“When the Republicans talk about how much Chicago spends per pupil, they always inflate the number by counting the money CPS puts into its pension fund,” Manar said. “Then they compare that to per pupil spending in the suburbs and downstate where residents don’t put anything directly into the state teacher pension fund. It’s apples to oranges and makes it sound like Chicago is spending $2,000 more per year per student than it is.”
* From the US Department of Health & Human Services…
Illinois Uninsured Rate Reaches Historic Low
Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the latest National Health Interview Survey. The survey shows that the uninsured rate for all ages fell to 9.1 percent in 2015, making it the first year in our nation’s history that fewer than 1 in 10 Americans lacked health insurance.
In addition, the survey showed that the uninsured rate in Illinois had reached 6.8%.
* The full report is here. If you scroll way down, you’ll see that Illinois’ uninsured rate in 2013 for people aged 18-65 was 17.8 percent. By 2015 it was 9.9 percent. That’s a 44 percent decrease.
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner is all but summoning the bond vigilantes. In an exclusive interview with Breakingviews, the onetime buyout baron challenged a pervasive belief in markets that governments can always just raise taxes to plug deficits. The issue resonates beyond his state’s $140 billion fiscal mess. From Springfield to San Juan, debt investors have neglected to focus political minds. […]
“We’ve spun ourselves into incredible debt, the worst debt in America for any state,” he said. “We can’t cut our way out. We can’t tax our way out. We’ve got to grow.”
The message should resonate not just with elected officials, whose financial neglect over many years loaded the state and its biggest city with debt, but also debt investors who have abetted government largesse in Illinois and beyond.
“There is an underlying assumption that in the end, you can always raise taxes. Let’s not sweat deficits too much, they’ll raise taxes eventually” Rauner said. “Bond buyers end up being advocates for tax hikes. That’s not the long-term solution.”
Detroit’s general obligation bondholders, for example, ultimately agreed to be paid less than par value for their holdings in the city’s bankruptcy proceedings. Allowing over-indebted governments in Illinois to restructure their debts could further shake the market from its complacency. Rauner said bond investors “might have to be thoughtful and actually do work, actually assess risk and reward.”
He’s absolutely right that we need lots more growth. But he sure doesn’t sound like a guy who’s trying to pass a massive tax hike. Maybe he should keep that in mind.
Also, too, if he ever attempts to pass a capital bill he’s gonna have to convince those investors to give us a decent rate. Dumping all over the state ain’t gonna help.
* A letter written by Eastern Illinois University President David Glassman to the four legislative leaders and the governor dated May 2nd warned them that university administrators will “find ourselves challenged to make payroll for the second half of July and the first half of August” if it doesn’t get its full Fiscal Year 2016 appropriation very soon.
The university has already laid off 400 employees. The stopgap approp passed last month just won’t be enough to keep the doors open, Glassman said. “Our gap has not been filled,” he warned.
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White announced that his office is upgrading security features to the Driver’s License/ID card design and expanding the central issuance process for driver’s licenses and ID cards to all applicants. With implementation of these changes, Illinois has moved closer to achieving full REAL ID compliance, which is a federal mandate of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
By the end of July, applicants visiting Driver Services facilities will no longer be issued a new permanent DL/ID card at the end of the application process. Instead, they will leave the facility with a temporary secure paper driver’s license, which is valid for 45 days and will serve as their DL/ID for driving purposes and proof of identification. The temporary, secure paper driver’s license or ID card will contain a photo and the basic information that appears on the permanent driver’s license or ID card. In addition, the facility employee will return the old DL/ID card back to the applicant after punching a hole in it.
Meanwhile, the applicant’s information will be sent to a centralized, secure facility in Illinois. After fraud checks have been conducted to ensure the applicant’s identity, a higher quality, more secure DL/ID will be printed and sent via U.S. mail within 15 business days to the applicant’s address.
“These changes are necessary for Illinois to be REAL ID compliant,” said White. In addition, the changes further enhance our efforts to protect Illinoisans from fraud and identity theft.” The upgraded driver’s license and ID card contain a variety of enhanced security features that take advantage of new developments in technology.”
For purposes of air travel, DHS states that it will accept the temporary document in conjunction with the old DL/ID to board an aircraft until the permanent card arrives in the mail. Illinois joins 39 other states that have moved to centralized production of DL/ID cards. This includes heavily populated states like California, Texas, and New York – as well as Illinois’ neighboring states.
These necessary changes are important steps toward becoming REAL ID compliant. DHS announced in January that Illinois DL/IDs will continue to be accepted as primary forms of identification to board commercial airplanes for domestic travel until January 22, 2018. The Illinois Secretary of State’s office continues to work with DHS and the Illinois General Assembly on the Real ID Act.
“Becoming REAL ID compliant is a step-by-step process, and with these changes Illinois is now 84 percent compliant with the federal mandate,” said White.
Central issuance provides better fraud and identity theft prevention by allowing the office to investigate possible fraud before applicants receive their DL/ID – and preventing its issuance and mailing. In addition, the design of the DL/ID card has been upgraded with important features that over-the-counter technology simply cannot produce. These types of anti-counterfeiting security features help prevent and deter fraud.
The transition to central issuance will take place in phases. First, beginning this week, Safe Driver Renewal applicants will receive by mail their new driver’s license with the upgraded security features. These motorists opted for and expect to receive their driver’s license via mail. Second, through a gradual rollout, Driver Services facilities throughout the state will implement central issuance using the newly designed card. By the end of July, all Driver Services facilities will have transitioned to central issuance.
It is imperative that applicants ensure their address is updated with the Secretary of State’s office in order to receive the permanent driver’s license or ID card. By law, address changes must be reported within 10 days. Illinoisans can update their address online at www.cyberdriveillinois.com. If an applicant does not receive their new permanent driver’s license or ID card after 15 business days of visiting a facility, they can check the status at www.cyberdriveillinois.com or call 217-782-7044.
While the driver’s license and ID card upgrades are being implemented, there will be more than one valid driver’s license/ID card until the old design format is phased out. Fees remained unchanged.
Kirk said he is running for another term because he believes he will be the “best advocate for the state of Illinois.” He sees himself as one of the more moderate members of Congress — he supports same-sex marriage and was the first Republican senator to meet with Garland, Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. Kirk called Trump a “river boat gamble” but said he still supports the presumptive Republican nominee.
“I had my reservations,” he said. “I’ve been thinking, in an age of Trump where you don’t know the direction of the country, the person you need most is a steady conservative hand like Mark Kirk in the Senate to be advising the president, especially on national security topics…which is my particular expertise after 23 years in the Navy.”
* Duckworth deputy campaign manager Matt McGrath responded…
“It is abundantly clear to most people in Illinois that Donald Trump lacks the knowledge and temperament to be President, and should never be placed anywhere near the nuclear codes. Republican Mark Kirk, who has been wrong about virtually every major foreign policy decision for the last 15 years, apparently views such a frightening possibility as an opportunity to increase his influence. Sad!”
OK, but I thought his statement, while admittedly self-serving, was somewhat reasonable.
Recently, a bill with strong bipartisan, labor, and community support called the Next Generation Energy Plan (NGEP) was introduced in Springfield that will drive Illinois’ clean energy future, while protecting and creating thousands of jobs and strengthening the state’s economy.
Specifically, the NGEP will:
• Introduce a Zero Emission Standard, keeping the state’s at-risk, nuclear facilities operating, saving 4,200 jobs, and preserving over $1.2 billion in economic activity annually.
• Enhance the reliability and security of the power grid
• Jumpstart solar energy in Illinois with rebates and more than $140 million per year in new funding for solar development.
• Nearly double energy efficiency programs, creating $4.1 billion in energy savings
• Provide $1 billion of funding for low-income assistance.
• Reduce the fixed customer charge for energy delivery by 50% and create equitable rates, giving customers more control over their bills.
• Strengthen and expand the Renewable Portfolio Standard.
Members of the Illinois General Assembly: Vote YES on the Next Generation Energy Plan by May 31 to avoid lost jobs, economic activity and increased carbon emissions in our state.
The daily fantasy sports gambling industry is pressuring officials to pass a bailout that actually costs taxpayers. According to COGFA these Internet gaming giants would each pay just $900,000 in state taxes, but they could afford $500 million in television ads last year.
Taxpayers may actually have to subsidize regulating online sports wagering. The Illinois Gaming Board doesn’t know how much it will cost to oversee this new form of online gaming.
The state is facing an unprecedented budget crisis, but two out-of-state companies, which the Attorney General said broke law, want you to give them valuable Internet gaming licenses.
Everyone but paid fantasy sports operators agree, it’s gambling:
[GOP Rep. David Harris] said the continued impasse is due in part to the difficult and contentious policy issues, such as collective bargaining, worker’s compensation, prevailing wage and property tax freezes.
Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) said those ancillary policy disputes and the budget are the two major problems facing the state legislature right now.
“The budget problem is important – really important – and difficult – really difficult, but there’s kind of a mechanism to come together. You can average two numbers. You know what halfway between my budget idea and your budget idea looks like,” Biss said. “On some of these policy questions … you have diametrically opposite core philosophies. And so if the goal is to get all of those things worked out simultaneously, I think you’re going to have a great degree of difficulty getting there.”
Biss is mostly right about the budget, but there are always ways to find avenues for agreement on those non-budget issues. The Democrats whacked the teachers unions a few years back with their education reforms that private citizen Bruce Rauner was pushing at the time, for instance. They’ve taken away some union collective bargaining rights on outsourcing some school contracts in Chicago. They whacked AFSCME and the teachers on pensions… twice. They even jammed up the trial lawyers years ago on behalf of the Medical Society.
The problem isn’t the way forward, necessarily, it’s the will to move forward. And if there’s no will, there ain’t no way. And there’s very little will in the House Democratic caucus because everything has been so divisive for a year and a half and their leader is leading them away from compromise.
Biss said getting rank-and-file members to agree on a budget might be a path to success.
“I think there is an extremely strong opportunity for rank-and-file legislators to push. I think if you’re saying, will there be a coup where one of the four leaders is deposed? I think that’s unlikely simply because the situation is so tense that people tend to hunker down together,” Biss said.
Yep, and that’s something that the House Democrats still don’t quite understand. They expected a House Republican coup months ago. They’ve predicted it on a regular basis ever since. It hasn’t happened. Yes, the Republicans have risen up in protest, particularly on veto overrides, but the governor’s people are smart enough to know how to avoid a defeat on those things. They specialize in it.
So, maybe it’ll happen, but grumbling in the ranks is an extremely common thing. Just because they’re yelling about Rauner or Durkin in private (and I’ve heard it, as have others) doesn’t mean they’ll actually do anything about it. Open revolts are extremely rare around these parts.
And the same goes for the governor. He truly believed he could peel off significant numbers of House Democrats to force Madigan to the table. Hasn’t happened. Maybe it will happen, but experience says it probably won’t. They’re all hunkered down together.
* We have Speaker Madigan’s reaction to today’s leaders meeting…
Madigan: Comprehensive, Full-Year Budgets Achievable When Governor Drops Attacks on Middle Class
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Speaker of the Illinois House Michael Madigan on Tuesday issued the following statement after Governor Rauner again insisted on passing his personal agenda before further discussions on a comprehensive state budget could take place:
“Progress has been made on budget items with Governor Rauner over the past year when he sets aside his non-budget agenda that attempts to lower the wages and standard of living of middle-class families.
“Illinois is in its 11th month without a state budget, and Governor Rauner’s refusal to make the budget his top priority has led to dreadful consequences for the elderly who rely on in-home care, victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, college students and universities, disabled persons, and providers of critical medical care.
“Since March 2015, the governor has worked with the Legislature to pass six budget measures. Not one of these measures was dependent on passage of his agenda that hurts middle-class families. Clearly, progress on the state budget is made when the governor sets aside his agenda that attacks the middle class.
“The governor’s continued insistence on passage of his agenda that hurts the middle class is a clear indication he is not interested in passing and implementing comprehensive, full-year budgets that do not decimate needed services relied upon by the people of Illinois.”
*** UPDATE 1 *** From someone who was in the meeting today…
Perhaps this was drafted prior to the meeting and released without consultation with the speaker or his chief of staff. Not sure who to believe: the Mike Madigan in the room today or the Mike Madigan in this press release.
*** UPDATE 2 *** As I told you earlier, the governor’s main thrust today was to convince Speaker Madigan to allow the non-budget working groups to move forward on a more formal basis. And Madigan did just that, which makes his above statement even more odd…
Speaker left meeting w/o comment, but spox says: 1) House to take up full MAP $ 2) MM will appoint Reps to Gov's non budget working group
*** UPDATE 4 *** I just talked to Steve Brown, who said, “We made the appointments because the governor requested it.”
Madigan, Brown said, “continues to believe that entangling the buget with his personal agenda is proven not to be an effective way to make budgets.”
* Brown also said that Madigan’s appointees will have a specific role at the negotiations. “On most of those topics, people will be able to go to those meetings and explain what the House has already done on those topics in the past year and a half.”
Gov. Bruce Rauner’s choice to fill the college faculty slot on the Illinois Board of Higher Education has prompted backlash from faculty at the University of Illinois.
Rauner announced John Bambenek, a former Champaign school board member and a onetime Republican state Senate candidate, as his faculty choice in mid-April.
Members of the Urbana campus Senate Executive Committee will draft a letter protesting the nomination to the Rauner administration. The Faculty Advisory Council to the Illinois Board of Higher Education plans to send a memo expressing frustration over Rauner’s choice to the state Senate’s Executive Appointments Committee.
In response to questions about the appointment from The News-Gazette, Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly issued the following statement: “John Bambenek’s knowledge and experience make him a valuable addition to the Illinois Board of Higher Education. He is qualified under statute to serve in this position.”
He is apparently qualified under statute, and he also shares Gov. Rauner’s views that higher ed administration is eating up too much of the total college cost. Remember this op-ed he did for us last year?…
In light of potential higher education budget cuts, I decided to calculate how much of the University of Illinois’ tuition dollars end up in instructors’ pockets.
I teach 125 Computer Science students. Assuming they are all in-state and they are all 3-hour students, they pay about $1,655 to take the class. This adds up to $207,000 paid to the University. It’s actually much higher than that because about half my students are out-of-state and pay double the in-state tuition and I have about a half-dozen 4-hours students.
My salary and the grading staff pay is only about 13% of that $207K. So the vast majority of those tuition dollars goes to things other than actually teaching the class. By way of comparison, when I teach overseas I am paid between 50-60% of the course cost.
Ideally, the person representing professors across the state would be a full-time, tenure-system faculty member who understands the “lifeblood” of a university, said DePaul University Professor Marie Donovan, chair of the IBHE’s Faculty Advisory Council.
“No. 1, he’s not a faculty member. That has not been his livelihood,” she said Monday. “He’s not been working with students, advising them. He’s not been deliberating curricula, he’s not been engaged in sustained research, and he hasn’t had to juggle all of those teaching, research, scholarship and service activities,” she said.
“It’s not his fault,” she said. “I’m pointing our fingers at the governor and the governor’s staff who are responsible for advising him.”
I really don’t think the governor cares all that much. Not only is Bambenek in sync with the governor on administrative costs, Rauner probably knew the appointment would drive the profs up a wall.
Bambenek also denounced all campus unions: “unions on this campus are nothing more than an added expense placed on taxpayers and students. University unions, and public-sector unions in general, have largely hijacked the legacy of the unions from the days when they were necessary.”
In another column, Bambenek denounced “The misuse of ‘academic freedom’ as a bludgeon to impose academic serfdom.” He complained, “Instead of talking about intelligent design, the acolytes of Darwinism engage in character assassination.” Yes, that’s right: Bambenek demanded the teaching of creationism in college.
He proposed limiting academic freedom to only the right of researchers to explore ideas, and the right of students to “determine for themselves what is sound.” He explicitly rejected academic freedom in the classroom: “Academic freedom should not be a right of classroom instructors to turn their podiums into pulpits.” Bambenek concluded his column by declaring that universities that are too “liberal” ought to be shut down: “liberal academia needs to engage with the world and ideas around it, or we will close down these bastions of failed thought.”
Ah, unions. The governor’s sweet spot. Or bitter spot, if you prefer.
* Also, the link is broken, but complaining about character assassination is not the same as demanding that creationism be taught. I was able to get part of the column in question, however…
Academic freedom should be confined to two areas and two areas alone. First, the researcher should be free to explore ideas without having pre-planned conclusions. Second, students should be free to explore the wide range of ideas and determine for themselves what is sound. Academic freedom should not be a right of classroom instructors to turn their podiums into pulpits. Their role is to present information, not preach it. Diverse instructors should be hired to present all reasonable positions within the disciplines.
I’m not endorsing it because I haven’t had a chance to think it through, but that seems kinda reasonable on its face.
* I’ve admitted a soft spot for Bambenek in the past. He’s been more than a bit of a loose cannon, but sometimes those folks appeal to me on certain levels. We disagree on a lot, and he’s gonna have to rise and fall of his own accord. But he’s not an evil cartoon character (although he’s tried to be at times) and deserves a fair hearing. Aside from the union stuff, he’s more on the side of faculty when it comes to their share of the pie than they may realize.
State Rep. Reggie Phillips, R-Charleston, was surrounded Monday by a swarm of riled members of the Eastern Illinois University community, calling for better support for the university.
A day before the Illinois House of Representatives meets, members of EIU-UPI, a faculty union, and others marched toward the legislator’s district office to show their support for university funding.
From 20 to 50 people walked from Morton Park with signs reading “Reggie Phillips: Stand Up to Rauner. Fully Fund EIU,” to “remind” Phillips of their call for full funding, they said. […]
“We are out here because 30 percent funding is a 70-percent cut,” said Sace Elder, EIU-UPI march organizer. “We thought this was very good time to remind Representative Phillips that we expect him to stand up to Rauner (and) stand up to the naysayers in order to get our community fully funded.”
Phillips said those demanding that he “stand up” to the governor were “confused” as to Rauner’s authority over the House.
“Rauner is really the secondary player on this right now,” Phillips said. “It is in Mr. (Michael) Madigan’s hands … anybody that thinks that fund EIU is going to happen if we pressure Rauner is nuts.”
While Madigan is indeed a very big problem, the pressure needs to be on everybody, continually, until the end of the month. Phillips included. This gets us back to what Rep. Franks said…
“Both sides suffer under the delusion that it’s OK that real people get hurt as long as the other side gets blamed for it.”
* As we discussed last week, the Illinois Policy Institute is having a rally today and participants are eligible for $40 gift cards. According to a participant (who is actually on the other side) turnout is a bit light…
* There are free t-shirts…
* But they’re made in Bangladesh…
* The Bangladeshi-t-shirt-wearing mini crowd will descend on the Statehouse today to lobby these Republican legislators to ask them to vote against the AFSCME “no strike” bill…
…Adding… A closeup of the “Because… Madigan!” t-shirt…
They’re so clever.
…Adding More… And, of course, the teevee people apparently think it’s all organic…
* Just minutes before the leaders are set to meet for only the second time this year, House Speaker Michael Madigan filed a new amendment to a shell appropriations bill…
The sum of $227,274,400, or so much thereof as may be necessary, is appropriated to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission from the General Revenue Fund for grant awards to students eligible for the Monetary Award Program, as provided by law, and for agency administrative and operational costs not to exceed 2 percent of the total appropriation in this Section.
Cue the “It has no real funding source and is therefore a sham” press release from the governor’s office in 3… 2…
Public Policy Polling was in the field for SEIU Health Care, looking specifically at five legislative districts where Republicans are incumbents. The surveys looked at Gov. Bruce Rauner’s approval numbers and asked about wages, policy issues and funding for child care. Remember SEIU Health Care is still in contract negotiations with the governor.
An accompanying memo reads: “Rauner’s approval numbers were upside down. Fifty-one percent of voters in the 99th District, where the State Capitol is located, said Rauner was doing a bad job, compared to 32% who said good. He notched similarly dismal numbers in two downstate districts and one Chicago area district. In a northern suburban district voters offered a split verdict, 40% good versus 37% bad, but expressed serious reservations about positions taken by the legislators.
“It’s not only the governor’s unpopularity that should be a cause of worry, but the lack of support for a number of his policies. In all of the districts, a majority of voters said they would be less likely to vote for a legislator who “opposed small wage increases for working poor Illinoisans who care for children, the elderly and persons with disabilities.” The question pertains to a stalled contract negotiation between the Rauner administration and SEIU Healthcare, the organization that represents those workers. Voters also did not look favorably on representatives who have stood behind the Rauner’s administrations cuts to childcare programs for lower-income working families, with a majority or near-majority in all districts saying it would make them less likely to vote for the member.”
As with the AFSCME bill, none of these results indicate that voters are truly up in arms about the policies.
Would you be more or less likely to vote for Representative Sheri Jesiel if you knew she voted to cut $200 million in funding for services that help frail senior citizens stay independent and prevent them from going to nursing homes that cost taxpayers more, or would it not make a difference?
More likely 27%
Less likely 44%
Wouldn’t make a difference 22%
Not sure 7%
You word a question like that and still only get 44 percent “less likely”?
* Of course he’s for it. We have a super rich man wanting to plop a gargantuan homage to himself on the Chicago lakefront instead of building it where it could do some actual good for a community. I mean, what’s not to like?…
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner says he hopes the City of Chicago wins in a lawsuit over the placement of the George Lucas museum. Lucas chose Chicago in 2014 over sites in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The City has been in a legal battle with the group Friends of the Parks over whether the museum should go on the lakefront. Rauner says it’s not often people like George Lucas and his wife Mellody Hobson say they’ll give a 700-million dollar gift.
“I hope the Lucas family stays persistent and Mellody stays the course. I believe they’ll win in court eventually. I’m sorry the court process takes a while, but I think they should win because I think it’s the right thing for the people of Chicago and the people of Illinois.”
Friends of the Parks wants to keep the lakefront open, but the city wants the Lucas museum to replace a parking lot by Soldier Field.
With just two weeks left before the scheduled end of the Legislature’s spring session—and nearly a year since the state had a budget—Gov. Bruce Rauner and the General Assembly’s four top leaders finally plan to sit down face to face on Tuesday.
Expectations are low—to put it mildly.
Though the guv and the “four tops” haven’t met since winter, and though the loose outlines of a potential budget deal emerged last week, the stumbling block remains what it has been for a year and a half: whether Democrats will give Rauner some of the pro-business, union-weakening structural changes he wants in Illinois government, or whether he will cave in. […]
Of course, miracles can happen. Look at how “this year” finally has seemed to arrive for the Cubs.
Meanwhile, the speaker, Senate president and the two GOP leaders are set to gather at 11:30 a.m. in Rauner’s office in the Capitol. If nothing else, it ought to make for good TV.
I’m told that the question the governor will ask Speaker Madigan today is, essentially: Are you ready to let the non-budget reform negotiators move forward in a more official capacity?
The answer to that question is expected to be “No,” but if he surprises everyone then there’s still a tiny ray of hope that something can be accomplished by May 31st.
Madigan has often said that the governor needs to learn how to declare victory. He was absolutely right for many, many months. But there comes a time when the House Democrats need to learn the same thing. That time is now.
“Both sides suffer under the delusion that it’s OK that real people get hurt as long as the other side gets blamed for it.”
That’s exactly, totally right.
It’s how everybody involved in this mess sleeps at night, from the governor, to the leaders, to the members, to their respective cheerleaders.
They convince themselves that it’s all Rauner’s fault for being so anti-union and anti-bureaucracy, or it’s completely Madigan’s fault for being… Madigan.
* But real people are getting hurt out there. And it’s time for everyone to accept their own responsibility and find a way to come together and pass a freaking budget.
They continue to act as if they’re the real victims here, or they’re just helpless bystanders. They’re neither. The real victims are the homeless children and victims of domestic abuse who can’t find shelter, the rape victims who can’t find help, the college kids from poverty-stricken families who lost their dream of bettering themselves.
And the minions out there on both sides need to stop cheerleading this war. You are culpable as well.
A rough outline of budget ideas for Illinois may already be on the way to a dead-end; Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is giving a cool reception to a potential budget framework drafted by a group of state legislators. […]
“I think you will find many Democrats who will find that framework to be inadequate,” he said in an interview with NPR Illinois. “That’s an important thing to understand. Because you’ll find the majority of Democrats have a strong view as to what the government of Illinois should do for the people of Illinois. And I think that they would find that that framework would not be fully supportive of what they think the … government of the state of Illinois should do for the people in education, social services health care. So it was a group of people that met, they talked, they exchanged ideas. It hasn’t been shared with the general membership in the legislature. That’s an important thing to do.” […]
Madigan says he isn’t ready to pass final judgment on it. But he predicts many Democrats will find the framework “inadequate,” and that they won’t appreciate the depth of the cuts, and stressed it’s nature as a loose draft.
“Whatever the agreement is has not been shared with the people in the legislature,” he said. That would be a very interesting exercise.” When pressed on his own opinion, of the plan’s adequacy, Madigan answered: “I don’t know enough about it to say whether it’s adequate or inadequate. It’s a framework.”
OK, I see where he’s coming from, but wait a second here.
Speaker Madigan has said from Jump Street that crafting a budget was the most important thing that Gov. Rauner could do and what the state truly needs. So, they get to a budget framework and now he’s throwing ice water on it?
“Why does he continue to insist that these [social service] agencies, that provide for the vulnerable in our society, are not paid for the services that they’ve provided to the state? Why doesn’t he deal with that?”
Um, Speaker. That (and more) is exactly what the framework is supposed to address.
For more than forty years, the Clark home was a gathering place for songwriters, folk singers, artists and misfits; many who sat at the feet of the master songwriter in his element, willing Guy’s essence into their own pens. Throughout his long and extraordinary career, Guy Clark blazed a trail for original and groundbreaking artists and troubadours including his good friends Rodney Crowell, Jim McGuire, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Joe Ely, Lyle Lovett, Verlon Thompson, Shawn Camp, and Vince Gill.
To the Honorable Members of
The Illinois House of Representatives,
99th General Assembly:
Today I veto House Bill 580. Nearly one year ago, the General Assembly passed an almost identical bill, Senate Bill 1229. I vetoed that bill because it was a dangerous, unprecedented attack on our taxpayers. HB 580 recycles the same dangerous proposal that I vetoed last fall.
Prior to the veto override vote on SB 1229 and within the last few days, newspaper editorial boards from all corners of the state – north to south, urban and rural, heavily Democrat and Republican districts, and those with large union and non-union readerships – wrote about the dangers of stripping taxpayers of their voice at the collective bargaining table.
The editors at The Southern wrote, “[n]othing like SB 1229 exists anywhere in the country. Nor should it. It’s an open assault on transparent representative government.” The Pantagraph in Bloomington wrote, “This is a terrible piece of legislation that should have never received much attention.” Just yesterday, the Dispatch-Argus rightly called HB 580 “worse than the original.” And The News-Gazette described HB 580 as “wrong on so many levels that it represents Exhibit A for the sloppy, irresponsible manner in which our failed state has been and continues to be run.”
HB 580 goes even further than SB 1229 did, sneaking in additional costly language under the guise of technical changes. For the reasons I explain in this message, our taxpayers rightly insist that HB 580 not become law.
We should be very clear about what prompted SB 1229 and now HB 580. A single union, AFSCME, made unaffordable and unsustainable salary and benefits demands during its collective bargaining negotiations, and then refused to meaningfully compromise. AFSCME’s leaders demanded salary increases of up to 29% over four years; a more expensive, platinum health care plan; and lavish overtime benefits, including time and a half after 37.5 hours of work each week and 2.5 times wages for some holidays. AFSCME is demanding that our taxpayers fund these additional benefits to the tune of $3 billion over the life of the contract. What’s worse, with HB 580, AFSCME wants to ensure that those taxpayers have no say in the matter.
Everyone knows that our taxpayers simply cannot afford these unreasonable demands. As a result, our negotiators emphatically rejected AFSCME’s most costly contract proposals. We offered solutions that are fair to both our taxpayers and our employees. Those proposals included performance bonuses of up to 8% of salary, greater choice of lower cost health care plans, and changes in work rules that would require the payment of overtime after 40 hours of work per week, which is standard and consistent with federal law, rather than 37.5 hours. We also proposed to eradicate underutilization and to promote the hiring and advancement of minorities in state government jobs by setting aside the current arbitrary barriers that stand in the way. AFSCME rejected all of these common sense proposals.
Unaccustomed to having to explain how the State could possibly pay for AFSCME’s unaffordable demands, union leaders sought to legislate away such inconvenient questions. AFSCME asked legislators to strip taxpayers of their rights under existing Illinois labor laws. Current law ensures that the Governor represents taxpayers’ interests at the bargaining table. Those rights are consistent with every state and municipal labor law in the country and the rights given to employers in the National Labor Relations Act, the federal law that governs all private sector labor negotiations, as well. AFSCME wants to squash those rights precisely because they stand in the way of AFSCME’s unreasonable demands.
HB 580 replaces the Governor in collective bargaining negotiations with an unelected, labor-friendly arbitrator who can single-handedly impose the union’s $3 billion demand on the taxpayers, and do so over the objections of the Governor, the General Assembly, the Labor Board, and the majority of taxpayers themselves. One person would have the ability to determine over 25% of our annual budget for the next 3 years, forcing increased taxes and cuts to other vital state services to pay for it all.
More than 30 years ago, AFSCME, and many others in the labor community, were instrumental in writing the collective bargaining laws across the country. In Illinois, AFSCME’s efforts led to the passage of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act, the very law by which these negotiations were conducted for almost a year. Now AFSCME seeks to rewrite its own handcrafted rules simply because our negotiators invoked those same rules to protect our taxpayers against AFSCME’s unaffordable financial demands.
The AFSCME bill is crafted to apply to only a single negotiation and a single Governor. AFSCME cannot identify any jurisdiction in the country – even the most labor-friendly – that has ever enacted this type of sweeping rewrite of its labor laws targeting a single negotiating session. Taxpayers, through their elected officials, have an important, longstanding role in public labor negotiations. My action today defends taxpayers who are being denied their voice at the bargaining table.
I urge the General Assembly to stand with taxpayers and sustain my veto. In responding to AFSCME pressure to override this veto, please keep the following two things in mind:
First, a year ago, you were told that SB 1229 was needed to protect all labor unions from a concerted attack on organized labor from a series of unreasonable bargaining demands being made by our administration. But since then, 12 different bargaining units representing the State’s electricians, plumbers, painters, machinists, carpenters, engineers, and many others have voluntarily negotiated and agreed to substantially the same proposals offered to AFSCME. Despite AFSCME’s heated rhetoric trying to portray our bargaining proposals as unreasonable, these 12 unions chose to join 5 Teamster units in acting reasonably and reaching fair agreements with our administration. State employees ratified many of those agreements by over 80%. Together, these 17 agreements now cover more than 5,000 state employees.
What makes these unions different from AFSCME is none of them insisted upon the same unrealistic financial demands that AFSCME’s leadership is still making to this day. Significantly, but not surprisingly, many of AFSCME’s own members do not support these demands either. Unlike their union leaders, these members want to be part of the solution, not exacerbate the problem. But AFSCME has refused to allow them to vote on these proposals. Before AFSCME asks members of the General Assembly to vote to override this veto, why not ask them to let their own members take a vote on the same proposals that were ratified by wide margins by 17 other unions? Given that opportunity, if AFSCME allows for a fair, democratic vote without undue influence by union leaders, I predict AFSCME members would ratify this contract by the same overwhelming margins that their coworkers have.
Second, as you are aware, the impasse in negotiations with AFSCME is currently being litigated before the Illinois Labor Relations Board. AFSCME filed its own unfair labor practice charge that is part of that litigation. The Board will decide if negotiations should continue or an impasse has been reached. The Board will decide if we have offered a plan that is fair to AFSCME members. The General Assembly has a long history of not intervening in active litigation. That is precisely the procedural status of the current proceedings between the two sides. If AFSCME’s attack on our bargaining proposals has merit, AFSCME has ample opportunity to make that case to the Board. If AFSCME succeeds, the Board can order both parties back to the bargaining table to negotiate a mutual agreement. There is absolutely no need for the General Assembly to be involved.
AFSCME did say that the Labor Relations Board proceedings are unfair and that you should intervene to stop these hearings before they resulted in a decision. But here, too, AFSCME’s leaders are being disingenuous. I have attached a copy of the Tolling Agreement, which is a contract voluntarily signed by AFSCME Executive Director Roberta Lynch herself. In fact, this is the third such agreement signed by AFSCME. This one was signed on September 9, 2015 – just days after the veto override vote on SB 1229.
As the Tolling Agreement clearly states, “if a dispute exists with respect to the existence of an impasse, the parties agree to submit the matter to the Illinois Labor Relations Board.” The agreement adds, “this agreement will remain in effect until the ILRB resolves the issue” and furthermore “that this agreement will remain in effect until impasse is reached.” Director Lynch signed this agreement freely and voluntarily, including those provisions that select the Labor Relations Board, and not an arbitrator, as the appropriate authority to resolve the present dispute. HB 580 dramatically changes the terms of the Tolling Agreement and would improperly alter the very dispute resolution procedures agreed to by the parties in that contract.
AFSCME also recently filed a separate lawsuit that asks a court to decide if the parties are in compliance with the terms of the Tolling Agreement. AFSCME admits in that lawsuit that the Tolling Agreement was entered freely and voluntarily and is a valid agreement. That is a significant concession that should end any further effort to turn HB 580 into law. AFSCME squarely acknowledges it signed a valid contract. AFSCME should be required to hold up its end of the deal.
But just as with its push for HB 580, AFSCME is also asking the court to rewrite the Tolling Agreement in a way that would permit AFSCME to sidestep the Labor Board process to which it has agreed. Because the issue of what the Tolling Agreement obligates the parties to do is now squarely presented not only before the Labor Board but also in court, the General Assembly has double the reason not to interfere.
The question now before the General Assembly is whether to intervene in ongoing litigation and alter the terms of a binding contract between the State and AFSCME – all at the expense of the taxpayers we represent. I urge you to resist the pressure to override HB 580 and instead stand with taxpayers by holding AFSCME to its own commitments under the Tolling Agreement.
Therefore, pursuant to Section 9(b) of Article IV of the Illinois Constitution of 1970, I hereby return House Bill 580, entitled “AN ACT concerning State government”, with the foregoing objections, vetoed in its entirety.
* AFSCME’s response…
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has vetoed the fair arbitration bill, House Bill 580. AFSCME Council 31 executive director Roberta Lynch responds:
“Public service workers in state government keep us safe, protect kids, respond to emergencies and much more. They want to stay on the job to serve their communities, not be forced out on strike, and they deserve fair pay and health care they can afford. This bill seeks compromise and avoids a strike by allowing an independent, neutral third party to settle the differences between workers and management. It is the process already used for tens of thousands of fire fighters, police officers, correctional workers and others throughout Illinois.
“Beneath Governor Rauner’s false claims and wild exaggerations about the bill is this reality: The governor walked away from negotiations with our union in January and is seeking total power to unilaterally impose his demands, including forcing state and university employees to pay double their current costs for health care. Given that power, the governor could impose his demands and leave state employees no choice but to strike. That’s exactly what Rauner as a candidate vowed to do.
“Governor Rauner doesn’t like HB 580 because it would require him to be moderate and seek compromise. He wants his way or no way at all. Public service workers in state government want better for the millions of citizens we serve. That’s why new polls show voters support the fair arbitration bill by 3-1 margins even in Republican districts, and why we will urge all lawmakers of both parties to protect public services, ensure fairness and override the governor’s veto of HB 580.”
For too many years, Illinoisans have been misled. Each of you in state government has been misled. Taxpayers who fund government have been misled. Recipients of public services, including our most vulnerable residents, have also been misled. The consequences are before us, and they are dire.
I ran for office to right these wrongs. I believe that solving our state’s crisis requires a simple first step — for someone to tell the truth. So here it is.
The truth is that Illinois is broke. Our taxpayers, who pay the highest property taxes in the nation, are maxed out and local governments continue to raise property taxes.
Expanding the size of government faster than middle-class paychecks are growing is a failing strategy. That is why I have no choice but to veto AFSCME’s arbitration bill, HB580.
It’s not because I don’t want to see you earn a better living today. I do. I veto HB580 because I want to protect the pension system that you are counting on for your retirement.
If I signed this bill, I would be subjecting all taxpayers to another $3 billion in higher taxes. That makes no sense when too many jobs have been leaving Illinois, and those hardworking Illinoisans that remain see their incomes falling.
We can make Illinois a state where our employees receive the pension benefits they were promised, where our budget is truly balanced through strong economic growth rather than destructive tax hikes, and where our state workers are not forced to work in decaying buildings with technology that is older than my children and furniture that is older than me.
I pledged on my first day in office to build a partnership with state employees, and that is exactly what we have done. Our 1970s computers are being replaced with next generation technology. With the General Assembly’s help, I pledged to put the Thompson Center up for sale and move employees to more modern space. We pushed for more flexible scheduling and ended Rod Blagojevich’s corrupt hiring system.
When Attorney General Madigan sought to shut off pay, Comptroller Munger and I defeated that misguided attack on state employees. And I have called on the General Assembly to honor Governor Quinn’s failed promise of wage increases from 2011. We must respect our commitments and not make new commitments that we cannot afford.
We also sought employees’ ideas for improvements and savings, prompting us to send out the first-ever state employee survey. The results were eye-opening.
You told me that promotions and compensation are not based on merit. You told me that agencies don’t reward creativity and innovation. I want to reward hard work and ingenuity. Unfortunately, union leadership is blocking many of these common sense ideas — ideas that you want. Rest assured, I heard your desire for these reforms loud and clear.
So my administration took action. We launched a truly meaningful merit pay program. We started a gainsharing program that will reward state employees for helping save taxpayers’ money. We implemented a “rapid results” system that removes obstacles to employee innovation and allows employees to personally change processes that impede good customer service.
But as I have noted, with a truly historic budget deficit and skyrocketing debt, our taxpayers cannot afford the added spending pressure of huge wage and health insurance increases. That is why I must veto HB580, ensuring that the legal process agreed to with AFSCME leaders and currently underway before the Labor Board, is allowed to proceed and fairly resolve any outstanding issues.
But I make this pledge: The State will honor its promises to you. We will continue to listen and build a workplace that values and rewards hard work, innovation, and creativity, all in a welcoming work environment. We will keep fighting to get you paid in full and on time. And we will continue to stand for fiscal discipline so that you and your families can again know you are, finally, being told the truth.
Illinois owes 800 service providers more than $350 million under contracts the state issued but lacks the appropriations authority to pay, according to Department of Human Services data obtained by the Fiscal Policy Center. The state issued these contracts even though Governor Rauner vetoed spending bills that would have allowed the state to make good on these contracts. Without payment for the services they have provided, many organizations are struggling to survive.
In an attempt to get desperately needed emergency funding to human service programs after more than 10 months without a state budget, the General Assembly last week approved by overwhelming margins a bill for more than $700 million in funding to social services. The nearly $250 million designated for DHS programs would allow the state to pay a sizable portion of the what the state owes under these contracts. Governor Rauner has not yet said whether he will sign this bill.
Pay Now Illinois, a coalition of 64 Illinois-based human and social service agencies and companies, is suing Governor Rauner and agency heads seeking payment of more than $100 million for services provided in FY16. The lawsuit seeks to begin immediate payments of the most overdue bills. The coalition notes that the lawsuit is the “only possible basis of preventing an even more serious cutback of services” and that once “these services and programs are cut or eliminated, it will be difficult to resume them.”
The list on Voices site is a sobering collection of IOUs.
Like the $7.7 million owed to the Ounce of Prevention Fund for its healthy families and parents-to-be programs. The fund’s president is Diana Rauner, otherwise known as the governor’s wife.
Among some of the others who got contracts and have been doing the work but not getting paid are Cardinal Health, at $11.5 million; the city of Chicago at $22.2 million just for child care; $2 million to the Easter Seals program for early intervention; $6 million to the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault; and $3.5 million to the Women’s Treatment Center for anti-addiction programs.
…Adding… Emily Miller in comments…
(T)his is only the list of contracts from DHS. There are many hundreds of millions of dollars more in contracts issued from other Departments without appropriation authority for the comptroller to pay for them.
The Illinois Republican Party made sure media outlets were aware of the video footage of Illinois state Rep. Katherine “Kate” Cloonen, D-Kankakee, and another state Democrat playing video games during a budget session last month. The image was caught and broadcast by WCIA-TV in Champaign and a television station in Rockford.
“This was a mistake, and I apologize,” Cloonen told the Daily Journal. “It won’t happen again, and that’s needless to say.” […]
She said she hasn’t cashed a single paycheck since the budget impasse started last July and has spent countless hours reaching out to social service providers, schools and other entities that need state funding to survive.
“I hear these struggles,” Cloonen said. “We work on it every day.”
If you ever wondered why Cloonen has been able to win a majority Republican district, you just found out. That was very well done. Time to move along.
The State Board of Elections today narrowed the scope of its inquiry into Frank Mautino’s campaign spending. Frank will be working with his team to amend his campaign reports by July 1 in an attempt to resolve these questions.
* From a local reporter…
The state Board of Elections found that the complaint against Frank Mautino was filed on justifiable grounds.
* Gov. Rauner is often (and justifiably) criticized for putting politics over governance. But he’s not the only one who plays this game. For years, the needs of politically targeted House Democrats have driven Speaker Madigan’s policy goals. Every now and then, he’ll muscle something through and give the targets a pass, but more often than not his political shop dominates.
So, have a look at what a Tier One target, appointed state Rep. Andy Skoog (D-LaSalle) has to say about Sen. Andy Manar’s school funding reform bill…
State Rep. Andy Skoog said his stance on school funding is simple: “No school loses funding in my district.” […]
“We need to work with all stakeholders and local educators to make sure our local schools receive their fair share and to make sure our local schools are not negatively impacted by any formula changes,” Skoog said in a phone message to The Times about questions on school funding.
Skoog’s comments go against a Senate bill Andy Manar, of Bunker Hill, is supporting within his party. That bill would change state funding to give more money to less property wealthy districts, such as Streator Elementary, which the state is recommending for “financial difficulty.” The bill, however, would result in more than $4 million of state funding lost to districts within La Salle County, including Ottawa Elementary, which itself is deficit spending and on an “early warning” list in its financial status. […]
“The taxpayers of the Illinois Valley shouldn’t be on the hook for decades of fiscal mismanagement and failures in the Chicago Public Schools system,” Skoog said in a press statement. “I wholeheartedly stand against bailing out Chicago’s schools.”
How self-centered can you get? Totally, apparently, which is par for the course in the Illinois political world.
Also, the governor has been rightly chastised for his incessant Chicago bashing, but Madigan is spanking it up as well - something he’s done for years.
* There comes a time when you gotta put your state over your party. As anyone who’s ever been around a while knows, Madigan has repeatedly done that in the past.
But while his political staff has been brilliant at doing their jobs, there’s just too much emphasis placed on the next election cycle. It has led at least partially to the dire straits we’re in now. People complain about corporations that only focus on the next quarter. Well, the House has historically had the same sort of myopic bent.
We have to somehow move beyond this. There are problems with Manar’s bill. Even he admits that. But our state’s fate shouldn’t depend on what some appointee in LaSalle County wants.
Republican House (IL-76) candidate Jerry Long has a statement to make about Rep. Andy Skoog’s use of public funds for political campaigning.
“Rep. Andy Skoog pulled a stunt last week that shows a blatant disregard for the law. He used state money to send out a campaign mailing for political purposes when Illinois doesn’t even have a budget.
“Residents in our district got a political mailer masked as a “constituent survey” that trashed political opponents and pandered for votes from target demographic groups. Illinois law specifically prohibits politicians from using public funds for their campaigns.
“The idea that taxpayers would fund this mailer is an outrage, but this is what politicians do when they’re on Michael Madigan’s leash. They do whatever they can to get re-elected so Madigan can keep his stronghold on power in the Illinois House.
“I am confident that the voters will see right through this. November can’t come soon enough for us.”
Most of the letter in question can be seen here, here and here. Mainly standard stuff. Lots of potshots at Rauner, though. And sending these mailers when there’s no budget should be called out (which I’m sure the Dems will do as well).
*** UPDATE *** From Rep. Skoog…
Jerry Long is continuing the kind of politics that has caused chaos and gridlock in Springfield and Washington. This is the kind of politics that is destroying our state and causes the inability for elected leaders to work across the aisle and get things done for our families. In addition to walking door-to-door and calling hundreds of constituents to stay in touch with residents and identify important local issues each week, I sent a survey to constituents to help me better understand residents’ concerns and to provide updates on issues at the capitol including my fight against reckless plans that slash critical state funding for cancer screenings, care for the elderly and services for victims of sexual assault.
Daily fantasy sports is not gambling, it is my passion and a hobby.
I find myself entering a few contests a week. I honestly do not do it for the money. Instead, I enjoy the competition and challenge. I enjoy the camaraderie of playing against friends. The contests are fun and exciting! Furthermore, I enjoy daily fantasy sports because I love the skill involved. I love it so much I now write articles helping others who do not have time to do the research. I ask lawmakers to think about their constituents. Please, pass a bill to legalize and regulate the contests, but do not take away our right to continue to play.
A bipartisan group of legislators came together, and last week presented the governor and legislative leaders with a menu of options for getting to a balanced budget.
One of them — Senator Donne Trotter, a Chicago Democrat — says, as has previously been reported, that it calls for raising the state income tax from 3.75 percent to 4.85 percent, a corporate tax hike, closing corporate loopholes and a expanding the sales tax base. […]
“We’re looking at a beverage tax, which some have called a sugar tax or the pop tax, which would bring in approximately $375 million.” Trotter also says the package contemplates gambling expansion.
“Also on the table is that old standby of looking at the possibility of bringing gaming, or to expand gaming here in the state of Illinois,” Trotter said Sunday on WGN radio’s “Sunday Spin” program.
Judge Approves Agreement in Ashoor Rasho v John Baldwin
The Illinois Department of Corrections is pleased that the settlement agreement in the case of Ashoor Rasho v John Baldwin has been approved. U.S. District Judge Michael Mihm accepted the agreement on Friday, May 13th, noting that the Department’s plans for improving the delivery of services for mentally ill offenders are “fair and reasonable.”
The agreement requires the Department to update its policies for treatment and observation, increase out of cell time for mentally ill offenders housed in segregation, construct four residential treatment units aimed at providing individualized care for mentally ill offenders, provide an inpatient level care for offenders who require the most intensive level of treatment, and hire additional staff to accommodate the changes.
While the Department does not admit liability regarding the allegations made in the suit, it does recognize that providing adequate care for offenders with mental illness will improve their quality of life and ultimately improve safety within its correctional facilities. The Department has already taken significant steps to comply with the terms of the agreement:
· The Department has updated its policies to ensure that Mental Health Professionals are involved in all disciplinary actions taken against those identified as having a mental illness.
· The Department has revised its segregation policies for all offenders, which will continue to result in a significant reduction of segregation time.
· Construction continues on the residential treatment units at Dixon, Pontiac, and Logan Correctional Centers as well as the former IYC Joliet facility.
· The Department has hired additional mental health staff for the treatment units at Dixon and Logan.
· The Department has partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Illinois to develop curriculum and ensure all IDOC staff receives training on how to better interact with, communicate with, and understand the needs of those who require treatment.
· The Department has hired an internal legal advisor and has secured an external monitor to ensure that it remains in compliance with the agreement.
The Ashoor Rasho case has lingered in the courts since 2007 after an offender at Pontiac Correctional Center filed suit challenging the delivery of mental health services within the IDOC. The Department reached a partial agreement in 2013 but had not been able to fully implement a plan to streamline mental health services. Governor Rauner’s commitment to improving the state’s correctional system put the case on a fast track and his administration worked diligently with the IDOC legal team to reach a suitable agreement.
* AP: Judge OKs settlement in lawsuit on mentally ill inmates
* One day, he’s gonna have to play this argument straight. In the meantime, the more he says they could find money other ways, the less credible he’s gonna appear when the tax hike vote hits the floor…
During his trip to Normal West High School this week, Rauner said [education] funding could come from a number of sources and raising taxes isn’t one of them.
“Number one: procurement reform,” said Rauner. “We could save a billion dollars from that. That’s a lot of school funding.”
Pension reform was another way Rauner said Illinois can save money.
“We can do it where we protect everybody’s pension – everything they’ve earned so far they get protected – but future work can have different options that may be more cost effective,” said Rauner. “That could save $1-2.5 billion.”
The governor added consolidating units of governments is an option as well. He said Illinois has 7,000 units of government.
I thought he’s said procurement reforms produced half that amount, but whatever. And I seriously doubt that any pension reform savings could be realized until the Supreme Court weighs in - and even then, I doubt those numbers are real.
…Adding… My preference is to be paid a billion-trillion dollars for Capitol Fax. But I would never say that with a straight face because people would think I was daft…
Rauner said his preference is to cut all taxes (unclear which ones) but he's open to raising them; talked workers comp as part of compromise
One of the advantages of attending a small school is that when it comes to graduation, each senior can really savor the moment. Shiloh High School’s 24 members of the Class of 2016 made their graduation Friday night a very personal affair.
There are indeed advantages to attending such a small school. There are also disadvantages, and overhead cost is just one of them.
The daily fantasy sports gambling industry is pressuring officials to pass a bailout that actually costs taxpayers. According to COGFA these Internet gaming giants would each pay just $900,000 in state taxes, but they could afford $500 million in television ads last year.
Taxpayers may actually have to subsidize regulating online sports wagering. The Illinois Gaming Board doesn’t know how much it will cost to oversee this new form of online gaming.
The state is facing an unprecedented budget crisis, but two out-of-state companies, which the Attorney General said broke law, want you to give them valuable Internet gaming licenses.
Everyone but paid fantasy sports operators agree, it’s gambling:
Monday is the deadline for Rauner to act on that bill that would send unresolved labor negotiations between the state and some of its employee unions to binding arbitration. If he doesn’t act, the bill automatically becomes law.
Rauner was asked last week what he plans to do with the bill. He wouldn’t say exactly, but he did say, “It’s stunning. It’s atrocious legislation.”
Gee, sounds like he’s going to sign it.
* And the governor’s office has been busily contacting editorial boards. Here’s one of the latest…
Not only does HB 580 contain the same language as SB 1229 which would allow an arbitrator – not the elected legislature or governor – to decide what could eventually be a $3 billion tax hike for Illinois taxpayers, it also contains additional language that could cost taxpayers another $400 million on top of that.
With negotiations stalled, and the previous contract having expired, the Rauner administration announced that it would not continue to pay automatic salary step increases that the state could not afford. SB 508 includes new language that would force the state to retroactively pay these step increases from the expired contract to the tune of another $400 million, according to administration sources.
*** UPDATE *** At least one guy in comments (somebody who usually knows these things) thinks the deadline is tomorrow. Either way, the Illinois Policy Institute is sending mailers against the bill. Here’s one…
In response to Republican Mark Kirk’s latest in a series of misleading attack ads, the Duckworth campaign today released a new 30-second campaign spot, entitled “Repeatedly.” The ad highlights Duckworth’s service to her country over the course of 23 years in the military, as well as her accomplishments on behalf of her fellow Veterans. By contrast, Kirk has been caught repeatedly lying about his own military record — including claims to have served in combat when he never did. Last week, the Kirk campaign acknowledged to the Associated Press that they are actively attempting to undercut Duckworth’s service record and commitment to Veterans — a line of attack that had even Republicans ’saying they don’t think voters will buy it,’ according to the AP. The ad can be viewed HERE.
“Republican Mark Kirk’s new ad isn’t just dishonest, it’s shameful — but what else would you expect from someone who has lied about his military record at least 10 times, including falsely claiming to have been in combat. Tammy Duckworth is a 23-year Veteran of the National Guard who nearly lost her life in Iraq in 2004, and who has been a fierce and accomplished advocate for her fellow Veterans since recuperating at Walter Reed. Unlike Kirk, Tammy can point to real results at the state and federal level helping our Veterans get jobs, reducing Veterans’ homelessness, increasing awareness and screening for PTSD, and addressing the scourge of Veterans’ suicide — among other things. Kirk is obviously willing to say or do anything to hold on to his Senate seat — including taking a page out of Karl Rove’s old ‘swift boat’ playbook. He should be ashamed of himself.” -Matt McGrath, campaign spokesman
Ending months of speculation, Democratic state Rep. Jack Franks announced his candidacy for McHenry County Board Chairman, setting up what is sure to be a fierce race for the first-ever election for the seat.
But while the move gives the McHenry County Republican Party a hard fight for what was an uncontested race, it also gives the GOP a chance to reclaim the 63rd Illinois House District seat that Franks said he is relinquishing to run for chairman instead.
Franks, of Marengo, made the announcement Sunday morning, shortly after the Democratic Party of McHenry County voted to slate him to run against Republican nominee Michael Walkup. Walkup, a County Board member from Crystal Lake, narrowly defeated incumbent Chairman Joe Gottemoller, R-Crystal Lake, in the March 15 primary. […]
The county Democratic Party has until August to select a candidate to run against Reick, and Democratic Party of McHenry County Chairman Michael Bissett said the decision will not happen until at least after Memorial Day.
“I’ll be the face of McHenry County in both Springfield and Washington,” Franks said. “I’ll give us credibility, and I’ll be able to put McHenry County back on the map.”
Franks sought to portray the long-rumored move as a result of frustration over the lack of a state budget. But as a Democrat holding a seat in Republican territory, Franks was potentially a target of Republican Gov. Rauner and his allies this fall.
Rauner is trying to pick off as many House Democrats as he can this year and in 2018 to dethrone Speaker Michael Madigan, his chief nemesis at the state Capitol. It’s an uphill struggle for Rauner this fall, as he faces a political landscape that includes a Madigan-drawn legislative map, a presidential year when Democrats turn out in greater numbers and the prospect of Donald Trump at the top of the GOP ticket.
For Franks, running for County Board president allows him to sidestep a possible Rauner-funded challenge. While Franks got 58 percent in 2014, Rauner easily carried the district. It’s Republican territory, but Franks was able to use family name recognition to hold onto the seat since first winning it in 1998.
* Riopell asks what Franks’ departure means for “taxes, budget stalemate.” Not much…
Franks often votes against Democratic budget and tax plans, anyway. Democrats in the House have 71 members, enough to override a Rauner veto if they all stick together.
But they often haven’t, and Franks’ votes along with Democratic Reps. Scott Drury of Highwood and Ken Dunkin of Chicago have often meant Rauner’s vetoes stand.
The drama will continue to play out as a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Rauner’s budget director came up with a package of budget ideas last week that includes an income tax hike. And the state hasn’t approved a full state budget that’s now in danger of becoming a year overdue.
“Maybe this will help break the deadlock, the gridlock. Because the fact is, I keep hearing about this mythical 71. You know, do all the tax increases. But it’s not real,” Franks said. “It’s a mirage.”
Democratic bench: Independence? Executive experience? It’s something Democrats are looking for as they are to face a bitter gubernatorial election in 2018. So far, no one has raised his or her hand to go up against deep-pocketed Rauner. But should Franks win the county chair seat, it could quickly propel him high on the Democrats’ short list.
An Illinois rape crisis center is suspending nearly all of its services and will lay off five employees after operating for nearly a year without state money.
The (Champaign) News-Gazette reported that the nonprofit Rape Advocacy Counseling and Education Services agency will end counseling, legal advocacy and community education programs June 1.
But the Urbana center’s 24-hour crisis line will continue with $25,000 from United Way of Champaign to hire a part-time volunteer coordinator. The money comes from United Way’s emergency fund designed to help agency partners in need.
City Water, Light and Power of Springfield is among municipal utilities that would earn monthly interest on overdue state bills under a change pending with an Illinois rules-making panel.
The change also assumes eventual legislative approval of the spending.
CWLP is owed $11.7 million from overdue state electric bills. The state owes the city another $1 million for water, sewer and sanitary service, according to CWLP figures. A $2.8 million payment in April brought the total paid toward overdue bills to $6 million since the start of the state fiscal year last July. […]
A rules change proposed by the Illinois Department of Central Management Services would include municipally owned utilities under the state’s Prompt Payment Act. The change would allow for a 1 percent interest charge after 90 days for each month a bill is overdue. The change would apply to utility service provided after July 1, 2015, according to a summary of the rule at the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules.
While House Democrats’ priority has been to pass a comprehensive, full-fiscal year budget using a balanced approach that includes spending cuts but does not decimate needed services, Gov. Rauner’s priority puts his personal agenda first and attacks the wages and standard of living of the middle class. His insistence on passing his personal agenda has been the single roadblock to finding a true bipartisan budget solution.
However, since March 26, 2015, Gov. Rauner has approved six budget proposals that did not include any part of his personal agenda. This reaffirms my previous statements that when the governor sets aside his personal agenda that hurts middle-class families, we can make progress on the state’s most important issue. The people of Illinois want to see progress. They want to see a comprehensive full-year budget. I, too, am committed to passing comprehensive budgets for Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017. I also hope the governor will look at his recent budgetary actions and see that we can come together to find reasonable solutions when he sets aside his personal agenda that will hurt middle-class families and has nothing to do with the state budget.
Rauner’s own budget director has been involved in the talks among rank-and-file lawmakers. Those talks have addressed the possibility of raising income taxes and adding new taxes on services such as landscaping and attorney fees. The talks also have addressed some spending reforms, such as reducing costs within the state’s health care program for the poor and pushing high-end pension costs onto local governments that generate them. There’s also talk of borrowing $5 billion to pay down a backlog of overdue bills.
More borrowing? Grrr. But the point isn’t that anyone loves everything being negotiated. It’s that some serious people in Springfield are trying to cut a deal. […]
Rauner has said he is open to the possibility of raising taxes to straighten out the state’s fiscal nightmare. It is Madigan who is shutting the door to compromise, mostly for political reasons. He doesn’t want to jeopardize his members’ chances at re-election this fall with controversial votes. Madigan is doing exactly what he accused the GOP of doing in 2010 — saying “no” for campaign reasons, even though it hurts the state. […]
Judging by Madigan’s reaction to proposals being negotiated by his own members, prepare for some semblance of 2014 and 2015 in 2016. There will be no grand bargain without Mr. No.
The governor and speaker haven’t given up their partisan politics. Rather, there’s a sense that Rauner finally may have watered down his Turnaround Illinois agenda enough that a reasonable compromise can be reached. Cullerton is key to that happening.
Unlike the total tactician that is Madigan—at this point in his career, does he give a damn about anything other than doing what it takes to win the next election?—Cullerton seems to remember that his North Side voters sent him to Springfield to get stuff done. And that he has, somehow keeping together the most liberal legislative caucus the Capitol has seen in decades while on occasion rolling the dice to accomplish something.
There are two issues in particular that the Senate president is associated with: revamping the state’s broken public school aid formula and reforming the state’s hugely indebted public pension plans. Both are central to finally getting a budget deal before the General Assembly’s scheduled May 31 adjournment. […]
Whether we finally get a budget deal in the next week or two probably depends on whether the Senate president is willing to isolate the speaker. It would be risky. Lots of people have rued the day they attacked Madigan. But if someone doesn’t take him on, the state may never get a budget, despite the rising human toll.
That makes Cullerton the man on the spot. Let’s see if he’s up for it.
Gov. Bruce Rauner has been visiting schools almost every day for weeks to drive home his message that the Illinois General Assembly must approve a funding bill by the end of this month for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Rauner wants to make sure schools open on time, and he often talks about how we need good schools to make sure Illinoisans can get quality, high-paying jobs.
But much of the best job training is being done by community colleges, and the Republican governor vetoed their budget last year. He also vetoed the budget for four-year universities, which companies large and small rely on for white-collar workers. And he vetoed money for scholarships for kids from impoverished families who are trying to make a generational step-up.
“The one important difference between K-12 schools and our university system—and, frankly, our community colleges—is the universities have other funding sources that are very, very significant that our K-12 schools do not have,” Rauner explained to reporters recently.
OK, that’s just silly. Yes, universities and community colleges charge tuition. But all public K-12 schools rely heavily on local property taxes, and they get bucks from the federal government. Also, anyone with a kid in school knows about all the special fees they have to pay every year.
We saw some examples last week of why school funding reform is so difficult to accomplish in Illinois.
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin appeared with Gov. Bruce Rauner at Lyons Township High School, which is in Durkin’s district. Durkin pointed out to reporters that the school would lose $1.9 million in state funding under Sen. Andy Manar’s controversial school funding reform bill.
Leader Durkin also claimed that every school district in his House district would lose funding with Manar’s proposal. Chicago, he noted, would gain hundreds of millions of dollars. Durkin declared that he and his members could not and would not support a plan that shoveled bigtime bucks at Chicago while cutting their own districts.
But that’s really the whole point of Manar’s plan. He wants to shift state funding away from wealthier suburban districts like those Durkin represents (14.2 percent of Lyons Township High School students are from low-income households) to districts that have high numbers of impoverished students (86 percent of Chicago Public Schools students are from low-income households). Sen. Manar wants a “hold harmless” provision to make sure no district loses money right away, but that’ll cost quite a bit of cash, which the state doesn’t currently have.
Leader Durkin represents half of Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno’s district, so convincing both of those chamber leaders to sign off on a plan that takes state money away from their own schools is just as difficult as convincing the two Chicago Democrats who head up the House and Senate to agree to Gov. Rauner’s K-12 funding proposal that reduces Chicago’s annual appropriation by $74 million because of the state’s antiquated and complicated funding formula.
Like I said, this ain’t easy.
The governor has also dumped all over Sen. Manar’s plan. He and his his surrogates have slammed the proposal as a Chicago “bailout” and have vowed campaign reprisals.
It’s not exactly the same, of course, but, in a way, Sen. Manar is to Senate President John Cullerton what former state Sen. Barack Obama was to Senate President Emil Jones, who helped mentor Obama’s rise to power.
Manar is Cullerton’s former chief of staff and Cullerton is helping him any way he can. He’s essentially Cullerton’s golden boy.
There is no doubt that Sen. Manar has worked this piece of legislation harder than any individual has worked a bill in recent memory. He has traveled from one end of the state to the other, meeting with school superintendents and other education leaders in an attempt to cobble together a workable plan. He was on Chicago’s South Side just the other day, which produced smirks from some Republicans who believe he’s attempting to use this issue to advance his political career.
But the reality is Manar has Cullerton’s full support, and Cullerton has been far more cooperative about coming up with a deal to end the months-long governmental stalemate than has House Speaker Michael Madigan. So, maybe the governor and his peeps should lay off the rhetoric a bit because things are tough enough.
Cullerton allowed Manar to hold a vote on his funding plan last week, even though Manar and other Democrats went out of their way to declare that the bill needs a lot more work.
Republicans claimed that forcing the vote could very well make it more difficult to reach an agreement on education spending. Many freely admit that the current system is horribly flawed. But the school funding formula is so crazily complicated that any successful revamp will take serious bipartisan effort. And, indeed, talks have been held to devise a more easily constructed “bridge” between today’s system and a future more in line with Manar’s vision.
But the Republicans say by running Manar’s bill instead of negotiating, the Senate Democrats may have very well hardened positions on their side of the aisle. Only one Republican voted for it, after all.
So the momentum has shifted to the other chamber, where a special committee led by House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie is attempting to construct an alternative. But there are those who believe Madigan isn’t serious about getting something done.
But someone had better come up with something soon because Manar said last week there was no way he will vote for the governor’s K-12 appropriations bill because it slashes funding for schools in his district, as did other Senate Democrats. And even some Downstate Republicans who voted against Manar’s bill would prefer a different formula to prevent their own schools from losing state money under the current formula.
To: Agency Ethics Officers
From: Georgia Man, Chief Compliance Officer and Associate General Counsel
Re: Enforcement of State Officials and Employees Ethics Act Political Activity Ban Date: May 6, 2016
The State Officials and Employee Ethics Act (5 ILCS 430) (the “Ethics Act”) makes clear that State employees shall not perform prohibited political activity on State time, using State resources, or on State property (5 ILCS 430/5-15). The Ethics Act states that “a person is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor if that person intentionally violates any provision of Section 5-15….” Furthermore, the Ethics Act states that a State employee who intentionally violates Section 5-15 is subject to “discipline or discharge by the appropriate ultimate jurisdictional authority.”
Recently, we have received questions and complaints about political flyers and pamphlets being displayed in the workplace. These flyers and pamphlets trigger our obligations under the Ethics Act and Executive Order 2016-04 to promptly notify the Office of the Executive Inspector General (the “OEIG”) of alleged misconduct, including potential violations of the Ethics Act’s ban on prohibited political activity.
Such behavior is not unexpected as we near the close of the legislative session in an election year. Nevertheless, we must ensure that we continue to comply with the obligations of the Ethics Act, and that public employees continue to channel their enthusiasm for the political process into lawful methods of discourse.
Accordingly, ethics officers must take appropriate steps to ensure that prohibited political activity is not occurring on State-compensated time, using State resources, or on State property. Ethics officers are directed to take the following actions with respect to political flyers and pamphlets in the workplace:
1. Remind employees of their obligations under the Ethics Act with respect to prohibited political activity, and the potential penalties involved for violation of Section 5-15 of the Ethics Act;
2. Promptly report any information concerning potential violations of the Ethics Act to the OEIG; and
3. Remove any flyers or posters that contain political messaging.
If any State employee raises concerns to you about political flyers or pamphlets in the workplace, steps 2 and 3 above should be followed. The State of Illinois does not tolerate retaliation against State employees who raise genuine concerns about unethical, inappropriate, or illegal behavior, including State employees who report unlawful political activity in the workplace to their Ethics Officer and/or the OEIG.
The State appreciates and welcomes the free speech rights of employees and the public. However, the State must ensure that whenever members of the public visit State facilities, there is no appearance of impropriety or partiality on the part of those delivering State services. Moreover, the law permits the State to implement procedures to avoid such appearance.
Um, wow. Seems a bit harsh.
* So, this flier began appearing…
* Meanwhile, the Illinois Policy Institute is having its own rally…
Taxpayers have remained silent for far too long.
Join us on May 17 for a Taxpayer Advocacy Day, and make your voice heard in the Statehouse.
DATE AND TIME
Tuesday, May 17
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
501 S. 2nd Street
Springfield, IL 62756
Register online at Eventbrite.
Invite your friends on Facebook.
Our team will provide $40 gift cards to cover travel costs.
$40 gift cards? Interesting. I guess that’s easier than arranging bus transportation.
Exelon was caught this week with their hand in the cookie jar.
Exelon, the only company ever kicked out of the American Wind Energy Association and the company single-handedly preventing a fix to Illinois’ broken RPS claims the near zeroing-out RPS funding in their multi-billion dollar bailout bill was a two-page “drafting error.”
* Meanwhile, the state GOP is sending out a bunch of identical press releases attacking numerous Democratic legislators over redistricting. Here’s just one…
Will Sen. Tom Cullerton Side with the People or with Mike Madigan?
“Tom Cullerton owes it to the voters to make clear where he stands on Mike Madigan’s lawsuit to stop redistricting reform. Democrats already played political games this session to kill redistricting reform in the legislature. Now, they are trying to block voters from having the chance to vote on it in November.
If Tom Cullerton was truly committed to fair maps and stopping the Speaker’s disrespect to the voters of Illinois, he should refuse any support from the Illinois Democratic Party or Mike Madigan until the lawsuit is dropped.” – Illinois GOP Spokesman Steven Yaffe
Illinois Democratic Party General Counsel Mike Kasper filed a lawsuit Wednesday trying to kick a non-partisan redistricting reform Constitutional Amendment off the Illinois ballot this November.
From The Chicago Tribune:
The people of Illinois want to change the state constitution so that lawmakers don’t draw their own districts. House Speaker Mike Madigan is determined not to let that change happen.
Once again, a citizens’ group has collected hundreds of thousands of signatures to put a proposed redistricting amendment to a vote in November. And once again, Madigan’s proxy has gone to court to try to block the measure.
Independent Maps, a nonpartisan coalition, raised $3.6 million and circulated thousands of petitions because lawmakers, who could put an amendment on the ballot without spending all that time or money, refuse to do so — for obvious reasons.
Those lawmakers cannot possibly harbor any doubts that their constituents want this change. Poll after poll after poll has shown an overwhelming majority of voters support having an independent commission draw the maps. The Independent Maps campaign is the third such attempt since 2010.
The group submitted its petitions last week, assembled in a single binder as required by law. It was 35 feet thick and contained twice the required number of signatures, the better to survive the inevitable challenge before the Illinois State Board of Elections.
That’s separate from the attack launched Wednesday in Cook County Circuit Court. Michael Kasper, general counsel for the Illinois Democratic Party — chaired by Madigan — filed a lawsuit claiming the proposal runs afoul of the rules under which citizens can amend the constitution.
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The Illinois State Board of Education, following an investigation of the district’s finances, said CPS is planning to cut $120 million in its coming budget year. ISBE officials said that with those cuts, CPS can stave off a “negative operational budget” until its 2019 fiscal year.
Without the cuts, ISBE said, CPS would have no cash balance to pay its bills as early as its 2018 fiscal year.
Even after borrowing money through a strategy that resembles a payday loan, the district projects it would end its current budget year with about $24 million in cash. That amounts to less than two days’ worth of operating expenses.
There will be a Governor’s Prayer Breakfast this spring after all, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office said Thursday. The event is now planned to take place at the Executive Mansion on May 26.
A spokesman for the volunteer organization that puts on the breakfast told The State Journal-Register Monday that the event was being postponed this year and was unlikely to take place – breaking an annual tradition that began in 1963.
The governor’s office told the newspaper Thursday that Rauner was disappointed that the event wasn’t going to happen, so the office reached out to several local and statewide organizations to see if they would be willing to continue the tradition.
Glenn Hodas, a member of the all-volunteer organization that had been planning the breakfast, had said Monday that the state’s budget impasse made it difficult to find speakers, and that lawmakers were busy with session negotiations.
“I appreciate learning from you what the governor intends to do,” Hodas told a reporter Thursday evening, “and we’re planning on meeting to discuss it.”
Hodas, you will recall, was Sen. Sam McCann’s media advisor.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, thought he had the votes to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of legislation that would have empowered the state’s largest employee union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The bill would have limited Rauner’s authority to bargain during contract negotiations. So Rauner vetoed it. Every Illinois taxpayer should have applauded him for doing so.
But when the motion came before the House to override his veto, it crashed and burned. Madigan didn’t have enough votes. One of his caucus members, Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago, failed to show up. Dunkin was out of town when Madigan had to have every Democratic vote.
Dunkin’s absence and his outspokenness about Madigan’s iron fist cost him his political career. Madigan ran a candidate against Dunkin in the March primary and beat him.
The man got 32 percent of the vote. He won three precincts, and those were all partial precincts. He spent $1.3 million and others spent even more. The President himself came out against the guy after Dunkin attempted to turn a public presidential putdown into a ringing endorsement. Members of the Black Caucus, which he once led until they believed he became far too cozy with Rauner, were so disgusted with him they wouldn’t lift a finger to help his campaign. He was accused of attempting to choke a woman with a phone cord. He was also accused of paying people $50 cash per vote.
* Last month, I wrote a subscriber-only piece about the amazing progress women have made at the Statehouse since I started working there. Among the many replies I received was this…
I would say that the inappropriate conduct continues. I’ve had male representatives/senators say or do really inappropriate things to me or to my staff. Dunkin’s demise addresses some of that.
If the Commission fails to adopt and file with the Secretary of State a redistricting plan by June 30 of the year following a Federal decennial census, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the most senior Judge of the Supreme Court who is not affiliated with the same political party as the Chief Justice shall appoint jointly by July 31 a Special Commissioner for Redistricting.
Currently, if the redistricting process is deadlocked, Democrats and Republicans basically flip a coin to decide whose map is adopted. Under the new proposal by the Independent Maps coalition, if the process becomes deadlocked, the Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court and the justice of the opposing party with the most seniority appoint someone to draw the new boundaries.
And if the two justices don’t agree? Maybe they can play rock-paper-gavel.
Our Supreme Court is currently a very amicable body. But things can change, especially with all the money that’s floating around out there and the importance of that single appointment.
The proposed amendment falls outside the legislative realm, supposedly, because it would assign mapmaking tasks to entities outside the General Assembly. (The plan relies on the state’s auditor general to select a review panel to name the members of the redistricting commission, for example, and tweaks the Supreme Court’s role in breaking a deadlock.) […]
The language of the constitution has been twisted and tortured beyond reason by those gotcha arguments. The section that spells out how citizens can amend it might as well say that they can’t.
That’s the version Kasper is selling, at least. We hope the judge doesn’t buy it this time.
“There is gonna be a time, very soon, that I am gonna run again. My biggest obstacle in making the decision was my wife. And she’s warming up to the idea. She told me, she said, ‘There’s gotta be two things, I want two things: Number one is, you can’t finance your own campaign… she’s 100 percent right.. I did it and told her I would never do it again. But more importantly, you know what she says to me? She says ‘Scott, I don’t want you to run unless you have a plan on how to fix whatever it is you want to fix.’ Does that make sense? You have people who run just to run. You have people who run because they’re arrogant. And they have no plan.”
File this under: #ThingsCanAlwaysGetWorse
But if he’s not financing his own campaign, you gotta wonder who would kick in that kind of dough for him. So, maybe we’re safe after all.
* Toward the end of the interview, Cohen gave out his AOL e-mail address and said…
“There’s a bunch of intelligent people that watch this show, they’re smart people. I wanna ask if there’s anybody that has a plan or an idea. How to fix the budget. How to bring revenue in creatively. Um, how to fix the pension problem that we have. I’m not saying ‘Fire this person, fire that person.’ That’s all bull—t. I want somebody that has a real idea, a real plan. Contact me. And I’d love to hear what they have to say.”
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey has been indicted on federal corruption charges in connection with an ongoing investigation into his business dealings with a Florida doctor, authorities said Wednesday.
The indictment charges the Democrat, who has held his seat since 2006, with 14 counts, including bribery and conspiracy, over his ties to Salomon Melgen, a wealthy Florida optometrist and the politician’s longtime friend. […]
The indictment states that Menendez accepted nearly $1 million worth of “lavish gifts” and campaign contributions from Melgen in exchange for using the power of his Senate office to influence the outcome of ongoing contractual and Medicare billing disputes worth tens of millions of dollars to Melgen.
Melgen was also seeking Menendez’s support of the visa applications of several of Melgen’s girlfriends, according to the indictment.
Senator Mark Kirk, a Republican from Illinois, says the nuclear agreement with Iran “condemns the next generation to cleaning up a nuclear war in the Persian Gulf.” […]
“The president will make this a viciously partisan issue, leading most Democrats to standing with the Iranians and hopefully losing the next election on this point,” Kirk said. “He will ask the Democrats all to stand with Iran and make sure that we can’t get two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate.”
Asked if any Democrats disagreed with the president, Kirk pointed to New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez, who he believed “has just been indicted maybe on the crime of being against the Iran deal.”
Kirk said he believed the only reason the president supported legislation from Republican Sen. Bob Corker, the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, that allowed Congress to review the deal was because he “wants…to get nukes to Iran.”
At least one Republican is coming to aid Menendez: Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Illinois. He argues the president (who comes from the same state) is exacting revenge on Menendez because he was using his position on the Foreign Affairs Committee to undermine the administration’s nuclear talks with Iran.
“I worry that in Chicago they play a kind of politics just to destroy and bury our enemies,” Kirk accused. “And this is kind of Chicago politics with Bob.”
Kirk doesn’t have evidence, but he says if you think New Jersey politics are rough, just come to Chicago where the president was groomed.
“You know, the case of what Justice Department people come to the president and say, ‘Hey, we were thinking about nailing Menendez to the wall.’ I think the president probably says, ‘Yeah, go for it.’”
That’s a farfetched conspiracy, according to many observers — even allies of Menendez, including U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-New Jersey.
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk hasn’t let up on his insistence that President Obama is using his power as president to lash out at a political enemy.
At a fundraising event last month in Chicago, the Illinois Republican can be heard on audio defending indicted New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat, while accusing Obama of targeting Menendez because of his stance on Iran.
“And let me say something about Bob Menendez. I believe that Bob Menendez was indicted solely on the crime of opposing the President on Iran,” Kirk is heard saying on a recording provided to POLITICO. […]
On Thursday, Kirk’s campaign shrugged off the audio, saying Kirk has stood by his statement and made similar remarks in the past.
So, he’s repeatedly defending a fellow US Senator who’s been indicted on 8 bribery counts and his opponent is the DC insider and is “everything that’s wrong with Washington”?
* I got a whole lot of press releases from GOP legislators yesterday, including this one…
The House of Representatives on Thursday approved legislation that would send $700 million in designated funds to human service agencies that have been caught in the state’s budget battle. In response to the bipartisan support given to SB 2038, State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) has issued the following statement:
“While Speaker Madigan continues his efforts to score political points through continued gridlock, today we saw a more of a new trend in Springfield: Democrat lawmakers coming back to the negotiating table with Republicans to fund vital Illinois programs. Just as we did a few weeks ago with emergency funding for higher education, today we approved $700 million in stopgap funding for our human service charities.”
* And this one…
Calling it a major victory for Republicans who have been fighting for responsible and balanced spending in Springfield, State Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) applauded the House’ 111-0-3 vote on Thursday that will send $700 million in dedicated and available funds to human services agencies that have been caught in the crossfire of the budget battle.
“House Republicans have advocated for over a year now and have beseeched our Democrat colleagues to engage in responsible budgeting and spending,” said Sandack. “Throughout the year we have opposed spending money we didn’t have and making funding promises we couldn’t keep. Today, we matched spending with identified revenue to provide stopgap funding for struggling human service agencies.”
A stopgap appropriations bill to immediately fund social services agencies will likely sit idle on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk.
The measure, approved by both the Illinois House and Senate on Thursday would have authorized spending about $450 million from a human services fund, and another $250 million from special funds to be spent on items such as foreclosure prevention, and affordable housing.
The governor can sit on this thing for 60 days, and that appears to be the case for now here. So, all that glorious talk yesterday was for show. Expect a Speaker Madigan press release about GOP gamesmanship in 3… 2…
Despite Republican support for the plan in the House, the governor was lukewarm on the idea of signing another stopgap funding bill, saying Thursday that he preferred a comprehensive budget compromise to a quick fix. […]
The Rauner administration also laid groundwork for a future veto, sending a memo to lawmakers detailing a glitch in the bill’s language that could prohibit funding operational expenses for human services programs. For instance, the memo contends an HIV/AIDS program within the Department of Public Health couldn’t pay for administrative costs like lab testing or medical supplies under the plan.
Emily Miller, director of policy and advocacy with Voices for Illinois Children, dubbed the appropriations bill “emergency cash” — not a stopgap — while urging a full budget for social service agencies.
“Only a budget can actually provide some stability and let them have the lines of credit returned to them. This doesn’t really do that,” Miller said. “We’ve got to agree on new revenue and a total budget package.”
We absolutely need a real budget. No doubt about it.
But if it doesn’t happen, he needs to sign that bill.
There is widespread speculation that state Rep. Jack Franks will be the candidate that McHenry County Democrats caucus in Sunday to run against Republican Michael Walkup for McHenry County Board chairman.
Franks, D-Marengo, already is on the November ballot seeking re-election to the 63rd District House seat he currently holds. He simultaneously can run for both offices, although he likely wouldn’t serve in both if he were to win both.
Franks and party leaders aren’t talking publicly about the speculation, but if it’s true, what a monster race that would turn out to be.
November will be the first time voters popularly elect their County Board chairman. County Board members themselves have chosen their chairman every two years after the fall election. Not afraid to get involved in county politics, Franks has been an advocate for years for county government’s top official to be elected by voters. And voters in 2014 approved a referendum to popularly elect the chairman beginning this year.
* Since he doesn’t want to confirm anything, I asked Rep. Franks a hypothetical question this morning: Is it possible, hypothetically, to run for both the House and the county board chairmanship at the same time?
Caught on camera: Lawmakers play video games during budget debate
Investigation reveals diverted attention from some members
Instead of eyes on the budget, lawmakers had their eyes on their phones.
When people vote a lawmaker into office, they’d expect them to always be focused on their job. But during a budget session in April, some lawmakers played video games during a major debate over higher education funding.
State Representative Mike Smiddy (D-Port Byron) was found playing a game at his seat, and he didn’t apologize for his divided attention.
“I knew about the higher education bill. I had been in caucus, I knew what it was going to do for my schools both Western and Blackhawk,” Smiddy said.
He was asked if playing the game gave a bad impression to voters, or if it was a mistake to pull out the app during a debate funding hundreds of millions to colleges and universities. Smiddy had no answer.
Another lawmaker, State Representative Katherine Cloonen (D-Kankakee) was seen playing Candy Crush during the same debate. She put it away after she saw our cameras overhead.
She said in a statement she’s “been focused on working to end the budget impasse.” But she did not apologize or express any regret for playing games.
* The Illinois Republican Party pounced…
#CandyCrushCloonen Doesn’t Have Time To Pass a Balanced Budget
Democrat State Rep. Kate Cloonen shamelessly plays videos games on the House floor
Just days ago, Democrat State Representative Kate Cloonen was caught shamelessly playing video games during session on the House floor.
Cloonen, unaware that voters in the 79th House District didn’t send her to Springfield to play video games, eventually stopped when she became mindful that she was on the House floor and there were onlookers in the gallery.
When asked on the matter, Cloonen said “she’s been focused on working to end the budget impasse.” When Cloonen was further pressed on the issue, Matt Porter, Capital Bureau Chief at WCIA-TV, says, “[Cloonen] did not apologize or express any regret for playing games.”
“If playing Candy Crush during session is being ‘focused,’ God help us from whatever havoc Kate Cloonen will wreak on Illinois whenever she decides to put down her iPad,” said Aaron DeGroot, spokesman for the Illinois Republican Party. “Illinois has gone nearly a full calendar-year without a budget. Our unpaid bill backlog is exploding, as is our unfunded pension liabilities. House Democrats like Kate Cloonen would rather play Mike Madigan’s ‘Game of Drones’ than pass a balanced budget. Legislators must act before it’s game over for Illinois.”
I understand why the party jumped down her throat, but this is probably not a road that anybody wants to go down. Just sayin…
“Like other House Democrats, Mike Smiddy would rather play Mike Madigan’s ‘Game of Drones’ than pass a balanced budget,” said Aaron DeGroot, spokesman for the Illinois Republican Party. “Smiddy seems to be blissfully unaware that Illinois has gone nearly a full calendar-year without a budget, has an exploding unpaid bill backlog and unfunded pension liability, among other financial woes. Legislators like Smiddy must act before it’s game over for Illinois.”
A hike in the state income tax, an expansion of the sales tax and $2.5 billion in cuts are among the key budget recommendations that rank-and-file lawmakers have sent to top legislative leaders, sources told the Sun-Times.
A bipartisan working group dubbed the “Budgeteer” group proposed the package for $5.4 billion in new revenue and sent it to the leaders on Wednesday.
Gov. Bruce Rauner said he is generally “cheering” the group’s work, but a top Republican leader cautioned that they are not “anywhere close to a deal.”
Illinois Budget Director Tim Nuding has been part of the talks, and has given Rauner some of the revenue numbers.
Under the proposal, the state would bring in roughly $5.4 billion through a combination of tax increases. That includes raising the personal income tax rate from 3.75 percent to as much as 4.85 percent, expanding the sales tax to certain services and eliminating some corporate tax breaks. […]
Meanwhile, spending would be cut by roughly $2.5 billion. That includes a reduction in health care spending for the poor, saving $750 million in pension costs by ending late-career salary spikes and requiring schools and universities to pick up employee pension costs above a $180,000 yearly salary, along with unspecified changes in how the state buys goods and services. In addition, the state would no longer be required to pay back $450 million it borrowed from special funds last year to plug a separate budget hole.
The state also would borrow $5 billion to pay down a backlog of bills expected to hit $10 billion by July 1. That debt has skyrocketed this year, in part because of the tax rollback, which created a $4 billion hole that only grew worse during the impasse. That’s because while there isn’t a full budget, more than 90 percent of government operations have been kept running through various laws and court orders, but big-ticket items like higher education, prisons and social services have only been partially funded or not funded at all.
The loan would be paid back over five years, with the goal that the state would carry a more manageable load of unpaid bills of about $3 billion a year.
It also includes $2.4 billion in cuts to state spending to areas like Medicaid, changing state purchasing laws and adopting pension reforms Rauner outlined in his budget proposal. […]
Sources said the plan would extract about $400 million in savings from Medicaid without a rate reduction or elimination of services. About $750 million would be saved by implementing pension changes Rauner sought in his budget speech. That includes schools and universities picking up pension costs for employees who make more than $180,000 a year. […]
Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates, also tried to tamp down expectations.
“There’s no agreement with the group,” Crespo said. “It was basically an exercise to put together a balanced budget. There’s no agreement in the group. We just agreed to present this to the leaders and see how they react and what direction they give us afterward.”
The lawmakers also outlined $2.4 billion in savings, including a $400 million reduction in Medicaid spending, about $450 million from letting the state off the hook for repaying money borrowed from special funds to plug holes in last year’s budget, and $750 million from pension changes Rauner has proposed. […]
Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, who is a member of the bipartisan budget group but declined to go into detail about its work, said the conversations among lawmakers have been “sometimes heated but generally productive.”