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Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013

* 4:06 pm - The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that it will accept a direct appeal of the circuit court ruling on the lawsuit against Gov. Pat Quinn’s legislative salary veto. The ruling can be seen by clicking here.

* It’s gonna be a while before they get around to it, though…


Tybor is the Supreme Court spokesman.

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      


Fact check

Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013

* The other day, Sheila Simon’s campaign sent out an e-mail asking people to check out her brand new website. So I did. And I found this

The comptroller’s office plays an important role in the oversight of finances for local governments. Thousands of units of local government across Illinois are required to file annual reports with the comptroller. The current comptroller’s office has stated they are “just a repository” for this information, nothing more.

In addition, many of these units of local government are several years delinquent in filing their financial reports. Sheila will work to shine a light on delinquent local government and provide real analysis of the financial reports they submit to the comptroller. Sheila believes this type of oversight can help prevent the type of local corruption seen in places like Dixon, Washington Park, and Moro Township. [Emphasis added.]

* Many are still several years delinquent? Well that’s not good.

So, I checked with Comptroller Topinka’s spokesman and asked how many local governments were at least two years behind. I figured since Simon claimed “several years” I’d make sure it was more than one. Here is the response…

There are 5,200 local governments that file Annual Financial Reports with the Comptroller’s Office.

When Comptroller Topinka took office in 2011, there were 101 local governments that were more than two years delinquent with their filings. Today there are 28. Comptroller’s staff is in regular contact with those governments to bring them into compliance.

It is also worth noting that the Comptroller successfully pushed for legislation last year to fine local governments for late reports. The fining started on May 1 and we believe that it will encourage even greater compliance moving forward.

That works out to about a half percentage point delinquency rate. Not exactly a scandal, or even “many.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


This Is Illinois (Part 3,648)

Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013

* AP

A key figure in last summer’s Metra transit scandal is now working for the state of Illinois in a recrafted job after a referral from Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press show that Patrick Ward was hired by Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration for a $70,000 post that was redefined after he was interviewed. His supervisory position currently has no one to supervise because of vacancies.

Officials say Ward received no special treatment and that his background qualified him for the job. But they exempted the post from normal hiring rules so he didn’t have to compete against other candidates. [Emphasis added]

Sigh.

* But, really, should this be any sort of surprise? I mean, the Speaker is more than just “adept” at patronage. He’s a master.

Remember this nifty little move from 2011?

The Regional Transportation Authority has come up with an interesting solution of sorts to its continuing Springfield woes. It’s hired the son-in-law of Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan for a $130,000-a-year job. […]

The RTA’s spokeswoman says there is “no relationship” between the hiring and the fact that RTA Chairman John Gates has had a rocky relationship with Mr. Madigan, with continual talk that the speaker might even run a bill to abolish the agency.

Yeah, no relationship whatsoever.

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      


City council backs drastically watered down gun proposal

Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013

* Mayor Emanuel had real trouble today passing a resolution that everybody thought called for support of state legislation requiring mandatory minimum sentences on many first time gun possession violators. Opposition came mostly from African-American aldermen. DriXander was there



* And then somebody read the actual resolution…


Oops.

* Read the resolution by clicking here. It says nothing at all about endorsing the mandatory minimum aspect of the legislation that Emanuel has been touting for days…

WHEREAS, Illinois should strengthen its sentencing laws so that people who commit crimes with firearms face tougher sentencing requirements; now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED, That we, the Mayor and Members of the City Council of the City of Chicago, do hereby urge the Illinois General Assembly to take action, in the interest of public safety, by passing legislation that strengthens our sentencing laws for those crimes committed with a firearm, requiring that 85 percent of each sentence be served regardless of the “bodily harm” inflicted

Maybe Emanuel is finally listening. Whatever the case, how do you pass a mandatory minimum bill in Springfield when the Chicago freaking city council won’t even back it?

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      


Question of the day

Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013

* Sen. Michael Frerichs threw some political jabs at Rep. Tom Cross the other day. The two men are running for state treasurer. From the Champaign News-Gazette

Cross, [Frerichs] said, is a “Springfield insider” who had “contributed to many of the most hazardous fiscal decisions leading to our current financial crisis.” Cross wants to “cut to the core the very programs that working families” depend on and is specifically aiming at public education and seniors.

Frerichs said he has been trying during his tenure in the Senate, and so far failing, “to clean up the mess Leader Cross helped to create over the past 20 years.”

The CN-G didn’t like the hometown guy’s rhetoric

To have power in Springfield, you have to be a Democrat. Cross is a Republican, and he’s spent most of his time in Springfield trying to wipe away the sand kicked into his eyes by Democrats.

Here’s a little history lesson Frerichs hopes people don’t remember. Illinois is a solid Democratic state. Democrats control the governor’s office, both houses of the Legislature with veto-proof majorities, and the Supreme Court.

Republicans last controlled both houses of the Legislature in 1994. They last controlled one legislative chamber, the Senate, in 2003. They last had a Republican governor — George Ryan — in 2003. They’re out of power and out of luck, hoping somehow to win back public confidence and begin playing a significant role in the formulation of public policy.

But they’re not there yet. In fact, they’re not even close. That’s why Frerichs’ characterization of Cross is preposterous.

* The Question: Do agree with Frerichs or the News-Gazette? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.


polls

- Posted by Rich Miller   43 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** A big hole in Rauner’s pension plan

Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013

* We discussed Bruce Rauner’s pension idea yesterday….

He favors capping pensions that have already been earned and moving government employees to a defined benefit, 401(k)-type of retirement plan.

As I told you before, this idea is laid out in a bill sponsored by Rep. Tom Morrison

Amends the Illinois Pension Code. With respect to the 5 State-funded retirement systems: Provides a new funding formula for State contributions, with a 100% funding goal and amortization calculated on a level dollar amount.

Provides that no additional service credit may be accrued and no automatic increase in a retirement annuity shall be received. Provides that the pensionable salary of an active participant may not exceed that individual’s pensionable salary as of the effective date.

Provides that State-funded retirement systems shall establish self-directed retirement plans for all active participants and all employees hired on or after the effective date. Provides that all active participants shall have the option of participating in a self-directed retirement plan. Provides that these changes are controlling over any other law. Effective immediately.

* Rep. Morrison explained in an e-mail that this would not require Social Security payments…

No, SS payments would not be required because the total percentage contribution by teachers and their school districts (8% from teachers and 7% from school districts) exceeds the threshold that the SSA requires.

* i asked Aviva Bowen of the IFT for a response to the proposal…

Representative Morrison’s proposal would put teachers and other workers into risky waters without a raft. If the market crashes and our retirement security ship springs a major leak, private sector employees can stay afloat because they have Social Security benefits. Teachers don’t get Social Security and would drown, though Wall Street insiders like Bruce Rauner could make a killing by charging higher fees than the systems currently pay, all at taxpayers’ expense.

We also can’t forget that in our current fiscal situation, there are two ways for districts to pay this added cost: raising property taxes or slashing already slim school budgets.

That last point was quite interesting.

* Back to Rep. Morrison…

[The bill] would cost school districts 7% of their personnel costs.

* So, is this another version of the much-hated Democratic-sponsored “cost shift”? Morrison says it could be absorbed by a majority of districts…

(P)er their respective contracts, a majority of school districts already pick up some or all of the employee contribution to TRS, so a 7% contribution to a 401K type plan is very doable.

I agree it’s doable for those districts, but it would cost other districts more. A lot more.

* So, I asked Rauner’s campaign to comment on the very real probability that his pension reform plan would lead to local property tax hikes and/or local school budget cuts. I haven’t yet heard back, but I’ll let you know if they ever respond.

*** UPDATE *** I asked Teachers Retirement System spokesman Dave Urbanek if the Morrison bill would activate Social Security payments. His reply…

Rich:

The ultimate decision would be up to the Social Security Administration. The bill, as I read it, does not require teachers to be in Social Security, but state statutes would not be the last word in the discussion. It’s a federal decision.

It is our understanding that a major determining factor in that kind of decision is not the contributions made by the employee and the employer to a separate government-run retirement plan, but the ultimate benefit that the employee would receive in retirement from that government-sponsored plan. For working people who are not in Social Security, the SSA sets a “safe harbor” threshold that corresponds to the benefit that its members receive. We are told by our actuaries that if the benefit from a government-run plan for someone who is not in Social Security falls below the Social Security safe harbor threshold, then the SSA steps in and places those members into Social Security so they do meet the safe harbor.

That is the situation that we’re facing with Tier II members. This is something that has been publicized for more than a year. The TRS actuaries tell us that because the Tier II benefit grows at a slower pace than the Tier I benefit and the Social Security benefit, that in about a decade the Tier II benefit will fall below the safe harbor threshold and that the SSA will compel TRS members into Social Security. What we’re not sure of is how that happens, and whether the SSA would compel all TRS members into Social Security, or just the affected Tier II members. The actuaries never mentioned that the decision had anything to do with contributions paid by members. Tier II members right now pay the same 9.4 percent of payroll to TRS that Tier I members pay, but on an apples-apples comparison with payroll, the Tier II benefit is 6 percent of payroll, so the Tier II members are paying for their entire benefit. The Tier I benefit is 17.29 percent of payroll, so Tier I members are paying a little more than half of their benefit. The extra 3.4 percent contribution being paid by Tier II members right now automatically goes to subsidize Tier I benefits.

So, as a general rule of thumb, if the pension code is changed in any way to reduce benefits and because of those changes retiree benefits will someday fall below the safe harbor threshold, then when that happens the SSA will act to bring everyone into the safe harbor.

I hope this helps.

Dave

- Posted by Rich Miller   44 Comments      


Quinn attends huge anti-Rahm rally

Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013

* According to the Tribune, thousands of union members and other activists gathered yesterday to “take back Chicago” from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his “corporate, greedy, elitist friends”

Speakers at the rally had their own ideas, like having the Chicago Public Schools board elected, rather than appointed by the mayor. The crowd cheered video footage of last year’s Chicago Teachers Union strike. Also singled out for criticism was the mayor’s closing of six mental health clinics as part of a broader privatization effort.

* Among those in attendance was none other than Gov. Pat Quinn

The populist themes are familiar to the re-election-seeking Quinn, who repeated his vow to raise the state’s minimum wage and recounted his days as an organizer, when he founded the Citizens Utility Board, a consumer watchdog group.

“You don’t get changes from the big shots on top of the power heap,” Quinn said. “It bubbles up from grass-roots community leaders, everyday people banding together for a cause they believe in.”

* If you watch the raw video, this was a blatantly anti-Rahm rally

Lots of loud and angry yelling. Quinn’s remarks begin at around the 1:42:30 mark. He didn’t really say all that much, but his presence at that rally likely won’t go unnoticed by the 5th Floor.

* And speaking of anger, SEIU Local One’s Jerry Morrison sent a text message to reporters last night…

I thought folks might be interested in a Chicago jobs update.

First things first, it has been five days since Dominick’s announced they were closing their 72 Chicago area stores and Mayor Rahm Emanuel has not yet uttered the word Dominick’s. I will keep everyone abreast of that number much like Nightline did during the Iran Hostage crisis.

It may ease your mind to know that Mayor Emanuel did find time to go on a Divy bike ride of Logan Square though.

Also, our preliminary research shows that over the last 18 months the City of Chicago has lost well over 11,000 good paying union jobs.

That is a combination of the CPS layoffs, other various public sector layoffs, WARN Act announced layoffs, and just 4,000 of the recently announced Dominick’s layoffs.

I should note this is an extremely conservative estimate and does not include the mass layoffs at Hostess earlier this year. We will
have a more detailed report of job loss under Mayor Emanuel soon. In the mean time could someone just ask Rahm why $16 million for a Whole Foods in Englewood and nothing to save the more than 6,000 jobs at Dominick’s?

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      


You gotta be kidding me

Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013

* October 1st Sun-Times story

Dillard said on Tuesday that he expected to have about half a million dollars on hand by the end of the filing period.

* October 15th Sun-Times story

State Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) did better than Brady in his overall take, reporting $313,372 in overall contributions between his two political funds. He spent a combined $251,415 and had the least amount of any of the major candidates for governor left in the bank: $205,722.

So, Dillard had less than half the cash on hand that he bragged about two weeks ago.

Sheesh.

* And speaking of pathetic campaign finance reports, GOP congressional candidate Erika Harold actually did worse in the third quarter than she did in the second quarter

She reported $72,619 in receipts in July, August and September. She had reported $78,285 in contributions between May 31 and June 30.

Her excuse in the second quarter was that she was just getting started and needed time to put together a fundraising operation. Well, she’s had plenty of time to do that and she hasn’t come through.

* But she did outraise Bill Brady

Brady raised only a combined $66,178 and spent a combined $73,851 during the period.

Oy.

* Gov. Pat Quinn, on the other hand, is raising and stockpiling big bucks

Quinn reported having $2.93 million in the bank. He raised $813,077 and spent $199,640 during the quarter, according to his filing with the State Board of Elections.

- Posted by Rich Miller   61 Comments      


Get to the table and get a deal

Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013

* I asked the NRA’s Todd Vandermyde last week about Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposal to slap mandatory minimum sentences on some repeat and first time offenses. Here’s his e-mailed response…

Still looks problematic as they want 3 years on any first offense. We just had a guy spend 14 months in Cook County for having an out of state carry permit.

We have a 17 year old sitting in Cook for bringing a gun to school because he was scared and they want to wreck his life for it.

What about out of staters who don’t get that their permit is no good here? What about the out of staters who the State Police won’t let apply?

[Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez] had to drop the charges of over 100 people. What makes anyone think she won’t over charge carry permit violations with [Aggravated Unlawful Use of a Weapon] because she hates guns?

Most of it, are things we have said, but at some point, I think their possession by a streetgang member is going to run afoul of freedom of association issues when no criminal record exists.

Vandermyde opposed the mandatory minimum bill during the spring session, but told a Chicago City Council committee not long ago: “Yes, we can support a mandatory minimum… if they’re not prohibited from not owning a gun generally we can support mandatory minimums especially for repeat offenders:

Listen…

* Vandermyde also had this to say to the Sun-Times

He presented the hypothetical situation of a man with a concealed-carry permit leaving a gun in his vehicle because he and his wife are going into a place where guns are banned.

“Your wife leaves without you, takes the car and gets pulled over,” he said. “Now she is jammed up with a mandatory minimum.”

* The problem now, as I see it, is that the NRA is chafing at Chicago’s insistence on running a bill their way, so Vandermyde is pushing back

Todd Vandermyde, a lobbyist for the NRA, said the group disagrees with the three-year minimums for first-time offenders. He blasted Emanuel for not doing enough to combat city violence.

“The mayor is looking for a public relations solution to a crime problem that he can’t get his hands around,” he said.

* But the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, which backed concealed carry, wants the bill passed…

While we support and enforce the rights of law-abiding citizens to possess and maintain firearms, the reality is that these rights are undermined every day by illegal gun violence and arbitrary sentencing. Illegal possession of a loaded gun is a violent crime and the laws should reflect that reality.

This bill will help reduce violent crime in Chicago and the entire state because it is narrowly targeted to reach the most violent offenders. According to a 2011 University of Chicago Crime Lab analysis of all felons sentenced to probation, offenders convicted of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon were 4 times more likely to be re-arrested for homicide and nearly 9 times more likely to be re-arrested for a shooting than other felons. Certain laws must be put in place to keep our streets safe, deter violent criminals and protect the rights of honest citizens.

Gun offenders put our officers and our families at risk. Last month in a mass shooting , 13 individuals including a 3-year boy were shot in Cornell Square Park. One of the accused shooters, Byron Champ was convicted of felony possession of a weapon in 2012 and could still be serving his prison sentence. You may also recall that Hadiya Pendleton was allegedly shot by Michael Ward, a prior gun offender who should have been in prison for his violent crime but was instead out on the streets.

* Hadiya Pendleton’s mother has stepped forward, which only increases the emotionalism behind the legislation

Nine months after her murdered, 15-year-old daughter became the nationwide face of Chicago’s epidemic of gun violence, Cleopatra Pendleton can’t help but wonder, “What if?”

What if the Illinois Legislature had already approved a mandatory minimum, three-year sentence for gun crimes before Jan. 29, the day Hadiya Pendleton was gunned down while hanging out with friends at a park a few blocks from King College Prep?

“Learning that my daughter’s alleged murderer had been in jail for another gun crime was devastating. It was like rubbing salt in an open wound. It was like losing her all over again,” Pendleton said Tuesday.

“Every day, I wake up with a reminder that I’m in a world without her — without her life without her laughter, without her love. I wonder if a larger mandatory minimum had been in place if the person [who] allegedly shot and killed my daughter would have been in jail and Hadiya would still be alive.”

* Everyone can empathize with the Pendleton family of course, but the business of lawmaking requires compromise, and the simple fact is that the NRA has a lot of allies in the General Assembly and it has to be dealt with. Besides, not everyone on the liberal end of the equation is fully on board, either

Sen. Kwame Raoul, a South Side Democrat who negotiated the concealed carry measure on behalf of gun control advocates, said he was torn by the mayor’s “desire and sense of urgency to do something about” gun violence and fears that an “unintended defendant would more likely be a person of color.” […]

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has said he would review Emanuel’s proposal. A spokeswoman said Tuesday the governor believes the most effective concept of reducing violence is to come up with “a comprehensive approach.”

Perhaps the most telling prospect signaling the fate of Emanuel’s legislation came from a spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, the Chicago Democrat who is one of the mayor’s closest allies in the legislature.

Cullerton “shares the mayor’s goal of reducing gun violence in the city,” spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon wrote in an email. “However, we are still reviewing the proposal, implementation concerns and cost estimates with the caucus and other stakeholders.”

So, rather than the usual Chicago bluster, which almost always results in nothing being done, how about they try to work out a deal before the personality conflicts make that impossible?

- Posted by Rich Miller   55 Comments      


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Frerichs calls out Cross on gay marriage

Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013

* Alexi Giannoulias used his Democratic primary opponent’s anti-abortion stance against him during the 2006 Democratic state treasurer’s primary, so I suppose it was inevitable that gay marriage would come up this time around

Illinois Treasurer candidate state Sen. Mike Frerichs (D-Champaign) is calling on his Republican challenger to support same-sex marriage.

Frerichs had accused Republican Tom Cross — the former 10-year Illinois House minority leader — of not coming clean on the issue. “Illinoisans deserve to hear his stance on a critical human rights issue,” Frerichs campaign urged. […]

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Carol Marin wrote in April that Cross’ stance was ambiguous: ‘It’s easy to take issue with Illinois House GOP leader Tom Cross if you are for same sex-marriage in Illinois. And easy to be angry with him if you’re against it. ‘ […]

When the Sun-Times reached out to Cross’ campaign, however, a spokesman said the state Rep’s stance is clear.

He’s against it.

“Last Spring when the issue came up he told people he was opposed to the bill,” said Cross spokesman Kevin Artl. “He hasn’t changed his view. He’s not supporting it.”

By contrast, Frerichs says:

“I am proud to be one of only two Downstate Senators to co-sponsor and vote for both marriage equality and civil unions,” Frerichs said.

I’m not sure how this issue directly relates to the treasurer’s duties, but running solely on the treasurer’s duties might make for a pretty darned dull campaign.

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      


Not nearly enough

Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013

* Republican congressional candidate Mike Bost reported raising just $78,000 during the third quarter. Not good at all, to say the least. He spent $35K.

* In other fundraising news…

(F)ormer U.S. Rep. Bob Dold, a Republican who’s trying to reclaim his old job in the north suburban 10th District against Democratic incumbent Brad Schneider, reports raising $317,000 in the quarter ended Sept. 30 with $819,000 cash on hand.

Those are respectable totals, but the income figure was off markedly from the $546,000 Mr. Dold took in when he announced in the second quarter.

Mr. Schneider’s spokeswoman said he’ll disclose his totals tomorrow and declined to give any hints today. That’s likely not a good sign for him, but Team Dold is going to have to do better than $300K a quarter, too, from now on.

…Adding… A Schneider consultant tells me the Democrat will report raising $365,000 this quarter, the first time he’s outraised Dold.

* And one of Ann Callis’ Democratic primary opponents loaned himself some money

Democratic congressional candidate George Gollin of Champaign has put $165,000 of his own money into his 13th Congressional District race, a report filed with the Federal Election Commission shows.

Gollin, 60, a physics professor at the University of Illinois, reported $135,509 in contributions since organizing his campaign in February. With $165,000 in what is listed as two separate loans to his campaign, Gollin now has $262,087 on hand.

He also released a poll

The Gollin campaign also released the results of a poll by Public Policy Polling that shows both Gollin and Callis — who is backed by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — trailing freshman U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville.

But the results are statistically similar, with Gollin trailing Davis 41 percent to 33 percent while Callis is behind the congressman, 40 percent to 35 percent. The margin of error in the poll was plus or minus 3.6 percent.

A bit early to say if those results really mean anything. Right now they’re basically just generic Dem numbers vs. an incumbent. We’ll see what Callis’ numbers show. If she has the big bucks, then her name will get out there and she should be able to pull this off.

Nate Silver, by the way, recently referred to PPP as a “dubious” polling outfit.

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


Question of the day

Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013

* The Sun-Times takes a look at the gay marriage bill. Not much new here

[Longtime gay-rights activist Rick Garcia] said perhaps the main impediment facing Illinois is the political calendar. Lawmakers seeking re-election must submit their nominating petitions Dec. 2, more than three weeks after the scheduled Nov. 7 conclusion of the fall session. That leaves time for potential candidates opposed to same-sex marriage to gather enough signatures to mount primary challenges against House members who vote for Harris’ legislation.

“That’s what the holdup is,” Garcia said.

Same-sex marriage critic Bob Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, said opponents still appear to outnumber supporters of the legislation because of its potential impact on religious liberties and that, indeed, possible primary challenges await any “yes” votes in the House.

Gilligan acknowledged the U.S. Supreme Court decisions and the pope’s statements are now “in the mix,” but local sentiment trumps those headlines. “Legislators have to respond to their constituents in their districts, and in many legislative districts, it’s an issue that’s close.”

The Sun-Times also reported that the sponsors could amend the bill so it takes effect in June, meaning they’ll just have to find a simple majority during the veto session, rather than a super majority.

* From a press release…

Gov. Pat Quinn will open the March on Springfield for Marriage Equality on Tuesday, Oct. 22 with a welcome.

He will be followed by speakers that represent the breadth and depth of the equal marriage coalition in Illinois. All speakers will deliver a common message to Illinois legislators: A majority of Illinoisans support the freedom to marry and the time for marriage equality in Illinois is now.

LGBT organizations, families and faith leaders will be joined at the podium by national and regional coalition partners for the 90 minute rally. They include:

• Michael Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO

• Rudy Lozano, Uniting America director, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

• Jamie Frazier, senior pastor, Lighthouse Church

• Bonnie Grabenhofer, National Action vice president, National Organization for Women (NOW)

• The Rev. Mark Kiyimba, leader of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kampala, Uganda

• Toni Weaver, president, Parents & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (Northern Illinois Region)

• Scott Cross, Illinois Chapter lead, President Barack Obama’s “Organizing for Action”

• Brigid Leahy, director, Planned Parenthood of Illinois

* The other side will also have a Statehouse rally, of course.

* And then there’s the money problem. Back in June, Equality Illinois pledged to raise $500,000 for a grassroots and media effort to pass the marriage bill. The group’s political action committee was supposed to raise $250,000. From a June 17th Equality Illinois press release…

The organization’s political action arm, Equality Illinois Political Action Committee (EQIL PAC), has pledged the other $250,000 in order to match marriage opponents dollar-for-dollar on the political battlefield.

“We will not shy away or be outraised in fighting for our freedom,” said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois. “Everywhere candidates turn in 2014, they’ll have to be aware that the information we bring to voters and the direct action in their campaigns might be present to help or challenge them, depending on whether they believe in the right for all couples in Illinois to have equal recognition under the state’s marriage law.”

The $250,000 political action piece of the Fight Back for Marriage plan, though formidable, is a target set to directly confront an opponent of LGBT equality, the so-called National Organization for Marriage, which threatened to spend $250,000 to oppose particularly Republican legislators who supported the freedom to marry.

“We will defend those candidates who demonstrate a dedication to the freedom to marry through their votes and campaign commitments,” said Jeremy Gottschalk, chair of Equality Illinois PAC board of directors. “And we will ensure that those who stand in the way of marriage equality are held accountable to the voters. No opponents of marriage equality can be sure that their re-election campaigns will be easy next year.”

* But as my colleague David Ormsby reported this morning

In the third quarter, Equality Illinois raised just $25,421. A day after the reporting period closed, it added another $5,000 from Chicago Cubs owner Laura Ricketts.

Despite all the anger in the immediate aftermath of the bill stalling in the House, advocates have so far failed to convert that post-session consternation into cash.

That’s absolutely horrible and inexcusable. If you want to frighten your enemies and soothe your potential allies, you’d better raise a whole lot more money than that.

Even so, many proponents remain hopeful that the marriage bill can pass during veto session.

* The Question: When do you think the gay marriage bill will pass? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.


survey software

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      


*** UPDATED x2 *** Gloom and doom and an eye-popping pension claim

Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013

* Bill Brady says the pension reform conference committee is still a ways from completing its work

A partisan split is developing as Republicans — three of whom are running for higher office next year — are demanding more information on additional cost-cutting measures they’re seeking, which could take weeks.

“We know the Democrats can’t pass this on their own,” said Republican Sen. Bill Brady. “Unfortunately I don’t see anything happening legislatively for at least four weeks at the earliest.”

The AP’s story is pretty doom and gloom about the prospects for getting a deal done.

* I’m told, however, that the committee members are asking the legislative leaders to set some parameters so that the negotiations can be better defined.

And if you read between the lines, it’s not a one hundred percent no-go. For instance, buried at the bottom is this

[Sen. Matt Murphy], a deputy Republican leader, called the latest plan “back-loaded in its current form” because it relies on future lawmakers keeping promises. But he declined to say outright whether he would vote for it or not.

“Past general assemblies’ unwillingness to do that is exactly what got us here in the first place,” Murphy said. “We only get one bite at this apple.”

The AP could’ve just as easily put Murphy’s quote at the top instead of burying it at the bottom to illustrate how it ain’t over ’til it’s over.

*** UPDATE *** WLS has more on a possible solution

Republicans on the conference committee apparently want more savings. State Rep. Mike Zalewski of Chicago – a Democrat on the committee – says the Republicans are not making unreasonable requests.

“To maybe bring the savings number up just a little bit with respect to the cost of living, things like that, maybe an alternative to a defined contribution plan for teachers that don’t want to stay in the system their whole careers,” Zalewski said.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* Meanwhile, this is a pretty bold statement by Bruce Rauner

He favors capping pensions that have already been earned and moving government employees to a defined benefit, 401(k)-type of retirement plan.

“It’s what’s fair and affordable,” Rauner said. “Every dollar of excess pension … is a dollar that can’t go into other things.”

Making such a change would cut the state’s liability from $100 billion to $50 billion, according to Rauner.

None of the other plans, even Speaker Madigan’s harshest proposal, comes anywhere near to cutting the unfunded liability in half. Madigan’s plan would’ve “only” cut $21 billion from the unfunded liability.

I’ve asked for an explanation and will let you know what the Rauner campaign says.

*** UPDATE *** Thanks to a commenter, the Rauner plan appears to be based on HB 3303. From the synopsis

Amends the Illinois Pension Code. With respect to the 5 State-funded retirement systems: Provides a new funding formula for State contributions, with a 100% funding goal and amortization calculated on a level dollar amount.

Provides that no additional service credit may be accrued and no automatic increase in a retirement annuity shall be received. Provides that the pensionable salary of an active participant may not exceed that individual’s pensionable salary as of the effective date.

Provides that State-funded retirement systems shall establish self-directed retirement plans for all active participants and all employees hired on or after the effective date. Provides that all active participants shall have the option of participating in a self-directed retirement plan. Provides that these changes are controlling over any other law. Effective immediately.

* COGFA studied the impact on one system, TRS

The Commission’s actuary performed a cost study on a proposal that is substantially similar to HB 3303. That cost study showed a long-term reduction in State contributions for TRS only (through FY 2045) of $71.4 billion, and a reduction in FY 2014 unfunded liability of $27.4 billion. However, this cost study assumed no deviation from the current statutory funding target of amassing assets that are equal to 90% of DB liabilities by FY 2045. HB 3303 changes this target to 100% by FY 2045, and it specifies a level-dollar amortization approach. These two changes would result in greater long-term savings than those previously mentioned; however, an updated actuarial study would be required to capture the precise savings associated with the funding changes.

However, the bill has just three co-sponsors, and all three (Morrison, Ives, Wheeler) are probably the furthest to the right of any House member. It ain’t exactly a popular idea.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* In other news

As he runs for re-election, Gov. Pat Quinn is staking a lot on getting something done with pensions. He’s making a show of asking the state Supreme Court let him cancel legislators’ salaries until it’s done, and he says he won’t deal with other major issues before the General Assembly — like using tax credits to keep ADM headquartered in Illinois — until there’s what he calls a “comprehensive pension solution.”

But it’s hard to tell just what that means.

Most of the ten legislators he tasked with crafting that solution don’t even seem to know. They say he’s been largely absent … until this month. Amanda Vinicky checked in with the ten representatives and senators on a special pension committee to see how involved the governor has been as they negotiate a pension deal.

Go read the whole thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller   44 Comments      


Quinn announces aid to move corporate HQ while ADM eyes Dallas

Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013

* Bloomberg

Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. (ADM), the world’s largest corn processor, is considering Dallas among other U.S. cities as it looks to move its global headquarters from Decatur, Illinois, according to a person familiar with the situation.

ADM’s site selection team visited Dallas on Oct. 8, according to the person who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. ADM executives visited other cities last week, including Minneapolis and Atlanta, and Chicago is also being considered, the person said. […]

Along with an international airport, Dallas and the surrounding region is home to several ADM customers including Kimberly-Clark Corp. and Dean Foods Co. Dallas is the ninth-largest city in the U.S. and the third-largest in Texas, according to the website of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau.

* Meanwhile, the same governor who vowed to veto any bill which gave ADM any tax breaks to stay in Illinois made an announcement today…

Governor Pat Quinn joined FER-PAL Construction officials today to open the water main rehabilitation company’s new U.S. headquarters in Elgin, creating 50 new jobs. Governor Quinn’s personal involvement helped convince the firm to choose Illinois. This announcement is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to drive Illinois’ economy forward and protect the environment by modernizing water infrastructure.

“FER-PAL joins a growing list of companies who are choosing Illinois to grow their business,” Governor Quinn said. “The company is also ideally situated to participate in the Clean Water Initiative, which is putting people back to work updating our water systems and infrastructure across Illinois.”

Governor Quinn met with FER-PAL CEO Shaun McKaigue and Toronto (Canada) Mayor Rob Ford when they traveled recently to Chicago. Later, Governor Quinn solidified the relationship with FER-PAL while visiting Mayor Ford in Toronto and convinced the firm to locate its U.S. headquarters in Elgin.

Quinn’s office says the company qualifies for an EDGE tax credit worth about $260,000 over 10 years.

* Also, remember SB 20? The proposal included a state subsidy to locate a massive fertilizer processing plant in Illinois. Quinn signed that bill into law in late July, after he vetoed legislative legislative salaries out of the budget because the GA supposedly wasn’t doing its job on pensions.

Update on that fertilizer plant subsidy

For the first time since the project surfaced in March, Gov. Pat Quinn and company officials said Illinois and Iowa aren’t alone in their pursuit of a $1.1 billion fertilizer plant.

In comments to reporters in Urbana, Quinn said Cronus Chemical LLC is still considering its options when it comes to building the facility near Tuscola in Douglas County, even though he’s already signed off on a multi-million dollar package of state tax incentives.

“We still have a ways to go. They have to make their decision,” the Chicago Democrat said.

However, he added that the site near Tuscola and one in northern Iowa may not be the only places under consideration for a urea production facility by the Delaware-based company.

The lesson may be that deals the governor negotiated and supports are A-OK while pension reform languishes. Deals he didn’t negotiate have to be stopped.

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      


Dillard slams Rauner over Levine

Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013

* Bill Cameron

[Sen. Kirk Dillard] says he has to laugh when he hears his opponent Rauner call himself an outsider. While taping “Connected to Chicago” for Sunday morning at six, Dillard connected Rauner to a now imprisoned insider.

“He had Stuart Levine on his payroll for $25,000 a month while he was hawking business from the Illinois teachers retirement system,” Dillard said. “That’s an insider to me. There are different kinds of insiders. Mr. Rauner is the worst kind of insider. He’s the one doing the buying.”

* Listen to the full Dillard response. It’s quite brutal…

* Rauner’s response via Greg Hinz

Team Rauner shot back that Mr. Dillard “hasn’t learned from his last failed campaign that he’s better off promoting himself than attacking fellow Republicans.” The statement went on to remind voters that Mr. Dillard, who ran for governor four years ago, has accepted political contributions from some labor unions and once — in 2008 — appeared in a TV ad for a former state Senate colleague, Barack Obama, who was running for president for the first time.

The turn-the-tables response is fair politics, I guess. But it certainly doesn’t respond to the Levine matter

No, it doesn’t.

* But

Mr. Dillard said the entire episode needs further review to determine whether Mr. Rauner engaged in “pay-to-play” politics in some way.

That’s pretty strong stuff — which would work awfully well in a TV ad, if Mr. Dillard had the money to buy lots of TV ads. He doesn’t, at least so far, but now he’s started raising the issue of the Rauner-Levine connection publicly. We’ll see if it sticks.

A well-played shot at 6 o’clock on a Sunday morning that gets almost no media coverage ain’t gonna move the needle at all.

* Related…

* ADDED: Bill Daley donors to get back 83% of their campaign cash

* Rauner and Sanguinetti in Danger of Echoing McCain and Palin

* Tracy: Illinois needs change: She touched on the standard Republican talking points about the need for tort reform and changes to the Illinois’ workman compensation and unemployment insurance systems as well as reducing the minimum wage in favor of business interests… She additionally advocated passing previously rejected legislation to place photo identification on food assistance cards or requiring drug testing for recipients of other benefits.

* Rauner pushes pensions, education reform during stop in Bloomington

* Candidate Dillard Stops by for Session at Homer Founders Club

* Rutherford, Kim host Pontiac fundraiser

* Quinn, Democrats drum up support in suburbs

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Fun with numbers

Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013

* Kurt Erickson takes a closer look at the numbers used by Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration to justify closing the Warren G. Murray Developmental Center in Centralia, which cares for severely developmentally disabled people

To bolster their argument, the state says it costs taxpayers $239,000 per year to house residents at Murray. Placing them in private facilities would cost $120,000, they estimate.

The state’s figures, however, are intellectually dishonest. Here’s why.

The cost per resident in fiscal year 2006 when Murray had 342 residents was about $130,000 per year, according to figures provided by the Illinois Auditor General’s office.

In fiscal year 2009, when there were 298 residents, the average cost was listed as $180,000 per year.

Now, with the population down to about 230 residents, the cost has skyrocketed because they haven’t reduced the number of employees at the facility.

In other words, the cost of housing residents in Murray would be significantly cheaper if they actually filled all 372 beds or reduced the number of people working there.

Excellent point.

*** UPDATE *** From DHS…

Rich,

Before Governor Quinn took office, Illinois institutionalized more people than any other state in the nation. We are now changing under the direction of the governor to improve the quality of life for people with developmental disabilities in Illinois.

We are committed to rebalancing and improving Illinois’ system of care for people with developmental disabilities. Evidence strongly suggests that residents living in smaller homes have a better quality of life and participate more in their community. Moving individuals from large, outdated institutions to community settings also saves taxpayer dollars.

To be clear, the article that published last weekend regarding the operational costs of the Murray Developmental Center in Centralia was incomplete and deserves further clarification.

There are several ways to calculate the cost per resident in a state operated developmental center (SODC). The first is a basic calculation that divides the annual spending by the average number of residents. For the Murray Developmental Center, that puts the annual cost per resident at $143,217. The other, more thorough and complete method is based on methodology and reimbursement rates used by the federal government. This method includes costs that are not included in an SODC budget but in the broader state budget, such as medication, retirement contributions, group insurance, worker’s comp, union wage increases and facility improvements. Under this comprehensive and more accurate calculation, the annual cost is about $239,934 per resident at Murray Center and approximately $120,000 in the community.

The article calls into question whether more money could be saved by cutting down the number of staff. But the reason the Illinois Department of Human Services is maintaining employee headcount during the closure process is to ensure a safe and secure transition for remaining residents. So yes, the cost of operation under the simple calculation indeed increases as the closure process continues. However, that is a small and temporary price to pay to ensure a safe facility closure. And once the transition is complete, delivery of care will not only be more cost-efficient, it will also offer people with disabilities a higher quality of life and that’s the point in the first place.

Januari Smith
Communication Manager
IL Dept. of Human Services

That response twists the essential meaning of Erickson’s piece, which is that DHS and Quinn are using these new numbers to justify closing down a state facility.

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      


Our flip-flopping naggers

Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013

* I have often chided Downstaters and suburbanites for petty, counter-productive regionalism. This time, it’s Chicago’s turn.

My Sun-Times column

For years, Illinois leaders have been scolded for not being more like our neighboring states’ leaders. Why can’t our government come up with innovative ideas like theirs?

Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels was hoisted so high up on a pedestal by some folks here that he was nearly elevated to demi-god status.

So, what happened when Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who was stung badly when Daniels compared Illinois’ governance to “The Simpsons” TV show, finally teamed up with the Hoosier state’s sainted erstwhile governor on a massive public-private infrastructure project?

What happened when Daniels, who signed a union-busting “right to work” bill into law, negotiated a significant compromise with some major Illinois unions for that project?

Well, many of those same Daniels worshippers have flip-flopped and are now screaming that the world’s about to end.

The project is the proposed Illiana Expressway. It’s a “public-private partnership” designed to be a freight corridor through southern Will County from Interstate 55, across I-57 over to Indiana’s I-65.

If you’ve traveled down I-55 through Will County you couldn’t help but notice the unbelievably dense truck traffic. That’s because the county has developed a massive “inland port,” connecting railway and truck cargo shipments.

There’s even been some hope that the proposed third regional airport near the Peotone I-57 exit could complement the Will County operation with cargo flights.

What’s that? Peotone?

Ah, we’ve stumbled across the magic word.

Chicago has been trying to kill the third airport idea for decades, and it has so far succeeded. But when former Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. — the airport’s biggest booster — self-immolated, Gov. Quinn stepped in and seized control and the airport now looks like more of a possibility than it ever has.

A major new road running right by that proposed airport would be another huge boost to the airport’s future, so the road has to be stopped. It’s hardly a secret.

A lot of numbers are being tossed around, but keep in mind that this would be a toll road funded at least in part by private investors.

One objection to the road is that it would create more unsightly urban sprawl. But even the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), which this week voted to disapprove of the project, admits that the freight corridor likely won’t lead to more sprawl.

The main complaint by CMAP, though, is that the road could expose the state to “significant financial risk.”

If the state’s toll revenue projections come up short, then the state could wind up paying the tab, which CMAP claims might be as much as $1 billion. And if that happens it could mean less money for much needed Chicago-area projects.

There are most definitely some regional jealousies at play here as well. A win for another region is too often seen as a loss for Chicago. So, it was no accident when CMAP Chairman Gerald Bennett ridiculed the project this week as a “highway in nowhereland.”

The bottom line here is that Illinois desperately needs jobs and innovative development. And it really needs to get beyond the petty regionalism that has held it back for so many years. If Chicago wants a similar project, then Chicago ought to make it happen.

So, I have a two-part suggestion.

Just to be safe, a neutral third party should review the state’s toll revenue projections.

Then, if the numbers work, let’s see if private investors really do step up to help finance this thing. If investor interest is weak, and no other non-tax funding sources can be found, then everybody could move on to something different.

Needless to say, this being Illinois, I’m not exactly holding my breath.

* Related…

* Illiana Expressway plan looks like it will pass

* Kadner: Quinn asks mayors to save Illiana: Quinn also criticized Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel who opposes the planned tollway, for taking a “parochial attitude.” Emanuel has indicated that he fears financial support for the Illiana Expressway will drain money away from Chicago road projects. “We need to take a regional approach,” Quinn said. “What helps one area of the region helps the entire region.”… State Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields) came out of the meeting with Quinn and said, “If it’s time to draw a line in the sand, and ask who stands with us or against us, I’m ready to do that.” Hutchinson said she had worked with Chicago legislators and others, helping them to pass bills that would benefit their areas, and was “tired of watching people turn around and say they’re opposed to projects whenever they’re about to help the south suburbs.” “If they want my help in the future, if they want my vote, they’re going to have to show some support for projects in the area I represent,” she said.

* Quinn throws support behind Illiana: Home Depot, Quinn said, was already looking to expand at the intermodal site, using it as a center for 340 stores. Quinn said there was a “great deal” of interest from private investors in building the expressway. He said the public-private partnership, which would presumably be funded with tolls, would be “the first if its kind.”

* Reiher: CMAP’s Bennett a Nowhere Man

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      


The Missouri option?

Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

Bruce Rauner has closer ties to top Democrats in this state and nation than many Democrats do, is pro-choice and reluctant to say where he stands on gay marriage, so you wouldn’t think he’d have much chance at winning a Republican primary election for governor.

But the retired multi-millionaire is running a pretty smart campaign and raising tons more money than his opponents, so nobody can count him out.

State Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) told the Chicago Sun-Times he raised a mere $75,000 this past quarter, which ended Sept. 30. The Chicago Tribune reported that state Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) had raised $239,000 in large contributions during the quarter, but he’s still carrying quite a lot of debt from his failed 2010 governor’s race. State Treasurer Dan Rutherford says he raised $333,000 during the quarter and has about $1.2 million in the bank.

Rauner, on the other hand, raised more than $1 million in the third quarter and about $3 million since he kicked off his campaign. And with his personal wealth, he could spend lots, lots more.

More than a few Democrats and even some Republicans are wary of Rauner, saying that somebody else with deep pockets may need to step in to snuff out his campaign before he makes it out of the primary. And Democratic-affiliated groups appear to be the most logical source of that cash.

As polling has shown, Rauner has some serious negative issues in a GOP primary that might be OK with voters in a general election.

His close affiliation to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, for instance, has killer negative numbers among Republicans, but it won’t exactly be easy for Gov. Pat Quinn to use that against the guy in the general election. Rauner and his wife have supported Democratic candidates, which ain’t good in a Republican contest but is a nice positive once the primary is over.

As noted above, Rauner is pro-choice and won’t say where he stands on gay marriage, but he has left himself more than enough wiggle room to pivot toward support gay marriage once the primary election is over.

In other words, if Rauner wins the Republican nomination, he could be a nightmare for the Democratic Party.

Rauner is strongly anti-union and has all but vowed to break the public employee unions. So it seems only logical that those unions or the Democratic Governors Association and/or someone else would decide that beating Rauner in a primary election would be much more cost efficient than letting him out of that tight, ideological Republican pen and into the wide-open spaces of a general election.

This sort of thing has never been done statewide in Illinois, but it was pulled off last year by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and the national Senate committee. They spent a combined $1.7 million in Missouri’s Republican primary to help nominate the far-right Tea Partier Todd Akin, who went on to self-immolate in the fall campaign. The Democrats spent more money on Akin’s behalf than Akin did in his campaign.

So, could it happen here? Nobody’s talking yet, but it sure looks like a good investment, particularly for the public employee unions.

Rauner has talked openly of shutting down state government, if necessary, to bring down the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union that represents most state workers. His pension reform ideas include tossing out the employees’ traditional, defined-benefit pension program for a defined-contribution system such as a 401(k) plan.

Rauner opposes teacher tenure, the right of teachers to strike and on and on and on. He also favors making Illinois a “right to work” state, which labor loathes.

Quinn would probably prefer that Democrats and their supporters try to stop Rauner in March. Rauner could wind up spending a king’s ransom in the November election. He’s also close enough to Emanuel to make Quinn more than a little nervous.

So, spending a few million dollars before the March primary to expose Rauner’s Democratic side to Republican voters would be a whole lot cheaper than the tens of millions it could cost to fight him a year from now.

Keep in mind that it’s not that Quinn would get off easy with any of the other three Republican candidates. And it’s not that Rauner would be a slam-dunk winner in the primary, either.

Quinn could use the playbook that President Obama used against the wealthy Mitt Romney last year (a playbook that Obama borrowed from Quinn’s 2010 race for governor against Brady).

But Rauner appears to pose the biggest risk to the Democrats because of his moderate stances on social issues, his Chicago connections and his ability to bring in money from others and himself.

More on Rauner later this morning.

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      


Reader comments closed for the holiday weekend

Friday, Oct 11, 2013

* Lots of copycats these days, but there was only one Waylon

There weren’t another other way to be

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Question of the day

Friday, Oct 11, 2013

* Greg Hinz

llinois Republicans finally may have stumbled on an issue that they can exploit against Gov. Pat Quinn next year: Junking the way in which those squiggles and blobs known as General Assembly districts are drawn.

In recent months an eclectic group that includes Republican business types like Metropolis 2020’s George Ranney and leftish reformers such as Common Cause and the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, launched a drive to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the November 2014 general election ballot. Since then, the original group has morphed into a wider coalition known as Yes! for Independent Maps that’s begun to draw a fair amount of publicity.

Unlike term limits, a much hotter issue that’s being pushed by GOP gubernatorial hopeful Bruce Rauner, the concept of taking away remapping legislative districts from the politicians and turning it over to an independent, non-partisan panel draws some backing across the political spectrum. I mean, only your precinct captain brother-in-law really likes the way gerrymandered districts turn out now.

Beyond that, Yes! for Fair Maps shrewdly is not pushing any changes in how congressional districts are drawn. Any move that would elect more Republican congressmen here without undoing GOP-designed horrors in states like Texas and Pennsylvania would die fast among the Illinois Democratic faithful.

Hinz reports that all four Republican gubernatorial candidates support the proposal.

* The Question: Do you think state legislative remap reform will be a game-changing Republican issue with Illinois voters? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.


web polls

- Posted by Rich Miller   44 Comments      


Your Friday moment of Zen

Friday, Oct 11, 2013

* From the Twitters



* The governor is definitely a dog lover

She’s been dubbed the winner of NBC’s Chicago Fire Top Dog Competition, and now a Spot named Smokey has has been awarded her own day for her winning ways.

Only six months old when she found herself inside a home engulfed by flames, the Labrador/Retriever mix was saved thanks to the efforts of firefighters and a veterinarian, who kept her on oxygen, hand fed her, and provided loving care for three days following her ordeal.

Today four-year-old Smokey, a firehouse dog who is based out of Station 2 in Jacksonville, Illinois, helps those who gave her a helping hand by teaching safety techniques like “stop, drop and roll” to school children and the community.

In recognition of the kind-hearted canine’s contribution to her community,Pat Quinn, the Governor of Illinois, has proclaimed that October 11th will now be known as “Smokey the Dog Day” in the state.

Let’s hope Oscar the Puppy never has to endure such an ordeal.

* But every day at my house is Oscar the Puppy Day. He’s the center of pretty much all that he surveys.

Oscar really loves to chew and chew and chew. So far, he hasn’t chewed any of my furniture, which is a good thing. But give him a hard treat and he’ll chomp on it with a look of calm bliss. It really settles him down

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      


A little ADM sanity

Friday, Oct 11, 2013

* Most of the Republican gubernatorial candidates’ reactions to the request by ADM for a state tax break have generally lacked substance. Instead, three of the four have focused mainly on attacking Gov Pat Quinn for holding the tax break hostage to a pension deal

While comfortable ripping the governor for a “lack of leadership,” Rauner acknowledged he didn’t know enough about the Decatur-based agribusiness giant’s tax break request to say whether he would approve it.

“From what I’ve seen of their request, I’d have to understand what the trade-offs are. I haven’t gone deep on it,” Rauner said.

“Corporations are successful because they’re tough and aggressive negotiators and they’re looking out to save every nickel and every penny they can. That’s good management. You don’t blame ADM for that at all,” said Rauner, a wealthy equity investor.

* Bill Brady ignored the fact that ADM has admitted that it currently pays very little state income tax

“We have to face reality. We can’t be populist in this. The reality is because the governor has raised taxes so high, there are other alternatives (for ADM to relocate) out there,” Brady said in an interview on WGN-AM 720. […]

“You don’t tie ADM to another issue that the governor’s failed on,” Brady said of the pension issue. “We need a governor who will move away from the populist point of view and do the right thing in each instance.”

* Dillard

“You cannot hold ADM’s future to pension legislation. It just is illogical and it doesn’t fit,” said Kirk Dillard.

* I hadn’t seen Treasurer Dan Rutherford’s take on the tax break, so I reached out to him this week. He called me yesterday and we went over the issue.

It’s clear to me that Rutherford has put some thought into the matter and is not just looking at this from a political angle.

* While Rutherford made it crystal clear that he wants ADM to remain in Illinois, he said passing legislation to create a special tax break just for ADM was the wrong approach.

Rutherford said he wanted broad-based legislation that would make other companies eligible, not just a specific one. This approach, he said, means “you create winners and losers” and is “not a level playing field for Illinois businesses.”

* When I mentioned that ADM was saying it was merely following precedent after special tax break laws were passed for Sears and CME, Rutherford said he didn’t disagree with the company’s logic, adding the obvious fact that he wasn’t governor at that time.

But, he said, when the state gives assistance to companies, “it needs to be all rules known and applicable to everyone.”

Makes sense to me, but, then again, there are always unforeseen circumstances and special emergency cases.

* Meanwhile

Archer Daniels Midland Co. appears to have expanded its list of potential headquarters well out of the Midwest, to Atlanta.

According to a story posted last night on the website of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a site-selection team from the agricultural giant met two days ago in Atlanta with officials of that city’s corporate recruitment arm, Invest Atlanta, their version of World Business Chicago. (WBC had no immediate response to the reported Atlanta visit.)

The story cited “an individual with direct knowledge of the company’s search process,” and a second person with direct knowledge made sure I saw the story.

When an ADM vice president buys a multimillion-dollar condo in Atlanta, it’s time to worry. Otherwise, maybe not so much.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


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Friday, Oct 11, 2013

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Davis says he could lose over DC gridlock

Friday, Oct 11, 2013

* One of the reasons the gay marriage bill didn’t pass last spring was that the House Democratic targets - those who could face significant opposition in the general election - were advised to stay away from the bill.

Running a legislative chamber with an eye always on protecting the more politically vulnerable can generally - not always, but generally - keep things more to the center of the spectrum.

This, obviously, has not been the case in DC, where the fringe has taken over the asylum. And that has freshman GOP Congressman Rodney Davis rightly worried

Republican Representative Rodney Davis, whose Illinois district voted for his party’s presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, in 2012 by a narrow margin — 48.9 percent to Obama’s 48.6 percent — said he also has been feeling political heat, and has repeatedly told House leaders he stands to lose from it.

“I’ve got now hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent” by groups using the shutdown to attack him in ads, he said in an interview. “So, if you ever want to know what message the Democrats are wanting to test, come to my district. I’m like the guinea pig.”

“I obviously have said the entire time we’ve been in this: the shutdown is not good for me,” Davis said. “The shutdown’s not good for America.”

Americans United for Change, a group that targeted 10 vulnerable Republicans this week for negative commercials, calls it “Rodney Davis’ Tea Party shutdown” in its ad in his district.

There are times when party leaders have no choice but to put their politically vulnerable members at risk. Country (or state) must rise above party. It’s the noble thing to do, which is why Speaker Madigan ought to take off the marriage bill brick.

* But tossing your targets overboard for the radical and delusional pipe dream of ending Obamacare is nothing short of political malpractice

The Republican Party has been badly damaged in the ongoing government shutdown and debt limit standoff, with a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finding that a majority of Americans blame the GOP for the shutdown, and with the party’s popularity declining to its lowest level.

By a 22-point margin (53 percent to 31 percent), the public blames the Republican Party more for the shutdown than President Barack Obama – a wider margin of blame for the GOP than the party received during the poll during the last shutdown in 1995-96.

Just 24 percent of respondents have a favorable opinion about the GOP, and only 21 percent have a favorable view of the Tea Party, which are both at all-time lows in the history of poll.

Sheesh.

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      


It’s all in the numbers

Friday, Oct 11, 2013

* The Quincy Journal points out that Bruce Rauner and his new running mate differ substantially on some social issues

Rauner said he wanted to put gay marriage on a referendum before the voters and said he supported a woman’s “ability to choose…I believe in some common sense regulations and restrictions so it’s rare and safe, but I support a woman’s ability to decide.”

Sanguinetti, however, differed with the top of the ticket.

“On the issue of life…I must say, my mother chose me and she had me at age15,” she said. “For this reason, I am pro-life. I also believe in marriage with the traditional defintion.”

Sanguinetti added that while she and Rauner “are apart on social issues”, they both recognize that Illinois is broken in many other ways.

* Some see those differences as a problem. I’m not sure why, at least not in the primary. Remember a poll I commissioned a while back?

The Aug. 13 Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll surveyed 1,102 likely Republican primary voters.

The poll found that 74 percent of Republicans wanted GOP gubernatorial candidates to choose a running mate who was “more conservative” than the candidates themselves. Another 18 percent said ideology made no difference and a mere 7 percent said they wanted a more liberal running mate.

The poll found that 73 percent of Republican women and 75 percent of men wanted a more conservative running mate.

79 percent of seniors, who tend to dominate GOP primaries, wanted a more rightward pick.

77 percent of collar county Republicans, 73 percent of suburban Cook and downstate Republicans and 69 percent of Chicago Republicans wanted the candidates to look to their right when picking their lieutenant governor candidates.

Again, at least in the primary, this move could take some heat off Rauner.

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      


Couple of the Week: Brenda and Lee

Friday, Oct 11, 2013

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Brenda Lee and Lee Edwards of South Shore have been together for a decade. They have built a life together. They cook, go to the movies, and take walks on Lake Michigan. They belong to a prayer circle and watch “Grey’s Anatomy.”

“We have known each other for a long time, and our times together are filled with so much joy and laughter,” says Brenda.

Brenda and Lee are like any other couple, and they want the same things that other couples want. Most of all, they want the freedom to make a lifelong commitment to each other. They want the security of knowing they can always protect each other.

But Illinois denies them the freedom to marry.

“We worry about what will happen to us financially–especially when Brenda retires,” says Lee. “We are not entitled to share any spousal benefits that come with retirement. It is a burden that we should not be forced to face.”

It’s not just about the legal protections marriage affords. It’s about dignity. It’s about equality before the law. It’s about fairness.

It is time for the Illinois House of Representatives to get on the right side of history and pass SB10. It’s time to stop excluding same-sex couples from marriage. Illinois families can’t wait. The time is now.

Watch Brenda’s and Lee’s video

For more information, visit IllinoisUnites.org.

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The great divide

Friday, Oct 11, 2013

* From Progress Illinois

A new study shows that 52,404 new jobs came to downtown Chicago between 2002 and 2011 thanks to economic development investments, yet only one in four of those positions went to city residents.

Suburbanites and people in prosperous Chicago communities like Lakeview and Lincoln Park mostly gained those jobs, and residents in the city’s predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods were largely excluded, the report issued Tuesday by Grassroots Collaborative found.

From 2004 to 2008, the city spent more than $1.2 billion in public, tax increment financing (TIF) funds for these type of downtown, job creation investments, according to the report called, “Downtown Prosperity, Neighborhood Neglect: Chicago’s Black and Latino Workers Left Behind.” […]

From 2002 to 2011, the city added 129,054 new jobs that paid annual salaries of at least $40,000, yet it lost 182,938 jobs that paid less than that figure. During this time period, Chicago’s neighborhoods lost a total of 10,121 jobs.

The full report is here.

* Meanwhile, the rent is too darned high

Illinois ranks fifth highest in the nation for college tuition and fee rates, according to ISAC figures. It also ranks high among states that provide financial aid to college students, but the money just isn’t going as far as it used to.

Universities are increasing tuition and fees on students as public aid for higher education continues to face cuts as Illinois comes to grips with its various financial troubles.

Poshard said tuition rates at SIU have risen about 6.8 percent in the last decade, below the state average but still making affordability tougher on low- and middle-income students with each passing year. President Abraham Lincoln was said of universities they represent the people’s right to rise, Poshard said.

“The question is whether higher education these days still represents the people’s right to rise?” he added.

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      


Quick takes

Friday, Oct 11, 2013

* From the Belleville News-Democrat’s police blotter

Governor Quinn, 34, of East St. Louis, arrested on suspicion of criminal trespass to land and warrant arrest by East St. Louis police.

Some parents were apparently quite prescient back in 1979.

…Adding… I’m told by a local criminal justice type that Governor Quinn’s full name is Governor Quinn IV. So, some parents were uncannily prescient 100 years ago or so. Wow.

* From DNAInfo

For the first time in years, Republican candidates for governor are honing in on the city of Chicago and some say the GOP’s Chicago “clubhouse” in Lincoln Park is now a must-stop for any campaign.

The 43rd Ward Republicans already hosted state Sen. Kirk Dillard in mid-September, and this Saturday, the group will host State Treasurer Dan Rutherford for a meeting at 2768 N. Lincoln Ave. […]

Dillard was the first of the candidates to stop by the office on Sept. 14 and had coffee and doughnuts with about 40 attendees before giving an hourlong speech and opening up to unlimited questions, Cleveland said.

Um… He gave an hour-long speech?

Is he Fidel Castro now?

* From an article in the Southern Illinoisan about Bruce Rauner’s new running mate

Sanguinetti, who moved to Chicago to attend The John Marshall Law School after graduating from Florida International University with a bachelor’s degree in piano performance,

Rep. Dan Burke, the Statehouse’s resident piano player, may have some competition on the horizon.

* And from a Tribune article about the proposed Illiana Corridor

At one point, [Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning Chairman Gerald Bennett] referred to the Illiana as a “highway in nowhereland,” but he later apologized for that comment, saying he meant to say “farmland.”

Arrogant regionalism much?

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      


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Friday, Oct 11, 2013

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« NEWER POSTS PREVIOUS POSTS »
* Local 150 PAC promotes capital plan in two new TV ads
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Fundraiser list
* Illinois Credit Unions: People Helping People
* IEPA issues "seal order" on Sterigenics plant
* Reader comments closed for the holiday weekend
* Rep. Chapa LaVia will head IDVA after previous appointee bows out
* Question of the day
* Mary Morrissey named new executive director of DPI
* Transparency issues
* It's just a bill
* Amazon leads $700 million investment round for Rivian
* Hysterical much?
* Minimum wage roundup
* Poll: Five points separate five mayoral candidates as union money whacks Daley
* Should the state sell the Tollway to boost the pension funds?
* Southern Illinois state's attorney vows not to enforce assault weapons ban if it becomes law
* Daley would keep hope alive for those who want pension benefit cuts
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