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This just in…

Thursday, Jul 9, 2015

* I’m told by the attorney general’s office that a St. Clair County judge just issued a verbal order authorizing the comptroller to begin processing employee payroll.

So, now we have two possibly conflicting judicial orders [ADDING: I’m not sure if they actually conflict because of how the appellate court ruled today, but I’m checking] and a bill that the governor is apparently vowing to veto.

Loving that clarity.

…Adding… The attorney general’s office says it will appeal.

…Adding More… Because the appellate court this morning declined to rule on paying state workers their full pay, the comptroller’s office believes it has to follow the St. Clair County judge’s ruling and will being processing payroll.

…Adding Still More… Despite the fact that unions filed the suit based on their collective bargaining contracts, the judge applied his ruling to all state employees, according to the comptroller’s office.

Quite the overreach.

The way I’m hearing it, the judge issued the verbal TRO and then the comptroller’s office jumped up and said it had no way of figuring out who was union and who wasn’t. So the judge said the union members have to be paid, and if you can’t figure it out, then pay everyone.

- Posted by Rich Miller   165 Comments      


Meanwhile, in Opposite Land

Thursday, Jul 9, 2015

* NW Indiana Times

An Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card produced by the Chamber shows Indiana is No. 1 in the nation when it comes to regulatory freedom but ranked 47th when it comes to entrepreneurial activity. […]

The state ranks 45th in the proportion of its citizens attaining two-year associate degrees and 42nd in those attaining four-year bachelor’s degrees.

To be fair, the state isn’t all bad. Click here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      


*** UPDATED - Rauner response *** This just in… Democrats file amendment to pay state workers for a month

Thursday, Jul 9, 2015

* A Democratic House amendment was filed to the one-month budget today. HA 1 funds state employee salaries through Fiscal Year 2016 at FY 15 levels [ADDING: The sponsor is now declaring that this amendment will, along with the underlying bill, expire on August 1 - so, it’s a one-month deal for workers]. Click here to read it.

Hat tip: Monique.

As always, check for updates on our live coverage post.

…Adding… Awaiting a response from the governor’s office. This is an appropriations bill, so the governor could use his line-item veto to get rid of the part he doesn’t want - the one-month budget.

Either way, it puts him and particularly the House Republicans on the spot. What do they do now?

…Adding More… There’s another little poison pill in the bill. It funds employee group healthcare at FY15 levels. Rauner wanted to cut spending on that area by taking it out of the collective bargaining process. The Dems shorted the fund by the same amount Rauner did.

*** UPDATE *** GOP state Rep. CD Davidsmeyer just said on the House floor: “We’ve clarified, he’s going to veto this bill.”

Still no response from the governor’s office.

*** UPDATE *** Lance Trover…

“Voting to spend money the state doesn’t have is the cause of Illinois’ financial crisis. Today, Speaker Madigan and the legislators he controls irresponsibly voted for yet another unbalanced budget plan.

“We saw today that Speaker Madigan can force 70 legislators to join him in voting for an unconstitutional budget. We also saw the Speaker’s unwillingness to hold a vote on a tax increase that, absent reform, would suffer bipartisan defeat.

“The Speaker’s failure to take up an accompanying revenue plan is a clear signal that rank-and-file members of the General Assembly understand that reform is necessary. It’s time to end the status quo and get serious about fixing our state.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   210 Comments      


Not as bad as it once looked

Thursday, Jul 9, 2015

* I’m sure this will come as a relief to the employees, but all this for a million bucks?

The proposed closure of a Southern Illinois prison work camp will not result in any of the workers losing their jobs, a new report says.

In a letter outlining Gov. Bruce Rauner’s plan to shutter the 35-year-old Hardin County Work Camp, state prison officials say there are enough vacancies at the Shawnee and Vienna prisons to accommodate the 61 employees currently working at the camp. […]

In June, Rauner announced the closure of the 280-inmate work camp and the Illinois State Museum as part of a cost-cutting move after lawmakers sent him a spending plan that was more than $3 billion short of revenue. […]

According to the report, the closure will save an estimated $1 million annually. The state also can avoid having to spend as much as $9.8 million in construction upgrades, including a new kitchen, electrical work and water treatment improvements.

* Meanwhile

Gov. Bruce Rauner has quietly signed a measure to spend another $5.5 million on the proposed Illiana expressway, raising questions about whether he’s seeking to keep the project on financial life support.

Several weeks ago, Rauner shelved the controversial south suburban toll road with a flourish:

“In light of the state’s current fiscal crisis and a lack of sufficient capital resources, the Illiana will not move forward at this time,” his office said then in a statement. “It is the determination of the Illinois Department of Transportation that the project costs exceed currently available resources. The department will begin the process of suspending all existing project contracts and procurements.” Rauner also ordered the road removed from the state’s five-year road program.

But on June 30, Rauner signed a bill that includes$5,491,724 for the Illiana, even as he knocked out money for other projects, such as land acquisition for the proposed south suburban airport at Peotone. The bill said the money would “enable the Illiana Expressway to be developed, financed, constructed or operated.” […]

With talk persisting in Springfield that Rauner wants to keep the project alive as trade bait with south suburban officials, this subject is worth keeping a close eye on.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


They’ll get paid when it’s over

Thursday, Jul 9, 2015

* Some folks have been wondering in comments and in e-mails what happens to state employee paychecks after a budget is finally implemented.

Some are ominously pointing to that back pay legislation which has been sitting idle for years and fear the same thing will happen once a budget is passed.

* So, I asked the attorney general’s office about it today. I was told that employees would not have to file with the Court of Claims or otherwise wait extended periods for their unpaid salaries. The paychecks will be forthcoming as soon as they’re processed by agencies and the comptroller.

The difference with that back pay bill was the GA didn’t appropriate enough money to fund salaries. As long as the new budget contains adequate appropriations, everything will be fine… eventually.

- Posted by Rich Miller   11 Comments      


Not a dry eye in the House

Thursday, Jul 9, 2015

* This Sun-Times piece was read on the House floor earlier today

On tougher days, a friend or colleague would get him there.

Other times, he’d try to make it, but by the time his chemotherapy treatment had ended, he’d be too late for the day’s session.

Over the last roughly six months that state Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, has battled esophageal cancer, he’s missed at most three days of legislative session, he says.

This week, in the midst of preparing for surgery later this month related to his illness, Mautino said Democrats could again count on him driving the 150 miles to the state Capitol to cast what’s likely to be a critical vote.

They’ll need him.

“Absolutely, I will be there,” Mautino said on Tuesday. “I’m looking forward to it. I hope that we pass it. I hope that the governor chooses to sign it.”

* After a rousing ovation, Rep. Mautino rose to speak. It’s today’s must-watch video

Stay strong, Frankie.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Question of the day

Thursday, Jul 9, 2015

*** UPDATE *** This question may soon be moot. Click here to see an important development.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* House Bill 4245’s synopsis

For FY16, provides a continuing appropriation for each State agency to meet personnel expenditures for each payroll period during which appropriations for personnel expenditures have not been made available to that State agency. Defines “State agency” to include all State agencies, the office of any constitutional officer, State universities, community colleges, and any agency, board, commission, or other instrumentality of State government to which an appropriation for personnel expenditures was made from a State fund in FY15. Defines “personnel expenditure” and “applicable State fund”. Effective immediately.

The bill was introduced yesterday by Rep. CD Davidsmeyer. It is supported by the governor and has yet to be assigned to a committee.

* The Question: Since the courts have not yet ruled that state employees can be paid without a budget, should the General Assembly pass this bill? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.


surveys & polls

- Posted by Rich Miller   60 Comments      


Credit Unions – 100 Million Strong

Thursday, Jul 9, 2015

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

For the past year, credit unions across the country have been engaging a movement-wide celebration – the achievement of 100 million members. Leading up to this watershed moment, credit unions added a total of 2.85 million additional memberships over the previous year — the largest reported increase in more than a quarter century. From a national perspective, this means one in three Americans now belong to a credit union.

So why is there a clearly growing recognition for credit unions among consumers? It’s because they know credit unions place their interests above all else. As not-for-profit, democratically led and cooperatively owned financial institutions, credit unions return their earnings to members in the forms of lower rates on loans and higher returns on savings. Nationally, consumers benefit to the tune of $6.6 billion annually because credit unions are tax-exempt. Here in Illinois, credit unions annually provide nearly $205 million in direct financial benefits to almost three million members.

It’s the structure of credit unions — cooperatives owned by their members — that allows them to maintain their focus on returning financial benefits to members. By doing so, credit unions have earned the satisfaction and trust of consumers, 100 million times over.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Frerichs makes $50 million available for unpaid state workers

Thursday, Jul 9, 2015

* Press release…

Interest-free loans will be available to state workers if the budget impasse means payroll checks will not be issued beginning July 15, Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs said today.

The loans will be issued through participating credit unions with money made available through the Treasurer’s Office linked-deposit program. Linked deposits provide financial institutions money for specific loan programs.

“The Treasurer’s Office uses tools to help our residents achieve more, such as saving for college, investing in a business, or planning for retirement,” Frerichs said. “This linked-deposit program is a tool that provides short-term loans for workers while the Governor and General Assembly resolve their differences.”

The state’s fiscal year ended June 30. The absence of a budget agreement means the state does not have the authority to pay certain bills, such as wages to some state employees.

An estimated 60,000 state workers might qualify for the loan program. Participating credit unions will decide eligibility. Loans cannot exceed 50 percent of pay. Loans are interest-free until 30 days after payroll resumes. A 9.9 percent interest rate will be charged beginning the 31st day. Frerichs’ office negotiated the rate down from 12 percent and it remains half of the typical credit card rate. The Treasurer’s Office will charge credit unions 0.01 percent interest.

As much as $50 million will be made available for the loans. The Illinois Credit Union League and Credit Union 1 were instrumental in creating this linked-deposit effort and recruiting other credit unions to participate. Their recruitment efforts continue and the Treasurer’s Office expects other credit unions to join the effort.

$50 million sounds like a lot of money, but if all 60,000 qualified workers applied, there’d be just $833.33 available to each of them.

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      


Real campaigns vs. not so real campaigns

Thursday, Jul 9, 2015

* Bernie writes about Darin LaHood’s congressional primary win

LaHood was not an incumbent, but with his well-known name and the backing in the primary of county Republican chairmen in 18 of the 19 counties in the 18th Congressional District, it was clearly his race to lose. The 19th county, McLean, has a GOP that doesn’t endorse in primaries, and Republican County Chairman CHUCK ERICKSON said that with LaHood’s primary win, the organization is now “fully, 100 percent, without reservation” backing LaHood in the Sept. 10 special general election.

LaHood’s toughest GOP opponent, MIKE FLYNN, accused LaHood of being “to the manor born” because of his family legacy. Flynn, a co-founder of biggovernment.com with the late ANDREW BREITBART, turns a good phrase. He also berated the GOP establishment for getting behind LaHood so early.

But LaHood met the challenge.

When he appeared at Sangamon County GOP headquarters the afternoon before the election, it was his fifth city visited that day. He said keys to winning were “hard work, taking nothing for granted and finishing strong.”

Working that hard and using his ample funding to maintain an advertising presence certainly overcame the competition. LaHood got 69 percent of the vote to 28 percent for Flynn and 3 percent for DONALD RIENTS of Benson.

LaHood was indeed a hard worker. He cleared the field of anybody who was anybody, raised a goodly amount of cash and ran a smooth operation.

* Flynn also seemed unclear on certain concepts at times…


What’s missing?

People.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      


It could be a while

Thursday, Jul 9, 2015

* Tribune

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner tried to isolate House Speaker Michael Madigan on Wednesday, suggesting the veteran legislative leader was “in charge” and should wrangle Democrats into passing a $4 billion tax hike on their own or strike a deal with the governor to support his economic agenda and put an end to a budget impasse.

As part of his latest move against Madigan, Rauner unveiled a mammoth, cost-cutting pension bill he said was aimed at solving government worker retirement system funding problems from the Capitol to City Hall to Downstate and suburban village halls. The plan, Rauner said, incorporated ideas from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Senate President John Cullerton — like Madigan, all Democrats.

* OK, now let’s revisit my Crain’s Chicago Business column from Monday

After a cooling-off period of about a week, the Senate president went back to working out a deal. But he wasn’t willing to do to Madigan what Madigan did to him on the 2015 budget. When the speaker wouldn’t sign off on a key component of Cullerton’s plan, the president backed off. The Rauner folks were foiled again.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel also has refused to put Madigan on the spot, even after Rauner offered his school district some much-needed cash to help with its $634 million pension payment. Emanuel instead borrowed a bunch of money and made the pension payment. He also announced mass layoffs and other big cuts, a property tax hike of up to $250 million. He also requested a $500 million loan from the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund.

Chicago Public Schools still faces the very real threat of insolvency, however, which means Emanuel’s in an extremely vulnerable position.

The question now becomes whether Rauner can use these fiscal calamities to pressure Emanuel into using all his powers to force Madigan, the most powerful Democrat in Illinois, to find some common ground with the governor’s “turnaround agenda” before Chicago implodes.

In watching Madigan for 25 years, I think that guy is willing to wait this thing out. He wants to test Rauner’s mettle and force him to finally get out of campaign mode.

It could take a while.

* Back to the Tribune piece

But the governor’s attempt to spotlight Madigan as the reason for the dysfunction did little to disrupt the united front put forth by Democrats, who dismissed the governor’s latest plans as an insincere effort that didn’t offer much toward reaching a middle ground.

* Sun-Times

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown didn’t give Rauner’s isolation tactics much credence, reflecting on the governor’s claims dating back to the November election. Then, Rauner in his victory speech made it seem as if he had just gotten off the phone with Madigan and Cullerton. It was later revealed he had not personally spoken to either.

“It’s sort of like Election Day phone calls. You don’t know who he’s actually talking to. Not much new there,” Brown said. “It’s amazing that he doesn’t recognize he’s been unpersuasive on a statewide basis with all these ideas. He ignores the fact that he’s totally responsible at this juncture that employees weren’t paid on time. He is singularly responsible. He held that power.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   42 Comments      


The mother of all poison pills

Thursday, Jul 9, 2015

* From Gov. Bruce Rauner’s pension reform bill

Prohibited subjects of bargaining. 


(a) A public employer and a labor organization may not bargain over, and no collective bargaining agreement entered into, renewed, or extended on or after the effective date of 
this amendatory Act of the 99th General Assembly may include, 
provisions related to the following prohibited subjects of collective bargaining: 


(1) Employee pensions, including the impact or 
implementation of changes to employee pensions, including 
 the Employee Consideration Pension Transition Program as 
set forth in Section 30 of the Personnel Code. 


(2) Wages, including any form of compensation including salaries, overtime compensation, vacations, 
holidays, and any fringe benefits, including the impact or 
implementation of changes to the same; except nothing in 
this Section 7.6 will prohibit the employer from electing 
to bargain collectively over employer-provided health insurance. 


(3) Hours of work, including work schedules, shift 
schedules, overtime hours, compensatory time, and lunch periods, including the impact or implementation of changes 
to the same. 


(4) Matters of employee tenure, including the impact of 
employee tenure or time in service on the employer’s 
exercise of authority including, but not limited to, any 
consideration the employer must give to the tenure of 
employees adversely affected by the employer’s exercise of management’s right to conduct a layoff.

Sheesh.

- Posted by Rich Miller   203 Comments      


Democrats snubbed by workers’ comp commission chair

Thursday, Jul 9, 2015

* From a press release…

State Rep. Jay Hoffman called a Wednesday hearing on reforms to Illinois’ workers’ compensation system and expected to hear from an official in Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration about the status of the system - an issue Rauner has stated is a priority. Instead, the public got the cold shoulder from Rauner, who again rejected transparency and an airing of issues the governor himself considers important.

“The ongoing secrecy from the governor and his administration has got to stop. It’s unfair to the taxpayers and constituents we serve who deserve a public discussion on issues that affect so many families,” Hoffman said. “We asked the governor’s administration to give us details of a report it issued on Illinois’ workers’ compensation system, but nobody showed. The governor has specifically said this issue must be addressed to his satisfaction before he will even discuss the budget. For no one to show up to discuss the issue is unacceptable.”

“The governor is using individuals who rely on the state, including the elderly, victims of child abuse and the developmentally disabled, to pass his extreme agenda. Then his administration does not even show up to discuss part of his agenda,” Hoffman added.

Hoffman, chair of the House Labor and Commerce Committee, invited Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission chair Joann Fratianni to a hearing to discuss the agency’s Fiscal Year 2014 report, issued on June 16. Neither Fratianni nor a designee from her office attended the hearing.

In the commission report’s opening letter, Fratianni informs Rauner that workers’ compensation costs in Illinois are declining, with insurers reporting a 19 percent decrease in benefit payments over the last four years. The letter also cites a study noting Illinois saw the largest savings on workers’ compensation insurance and the largest decrease in medical payments per claim.

“It baffles me why we can’t get cooperation from the governor or his administration and discuss a public report,” Hoffman said. “Studies seem to show that Illinois is making important strides toward reducing workers’ compensation costs, yet employers tell us they have yet to realize savings. We need to know why. I agree that we must reduce costs for employers, but any plan that has the potential effect of ruining workers’ lives and leaving them with little or nothing to get by when they are unable to work would only worsen Illinois’ economic challenges and endanger middle-class families.”

Wednesday’s hearing marked the seventh time in the last month Rauner or administration officials have failed to provide information to the public on a number of issues, including salaries given to highly paid administration staff.

* Kurt Erickson has more

In a letter to Hoffman, Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission Chairmwoman Joann Fratianni said she was too busy at work to take time to attend the hearing.

Perhaps, then, she could’ve sent an aide?

If they continue ignoring these committees, we might get to the point where subpoenas are issued. But we don’t seem to be nearing that juncture quite yet.

* More

A Rauner spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

That’s what they normally do. You call, send an e-mail or text and you hear nothing back when they don’t want to comment.

* More

Republican lawmakers say businesses haven’t seen the estimated $500 million that was supposed to be saved by the 2011 overhaul.

“There is still lots more room for improvement,” said state Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington.

There is, indeed, room for improvement here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


And the award goes to…

Thursday, Jul 9, 2015

* From one of the best-written Tribune stories I’ve read in a while

And so the Springfield stalemate continues. Rauner is using the budget to gain leverage for his pro-business, union-weakening “turnaround agenda,” but Madigan has refused to engage the governor’s push for what the speaker has called “nonbudget” items. […]

Rauner wants to amend state law to remove wages and hours as issues that can be bargained and explicitly prohibit bargaining on pensions, salaries, overtime compensation and several other items.

Unions were not amused.

Heh.

More

The Republican governor’s legislation also would require Chicago Public Schools to stop paying most of teachers’ required contribution to the pension fund — an idea the Chicago Teachers Union already has rejected — and only provide Emanuel with the pension relief he wants for the next two years.

“It’s a repackaging of lots of blatantly unconstitutional ideas, all of which are cuts,” CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said. “Really, he’s saying ‘I’ll either hit you with a rock, or I’ll hit you with a stick.’”

Go read the whole thing. Lots of harsh, snarky quotes and crisp writing.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      


*** LIVE *** Overtime session coverage

Thursday, Jul 9, 2015

* Watch the House debate the one-month budget via ScribbleLive

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      


Special stipend for state school chief

Thursday, Jul 9, 2015

* The Chicago Tribune has uncovered a unique stipend for state school Superintendent Tony Smith

Smith, a recent transplant from California who was Rauner’s choice for state school superintendent, by law was placed in the Tier II [state pension] plan, just like most educators hired after Jan. 1, 2011.

State Board of Education spokesman Matt Vanover said Smith’s exact stipend has not been calculated, but it is intended to match retirement benefits provided to his predecessor, who was a member of the more generous Tier I plan of the Teachers’ Retirement System of the State of Illinois, known as TRS.

“The board … decided to structure the contract so that the payment to Dr. Smith would be the same amount as if he were a Tier 1 employee,” Vanover said in an email to the Tribune.

Such a stipend came as a surprise to Steve Grossman, president of the Skokie-based North Suburban Teachers Union as well as a member of the state’s Teacher Recruiting and Retention Task Force, which is examining the Tier II plan and its effects on the education workforce.

Already, Tier II educators “feel like they’re being treated as second class citizens,” Grossman said.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   50 Comments      


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Thursday, Jul 9, 2015

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