* I’ve been meaning to post stories on some complicated topics, but it’s Friday, it was a long week and I’m distracted as heck by something else, so let’s go with a story about Michelle Obama instead…
“Are you as big of a White Sox fan as your husband?” a 10-year-old boy asked the first lady, in reference to the president’s well-known support of the South Siders. The child followed up with a query of whether she had congratulated Sox pitcher Philip Humber on his perfect game last weekend against the Seattle Mariners.
The first lady acted quickly to set the record straight.
“Oh, gosh,” she said. “OK, the … no, I’m not as big a fan because I grew up a Cubs fan. We’re a mixed marriage.”
Obama went on to explain, as she has in the past, that her father was a Cubs fan, despite the fact her family lived on the South Side.
I know a lot of South Side African-American Cub fans. Back in the day, the Sox weren’t perceived as all that, um “black friendly.”
* The Question: How does your family deal with divided baseball loyalties? Tell us your story.
* Rep. Greg Harris sent out a “Springfield Update” yesterday which is an absolute must-read for everyone who visits my website…
Yesterday, I watched the faces and listened to the voices of my House colleagues from both sides of the aisle in a closed-door briefing as the implication of each of the Governor’s proposed cuts in Medicaid was explained. If 180,000 seniors lose prescription drug assistance, what were their options? If we eliminate combination therapy for 4,500 people with HIV/AIDS, what would the impact be?
If admissions to supportive living facilities or community care for seniors or people with disabilities was halted, wouldn’t that just drive costs up in nursing homes, hospitals or other more expensive treatment/living options? If the state stops paying for preventive care, aren’t we just shifting costs to ER visits, acute care and hospitals and increased costs for private insurance? And on down the list of pages and pages of charts and fine print.
Outside of that closed room, we were besieged by earnest board members from Catholic Charities, worried about budget cuts in the Homeless Prevention programs that would mean turning away nearly 16,000 families in distress.
Leaders of the Safer Foundation passed out fact sheets showing in the next 12 months how many of the adult population in Illinois prisons will be returning to the community. Their statistics show that the recidivism rate is around 50% for those that get no transition assistance, but only 31% for those that get substance abuse, job-placement and other reentry services at Adult Transition Centers. The proposed budget eliminates most of those.
Then came the hospice nurses with their fact sheets about the impact of the proposed cuts to the hospice program. They compared the costs of home hospice care to hospital stays for people at the end of life: $150-$650 per day to die at home versus $1,948 per day to die in the hospital.
When I got back to my office there were piles of reports. The Families USA report showed that the proposed Medicaid changes would cost Illinois 25,615 jobs. CeaseFire reduced shootings and killings 16% and 28%. The Illinois Chamber of Commerce had a Medicaid proposal and the Illinois Hospital Association had another. The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability research brief indicated that over the last several years the cuts to human service providers had eliminated over 18,000 jobs and $2.14 billion in private economic activity. The minutes of the COGFA hearings on state facilities closures told of job loss and economic harm in communities across Illinois where the facilities are major employers, and the fears of families of those in the facilities for what a closure might mean to a loved one.
The numbers say that we must pay our bills and live within our means. The numbers say that we have to pay debts; we have to cut over $1 billion from last year’s expenses, plus cut another $2.7 billion from Medicaid and further reform our pension systems. That’s what the numbers say. You can read the reports, and see the studies and say what must be done must be done. And at the end of the day we will pass a budget that may make some of these cuts, or may close some tax loopholes, or may “transform”, “modernize” or “right-size” government or “give everyone a haircut” or whatever the consultants and commentators cheerfully call it.
But for those of us who will cast a vote for it, and for those of you who have to deal with the consequences to your family, your town or your business, there are no good choices. We will pick winners and losers and there will be a human toll.
* Rep. Harris also included a list of recent studies…
The proposed Taylorville Energy Center coal plant would leave Illinois families and businesses paying nine times today’s market price for electricity every year for the next 30 years. That’s a cost increase to customers of $400 million every year, which would add up to $12 billion over the lifetime of this project.
Illinois already produces 30% more electricity than its residents use, meaning consumers would be forced to pay more for power we don’t even need.
In 2010 the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) concluded, “The TEC facility features high costs to ratepayers with uncertain future benefits, and uncertainties that potentially add to already-significant costs.” What’s more, natural gas and electricity prices have sharply decreased since the ICC’s study, meaning the Taylorville Energy Center has grown even more costly relative to alternatives.
As a result of the Taylorville Energy Center:
• Local governments and vital service providers would face huge new costs at a time when budgets are already strapped;
• Illinois employers and job-creators would be subject to nearly limitless financial risk from cost overruns and construction delays; and
• Illinois residents would battle more pollution due to the lax emissions limits project developer Tenaska has pursued.
The bottom line: the Taylorville Energy Center would send your hard earned money up in smoke for power that we don’t need. Tell your legislator to oppose SB 678 or any legislation that supports this unnecessary project.
* The Occupy Chicago folks have taken to calling Rahm Emanuel “Mayor 1 Percent” for his policies that favor the wealthy and powerful. But the former investment banker has a leftier side. Rolling Stone interviewed Todd Snider recently about his new album and Rahm came up in the conversation…
Q: Your new album has a song called “New York Banker,” where the chorus is, “Good things happen to bad people.” Is it true Rahm Emanuel gave you the idea for that song?
A: Yeah. Before this show in Chicago, I was working on a song about the military industrial complex or some [stuff]. Rahm, who’s a fan, came backstage, and I was telling him about it. He said that bankers were a bigger threat to normal people than the military, and that if Woody Guthrie was looking for a song, he’d probably be going after those bankers. And I said, “Well, I’ll give it a try.”
All these years, Arkansas, teachin’ at the high school
How was I to know by retirement day
I’d learn a lesson so cruel?
I came to the day I had waited on
Just to find out all the money in our pension was gone
We invested in somethin’ called the Abacus Bond
Sold to us by a New York banker
Good things happen to bad people, bad people, bad people
* Jerry Clarke has taken a ton of flak for being too close to Congressman Tim Johnson. Clarke was once Johnson’s chief of staff and there has been a nagging suspicion among many that Johnson dropped out of his campaign to help his old friend.
Johnson ain’t exactly the most popular guy among Republican political leaders in the 13th Congressional District these days. The GOP big dogs are furious that he would pull a stunt like this, so Clarke’s close ties to Johnson have hurt him with some. And the fact that Clarke reserved a campaign website address almost two months before Johnson’s retirement announcement has only further damaged him with the county party chairmen. Even if Clarke is telling the truth that he was just preparing for a run two years down the line, it sure looks fishy and people don’t like to be lied to, especially people who are about to hand out one of the greatest plums available.
It wasn’t all that long ago that being a congressional staffer was a good route up the ladder. Mark Kirk, Ray LaHood and plenty of others moved up that way. Times have changed, though, particularly in the GOP.
Johnson can be an odd duck, so I’m not sure whether he might’ve thought issuing a statement saying Clarke shouldn’t be considered as a ballot replacement could actually help Jerry, but I really doubt it’s gonna help him. It’s also possible that Johnson just wants to disassociate himself from this entire mess…
U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson said Thursday he doesn’t think former staff members should be among those considered to replace him on the November ballot in the new 13th Congressional District. […]
“At my retirement announcement, I let people know that no one in my family or on my staff would be a candidate for the nomination,” Johnson added. “The exclusion of those individuals should also extend to my former staff as the Republican Party moves forward in the most open and honest way possible.
“Several highly qualified individuals have expressed interest in succeeding me. I believe a number of them can be successful in the general election,” he said.
Clarke’s spokesman said his candidate is staying in the race. I’m not sure whether that’ll actually happen, though. This has become a circus, and that bodes very ill for Jerry. And, really, that’s too bad because I think Jerry would make a heckuva congressman.
* Dan Brady decides not to seek Johnson ballot spot
* Watson not seeking 13th nomination: State Representative Jim Watson told the Jacksonville Journal Courier he is not interested in replacing U. S. Representative Tim Johnson.
* Gender gap persists among political donors: Two examples of women in Congress who have been able to raise substantial amounts from other women: Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. About 46% of the $10.5 million Boxer raised from individual contributions came from women, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Schakowsky raised about $722,000 from individuals and about 64% came from women.
Gov. Pat Quinn’s job-approval ratings have at times fallen as low as 23 percent. And polls taken so far this year have pegged his rating at between 30 and 36 percent.
He barely won his 2010 election, beating a weak, socially conservative Republican challenger by fewer than 32,000 votes. Quinn had to spend a fortune to eke out that win, partly because his job-approval rating was measured at just 32 percent a few days before 2010’s election day.
In other words, this is not a popular governor. His approval peaked not long after he was sworn into office, in the wake of Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment. But his numbers went straight downhill not long after, when the reality of the state’s horrible fiscal health and the horrors of the “Great Recession” began to infuriate voters.
Quinn hasn’t made it any easier on himself. He has trouble focusing his mind, he has trouble making up his mind, he has trouble following through when he does make up his mind, he has trouble sticking to his word, he has trouble articulating his words, he has trouble getting anybody to go along with his plans.
Some truly important things have been accomplished since Quinn took office. But the governor didn’t really have much to do with any of it, so he didn’t get any of the credit. He’s taken the brunt of blame for the accomplishments that the public hasn’t liked, including the income tax hike, though he never could’ve passed that stuff on his own.
But things have started to change, although the public hasn’t really noticed yet.
Last November, Quinn hired Gary Hannig to run his legislative operation. Hannig is an old Springfield hand. He was one of the most trusted members of House Speaker Michael Madigan’s leadership team before becoming the state’s secretary of transportation. He’s respected by pretty much everyone at the Statehouse.
Hannig brought some of the “Madigan way” with him to the governor’s office. Madigan and his team bat around all possible angles before they do anything. And they may be “yes men” once they’re in public, but that’s only after they have robust debates on how to proceed when they’re behind closed doors.
Quinn, for his part, has actually listened to Hannig. He doesn’t do that often or with many people outside his family. As a result, the ship has slowly, almost imperceptibly started righting itself over the past six months. Those of us who follow Quinn closely have noticed.
Until last week, almost nobody else did.
You probably saw the three editorials this newspaper published over the past week praising the governor’s new Medicaid and pension reform plans. I can’t remember a time when the Sun-Times, or any editorial page for that matter, has praised this governor three times in just a few days. He just didn’t deserve it.
The Sun-Times isn’t alone. Other newspaper editorial pages throughout the state have recently heaped praise on the governor for setting a tough but wholly necessary course for Illinois’ short-term and long-term fiscal health.
The details of Quinn’s reforms probably won’t be popular, and the General Assembly will likely alter the final product. But Quinn has demanded action this spring, and legislators aren’t automatically brushing him off as they have in the past. The public may soon start to see that today’s Pat Quinn is quite different from the Pat Quinn they’ve come to expect.
Quinn talked about running for re-election the other day. If he can stay this new and muscular course, he might just pull it off.
* Including a new one today, the Sun-Times’ positive editorial count is now up to four. Here they are…
* Editorial: Time for statesmanship, not partisanship, for Illinois
* Editorial: Raising cigarette tax $1 makes sense for Illinois
* Editorial: Quinn’s pension reforms will defuse time bomb
* Editorial: Gov’s Medicaid cuts get to what’s morally right
Can we raise desperately needed state revenue and create more private sector jobs – all without raising taxes? A new study says – Yes!
A gaming solution under SB 1849 will have a $2.16 billion net impact on the Illinois economy, create nearly 20,500 new jobs and a generate $200 million in increased annual state revenue.
The legislation will significantly boost our state finances and translate into the largest jobs creation program in modern history, according to a study by the respected Spectrum Gaming Group commissioned by the Illinois Revenue and Jobs Alliance (IRJA).
The legislation would allow for a Chicago-based casino, four additional riverboat casinos throughout the state, slot machines at existing racetracks and more slots at existing casinos. Economic benefits include:
• 20,451 more total private sector jobs
• $3.49 billion more in economic output (gross impact on Illinois economy)
• $2.16 billion more in gross state product (net impact on Illinois economy)
• $1.5 billion in personal income
• Creation of $1.2 billion in new construction expenditures that would generate-
o 4,583 construction jobs
o $473 million in wages and benefits