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Reader comments closed for the holidays

Friday, Dec 18, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* That’s gonna be it for me. I haven’t had a break since my little medical issue, so I’m outta here for a couple of weeks.

I hope everyone has a great holiday. Get some rest, have some fun and try to disconnect from politics for a while. It’ll still be there when you get back.

* We do have some business to take care of before we shut down. Previous winner Oswego Willy summed it up best, I think, in the nominations for The 2015 Wordslinger Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Commenter…

What has been really great about Capitol Fax having a long history is that even the commenters have a history too. I know I’ve seen commenters evolve, grow, and find a stride from their first appearances on the scene and now where we all find ourselves. Sometimes circumstances and talent meet and things align for a commenter to shine, and show their versatility, as well as knowledge and passion, and still can make us laugh with a witty insightfulness that just stands out.

I nominate for Wordslinger Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Commenter VanillaMan.

His song parodies are in tune with what’s happening and his choices of tunes add variety and nostalgia while being wrapped in a snark and playfulness that you can’t help but enjoy.

Song parodies are one thing, adding to the discussion with substance and thoughtfulness is another. This year, VanillaMan has often added unmatchable framing to a Post, and his comments have made the Posts stronger because his comment hit home what we should take from the posting.

In the years of VanillaMan’s commenting, this, by far, has been his strongest… in parody and fact… making VanillaMan’s complete package the best found around this blog in 2015.

I have always read what VanillaMan has had to say, I’ve sung along with all the parodies, smiled at his snark, pondered his thoughts to think about my own takes too. This year, VanillaMan has found a stride, with all the pistons firing, VanillaMan this year is more than worthy, and definitely deserving of the 2015 Wordslinger Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Commenter.

I couldn’t agree more. The man has been on fire.

* Second place is a tie. “Walker,” a former legislator who has insights based on personal experiences that others don’t have….

It’s hard to pick among the prominent commenters. I like them all,but I think walker deserves the award. I appreciate his brevity, insight and good will to all, even those he disagrees with.

And the always helpful RNUG…

In the year of pension and budget discussions, most of us waited patiently for RNUG to read and attempt to translate the obtuse language used by our beloved government.


* Honorable mention goes to MrJM…

He’s succinct, on point, and often amusingly caustic. Nobody says more while saying less.

* And Honeybear gets our Rookie of the Year Award, which I just made up…

I like Honeybear, too, for the aforementioned passion and for bringing a viewpoint that is uniquely both “inside” and “outside” of politics.

Of course, without the namesake for this award, the comment section wouldn’t be nearly as smart. So, many, many thanks to Wordslinger.

* As is our tradition, we close out the year with three songs from long ago. Hardrock, Coco and Joe

* Frosty the Snowman

* And my mom’s favorite, Suzy Snowflake


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The future isn’t looking so bright

Friday, Dec 18, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I usually run my weekly syndicated newspaper column on Monday, but I won’t be around Monday and Crain’s already has it posted, so

One of the realities of Illinois legislative politics is that our state’s system tends to discourage competition.

Byzantine ballot access laws, a highly partisan legislative district map-drawing process, heavily concentrated populations of partisan voters in Chicago (Democrats) and in the collar counties and Downstate (Republicans) along with often tireless work by incumbents and political parties at the state and local levels to “discourage” opposition all combine to help tamp down the number of competitive races.

The net result is that Illinois has some of the fewest numbers of challenged state legislative races in the country - just 39 percent in 2014, which put us in the bottom fifth of the nation. By contrast, nearby Michigan saw a 100 percent challenge rate in the 2014 general election, and the rates in both California and Minnesota were above 90 percent.

That’s simply unheard of here.

The state’s 2014 rate may be higher next year. Gov. Bruce Rauner’s vast personal cash reserves and his access to his many wealthy friends means the Republican Party can widen the playing field. The Democrats are also looking at doing the same thing, fielding candidates in districts that they have previously avoided (GOP Rep. Bill Mitchell, for instance, has a pretty decent general election opponent for the first time in a long while).

While that’s good for politics, is it good for government?

It almost assuredly is a good thing in the long run. Far too many people think they own their districts. Competition is good.

But in the here and now, these campaigns are just one more headache to deal with in the ongoing governmental impasse. Legislators who aren’t accustomed to challenges may not be all that willing to take the tough votes necessary if the leaders ever come to a deal.

Indeed, we could see a tail wagging the dog scenario. For instance, as a member of House Democratic leadership, Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion) has taken a ton of votes that his conservative southern Illinois constituents probably wouldn’t love, including a vote for the 2011 income tax hike.

But Bradley is now a Tier One target. And unless we see a massive political truce with pledges to not use tough votes against incumbents (as we did in the old days under Republican governors Jim Thompson, Jim Edgar and George Ryan) it’s probably safe to assume that Bradley and many, many others aren’t going to want to be a part of any tax hike solution.

The Illinois Republican Party compounded the problem the other day by blasting Bradley and Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) for standing with Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (whom the Republicans now refer to as “#TaxHikeMike”) against taxpayers.

The Republican Party accuses Madigan, and by extension Bradley and Phelps and others, of publicly favoring a return to the 5 percent state income tax. They conveniently “forget” that Gov. Bruce Rauner has said he will raise taxes once he gets his “Turnaround Agenda” passed.

And it’s not just the general election that’s complicating matters. Look at what happened not long ago when conservative activist Dan Proft examined GOP Rep. David Harris’ nominating petitions to see if he could kick the Arlington Heights legislator off the ballot. Proft pointed out that Harris had “previously voiced support for tax increases.”

Harris, in turn, noted Gov. Rauner’s support for hiking taxes to balance the budget, but the message was clear: Proft controls a big pot of campaign money and Republicans need to beware of crossing him.

The ILGOP’s “#TaxHikeMike” assault could even play out in Speaker Madigan’s own legislative district.

Madigan’s Democratic primary opponent Jason Gonzales has a campaign message that appears specifically designed to attract money from wealthy people who are fed up with the Speaker’s longtime dominance. Some Democrats (and Republicans) are speculating that forces allied with Gov. Rauner could spend millions of dollars on that one race alone.

Blanketed network TV ads with a solid message can move voters, especially with that kind of money behind them.

Madigan is a notoriously cautious politician. So, whether or not his enemies pull the trigger on a massive campaign assault, he’ll deploy enough foot soldiers to cover his district many times over.

Chicago and Cook County voters (and Madigan represents both kinds) are already up in arms about property and sales tax increases, so we can also probably expect Madigan to be at least reluctant to raise taxes before the March 15th primary.

What I’m saying here is that if you think a solution to this impasse has looked next to impossible for the past several months, the situation may have gotten substantially worse since the candidate filing period ended.


A-caroling we will go…

Friday, Dec 18, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* VanillaMan in comments yesterday…

I’m Dreaming of a Functional Government - Irving Berlin, humbly enhanced by VanillaMan

Our government is frozen, it’s the worst we’ve seen
The Governor believes Turnaround is not extreme
Thanks to judges, civil servants get pay
Thanks to judges, we survive another day
He says he’s a petulant rascal and soon
We will happily sing his pro-business tune

But it’s December the 24th
And our state is irreversibly off course …

I’m dreaming of a functioning government,
just like the ones we used to know
When a governor listened, infrastructures christened
and we weren’t hostages in this show

I’m dreaming of a functioning government,
Without the bullying and threats
May we all stop this dysfunctioning regrets
Before we all face injunctioning requests

I’m dreaming of a competent governor,
just like those Old Jims long ago
When they worked with the Assembly
and compromised so reasonably
And everyone went along with the flow

I’m dreaming of a compromising Speaker,
just like back home in Chicago
When he kept our state together
while governors perp walked whether
They were a Ryan or Blago

I’m dreaming of a bright future,
for our glorious and prosperous state
May it once again be merry and bright,
and survive all this political hate.

I’m dreaming of state reimbursements,
that makes Moody’s and Fitch glow
May our leaders remove their heads out from below,
Hug one another and eat crow.

VMan has been so on it this year.

* And this one is from a reader via e-mail…

What State is This? (sung to “What Child is This”)

What state is this?
In such mean distress
With Bruce the omnipotent leading?

With bills unpaid
And with nerves all frayed
He won’t stop
Until Madigan’s pleading.


This, this is Bruce our king,
Whom AFSCME loathes and Goldberg sings.
This, this is Illinois,
The state, the kingdom of Rauner.

No budget ’til my agenda’s passed
The short term pain I’m not feeling.
Poor people suffer
And businesses shutter
But it’s Madigan’s fault that you’re

(repeat chorus)


The money war

Friday, Dec 18, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Looks like the House and Senate Republicans are sitting on their hands, waiting for the big Bruce checks

With a mere flick of a couple certain special wrists, the Democrats can be $20 million behind yet again.

Either way, this money stockpiling is all quite something to watch, so thanks to our good friend Scott Kennedy for putting these numbers together.

* Also, of course he’s not involving himself directly in Democratic primaries. One contribution from Rauner would destroy his favored candidate in any Dem primary. He’s got Illinois GO for that task…


Yes, they’re all so pro-veteran

Friday, Dec 18, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Ugh

A veterans facility on Oak Park Avenue that will house veterans suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is scheduled to open in January 2017, at least six months later than originally planned after being caught in the budget crossfire between Rauner and the Democrats who control the General Assembly.

* Meanwhile

At Casa Central in the Humboldt Park neighborhood, Amanda McMillen, deputy director of children and youth services, said she hasn’t stopped smiling since learning that the social service agency was one of 23 area charities picked to receive proceeds from [basketball legend Michael Jordan’s] settlement with the Jewel-Osco and Dominick’s grocery chains. […]

Understandably, that’s all an afterthought to the busy staff at Casa Central, where some programs have been shuttered since Gov. Bruce Rauner imposed budget cuts last spring. Its early learning academy had to stop accepting new children under 5 because of cuts. A computer lab for low-income children and adults in the community has been closed except for use by students in the after-school program.

Jordan’s donation won’t resurrect those programs. That’s still on the state of Illinois, as it should be. But his money will go a long way to boosting kids’ programs at Casa Central, where administrators are still determining how to allocate the funds. There were two conditions to the donation, La Luz said in response to questions about it. The amount must remain confidential and the money must be earmarked for kids.

There is no shortage of kids’ programs among Casa Central’s seven buildings, including three that take up nearly a city block on North California Avenue. La Luz said the center is one of the largest Hispanic social-service agencies in the Midwest and serves 19,000 to 20,000 children and adult residents a year.

It provides transitional apartment-style housing and social services for homeless families, offers vocational training for entry-level jobs and houses a senior-care center visited daily by 80 to 90 older adults. But staff members pride themselves in providing a second a home to neighborhood kids, administrators said.


Credit Unions Spreading Holiday Cheer

Friday, Dec 18, 2015 - Posted by Advertising Department

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Illinois credit unions and their employees place a special focus on giving back to the communities they serve. GCS Credit Union, with its main branch in Granite City and seven additional branches in the metro east, encourages employee participation in its community outreach activities throughout the year. In an ongoing effort to support the local community, GCS employees may wear jeans on Fridays and Saturdays in exchange for a donation of $15 or more. Each branch location then selects a charity with special meaning to their employees to benefit from the donations. This holiday season, GCS employees donated to seven local charities with the proceeds from Jeans Day:

    Granite City: Good Samaritan House
    O’Fallon: O’Fallon Food Pantry
    Lee Avenue: Catholic Children’s Home
    Collinsville: Collinsville Meals on Wheels
    Edwardsville: Chosen to Shine
    Pontoon: Granite City School District
    Madison: Community Care Center

As you can imagine, these donations are particularly appreciated during the holiday season.

Founded in 1941, GCS Credit Union now serves over 42,000 members at eight conveniently located branches across Southwestern Illinois. The credit union difference means giving back to member shareholders…and the communities they serve.

Happy Holidays from GCS Credit Union and the Illinois Credit Union League!

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Question of the day - Golden Horseshoe Awards

Friday, Dec 18, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The 2015 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Illinois Congresscritter goes to Rodney Davis

(H)e has been able to win 2 straight times with the DCCC targeting him and in 14 it was not even close. He is a moderate Republican who votes his district and works his district. Without JBT around, he also was the first (and I believe only so far) Republican to criticize the Governor’s attack on public sector unions.

* And the 2015 Mike McClain Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Statehouse Insider goes to John Lowder

John is most knowledgeable of the process and inner dealing of statehouse policy and Budget development and strategy. He is always willing to share his insights. Has made the transformation from staff to contract lobbying with ease with great respect for the actors on both sides of the aisle as well as the press. He’ll be around for a long time.

Congrats to both!

* Today’s category is our last…

* The 2015 Wordslinger Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Commenter

Make sure to explain your vote, please. Thanks!


Unclear on the concept

Friday, Dec 18, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Kristen McQueary on Lincolnshire’s recent “right to work” ordinance vote

For too long, unions have dictated public policy in this state. They’ve told politicians what to approve or reject. No questions asked.

Lincolnshire asked questions. It is offering employees an option. A choice. Unions are free to make their case to workers that they should join the union. Why is that so scary?

“Our goal is not to bust unions,” Lincolnshire Mayor Elizabeth Brandt says. “Want to join? No problem. Want to pay dues? No problem. But this (right-to-work zone) says, if you don’t want to, you don’t have to. That empowers the worker.”

It’s fascinating how unions talk about empowering workers, but don’t want them to have the power to join or not.

The unions? They like mandates.

Lincolnshire likes freedom.

I wonder how the Tribune owners would react if the government ordered the company to provide free advertising to anyone who wanted it.

* What these folks either fail to understand or don’t want to admit is that unions are required by federal law to represent every employee in their bargaining units, whether the employees pay union dues or not.

So, people can withhold dues and then legally demand all sorts of union services, like grievance procedures. The freeloaders are entitled to be provided the same wages, benefits and working condition protections earned for them by the very unions that they refuse to help pay for.

And if you’re OK with the government ordering that sort of thing, you’re not a small government person. That’s some Big Brother stuff right there, man.

* Somewhat related…

* Labor board upholds ruling to dismiss AFSCME’s unfair labor charge against Rauner administration: “I find insufficient evidence that CMS made a threat of reprisal,” she wrote. “The available evidence is that the ‘answer’ set forth in the FAQ’s regarding health insurance for employees on strike was accurately reflective of a long standing policy. An employer stating the potential negative impact to pay and benefits (including health insurance) that accompany a strike is not, in and of itself, evidence of coercive conduct.”


*** UPDATED x1 *** Madigan again makes himself the story

Friday, Dec 18, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The only “news” to come out of yesterday’s leaders’ meeting was that House Speaker Michael Madigan was a no-show

Republican leaders Sen. Christine Radogno and Rep. Jim Durkin described Thursday’s meeting as productive but took turns noting Madigan’s absence.

“I thought it was a good conversation. But the fact is we’re not going to move this along unless we all are fully participating and actively involved in these negotiations,” Durkin said. He said he didn’t get an explanation of what Madigan’s scheduling conflict was.

“We covered quite a bit in there, despite having the speaker not be at the meeting,” Radogno said. […]

Brown defended Madigan’s absence, saying the speaker has been “fully involved” in budget discussions. He said the governor was notified in advance that Madigan would not be able to attend the meeting, but Brown couldn’t say when the notification occurred.

* The Illinois Policy Institute’s news service also focused on the absence

Rep. Ron Sandack, R-Downers Grove, said he doesn’t believe Madigan’s absence on Thursday was intended as disrespect for the governor or the other leaders.

“I’ve been told by others that this time of year is typically when the speaker goes out of town, and it’s familial and not unusual for him to be away at this time,” said Sandack, who leads the Republicans in debate on the House floor. “Obviously, I wish he was there, and I’d prefer a full meeting of the leaders.”

It’s also quite possible that MJM missed the meeting because his daughter Tiffy had a baby the day before. Those Madigan guys are a pretty sealed-lip bunch when it comes to the boss’ private life, so either he was in Palm Springs or with his daughter and new grandson Theodore Maxwell Madigan Matyas.

It’s not like they were going to solve the world’s problems yesterday, but no matter why he missed the meeting the Speaker yet again managed to make himself the story - and not in a good way.

* So, what did they talk about yesterday?

Radogno and Durkin said the day’s topics included the governor’s requests for legislative action on term limits and redistricting, changes to the workers compensation system, funding the state’s pension systems and, to some degree, the school aid formula.

Cullerton’s spokeswoman late Thursday afternoon released a statement saying, “The senate president was encouraged by the addition of school funding reform to the meeting agenda.”


Durkin called the discussion on Thursday “robust” and he said the discussion of the five reforms was “healthy.”

Radogno too said the leaders are getting more clarity about the issues in their meetings.

“Staffs are getting together, which I always think is a good thing to try to actually put pen to paper and refine the issues. I would say there’s progress on some of those issues,” Radogno said.

The governor may take questions after his 9 o’clock event this morning at the DeVry University Advantage Academy High School in Chicago.

*** UPDATE *** The governor comments…


In a nutshell

Friday, Dec 18, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Dietrich

In his speech last week before the City Club of Chicago, House Speaker Michael Madigan offered what I consider the strongest hint to date of the depth of philosophical differences driving the budget impasse. Invoking Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Madigan explained that he sees government’s role as to “work always to create jobs, to raise wages, to raise the standard of living.” He has stated often that he believes Rauner’s efforts to reform workers’ compensation and remove prevailing wage requirements will do the opposite for middle-class families.

Madigan offers no acknowledgement that policies put in place over the 12 years preceding Rauner’s arrival might have had anything to do with creating today’s fiscal mess — or that today’s fiscal mess might hurt the middle class by driving jobs away.

Rauner, meanwhile, takes the opposite view on government’s role in the economy. It’s government’s interference that hobbles entrepreneurs, drives up taxes and drives factories to states that don’t value unions over job creators. In Rauner’s view, if government keeps its hands off the private sector, jobs will proliferate, taxes will go down and the middle class will be better off.

Rauner, however, offers no acknowledgment that he governs a state that elected both him and super-majorities of Democrats in its House and Senate. He has not mentioned the fact that far more voters statewide supported a tax on millionaires and an immediate increase in the minimum wage than voted for him.

…Adding… Tribune

Three of Speaker Michael Madigan’s campaign funds on Thursday reported collecting $445,400 in campaign contributions.

Nearly all of the money came from labor unions or trial lawyers that historically have backed Madigan and Democrats against Republicans and business interests.

All told, four Madigan campaign funds have reported taking in more than $5.87 million since Jan. 1.


Keeping my promise

Thursday, Dec 17, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Somebody actually asked me to do this during yesterday’s Q&A…

* So, here he is…


AFL-CIO backs Dunkin opponent

Thursday, Dec 17, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From the Illinois AFL-CIO…

State House Candidate Taking on Rauner-Ally Dunkin

The Illinois AFL-CIO Executive Board voted on Thursday to endorse Juliana Stratton for State Representative in the Democratic Primary Election for the 5th District. Stratton is taking on incumbent Ken Dunkin, who has sided with Gov. Bruce Rauner, casting controversial votes against the interests of working families.

Stratton has a strong background in community involvement and public policy, serving with organizations including as director of the Center for Public Safety and Justice at University of Illinois-Chicago, Cook County Justice for Children (CCJC), and the Cook County Justice Advisory Council. She also managed the criminal and juvenile justice reform agenda for the Office of the Cook County Board President.

She earned her Juris Doctorate degree from DePaul in 1992 and her undergraduate degree in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign prior to that.

“She is a very strong candidate and an impressive person,” said Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael T. Carrigan. “She will be a very powerful voice for the people of the 5th District.”

Her opponent is long-time incumbent Dunkin, who has not hidden his alliance with Rauner, whose anti-worker proposals are not moving in the General Assembly. On several occasions, Dunkin’s vote would have made the difference on issues including child care eligibility, funding for services for seniors and the disabled and an arbitration mechanism to keep state services functioning in the event of bargaining impasse.

“There needs to a change in the 5th District,” Carrigan said. “The voters will know that there is a person in this race that cares about her community and not political alliances. As she has been all of her life, she will be their voice.”
There are nearly 16,000 members of union families in the 5th House District.



Putting human faces on line items

Thursday, Dec 17, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Illinois Issues

The state budget impasse could put more young people out on the streets this winter.

Corey Stewart became homeless when he was 18, after his mother died and he found himself struggling to pay rent for the family’s apartment on Chicago’s South Side. “I worked for a temp agency,” he says. “I had my steel-toe boots and I was working, but I just couldn’t swing it — that was too much money. I wasn’t going to school because too much was going on.” And his father, who had never been in his life, was nowhere to be found.

Like many Illinois teens who find themselves without a place to sleep, Stewart began staying at other people’s homes. “I was … trying to pay rent on other people’s cribs, and that didn’t work out,” he says. Other times, he slept on the streets.

“If I weren’t mentally stable, … I probably would have lost it,” he recalls. “I probably would be doing some time in jail or something like that. … It’s harsh out there. You’ve got to worry about bullets. The police. You know what I’m saying? The weather. There’s a lot of stuff you’ve got to worry about. … It ain’t no walk in the park.”

The fallout from the state’s current budget crisis could leave more young people like Stewart on the streets this winter.

Stewart, who is now 22, was staying recently at Ujima Village, a 24-bed shelter in Chicago’s Grand Crossing area for homeless people who are 18 to 24 years old. It’s where he went for a bed to sleep; dinner and breakfast; a place to shower; and advice on getting his life back on track. “The staff here, they cool,” he says. “I get along with them and … the program at Ujima is very informational. They give you information on a lot of things, and I take heed to it.”

But Unity Parenting & Counseling Inc., the nonprofit group that runs Ujima Village, hasn’t been getting state funding for the past half-year, because of the standoff between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic leaders of the Illinois General Assembly. Like other nonprofits around the state that help homeless youths, Unity is uncertain how long it can continue providing the same level of services.

A. Anne Holcomb, supportive services supervisor for Unity Parenting & Counseling Inc., was once homeless herself.

“We almost had to close,” says A. Anne Holcomb, supportive services supervisor for Unity. “We actually had informed staff in August that we had no more funding as of September 1. … We tried to find other places for the youth to go in that event. But the reality is most of the emergency shelters are state-funded. And the transitional housing programs are too. So there wasn’t really any other place that was secure. We couldn’t find an option. … We only have 374 youth beds in the city.”

Go read the whole thing.

* When people have talked about the all too real long-term, permanent damage that’s being caused by this “short-term pain for long-term gain” impasse, these kids are just some of the folks who are in real danger.

As one commenter said this week, social service providers may go under and others may eventually take their place, but what about the permanent damage caused to those who can’t be served in the interim?


AARP poll: Taxing retirement income is a third rail

Thursday, Dec 17, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* AARP IL commissioned a Precision Research poll of Illinoisans 50 and over. Click here to read it all. They’re not happy campers…

1. As you think about your finances, how anxious do you feel about having enough money to live comfortably through your retirement years? Are you… [READ EACH ANSWER CATEGORY]?

    N= 1000
    Very anxious 23.5%
    Somewhat anxious 33.8%
    Not very anxious 17.4%
    Not anxious at all 22.3%
    Not sure/ Don’t know [DO NOT READ] 2.0%
    Refused [DO NOT READ] 1.0%

2. Now, thinking about the state and local taxes you pay, not including federal taxes, how strongly do you agree or disagree that you get the services you need in return for the taxes you pay? Would you… [READ EACH ANSWER CATEGORY]?

    N= 1000
    Strongly agree 8.4%
    Somewhat agree 30.6%
    Somewhat disagree 21.7%
    Strongly disagree 35.0%
    Not sure (DO NOT READ) 3.8%
    Refused [DO NOT READ] 0.5%

3. How aware are you that the Illinois state government is now five months past its deadline to have a budget in place? Would you say you are… [READ EACH ANSWER CATEGORY]?

    N= 1000
    Very Aware 80.9%
    Somewhat aware 12.3%
    Not too aware 2.8%
    Not at all aware 3.4%
    Not sure (DO NOT READ) 0.4%
    Refused [DO NOT READ] 0.1%

4. I’m going to read you a list of issues. After I read each one, please tell me if you would describe that issue as a major problem, a minor problem, or not a problem at all in the State of Illinois. Do you think (INSERT ITEM) is a major problem, a minor problem, or not a problem at all? (RANDOMIZE ITEMS A-C)

a. Cuts in state funding for essential services that allow seniors to stay in their homes and communities as they age

    N= 1000
    Major problem 69.2%
    Minor problem 19.7%
    Not a problem at all 5.8%
    Not sure (DO NOT READ) 5.0%
    Refused (DO NOT READ) 0.2%

b. Lack of cooperation among Illinois elected officials

    N= 1000
    Major problem 87.2%
    Minor problem 7.4%
    Not a problem at all 2.6%
    Not sure (DO NOT READ) 2.8%
    Refused (DO NOT READ) 0.1%

c. The amount of state and local taxes residents have to pay

    N= 1000
    Major problem 66.3%
    Minor problem 24.2%
    Not a problem at all 7.3%
    Not sure (DO NOT READ) 2.0%
    Refused (DO NOT READ) 0.3%

They are worried about state cuts, but they also don’t want higher state taxes.

* And they really, really, REALLY don’t want legislators to tax their retirement income

Thinking ahead to your retirement, if your retirement income were to be taxed, how much of an impact would that have on your ability to prepare for a secure retirement? Would you say it would be a [READ EACH ANSWER CATEGORY]

    N= 457
    Major impact 71.6%
    Minor impact 21.2%
    No impact 4.4%
    Not sure (DO NOT READ) 2.7%
    Refused (DO NOT READ) -

16. If lawmakers decide to tax retirement income, would you consider [READ EACH ANSWER CATEGORY] (RANDOMIZE ITEMS A-F)

    N= 902
    A. Moving to another state where there are tax friendly laws for retirees 59.6%
    B. Moving to another location in Illinois 21.1%
    C. Returning to the workforce 33.0%
    D. Reducing your household spending 69.2%
    E. Reducing spending on services such as hair salons, or lawn services 53.2%
    F. Something else (specify) _____________________________ 12.6%

Would you be more or less likely to vote for a candidate who supports the following? Would you be…[READ EACH ANSWER CATEGORY]? (RANDOMIZE ITEMS A-E)

a. Taxing retirement income

    N= 1000
    More likely 6.5%
    Less likely 84.3%
    Would not make a difference 6.8%
    Not sure (DO NOT READ) 2.3%
    Refused (DO NOT READ) 0.2%

b. Increasing individual income taxes

    N= 1000
    More likely 10.5%
    Less likely 74.2%
    Would not make a difference 11.9%
    Not sure (DO NOT READ) 2.9%
    Refused (DO NOT READ) 0.5%

c. Taxing services that are not currently taxed such as salons or lawn service

    N= 1000
    More likely 17.9%
    Less likely 52.7%
    Would not make a difference 24.9%
    Not sure (DO NOT READ) 4.3%
    Refused (DO NOT READ) 0.2%

d. Increasing corporate taxes

    N= 1000
    More likely 41.0%
    Less likely 36.7%
    Would not make a difference 16.3%
    Not sure (DO NOT READ) 5.6%
    Refused (DO NOT READ) 0.3%

e. Increasing property taxes

    N= 1000
    More likely 5.8%
    Less likely 83.6%
    Would not make a difference 8.3%
    Not sure (DO NOT READ) 2.1%
    Refused (DO NOT READ) 0.2%

Emphasis added for obvious reasons.

You get anywhere near 80 percent and the issue is guaranteed to move votes.

And now you know why one of newly appointed Democratic state Rep. Andrew Skoog’s first acts after being sworn in was signing on as a co-sponsor of Rep. Dave McSweeney’s anti retirement tax resolution.

…Adding… Right on cue comes the press release from a Tier 1 Senate target…

State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) filed Senate Resolution 1325 today to stand up against taxing the retirement income of Illinois’ retirees.


Mostly “ups” I think

Thursday, Dec 17, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Tribune

Former Democratic Congressman Brad Schneider of Deerfield, trying to regain his 10th District House seat, has been facing several ups and downs in his campaign for the March 15 primary nomination against Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering.

Already, former congressman, federal judge and White House counsel Abner Mikva has withdrawn his support for Schneider and moved to Rotering’s camp. So has former U.S. Sen. Adlai E. Stevenson III. In addition, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a member of the House Democratic leadership team, has pulled her endorsement of Schneider.

Schneider still has the backing of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, as well as seven of the 10 Democratic members of the Illinois congressional delegation and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. And on Wednesday, his campaign announced it had been endorsed by the politically active Service Employees International Union Illinois State Council.

Schneider and Rotering are vying for the nomination to take on Republican U.S. Rep. Robert Dold of Kenilworth in the North Shore district. Dold won the seat in 2010, was ousted by Schneider in 2012, then defeated Schneider in 2014.

“Voters are ready for a strong, progressive leader with a principled track record of getting things done,” Rotering said in a statement, noting that the backing of Mikva and Stevenson came as a result of Schneider opposing the Iran nuclear deal backed by President Barack Obama.

Mikva and Stevenson’s withdrawal means almost next to nothing. I mean, how many Democratic primary voters are going to take their endorsements to heart? Schakowsky is different because in a Democratic primary she might carry a little bit of weight, particularly with liberals.

Rotering has done a very good job of publicizing her town’s efforts to enact an assault weapons ban ahead of a state deadline. That district is ground zero for gun control support, particularly in a Dem primary.

But independent-minded, somewhat hawkish Jewish voters are very influential in that district, so Schneider opposing the Iran nuke deal probably isn’t fatal and perhaps just the opposite. Then again, this is a primary race, not a general.

Schneider has the name rec and will have the money. Rotering is a fresh face and has a proven ability to get her name out there.

Am I missing anything? Your predictions?


A one-time shot in the arm for local governments

Thursday, Dec 17, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From a reader…


I was wondering if I can ask you for some advice? Almost two years ago I met with [redacted] to discuss a change to the way Illinois collects property that that would generate almost $30 billion in additional one-time revenues over time without increasing taxes. [Redacted] thought it was a really good idea and placed me in touch with [redacted]. I spoke with [redacted] and he also thought it was a very good idea. Needless to say, nothing ever happened. Do you have any suggestion as to how I might bring this idea to the attention of people with real authority? I am an attorney now involved in business and I think this idea would really help the State of Illinois.

Any suggestion you might offer would be greatly appreciated.

* I told him to send me the info…

Illinois collects property taxes in arrears. In 2015 Illinois collected 2014 property taxes and in 2016 Illinois will collect 2015 property taxes. At the end of the world, Illinois will still be behind one year in the collection of property taxes.

Based upon 2014 figures, Illinois can generate at least $27.7 billion[1] in additional property tax revenues over time if it could collect the prior year taxes and collect taxes in the current year to fund 2016 appropriations.

When real estate is sold in Illinois, the buyer and seller prorate property taxes. The seller gives a credit to the buyer for the unpaid taxes and the buyer agrees to assume liability for unpaid taxes. Property tax prorations cover both the prior tax year, if still unpaid, and the current tax year. Even when property is sold after the second installment of taxes has been paid, none of the current year taxes have been collected.

By transitioning the Illinois property tax system when property is sold, funds paid by the seller to the buyer for prior year and current year property taxes would be paid by the seller to the state to retire the prior year and outstanding current year property tax liability. After the closing, the new buyer will then pay its taxes in advance as is the practice is most sates. No property owner would pay more in property taxes as a result of the transition even though at least one additional year of property tax revenue would be collected.

In other words, rather than prorating property taxes between the buyer and seller, the seller would pay what would otherwise be the prorated amounts to the state and discharge the tax liability. No one would pay more in taxes, tax revenues would just be collected faster without any detriment to the current property owners. By implementing this change, approximately $27.7 billion of Illinois unfunded pension liabilities would be addressed over time in current dollars. The $27.7 billion in property taxes could be paid into the State of Illinois teachers’ pension system or the City of Chicago teachers’ pension system for property located in Chicago.

I note that Illinois is one of thirteen states that collect property taxes in arrears; other states include Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin.

[1] $27,706,994,500 in property taxes were extended in 2014 according to the Illinois Department of Revenue, 2014 Property Tax Statistics, Table 1.

The realtors would probably hate this idea because it would drive up the cost of some home sales, and it probably wouldn’t raise a huge amount of money every year, but it would give locals a boost.

Your thoughts?


Sticking it to the kids

Thursday, Dec 17, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* This is crazy

This weekend, a 24-year-old woman from McHenry County will be among the graduates at Lewis University, but she won’t be getting a diploma, which she needs to enroll in air traffic controller training in March, according to her father.

Even though she has met all the requirements for a diploma, it’s being held up because Illinois hasn’t paid the $2,500 it owes for her Monetary Award Program grant due to the ongoing state budget impasse.

“The state needs to realize that there’s families like us that are living paycheck to paycheck,” said her father, Dan. “Our savings are very little money. Our tax bills are rising.”

Dan said the family might use its savings to pay the $2,500 so his daughter can get her diploma, but they had previously set that money aside for property taxes.

I suppose I can somewhat understand why Lewis University is doing this, but why punish this student for the state’s ineptitude?

Not to mention that the country supposedly has an air traffic controller shortage.


[Hat tip to a commenter.]


Today’s number: 72.1%

Thursday, Dec 17, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Reboot Illinois

Searching the Illinois State Board of Education’s 2015 End of Year Discipline Report, we have put together a list of the 25 school districts that most often use out-of-school suspensions and expulsions. To avoid penalizing large districts that generally have more suspensions and expulsions due to high enrollment, we found the suspension and expulsion rates by dividing the number of incidents by district enrollment from the ISBE’s 2014-2015 Illinois Report Card.

* Top 5 schools for suspensions

5) East St. Louis SD 189

    Suspension rate: 55.7%
    Number of suspensions: 3,405
    Enrollment: 6,116

4) Venice CUSD 3

    Suspension rate: 57%
    Number of suspensions: 69
    Enrollment 121

3) Pekin CSD 303

    Suspension rate: 57.6%
    Number of suspensions: 1,169
    Enrollment: 2,030

2) Madison CUSD 12

    Suspension rate: 65.5%
    Number of suspensions: 508
    Enrollment: 775

1) Cahokia CUSD 187

    Suspension rate: 72.1%
    Number of suspensions: 2,533
    Enrollment: 3,512

That’s just mind-boggling.

While it would be fascinating to see an explanation of why they feel they have to use so many suspensions and if they’re over-using the punishments and whether there are any specific student demographic trends, anyone who wants to be a full-time, year-round teacher in those schools, please raise your hands.


How about in the anti-teachers’ union governor’s office?

Or maybe at the Illinois Policy Institute, which has a new “right to work” poster boy who complains about alleged minority and female preferences?



* See the rest here.


Adventures in procurement

Thursday, Dec 17, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Brian Mackey interviews former Statehouse reporter Kurt Erickson

Even though much of Illinois government is operating without a budget, the state is still looking to spend money. Right now, on Illinois’ procurement website, there are dozens of notices. Reporter Kurt Erickson returns to State of the State for a procurement primer. […]

ERICKSON: “A couple of years ago, I just made it a point to start looking at all the different state websites, and I made a list of all these things I wanted to check out. And at the time, the state was putting a lot more things online, whether it’s meeting notices or the General Assembly. I came in at a time when that was all on paper. So when they started putting it up online, I just tried to make it sort of like a cop walks a beat. I’d go to each website and check in and see what was going on. The procurement website started to yield a lot of stories that nobody else was doing. So it made me look like I was getting big scoops when I was just reporting on something that was already out there.”

ERICKSON: “I’ve also learned a lot in checking out the procurement code. The state Department of Corrections makes hot dogs for all the inmates. And they ran out of hot dog spice, or wiener spice, as I called it. And they had to go out and try to find some in an emergency purchase. And in their explanation of why they had to go around the bidding process, they said if the hot dogs don’t taste right, the inmates could think they’re being poisoned, and it could cause a riot. And I thought that was really interesting that, here you’ve got this hot dog spices that are avoiding a potential riot. I don’t know if it would really get that bad, but that’s how they explained it.” […]

MACKEY: “What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen procured? Or that the state had to put out a bid for?”

ERICKSON: “The most interesting one I saw — crazy, I don’t know — but the one that caught my eye was the flavored and colored condoms that the Department of Public Health was trying to purchase. And again, I learn things from these (notices): The reason they were trying to have colored and flavored condoms was because maybe it would promote more usage of this to combat STDs. In the end … after we did stories about it, they’re now just bidding out plain, regular old condoms.”


*** UPDATED x2 - Madigan a no-show *** Check back at 2 o’clock for leaders’ meeting deets

Thursday, Dec 17, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Tribune

It’s Thursday, Dec. 17, the day Gov. Bruce Rauner will host a third meeting in as many weeks with legislative leaders regarding the budget impasse.

The 2 p.m. meeting will be held at the governor’s office in the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago. Democratic Senate President John Cullerton and Republican House and Senate leaders Jim Durkin and Christine Radogno are confirmed attendees, according to their offices. A spokesman for Democratic Speaker Michael Madigan did not return a call asking whether the House leader would be there.

The spate of meetings started after pressure from good government groups who criticized a lack of progress on a spending plan as the state is in its sixth month without a complete budget. Before the meetings began on Dec. 1, Rauner and the four leaders hadn’t been in the same room since May.

The closed-door gathering isn’t expected to bring about an agreement any time soon, however.

Madigan’s spokesman told me yesterday that as far as he knew the Speaker would attend.

I’ll post a ScribbleLive thingy here if warranted.

*** UPDATE *** Well, that does it then…

*** UPDATE 2 *** It should be noted that Madigan’s daughter just had a baby. I assume that played into this absence.


*** UPDATED x1 *** Question of the day - Golden Horseshoe Awards

Thursday, Dec 17, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The 2015 Emily Miller Golden Horseshoe Award for Best “Do-Gooder” Lobbyist was an easy pick

Josh Evans, Vice President of Government Relations at IARF. He is a tireless champion for community-based, health reform and has the most extensive knowledge of rules, procedures, and policies out of anyone I have ever known. Josh knows that if we don’t hold government accountable for serving its most vulnerable citizens, we will be taken back to living in a Dickensian era. Community providers are lucky to have him fighting in their corner.


* Now, on to today’s categories…

* Best Statewide Officeholder

* Best Illinois Congresscritter

As always, do your very best to nominate in both categories and make sure to explain your vote, or it won’t count. Thanks!

*** UPDATE *** Oops! I already did the statewide award. I guess I’m still tired from yesterday’s trip. Sorry!

Let’s try this one instead…

* The Mike McClain Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Statehouse Insider


Reboot’s top ten list

Thursday, Dec 17, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Many thanks for the props. Click here.


Not quite what’s being portrayed

Thursday, Dec 17, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Politico

POLITICO Illinois Playbook: Students heckle EMANUEL with ‘16 shots’ chant

* Sun-Times

A normally friendly forum for Mayor Rahm Emanuel turned hostile Wednesday when student protesters chanting “16 shots” interrupted a ceremony called to jump-start a “citywide strategy” aimed at providing expanded opportunities for “every child and young man of color” in Chicago.

Emanuel announced creation of a “My Brother’s Keeper Cabinet” at Urban Prep Academies, 6201 S. Stewart. It’s a charter school that boasts of sending 100 percent of its African-American male graduates to college.

That’s a point of pride with Emanuel, who regularly attends Urban Prep’s “tie ceremony” celebrating the accomplishment and gets a warm reception.

But these are not normal times for the mayor.

He’s fending off demands for his resignation and fighting to restore public trust damaged by his decision to keep the Laquan McDonald shooting video under wraps for more than a year and wait until a week after the April 7 mayoral runoff to settle the case for $5 million, before the McDonald family had even filed a lawsuit.

* Tribune

Emanuel greeted by ‘16 shots’ chant about Laquan McDonald at Urban Prep event

Mayor Rahm Emanuel re-emerged publicly Wednesday, and the reception he got illustrates the challenge he faces governing the city day to day while responding to the still-developing fallout from the Laquan McDonald shooting and how his administration handled it.

The mayor spoke at what’s normally a friendly venue for him, the Urban Prep campus in Englewood, a school he often cites as a success story for its high percentage of students who attend college. But after Emanuel made brief remarks, the principal prepared to lead the crowd reciting the school’s creed when students instead started a chant of “16 shots!”

* Mike Flannery

The students waited politely until he departed, but then Urban Prep students expressed their continuing anger about the McDonald case and the issues it highlights.

“16 Shots! 16 Shots!” they chanted.

Emphasis added.

The city’s media has turned almost completely hostile to the mayor.


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