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Road bids to continue, prison settlement on hold, Lottery in limbo

Monday, Jan 26, 2015

* Governing ain’t always as easy as it looks. Holding this up would’ve been a big problem, for instance

Despite its freeze on most new state spending, the Rauner administration has decided to proceed Jan. 30 with an estimated $500 million in roadway maintenance and repair projects across the state, including reconstruction of the interchange between Lake Shore Drive and Interstate 55.

The fate of the bid opening by the Illinois Department of Transportation was still unknown last week when the Rauner administration thawed out spending for the Illinois Tollway’s $1.5 billion construction program this year.

With another large round of IDOT projects coming up in March, contractors fretted that the two sets of bids would be combined. With just one huge bid letting, firms could have ended up with more work than they could handle if they bid too aggressively or none at all in the upcoming construction season if they bid too high.

* An understandable delay, but a decision - with its attendant costs - will have to be made

A legal effort to improve the living conditions at a southern Illinois prison is on hold for at least another month to let new Gov. Bruce Rauner review a proposed settlement agreement.

In an order filed last week, U.S. Magistrate Philip Frazier gave attorneys for the state an extra 30 days to file a preliminary agreement outlining the steps that will be taken to correct problems at the Vienna Correctional Center.

“Due to the change in administrations, the defendants require additional time to obtain approval to agree to any unresolved terms,” attorneys for the state noted in their request for an extension.

* And this Lottery limbo is a mess

Who’s in charge of the huge Illinois Lottery—and under what contract terms are they working?

Anyone who knows the answer to those questions isn’t answering them today in the wake of Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s surprise move Jan. 23 to scuttle a “termination agreement” between the Lottery and the private firm that manages its operations day to day, Northstar Lottery Group.

Madigan said in her opinion that the termination pact, announced in the final days of the Pat Quinn administration, was illegal and would have cost taxpayers millions in extra fees and charges. But the opinion omitted lots of details about who, what and how much. […]

State Rep. Jack Franks, a McHenry County Democrat who’s been a long-time critic of Lottery management, says there’s “no question in my mind” that the management contract has been terminated, even if the termination terms have been junked.

Franks says he reached that conclusion after speaking with Madigan aides. They told him their intent was not to dispute the termination of the management contract, only the terms of what the company would get in exchange.

The company can continue to provide services without a contract, Franks said, but risk not being paid as much as under its old deal. Or it could leave, but that could hurt other business by Northstar’s owners, GTech and Scientific Games.

- Posted by Rich Miller   11 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 - AP: Rauner the reformer *** Rauner returns Sanchez, and the favor

Monday, Jan 26, 2015

* 2012: Gov. Pat Quinn replaces Manny Sanchez at the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority in a bitter fight over the governor’s choice for executive director. 2014: Manny Sanchez endorses Bruce Rauner for Governor. 2015: Manny Sanchez appointed to Illinois Sports Facilities Authority by Gov. Rauner…

Manny Sanchez, ousted from the board of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority two years ago, has been reinstalled by Gov. Bruce Rauner to the city-state panel that owns U.S. Cellular Field.

The Chicago attorney, who was removed amid controversy in 2012 by Gov. Pat Quinn, has been named chairman of the ISFA’s seven-member board. He replaces former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones Jr.

“I’m ecstatic,” Sanchez said today. “I look forward to growing the revenue sources at U.S. Cellular Field and protecting the interests of the state and the city in terms of (the ball park’s) fiscal viability.”

*** UPDATE *** The AP basically describes this as a Rauner reform move

Gov. Bruce Rauner has replaced the leader of an Illinois agency that gave ex-Gov. Pat Quinn’s former campaign manager a $160,000-a-year job.

Rauner on Monday appointed supporter Manny Sanchez as chairman of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority. Sanchez replaces former state Sen. Emil Jones Jr.

Jones was among the four Quinn appointees who voted last month to hire 30-year-old Lou Bertuca to lead the agency that built and operates U.S. Cellular Field. Three board members appointed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel voted no.

- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      

Body cams on table and Zalewski has new crime package

Monday, Jan 26, 2015

* Police body cams are on the front burner this session

Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, has already introduced Senate Bill 21, which will be used to provide basic protocol for the cameras — such as when they can be turned off — instead of a mandate requiring them. […]

[Laimutis Nargelenas, manager of governmental relations for the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police] said the chiefs association wants to work with the legislature to make the law effective, both economically and practically.

“The issue with the cameras is certain groups want officers to use them in limited instances,” he said. “If we can’t get body cameras without limited restrictions, why use them? If we’re going to use taxpayer dollars to pay for these, let’s make sure they’re used properly.”

* Meanwhile, Rep. Mike Zalewski has a new crime bill. From a press release…

Zalewski, D-Riverside, is taking a new approach to the previous debate over gun penalties based on sentencing modifications that would increase penalties for illegal gun possession while introducing groundbreaking factors for judicial discretion and appropriate case-by-case review. Judges then can alter the length of the person’s sentence based on an individualized assessment of the offender, and even open up opportunities for corrections programming and counseling while the person serves his or her sentence. Zalewski’s new approach to tougher penalties for illegal gun possession seeks to bring Illinois into a new era of correctional reform and align with best practices for a 21st century criminal justice system.

Zalewski also is proposing a series of bills to address several topics that were considered at length by the reform committee:

    · Ensures consistency in drug laws when students are present to reduce inconsistent judicial findings

    · Allows domestic violence victims to present evidence at sentencing regarding their abuse in the event they are convicted of defending themselves

    · Creates a pilot program to let Cook County authorities use drug analysis field tests to determine whether recovered substances are illegal marijuana, cocaine or heroin, reducing the number of days a defendant waits for a preliminary hearing

    · Applies enhanced Class 4 felony penalties for property theft of no more than $300 to those with two or more convictions of certain thefts and burglaries, rather than one previous conviction

    · Increases the threshold amount for theft from $500 to $1,000

Zalewski also intends to fight vigorously for other criminal justice reform measures pending before the Legislature, including reform of the state’s juvenile transfer laws, realignment of the state’s cannabis statutes, and continuation of the bi-partisan, bicameral Joint Committee on Criminal Justice Reform to continue the important work of studying how to bring Illinois out of the dark ages of sentencing.

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      

Sales tax coffers could get boost with new law

Monday, Jan 26, 2015

* AP

Amazon will start collecting sales tax from Illinois consumers next month to comply with a new state law.

Amazon spokesman Ty Rogers said Friday the online retailer will be required to collect the 6.25 percent tax starting Feb. 1. The Amazon spokesman says the online retailer “offers the best prices with or without sales tax.”

Illinois lawmakers passed the measure last summer after the Illinois Supreme Court threw out an earlier attempt at legislation. The court ruled the earlier law violated federal rules against “discriminatory taxes” on digital transactions.

* Crain’s

The law went into effect Jan. 1, but the state granted a month-long grace period to online retailers.

“It demonstrates real responsibility on the part of Amazon to collect these taxes before they even lay a brick in Illinois,” said Rob Karr, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, which has long been in favor of such legislation. He was referring to the e-commerce giant’s decision, announced last fall, to build at least one distribution facility in Illinois.

It remains to be seen whether the new tax will aid Illinois bricks-and-mortar retailers, Karr said, “What does help now is that the tax code is no longer picking the winners and losers.”

That new facility meant the company would have to start collecting sales taxes anyway because they’d have an Illinois nexus. Wisconsin projected a $30 million boost when the state began collecting sales taxes from Amazon, but money could just shift around online

Amazon sales are likely to decline about 10 percent in Illinois if its pattern follows those of other states, according to Itzhak Ben-David, an associate professor of finance at Ohio State University who studied the effect of the Amazon tax issue on consumer behavior in five states that implemented online sales tax laws from 2012 to 2014.

“The decline was most dramatic for large purchases,” Ben-David said in an interview. For example, he and colleagues measured a sales decline of nearly 25 percent on purchases of $300 or more.

“These results suggest that sales tax is an important factor in the eyes of consumers,” he said.

Those consumers flee Amazon for other retailers, though they tend to stay online. The study found a 2 percent uptick in purchases at local brick-and-mortar retailers and an almost 20 percent increase through the online operations of competing retailers.

More and more people want to - and like to - shop online if they can. That trend can’t be halted. But Amazon has been a huge sales tax avoider over the years, so this is welcome news. Now, the Congress need to even the playing field. Sen. Durbin and Congressman Schock recently penned an op-ed on this topic

A bipartisan bill, known as the Marketplace Fairness Act, to level the playing field for the small businesses in communities like Springfield has the opportunity to become law.

It’s an effort we are working on together — along with many of our Illinois colleagues — to get over the finish line this Congress.

Main Street businesses have a hard time surviving when their stores become showrooms, where people come in, look around, even try out merchandise, and then leave to buy the product online to avoid paying state taxes.

This online sales tax loophole is giving online retailers a 5- to 10-percent price advantage over their Main Street competitors, and it needlessly is putting people out of business in Illinois and across the country.

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      

A crack in the honeymoon

Monday, Jan 26, 2015

* I still don’t think this is a major issue, but it’s very easy to understand, so it has made somewhat of a splash. IRN

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s explanation for one new hire in his administration making a six-figure salary doesn’t add up. The salary in question is the $100,000 that will be paid to Sara Wojcicki Jimenez, the new chief of staff for First Lady Diana Rauner. The governor didn’t directly address that salary when asked whether it was too high for the position.

“We are going to try to offer salaries that are competitive (to) get the talent in,” Rauner said. “This is all about driving a transformation of the government, and many people are coming in at salaries well below what they made in the private sector.”

But Jimenez isn’t coming from the private sector. She spent the last year as the director of intergovernmental affairs in the comptroller’s office. She’s also not settling for a lower salary in her new job, as she was making $91,000 per year, according to data made available on the comptroller office’s website.

* More context from the Tribune

The issue came up one day after Rauner gave a presentation to business students at the University of Chicago. There, he railed against the state’s unpaid debt and suggested that state worker salaries, which he said averaged around $64,000 in 2012, were part of the problem. [Emphasis added.]

Again, not a huge deal. We haven’t had a First Lady in six years, so this topic just hasn’t come up. But Rauner set himself up for that one bigtime.

* Meanwhile

Rauner fielded questions about the salaries after he attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a $38 million technical schooling facility at Harper College in Palatine, $20 million of which was funded through a state capital grant. Rauner said he thought it was “wonderful” that the state had granted money for the project.

But Rauner was unclear on whether he would have approved of the grant if it had come across his desk as governor.

“Well, here’s the issue,” he said. “We’ve got to restructure our government so we’re efficient, effective and transparent. We’re going to get that done. And we’ll have the money, if we do that, and if we become a booming economy, so we can support facilities like this and put more money into education.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   92 Comments      

Question of the day

Monday, Jan 26, 2015

* Tribune

A radio ad in which President Barack Obama endorses Mayor Rahm Emanuel for re-election will begin airing Monday in Chicago.

“If you want a mayor who does what’s right, not just what’s popular, who fights night and day for the city we love, then I hope you’ll join me. Vote for Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday, February 24th,” Obama says in the 60-second radio spot. […]

“Before Rahm Emanuel was mayor of Chicago, he was a key part of my team at the White House,” Obama says. “And let’s be honest, at times the guy can be a little hardheaded. But there’s a reason Rahm fights as hard as he does. He loves our city, and he believes every child in every neighborhood should have a fair shot at success.”

“Chicago had the shortest school day of any American city until Rahm insisted that our kids get the same educational opportunity as other kids,” Obama says. He goes on to tout Emanuel’s move to make full-day kindergarten standard, and to gradually raise the minimum wage in Chicago to $13 an hour by 2019.

* The ad is here. And he certainly has the money to air it widely

It’s not the only time Emanuel has gotten campaign contributions from people who have benefited from actions he or city agencies or pension funds have taken, according to a Chicago Sun-Times examination of the nearly $30 million amassed so far by: the mayor’s campaign committee; a second campaign fund he controls; and a super PAC that supports Emanuel and aldermanic candidates he backs.

About 5 percent of that total — $1.7 million — has come from developers; from employees of companies that do business with City Hall, city pension funds or city agencies; and from Chicago’s two financial exchanges, which Emanuel has supported by speaking out against proposals that would tax stock and futures trades.

* The Question: Sneed

First lady Michelle Obama’s endorsement didn’t help Gov. Pat Quinn in November, so will her husband’s endorsement help Rahm?

Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.


- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      

Ernie Banks and politics

Monday, Jan 26, 2015

* Here’s something I didn’t know about Ernie Banks

In 1963, he unsuccessfully ran for 8th Ward alderman as a Republican in Chicago.

In the summer of ‘69, he was appointed to the board of the CTA, which led to speculation in the Tribune he was planning to retire, “especially if the Cubs win the pennant and the World Series.” (Spoiler alert: They did not.)

* Banks explained his loss a couple of years ago

“I ran for Alderman and Mayor [Richard J.] Daley was running the city,” Banks said. “Someone asked the mayor where that baseball player was going to finish in the race for the 8th Ward. He said somewhere out in left field. That is where I finished.”

He came in third place with just 2,028 votes.

I doubt he walked many, if any, precincts. and the organization was pretty darned powerful back then.

* Banks also wanted to talk Barack Obama out of running for president

The Hall of Fame shortstop said he tried to talk to then-Senator Barack Obama out of running for this country’s highest office in 2007.

Banks, who was at Wrigley Field to be saluted by the Chicago Cubs for the presidential honor, said that he thought the then-junior Senator from Illinois probably would have a tough time winning.

“I met him at a Jesse Jackson dinner at Navy Pier,” Banks said. “He was there speaking. I wanted to say hi to him. I talked to his assistant and I said I have to talk to Barack.

“I got his card, and the next day he announced he was a candidate. I was going to tell him not to run. I said, ‘Do you really want to do this?’ “

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      

A day in the life

Monday, Jan 26, 2015

* Gov. Bruce Rauner drove his infamous “trash can van” to Springfield Saturday. He and his staff tweeted about the “event” along the route…

Stella and Pumpkin are his dogs. Both are Labs.

* Upon arrival, Rauner held a press conference outside the Executive Mansion

* Back to the pups, who posed for pics…

* Rauner then hit the town. Metro Networks

Governor Rauner is hitting up local events in Springfield. He hit the city in his old green van on Saturday and spent part of the weekend sitting in the stands at a high school boys’ basketball tournament. The locals say they’re impressed to see Rauner hanging out and getting to know people but some aren’t so quick to express appreciation. They’re wondering if Rauner is trying to butter people up so they won’t be so disappointed about any potential cuts coming down the pike.

* Later in the day, Rauner took some legislators to a movie…


- Posted by Rich Miller   79 Comments      

Today’s overreaction

Monday, Jan 26, 2015

* Illinois Review comments on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Friday afternoon appointments

Rauner retained Rocco Claps, an openly gay Democrat operative, to lead the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR). Claps has overseen the department for the past 12 years and currently manages nearly 150 employees and an annual budget of more than $14 million.

While serving under Democrat governors Blagojevich and Quinn, Claps greatly expanded the Illinois Human Rights Act and human and civil rights laws in Illinois. The expansion included extra-legal protections for citizens categorized as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

Prior to his work at the IDHR, Claps was a Deputy Assessor in the Cook County Assessor’s Office. He also worked on two Democratic National Conventions, and in the Office of the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under Democrat President Clinton.

* From the Illinois Family Institute…

LGBTyranny? Really?

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      

New documents show med-mar scoring was completed ahead of schedule

Monday, Jan 26, 2015

* AP

Newly released documents show former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn received recommendations on which businesses should receive lucrative medical marijuana licenses but did not act on them before leaving office.

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration released the material to The Associated Press and other news organizations in response to Freedom of Information Act requests.

Quinn said he would issue the licenses by the end of last year, but he did not act before Rauner succeeded him, saying agencies in charge of evaluating applications still had more work to do.

The documents appear to show the agencies made recommendations to Quinn around Dec. 25.

Quinn had set an unofficial January 1st deadline, and it appears his agencies beat that deadline.

* Were there political concerns?

The applications went through a blind scoring process. But the records obtained show it wasn’t that straightforward.

The documents show that companies the Sun-Times has previously written about were either disqualified as dispensary applicants or put on “hold,” but no explanation was given.

Among those was HealthCentral, which had applied to the state for three downstate cultivation center licenses and two dispensary licenses, in Springfield and Collinsville.

A former Quinn chief of staff, Jack Lavin, served as the company’s lobbyist and a company owned by a partner in HealthCentral had been sued in Colorado for allegedly handing out marijuana-laced candy to unsuspecting Denver County fair goers.

And in the list of applicants recommended for dispensary licenses based on a supposedly blind scoring process, HealthCentral is ranked one and two. But their entry is highlighted in red and noted as disqualified, the records show.

So, the applicants went through a blind scoring process, which was apparently completed in December. Did Quinn and his top staff find out who the winners were and then decide not to take action that could cause the governor some embarrassment?

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      

Fracking stalls while coal companies hope for rebound

Monday, Jan 26, 2015

* Illinois’ hoped-for fracking boom will have to wait

A recent study by IHS, an industry research firm, concluded four-fifths of the oil estimated to be pumped this year from tight geological formations such as sandstone or shale still can be profitable at $50 to $69 a barrel — a span an IHS executive said would “cast a big chill on the level of activity.”

“Low oil prices are going to test the resilience of tight oil production,” said Jim Burkhard, IHS’ vice president of global oil research.

Some companies have drilled exploratory wells and remain optimistic. Kansas-based driller Wayne Woolsey’s company, with 260,000 acres under lease in southern Illinois, has drilled 10 evaluation wells at a cost of more than $2 million apiece, and “everything we’ve done at this point looks very favorable.”

But the lengthy rules-making process has complicated his prospects. Many of the four-year lease deals he’s struck with land owners will expire in the next year or so.

“I was hoping to evaluate (that land) in the first year, which hasn’t occurred,” he said. “It’s been extremely time-consuming and costly.”

* Wall Street Journal has context

OPEC Secretary-General Abdalla Salem el-Badri said in an interview with Reuters on Monday that with prices between $45 and $55 a barrel, “I think maybe they reached the bottom and will see some rebound very soon.”

Prices, which had been trading in the red overnight, turned positive on the news.

U.S. oil for March delivery rose as high as $46.11 a barrel, up from $45 a barrel earlier in the day, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

* Meanwhile, Erickson writes about Illinois coal…

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s pledge to remake state government could include an overhaul of the way Illinois regulates the coal mining industry.

In a situation that has some environmental groups on alert and coal industry supporters applauding, the governor is expected to push for a more streamlined permitting process for companies wanting to extract coal from the ground. […]

Phil Gonet, executive director of the Illinois Coal Association, said he has told Rauner that the key to improving coal regulations is to hire more people to review and process applications.

In one instance, Gonet said an application for a new coal mine in Vermilion County sat idle for 13 months because of a manpower shortage at the Department of Natural Resources. […]

Foresight Energy was among a top contributor to Rauner’s inaugural festivities, giving up to $100,000 to help fund the events two weeks ago.

Since 2009, the company has pumped $1.9 million into the campaign funds of Illinois politicians, including $10,000 to Rauner’s campaign fund and $12,500 to Rauner’s new IDNR chief Wayne Rosenthal.

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      

Rauner readies the axe

Monday, Jan 26, 2015

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

Gov. Bruce Rauner didn’t completely close the door to higher taxes last week during a speech at the University of Chicago, but he made it very clear with what he said and what he did that he wants huge state budget cuts.

“We have every reason to thrive,” Rauner said during the speech. He then laid out his reasoning for why the state is on a “fundamentally unsustainable path,” pointing his finger at the “policies and the politics mostly coming out of Springfield [which are] really at the core of the problem.”

“The politicians want to talk about ‘Well, let’s raise the income tax to fix the debt or the problem,” Rauner said. “Raising taxes will come nowhere near to fixing the problem and in fact will make part of the problem worse and just kick the can down the road… This is the critical lesson that we’re seeing. We’re on an unsustainable path, we need fundamental structural change and raising taxes alone in itself isn’t going to fix the problem and in a lot of ways it’s going to make it worse.”

Rauner said the budget was “out of control,” and that the state has suffered “complete mismanagement.”

“Just raising taxes to try to fix that? No chance. No chance,” Rauner said.

Notice how he said “just raising taxes,” and “raising taxes alone.” Those are usually phrases uttered by politicians who are keeping the door open for higher revenues, however slightly.

But what is crystal clear is that he won’t ask for any more revenues without first making deep and even drastic cuts.

The new governor pointed to flat population growth and flat job growth as the roots of the problem. Without “booming” growth, he said, Illinois can never dig itself out of the hole it’s in. And Rauner has always said that high taxes are a hindrance to growth.

Rauner singled out two items for his chopping block. First up, Medicaid spending.

“When you realize our job growth is flat, how do you pay for it?,” Rauner said of Medicaid. “I want to do that, but that is not sustainable.” Medicaid, which pays for everything from childbirth to nursing home care. consumes a quarter of the state’s operating budget, and despite some real reforms almost two years ago, costs are continuing to rise. And that’s a problem when next fiscal year’s budget deficit is being pegged at a whopping $9 billion.

Rauner also claimed state employees make too much money, saying that they earn more than private sector workers (which AFSCME rejects, pointing to a recent University of Illinois study) and are the third highest paid in the country. The numbers of state workers are declining, Rauner said, but payroll costs are still increasing. Their health insurance is based on “low contributions” from workers, but has a high cost. So, while workers aren’t chipping in much, “you’re chipping in a lot,” he told his audience.

AFSCME’s contract expires later this year, and those negotiations are going to be rougher than we’ve ever seen. Governors going back at least to Dan Walker have done what they could to try to appease the union and win its support, but Rauner repeated his contention that those mutually beneficial relationships were “corrupt.”

Also last week, Rauner announced he had hired Donna Arduin to be the state’s new Chief Financial Officer. Arduin is infamous for her ideological position that tax cuts and budget cuts are key to turning around state economies. Her consulting business partner is Arthur Laffer, whose economic theories were used by former President Ronald Reagan to justify tax cuts during a recession and a major defense buildup.

Arduin’s consulting firm’s most recent high-profile project was Kansas, where tax cuts have created gaping budget holes and a sputtering economy. Rauner said during a campaign debate that he didn’t want to follow Kansas’ lead, but, for now anyway, he seems to be heading at least partially in that direction.

Arduin is also credited for the job she did in California under Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. But it took Schwarzenegger’s Democratic successor Jerry Brown to cut programs to the bone, which finally convinced Californians to support higher taxes. California now has a budget surplus.

She has had successes, Michigan and Florida being two of them. But those successes came with a whole lot of pain inflicted on the poor.

Illinois voters clearly wanted a change last November. They’re gonna get it.

* And speaking of Arduin, here’s another passage from that profile we discussed about her on Friday

On Saturday, after watching Duke win the second-round game in the NCAA tournament, Arduin heads for the airport to fly back to Tallahassee. Waiting at a red light, she looks through the window at a homeless man sitting on the curb, holding up a cardboard sign that reads “Anything helps—Smile—God Bless.”

It’s an uncomfortable moment. The homeless man sees her, they make eye contact, he smiles, she looks away. Then, she turns back and, too softly for him to hear—but with conviction—says, “Get a job.”


…Adding… Crain’s

With a nearly $36 billion budget, including $4.50 billion in federal funds, you’d think belt-tightening could make up the $1.5 billion shortfall Illinois faces between now and July 1, but it won’t come close.

More than half of state spending can’t be touched without changing laws, reneging on bonds or shortchanging pension contributions and digging the state’s $111.18 billion pension hole even deeper. With the fiscal year more than half over, fixing the deficit would take spending cuts of almost 20 percent in nearly $8 billion in discretionary spending remaining through the end of the fiscal year.

Subscribers know more about that 20 percent.

…Adding More… Should the 60,000 homeless kids get jobs as well?

Perhaps this will be the year that the Illinois General Assembly approves money for a homeless education program.

“The superintendent’s recommending $3 million,” chief financial officer Robert Wolfe told the Illinois State Board of Education. “This is a request that the board’s put in for the last two or three fiscal years, and it hasn’t been funded.” […]

The board’s financial committee chairman, Jim Baumann, said there are perhaps 60,000 school-age children among Illinois’ homeless.

- Posted by Rich Miller   122 Comments      

Good morning!

Monday, Jan 26, 2015

* Like many kids around my age who grew up in the Chicago media market, I was glued to the TV when Ernie Banks hit his 500th home run

I was as ecstatic as Jack Brickhouse. What a moment! I jumped up and down all over my grandparents’ living room.

* I was thinking the day he died that I always thought Ernie Banks was simply a great ballplayer. I grew up on a farm outside Clifton at the time. The closest African-Americans were in Kankakee, a 20-mile drive. It wasn’t until I grew up that I learned more about his early days as the Cubs’ first black player and began to think of him in that context.

The innocence of youth. I wish we all had more of that.

* Secretary of State Jesse White’s statement…

The state of Illinois, the city of Chicago and the world of sports lost an icon today in the passing of Ernie Banks. Ernie Banks was a great man with a great heart. While his play made him a Hall-of-Fame baseball player, it was his personality that made him a legend.

I was honored to learn many things from him while I was in the Cubs organization. And I am proud to have had the opportunity to work with him throughout the years in our joint efforts to help others.

My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and to his friends. I was privileged to have played baseball with him, and to call him my friend. Ernie Banks – Mr. Cub – will be missed.

* Let’s start our day with Pearl Jam at Wrigley Field, with a special guest

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      

* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Tonight's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
* Reader comments closed for the holiday weekend
* Sen. Connelly concedes
* Question of the day
* GOMB: State needs another $3+ billion a year to stay even
* Raoul announces transition committee
* *** UPDATED x1 *** The Democrats' vote-by-mail juggernaut
* Why the Firearms Restraining Order Act is so important
* Pension benefits are not cut in the abstract
* The way forward
* Yes, something can be done
* Monday's heroes
* Yesterday's stories

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