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Friday, Mar 28, 2014

* Resigned state Rep. Keith Farnham’s replacement could be picked this weekend

Elgin businessman Kevin Echevarria is among candidates interviewed by Democratic officials for the seat left vacant after Keith Farnham resigned March 19, Kane County Democratic Party Chairman Mark Guethle confirmed Friday.

Another candidate is Elgin Councilwoman Anna Moeller. Kane County Board member Cristina Castro said she also talked to Democratic officials about the vacant House seat.

Anna Moeller is rumored to be the frontrunner, but things can change and we’ll see soon enough.

* I’ve been sick since I woke up Wednesday morning. I caught a cold or something that just won’t quit. That’s the hazard of working in a place which draws people from all corners of the state, I suppose. I’ve mostly tried to power through, but the weather certainly hasn’t helped.

And, man, it’s sure been a cold, cold winter

And the springtime take a long way around

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Durbin thanked Kirk for Oberweis statement

Friday, Mar 28, 2014

* US Sen. Dick Durbin said he called Sen. Mark Kirk after Kirk said he would preserve his relationship with Durbin by not campaigning for Republican Senate nominee Jim Oberweis

“You know, a lot of people have an image of Washington as a place of two parties at war,” Durbin said. “Mark Kirk and I have really tried to find ways to work together. I think that’s good for the state. t’s really good for our country. We do have a friendship and a partnership doing a lot of things together. Oh, we’re gonna disagree on some votes, that’s for sure. But we really try to accentuate the positive. His statement this week was very nice. I called him and thanked him.”

Kirk’s office has since said he’ll be endorsing the entire Republican ticket, but no campaigning for Oberweis has been scheduled.

That’ll make some heads explode.

- Posted by Rich Miller   5 Comments      

Making high-speed lemonade on the South Side

Friday, Mar 28, 2014

* Oy

The state is fighting to take back $2 million in grant money it awarded a company that promised to install ultra-high speed Internet access throughout the South Side.

Gigabit Squared, a Cincinnati-based company that last May touted the high-speed project in nine South Side communities, “has lied repeatedly” about its intentions and may have spent only $250,000 of the grant money for legitimate purposes, said David Roeder, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which issued the grant.

* The company has been a bust everywhere, and maybe far worse

Gigabit—a four-year-old, Cincinnatti-based startup that has announced plans to bring broadband to Topeka, KS, Chicago, Jackson, MS, and other cities—has not, to date, hooked up a single Internet connection anywhere

Kinda looks like grifting to me.

* South Siders were upset with Gigabit back in January…

Two community groups say they will jump-start a delayed plan to roll out ultra-high-speed wireless Internet access to as many as 100,000 residents and 11,000 students on Chicago’s South Side.

Pierre A. Clark, a community activist who heads the Woodlawn Broadband Expansion Partnership and the Southside Broadband Expansion Collaborative, said Sunday that the two groups have developed an alternative plan to deploy the high-speed wireless network first in Woodlawn and ultimately to the South Side, aimed at a mid-spring launch.

* And they’re making some progress

(A) South Side neighborhood group determined to get ultra-high speed Web access in Woodlawn has started work on a demonstration project aimed at starting up in late April. […]

Two of the community group’s engineers with Key Link Technologies, a south suburban engineering design firm, have started testing the Cisco access points at the Blue 1647 innovation center at 1647 S. Blue Island Ave. in Pilsen. The team hopes to put the first access point and network operations center in a business incubator started by Sunshine Enterprises and slated to open this summer at 501 E. 61st St.

Other supporters of the project include Globetrotters Engineering Corp., headquartered in Chicago, which does network mapping, and the New America Foundation, whose open-source software is designed to enable community-based and locally governed technology solutions.

The ultimate goal is to showcase Woodlawn as the “proof of concept” community in expanding to a Wi-Fi and fiber-optic network covering nine communities — Douglas, Grand Boulevard, Greater Grand Crossing, Hyde Park, Kenwood, Oakland, South Shore, Washington Park and the rest of Woodlawn.

The project engineers hope to set up applications for telemedicine, online banking and financial literacy, and neighborhood safety and communications.

Hopefully, the state won’t step in and screw this one up as well.

- Posted by Rich Miller   3 Comments      

FTC: State’s Sunday car sales ban could lead to higher prices

Friday, Mar 28, 2014

* State Sen. Jim Oberweis asked the Federal Trade Commission to comment on his legislation to repeal the Sunday car sales ban. After a vote by the FTC, the Federal Trade Commission’s Office of Policy Planning, Bureau of Competition, and Bureau of Economics responded

The existing Code provisions effectively ban the sale or long-term lease of both new and used automobiles (except private sales) on Sunday throughout Illinois. They therefore eliminate the possibility of competition among dealers to determine the hours of operation on Sunday that might be most responsive to consumer preferences and most beneficial to automobile dealers.

Further, because automobile dealers also provide repair services and sell replacement parts, the probable effects of mandatory Sunday closing laws extend beyond vehicle sales. The principal harms to competition from such laws likely include:

    (1) increased consumer search costs that impede comparison shopping;

    (2) a market that is unresponsive to consumer preferences for hours of operation; and

    (3) diminished competition among dealers for both automobile sales and a range of related services.

Collectively, these effects may lead to higher prices and reduced output for sales of new and used automobiles and related automobile services than would otherwise be the case.

* From Oberweis

“Since 1983, car dealerships in Illinois have been forbidden to be open on Sundays under penalty of a $1500 fine,” Oberweis said. “A majority of states allow automobile sales on Sundays, and car dealers in Illinois should be free to choose whether they wish to be open or closed on Sundays without government interference.” […]

“This analysis and recommendations from the FTC bolster the argument for repealing this ban. Senate Bill 2629 should not be bottled up in committee. It should be sent to the Senate for full, public legislative debate,” Oberweis said. “We need to rethink the weak argument that car dealers should be closed Sundays to give their employees a day off and keep costs down. Plenty of other employers and stores set their hours – with full consideration of what their competition is doing – without input from the government.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      

Kirk on Rauner and black votes

Friday, Mar 28, 2014

* US Sen. Mark Kirk touted Bruce Rauner’s candidacy during an interview with Politico

The case for Quinn’s vulnerability is simple: He’s the leader of a dysfunctional state government that sent his two predecessors to federal prison. He raised state income taxes after saying he wouldn’t, and the state’s finances are still a mess. And by signing a pension-reform deal, Quinn alienated the public-sector unions that make up the Democratic base.

Just repeating that can work, Kirk said, provided Rauner doesn’t alienate the moderate suburban Chicago voters key to statewide GOP victory.

Kirk defined the recipe for Republicans to win in Illinois: “Be pro-choice and be a social moderate and be right up front with that. Use the pro-choice words that come out of your mouth, which for a lot of Republicans is hard to do.” […]

“He is a Republican in a Democratic sphere,” Kirk said. “If he ties his shoes wrong, the Democrats can always get a significant number of commentators to be offended at how he has tied his shoes. There’s a whole offended industry that will be ginned up to speak heavily against him in the coming campaign.”

* Sen. Kirk also said this

“There was a lot of feeling that with an African-American president, life on the south side of Chicago would be radically different,” Kirk said. “You hear that, immediately that it’s not different for me. What you’ll see is Rauner reaching into the African-American community pretty heavily.”

I, too, have heard several people on the South Side say this. But it’s one thing for them to say it, and it’s quite another for a white Republican to attack Obama directly.

* And speaking of which, Sneed had a story this week about black GOP ward committeemen who’ve never really done much of anything attacking black ministers for cozying up to Rauner

Sneed is told that the skirmish for fiscal attention resulted in a summit being called at 6 p.m. Monday at 2800 W. Madison by at least a dozen South and West Side committeemen — some of whom claim neglect and little funding under the leadership of Cook County GOP Party Chairman Aaron Del Mar. Del Mar is up for re-election on April 16, and the group is scheduled to hear from his opponent, 43rd Ward Committeeman Chris Cleveland. […]

[Larry Nelson, 24th Ward GOP committeeman] also is angry that ministers get more attention than committeemen.

“Don’t go to the ministers!” he told Sneed. […]

So who has more control over voting in the South and West Side wards?

“The ministers,” [Cook County GOP Party Chairman Aaron Del Mar] said. “Committeemen have small constituencies in their wards; the ministers have flocks all over the place. Both sides have to be happy.

There’s more than enough money to make everybody happy, I’m sure.

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      

Question of the day

Friday, Mar 28, 2014

* Your one-word response to the budgetary/tax events of the week?

No cheating by making up words, please. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   68 Comments      

Fun with numbers

Friday, Mar 28, 2014

* From the Illinois News Network, a project of the Illinois Policy Institute

Gov. Pat Quinn has spent about 10 percent of his time in Springfield during the past six months.

The Democrat governor found himself absent from the Illinois capitol on all but 19 days since August.

* But you have to read between the lines to get a real idea what the actual timeline is

The vast majority of the governor’s time has been spent in the Windy City, where he logged 148 days between Aug. 1 and Feb. 7 […]

Of the 19 days the governor did spend in Springfield during that same time period… [Emphasis added.]

* The beginning of August through the first week of February? You mean the totally dead time?


* The General Assembly was in session three days between January 1st and February 7th. The GA was in six days between August 1st and the end of December.

So Quinn was actually in town more than twice as many days as most legislators?

Who woulda thunk it?

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      

More trouble at DNR

Friday, Mar 28, 2014

* This stuff has gotta stop. From the AP

The chief of state parks in Illinois must repay $7,200 of travel reimbursement he wasn’t entitled to after inquiries by The Associated Press, the latest in a series of missteps at the Department of Natural Resources since February.

Ronald House, the department’s director of the office of land management, was reimbursed nearly 80 times for commuting to or from work when state travel rules forbid such reimbursement, according to an AP review of state records.

It’s another blemish for Natural Resources officials, who initially defended the reimbursements as proper, after a series of recent public relations troubles: a deputy director who attended fishing tournaments while on sick leave and two mining regulators who accepted campaign contributions from a coal-mine operator.

Chris Young, spokesman for IDNR Director Mark Miller, initially said the director would not require House, who makes $75,000 annually, to repay the money because it was not his error. But Miller changed his mind this week and asked for reimbursement, ten days after the agency acknowledged the error.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      

Some lesser-known, more nuanced reacts from two top Repubs

Friday, Mar 28, 2014

* Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka reacted to Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget address this week

“I thought it was a pretty good speech, and I give the guy credit for taking on the really hard issues that have to be dealt with,’ Topinka said.

She said she’d like to see the tax increase phased out more gradually rather than have a large part of it disappear at once, which could trigger budget problems.

* State Treasurer Dan Rutherford’s reaction…

“I appreciate the fact that Governor Quinn is putting several options on the table for solving the state’s fiscal crisis. This is an approach I have long supported. I don’t want the income tax hike to stay, but it needs to be part of the discussion and not the only solution.

“I think state leaders should look to further reduce spending as I have in the Illinois State Treasurer’s Office. Through the years, I have been able to find ways to cut 10 percent from my budget. I also believe we need to focus on making Illinois more business friendly. ”

By the way, this is slightly off topic but Rutherford spokesperson Catie Sheehan, a former Downstate TV reporter, is leaving the office for a big job with the Mac Strategies Group on April 1st. That firm has made some big “gets” lately, including former Emanuel campaign manager Tom Bowen and former IRMA honcho Dave Vite.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      

Living in denial

Friday, Mar 28, 2014

* Sun-Times

Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios said the defeat of his daughter, Rep. Maria “Toni” Berrios, to a self-styled reformer in the recent Democratic Statehouse primary isn’t a referendum on what critics call his old-school approach to politics.

“I don’t see it that way,” Berrios, the powerful chair of the county Democratic Party, told the Sun-Times on Thursday, when asked whether Toni Berrios’ landslide loss diminished his political power. […]

Ultimately, Joe Berrios said, Toni Berrios lost the election because of the changing racial makeup of the district — a demographic shift anchored around the hipster-centric neighborhood of Logan Square, which was once a Hispanic stronghold.

“The district completely changed. It went from 64 percent Hispanic down to about 52 percent Hispanic,” Berrios explained. “She worked hard. We did everything we could to win that election and it didn’t come out the way we wanted it to, but, you know, you move on.”

I don’t think Berrios is as “evil” as the Sun-Times and others constantly make him out to be. But there’s no getting around the fact that his family name has been poisoned.

Yes, Will Guzzardi walked precincts non-stop for almost three years. And, yes, the district did change. But smart politicos change with the times and with the districts.

…Adding… From a commenter

I checked out the recent Democratic primary vote totals for unopposed candidates, like Joe Berrios, who were on the Chicago and Cook County ballots. Nobody had to vote for these candidates, so people were making conscious choices if they voted for some but not for others.

Joe Berrios only got 200,992 votes, far behind Jesse White’s 252,005, Lisa Madigan’s 240,674, and Dick Durbin’s 239,348. Even Mike Frerichs, a non-incumbent from Downstate, got 212,827 votes, almost 12,000 more than Berrios. That’s a lot of dedicated Democrats deciding to skip voting for Berrios. It doesn’t really have any immediate effect, as he still wins office for four more years. But it does show a fair amount of discontent.

- Posted by Rich Miller   49 Comments      

Quinn talks to the editorial boards

Friday, Mar 28, 2014

* Gov. Pat Quinn is making the rounds of editorial boards. Here’s some of what he said to the Sun-Times

He’d like to finance a new statewide construction program for roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects by closing corporate tax loopholes. He said he plans to present lawmakers with a list of tax laws for businesses “that I think are loopholes that don’t produce jobs for our state” in hopes of generating money for such projects.

“A lot of the corporations would much rather have us build infrastructure than anything else,” he added.

So, more tax hikes.

* More

Quinn said House Speaker Michael Madigan’s proposal to impose a 3-percent surcharge on nearly 14,000 Illinoisans with annual incomes of $1 million or more to generate $1 billion for schools is “worth considering.”

But he stopped short of endorsing it, noting that if lawmakers approve the plan, it would bypass him and go before voters in the form of a constitutional amendment. “Anything like that, the voters have to make the final call,” he said.

Courageous, indeed.

* From another Sun-Times article about the visit

Edgar wasn’t the only Republican whom Quinn called for advice about his budget plan. He said he also reached out to former GOP Gov. Jim Thompson.

“He said he would look at our ideas,” Quinn said. “The difference between me and him on this issue is Jim Thompson did things after the election, OK? ‘Ooop, ooop, we need money.’ OK? We’re doing this before the election.”

That’s very true. This may be the first time since the income tax was initialized under Gov. Richard Ogilvie that such a vote will be taken during the spring session. Ogilvie, by the way, ended up losing to Dan Walker.

* And from Crain’s

In a bit of a surprise, Mr. Quinn launched a financial attack on Mr. Rauner’s proposal to immediately stop workers from accruing further pension benefits and switch them to a defined-contribution system like a 401(k).

Even if Mr. Rauner succeeded, Illinois would still owe tens of billions of dollars to retirees for past service that the state is paying in part with retirement contributions withheld every month from the paychecks of current workers. If that revenue stream were diverted from the pension plan to a 401(k) plan, “There’s a tremendous transition cost,” Mr. Quinn said. Just one of the state’s five pension funds, the Teachers Retirement System of Illinois, estimates it would need $32 billion.

“What are you going to do, borrow $32 billion?” Mr. Quinn asked.

Indeed, Mr. Rauner has not released a detailed pension or financial plan; aides say they do not know when one will be available. Instead, he generally has suggested that the pension-reform plan adopted last year by lawmakers was inadequate and has not said whether he would raise other taxes to make up for allowing income-tax rates to drop back.

But another crucial part of the Rauner plan that Quinn didn’t mention is that Rauner would freeze all pensions forever. No more annual increases, ever. It may be heartless, but it does save a ton of dough.

* Watch highlights of the Crain’s intervew

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      

Today’s number: $2 million

Friday, Mar 28, 2014

* From an Illinois Auditor General’s report on the State Employees’ Retirement System

During our examination we noted that there were problems with the Modernization - Re-Engineering Project.

The project has been ongoing for five years, is only 20% complete, and over $2,000,000 has been expended by the State Retirement Systems collectively.

Due to staffing issues and the lack of a project management framework and the associated documentation, the project has not been fully implemented. In addition, formal documentation to provide detailed information on the current status and projected completion date is lacking.

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      

For a service tax before he was against it

Friday, Mar 28, 2014

* Gov. Pat Quinn said during his budget address this week that he was adamantly against a service tax

And as we work together to forge a solution, let me be clear about what I won’t do.

I won’t institute any new, unfair taxes on everyday services that working people rely on. It hurts working families the most to tax basic services like going to the Laundromat…like taking your child to daycare…like visiting the barber shop…or taking your dog to the vet.

We should not create a new and unfair tax burden on everyday families and the small businesses that serve them.

Bruce Rauner has said he is open to such a tax, which is probably why the line was inserted into the speech.

* But Rauner’s campaign dug up a couple of articles from 2009 when Quinn backed just such a tax…

In 2009, Quinn Supported A Tax Hike Plan Passed By Senate Democrats That Would Have Applied The State Sales Tax To “Dozens Of Services.” “Democrats warned of severe cuts in education and health-care funding without a tax increase, but couldn’t muster the votes in the House for a two-year, 50 percent increase in the personal income tax. The House likewise balked at the prospect of considering a Senate-backed plan to raise the income tax 67 percent and apply the state sales tax to dozens of services. Republicans, the minority in both chambers, opposed all tax-increase plans and blamed Democrats for a new round of dysfunction made infamous during the tenure of ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich. With lawmakers facing the need to revisit the budget talks in coming months, post-session voting requirements will give the GOP a seat at the bargaining table. Rookie Gov. Pat Quinn, who supported both failed tax plans, said he would call legislative leaders together Monday to work on putting together a better budget than one that is ‘hopelessly out of balance.’” (Rick Pearson and Ray Long, “Tax Hike Defeated; Budget Gap Remains,” Chicago Tribune, 6/1/09)

Quinn Testified In Favor Of The Senate Tax Hike Plan Before An Illinois House Committee. “The Senate Democrats’ 2009 income tax increase bill also included a provision extending the state’s sales tax to services, such as haircuts, that are not taxed now. Quinn testified for the bill before a House committee.” (Chris Wetterich, “Quinn, Brady Far Apart On Taxes,” The State Journal-Register, 10/3/10)

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      

Edgar supports keeping tax hike permanent, but still has criticisms

Friday, Mar 28, 2014

* From Peoria Public Radio

Former Governor Jim Edgar says spending cuts triggered by the scheduled reduction in the state income tax rate would make it even harder to catch up on unpaid back bills and fund education. So the Republican Edgar says Governor Pat Quinn’s budget proposal to make the state income tax hike permanent is a good idea. But Edgar says it would have been better if the income tax increase had been paired with cuts and controls on spending in the first place.

“You don’t raise revenue or come up with a consistent revenue source and not do the tax cutting or controls that you need to do. You ought to do them all at the same time. Think that was a mistake they made three years ago, whenever they passed this temporary tax. They didn’t really make any spending cuts or put any effective spending controls in. Would have been helpful,” says Edgar. […]

As for the $500 property tax credit that Governor Quinn is proposing, Edgar says it’s useful if it helps get Quinn’s income tax rate extension passed. But he says it’s NOT like his proposal to cut school property taxes through a so-called “education tax swap” back in the 1990s.


- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      

AFP running cable ads against Madigan’s millionaire’s tax

Friday, Mar 28, 2014

* From an Americans for Prosperity Illinois press release…

AFP-Illinois is launching a new ad aimed at educating the public about the perils of Speaker Madigan’s so-called “millionaire tax”.

“This politically-motivated proposal seeks to cynically win votes rather than craft a serious fiscal policy that will help the Illinois economy recover from years of woeful mismanagement and cronyism,” said AFP-Illinois State Director David From.

The ad campaign targets specific members of the General Assembly. It highlights Illinois’ continued economic crisis and high unemployment and encourages their constituents to contact them and express their opposition to the job-killing tax.

“It is no accident that the Speaker made this proposal in advance of the Governor Quinn saying he wants to make his record setting temporary tax increase on all Illinoisans permanent,” said From. “This is the classic bait-and-switch designed to distract voters from the fact that the biggest tax hike being pushed through is going to land squarely on the backs of working families.”

The advertisements are being run online and on cable television with an approximately $120,000 buy funded by AFP-Illinois donors within the state. The ads will run for approximately one week and are part of AFP-Illinois’ effort to educate voters about the highly politicized anti-growth agenda being pushing in the Spring legislative session.

As we’ve already discussed, the group is already running ads against the progressive tax.

* This is the ad targeting Democratic Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo). Rate it

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      

The ace in the hole

Friday, Mar 28, 2014

* My Crain’s Chicago Business column

Timid creatures by nature, state legislators often have to be cajoled, begged and even outright threatened to cast tough votes.

It took the Illinois General Assembly years to finally vote in December for a politically dangerous pension reform bill. The “temporary” income tax hike passed in 2011 only because some lame-duck legislators who had lost their elections (after campaigning against a tax hike) decided to play ball, and coincidentally got sweet state jobs.

That vote, which raised the personal income tax rate to 5 percent from 3 percent, was safely held weeks after an election. The hike is scheduled to expire Jan. 1, with the tax rate falling to 3.75 percent. But now, House Speaker Michael Madigan says he’d like to pass a bill to make the tax hike permanent by the end of the spring session, about five months before the Nov. 4 general election.

Making the tax hike permanent is probably very unpopular. A February survey found that 60 percent of Illinois residents want the tax hike to expire, while a mere 26.5 percent favor keeping it, according to the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.

Not to mention that the person taking the lead on making the tax hike permanent is Gov. Pat Quinn, who barely won his 2010 election.

Mr. Quinn forcefully argued during his annual budget address March 26 that keeping the tax hike in place would preserve much-needed state programs like education funding and prevent “draconian” budget cuts.

His Republican opponent has been ripping him all week. Bruce Rauner says Mr. Quinn in 2010 promised to oppose any tax increase above one percentage point and then signed a hike double that amount. Now he wants to make it permanent.

Mr. Quinn’s popularity among legislators is almost nonexistent; his political future is in doubt. So why follow him off a political cliff?

Click here for the rest.

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      

* Reader comments closed for the weekend
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