* If you were watching yesterday’s ScribbleLive blog, you know there’s a new budget deal…
Tinley Park Mental Health Center and six other state facilities would stay open in the short term and nearly 1,900 layoffs would be avoided under a deal struck Monday night, according to leading Democrats and Republicans.
The outline of an agreement was worked out in the Capitol office of Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who huddled with lawmakers from both parties for more than two hours.
Emerging from Quinn’s office, Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno said details are still being crafted, but a measure “will be very clear that the facilities are to stay open pending any kind of orderly transition of those that may need to close in the future.”
“We’ll avoid that chaos that we were afraid would happen with what the governor had proposed,” said Radogno, of Lemont.
* Some details…
The agreement would keep the facilities open only for the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends June 30. Their long-term fates are still being reviewed, Vaught said.
Vaught said the agreement also calls for reducing state payments to a variety of special-purpose funds. The state’s $55 million contribution to the workers’ compensation fund, for instance, would be cut by $10 million. About $95 million that ordinarily would go to pension systems would instead be diverted to preventing the closures.
There would be enough reductions that some services in the Department of Human Services could get some additional money, Vaught said. The biggest beneficiaries would be community mental health services, which would get $30 million, and substance abuse programs, which would get $28 million.
* In other news, if you watched the House Revenue Committee hearing yesterday, you know that the tax cut package was approved, but it wasn’t exactly an enthusiastic approval…
A $250 million corporate tax-break package aimed at keeping Chicago’s financial exchanges and Sears from bolting Illinois wobbled out of a House committee Monday amid signs the measure faces legislative trouble.
CME Group Inc., which owns the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, and Sears Holdings Corp. would stand to gain $100 million in tax savings under the legislation, which is poised for a full House vote after advancing out of that chamber’s Revenue and Finance Committee by a 6-0 vote. Democrats accounted for all of the “yes” votes, while two GOP members voted “present.”
* It didn’t help matters much that CME’s lobbyist didn’t show up…
One Republican, Rep. Sandy Cole (R-Grayslake), went so far as to scold CME for not showing up at the hearing to answer questions from legislators despite the firm’s threats to move if state lawmakers don’t cut its $150 million state tax bill. Cole voted “present” on the package. The tax break also would benefit the Chicago Board Options Exchange, which also has threatened to move operations out of state.
“I’m really surprised they’re not here,” Cole said incredulously. “We’re talking about voting on this huge deal that they initiated … and there’s nobody here.”
A CME spokesman declined comment on the company’s absence, though the firm did put its support of Bradley’s amendment on the record.
* Leader Cross dumped all over the bill…
Though the slimmed-down package was crafted in a bipartisan manner, by Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, and Rep. David Harris, R-Arlington Heights, there appears to be continuing resistance from Republicans.
House Republican leader Tom Cross questioned how many more companies will come forward asking for tax breaks.
“If we do this tomorrow, who’s going to be knocking on our door next week? Who’s going to be knocking on our door in January? And everybody is going to say they’ve got a compelling case,” Cross said.
Illinois cannot keep going down a road that addresses one company at time, he said, arguing for a comprehensive rather than piecemeal approach.
Cross is mainly upset about Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposed add-ons…
Quinn’s budget director, David Vaught, didn’t flatly oppose the tax package but told the committee “there’s a little more work that needs to be done to achieve more balance in the bill.”
* And Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie is about the most unenthusiastic co-sponsor imaginable…
Currie, a co-sponsor of the bill, said she also has “serious questions about the top-heavy nature of this and whether we should jump whenever another state says it is going to take a business.”
“We’re here essentially because there are two companies holding a gun to our heads,” Currie said.
Harris, though, said the state is still on shaky financial ground.
“The state would be on (even) less firm financial ground if some of these large corporations decided to locate elsewhere,” he said.
* Meanwhile, District 300 types scored a victory over Sears and Hoffman Estates, but they still aren’t happy…
Lawmakers’ preliminary approval Monday came at a sometimes contentious hearing where Community Unit District 300 officials continued to strike a nerve with state officials.
“I know that we have been a thorn in your side,” Superintendent Michael Bregy said near the beginning of his remarks. “We respect the difficult work that you do.”
Late the night before, Bregy sent out a scathing criticism of the most recent proposal. But most of his concerns were eased before the beginning of the hearing, and afterward, Bregy released a statement saying he was “reluctantly satisfied.”
“While we have achieved huge progress over the past few months, make no mistake that the end result was a huge compromise,” Bregy said. “We are reluctantly satisfied with the compromise plan. It is a very bittersweet victory for our community.”
Nevertheless, the school district’s unconventional lobbying techniques drew a rebuke from lawmakers of both parties. The committee chairman, Democratic state Rep. John Bradley of downstate Marion, raised his voice occasionally like an angry teacher in an unruly classroom, saying once he was “not happy” with District 300’s recent tone.
D300 spends over $10,000 a year per student. The school attended by Rep. Bradley’s kids spends a bit over $6,000. There wasn’t much sympathy for Bregy, but Bradley wisely held his tongue so he could get the deal done.
* Related and a roundup…
* Press Release: EDA issues clarified; D300 “reluctantly satisfied”
* Fun fact: District 300’s lobbyist
* D-300 ‘reluctantly satisfied’ with final EDA legislation
* Video: Bradley on CME tax breaks
* Editorial: ‘Crony capitalism’ finding a foothold in Illinois, unfortunately
* ADDED: Editorial: Illinois shouldn’t fix its pension problems by breaking promises
* Vote expected today to cancel pensions for one-day teachers
* Pension double dipping could end soon
* Video: Tom Cross, Bob Molaro and double dipping
* Editorial: What’s it going to take?
* Editorial: Make time for pension reform, action on waivers
* MEBCO Lawsuit Targets New Mississippi River Bridge, IDOT