For two years in a row, rather than produce a balanced budget that will require real, practical spending restraints and let his party members stand accountable for them, House Speaker Michael Madigan has delivered a budget calling for billions of dollars more in spending than revenues will support. This year the deficit is $7 billion.
And as heinous as such a brazen political act is, remember this: His members have let him do it. No suburban Democrats — nor downstate nor Chicago Democrats, for that matter — have stood at the speaker’s doorstep and demanded, “Mr. Speaker, this is an irresponsible act you are committing in our name. I protest.” Only five in the House — Scott Drury, of Highwood; Jack Franks, of Marengo; Stephanie Kifowit, of Aurora; Elaine Nekritz, of Northbrook; and Carol Sente, of Vernon Hills — and four in the Senate — Melinda Bush, of Grayslake; Julie Morrison, of Deerfield; Laura Murphy, of Des Plaines; and Mike Noland, of Elgin — showed enough backbone to refuse to sign on to the sham of the speaker’s unbalanced budget. […]
Our Republican governor campaigned on a promise of economic competency, relationship building and compromise “to focus like a laser” — as he repeatedly vowed — to repair Illinois’ fractured financial condition. Yet today we find ourselves in even worse shape than when he took office 18 months ago.
He has offered budget proposals as required by the constitution, but for far too long, he has tied his support for a spending plan to his controversial Turnaround Agenda, a collection of many important reforms, but none vital to the immediate financial operation and well-being of the state.
Where were the Republican voices — suburban or otherwise — demanding a more productive strategy? There have been plenty of complaints against the other party. There has been all too little soul searching within.
* Dean Angelo Sr., president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, speaking today at the City Club…
Angelo made little reference to police misconduct Tuesday. Although he did allow there were officers he wouldn’t want his son, also a police officer, to ride with, he said priests are more likely to abuse people than cops are.
*** UPDATE *** Angelo sent this e-mail to DNAInfo’s reporter…
Earlier this morning I received a call from one the editor of Catholic Times. He made me aware your article covering my addressing the City Club of Chicago. I am more than a bit concerned about your accuracy when you wrote that I said…priests are more likely to abuse people than cops are. That is just not true and nowhere near accurate.
If you listen to the audio of my Q & A session that followed the presentation, you can hear for yourself that actual words I used in response to a question concerning police behavior. At no time did I use the word ‘priest’ and at not time do I make any correlation about “priests” or “abuse”. My statement was in reference to a 1970 Paul Harvey narrative, where Mr. Harvey mentions that less than one half of one percent of police officers tarnish their uniform, which is less than the problems we have with our clergy.
If you toggle down to the 33:33 mark of the attached audio, you will be able to hear the question and my response that followed. After doing so, I would expect that you would take the time to make the necessary corrections in you article and to let your followers know that you erred.
Your article is ’spot on’ to other comments I made yesterday when I addressed the audience about our concerns with the media and their decisions to put out incorrect information regarding Police Officers…and now the FOP is being misrepresented as well.
Feel free to reach out to me if you feel the need to further discuss this email.
In what can be explained only as the Tweets of a desperate re-election campaign, Republican U.S. Senator Mark Kirk’s last four posted comments insult and demean three key sectors of Illinois’ Republican voting bloc: those who are pro-life, pro-natural family and pro-2nd Amendment.
* Hmm. Wanna guess who her generous benefactors are? Heh…
I have exciting news. Generous supporters have pledged to double any contributions I receive online between now and Thursday. That means your support will go twice as far!
Contribute now towards my efforts, and whatever amount you are able to give will be doubled.
We are now just over four months from Election Day, and the fundraising quarter ends this Thursday.
Now is the time to step up with me.
I am fighting to instill common sense in Springfield and respect for your hard-earned tax dollars. I am ready to continue to provide that leadership, but I need your help to ensure I win in November.
Please invest in my efforts by Thursday’s deadline. With the matching support, your contribution will have twice the impact!
Leslie Geissler Munger
Illinois State Comptroller
* Meanwhile, Munger’s opponent posted a five-minute Interwebtubes video the other day. Looks like they spent some money on it, too. Very slick stuff. Maybe they’ll cut it up into smaller TV-style ads. But I just can’t see many people actually watching the whole thing as-is. It’s so long and it doesn’t have subtitles. Lots of people watch videos at work with the sound turned off, which is why I’ve always asked campaigns to provide scripts for their ads. Subtitles are extremely important these days.
“Instead of doing the hard work of fixing Illinois’ broken education funding formula, Bruce Rauner has wasted 18 months of his term holding the entire state hostage in the name of workers’ compensation and right to work. After all that time, Bruce Rauner is doubling down on the failed formula that rewards wealthy children who grow up in elite communities and penalizes poor children in Chicago and across the state, and he is standing behind Illinois’ ignominious distinction of being 48th in the nation for education funding. That is the real tragedy.”
* However, please allow me another little rant.
The state currently has $8 billion in past-due bills. That stack would be a whole lot bigger if higher education, social services, etc. were funded over the past year. Illinois doesn’t have a budget for this fiscal year (which ends Thursday) or next. The income tax hike partially rolled back 18 months ago and nothing has replaced it, and nothing likely will until after the election - if then.
And yet, our state’s leading Democrats seem fine with increasing state K-12 spending by $860 million?
I happen to believe strongly that the state should help CPS out. But a 30 percent spike in their general state aid cash and another $100 million for their pensions when the state can’t get its act together enough to bring in more revenues or make huge cuts to pay its own bills?
* Having said that, the governor’s new non-education approp package is supposed to be the product of the bipartisan working groups. So, maybe, you know, if Madigan just went ahead and embraced those non-education proposals that’s where he could find the votes? Just sayin…
Gov. Bruce Rauner on Tuesday unveiled a revamped stopgap budget proposal aimed at ensuring that schools open on time and most state government operations stay afloat until the end of the year, but the proposal does not contain a big boost in funding for Chicago Public Schools sought by Democratic leaders. […]
A spokesman for Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan of Chicago noted that the situation at the Capitol continues to evolve quickly, but he was not optimistic.
“It’s unclear where there would be enough votes to pass a bill this time of the year,” said Madigan spokesman Steve Brown, referencing the increased threshold to enact legislation starting June 1. “I wouldn’t call it a disagreement, but how do you find three-fifths on the 29th?”
It’s only unclear if you want it to be unclear.
* And the House Democrats are gonna pass a transportation approp bill by the end of the fiscal year, but no K-12 bill? Seriously? Ashpalt before kids? Imagine all the “fun” House Democratic legislators are gonna have marching in 4th of July parades back home this weekend…
“We are headed to Springfield,” said Brown, the Madigan spokesman. “We will work on bills to try to avert the panic of an IDOT shutdown, and see where it all ends up.”
The “panic” of a threatened IDOT shutdown is gonna pale in comparison to the reaction of parents who are gonna freak out beyond all previous freak-outs if K-12 isn’t taken care of pretty darned soon.
Today’s Supreme Court ruling could greatly benefit former Governor Rod Blagojevich. The High Court made it harder for prosecutors to use federal fraud statues.
Today’s case involved former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell who was convicted on federal corruption charges in 2014. He was found to have received gifts, money and loans in exchange for official acts.
The Supreme Court in a unanimous decision vacated McDonnell’s conviction. The justices were concerned that federal laws allow prosecutors to mistake common favors with criminal acts.
So the justices defined what an official act is. How does this connect to former Governor Blagojevich? He was convicted of bribery, attempted extortion, and wire fraud — some of that related to the trade of President Obama’s old Senate seat.
Under this ruling, perhaps Mr. Blagojevich’s actions could be seen as business as usual not a felony. In the Blagojevich case, no money exchanged hands. In the case of Governor McDonnell, there was money involved: $175,000 in gifts. All legal.
“It really doesn’t change anything,” said Blagojevich’s lawyer, Leonard Goodman. “I don’t think this will be a primary focus.” […]
The Supreme Court vacated the 2014 conviction on fraud and extortion charges against McDonnell, who accepted more than $165,000 in loans and gifts from a wealthy businessman. The high court’s opinion hinged on the definition of what should be considered an “official act” of a public official. The Supreme Court ruled that while McDonnell’s actions were “distasteful” and “tawdry,” the government overreached in its “boundless interpretation of the federal bribery statute.”
But the “official act” element does not apply in the Blagojevich case, Goodman said.
“Those legal issues are not really front and center at the resentencing,” Goodman said. “That’s really our main focus right now: trying to bring him home to his family.”
“I think that some of the language in it and the concerns about government over-reaching are helpful,” Goodman said. “(But) I think that the narrow issue they looked at about the meaning of an official act is not directly on point with our case.”
* The Tribune takes a quick look at the elected Chicago school board bill, which passed the House months ago and hit a brick wall in the Senate…
But as efforts are being made to ask voters to create a more independent way of drawing legislative district maps to take much of the politics out of the process, it’s interesting to note who would be charged with drawing Chicago school board election boundaries.
Under the measure, it would be the Illinois General Assembly. So 118 House members and 59 senators statewide would have a say in where individuals could run for spots on an elected Chicago school board.
And it looks like the map-making process would be in the form of a bill, which means it would be subject to a potential veto of Gov. Bruce Rauner if he didn’t like the way the lines were drawn.
The measure makes no mention of the school board districts having to comply with the Illinois Voting Rights Act, which affords legislative map-making protections to racial, ethnic and language-speaking groups to be able to try to elect their favored candidate.
Those would appear to be significant concerns given the various “good-government” groups that populate the Statehouse.
The Senate Democrats have other concerns, like no runoffs for winners of multi-candidate races, and the large number (20) of board districts. The biggest concern, of course, is that the mayor opposes the bill and Senate President John Cullerton’s constituents support it.
The bill was passed by the House in March, before the primary. It was probably designed to do three things: 1) Give Chicago Democrats a chance to look good for the voters back home before the primary vote; 2) Placate the Chicago Teachers Union, which was supporting Speaker Madigan and opposing people like Ken Dunkin; and 3) A little “love tap” for Senate President Cullerton and Mayor Emanuel, just to let them know they were being watched as they talked with the governor.
* In other “reform” news, I’ll bet this was an uncomfortable moment…
Volunteer asks Mayor Emanuel to sign former Gov. Quinn's petition for mayoral term limits. He declined. pic.twitter.com/vg9Mg64icW
* This is one of my bigger beefs with anti-union types. The trades have huge and vital training facilities in this state. If we want good jobs, we need highly trained workers. Who’s gonna train these folks if the government hobbles their unions?…
Mayor Rahm Emanuel today joined Business Manager James Coyne and leadership from Plumbers’ Local 130 to break ground on the union’s new training center in the West Loop. When complete the center will provide a modern, green learning environment for more than 4,000 journeymen and apprentice plumbers.
“Skilled workers are a part of the fabric of Chicago,” Mayor Emanuel said. “From the success that comes with advanced training to the values that come from vital work, this new center is building a strong foundation for the City of Chicago.”
The 50,000-square-foot new training center will be complete in July 2017. When complete the center will offer a number of technology-related and green, as well as traditional plumbing skills courses.
“The Plumbers Local 130 is building a green building for the City of Chicago that will serve as a state-of-the-art learning center for the future of skilled labor,” Business Manager and JAC Chairman James F. Coyne said. “This 50,000-square-foot, three-story building will create jobs and pave the way for the future by showcasing rainwater harvesting, solar energy and grey water systems, and training thousands of Apprentices and Journeymen who Protect the Health of the Nation.”
The center will also prepare apprentices to work on projects involved appliances, fixtures, rain and gray water harvesting systems and solar systems. Plan reading will be taught, as well as the safe, correct and efficient installation and maintenance of systems including underground water supply, storm water, sewer drainage, fixture installation, and waste and vent piping both inside and outside of commercial buildings and residential homes.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan today announced her office has reached $275 million settlement with Volkswagen Group of America Inc. for misrepresenting the emissions of its 2.0-liter Volkswagen and Audi diesel engine cars sold in the U.S. As part of a multistate settlement, Madigan secured $28.9 million for violations of Illinois’ Consumer Fraud Act, and the state could see an additional $150 million in consumer restitution based on consumer participation in the settlement. Illinois can also apply for an additional $97 million from an environmental settlement reached by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The scandal uncovered in September 2015 affected approximately 29,800 cars sold in Illinois. The diesel cars branded environmentally friendly were equipped with defeat device software designed to reduce the effectiveness of the vehicles’ emissions control systems and as a result emitted excess nitrogen oxides (NOx) throughout the state.
“Volkswagen deliberately defrauded its consumers and polluted our environment while promoting its cars as clean diesel vehicles,” Madigan said. “This settlement is the result of the company’s deliberate misconduct and egregious corporate consumer fraud.”
Madigan was among 43 states and jurisdictions that settled with Volkswagen for violating state laws prohibiting unfair or deceptive trade practices by marketing, selling and leasing diesel vehicles equipped with illegal and undisclosed defeat device software. The agreement is part of a series of state and federal settlements that will provide cash payments to affected consumers, require Volkswagen to buy back or modify certain VW and Audi 2.0-liter diesel vehicles, and prohibits Volkswagen from engaging in future unfair or deceptive acts and practices in connection with its dealings with consumers and regulators.
Once the consumer program is approved by the court, affected Volkswagen owners will receive restitution payment of at least $5,100 and a choice between:
A buy back of the vehicle (based on pre-scandal National Automobile Dealers Association/NADA value); or
A modification to reduce NOx emissions provided that Volkswagen can develop a modification acceptable to regulators. Owners will still be eligible to choose a buyback in the event regulators do not approve a fix. Owners who choose the modification option would also receive an Extended Emission Warranty; and a Lemon Law-type remedy to protect against the possibility that the modification causes subsequent problems.
The consumer program also provides benefits and restitution for lessees (restitution and a no-penalty lease termination option) and sellers after September 18, 2015 when the emissions-cheating scandal was disclosed (50 percent of the restitution available to owners). Additional components of today’s settlements include:
Environmental Mitigation Fund: Volkswagen will pay $2.7 billion into a trust to support environmental programs throughout the country to reduce emissions of NOx. This fund, also subject to court approval, is intended to mitigate the total, lifetime excess NOx emissions from the 2.0-liter diesel vehicles identified below. Under the terms of the mitigation trust, Illinois is eligible to seek up to $97 million from this fund to pay for emissions related mitigation projects.
Additional Payment to the States: In addition to consumer restitution, Volkswagen will pay to the states more than $1,000 per car for repeated violations of state consumer protection laws, amounting to $570 million nationwide. This amount includes $28.9 million paid for affected vehicles Volkswagen sold and leased in Illinois.
Zero Emission Vehicles: Volkswagen has committed to investing $2 billion over the next 10 years for the development of non-polluting cars, or Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV), and supporting infrastructure.
Preservation of Environmental Claims: Today’s settlement by state attorneys general preserves all claims under state environmental laws, and Illinois maintains the right to seek additional penalties from Volkswagen for its violations of environmental and emissions laws and regulations.
Democrat leaders who control the General Assembly made it clear they will not take any major action on balancing our budget or passing real reforms until after the General Election in November. That is wrong and that is why, despite their refusal, I am advocating for two bills: a stopgap funding measure to ensure our most critical government services continue being funded and a school funding bill that puts more money into education, holds all schools harmless and ensures they open on time in the fall.
This morning Republicans will introduce an updated stopgap measure to add funding for higher education, MAP grants, and human services.
We are three days away from the end of the fiscal year. While we have essentially reached agreement on a six-month stopgap budget, the super majority is focused on passing a school funding bill that forces suburban and downstate taxpayers to pay for a massive bailout of the severely mismanaged Chicago Public Schools system.
I have said it before, and I say it again today: we must not bail out a broken system that refuses to change the way it does business. Forcing Illinois to raise its income tax to bail out CPS is fundamentally unfair to our school children, parents, homeowners, and small business owners across the state.
The real tragedy is that we have proposed legislation which would let Chicago fix every one of CPS’ problems, allowing city leaders to protect their students and taxpayers while eliminating the need for any bailout – but Speaker Madigan has refused to call the bills for a vote.
· Granting local control of collective bargaining would allow CPS to remove teachers’ pensions pickup from contract negotiations, saving taxpayers from the single biggest threat to CPS’ financial health. The Mayor requested the state do this last year.
· Applying President Cullerton’s pension reform proposal to CPS teachers’ pensions would save Chicago taxpayers billions in the long run and give them the resources to hire more teachers.
· Allowing CPS to declare bankruptcy if the Mayor or city council deemed it necessary to reorganize school contracts and debts could protect teachers’ jobs and prevent the need for massive tax hikes on homeowners in Chicago. And even if the Mayor chose never to exercise the option, it would fundamentally alter the balance in teacher union contract negotiations, making tax hikes no longer the only inevitable option.
If Mayor Emanuel would join with his friend, President Cullerton, and lead in the effort for reforms along with Republican legislators, then together we could protect students, teachers, and taxpayers in the city and the state, creating a better future for everyone.
The reason for this statement is contained in another post. The House Democrats are so far refusing to vote on a stopgap bill other than for transportation, so Rauner is introducing a stopgap bill that was negotiated by the budgeteers.
As of today, Tuesday, June 28, 2016, I am formally announcing that I have suspended my campaign for Illinois House of Representatives 96th District.
As a business person and community member, I have not only witnessed, but have experienced the many issues that impact the viability of a thriving State of Illinois. I had hoped that my background in business and community would provide a common sense voice for change and help put us on a different path.
Over the past several months, I have had the opportunity to meet wonderful people, within the various communities that make up the 96th District, and have learned a great deal about a number of organizations that are providing exceptional service and outreach. I wish them all the best as they strive to make a difference.
This was a difficult decision and I will be eternally grateful for the support of friends, family, business colleagues and many elected officials for their personal efforts in this endeavor. They have provided support through their gifts of time and talent, financial resources and expertise. Unfortunate as it is, that effort is just not enough in this politically challenging time.
Rep. Scherer has her issues, but it’s such a Democratic district that Deadrick-Wolfer wasn’t given much of a chance anyway.
* Keep in mind that many of these questions are obviously slanted, but polls like these are done to test messaging. And, according to their poll, that messaging is working. From the governor’s campaign operation…
Victory Phones, which accurately tracked the 2014 Illinois governor’s race, conducted a statewide opinion survey about the status of school funding and the current budget impasse. The poll surveyed 777 likely Illinois voters between June 25-27 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.52 percent. The sample was D+15 and included 25% cell phones.
1. Speaker Mike Madigan, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Teachers Union are all unpopular.
Q. What is your opinion of Mike Madigan?
No opinion 15.6%
Q. What is your opinion of Rahm Emanuel?
No opinion 20.8%
Q. What is your opinion of the Chicago Teachers Union?
No opinion 28.2%
2. Democrats’ intransigence and decision to leave Springfield without passing a budget is helping Gov. Rauner’s image recover.
Q. What is your opinion of Bruce Rauner?
No opinion 15.6%
3. Voters oppose bailing out Chicago Public Schools even if it means turning down additional money for their own schools.
Q. Do you support or oppose a taxpayer-funded bailout of Chicago Public Schools if it includes increasing state funding for all schools across Illinois including your own local school districts?
4. Voters don’t want their legislators to vote for any legislation that would bailout Chicago Public Schools.
Q. Would you be more or less likely to vote for your state legislator if you found out they voted for a bill that increases local school funding but also provides the largest taxpayer-funded bailout in the history of Chicago Public Schools?
More Likely 23.3%
Less Likely 53.9%
5. Voters prefer Gov. Rauner’s education funding proposal over the one proposed by House Speaker Mike Madigan
Q. One proposal, put forward by Speaker Mike Madigan and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, would provide record funding for schools throughout Illinois, but would also give Chicago a bailout worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The other proposal, put forward by Governor Bruce Rauner, would increase education funding by $240 million but would not include a Chicago bailout. Of these two proposals, which do you prefer?
Speaker Mike Madigan and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s bill that increases school funding for all and includes a Chicago bailout 38.8%
Governor Rauner’s bill that increases school funding but does not give Chicago a taxpayer bailout 61.2%
6. Illinois voters believe Chicago Public Schools are poorly run and don’t pay enough of their own costs.
Q. Do you agree or disagree that Chicago Public Schools is run by corrupt politicians?
Q. Do you agree or disagree that Chicago Public Schools gets unfair treatment by the state and deserves more funding than most other school districts?
Q. Do you agree or disagree that Chicago Public Schools is a financial wreck that gives sweetheart deals to special interests and political insiders, forcing taxpayers to pay more to foot the bill?
7. A robust messaging campaign will further solidify support for Gov. Rauner’s education plan and opposition to the Democrats’ plan.
Q. Chicago Public Schools has had years of runaway spending, reckless mismanagement and giveaways to special interests and political insiders. Knowing this do you support or oppose a taxpayer-funded bailout of Chicago Public Schools?
Q. The proposal to bailout Chicago Public Schools is supported by Chicago politicians Rahm Emanuel and Mike Madigan but opposed by reformers like Bruce Rauner. Knowing this, do you support or oppose a taxpayer-funded bailout of Chicago Public Schools?
* Top takeaway: That question about support/oppose more money for their own schools as part of a CPS bailout is truly not good for Democrats, who’ve proposed doing just that. The folks out there in VoterLand don’t need to buy in to the governor’s “CPS is bad” rhetoric because they’ve always felt that way.
Also, check out those MJM numbers. Even with a D+15 sample. Ouch!
* The Senate is set to run several approp bills this week. But the House Democrats are not ready to roll on everything yet. Here’s Greg Hinz…
Cullerton also is expected to put votes on a separate “stop-gap” measure that would fund most of the rest of state government. A third bill would appropriate $1 billion for higher education, including Monetary Assistance program (MAP) grants for low-income students, and a fourth to take care of capital needs for the year. […]
While the Democratic plan almost certainly will clear the Senate, the House remains a question mark.
“We will be voting on elements of the stop-gap budget where progress has been made, and around this panic over road construction,” says Steve Brown, spokesman for Speaker Mike Madigan.
And education? “Hopefully that can be handled sooner rather than later,” Brown replied. “Discussions have been going on. I’m not sure things are finalized.”
Other sources were more optimistic.
There is “a conceptual agreement with the House,” with final action expected next week, said one insider.
Could get crazier before it gets saner.
*** UPDATE *** This question was not worded properly. MJM will need a veto-proof majority before he can pass the K-12 bill. We’re in overtime, so the bill will require a three-fifths majority. Even so, it’s a problem for Madigan and he apparently needs more time to work his caucus…
House Speaker Michael Madigan would not say if he has veto proof majority if Rauner shoots down edu funding bill pic.twitter.com/2EddofAgHm
* This proposal will be filed on two bills. Note extra funding for MAP grants, higher ed and human services. Subscribers already knew about most of this stuff. But it isn’t smooth sailing yet, campers…
The Governor’s stopgap funding plan will serve as a bridge to a comprehensive balanced budget for fiscal year 2017. This plan does not count on enactment of a tax hike or reforms. This plan provides a full year of funding for elementary and secondary education, road construction, federal programs and other non-GRF programs. It also provides funding to support 6 months of critical operations for higher education, state-operated facilities including prisons and veterans’ homes, fuel for the State Police to patrol our roads, and other core operations and programs for public safety, health and welfare. Funds are available under current law for all components of this bridge plan. The plan is contained in two bills: one bill which has K-12 education funding, and a second bill which has all other funding.
For fiscal year 2017 operations, the total package is $50.3 billion. This includes $8.2 billion in general funds, $33.7 billion in other state funds and $8.4 billion federal funds. The FY17 appropriations include:
o K-12 education. The Governor has proposed an increase of over $240 million over this year’s enacted education budget, for a total of $7 billion in general funds. This plan would fully fund the foundation level for the first time in many years, and ensure that all school districts get at least as much as they received in this past school year (a “hold harmless”). This plan does not include a bailout for Chicago Public Schools.
o Higher education funding of $1.0 billion. This is on top of $600 million already approved in FY16. The new funding is from the Education Assistance Fund, at $680 million (which is the amount of money expected to be available in that fund in the first six months of FY17), $200 million from the Fund for the Advancement of Education, $20 million from GRF, and approximately $100 million from the Personal Property Tax Replacement Fund for community colleges.
▪ This plan should ensure that universities are able to open on time and complete the full fall semester.
▪ Community colleges are funded at $114 million, plus funding for adult and career tech and other grants.
▪ Includes $151 million in funding for MAP for spring semester 2016. This goes to public and private colleges, for all students who were awarded MAP grants for the spring semester
▪ Funds the Illinois Math and Science Academy, East St. Louis and Lake County centers and some higher education and community college board operations.
o Funding for critical State government operations with GRF totaling $454 million. This GRF comes from $454 million freed up by removing the requirement to repay interfund borrowing. Also relies on full use of the rainy day fund ($275 million). These resources will be used to cover critical needs at agencies, including:
▪ Utilities, food and medical services at state prisons, mental health centers and veterans’ homes.
▪ Fuel and vehicle repairs for six months for State troopers’ vehicles to ensure public safety and IDOT vehicles to ensure repairs, salt distribution and snow removal.
▪ Funding to continue child support collection.
▪ Continued operations of other key State government services, such as collection of cigarette and other taxes.
▪ No GRF is appropriated for health insurance providers for State and university employees, which has a bill backlog of over $3 billion.
This stopgap funding means that approximately 20% of all State government operations are funded, counting health insurance (or 50% without health insurance.)
o Human services funding of $650 million from the Commitment to Human Services Fund. This is the amount of resources projected to be available in this fund through December 2016. This plan will help cover critical services not being paid under consent decrees or court orders. Includes $35 million in additional human services grants. This funding level means that human services will get over 90% of the amount they typically would get over 18 months when you include spending authorized by court orders.
o Full-year appropriations of federal funds of $8.4 billion. Includes federal funding that goes directly to providers, and takes full advantage of all available federal funds.
o Full-year appropriations of non-GRF/other state funds of $33.2 billion, and capital appropriations of $17.0 billion. This non-GRF funding includes:
▪ Capital appropriations, which will ensure continuation of road and bridge improvements, payment of school construction grants and local water and sewer improvements. Includes new pay-as- you-go IDOT projects, covered by available projected Road Fund revenue. Will allow completion of projects for colleges and key state facilities which were halted in FY16.
▪ Debt service payments for the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, and the State’s Civic Center bonds.
▪ Lottery prizes, local government distributions (including motor fuel taxes), low-income heating assistance and other services.
▪ Appropriations of all remaining non-GRF items in FY16 which ends June 30th, generally at the Governor’s estimated level recommended in his fiscal year 2016 budget, totaling $25 billion. Fiscal year 2017 appropriations include language allowing those appropriations to be used to pay FY16 bills, if necessary.
• Spending under consent decrees, court orders, continuing appropriations and statutory transfers will continue in FY17 without enacted appropriations.
*** UPDATE *** The bills have now been filed…
Illinois Republican leaders Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) and Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) filed legislation on Tuesday that would provide a full year of funding for elementary and secondary education, road construction projects and federal programs. It would also provide six months of funding for critical operations for higher education, state-operated facilities (such as prisons and veterans’ homes), public safety, health and welfare.
In total, the funding package introduced totals $50.3 billion for FY17 and another $25 billion to close out FY16. The plan is contained in two identical bills in each chamber, one which contains K-12 education funding (SB 3439, HB 6590) and the other which contains funding for other agencies (SB 3438, HB 6591).
Senate Bill 3439/HB6590 would ensure Illinois schools have funding to open this fall, with an increase of more than $240 million over this year’s enacted education budget, for a total of $7.2 billion in general funds.
“The measure we filed today would fully fund the foundation level for the first time in years, as well as include a ‘hold harmless’ to ensure that all school districts get at least as much as they received in this past school year,” said Radogno. “What this plan does not contain is a bailout for Chicago Public Schools, as Democrat legislators have proposed. Their plan is not acceptable or affordable to the taxpayers of Illinois – particularly in our downstate and suburban communities.”
The Republican leaders’ state agency funding proposal reflects budget items negotiated in the bipartisan, bicameral legislator working groups, in cooperation with the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget.
Higher education funding totals $1 billion, which is on top of the $600 million already approved in Fiscal Year 2016. This measure, if approved, would: ensure that universities are able to open on time and complete a full fall semester; allocate $151 million in funding for MAP grants for the spring semester of 2016; and provide community colleges with $114 million, plus funding for adult career tech and other grants.
Leader Durkin notes that under SB 3438 and HB 6591, funding for critical state government operations would total $729 million, and would help cover critical needs at state agencies, including: utilities, food and medical services at state prisons, mental health centers and veteran’s homes.
“Time is running out with less than three days until the start of a new fiscal year. The citizens of Illinois deserve a balanced negotiated budget that cares for students, the most vulnerable and all Illinoisans. The language in these bills can be amended to active bills in both chambers to meet our Thursday deadline. Those who claim this cannot be completed by then are just plain wrong,” Durkin said.
Under Senate Bill 3438 and HB 6591, $650 million will help cover critical human services not being paid under consent decrees or court orders. This includes $35 million in additional human services grants. This funding level means that human services will get over 90% of the amount they typically would get over 18 months when including spending authorized by court orders.
Full-year appropriations of non-GRF/other state funds of $33.2 billion, and capital appropriations of $17.0 billion, will ensure that: road and bridge improvements can continue; payment of school construction grants and local water and sewer improvements are met; local government distributions are made and funding is allocated for low-income heating assistance and other services.
“We are at a critical point in this budget impasse,” said Radogno. “The time for political posturing has passed — the time to act is now.”
Both the Illinois Senate and House are scheduled to be in session on Wednesday, June 29.
Senate Democrats plan to put forward an education funding plan Tuesday that increases money for public schools this fall by $750 million.
The plan released to The Associated Press late Monday would pump $286 million more into Chicago Public Schools.
Both the Senate and House return to session in Springfield on Wednesday to try to put together a budget agreement to keep government operating past Thursday’s end of the fiscal year.
Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner wants the Legislature to act on a GOP school-funding plan that increases funding by $235 million. And he wants a second measure approved keeping government operating for half a year.
* According to the numbers I got from the Senate Democrats earlier today, Chicago would, indeed, receive a $286 million General State Aid increase, which would be a 30 percent boost from this fiscal year’s funding levels.
But Chicago would also get another $100 million or so via a state pension pickup, the SDems told me today.
Also, from what I was told, it’s a $760 million total increase - $60 million for the formula and $700 million for poverty grants.
…Adding… The governor’s folks think that it’s actually an $861 million increase because, they believe, that $100 million for the pension pickup isn’t included in the $760 million figure.
…Adding More… The governor’s office was correct. The Senate Democrats confirm that the $760 million is only GSA. So, it’s an $860+ million package.
The problem is the current rhetoric about the Chicago bailout, just like the vast majority of past attempts to pit downstate Illinois against Chicago, creates a false dichotomy that ultimately encourages legislation counter to the interests of downstate communities. Understanding why this is the case, requires an understanding of what the dreaded “Chicago bailout” actually entails. The key element of the proposal involves providing some financial support to Chicago Public Schools, by having the state cover all or a portion of the “normal pension cost” — that is, the employer cost of future retirement benefits — currently being earned by CPS teachers.
Many of you are probably wondering why state tax dollars collected everywhere from Rockford to Marion, should be used to cover the normal cost of pension benefits being earned by teachers in Chicago. Well, first and foremost, because Illinois already pays the normal cost of pension benefits earned by teachers in every school district statewide except Chicago. That’s right, CPS is the only school district that has to fund its own normal cost.
Of course, this also means Chicago taxpayers foot the full pension bill for CPS teachers, while also chipping in to cover a portion of the pension benefits being earned by teachers in Rockford, Marion, Winnetka — heck, you name it. And lest you think that contribution isn’t significant, Chicago residents alone account for roughly 20 percent of all income tax revenue collected statewide. So, the proposal isn’t so much a bailout — but rather an attempt to put CPS on equal footing with every other school district.
The Chicago Public Schools will make a $676 million payment to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund due Thursday even though that massive payment will leave the nearly bankrupt school system with just $24 million in the bank — enough to cover just 1.5 days of payroll.
“Chicago Public Schools will make that pension payment. . . . In the last two years, the city of Chicago has made more pension payments to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund than the preceding 15 years. Payments weren’t made by Springfield or anybody else, and that was wrong,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday.
Emanuel said CPS would “not have a financial challenge” if Chicago taxpayers were not paying twice — through property taxes for the pensions of their own teachers and through income taxes for the pensions of teachers outside the city.
* According to the governor’s budget office, the state’s pension contribution to the Downstate and suburban Teachers Retirement System is estimated at $3.743 billion this fiscal year. If the 20 percent number is accurate across the board, Chicagoans are paying roughly $749 million to the state to fund a pension system that doesn’t include their own teachers - on top of the $676 million payment they’re making Thursday for their own pension fund.
Rauner’s right that the state’s economy has lagged, and has done so for a long time. But will his solution work?
Fortunately, we don’t have to go very far to find a real-world point of comparison. That’s in neighboring Wisconsin, another Rust Belt state that has lagged the nation’s growth for decades, but which, in January 2011, got a new governor much in the mold of Rauner in Scott Walker. And unlike Rauner, Walker had a GOP-majority legislature to work with, so he was able to actually get through the sorts of union-weakening measures that Rauner so far can only dream of.
Did it work? According to research forwarded to me a few months back by the Rauner-friendly Illinois Policy Institute, between January 2010 and January 2016, total private-sector job growth in Illinois and Wisconsin was almost identical: 7 percent here versus 7.1 percent there.
Using a slightly different time period shows a slightly different result.
According to federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data crunched for me by my colleague John Pletz, comparing December 2010 (the month Walker took over) to December 2015 shows a 5 percent employment gain for Wisconsin to 3.3 percent for Illinois. But Illinois entered the great recession a little later than Wisconsin and came out of it a little later. So if you compare December 2008 to December 2015, the difference is just 1.2 percent, with Wisconsin up 2.4 percent and Illinois half that.
Fair enough, but if you look just at the last two years, December 2013 to December 2015, the job growth figures again are almost dead even: 2 percent here versus 2.4 percent there
* Greg asked Rauner if that data suggests “the reforms you want aren’t the great panacea?” His reply…
“No, not at all. The comparables are not necessarily just Wisconsin, or Michigan or Indiana. But the comparables are Tennessee, Texas, South Carolina, Georgia where there’s a lot more rapid growth. You’ll see in the long-term, Wisconsin and Michigan start to fix their problems, and you can certainly see it in Indiana. Indiana started fixing their problems earlier than Wisconsin and Michigan, that’s why they’re taking so many more of our jobs and their financial health is so much better.
“Wisconsin’s financial health isn’t all that good. See, Wisconsin and Michigan, but especially Wisconsin, they were a collectivist state, even before Illinois. And they were more extreme than Illinois in the collectivism. And they’ve already got a high graduated income tax and they’ve already got embedded the problems that we haven’t gone to yet. I’m trying to prevent us from going there, because once you get there, coming back from that is all the harder.”
* This flier was recently posted on the union bulletin board at the state prison in Decatur…
* I asked AFSCME Council 31 spokesman Anders Lindall for an explanation…
As you know, the Rauner administration walked away from negotiations on Jan. 8 and has refused to meet with the AFSCME bargaining committee ever since. Instead, the governor is asking his Labor Board to give him the unprecedented power to unilaterally impose his harmful terms—including massive hikes in employee costs for health care, freezing wages for four years, and wiping out existing safeguards against reckless privatization.
If Rauner imposes, public service workers in state government will be forced to choose between working under those harmful terms or going out on strike.
AFSCME members don’t want a strike and continue doing everything in our power to avoid one. We want to be at work, serving our communities, protecting kids, responding to emergencies, caring for veterans and the disabled and much more. We have repeatedly indicated our willingness to return to the bargaining table and our readiness to offer further compromises in hopes of reaching a fair agreement. We supported legislation to prevent a strike and instead settle the differences between the parties through a fair arbitration process.
But we know that as a candidate, Bruce Rauner vowed to force a strike and shut down state government. We know that last summer his administration was attempting to recruit strikebreakers, even reportedly discussing the mobilization of the National Guard. And we know that the administration still refuses to meet with our bargaining committee.
Governor Rauner’s threatening approach has created instability and uncertainty throughout state government. We have to be prepared for him to continue seeking confrontation and sowing chaos. That’s why AFSCME local unions throughout Illinois are meeting to share information and answer questions, and continuing to organize and build community support.
I’ll let you know what the Rauner administration says about it, if they choose to respond.
*** UPDATE *** From an administration spokesperson…
We are deeply disappointed that, in the middle of impasse proceedings before the Labor Board, AFSCME is reportedly planning for a strike vote. To even talk of striking, much less taking a vote, before the Labor Board has had a chance to rule in this case is not only irresponsible but also a violation of the parties’ Tolling Agreement. Rest assured, although the Governor hopes employees reject AFSCME’s irresponsible call to strike, our contingency planning team is ready and will not let AFSCME’s actions disrupt the provision of services to Illinois citizens.
The state’s board of education, headed and governed by Rauner appointees, launched a financial investigation last winter into CPS’ finances. Through that probe, it determined that CPS didn’t meet criteria for the certification of financial distress necessary for the state board to take financial control.
CPS faces a $1.1 billion deficit in the new fiscal year starting July 1, and has been hoarding cash to make a massive pension payment on June 30. It passed last year’s budget with a $480 million gap and has been begging Springfield to help ever since, borrowing hundreds of millions at sky-high interest rates in the meantime. The district has also argued it is exempt from state oversight and has been lobbying for a change to the state funding formula for schools.
“Governor Rauner’s proposed education funding plan does not invest enough money into our local schools,” continued [Rep. Dan Beiser, D-Alton]. “Education funding needs to be made a priority by the governor and my fellow members of the General Assembly, because if an agreement is not made, many schools may not be opening in the fall. It is important that everyone works together to move our all of our schools forward—not just some of our schools.”
Under Rauner’s plan, which was unveiled only hours before the May 31 deadline, two schools in Beiser’s district would see no increase in state funding, East Alton-Wood River CHSD 14 and Wood River-Hartford Elementary School District 15. In total, the governor’s plan would send $2.6 million dollars less to local schools than the plan that Beiser supports.
“The education funding plan that I voted for would send $34.4 million to schools in the 111th district, which would represent an increase for each school district,” Beiser said. “The governor’s plan fails to help every school. In fact, Governor Rauner’s plan shifts funding towards wealthy suburban school districts, while schools like East Alton-Wood River would not see any additional investment. That’s not something I can support.”
Steven Brown is spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan… says House Democrats approved hundreds of millions more for elementary and secondary education than Rauner seeks. So the schools issue remains unsettled.
…Adding… And this…
Flynn Currie: The average property tax dollar, $0.60 on the dollar goes to schools in IL bc state doesn't kick in enough. U.S. avg is $0.40
* The Question: Knowing that additional money would not be paid for because of a lack of revenues, how much, if any, extra money should Gov. Rauner agree to for all K-12 schools in order to reach a deal on the stopgap budget? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.
Rauner, who described himself as a free-market conservative, went so far as to say that Illinois is being damaged by a “collectivist economy,” employing a term generally used to suggest communist or socialist influence.
“We’ve become a collectivist economy in Illinois. It’s crushing us. And no problem is going to get fixed unless we bring more economic freedom into the state. And I believe that very passionately,” the governor said.
“That’s going to kill us in the long run. I’ve got to change that. And the other issues, we can debate, but that one I have to stay very strong on,” he said.
Collectivism does not preach sacrifice as a temporary means to some desirable end. Sacrifice is its end—sacrifice as a way of life. It is man’s independence, success, prosperity, and happiness that collectivists wish to destroy.
Observe the snarling, hysterical hatred with which they greet any suggestion that sacrifice is not necessary, that a non-sacrificial society is possible to men, that it is the only society able to achieve man’s well-being.
Chicago, as anyone in business knows, has a lot to offer. But lately government seems to be going out of its way to negate these pluses. Let’s hope the City Council doesn’t heap yet another burden on job creators with a well-meaning but ill-thought-out law requiring employers to offer five days of paid sick leave a year to employees.
Mr. Rauner understands employers’ priorities and promises to bring a pro-business message to Springfield. He also pledges to put renewed vigor and energy into the state’s marketing efforts and outreach to business.
Illinois could use such a cheerleader. Despite its current straits, this state still has a lot going for it, including global transportation connections, a thriving arts and cultural scene, leading universities, Fortune 500 companies and a close-knit business community that’s accustomed to taking on big civic projects. Putting a businessman in the driver’s seat in Springfield will send a positive message to employers that Illinois is serious about reform and ready to embrace a pro-growth agenda.
Mr. Rauner’s experience as a private-equity investor would benefit Springfield. Government isn’t the same as business, of course. As head of the state’s executive branch, the governor wields real power, but it’s less than that of a chief executive. Still, Mr. Rauner would bring the much-needed perspective of a private-sector leader. And he has a sharp eye for efficiency, something that bloated state government desperately needs.
He is no politician, and that is a good thing.
Mr. Rauner promises reforms that would lessen the burdens on business and promote entrepreneurship, including cutting red tape, making common-sense changes to workers’ compensation and revitalizing the state agency that should be hustling to bring business to Illinois, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. He has said he would become the state’s top recruiter. We believe him. […]
Illinois is badly in need of a fresh spirit of confidence that we can tackle the problems that lie ahead. A natural salesman in the best sense of the word, Mr. Rauner will convey a renewed sense of optimism about the future, replacing the funk in which Illinois finds itself. […]
If elected, Mr. Rauner likely would face stiff opposition in the Democratic-controlled Legislature. Still, his relationship with the Democratic leadership is unlikely to be worse than Mr. Quinn’s, and could be better, by putting honest differences on the table.
Crimes committed by at-risk Chicago students dropped in half, and high-school graduations rose sharply in an innovative education program called Becoming a Man that is capturing national attention and could become one antidote to the city’s persistent bloodshed, according to a newly published study.
BAM focuses on adolescent and teenage boys on the city’s violent South and West sides. They’re deemed at risk to fail and are offered a chance to skip a class to participate in a program that tries to teach them alternatives to having “automatic” negative responses to stressful situations. […]
The randomized study compared about 4,800 BAM students with peers in regular school programs. Violent-crime arrests fell 50 percent, and arrests for all types of crime fell 35 percent among the BAM students — although those declines were not “persistent” after they cycled out of the BAM program.
Nevertheless, high-school graduation rates rose 19 percent among the same BAM kids. […]
A similar program in the Cook County juvenile detention center reduced readmission rates 21 percent, the study concluded.
The young people were randomly divided into a control group that received no special services and those who for up to two years attended a one-hour weekly counseling session and who had access to a counselor the remainder of the school week—both designed to “help youth recognize their automatic responses and slow down their thinking in high-stakes situations.”
In other words, to think about it, not just pull the trigger.
In the first study conducted during the 2009-10 academic year, the percentage of those who subsequently were arrested for a violent crime in an 18-month period was cut almost in half, 45 percent, amounting to 10 percent of participants, versus 19 percent in the control group. A total of 2,740 young men participated.
Results were very similar in the second round of testing, with 2,064 ninth- and 10th-graders participating. The odds of being arrested for a violent crime were half that in the control group, 6 percent versus 11 percent.
Overall arrests didn’t drop quite as dramatically as arrests for violent offenses but still were off considerably in the study group, down 28 percent and 35 percent, respectively.
Seven people were killed and at least 51 people were wounded in weekend shootings across Chicago.
So far this year, over 1,880 people have been shot across the city and more than 200 of those wounded have died of their wounds, according to records kept by the Chicago Tribune. At least 317 people have been killed this year by shooting, stabbing or other means, Tribune records show.
Twelve of the 51 people shot this weekend were wounded in the city’s Harrison District, an area on the west side where more than 270 people have been shot this year.
The busiest period during the weekend was from Saturday morning to early Sunday, when four people were fatally shot and 26 others were hurt.
Thursday is the end of a full year without a state budget — plus another blown deadline to make a budget for the new fiscal year that starts Friday. […]
A hodgepodge of federal court action and money from Washington has kept some social services in Illinois intact. Funding for others has fallen away, including Des Plaines-based Lutheran Social Services, which early this year cut 750 jobs and programs for vulnerable people.
A United Way survey suggests more than 1 million people have now lost services as a result of the state’s failure to pass a budget. The new fiscal year beginning Friday means an end to the contracts some of the providers signed with the state, leaving them to wonder if they’ll ever get the state money they’re owed. Dozens are now in court.
“We’ve been told: ‘They’ll resolve this by Labor Day; they’ll resolve this in the veto session; they’ll resolve this after the (candidate) filing session in December,’” said Andrea Durbin, executive director of the Illinois Collaboration on Youth, one of the groups leading the lawsuit. “It became clear to us that we cannot rely on the political process to protect us in this.”
Money may be tight in Bellwood School District 88, but the school board still managed to quietly divert more than $105,000 from an education fund to replenish a retirement account its superintendent drained years ago.
The money added 20 years of service to the Illinois Teachers Retirement System account for Superintendent Rosemary Hendricks. That change, under a TRS formula, would increase annual pension benefits to $77,000 from an estimated $14,000. Taxpayers across the state will pick up the tab, potentially for years to come. […]
District 88’s attorney said Hendricks, 66, is required to repay the $105,504 to the district, but the district has not provided a copy of that agreement or any details about a repayment plan or said whether she must pay interest. […]
Local tax revenue has been flat in Bellwood, and last year the state sent additional aid to the district, which has spent nearly twice as much on administration than the average district in Illinois, state records show. Student achievement lags far behind statewide averages as well. […]
Hendricks was dismissed during her first two terms — in 2008 and 2012 — and the district paid her $120,000 in legal and other settlements. As of last school year, Hendricks had earned more through suing her employers or getting bought out of contracts since the 2008-09 school year than through the time she spent working, state records show.
More state money is obviously not the answer for that particular district (and others).
* Crain’s Chicago Business endorsed Bruce Rauner in the 2014 Republican primary and then again in the general election. They’re not happy with the results…
At the time, we were skeptical that the governor could accomplish much with a Democratic-controlled Legislature. But Rauner assured us that he’d dedicate himself to persuading his opponents—and he promised he would wield his executive powers to work around House Speaker Michael Madigan if he had to.
Madigan, of course, bears the lion’s share of responsibility for the mess Illinois is in, thanks to his decades in power. But Madigan is not the governor. Rauner is. And there’s no way to deny it: By nearly every measure, the state is worse off since Rauner took office. Pension liabilities now top $110 billion and are rising by the minute. The stack of unpaid bills is ballooning, turning Illinois into a notorious deadbeat. Vital social service agencies are being cut. Students are abandoning the state’s universities. Illinois’ credit rating hovers just above junk-bond range. We’re in Year Two without a budget—and the best hope for one is months away, after the Nov. 8 election.
In short, Illinois needs fixing more than ever. No matter how beneficial Rauner’s idea of reform might be for the state’s economy long term, what he’s doing to get there is not working.
It’s time for the governor to redefine victory. It can and should look something like this: Craft a balanced budget by cutting where we can and raising enough sustainable revenue to pay for it. For a governor who once hoped to usher in a raft of business-friendly reforms, this probably will feel like failure. But as he himself noted during a visit to Crain’s editorial board, Illinois hasn’t had a balanced budget in 25 years. If Rauner could deliver one, that alone would be a major accomplishment—and put Illinois finally on the path toward living within our means. We could cheer for that and for him.
Between 2014 and 2015, more than 9,000 black residents left Cook County, and since 2010, the Chicago area, which for the census includes parts of Indiana and Wisconsin, has lost more than 35,000 black residents. The exodus is greater than in any other metropolitan area in the country.
“I have very little desire to return to the city,” said Roosevelt Johnson, 47, who moved to Lake County 10 years ago when he first saw the writing on the wall: limited services on the South Side, where he grew up, and unaffordable housing on the North Side, where he later moved. “It became a rat race of having to try to get from Point A to Point B with raising our family. Making sure everyone is in the place they need to be, despite escalating costs. It became too much for us to handle.”
Chicago itself lost 181,000 black residents between 2000 and 2010, according to census data. The numbers are indicative of a larger pattern of Illinois’ general population loss, which dropped by 22,194 residents between 2014 and 2015. The Chicago metropolitan statistical area, defined by the U.S. Census Bureau as the city and suburbs that extend into Wisconsin and Indiana, lost an estimated 6,263 residents between 2014 and 2015, the area’s first population dip since at least 1990. […]
Census numbers also show that African-Americans continue to move to the suburbs, a pattern that slowly began in the 1970s, when manufacturing jobs started to dry up, and picked up in the 2000s. Stephanie Schmitz Bechteler, director of research and evaluation at the Chicago Urban League, said suburbs in DuPage and Kane counties have better housing and job opportunities, citing the Interstate 88 business corridor in DuPage.
“They’ve got lower taxes, more job opportunities, maybe better-funded school districts. All of those things are available in Cook County, too, but not as strongly,” she said.
A potentially politically embarrassing civil lawsuit against Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Tammy Duckworth, alleging workplace retaliation during her time as head of the state Department of Veterans Affairs, was settled Friday for $26,000 from the state, with no finding of wrongdoing.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office, representing Duckworth in the case, said in a statement that during a pre-trial settlement conference in Downstate Union County “it became clear that we could resolve this matter… for nuisance value — saving the state the costs of lawyers preparing for and trying the case.”
Madigan spokeswoman Maura Possley said the $26,000 award to two workers at the Anna Veteran’s Home “will cover attorney’s fees and all costs,” and the “settlement is based on the agreement that there is no finding of a violation of the law.”
The lawsuit, which had been scheduled for trial mid-August, had been the dominant theme of Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk’s early attacks on Duckworth, currently a two-term congresswoman from Hoffman Estates, as he seeks re-election.
They settled for fees and costs, meaning the plaintiffs didn’t get a dime.
* But that isn’t stopping the Kirk campaign…
“We now know that there are 26,000 reasons why Tammy Duckworth was guilty. The simple truth is that if Tammy Duckworth was innocent, she would not have settled this case. Instead of taking the stand and testifying, Duckworth has chosen to stay silent and settle the case at taxpayer expense in order to hide from the truth. Duckworth’s actions have cost Illinois taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars while prolonging the legacy of Rod Blagojevich corruption.”
Duckworth’s campaign on Friday called the case a “frivolous workplace case that dragged on over eight years.” Campaign spokesman Matt McGrath pointed the finger at the Kirk campaign for telling voters the case was about Duckworth endangering the care of veterans and that taxpayers would be on the hook for a six-figure settlement.
“Kirk had clearly pinned his desperate campaign hopes on what a federal judge deemed a ‘garden variety workplace case,’ and now it’s clear he’s got nothing left to offer Illinois families,” McGrath said.
* I wrote a blog post the other day which I thought at the time could be re-worked into a decent newspaper column. Here it is…
Illinoisans are undeniably furious about the way their government has been running (or, more accurately, not running). They’re looking for solutions, and some are grasping at anything within reach.
A downstate newspaper editorial the other day attempted to pin the blame for just about all of our state’s fiscal and economic problems on the way politicians in this state draw legislative district maps.
That’s just silly.
Reforming the process by taking away map-drawing duties from politicians and handing it to a nonpartisan commission is definitely a good idea. But, don’t kid yourself that reforming this one process, where politicians choose their voters instead of voters choosing their politicians, will suddenly make Illinois great again, or whatever.
First of all, it may not work like some think it will. When editorial writers and pundits talk about redistricting reform, they usually focus on the man who draws many of the legislative district maps: Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, one of the most disliked politicians in all of Illinois, and the man who is blamed by many for much (or even all) of our problems. Take that power away from him and you’ll do away with Madigan, the theory goes.
OK, but take a look at the Illinois Election Data website, which has the 2014 gubernatorial election results by Illinois House district. Those districts were drawn, of course, by Speaker Madigan.
Bruce Rauner won 50.8 percent of the popular vote in 2014. Yet, by my count, Rauner also won 69 of Illinois’ 118 House districts that same year, or 58.5 percent.
In other words, the Republican candidate for governor won 22 more House districts than the House Republicans.
That’s why Gov. Rauner thinks he has a real shot at picking up some House seats this year. His operation is focusing like a laser on the districts he won.
Why didn’t Republican House candidates do as well as Rauner?
Let’s step back a couple of years. The House Democrats picked up seats in 2012 after they drew the new map in 2011, but besides creating districts that certainly favored their candidates, the wins were also due to ‘12 being a hugely favorable (to them) presidential election year. Democrats do much better here in presidential years.
And once people are elected, it’s difficult to knock them out. By the time the national GOP wave swept through two years later, in 2014, it ran smack dab into Democratic incumbents who’d been working their new districts hard for two years. That’s always something to remember about Madigan. In exchange for his monetary and staff support, he demands rigorous door-to-door work by his candidates. Once they’re in, they tend to stay in.
This year, the presidential election means the national trend will likely be the Democrats’ friend yet again. If Rauner doesn’t net some gains, he’ll likely blame Madigan’s map, but that won’t be totally true.
And just because one party draws the map doesn’t mean it has a lock on it. For instance, the Republicans currently control three U.S. House districts that were actually drawn to favor Democrats.
Also, go back to 1991, the last time the Republicans drew the legislative district map. Madigan’s Democrats managed to hold on to control in the very next election, when Bill Clinton and Carol Moseley Braun swept the state. But Madigan’s Democrats lost the majority two years later in a huge national GOP landslide. Madigan learned some hard lessons in 1994. He regained the majority in 1996, when President Clinton ran again, and managed to hold onto it until he could draw his own map in 2001.
Yet the Senate Republicans held their majority throughout that very same 10-year period.
The lesson here is that getting rid of Madigan, or even clipping his wings, ain’t going to be as easy as it looks.
Again, I think that a nonpartisan, independent remap process would be a good thing no matter the Madigan-related outcome. But so would California’s open primary system, where the top two vote-getters battle it out in November even if they’re from the same party. I’d love to see that brought to Illinois.
There are lots of things we can do to reform the process. But I highly doubt that this one reform will solve all our problems. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise because they’re living in an overly simplistic cartoon world. I prefer the real world.
With oral arguments a few days away, here’s the last brief to be filed by Independent Maps coalition in opposition to the lawsuit that seeks to block the redistricting reform amendment from the ballot. The attached reply memorandum from Independent Maps was filed Friday afternoon.
Oral arguments are scheduled for 2 p.m. June 30 before Cook County Circuit Court Judge Diane Larsen.