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Moody’s downgrades EIU to junk, NEIU and NIU nearing mark

Thursday, Feb 25, 2016

* Sigh

An epic budget battle in Illinois led Moody’s Investors Service to downgrade the credit rating of three of the state’s public universities late Wednesday, the latest setback for schools that have been starved of funding for eight months and now face possible accreditation challenges.

Northeastern Illinois University and Northern Illinois University had their credit ratings lowered to just above junk status, while Eastern Illinois University’s rating is now below investment grade. That means analysts consider revenue bonds issued on behalf of the school to be a credit risk for investors.

“The downgrade is driven by EIU’s increasing vulnerability to the ongoing state budget impasse given its thin liquidity, declining enrollment and high reliance on state funding,” Moody’s said in a statement. “Liquid reserves are expected to be exhausted by the end of the fiscal year.”

* There was a big rally at Northeastern today…

- Posted by Rich Miller   75 Comments      

Fantasy sports biz signs onto regulation bill

Thursday, Feb 25, 2016

* From Mac Strategies…

The Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA), on behalf of its 300 members across the nation including DraftKings, FanDuel, and several Illinois-based operators, is announcing its support for HB4323 sponsored by State Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside. The bill will provide common sense regulation and consumer protections for the fantasy sports marketplace in Illinois.

“More than two million people in Illinois participate in fantasy sports contests, and they deserve clarity in the law and the right to play,” said Peter Schoenke, chairman of the FSTA. “It’s not just a cluster of larger tech companies who welcome this new regulation - more than a dozen fantasy sports related companies are based here in Illinois. These employers, along with dozens of national fantasy contest providers who have been offering games in Illinois for more than twenty years, would have the legal clarity they need to continue to operate in the state.”

Rep. Zalewski added, “As the popularity of fantasy sports grows, Illinois is part of an important national debate. These contests are not just about DraftKings and FanDuel or daily fantasy, but are really about a diverse industry with Illinois employers large and small providing an innovative form of entertainment. My colleagues and I have the unique opportunity to set a national standard on how to regulate these sites. We need this legislation to provide certainty and protection for the industry, its partners and the millions of Illinoisans who play these contests, and we need it in this spring session.”

Specifically, Rep. Zalewski’s bill offers these regulations and consumer protections:

    Defines the category of fantasy sports, codifying them as legal games of skill in Illinois;

    Establishes a minimum age of 18 for playing fantasy sports;
    Restricts athletes from participating in fantasy contests involving games they participate in;

    Ensures fantasy participants display responsible gaming;

    Promotes standards for audits of the operators.

I’m assuming that, as usual, the devil of this proposal is gonna be in the details. No word yet on what the AG is planning to do, so stay tuned.

* ABC 7

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued an opinion in December saying the sites were illegal. The companies argued the opinion could destroy a “legitimate industry” allowed by state law.

New York and Texas have also issued opinions challenging the legality of the industry.

The Virginia General Assembly has passed legislation regulating the sites. Virginia is the first state in the country to establish a legal framework for fantasy sports. Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe can sign or veto the plan.

The sites have been banned in six states.


…Adding… The press conference is here. Check out the pretty funny beatdown administered to a reporter by Stacie Stern of Head2Head Sports at the 18:45 mark.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      

Question of the day

Thursday, Feb 25, 2016

* From the twitters…

* The Question: Caption?

- Posted by Rich Miller   110 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** Stratton hit by “dog whistle” attack

Thursday, Feb 25, 2016

* OK, before we watch the new IllinoisGO TV ad bashing Rep. Ken Dunkin’s Democratic primary opponent Juliana Stratton, let’s look at the script…

Let’s do the math. Juliana Stratton has been recruited by party bosses to push the same policies that have resulted in hundreds of thousands of job losses in Illinois and put us billions of dollars in debt. Policies that have cut social services for thousands of Illinois families. And as a Cook County official in charge of public safety, she did exactly the opposite, pushing a program that put thousands of inmates back on the street. Add it up, Juliana Stratton would be disastrous for Illinois.

The thing is all over the place. Not to mention that this is a Democratic primary in a district which is majority black (and significantly more so in a Democratic primary), so the “releasing inmates” dog whistle probably ain’t gonna work and may even backfire. And this was recorded off a TV by a pal of mine who lives near Washington Park, so it’s not even being confined to the white northern end of the district - where Stratton is backed by the white aldermen (you can see Brian Hopkins in one of the photos).

* OK, now watch it

Kinda underwhelming.

*** UPDATE *** From IllinoisGO…

Rich – dog whistle? Are you seriously alleging that communicating about crime in a political race in the City of Chicago is somehow racially motivated? That African American voters do not care about crime and only white voters do? Gun violence and its effects on our communities are the single highest concern among voters in this district and that is especially true among African-American voters – of which ninety percent have serious concerns.

Juliana Stratton has touted her public safety record consistently throughout the campaign. But she has a record that includes releasing inmates that that have an average of eighteen arrests, including at least one arrest for a violent crime, despite law enforcement officials finding them ineligible. She fought against a promising proposal to establish a gun court which has gotten illegal guns off the streets in other cities.

Her record is hers to defend and gun violence is a valid issue of concern that cuts across every ethnicity, every age, and every neighborhood. To suggest that somehow this ad is playing into racial fears is flat out wrong and says more about others’ biased assumptions on what voters can or cannot care about.

Feel free to publish our response.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* And now for an actual direct hit, via AlderTrack

“Dark” could be a bit much, but yikes!

I mean… I just… Oh, never mind. She gone, as the Hawk might say. Seriously, did she not watch “Goodfellas” and see how stuffing coke in a baby’s diaper ended poorly?

The mailer was paid for by the House Democrats, probably because Vaughn has long been rumored to be Rep. Ken Dunkin’s candidate in the 6th House District, which was formerly represented by the late Rep. Esther Golar.

- Posted by Rich Miller   42 Comments      

Poll: Clinton up by 29, Trump ahead by 17

Thursday, Feb 25, 2016

* From We Ask America…

Our Illinois Democratic Primary presidential poll shows Clinton with a formidable 57% to 28% lead over Bernie Sanders. Clinton’s only relative weakness was among Collar County Democrats where she leads Sanders 49% to 43%. As we’ve seen elsewhere, African American voters strongly favor Clinton 69% to 14% over Sanders, although the Vermont Senator shows much stronger support among Hispanic and Asian voters.

In the Illinois Republican Primary, Trump leads with 38% over Marco Rubio (21%) and Ted Cruz (16%). Rubio has surged over the last three-four days…I’m not sure if it will last. Trump wins consistently in all four Illinois regions, and holds a 9 percentage point stronger lead among males than females (43% to 34%). Trump’s strongest numbers stem from the 1-of-3 GOP primary voters, and there’s speculation that some who haven’t voted in primaries in the past will come out for him. We’ll see.

* Regardless of the results, keep in mind that presidential races at this stage can change pretty quickly. If Rubio continues surging, then maybe he’ll make it close. But I’d rather be the Trump campaign than any of the others right now.

Clinton’s numbers are about the same as other Illinois polls we’ve seen, while Sanders’ numbers are worse. Maybe that’s because of Clinton’s Nevada win, which gave her some momentum. African-American voters tend to break late, which could also help explain it. But, whatever the case, primaries are not easy to poll, so never bet your life on any one result.

* Full results and crosstabs…

* Democratic poll

* Republican poll

* Related…

* Sanders to hold rally Thursday at Chicago State University

- Posted by Rich Miller   67 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** Stung by Facebook comments, Rep. Phillips to donate money

Thursday, Feb 25, 2016

* Rep. Reggie Phillips got some heat on Facebook and elsewhere after he asked for and received a large, $53,000 contribution from Gov. Bruce Rauner. So, he made an announcement on his Facebook page this week

I used the weekend to reflect on the donation from the Governor, who by the way just didn’t send the money I asked for it, I have been funding my Champaign’s myself from the beginning. I have refused to be paid the salary since 6/15 because I didn’t think it fair I get paid without a budget for many of our residents, I’ve refused the pension and the health insurance as it should be means tested for now and in the future completely done away with for legislators. That’s another story.

So to the point I’ve decided to take $53,000 however you wish to look at it and add to the salary I will eventually get and donate it also. Even though I’m not getting the salary I continue to donate. I will make these public for review so you will be able to confirm and not just take my word. Food banks up and down the district, senior services for the poor, sexual assault centers etc. If you have a particular group suffering from the budget cut and $5000 will help please let me know. I know its not much but every dollar will help. Thanks for reaching out

Eastern Illinois University is struggling to stay alive and is in Phillips’ district and folks there are hopping mad. Phillips also has a Republican primary opponent. You do the math.

* The local paper followed up

Phillips said since Rauner had sent out checks to other Republican candidates for other offices and he was currently working with Rauner on multiple issues, Phillips and his staff thought he could ask Rauner for the donation. […]

Phillips said he did not need the money for his own campaign and asking for it was the result of taking poor advice.

Phillips said in any other campaign, having the governor contribute to one’s campaign would be an honor.

“It’s still an honor,” Phillips said. “But under circumstances I do not think it looks most appropriate.”

Reggie is not the sort who easily admits error, so he must have really been stung by that online criticism.

The paper reported that he has a meeting set up with Sexual Assault Counseling and Information Service in his district to discuss a donation. The impasse has left groups like that without state funds.

*** UPDATE *** From Rep. Phillips…

I am pleased to have the support of the Governor in the March 15th Primary and I was pleased to accept the campaign contribution that the Governor gave to my campaign. As many are well aware, I have largely self-funded my campaigns in the past, and so I am grateful for this generous contribution to my campaign efforts. As I said earlier this week, I’ve contributed to charitable causes in my district for a long time and plan to contribute even more money to charities to help people in need in my district.

I represent the people of the 110th District and I think that having a great relationship with the Governor of this state is important as I continue to work in Springfield on behalf of my constituents. It should be no surprise that the Governor supports my re-election and it should be no surprise to anyone that I backed his election in 2014.

It is ironic and troubling that Jonathan Kaye would find fault in the fact that the Governor supports me. His criticism of me follows the announcement of the Governor’s endorsement of my candidacy. The irony is in the fact that a piece of literature that Kaye has circulated contains a link to the Governor’s website and his Turnaround Agenda. I find it troubling that a Republican candidate would attack the Governor because of an endorsement. Perhaps his criticism stems more from the fact that the Governor has endorsed me instead of him.

But then again maybe Kaye is trying to deflect the impact of the Governor’s endorsement and the revelation that he was charged with a Class X Felony when he lived in Toledo. That charge was later reduced to a misdemeanor, but I think it raises a lot of questions amongst voters about his background and his ability to serve in the Illinois Legislature. Mr. Kaye should spend more time worrying about who supports him and less time worrying about who supports me.

* Related…

* Long responds to tension at tea party meeting: Havenhill then asked if a state political party should financially support any [Republican] primary candidate. “If they believe that candidate has what it takes to win a general election, that’s their prerogative, that’s their money,” Long answered. “That’s not their money,” Havenhill said. “That’s the money that people send in looking for proper representation.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   42 Comments      

The next shoe drops on McCann’s head

Thursday, Feb 25, 2016

* Remember when I asked yesterday about the next shoe to drop? Bernie has it

In addition to campaign-paid mileage reimbursements received by state Sen. SAM McCANN, R-Plainview, during his time in the General Assembly, he has received more than $19,600 in mileage reimbursements from the state since entering the Senate in 2011.

A State Journal-Register story Feb. 14 detailed the payments McCann received from his campaign that included $38,000 in just the past year, which at a reimbursement rate of 57.5 cents per mile would mean he drove more than 66,000 miles in that year.

That story, which also included “grouped expenditures” that McCann took from his campaign fund, has become fodder for anti-McCann ads being run by Liberty Principles PAC, an independent expenditure group whose chairman and treasurer is Chicago radio talk-show host DAN PROFT. The group has spent more than $1.3 million to help McCann’s opponent in the March 15 primary, BRYCE BENTON of Springfield.

A check of state records shows that McCann also submitted vouchers for state mileage payments totaling more than $19,600, with amounts ranging from $4,755 in 2011 to $2,594 for part of 2015. The reimbursement rate was at 51 cents per mile for part of 2011, but has mostly been at 39 cents per mile.

Can he really be logging all those miles?

* Bernie also cribbed my poll

Meanwhile, Capitol Fax reported that a Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll done Tuesday of 645 registered Republican voters put the 50th Senate District March 15 primary race at about 43 percent for Benton, 41.4 percent for McCann and 15.6 percent undecided. The margin of error was 3.86 percent.

It was likely GOP voters, but the ads are obviously working.

- Posted by Rich Miller   96 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 - Rauner weighs in *** Who’s for a Chicago schools “bailout”?

Thursday, Feb 25, 2016

*** UPDATE *** As expected, the governor talked about this issue today in the Metro East

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* Joliet Herald-News

To the Editor:

Going door-to-door throughout my district, I often hear from parents, teachers and school staff who ask about funding for our area’s schools. I share their urgency and concern. Local schools must be properly funded by the state, and in fact, there is a lot of work to be done to better support local classrooms. For this reason, I am speaking out against a recent proposal that has the potential to significantly set back our efforts to help local schools.

Recently, Gov. Bruce Rauner has announced his support for a plan to bail out the Chicago Public Schools. This school system is in tremendous debt. To name just one of its many failures, when students were being shifted out of 50 closed schools into consolidated classrooms, CPS managed to “lose track” of tens of thousands of computers, desks and books in the transition. CPS paid $25 million to a company to handle the transition logistics. The mismanagement is appalling because I know that every dollar that Chicago wastes could make a difference in our local schools.

An Illinois bailout of Chicago Public Schools puts our students, teachers and taxpayers at risk. We simply cannot be put on the hook for Chicago’s decades of failure. Please help me speak out against this proposal by signing my petition atnochicagobailout/Cloonen or by calling my office at 815-939-1983.

Last year, I was able to help secure nearly $200 million in new school funding. I will continue to be a strong voice for reform, and I will fight to bring more attention and resources to our schools. Thank you for your help in this important effort.

Kate Cloonen

* And the very next day

To the Editor:

I read state Rep. Kate Cloonen’s letter to the editor in Wednesday’s edition of The Herald-News with great surprise. As the primary sponsor behind legislation that would have provided Chicago Public Schools with the financial flexibility, oversight and accountability to begin earning back the trust of the taxpayers, I find her assertions devoid of facts.

To be clear, Gov. Bruce Rauner has not proposed a bailout. Our proposals encompass the same mandated financial oversight and elected school board requirements that every other school in Illinois adheres to, except Chicago. In addition, given their dire financial situation, Gov. Rauner suggested allowing Chicago Public Schools to explore financial options similar to those encompassed by municipal bankruptcy.

None of these proposals would cost Illinois taxpayers a dime.

Compare this with the demands of Rep. Cloonen, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, who all now have publicly rejected the governor’s call to protect Illinois taxpayers from Chicago’s relentless demands. Cullerton went so far as to call on Illinois Democrats to hold hostage the upcoming K-12 education budget until Chicago schools receive $500 million in additional dollars, with no strings attached.

Where’s Rep. Cloonen’s call to reject Sen. Cullerton’s proposal? I highly doubt we’ll ever see it – because, at the end of the day, she stands with them in their efforts to bail out Chicago schools.

Ron Sandack

R-Downers Grove, state representative, 81st District

* But the meme is most definitely spreading

“The governor’s plan to divert resources and needed funding away from the Illinois Valley and funnel it into Chicago’s failed system is a mistake,” [Rep. Andy Skoog (D-La Salle)] explained in a release issued Thursday. “I am against Gov. Rauner’s ill-advised plan and will vote against it. The taxpayers I represent shouldn’t be on the hook for Chicago’s decades of mismanagement. […]

“At a time when the bills at the veteran’s home in La Salle are not being paid, when seniors are facing the loss of in-home care services and home-delivered meals, when my constituents with disabilities are not receiving the funding that the state has promised, and when college students are trying to figure out if they’ll be able to afford their next semester classes, the idea of asking taxpayers in my district to bailout Chicago is ridiculous.”

* And

In a response to efforts being made by Chicago politicians to bailout Chicago Public Schools, CPS, State Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, said Feb. 16 that he was launching a petition drive to garner community support for his efforts to oppose any type of Chicago bailout.

“It is frustrating that as soon as Chicago cries for help because they messed up their own finances that Southern Illinois is expected to pick up the pieces and bailout them out,” Phelps said in a news release.

“The money earned by hard-working residents here in Southern Illinois should stay here and not be sent up to Chicago bureaucrats who are just trying to line their pockets.”

* And

Recently Governor Rauner announced his plan for the state to bailout the failing Chicago Public School (CPS) system, a move being criticized by state Rep. Dan Beiser, D-Alton.

“Bailing out the Chicago Public School system is a terrible idea, especially when we have so many other problems with our state budget and our schools are in need of greater investment,” said Beiser. “I have long stood against the idea of Chicago getting an automatic cut of school funding while downstate schools are hurting. I object to the governor’s idea to put local taxpayers on the hook for Chicago’s fiscal mismanagement.”

Beiser voiced his frustration that Governor Rauner is focusing on a CPS bailout, rather than addressing the budget crisis impacting all corners of the state.

The governor is in the Metro East today, so I expect he’ll be asked about this since it’s become such a bone of contention. Rauner’s legislation prohibits extra state money from going to the city, but I doubt anyone who already doesn’t like Rauner would believe that would be the end result.

* In reality, both sides are stirring up their bases with Chicago bashing to further their own causes. The tragedy is they wouldn’t be doing it if it didn’t work. But the “I hate Chicago” game has worked for generations in this state.

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 - CTU claims credit *** Behind the Chuy nod

Thursday, Feb 25, 2016

* Greg Hinz on Cook County Commissioner Chuy Garcia’s endorsement of Speaker Madigan

In a subsequent phone interview, Garcia said Rauner “has brought different types of Democrats together by insisting on pro-business, anti-union changes before enacting a needed tax hike.

“Madigan asked me to endorse,” Garcia added. “I thought about it for quite awhile. I decided to do it…There were no quid pro quos.” […]

“There were a variety of political and policy agreements,” says one source who should know. Garcia has been unable to round up the votes on the County Board to succeed County Clerk David Orr if he resigns, but Madigan can get them, says another.

Orr, in a phone call, termed it “all rumors.” But he didn’t totally deny that something may be afoot. […]

Other sources are hinting that the Chicago Teachers Union played yenta. Labor and Madigan are extremely close at the moment, and CTU and other teachers unions were the biggest financial backers of Garcia’s bid for mayor.

It’s probably all of the above, including the county clerk thing.

* Madigan has “evolved” from a traditional white etnick social conservative to forcefully supporting progressive ideals like gay marriage. He put the millionaire’s tax and minimum wage hike on the 2014 ballot (although he hasn’t yet advanced either plan in his chamber). And the white, South Side Irish-American even backed last year’s police reforms.

* The CTU, which convinced Garcia to run for mayor, is under siege and has moved closer to Madigan than at any time since Dave Peterson was alive. Check out the yard signs that Madigan’s campaign is using…

* And, of course, Bruce Rauner has managed to send the various wings of the usually fractious Democratic coalition into Madigan’s outstretched arms. Rightly or wrongly, they view Madigan as the only one with the fortitude to consistently thumb his nose at Rauner, IllinoisGO and the Tribune editorial board.

When everyone from liberal darling Rep. Will Guzzardi (who was harshly bashed by Madigan both times he attempted to unseat Toni Berrios), to Sen. Emil Jones III (whose father fought innumerable battles royale with Madigan for years), to Commissioner Chuy Garcia, to Mayor Rahm Emanuel are all defending Madigan and attacking Rauner in unison, there’s more going on here than many would have you believe.

They’re not all “in the tank.” Many realize they’re at war, and they don’t want to lose.

*** UPDATE *** Greg updates

The CTU is confirming that its president, the very talented Karen Lewis, did indeed bring Garcia and Madigan together on this one.

Asked specifically if Lewis played yenta on this match, Stephanie Gadlin replied in an email, “Yes, she did.”

Call it, at least in part, a little love letter to Bruce Rauner

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* Meanwhile

“I’m a private detective in Schaumburg and I have been developing information on Jason Gonzales over the last few months. I saw your article. Nice work. Can we talk?”

That note from a Bensenville police officer who doubles as a private eye popped up in my inbox after I reported on Gonzales’ 2015 pardon on several theft and forgery convictions from the early 1990s. Gonzales, an Elgin native who went on to get master’s degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, is running against powerful Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan in the March 15 Democratic primary in the predominantly Hispanic 22nd District.

David Ratkovich, president of ETS Intelligence, told me he was paid about $5,000 to compile a dossier on Gonzales by someone who wanted to vet the candidate before dropping big bucks into his campaign.

Who paid? Ratkovich won’t tell — other than to say it’s not Madigan. A quick look at Gonzales’ war chest shows roughly $48,000 in donations this year, on top of $48,840 collected in 2015. A number of those donations are from investors and venture capitalists who also support GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner.

I’m not saying it’s him, but Gonzales’ biggest contributor so far has been former Democratic US Senate candidate and kabillionaire Blair Hull.

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      

Keeping Illinois Nuclear Plants Open: Good For Jobs, Small Business & Illinois

Thursday, Feb 25, 2016

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

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For decades, we have done a lot of work at the six nuclear energy plants around Illinois. Some of these plants could close soon and I am deeply concerned about the severe impact that will have on my business and my workers.

A State of Illinois report found that if these plants close, it could cost us $1.8 billion in lost economic activity and 8,000 jobs, many of which are highly skilled, good paying jobs. I can’t afford that and Illinois can’t afford that.

That is why I encourage our state legislators to adopt energy policy reform legislation the would help preserve our state’s nuclear plants. This is crucial to our state’s economic health and thousands of small businesses like mine.

Learn the facts about Illinois’ nuclear plants at


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- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      

*** UPDATED x2 *** Senate Black Caucus Chairman says Dunkin bill would “harm” most vulnerable citizens

Thursday, Feb 25, 2016

* Uh-oh…

Recently, State Representative Ken Dunkin held a press conference boasting his plan to save Chicago State University (CSU) and several other state universities from financial collapse. What Representative Dunkin failed to mention is how seniors, people facing foreclosures, human services and LIHEAP would all fall victim to fund sweeps tied to funding his legislation. Senator Emil Jones III, Chairman of the Senate Black Caucus introduced Senate Bill 2272, which funds CSU without evoking harm to some of our most vulnerable citizens like Rep. Dunkin’s bill would cause.

Below is Senator Jones’ statement:

“The legislation that my colleague and good friend Ken Dunkin is proposing comes with a few strings attached. Ken’s bill is funded by a separate demand from the governor and Republicans in the form of Senate Bill 3044, which steals funds from LIHEAP, the Human Services fund, foreclosure prevention programs, money for our crumbling schools and a fund that provides long-term care for seniors.

“So sometimes, the things our ‘allies’ suggest aren’t really what they seem to be. Legislation I am sponsoring spends tax money we have collected and hasn’t been spent to fund CSU. On a side note, I would like to applaud CSU’s students and faculty for their poise and willingness to make adjustments while the governor, his allies and Republicans play politics with your futures. Back to Ken, let’s get on the same page and pass my bill that solves problems and doesn’t create them.”

* Jones’ approp bill already has a few black co-sponsors

Appropriates $25,000,000 from the Education Assistance Fund to the Board of Trustees of Chicago State University for ordinary and contingent expenses. Provides that the appropriation authority is valid for costs incurred from July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016. Effective immediately.

The Education Assistance Fund is explained by Voices for Illinois Children

The Education Assistance Fund, which is used for both elementary - secondary and higher education, receives a share of income tax revenue as well as proceeds from riverboat gambling.

Very interesting move, especially since the Senate Black Caucus has never been much of a Madigan support group (to say the least).

* Gov. Rauner indicated yesterday that he could support the Dunkin bill, but the Tribune’s Kim Geiger takes a look at the embattled legislator’s higher ed bailout proposal

“I’ve got to understand that bill a little better but that’s a way, but then we’ll have the money, and I could support that,” Rauner said.

Technically, the state doesn’t have the money. Dunkin’s bill relies on an accounting gimmick that allows the state not to pay back dollars that were borrowed last year from special state accounts. Rauner’s administration borrowed the $454 million last year at the start of the budget impasse to have cash on hand to help get the state through the stalemate. The money is required to be paid back by the end of the year, making it a liability on the state’s books. Dunkin’s bill would only take effect if a separate bill is approved that allows the state to never pay that money back.

In effect, Dunkin’s bill spends money that’s already been spent. Rauner, meanwhile, has been defending his decision to veto a bill that would have funded tuition grants for college students, saying the General Assembly has to stop trying to spend money it doesn’t have.

“I’m open to whatever works, but we’ve got to spend money that we have,” Rauner said Wednesday. “We’ve got to stop trying to spend money that we don’t have.”

She’s right and so is Sen. Jones. The money was borrowed just before the end of last fiscal year (15) and was intended to be used this fiscal year (16) to get through tight times, but isn’t scheduled to be paid back until next fiscal year (17), when more money comes in. Gov. Rauner’s proposed budget would “forgive” that debt, but not until next fiscal year (17).

*** UPDATE 1 *** From a senior administration official…

GOMB has reviewed the proposal and believes it would not result in any service or program disruptions or reductions. That is why GOMB felt comfortable making that proposal in the FY17 budget. This is quite obviously opposition driven by politics rather than what’s best for public universities and community colleges in crisis.

Well, that last sentence is surely correct, on both sides.

And if there’s $200 million in extra money laying around, perhaps the governor shouldn’t have vetoed the MAP grant bill and kept the actual spending to that amount, which he has the power to do.

*** UPDATE 2 *** The complete list of special funds that were swept last year and were supposed to be repaid next fiscal year is here. Bunch of sacred cows in there.

- Posted by Rich Miller   61 Comments      

* A big nail unanimously driven into the drug war's coffin
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