent across-the-board cut in spending for operations.
* The setup is about Rep. Bob Biggins’ vote-switch on the pension borrowing plan. As you’ll no doubt recall, Biggins voted “No” the first time the bill was called, then voted “Yes” the second time. From the Sun-Times…
Cross condemned Biggins for skipping a House GOP caucus on the borrowing plan and opting instead to meet with Quinn’s chief of staff, Jerry Stermer. Cross said he’d “heard some scuttlebutt” about a possible deal Biggins cut with Quinn in exchange for his vote.
Biggins denied discussing with Stermer a possible job in the Quinn administration, which could significantly increase the nine-term lawmaker’s pension.
“I asked for nothing,” Biggins said in a hallway behind the House as one of his GOP colleagues passed by and could be heard muttering “two-faced son of a b—-.”
Some on Cross’ leadership team said there likely will be discussions about expelling Biggins from the House Republican caucus.
* As I’ve often said before, this whole “living in the governor’s mansion” issue is silly. I defended Rod Blagojevih time and time again on it, and grew sick of the whining from Springfieldians that the guy didn’t want his kids going to school here. I didn’t blame him one bit, particularly since he wasn’t all that popular with state employees, thousands of whom also send their kids to school here.
Gov. Quinn, however, promised he’d live in the mansion, and the Tribune reports that he hasn’t really done so…
…Quinn stays at the ornate, taxpayer-funded house only sporadically. During his first year in office, Quinn slept there 55 nights, mostly while lawmakers were in session. He didn’t spend more than three consecutive nights in the executive mansion.
He over-promised, plain and simple. But the fact that he doesn’t live in an “ornate, taxpayer-funded” mansion does not, as the Tribune story claims, “belies the populist image” Quinn projects. If anything, living in his own modest Chicago home is far more populist, as far as I believe.
* The real meat of the Tribune story, however, is that Quinn has on at least a couple of occasions appeared to misuse his state plane to go back and forth between Springfield and Chicago…
On a handful of occasions, Quinn took a state plane to Springfield during the day, only to fly back to Chicago the same night. Among these cases were trips to attend a campaign fundraiser and his aunt’s funeral. Quinn defended the funeral round trip as an appropriate use of taxpayer money because he was honoring a woman who was a “citizen of Illinois for eight decades.” […]
On June 29, Quinn met with Mayor Richard Daley in Chicago before flying to Springfield to huddle with Democratic legislative leaders. Quinn was there for just over two hours before flying back to Chicago, where he hosted an evening campaign fundraiser at the downtown Hyatt.
Quinn said his use of the plane was appropriate and he did not make the round trip because of the fundraiser, but because he planned to attend the annual Rainbow/PUSH meeting in Chicago the following morning. […]
On Oct. 10, Quinn flew from Chicago in the afternoon to host a Springfield reception for his former Northwestern University law classmates, then flew back to Chicago about five hours later. On Dec. 19, Quinn flew to Springfield to host a holiday open house and staff party before returning to Chicago a few hours later.
He should give that stuff a rest. And the campaign use ought to be strictly verboten.
* Speaking of the state plane, the Tribune also had a piece on that today…
Lawmakers are proposing a wide variety of ways to cut the woefully out-of-balance budget, but curbing their use of state aircraft is not at the top of the list.
Dozens of lawmakers fly between Chicago and Springfield on the state’s fleet of four executive airplanes at discounted rates subsidized by taxpayers, according to Illinois Department of Transportation records.
Legislators who’ve taken the most flights defended their use of state planes, saying they would get reimbursed for mileage if they drove.
It’s a legit hit, but I doubt they mind too much.
* Graphic: Top Illinois legislators using state aircraft
* The House Executive Committee voted today to move a proposal to the floor which allows video gaming in bars and restaurants that have off-track betting parlors in them. The new trend is to put the OTBs into large entertainment centers, so the proposal would ensure that those facilities were not put at a disadvantage against other bars and restaurants in the area, according to its sponsor, Rep. Lou Lang.
Rep. Bob Biggins asked a most unusual question during the committee’s debate, however. Watch…
* Meanwhile, the disinformation campaign against the main video poker “trailer bill” is still in full force. From the Sun-Times…
(T)he Illinois Senate has passed a bill that also passed out of a House committee on Monday. The bill would take away the board’s discretion, allowing it to bar only those who are convicted of a gambling-related felony.
The reality, Jaffe says, is that most of those caught dabbling in illegal video poker wind up convicted only of lesser charges.
“I am absolutely opposed to what the Legislature is trying to do,” Jaffe says. “They are taking away discretion from the board. It gives an exemption to people who have been involved in criminal activity.”
Also, I’ve talked to several people who swear on their mother that Jaffe’s own Gaming Board staff signed off on this video poker bill in order to bring some clarity to how tavern owners and fraternal organizations like the VFW could be denied a license.
* So, how did the group of ten House Democrats who pushed for extensive budget cuts do yesterday? It was, at best, a mixed bag.
The House did pass a $200 million Medicaid cut pushed by the group, which House Majority Leader Barb Currie referred to as “the only real savings” the House approved yesterday.
But a proposal to make state retirees pay health insurance premiums failed. A measure to cut the budgets of constitutional officers fell short. The $400 million in education cuts (K-12 and higher ed) were overwhelmingly rejected in committee. Reducing state mileage reimbursements to 39 cents per mile from 50 cents failed. Eliminating state paid stipends for some local elected officials died.
A proposal, however, by Elgin state Rep. Keith Farnham advanced to the full House that would limit the travel allowance for lawmakers to 39 cents for the next year. It also would reduce lawmakers’ travel allowance for housing and meals - currently $139 a day - to $111. […]
Meanwhile, a proposal that could potentially save $300 million by canceling and rebidding state contracts for a total of more than $1.2 billion also cleared the committee.
“There’s a pattern of renewing contracts just year after year,” Jakobsson said. “We just renew them and don’t ask questions.”
Rep. Elaine Nekritz was one of the chief motivators behind the move to cut the budget. She tried to put the best face on the defeats to my intern Barton Lorimor. Have a look…
* House Speaker Michael Madigan just passed a “clean-up” measure for the McCormick Place reform bill out of his Executive Committee. Click here to read it.
Among other things, the proposal requires McCormick Place to follow the state’s procurement code, rather than allowing it to have a “substantially similar” procurement process. It also provides for a means to oust the new trustee, or czar, provides for appointing his replacement in case of a vacancy, subjects him to the governor’s constitutional removal authority, and makes it even more clear that he is subject to the one-year revolving door prohibition.
These appear to be Gov. Quinn’s reforms. The governor has not yet issued any statement on his expected amendatory veto of the original McCormick Place bill. Click here today to see its status.
* As I told you last night, Gov. Quinn’s campaign blasted Sen. Bill Brady for voting to double the taxicab “departure tax” which is included in the McPier reform bill. Here is the Brady campaign’s response…
Governor Quinn is pushing a 33 percent income tax increase on the taxpayers of Illinois, a dozen tax increases on Illinois’s job creators and fee hikes on citizens. Despite the efforts at distraction – that’s the Quinn record. Bill Brady opposes the Quinn tax increases.
The city of Chicago – and people of Illinois – anxiously await his action on the bipartisan solution passed by the legislature to keep as many as 66,000 jobs in the Chicago area convention and trade show industry.
McCormick Place has approximately 3 million visitors a year—most of whom are out-of-town conventioneers who spend their money on everything from airline tickets and taxi rides to hotel rooms and theater tickets. Democrats and Republicans worked together to impose labor work rule reforms, eliminate costly mark-ups and put in place professional management that will make McCormick Place competitive again in the convention industry. At the same time, the cost to the state and its taxpayers will be reduced by more than $300 million in the coming years with stringent ethical standards and sunshine that eliminates backroom deals.
This week the National Restaurant Association – which for 61 years has come to McCormick Place for its annual trade show – announced it will move elsewhere unless the reforms become law. This one trade show brings more than $100 million annually into the city.
Governor Quinn needs to set aside the political rhetoric and sign the McCormick Place reforms into law. If he continues to kowtow to political interests – Chicago stands to lose one its prime economic engines.
Tribune Co. plans to pay top executives and managers bonuses of $16.2 million when its bankruptcy reorganization plan takes effect, the company said in a court filing.
The Chicago-based company — owner of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and broadcast outlets — said in a revised reorganization plan filed Monday that it will pay $10.3 million in incentive compensation to its top 19 executives, who earned the maximum amount possible for their performances last year, and $1.3 million to other employees who made “valuable contributions.”
Under a separate bonus program that rewards some of the same executives, another $4.6 million will be paid out to business unit leaders, the filing said.
The payouts follow a move in February to award $42 million in bonuses under the same programs to top managers for their work last year.
There is no doubt a university presidency is a difficult, 24/7 job. But the fact that new U of I President Michael Hogan’s salary of $620,000 is more than the $177,412 that Gov. Pat Quinn earns and President Barack Obama’s $400,000 salary shows how university administrator salaries have gotten out of hand.
* No Invasive Asian Carp Turn Up in Recent Fish Kill
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources led the effort to poison two and a half miles of the Little Calumet River. It’s just a few miles from the lake.
With mounted police lining the route, teachers decried Schools CEO Ron Huberman’s plan to raise class sizes to 35 — causing up to 3,000 Chicago Teachers Union layoffs — to battle an estimated $600 million deficit.
* Stroger vetoes bill requiring board vote on pay raises
Daley’s 2010 budget was precariously balanced by draining revenues from the $1.15 billion deal that privatized Chicago parking meters and ordering city employees to take unpaid furlough days that amounted to a nine percent pay cut.
Since then, top mayoral aides have been forced to propose a $160 million short-term borrowing to bankroll back pay raises for Chicago police officers mandated by an independent arbitrator.
Foreclosed and abandoned Chicago buildings are “the same type of disaster as the BP oil slick” in Louisiana, a Northwest Side alderman said today, demanding a full-court press by city, state and federal officials and by banks that owned the buildings.
“It’s not an exaggeration,” said Ald. Richard Mell (33rd). “They’re having the same devastating effect in communities and neighborhoods as the oil slick is.
Lawrence became enraged at the previous council meeting when his request to ask questions of Aurora Housing Authority appointee Avis Miller was denied by Weisner. Lawrence is a longtime thorn in the side of the authority, questioning its use of tax dollars and the conditions of many of the authority’s properties. He routinely calls for the dismantling of the board.
Weisner has said he denied Lawrence’s line of questioning so as not to allow Lawrence to unfairly “rip into” Miller
Chrysler is an economic engine for the Rock River Valley that must be fueled. In today’s Register Star print edition, we run an exclusive report that the plant may be in line for a 592,000-square-foot expansion that would be a welcome addition to the local economy.
However, as encouraging as it seems that the expansion may happen in Belvidere as soon as this fall, we know that nothing is certain until the first shovel is turned.
That makes it imperative for local, state and federal representatives to do whatever is legally and morally necessary to get the deal done.