My name is Steve Brown, and I’m committed to making your voice heard on Capitol Hill. Like you, I want to play an active role in making my community, state and country a safer, better place to raise my children, run my business, and forge a future filled with unlimited promise.
If you share my vision, I urge you to connect with me and help make it happen! Together, we can make a meaningful difference– for our families, our communities, and our country.
* Yesterday, we discussed Gov. Bruce Rauner’s latest front against organized labor, a request made through the Illinois Municipal League that local governments adopt an anti-union resolution. The draft resolution put together by Team Rauner actually covers a little more than that. Here it is…
Resolution in Support of the “Turnaround Agenda” for Local Government Empowerment and Reform
WHEREAS, Illinois state law creates a “one size fits all” approach to collective bargaining for local units of governments. This approach creates added costs which are ultimately passed on to taxpayers; and
WHEREAS, voters and local officials should determine what is a subject of bargaining - not the State; and
WHEREAS, local control of bargaining would allow voters or local governments to determine if certain topics should be excluded from collective bargaining, including contracting, wages, provisions of health insurance, use of employee time, required levels of staffing, procedures and criteria for personnel evaluations; and
WHEREAS, state law sets thresholds for workers on state and local construction projects increasing costs significantly; and
WHEREAS, state law has increased utilization of Project Labor Agreements for construction projects; and
WHEREAS, repealing the Illinois Prevailing Wage Law and the requirements for Project Labor Agreements would allow local governments more control over construction and project costs; and
WHEREAS, more than 280 unfunded mandates have been imposed in recent years on communities across Illinois, costing those communities billions. Rolling back mandates will create more flexibility in local government budgets; and
WHEREAS, Illinois’ workers’ compensation costs are the seventh highest in the nation – and more than double the costs in Indiana; and
WHEREAS, updating how injuries are apportioned to ensure employers pay for injuries that occur on the job, a clarification regarding the definition of “traveling employees” to ensure a reasonable standard that excludes risks that would impact the general public, and implementation of American Medical Association guidelines when determining impairment would result in major cost savings for local governments; and
WHEREAS, voters in our community should be allowed to decide via referendum whether or not employees should be forced to join a union or pay dues as a condition of employment; and
WHEREAS, local empowerment zones will help attract jobs and make our community more attractive for businesses; and
WHEREAS, local governments face unfunded liabilities that threaten core services and functions of government. State action on pension reform for future work should provide local governments the ability to address pension reform for future work as well;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the (CITY/TOWN/VILLAGE) of (NAME) endorses major reforms in state government that will encourage local control, reduce costs on local governments, empower local voters, and increase competitiveness in our community.
*** UPDATE *** Mayor Emanuel vows to “oppose every step”…
STATEMENT FROM MAYOR EMANUEL ON GOVERNOR RAUNER’S CALL ON CITIES TO PASS RIGHT TO WORK ZONE RESOLUTIONS
“Governor Rauner is continuing his race to the bottom by asking cities like Chicago to pass ‘Right to Work’ zone resolutions. I will not support – and will oppose every step of the way – any such resolution in Chicago because I believe it directly threatens our strategic goal to strengthen Chicago’s middle class, not undermine it. We should instead be focused on rebuilding our neighborhood infrastructure, public transit, public schools, and public parks to keep growing local jobs. And that’s why I’ve launched an effort to build “Right to Thrive” zones that will protect our workers and provide an array of incentives to help businesses create jobs in struggling neighborhoods throughout our city.
“Competing against Mississippi and Alabama for low wages is not a strategy to build a great city. When companies look for a new home or a place to grow, our competition is the other great cities of the world like New York, London, Beijing, and Tokyo. By building a stronger local economy with good-paying jobs, Chicago will continue to be among those great cities and every resident, from every neighborhood, will benefit.”
I was never more excited than the day I walked into this chamber six years ago. I leave here with sadness and humility.
For those whom I’ve let down, I will work tirelessly to make it up to you. I know that God has a plan for my life. The Good Book tells us that before I formed you in the womb I knew you. I also know that every person faces adversity in life.
Abraham Lincoln held this seat in Congress for one term. But few faced as many defeats in his personal business and public life as he did. His continual perseverance in the face of these trials, never giving up, is something all of us Americans should be inspired by, especially when going through a valley in life.
I believe that through life’s struggles, we learn from our mistakes and we learn more about ourselves. And I know that this is not the end of a story, but rather the beginning of a new chapter.
Thank you for the honor to serve. I look forward to keeping in touch with my friends in this chamber and my friends across the 18th District.
May God continue to bless this awesome institution and the important role that it plays for America and the rest of the world. With that, I yield back the balance of my time.
* And speaking of Schock, we talked earlier this week about longtime Schock fundraiser Lisa Wagner’s odd letter to contributors. Here’s the full text…
You have been on my heart and mind this week. While we don’t know each other well, out of the respect for you and all you have done in the past, I wanted to personally reach out to you regarding Aaron Schock.
You personally and generously supported Aaron in the past and were very kind to him. He deceived us all.
I suspect you are feeling like me: sad, angry, cheated….a wide range of feelings, mostly they are filled with total disgust, disbelief and disappointment.
The last time I saw Aaron was February 8, 2015. I have tried to text, email and call, but with zero response.
Right now, I feel like someone we thought we knew really well died.
As a fundraiser and a professional, it is so important when someone is solicited for funds that the entity or organization they give to must be a good steward of the resources donated. The reports about Aaron seemingly lack of respect for the taxpayers’ dollars and the donors’ investment in his campaign are most disturbing and disappointing.
I believe he should be held accountable for his choices….whatever the consequences be…I have no sympathy for the him right now.
I am, however, thanking God and my guardian angels. I worked for Aaron for 4 years, got paid a modest monthly retainer, but received no bonus, no trips, no gifts, no sporting events or rock concerts, not even a Schock t-shirt. Worked my tail off and played by the rules for him. I guess that is why I was kept out of the loop –until he need something - a fundraiser for Rauner, a fundraiser for him, 15M for the NRCC.
As a mom, I am teaching my kids to act with integrity, follow the rules and do their jobs to the best of their ability. So many people here in Illinois and across the country truly believed in Aaron and in his ability to legislate, to be a voice, to lead, to get things done and help people. What has happened is so very sad and disappointing for everyone, but especially for Aaron.
For your reference, I have requested any money anyone donated to him in 2015 be returned. The response I received from the person managing his compliance now is that they legally have to return the 2016 general contributions, but not the primary money. My request is that all of it should be returned.
In addition, I went thru and re-read Aaron’s resignation statement and some of his clips. Nowhere in there did I see any kind of mea culpa or acknowledgement of wrongdoing.
So…for what it is worth….I am truly sorry for the pain Aaron’s situation is causing you, me, his friends, supporters, staff, donors, the voters, those who believed in him - everyone. This whole situation hurts everyone.
IMPACT and the Heartland Alliance Policy and Advocacy team have released two sets of fact sheets for each Illinois legislative district. The fact sheets, which focus on poverty and human services in each district, provide a local-level picture of the current state of, and demonstrate the effect that Governor Rauner’s proposed budget cuts would have on Illinois communities.
* The Question: What new thing(s) did you learn by clicking those above links and looking up your district info? You could also discuss other districts you are familiar with or curious about, and even compare some. Thanks!
Laws passed in the 1960s and 1970s were supposed to protect the environment, but lax enforcement left corporations with little incentive to comply. Ultimately, trial attorneys were the ones who sought justice for communities destroyed by corporate polluters.
More than 50 million U.S. residents live with unhealthy air, despite the passage of the Clean Air Act. As many as 49 million Americans have water supplies that contain levels of arsenic, radioactive substance and coliform bacteria. U.S. corporations produce more than 25 billion pounds of hazardous waste every year. Trial attorneys have worked on behalf of targeted communities to force corporations to be held accountable for the contaminants they have dumped in groundwater, rivers and streams. Trial attorneys have led the fight those who have been injured and sickened by corporate attempts to evade their negligence.
Without the civil justice system, many corporate polluters would never have been held accountable for the disasters they caused. For more information, click here.
U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon of the Northern District of Illinois, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, and Special Agent in Charge Robert Holley of the FBI’s Chicago Division announced today that two Aurora, Illinois, men were arrested Wednesday night for allegedly conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a foreign terrorist organization.
Army National Guard Specialist Hasan Edmonds, 22, a U.S. citizen, was arrested without incident at Chicago Midway International Airport by members of the Chicago FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) while attempting to fly to Cairo, Egypt. Jonas Edmonds, 29, a U.S. citizen, was arrested without incident at his home in Aurora. After the arrests on Wednesday night, agents executed search warrants at the residences of both defendants. The defendants were charged in a criminal complaint filed yesterday in U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois with one count of conspiring to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization. The initial appearances of Hasan Edmonds and Jonas Edmonds are scheduled at 3:00 p.m. today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheila Finnegan.
As alleged in the complaint, in late 2014, Hasan Edmonds came to the attention of the FBI. The investigation subsequently revealed that he and Jonas Edmonds had devised a plan for Hasan Edmonds to travel overseas for the purpose of waging violence on behalf of ISIL. Hasan Edmonds, a current member of the Illinois Army National Guard, planned to use his military training to fight on behalf of ISIL. As part of their plans, Hasan Edmonds booked airline travel to depart yesterday from Chicago and arrive in Cairo today, with layovers in Detroit and Amsterdam.
As alleged in the complaint, both defendants also planned for Jonas Edmonds to carry out an act of terrorism in the United States after Hasan Edmonds departed. In particular, both defendants met with an FBI undercover employee and presented a plan to carry out an armed attack against a U.S. military facility in northern Illinois, an installation where Hasan Edmonds had been training. Jonas Edmonds asked the FBI undercover employee to assist in the attack and explained that they would use Hasan Edmonds’ uniforms and the information he supplied about how to access the installation and target officers for attack.
“We will pursue and prosecute with vigor those who support ISIL and its agenda of ruthless violence,” said U.S. Attorney Fardon. “Anyone who threatens to harm our citizens and allies, whether abroad or here at home, will face the full force of justice.”
“According to the charges filed today, the defendants allegedly conspired to provide material support to ISIL and planned to travel overseas to support the terrorist organization,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “In addition, they plotted to attack members of our military within the United States. Disturbingly, one of the defendants currently wears the same uniform of those they allegedly planned to attack. I want to thank the many agents, analysts, and prosecutors who are responsible for disrupting the threat posed by these defendants.”
“The arrests today are the culmination of a successful investigation that involved a great deal of coordination and communication with our law enforcement and military partners,” said Special Agent in Charge Holley. “Throughout the course of this investigation, the defendants were closely and carefully monitored to ensure the safety of the public and our service men and women.”
Conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If convicted, the court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
The case was investigated by the FBI’s JTTF, which is comprised of special agents of the FBI, officers of the Chicago Police Department and representatives from an additional 20 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Assistant Attorney General Carlin joins U.S. Attorney Fardon in extending his appreciation to the JTTF.
The Chicago Police Department, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), the Illinois State Police, the Aurora Police Department and the Illinois National Guard also provided significant assistance.
The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Barry Jonas and John Kness of the Northern District of Illinois, and Trial Attorney Lolita Lukose of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.
The public is reminded that a complaint contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
In the past, I’ve been a tad bit skeptical of the FBI’s participation in these sorts of sting operations. But considering what happened in Paris not long ago, I’m totally OK with them now. Set ‘em up if you have to, then knock ‘em down.
*** UPDATE *** Governor Bruce Rauner…
“Yesterday, Adjunct General Daniel M. Krumrei and Illinois Public Safety Director Rodger Heaton briefed me regarding the ongoing investigation into an Illinois National Guard soldier, his potential involvement in terrorist activities and the soldier’s impending arrest.
“Last night, I was informed that the Illinois National Guard soldier was arrested for alleged terrorist activities including attempting to join and assist ISIS and conspiring to facilitate other terrorist actions. I commend the Illinois National Guard and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for working together closely to apprehend this individual and his associates. On behalf of all citizens of Illinois, I thank all the members of our National Guard as well as the FBI for protecting our state and defending our country. “
…Adding… I read a fascinating piece the other day explaining ISIS better than anything I’ve ever seen. Graeme Wood’s piece in the Atlantic is a must-read today. Click here.
The future of a Lake County charter school is uncertain after a judge this week ruled that a state commission was wrong in giving the school approval to operate for another five years.
The Illinois Charter School Commission’s decision to extend the charter for Prairie Crossing Charter School in Grayslake was “clearly erroneous and is reversed,” Cook County Judge Thomas Allen wrote in his Monday ruling. […]
Prairie Crossing was established in 1999 and has long been a source of controversy. The school’s creation was approved by the state over the opposition of its feeder districts, Woodland Community Consolidated District 50 in Gurnee and Fremont Elementary School District 79 in Mundelein.
Because of the way charter school funding is set up, Prairie Crossing siphoned off about $3.1 million of District 50’s $3.5 million in state funding, said James Petrugaro, attorney for District 50. In a district where 30 percent of students are from low-income families, that money is crucial to providing services for a population with a lower property tax base, the other primary source of school funding, Petrugaro said.
Yet while nearly one-third of District 50’s Woodland’s students are from low-income families, only 1.8 percent of Prairie Crossing students fit that category, Petrugaro said. District 50 has argued that the charter school “has long significantly failed to enroll low-income and other at-risk students in its program,” according to a district news release.
Prairie Crossing Executive Director Geoff Deigan said in a letter to parents that Woodland is trying to close the school in an effort to “miraculously cure years of mismanaged budgets by their administration and their school board.” Deigan said he expects Prairie Crossing will prevail in appellate court.
Yes, we get almost all their state money, but they’re mismanaging their budgets!
Illinois State Charter School Commission members voted 5-4 in favor of renewing Prairie Crossing through the 2018-19 academic year. Commission member Milton Wharton, a retired circuit judge from the East St. Louis area who voted against the renewal, criticized Prairie Crossing at length for the lack of diversity.
Woodland has about 31 percent low-income students compared to Prairie Crossing’s 0.5 percent, according to the state report card.
The money isn’t following the children that Prairie Crossing was created to serve based on Illinois Charter Schools Law, which states that charter schools in Illinois were created with a “special emphasis” on educating at-risk students.
The General Assembly further finds and declares that this Article is enacted for the following purposes:
(1) To improve pupil learning by creating schools with high, rigorous standards for pupil performance.
(2) To increase learning opportunities for all pupils, with special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for at-risk pupils, consistent, however, with an equal commitment to increase learning opportunities for all other groups of pupils in a manner that does not discriminate on the basis of disability, race, creed, color, gender, national origin, religion, ancestry, marital status, or need for special education services.
[Senate President John Cullerton says] they’re still working to get the votes.
“Well, these are cuts to state government. There’s no revenue here … so that’s a cause of concern for some Democrats,” he said.
Still, Cullerton says it’s compromise. One which he says gives Gov. Bruce Rauner less of the flexibility than he’d wanted, but which still lets the Republican finesse planned spending.
Cullerton says he should be able to guarantee the support of ten of the Senate’s 39 members; enough, he says, as long as all 20 Senate Republicans vote “yes,” as did every Republican member of the House (House Democrats were more divided; many suburbanites, particularly those in swing districts, opposed the measures).
“We’re trying to look to see if most, if not all, Republicans support their governor as they did in the House,” Cullerton said. “Since all of their state reps voted for the bill, I would assume that all of the (Senate) Republicans could do the same or close to unanimous.” […]
“These are cuts to state government. There’s no revenue here,” Cullerton said. “That causes concern for some Democrats. I believe it will certainly have at least 10 (Democratic) votes and that will be sufficient if all Republicans vote for it.”
Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, has spoken to all of her members about the need for the bill, spokeswoman Patty Schuh said.
“Sen. Radogno is working to get as many votes as possible,” she said. “We have to clean up the fiscal mess we are in right now.”
Exelon has repeatedly claimed their $1.5 billion bailout bill, the so-called “Low Carbon Portfolio Standard,” is actually “a technology-neutral policy that rewards all low carbon resources equally within a competitive market framework.” Is it?
The following exclusions are contained in the legislation:
• No projects “whose costs were being recovered through State-regulated rates as of January 1, 2015” (Exelon’s plants were built with ratepayer funds and paid off long ago)
• No projects with power purchase agreements longer than five years (how most independent projects are built)
• No hydro power larger than three megawatts
• No project unless registered in “Generation Attribute Tracking System”
• Must meet “Minimum Internal Resource Requirements”
Crain’s put it best:
“the bill places such great limits on bidders other than Exelon’s Illinois nukes that Exelon is highly likely to win most if not all of the credits…the nukes by themselves could meet the state’s new standard.” [Crain’s, February 26, 2015 – emphasis added]
Exelon’s $1.5 Billion bailout bill ensures only Exelon will benefit. Or as the Belleville News Democrat said:
“State lawmakers need to see this bill for the dirty trick it is and kill it.”
This poll’s one-sided wording should cause thoughtful observers of all stripes to discount its results. Only on the fair share question are opposing views accurately presented, and there, tellingly, Illinois voters support workers against the governor’s attacks by 60-33.
[ *** End Of Update *** ]
* We Ask America live interview poll taken March 9 of 500 registered voters. Commissioned by the Illinois Manufacturers Association.
Gov. Bruce Rauner’s job approval rating…
* Despite those horrible approval numbers, the poll has some good news for the governor…
Gov. Rauner has been a staunch opponent to the amount of power that labor unions that represent state workers hold. Do you agree or disagree that those public-sector unions are too powerful?
In your opinion, should public sector unions be able to make campaign contributions to the elected officials that negotiate their contracts?
Gov. Rauner has suggested empowering local voters to make decisions on a variety of issues affecting the economy. I’m going to ask you about several of these proposals to get your opinion. For example, Governor Rauner would allow Illinois communities where unemployment recovery is lagging behind to create local empowerment zones where employees are NOT required to join any union…a system often referred to as “right to work.” Indiana, Michigan and now Wisconsin have right to work laws. Do you think that’s a good idea, or a bad idea to allow economically depressed area in Illinois to have this ability to attract companies by not requiring union membership?
Good idea 59.40%
Bad idea 31.80%
Today, all union members are required to pay “fair share” union dues that cost about $500 per year. Governor Rauner believes that individual employees should be able to decide whether or not to pay union dues. Labor unions believe that all employees in a union should be required to pay dues since they benefit from collective bargaining agreements. We’d like to know your opinion on that.
All should pay 60.60%
Not all should pay 33.20%
His labor message is apparently fairly well received, except for the fair share stuff.
* Budget stuff…
According to Gov. Rauner, the State of Illinois has been spending too much money over the past decade and therefore must make drastic across-the-board cuts to the state budget everywhere except education. Do you agree, or disagree that the state has been spending too much money for the last decade?
Do you think the State can afford to continue spending at the current rate?
Do you think the best way to deal with the budget shortfall is make drastic cuts or raise taxes?
If you believe that taxes should be raised, in your opinion what is the best way to increase revenue?
Sales tax 6.02%
General income tax hike 7.83%
Millionaire tax 60.24%
All of these 12.05%
None of these 10.24%
Governor Rauner proposed freezing property taxes and allowing local governments to raise property taxes ONLY if approved by voters at a local election. While some taxpayer groups have applauded this approach, school districts and taxing bodies have expressed concern that this will impact their ability to generate revenue. Do you support, or oppose freezing property taxes unless the voters approve an increase?
* More issues…
We’d like to know if you think that Illinois should do what other states do and pay only standard rates to doctors and hospitals for injured workers.
Also on this same subject, unlike other states, Illinois allows workers with pre-existing conditions to claim workers compensation status when they claim that pre-existing condition impedes their current work. Do you think Illinois should–like other states–take into account THE CAUSE of the injury…and not just the fact that the person has a job therefore it gets put into the workers’ comp classification?
* And, finally…
Governor Rauner supports terms limits and believes that voters should determine whether Illinois has term limits for elected officials. Do you support or oppose term limits?
Both the Illinois governor’s office and the General Assembly have been under control of the Democratic Party for more than a decade. What kind of grade would you give the Democrats during that timeframe?
44 percent give the Dems a D or F. Sounds about right, considering.
As a pioneer of Smart Grid technology, ComEd is at the forefront of revolutionary changes that are shaping an environmentally sound and prosperous energy future for Illinois. Just four years into the rollout of innovative Smart Grid technologies, we have helped customers avoid more than 3.3 million power interruptions, improved outage restoration by 30% and created 3,600 jobs.
ComEd’s Energy Plan for Illinois’ Future – HB 3328 / SB 1879 – builds on the strength of the Smart Grid foundation to provide superior solutions for a cleaner and greener Illinois, simultaneously empowering energy consumers, the Illinois economy and enhancing security and resiliency of critical infrastructure.
What’s more, this package of initiatives will have net zero cost among residential customers over the next ten years.
These high value initiatives* include:
• Cost effective Energy Efficiency Expansion
• Equitable Solar Power for the Community
• Jump starting electric vehicle market with large scale deployment of electric vehicle charging stations
• Enhanced security and resiliency for critical infrastructure with Microgrid technology
• More Assistance Dollars for Customers in Need
• Greater access to renewables
• New jobs in Illinois
HB 3328 / SB 1879 reflects the need for continuous improvement in the system at a time when our modern digital economy is increasingly dependent on electricity and greater security. This legislation will meet these important infrastructure challenges. It will enable Illinois utilities to keep planning for the future and deliver even more tangible value today.
Vote Yes for HB/SB1879.
*Initiatives align with published desires of environmental stakeholders.
Shield Political Research, a Democratic opposition research firm with experience researching opponents as well as offering self-research to clients, is pleased to announce the launch of a new service to campaigns and political organizations: self-research on the social media history of potential staffers and other new hires.
The early stages of the 2016 cycle have been filled with stories of what turned out to be short-term campaign hires generating distractions — and embarrassing headlines —with regretful social media posts that were discovered too late, including misogynistic Twitter posts, tweets taking a swipe at early-state voters, and tweets calling officials on both sides of the aisle “idiots,” and worse. […]
Many of the men and women who will staff and lead campaigns this cycle are from a generation in which virtually their entire adult lives —for better or worse —are reflected on social media accounts.
Shield will examine these social media accounts — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, among other sites —and flag any potential sources of trouble, including questionable photos, comments, tweets, “likes” or followed feeds.
Our methods go beyond simple searching, using triangulation, archived pages and social-web analysis to guarantee we capture a full picture of the staffer’s social media footprint.
The service will employ the same touchstones that mark Shield’s other research products: speed, accuracy and a price that makes it a shrewd investment for national and local campaigns alike.
Shield’s social media reports for staffers will be completed in three days or less, and be protected by a confidentiality clause.
Credit unions are committed to several cooperative principles, including social responsibility. At Staley Credit Union in Decatur, encouraging their members and the community to make steps toward better health is a top priority. Since 2006, the credit union has been a primary sponsor of the annual Penguin in the Park 5K. As a result of the credit union’s staunch support, this important community event has grown from 135 to nearly 1,000 participants.
Now in its 10th year, Penguin in the Park will once again receive more than $3,500 from Staley Credit Union for medals, t-shirts, sports bags, and other items. This event continues to be highly important to the credit union because health statistics in Macon County relative to obesity and physical inactivity exceed comparable data for all other Illinois counties.
Helping the community develop and maintain healthy lifestyles is just one facet of the credit union’s extensive outreach, which also includes awarding college scholarships, financially supporting a wide variety of city and county school athletic programs, post prom parties, and helping to sustain local food pantries. At the heart of the credit union philosophy is the principle of people before profits – and another reason why members are so fiercely loyal.
As Gov. Bruce Rauner considers whether to finally kill off the proposed Illiana expressway, this is a question he might want to get answered:
Why did ex-Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration, amid an all-out rush to stampede the controversial roadway through to final approval last year, commission a secret, $112,000 study of whether Illiana finances would be solid enough to quality for a big federal construction loan?
And why was that study, which apparently came back negative, never released—even now, with everybody in Springfield who knows passing the buck to someone else? […]
n fall 2013, the staff of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, this region’s official gatekeeper for federal transportation cash, concluded that the road, which is supposed to be a public-private partnership, never would pay for itself. That would leave Illinois taxpayers on the hook in a major way.
But Quinn’s Department of Transportation strongly disputed that, saying in part that the project would qualify for a big, low-cost federal loan under the U.S. Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.
* It turns out, though, that Quinn’s administration asked Fitch Ratings to look into whether the project would qualify for the federal infrastructure loan. IDOT finally admitted yesterday that Fitch said the project probably wouldn’t qualify…
“Fitch Ratings did inform IDOT advisers verbally that the financing plan being pursued by the previous administration likely would not receive a favorable rating. As part of its ongoing review of the project with the governor’s office, IDOT continues to explore the potential financial arrangements and risks. The agreement with Fitch Ratings remains open and potentially part of the ongoing review process.”
* Rockford has been hoping that a new Amtrak service could boost its local economy by drawing suburbanites further west. But that project is on hold for now…
Amtrak representative Ray Lang met late Wednesday afternoon with [GOP Rep. John Cabello of Machesney Park] and other members of the House Public Safety Appropriations Committee. Lang told the lawmakers all expansion projects are on hold for the foreseeable future.
“I asked him if Amtrak is coming to Rockford, and he said, ‘No,’” Cabello said. “They are federally and state funded. When their funding goes down, they have to live within their means, unlike us.”
Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey said the issue is not dead.
“To say that Amtrak is dead is misleading. Ray Lang testified the (governor’s) proposed budget would not have enough funding for this year. He testified to something we already knew.
He also added, “The governor proposes the budget. It’s up to the Legislature to pass the budget.”
While Illinois Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, sits on the committee and supports passenger rail, he stands by his claim that funding to bring it back by this year was never in place.
“It was made clear, which we tried warning last year, that Quinn was not honest with the citizens of northern Illinois when he said last year that the project and operations were funded and rail would be running later this year,” Syverson said last month.
A top Amtrak official says Illinois would be on the hook to repay more than a billion dollars in federal aid if service is reduced on the Chicago-St. Louis passenger rail corridor. […]
His comments to a House appropriations panel came as Rauner has proposed a budget for the next fiscal year that would slash the state’s share of Amtrak funding by 40 percent, from its current $42 million per year to $26 million.
Lang said if service cannot be reduced on the Chicago-St. Louis route because of the federal payback issue, service would have to be cut on other routes. […]
Lang’s statements run counter to Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Guy Tridgell’s comment to the Lee Enterprises Springfield bureau on Tuesday.
“The state’s financial support for Amtrak’s annual operations is independent of any construction work that’s ongoing or has already taken place,” Tridgell had said in an email.
Population growth in the Chicago area ground to a near halt, as even the limited momentum the area experienced during the Great Recession has dissipated.
According to figures being released this morning by the U.S. Census Bureau, the metropolitan area, which takes in portions of Illinois, southeast Wisconsin and northwest Indiana, gained an estimated 9,802 residents in the 12 months that ended June 30. That means births and immigration into the region barely exceeded the number of people who died or moved out.
That 9,802 figure—to a new total of 9,554,598—amounted to an increase of less than .1 percent. Within the Illinois portion, the increase was only 4,735, under .07 percent.
Earlier in the decade, estimates suggested that bad economic times might be keeping some people here who otherwise would have moved to other regions of the country. Now, with an economic recovery under way, outmigration appears to have picked up.
* “When I’m With You” by the London Souls popped up on the radio while I was driving to the Statehouse yesterday. As I listened and smiled and danced in my seat I thought about all of you and how I so thoroughly enjoy spending time with you every day. Today is my birthday and I’ve been thinking lately how amazingly blessed my life is right now. You’re a big part of that and I just wanted to thank you…