* It’s at this link. We’ll have updates throughout the day and late into the evening. Check for videos of press conferences and press releases, plus live reports from numerous reporters on the ground. Don’t miss it!
State Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, said colleague reaction Wednesday, a day after he erupted at the onset of a discussion to overhaul state pensions, was generally empathetic.
“I think they understand. I don’t normally do that,” Bost said late Wednesday afternoon while legislators worked to get a state budget passed and continued work on pension reform.
Bost’s tirade, directed at Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, was shown on state and national media outlets Wednesday morning.
It began, “Again, total power in one person’s hands — NOT the American way” shortly before Bost tossed a handful of papers up and gave them a midair swat.
Bost tore into Madigan for purportedly making rules that bind legislators and pervert the idea of representative democracy. “Enough,” Bost said during his outburst. “I feel like somebody trying to be released from Egypt. Let my people go. My God, they sent me here to vote for them.”
Bost said he thought no differently Wednesday.
“One good thing about this is people in the media understand the tyranny we’re under with this leader,” Bost said.
He said he was contacted all day by national media. Additionally, websites such as The Drudge Report, The Huffington Post and YouTube carried clips. The state lawmaker said he received so many emails, his cellphone quit working.
As I mentioned the other day, Bost voted for pretty much all of the rules that he complained about.
* As mentioned below, the House Republicans pulled out of budget negotiations after Speaker Madigan refused to bend on pension reform. That caused a chain reaction. Some GOP projects were cut because Republicans weren’t voting for the budget, but state facilities in Republican districts that had been targeted for closure were left intact. The Democrats also added $50 million to the General State Aid budget for schools. Republicans were furious…
House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, also accused Democrats of adding money to the budget after they learned that Republicans would not support it.
“There’s $50 million more than when we were working with you,” Cross said. “Fifty million is a lot of money. You can’t control yourselves. That’s what happens when you are left to your own devices.”
Democrats said they added $50 million to general state aid to schools. With the addition, general state aid would drop by $161 million under the House budget, instead of $211 million. […]
Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates, said Republicans told him they would not support a budget that did not keep all state facilities open.
“We found the money. Isn’t that something?” Crespo said.
Although many of those facilities are in Republican districts, they still voted against the budget.
The House Democrats say that even with the school money, which came from refinancing state debt, the budget will still be $4 million below the spending cap the chamber agreed to earlier this year.
Republicans were also unhappy about some changes made to the human services budget. Funding for transportation for mental health patients was taken out, and instead, more money went to the Department of Children and Family Services. Money for drug addiction prevention and youth in transition programs also fell under the Democratic budget ax.
“It was a good budget before you started whacking away at it,” said Rep. Rosemary Mulligan, a Republican from Des Plaines. “Now you’ve cut things that everyone at the table agreed to, Democrat and Republican.”
“’I am scared. I really am scared, Patrick, that we’re past the point — we have so many people now dependent on government, so many people want handouts,” he told constituents.
“The Democratic Party promises groups of people everything. They want the Hispanic vote, they want Hispanics to be dependent on government, just like they got African Americans dependent on government. That’s their game.
“Jesse Jackson would be out of work if they weren’t dependent on government. There’d be no work for him.”
* I was shocked into reality when I found out a couple years back that legislative liaisons were being allowed to join a union. I know many of these people. Many of those are my friends or at least friendly acquaintances. But if anyone ought to be “at will” employees, it should be liaisons. Their jobs are based on politics and on who the governor is. But anyone who joined the union in 2010 would still have a job today if Sen. Bill Brady had defeated Gov. Pat Quinn. That’s not right.
Look, I fully understand why management and political types chose to join the union. They were getting the shaft by the Blagojevich administration and then by Quinn himself. They haven’t gotten pay raises in years. They’re often not treated well on the job and have too little job security.
But we have a situation now where, according to the administration, there is only one non-union employee at the Jacksonville Developmental Center. That means two out of three shifts have no non-union management on the job. That’s a bit crazy, man.
The House passed a bill last year that stripped up to 1,900 employees of their union membership. The Senate Democrats have been trying to work out a deal ever since. Those negotiations failed and the Senate Executive Committee passed the bill to the floor last night, where it awaits final action…
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has pushed for the legislation because he fears without it, 99 percent of the state workforce, including some of the top decision-makers in government, will have union protection.
In addition to deputy directors and legislative liaisons, those with Rutan-exempt jobs, term appointees and at-will appointees could be affected, said Robb Craddock, a labor relations official with Central Management Services. […]
Henry Bayer, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said that senior state workers were underpaid and mistreated under former Gov. Rod Blagojevich so they moved to unionize, a point not disputed by Quinn administration officials in their testimony. This measure could result in those employees again having lower salaries and poor treatment, he said.
The bill, which would only affect union employees hired after December 2008, could result in nearly 2,000 workers being ejected from the union, Bayer said.
A Senate committee approved a 5 percent tax on satellite television service on Wednesday, legislation Democrats said would put services like DirecTV and Dish Network on the same competitive playing field as cable television and raise money for education.
The legislation passed on a 10-4 vote, with state Sens. David Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, and John Jones, R-Mount Vernon, joining Executive Committee Democrats in voting “yes.” […]
Supporters of the legislation argued that since consumers have to pay a 5 percent franchise fee if they are cable customers, satellite customers should have to do the same. But a representative of DirecTV and Dish said the franchise fee is different from the tax approved by lawmakers. […]
“Heaven help the taxpayers. We have 27 hours left. How many more taxes can we impose,” [Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno] said, alluding to a measure passed by the committee earlier that would make offshore oil captured by oil companies taxable, legislation Democrats said closed a tax loophole.
The Democrats said the TV tax proposal would raise $75 million. The satellite TV guys say that number will be far lower.
* Things got pretty tense in the House yesterday, and it escalated a bit when the House Republicans admitted that they were refusing to vote for the budget plan because Speaker Madigan was pushing a pension cost shift proposal they didn’t like…
…Madigan and Cross sparred hours earlier, with Cross saying that Republicans would not support a state budget plan that they had negotiated with Democrats because of the speaker’s decision to push for the cost shift.
“We want to do pensions, but we have to do it right and without taxing Downstate and suburban property taxpayers,” Cross said on the House floor. “For that reason, you will not see us supporting a budget.”
But Madigan chastised Cross for trying to link the state budget to pension reforms.
“I did not take the position that I would not adopt a budget for the entire state of Illinois unless I got some other issue I selected,” Madigan said angrily.
Shortly before his about-face, Madigan endured a bitter GOP attack for allegedly “zeroing out” juvenile diabetes funding in what one House Republican described as “hardball” punishment against Cross and Rep. Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs), who both have diabetic children and who opposed the Madigan pension-reform package.
“Speaker Madigan, who is the same as the rest of us, is playing hardball in some kind of game after we’ve all worked so hard for so many weeks,” yelled state Rep. Jim Sacia (R-Pecatonica), calling out Madigan for a $2.47 million funding cut for diabetes research.
“We’re less than 30 hours from adjournment, and all of a sudden, we’ll show those Republicans what we’re gonna do. Is this what we’re all about?” Sacia asked. “This is shameful.”
The diabetes-funding fireworks, which came as House Democrats began voting out a $33.7 billion budget, did not draw a direct response from Madigan himself, but an aide mocked Sacia’s claim.
“I have no idea what Sacia was talking about,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said. “I don’t talk to Sacia anymore. He wasn’t very coherent.”
Republicans were especially outraged at the zeroing out of money for a juvenile diabetes research program. Members of House Republican leadership, including Cross, have children with the disease. Republicans called the changes “punitive.”
Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, the chair of the House Human Services Committee, said research was cut in many areas to direct more money to services. “We have systematically removed all funding for research.”
Feigenholtz, a Chicago Democrat, said: “These are gut wrenching decisions that we make.”
* For a while, yesterday’s pension reform debate in the Senate Executive Committee focused on the state’s past failure to make pension payments. But one Senator objected to the claims by unions that this is all the General Assembly’s fault…
Teachers unions have protested cuts to their benefits, saying it was lawmakers’ actions, skipping payments into pension funds, that created the debt.
Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno shot back during a hearing, presenting old paperwork from 2005 showing that both the Illinois Education Association and Illinois Federation of Teachers supported skipping the payment then.
“There’s plenty of culpability to go around,” the Lemont Republican said.
* I asked the Senate Republicans for the list of proponents and opponents of the bill which allowed the state to skip pension payments. Here it is…
SB 27 Proponnents:
Rich Frankenfeld, IEA “testimony if necessary”
Derek Blaida, CPS
Steve Preckwinkle, IFT “testimony if necessary”
Laura Arterburn, IFT
Michael McGann SEIU
Kurt Anderson SEIU
Randy Witter, Retired State Employees Association
Martin Noven, Treasurer’s office (Topinka)
Topinka was furious about the pension payment holidays back then and, as it turns out, she was right.
*** UPDATE *** From the Illinois Federation of Teachers…
SB 27 originally contained other pension language including changes to the Early Retirement Option and end of career salary increases that reduced the state’s cost for pensions by over $80 billion. In addition to supporting these pension reforms, the unions also supported increased gaming revenues, a higher cigarette tax, or the issuance of Pension Obligation Bonds to cover pension costs. The leadership refused to consider these options and chose to add the pension holiday at the last minute. We never supported that provision of the bill.
* As I reminded subscribers this morning, the Chicago Tribune endorsed all but one serious House Republican candidate in the 2010 general election. The Tribune mainly used the pension reform issue as its excuse for going all-in for the GOP.
Yesterday, the Tribune came out against the pension reform plan sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan, and today it doubled down…
We won’t be surprised if, by late Thursday, the Democrats who dominate both legislative chambers produce something they proclaim is a major pension overhaul. But if any legislation they pass doesn’t truly solve the crisis, we hope Gov. Pat Quinn will stick to his threat and keep lawmakers in Springfield until they do. […]
If the majority Democrats push through pension reform lite at the last minute, with virtually no Republican input and with genteel treatment of current workers, they will have delivered one more in a long line of feckless legislative sessions that didn’t fix the most pressing danger to state government’s financial future. […]
But on the year’s most crucial issue — pension reform — lawmakers have perpetuated their decades-long habit of popping huge legislation on the eve of adjournment, creating an artificial rush to an uninformed decision. At that point, bosses rule and gotcha politics trumps good policy. […]
By nightfall Thursday, the best option may be for Quinn to let June 1 arrive, then order lawmakers to set aside any consideration of pension reform lite and instead negotiate more dramatic reforms — with both parties participating.
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan abruptly reversed course late Wednesday night, promising to remove a key provision from his pension restructuring bill and could clear the way for the measure to pass the General Assembly today.
In another dramatic moment on the House floor, the powerful Chicago Democrat said Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn asked him to drop a provision that would have shifted the “normal” cost of pensions for teachers and university employees from the state to local school districts, universities and community colleges. Normal costs are the total benefits accrued by active employees each year.
Republicans had pledged to vote against Madigan’s pension plan if it included the cost shift.
“I had an interesting meeting this morning with Governor Quinn,” Madigan said late Wednesday. “And I was surprised that the governor disagreed with me on the issue. He agrees with you. He agrees with the Republicans. He thinks that we ought to remove the issue of the shift of normal cost out of the bill.
“I disagree with the governor, but he is the governor,” Madigan said. “This is his request.
So, Leader Cross now owns a plan that the Tribune despises. I wonder how that’s gonna go down at the Mothership?
*** UPDATE *** The Illinois Review may now regret publishing this headline since Tom Cross is the bill’s current sponsor…
Radogno asked Stermer if Quinn would support a proposal removing the cost shift but leaving other provisions, the core of which offers employees and retirees a choice between lower cost-of-living adjustments coupled with guaranteed access to the state health-care plan, or higher cost-of-living adjustments without access to the state health-care plan.
Stermer hedged, saying the governor is considering anything that could fix the $83 billion unfunded pension liability facing the state.
* ADDED: The Choice Between Two Unconstitutional Options is Not Constitutional
* Editorial: Bad bill would erode privacy rights: But current law already allows officers to wear listening devices without prior approval from a judge for this narrow purpose — so that a cop in danger can utter a “safe word” that says to his fellow officers “come and get me.” Where House Bill 4081 goes off the rails is in allowing the information gathered by such recordings, though approved only by a state’s attorney, to be used as evidence at trial.
Thursday, May 31, 2012 - Posted by Advertising Department
[The following is a paid advertisement.]
Last week the Illinois House of Representatives took a stand for bringing jobs and new revenue to Illinois, and we applaud their vote. Experts predict that SB 1849 will create more than 20,000 jobs and more than $200 million in new annual revenue at a time when our state desperately needs them.”
“Getting through the House was the first big step in getting this bill passed,” said Michael Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO. “We want to remind Senate leaders about the importance of getting Illinoisans back to work. SB 1849 is a solution that would put tens of thousands of workers back on the job. Now is the time for the Illinois Senate to show the leadership necessary to restore economic stability.”
SB 1849 will save 30,000 plus agri-business jobs, while creating more than 20,000 new jobs, including nearly 10,000 construction jobs. The state’s unemployment remains hovering around 9 percent. The time for a solution is now. SB 1849 will put Illinoisans back on the job and will produce millions in revenue for the state of Illinois.