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Question of the day

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2016

* Takes one to know one, I suppose

Tribune Publishing said Tuesday in a letter that USA Today owner Gannett was “erratic” and “unreliable” as the two newspaper companies tried to discuss a possible tie-up.

* More

Gannett, which is based in McLean, Virginia, said it offered $12.25 in cash for each Tribune share. That’s a 63 percent premium to Tribune’s Friday closing price of $7.52. Gannett valued the total deal at about $815 million, which includes about $390 million of debt.

Gannett said Monday that it wants to buy Chicago-based Tribune to expand its USA Today Network, an effort launched late last year that helps it share stories between national paper USA Today and its more than 100 local daily newspapers.

I wouldn’t be too happy if I owned Tribune stock, I gotta say. But, I don’t, so whatevs.

* The Question: Your thoughts on a national company buying up the Tribune?

- Posted by Rich Miller   52 Comments      


Hey, Rahm! Pick up the phone!

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2016

* Sheesh…


- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      


Thanks for the advice, NYT!

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2016

* From a New York Times editorial

A 10-month budget standoff in Illinois has reached the point where the state comptroller, Leslie Geissler Munger, says she plans to delay the monthly paychecks of lawmakers and state officials because other bills and services deserve to be paid first. The comptroller, a Republican running for re-election, seems to think this will force the Democratic General Assembly and Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, to compromise.

The paycheck strategy would be politically amusing were it not for the fact that the budget impasse is having severe effects on Illinois citizens.

The extraordinary conclusion with its oh so helpful suggestion

The people of Illinois and Kansas deserve far better from their lawmakers. Voters should unseat their worst representatives this November.

* Tom Corfman reacts

Does the Times really think we haven’t thought of that?

We’re in Flyover Country, Tom. Of course they never considered it.

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      


Something else I don’t quite understand

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2016

* Doubek

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner is about as pro-business as Republicans come, right?

He’s got to be one of those free-market libertarian types, right?

Would you be surprised to learn his health care department is considering giving a multi-million-dollar contract to one company to provide products thousands of Illinoisans need?

This is a little story about the nitty-gritty dealings of government that affect real people and the real people who run businesses.

Go read the rest.

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      


OT change prompts protest

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2016

* Let’s hope some of these folks don’t end up in far more expensive state care

Lisa Kotsirs can’t leave her 29 year-old epileptic autistic daughter alone in a room because she fears her daughter would harm herself. But a looming pay cut for home caretakers triggered by the ongoing state budget impasse could leave Kotsirs with a difficult decision to make.

She and her daughter, Mandy Kotsirs, took part in a news conference Monday at the E.J. “Zeke” Giorgi Center to protest state regulations that, beginning May 1, will cap overtime pay for home caretakers. That means people such as Mandy who need more than 40 hours of care a week must find multiple caretakers to juggle the task.

Mandy needs continuous care because she has severe developmental delays, sensory issues and autism. Her mother works as her personal care worker, earning $13 an hour. About 8,600 personal care workers will feel the impact of the new overtime cap and many families could be forced to place their children in state institutions, Lisa Kotsirs said.

“This [in-home care] is needed … to help have them be more independent and hopefully drastically improve quality of life,” she said. “Caring for people like my daughter is a difficult task and not many people want to do the job.”

But is it really about the impasse?

* Read on

Home healthcare workers, like Templeton, get paid by the department of human services.

Starting May 1st they’re limited to 40 hours of work per week with some exceptions. […]

The department of human services says some people are taking advantage of the system, collecting dozens of hours in overtime pay.

The new rules mean the state will more closely review which workers earn time and a half.

* The fact that SEIU was behind yesterday’s media event suggests there’s more going on here

Home care workers say they regularly work overtime. Now, because they’re required by law to be paid overtime, the Rauner Administration is cracking down on their hours.

Members of SEIU say the Rauner Administration’s new policy limiting hours to 40 a week doesn’t take into account what those who rely on home care workers need.

Those who need more than 40 hours a week can hire additional help under the new rules, but workers say their clients prefer people they know and trust.

“These consumers have built a repertoire with this particular person. These consumers may have disabilities that require specific needs and they may put their trust in one person. They may have worked for this person for 20 years, and now they are changing it where they have to hire someone else to come into their home and provide this assistance,” said Denise Groesch, Center for Independent Living.

And

There are nearly 9,000 disabled people impacted by the new overtime rules. The union representing home healthcare workers says it is an attempt by the Rauner Administration to avoid new federal rules that extend overtime to those healthcare workers.

You would expect the union to be OK with less overtime because that would mean more people (meaning more members) would have to be hired. But they’re on the side of those receiving care and the organizations providing it.

If there’s fraud, clamp down. Otherwise, why incur the expense of hiring and training more people? I’m not sure I understand this yet.

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      


OK, I think they finally got me

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2016

* For years, I have staunchly resisted the urge to jump on the Chicago Blackhawks bandwagon.

I played football, baseball and basketball and skied while in school. I knew those sports back and forth and have always thoroughly enjoyed them. I also attended Golden Gloves matches when my family lived in Utah for a couple of years, which got me interested in boxing.

I knew nothing about hockey - at all. I could never skate worth a darn, either. I have watched precisely one NHL game in person my entire life. I liked it, but it was in St. Louis, so I didn’t take it too seriously. Until recently, I’d never watched an entire NHL game on TV. It just didn’t do anything for me.

So, to all of a sudden become a Blackhawks fan just because they were winning seemed a bit distasteful - even wrong - to me.

* But this playoff series with St. Louis got me hooked, man. I even managed to figure out some of the rules that had previously eluded me. And because the Hawks lost, I think I’m now cleared to consider jumping aboard the ol’ bandwagon.

Recommendations?

- Posted by Rich Miller   74 Comments      


The quiet desperation of the middle class

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2016

* This Neal Gabler piece in the Atlantic entitled “The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans,” made me physically ill. Gabler documented how the middle class has little to no financial cushion and the resulting shame it causes

Since 2013, the Federal Reserve Board has conducted a survey to “monitor the financial and economic status of American consumers.” Most of the data in the latest survey, frankly, are less than earth-shattering: 49 percent of part-time workers would prefer to work more hours at their current wage; 29 percent of Americans expect to earn a higher income in the coming year; 43 percent of homeowners who have owned their home for at least a year believe its value has increased. But the answer to one question was astonishing. The Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all. Four hundred dollars! Who knew?

Well, I knew. I knew because I am in that 47 percent.

I know what it is like to have to juggle creditors to make it through a week. I know what it is like to have to swallow my pride and constantly dun people to pay me so that I can pay others. I know what it is like to have liens slapped on me and to have my bank account levied by creditors. I know what it is like to be down to my last $5—literally—while I wait for a paycheck to arrive, and I know what it is like to subsist for days on a diet of eggs. I know what it is like to dread going to the mailbox, because there will always be new bills to pay but seldom a check with which to pay them. I know what it is like to have to tell my daughter that I didn’t know if I would be able to pay for her wedding; it all depended on whether something good happened. And I know what it is like to have to borrow money from my adult daughters because my wife and I ran out of heating oil.

You wouldn’t know any of that to look at me. I like to think I appear reasonably prosperous. Nor would you know it to look at my résumé. I have had a passably good career as a writer—five books, hundreds of articles published, a number of awards and fellowships, and a small (very small) but respectable reputation. You wouldn’t even know it to look at my tax return. I am nowhere near rich, but I have typically made a solid middle- or even, at times, upper-middle-class income, which is about all a writer can expect, even a writer who also teaches and lectures and writes television scripts, as I do. And you certainly wouldn’t know it to talk to me, because the last thing I would ever do—until now—is admit to financial insecurity or, as I think of it, “financial impotence,” because it has many of the characteristics of sexual impotence, not least of which is the desperate need to mask it and pretend everything is going swimmingly. In truth, it may be more embarrassing than sexual impotence. “You are more likely to hear from your buddy that he is on Viagra than that he has credit-card problems,” says Brad Klontz, a financial psychologist who teaches at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, and ministers to individuals with financial issues. “Much more likely.” America is a country, as Donald Trump has reminded us, of winners and losers, alphas and weaklings. To struggle financially is a source of shame, a daily humiliation—even a form of social suicide. Silence is the only protection.

* While it’s not an exact or even particularly close match, I’ve been in much the same financial and mental place many times in my life (perhaps more recently than you might think). My friends and family have been there and many are there right now. Many of us know what it’s like to be afraid to go to the mailbox. Heck, I still have a phobia about it to this day and I do pretty well right now. I absolutely hate going to the mailbox, even when I know checks are sitting there.

Anyway, sorry for the whiny TMI. I could, of course, easily afford a $400 emergency. I’m not at all the issue here, but Gabler’s piece truly had a profound impact on me and I wanted to share it with you. So, go read the whole thing.

* Related…

* Americans weigh in on financial shame

* Being an adjunct college professor can be awful

- Posted by Rich Miller   127 Comments      


Rauner admin claims AFSCME impasse would give sides “cooling-off period”

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2016

* Let’s take a look at a couple of stories about what happened at yesterday’s Illinois Labor Relations Board hearing on whether the contract talks between AFSCME and the Rauner administration are at an impasse

An attorney for the state, Tom Bradley, said the administration had indeed bargained in good faith during 24 bargaining sessions stretching over 67 days. He pointed to tentative agreements that were reached on a number of non-economic issues. Even on economic issues, he said, the state “made many concessions” even though that isn’t a requirement to prove good-faith bargaining.

“The state is not negotiating in a vacuum,” Bradley said. “The state is negotiating under the very heavy weight of the worst financial crisis in the state’s history.”

That crisis, he said, is why the administration wants to freeze wage and step increases for union members as well as extract savings on their health insurance plan. AFSCME has rejected those provisions and has made wage and benefit demands that leave the two sides about $3.3 billion apart, he said. When AFSCME still hadn’t changed its demands in a “substantial” way by Jan. 8, the state sought to have the talks declared at impasse.

“A finding of impasse does not mean negotiations are over,” Bradley said. Instead, an impasse would provide the two sides a cooling-off period, he said.

A cooling-off period? That seems like a unique interpretation.

* Tribune

[AFSCME Council 31 attorney Steve Yokich] accused the Rauner administration of purposely staking out extreme positions to force a lockout or strike. He ripped out pages of the current contract to demonstrate benefits and rights Rauner wanted to cut back or eliminate, including doing away with fees unions can charge nonmembers and abolishing so-called “bumping rights” that shield more senior employees from layoffs.

“We think the evidence will show that the parties were not at impasse the day the state walked away from the bargaining table,” said Yokich, who added the union had questions on numerous proposals such as bonus pay that the administration never addressed.

“The employer never gave us specifics so it’s very hard for us to make counterproposals to move the ball forward,” Yokich said. “I think they came to the table with a predetermined resolve not to budge from their proposal.”

Yokich also questioned the relevancy of the state’s budget crisis in the administration’s position, saying it amounts to a “self-inflicted wound” after the 2015 rollback of an income tax increase that blew a $4 billion hole in the state budget. Rauner campaigned on letting the tax start to expire, though he has said he is open to a tax increase if combined with his business-friendly, union-weakening political agenda.

They’re making the same basic argument as the CTU - essentially that the state is “broke on purpose.” But I think they have a better argument here than the CTU.

- Posted by Rich Miller   78 Comments      


Voices for Illinois Children to legislators: Compromise is not “weakness”

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2016

* OK, so we’ve heard from House Speaker Michael Madigan and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin. I thought you’d also like to hear from social service advocates, who lobbied hard for the higher education “stopgap” bill in order to open a door for another stopgap for their programs. Here’s Emily Miller…

Hi Rich,

Since last week’s bi-partisan agreement to provide emergency cash to higher education, a narrative of regret and finger-pointing has emerged from officials who are afraid the move displays political weakness. On the contrary, reaching a bi-partisan agreement on the merits of a budget related issue shows promise.

To be clear, the agreement was a far cry from a solution. The emergency cash infusion to higher education will run out by the end of the summer, and the ongoing damage to human service providers who got left out of this deal entirely will continue to mount. We’re still on track to have upwards of $10 billion in unpaid bills by the end of the fiscal year in June. We still have no realistic plan to pay FY16’s unpaid bills, let alone an entire FY17 budget for the year that begins July 1.

But in this toxic political environment, the ability of rank and file members to sit across from each other and agree on something is a welcome change. The ability of leaders to stop themselves from tanking the deal shows progress.

Still, this crisis will continue to worsen without the revenue necessary to perform all of the most basic functions of state government, including K-12 education, higher education and human services.

Eventually lawmakers and leaders are going to run out of pots of emergency money to throw at crises, and they’ll have to admit to each other that the ability of our state to pass balanced budgets in the long-term requires new revenue. But the agreement reached last week proves that rank-and-file lawmakers have what it takes to reach past the political rhetoric that has dominated budget talks over the last year and really hear each other.

If elected officials keep talking and listening to each other, they’ll be able to negotiate a responsible budget that invests in children, families and communities across Illinois.

Emily Miller
Policy and Advocacy Director
Voices for Illinois Children

I couldn’t agree more.

- Posted by Rich Miller   67 Comments      


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