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AFSCME to announce strike authorization vote results tomorrow morning

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* Press release…

The largest union representing public service workers in Illinois state government, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31, will hold a news conference tomorrow (Thursday) morning in Springfield to announce the results of voting by state workers on whether to authorize their union bargaining committee to call a strike if necessary.

Governor Bruce Rauner broke off negotiations with the union more than a year ago, walking away and refusing to even meet with the AFSCME bargaining committee ever since. Instead of working toward compromise, Governor Rauner has been seeking the power to unilaterally impose his own harsh demands, including a 100% hike in employee costs for health care that would take $10,000 out of the pocket of the average state worker, a four-year wage freeze and an end to safeguards against irresponsible privatization.

WHAT: News conference to announce result of state worker strike authorization vote
WHO: AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch and rank-and-file state employees
WHEN: Tomorrow (Thursday, Feb. 23) at 10:30 a.m.

AFSCME Council 31 represents some 38,000 Illinois state employees who protect kids, care for veterans and the disabled, respond to emergencies, help struggling families and much more.

Over and under on the strike vote percentage?

- Posted by Rich Miller   62 Comments      

HGOPs fight back against Dem messaging on Rauner budget

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* Yep. This is correct. Neither side has clean hands and we need a real budget with revenues that match expenditures…

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      

The appearance of access

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* Columbia Journalism Review

After ducking his constituents and protesters this month—by leaving a closed meeting through the back door, in one instance—Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam, a Republican who represents the west Chicago suburbs, hosted 18,000 people for a teleconference call last week through his campaign website.

The day after Roskam’s telephone town hall, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner fielded questions about his budget through Facebook Live, a platform the Republican has embraced in order to interact with constituents about statewide issues. The video attracted 16,000 views.

The technology enabled both officials to claim rightfully that they were talking with constituents, and large numbers of them at that. But, in the more controlled virtual space, they also were able to avoid potential confrontation with voters and questions from the press. (Roskam’s staff cancelled a scheduled meeting with constituents earlier this month when a reporter came with them.)

“The urge to control access is getting worse,” says Thomas Suddes, assistant professor at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. He says social media provides a false sense of access to elected officials. “It used to be that if a person were ducking reporters it was easy to say they were,” he says. Now, social media makes “the appearance of access for the public as significant as genuine access.”

Yep, and it’s a real problem.

* Roskam also caught heat for the way he set up his teleconference

Congressman Peter Roskam is making changes for future telephone town halls after repeated questions from NBC 5 of how his Tele-Town Halls have been conducted.

In the past, those interested in participating had to register on Roskam’s campaign website and agree to receive campaign emails, texts and other literature.

NBC 5 questioned if Roskam was using the information to later solicit donations and campaign mailers. A week after those initial questions were raised, David Pasch, Roskam’s spokesman says “the following language was added to the Tele-Town Hall sign up page:

“The information provided will only be used for Roskam for Congress telephone town halls. It will not be shared with other organizations or used for fundraising purposes.”

* Roskam was also blasted by the Courier-News Editorial Board

The Wheaton Republican told radio hosts Monday that “the country’s safer this morning than it was 72 hours ago.” Yes, safer for those who fear all those treacherous non-Christians who would come here from those menacing Middle East countries that don’t do business with the president. What is more appalling than the naivete in Roskam’s support is the spineless way in which it was delivered. Roskam declined to respond to the Naperville Sun’s multiple requests for an interview on the issue. He did not explain himself in a public forum before his constituents. No, he made his statement under the friendly cover of conservative talk radio — in an appearance on WIND-AM 560. On Thursday, days after his colleagues had weighed in, he issued a news release that simply reiterated what he said on the radio.

This evasiveness is not all that surprising. Roskam’s staff members also fled from a meeting with a group of constituents last week after finding out a newspaper reporter was with the group. We will cut Roskam’s people some slack for feeling blindsided by this after agreeing to a private meeting with constituents to discuss repeal of the Affordable Care Act. But even after the group told the staffers the reporter did not have to be in the meeting, they refused to call off their retreat.

* Meanwhile, several dozen protesters gathered outside Rep. Mike Bost’s Belleville office yesterday

There were members of the crowd that did get to spend some time with the congressman in a small group setting, Russell said.

“There are a lot of people who have health care stories where they are scared for their lives, where they are afraid that they’re going to lose their coverage, not going to be able to take care of their chronic illnesses,” Russell said. “So our message is, ‘Listen to those people. You need to listen to them.’”

Russell said he tried last month to organize a meeting with about 15 people with Bost. The meeting was canceled, Russell said.

“We just want an opportunity to talk to our congressman,” Russell said.

* And an area TV station tried and failed to get some straight answers from Bost

Upon questioning in an email conversation with KFVS-TV, Rep. Bost did not definitively comment on whether or not he would vote yes or no on a repeal/overhaul of the ACA.

The congressman also would not comment on the fate of any Illinois residents who may lose insurance as a result of a repeal.

Although Rep. Bost did not specifically agree to host a town hall meeting as requested by protesters, he did express support for their expression

“I understand that there are heartfelt disagreements on both sides of this issue and welcome and encourage this conversation. Whether you’re Republican, Democrat or Independent, everyone’s input is valid and helps shape our agenda in Congress.”

* Related…

* Republicans who won after rowdy town halls now avoiding them

* Protesters gather outside Bost’s office in support of ACA

- Posted by Rich Miller   54 Comments      

Today’s number: $12,401,195,168.60

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* And it’s only gonna get worse if we don’t get a real budget…

- Posted by Rich Miller   50 Comments      

It’s just a bill

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* Or, in this case, a rules change…

With thousands of Illinois’ seniors at risk of reduced, or even cut in-home care and community-based services, AARP Illinois, aging advocacy organization, and legislators today urged the Department on Aging to stop proposed changes to senior care rules under Governor Rauner’s proposed Community Reinvestment Program (CRP) and the Community Care Program (CCP).

The Governor’s budget proposes $120 million in cuts to home-and-community-based services that thousands of Illinois seniors depend upon. If the rules proposed by the Department on Aging go through, nearly 36,000 non-Medicaid seniors will face a host of eligilbity restrictions and denied background checks of service providers that will ultimately jeopardize seniors’ care and ability to reside in their home and community.

* From the Illinois Policy Institute’s news service

A push to automatically register voters at the DMV is back after failing to get past the veto pen last year.

Democrats in Springfield have filed bills that would make getting a new license or ID card a voter registration. The last bill to do this passed with both Democrat and Republican votes, but Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed it, saying it didn’t have sufficient safeguards against voter fraud.

Illinois Public Interest Research Group Director Abe Scarr said the new legislation takes concerns of the governor’s last veto into account. […]

Some lawmakers opposed the measure last year for the same reasons the governor used in his veto message, that “Agencies with access to citizenship information should use that information to verify a person’s eligibility before processing the voter registration.” Scarr said that the new bill makes opting out an option before the registering process begins.

* Press release

In light of recent attacks on law enforcement personnel and other first responders, State Sen. Paul Schimpf (R-Waterloo) is sponsoring “Blue Lives Matter” legislation to help protect law enforcement, correctional officers, and other first responders from being victimized by hate crimes.

“As a former military prosecutor, I understand that we have a duty to help protect our nation’s first responders. Police, correctional officers, and other first responders – all face very hazardous duties and we must make every effort to ensure their safety,” Schimpf said. “I want my district’s correctional officers, police, firefighters and EMS crews to all know I have their backs.”

The recent tragic shooting incidents in Louisiana and Texas have magnified the incredible burdens that have been placed on emergency personnel in recent years. Acts of violence against police, correctional officers and other first responders are starting to increase to higher levels not seen in modern years.

Senate Bill 1380 adds peace officers, correctional institution employees, probation parole officers, firefighters, and emergency medical services personnel to the listing of protected classes under the Illinois Hate Crimes statutes. The legislation applies to local, state, and federal public safety professionals.

* Illinois Review

State Rep. Steve Reick (R-Woodstock) filed three bills affecting taxes this week in Springfield. The first, HB 3013, would provide tax relief for those over 65 living on federal adjusted gross income of $50,000 or less.

“The property tax burden falls hard upon seniors on fixed incomes, and while the credit will in most cases be modest, it will help them stretch their limited incomes,” Reick said. “It may help a senior citizen with an electric bill, some groceries or a prescription. Anyway, we’ll keep taking small steps until we figure out how to provide substantive relief to everyone in the state.” […]

Reick has also filed HB 2576, a bill that would add a county designation to all individual income tax forms.

“This simple change could provide a great deal of benefit for those who study the movement of Illinoisans from county to county within the state,” Reick said. “Today we can tell who moves into or out of Illinois, but we are unable to easily collect data about trends related to migration within our state.”

* Press release

Three key legislators, State Senate Labor Committee Chairman Daniel Biss and State Representatives Lisa Hernandez and Carol Ammons, have joined forces with worker advocates, including HourVoice and United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 881, to introduce groundbreaking legislation (SB1720) to crack down on wage theft in Illinois. Wage theft is estimated to cost American workers over $50 billion per year and news reports have shown Illinois is a very difficult state for workers to recoup stolen wages.

“Our Illinois Fighting Wage Theft Act increases the penalties on companies that commit serious wage theft and prohibits those companies from receiving state government contracts for at least five years,” said State Senator and Labor Committee Chairman Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), who is sponsoring the bill. “Fair to both workers and businesses, SB1720 will level the playing field. Workers deserve to get paid every dollar they’ve earned and employers who treat workers properly and play by the rules shouldn’t be undercut by competitors who cheat their workers.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      

Question of the day

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017


As part of its initiative to improve the pace of game play, Major League Baseball has approved a change to the intentional walk rule, going from the traditional four-pitch walk to a dugout signal, it was announced Wednesday.

MLB has studied various ways to quicken games.

ESPN’s Jayson Stark reported earlier this month that MLB had made formal proposals to the players’ union to usher in raising the strike zone and scrapping the practice of lobbing four balls toward home plate to issue an intentional walk.

However, the Wall Street Journal reported the other day that the new rule would save an average of only 14 seconds per game.

* And, of course, there’s stuff like this…

* The Question: What other time-saving rule changes would you support?

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      

STI death rates on the rise here, but we’re way down the list

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* The Southern Illinoisan

Despite the popular stigma surrounding sexually transmitted diseases and infections, more than half of all people will experience one or the other at some point in their lives, according to the American Sexual Health Association. […]

From 2013 to 2014, 41 out of the 50 states experienced an overall increase in average STI morbidity rate (the death rate caused by STDs and STIs). Using the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HealthGrove, a health data site by Graphiq, found the states that had the largest increases in STI morbidity rates. After analyzing the relative increases for chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis per 100K people, states were ranked by average percent increase in the morbidity rate of all three infections between 2013 and 2014 (the most recent reporting year).

* A few states on the list

#1 - Utah
Average percent increase in STI morbidity: 29.69%
Chlamydia rate per 100K people (2014): 283.47
Gonorrhea rate per 100K people (2014): 49.67
Syphillis rate per 100k people (2014): 356.99 […]

#11 - California
Average percent increase in STI morbidity: 9.36%
Chlamydia rate per 100K people (2014): 459.94
Gonorrhea rate per 100K people (2014): 118.46
Syphillis rate per 100k people (2014): 29.85 […]

#24 - New York
Average percent increase in STI morbidity: 4.09%
Chlamydia rate per 100K people (2014): 502.84
Gonorrhea rate per 100K people (2014): 105.63
Syphillis rate per 100k people (2014): 36.28 […]

#36 - Indiana
Average percent increase in STI morbidity: 0.98%
Chlamydia rate per 100K people (2014): 434.02
Gonorrhea rate per 100K people (2014): 110.93
Syphillis rate per 100k people (2014): 7.23 […]

#39 - Illinois
Average percent increase in STI morbidity: 0.5%
Chlamydia rate per 100K people (2014): 516.5
Gonorrhea rate per 100K people (2014): 123.97
Syphillis rate per 100k people (2014): 21.7

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      

Local reaction to new immigration order

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* New York Times

President Trump has directed his administration to enforce the nation’s immigration laws more aggressively, unleashing the full force of the federal government to find, arrest and deport those in the country illegally, regardless of whether they have committed serious crimes.

Documents released on Tuesday by the Department of Homeland Security revealed the broad scope of the president’s ambitions: to publicize crimes by undocumented immigrants; strip such immigrants of privacy protections; enlist local police officers as enforcers; erect new detention facilities; discourage asylum seekers; and, ultimately, speed up deportations.

* Gov. Rauner has already said that he has no interest in having the state police help Homeland Security round up immigrants. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said the same thing this week

As the Trump administration publicly detailed its plans to more aggressively enforce immigration laws, a top Cook County sheriff’s official said Tuesday the department has “no interest” in joining an effort that would use local police to round up immigrants living in the country without legal permission.

“We have not been approached nor would we be interested in participating in this program,” said Cara Smith, policy chief for Sheriff Tom Dart. “Our focus is and will remain on addressing violence in the city.”

* CPS is also responding

As the Trump administration expands its deportation policy, Chicago Public Schools told its principals Tuesday that they should not let any agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement into schools without a criminal warrant.

“To be very clear, CPS does not provide assistance to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the enforcement of federal civil immigration law,” chief education officer Janice Jackson wrote. “Therefore, ICE should not be permitted access to CPS facilities or personnel except in the rare instance in which we are provided with a criminal warrant. If presented with any paperwork from ICE, please call the Law Department before taking any action.”

She said that “ICE agents should wait outside while the school is reviewing the matter with the Law Department.”

The district also distributed palm cards in English and Spanish from the National Immigrant Justice Center containing such legal advice as not opening doors to immigration officials who do not have a warrant. And it advised schools to have parents update their emergency contact form with back-up contacts, saying, “If a child is left stranded at your school and you suspect it is because his or her parent is detained, please exhaust the child’s emergency contact list,” and to “have a staff member remain with the student.”

* CBS News interviewed Dr. Jerry Kruse, dean of the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield

One-in-four doctors in the U.S. are foreign born, including an estimated 15,000 from the seven countries already included in Mr. Trump’s travel ban.

“How significant is the shortage at a place like this?” Dokoupil asked.

“In this county, the shortage of primary care physicians is about half of what’s needed,” Kruse said.

Kruse had hoped to help rural and short-handed places like Morgan County, about 30 miles outside Springfield, Illinois, by recruiting more international graduates. […]

Hospitals have until 9 p.m. Wednesday to decide which recent medical school graduates they’d like to bring on as residents. In a normal year, the best candidates would rise to the top. But this year, hospitals also have to weigh whether to take a risk on a candidate whose visa might be denied.

* And World Business Chicago took a look at the Chicago area’s ties to Mexico


There are an estimated 130+ Chicago-area companies in Mexico including: Baxter, Groupon, Hyatt, Illinois Tool Works, Ingredion, McDonald’s, Motorola Solutions, Underwriters Laboratories and United Continental
There are at least 10 Mexican companies with a presence in greater Chicago including: Amtex Chemical, Cemex, Bimbo Bakeries and Famsa
US-Mexico Chamber of Commerce – Mid America Chapter
Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Chicago
Chicago-Mexico City Sister City relationship
There are 70+ weekly nonstop departures from Chicago airports to destinations in Mexico
An estimated 1.55 million Mexican-Americans reside in the Chicago area […]


Total Imports to Illinois, 2015: US $13.1 billion
Top Import Categories, 2015: Electrical machinery, beer, vehicles and parts, heavy machinery and parts, plastics, furniture, medical instruments, iron & steel crude oil, iron & steel, paper & paperboard
Total Exports from Illinois, 2015: US $9.1 billion
Top Export Categories, 2015: Cell phones and electric apparatus, heavy machinery and parts, engines, plastics, corn, iron & steel, medical instrutments, pharmaceuticals

* Tribune

President Donald Trump’s sweeping crackdown on immigrants in the country illegally will strain an already tight U.S. job market, with one study suggesting that removing all of them would cost the economy as much as $5 trillion over 10 years.

That represents the contribution of the millions of unauthorized workers to the world’s largest economy, about 3 percent of private-sector gross domestic product, according to a recent paper issued by the National Bureau of Economic Research. At an average of $500 billion in output a year, removing all such immigrants would be like lopping off the equivalent of Massachusetts from the U.S. economy, said study co-author Francesc Ortega. […]

“The challenge is particularly high now because the labor market has tightened up not just overall but in areas in which you would think undocumented immigrants would be important, so that means that it’s going to be hard to fill these jobs if you deport these employees,” Harris said. “You have to think about indirect effects when you disrupt production in industries in which they’re a critical part of getting things done. So there’s a transition cost, as well as the cost of a reduced labor force.”

* Related…

* Sen. Aquino: Maybe Trump taking anti-immigrant cues from Rauner

* New immigration enforcement rules worry Southland Latinos: The study concluded that by 2010, the number of unauthorized immigrants in Illinois had fallen to 490,000. The caucus surveyed more than 200 communities in the Chicago area.

* Trump to spare ‘dreamers’ from US crackdown: The administration of US President Donald Trump plans to consider almost all illegal immigrants subject to deportation, but will leave protections in place for immigrants known as “dreamers,” who entered the US illegally as children, according to official guidelines released on Tuesday.

* Trump hardens immigration rules, several Indian-Americans to be affected: Indian-Americans, who as per an unofficial count, account for nearly 3,00,000 illegal aliens are likely to be greatly impacted by this.

* Police chief: Evanston undocumented immigrants should get a legal driver’s license

* Illinois Senators vocally oppose Trump on immigration orders

* How Illinois’ Attorney General Plans To Challenge Trump:

- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      

*** LIVE *** House session coverage

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* The Senate isn’t in this week. As always, follow everything in real time right here with ScribbleLive

- Posted by Rich Miller   1 Comment      

Is a sales tax on food really regressive?

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* Taxing food and medicine sales are back in the news, so the Taxpayers’ Federation of Illinois takes another look at an article it published a few years back and a new study which challenge the belief that a sales tax on food is regressive for the poor

The theory highlighted in our article was borne out more recently in a much more rigorous academic study. The basic premise: a general sales tax exemption on groceries does not really benefit the poor because most of their food is purchased under the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (“SNAP”, formerly known as food stamps) and is therefore tax exempt as a matter of federal law. In other words, the general exemption does not target the in- tended recipients and is costly in terms of tax dollars, and in administration and compliance aggravations (such as the ever-changing lists of exempt and non-exempt products).

Using SNAP data from Alabama (a full taxing jurisdiction) and New Orleans (a reduced rate jurisdiction) in conjunction with data from the 2012 Consumer Expenditure Quarterly Interview Survey (a survey on consumer’s expenditures and incomes), the authors calculate the impact of taxing food on the poor with and without accounting for the federally-mandated SNAP exemption. They find that, while the poor spend 17 percent of their total expenditures on groceries, only about 0.5 percent of those expenditures can be taxed. They show that calculating the sales tax burden without taking SNAP into account makes the sales tax look very regressive. However, once the non-taxability of SNAP purchases is taken into consideration the average tax burden based on total consumption becomes slightly progressive. Using a more traditional tax burden estimate based on income (rather than consumption), there is still a substantial decline in the tax burden on the poor once the non-taxability of SNAP purchases is accounted for, although under this analysis the burden remains regressive.

In sum, the federally-mandated sales tax exemption of SNAP purchases reduces the regressivity of a sales tax on groceries, and a sales tax on groceries may even be slightly progressive when tax burden is measured as a percent of consumption, according to this study. As the authors put it:

    While there will always be some of the poor who would pay more if the food at home exemption is repealed, our work suggests that taxing food but compensating with a revenue-neutral reduction in the overall sales tax rate would provide considerable benefits to the poor and, at the same time, lead to a more rational sales tax system.

There’s a lot of stuff in this month’s “Tax Facts” publication, so go read the whole thing. The lack of a tax on retirement income is covered ($1.8 billion could’ve been collected in 2014, it projects, while 1.4 million out of 5.6 million tax returns claimed some retirement income subtraction), the state’s “archaic” franchise tax is also covered as well as a new service tax.

* TFI also used a Minnesota study to claim that “for fiscal year 2016, Illinois’ $2,394,586,460 in corporate income tax receipts would have been borne as follows”

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** 14 of 16 CPS Latino Advisory Committee members resign in protest

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* Whoa

Nearly the entire Chicago Public Schools Latino Advisory Committee has resigned in protest of budget cuts.

Fourteen of the 16 members of the committee resigned Wednesday as Chicago Board of Education is set to meet in hopes of signing off on a revised budget to close a $111 million shortfall.

The committee members said they resigned because the cuts disproportionately affect Hispanic schools.

* Backstory from the Sun-Times

When Chicago Public Schools just put a freeze on half of every school’s remaining discretionary money to save $46 million, CEO Forrest Claypool blamed Gov. Bruce Rauner for the cuts, saying he has no regard for the city’s impoverished black and brown children.

Claypool even filed a lawsuit last week, accusing Rauner of violating the civil rights of the minority children who make up nine of 10 CPS students by giving them less funding than their mostly white counterparts elsewhere in the state.

But it turns out that the way Claypool decided to cut school budgets this time — by freezing the rest of every principal’s discretionary money — has hurt majority Hispanic schools at twice the rate of schools serving mostly white children, and cut poor schools at twice the rate of wealthier ones.

Schools with at least 51 percent Hispanic students saw 1.8 percent of their total budgets frozen, on average — that’s about twice the average rate of 0.9 percent frozen at schools with at least 51 percent of white students, according to a Chicago Sun-Times analysis of the freezes.

The schools that lost the highest percentage of their remaining spending power — 1.8 percent on average — also serve the very poorest children, where nine out of 10 students qualify for the free or reduced-price lunch that is shorthand for school poverty. And schools where three out of four kids are poor lost 1.7 percent of their money; that’s roughly double the percentage 0.8 percent — that was lost by schools where just one of four kids is poor.

Schools that are both poor and Hispanic bore the worst of the cuts.

…Adding… In Chicago, it’s now blame it all on Rauner all the time…

OK, but the CPS cuts still seem to target Latino schools. So, CPS announced an appeals process today.

*** UPDATE ***  Ruiz is right about this

In an extraordinary action with statewide political implications, former Board of Education Vice President Jesse Ruiz, who took over as interim schools chief after the 2015 indictment of Barbara Byrd-Bennett, and who currently chairs the Chicago Park District, showed up at today’s board meeting and accused CPS of bias in deciding how to implement $46 million in mid-year cuts.

In acting the way it has, CPS “lost the moral high ground” in its recent suit against Gov. Bruce Rauner and the state for allegedly underfunding CPS, Ruiz said. CPS can’t accuse the state of bias “when its own ‘method of administration,’ its budget cuts, have a disparate impact on predominantly Hispanic schools.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      

Not surprisingly, local governments hate permanent property tax freeze idea

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* Finke

Members of the Illinois Municipal League said Tuesday they are opposed to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s idea to impose a permanent property tax freeze in Illinois. […]

Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert, a vice president of the IML, said the “vast majority” of the property taxes collected in his city go to municipal pensions.

“For us, it’s primarily police and fire pensions,” Eckert said. “We do meet our threshold each year of the actuaries. If they would freeze the property tax, I’m not sure how we would meet those criteria to properly fund those pensions.”

ILM executive director Brad Cole said that, on average, about 10 percent of a total property tax bill goes to municipalities. The bulk goes to local school districts. However, he said that for smaller communities that may not have a strong retail or manufacturing base, property taxes represent the bulk of the city’s income.

* The Illinois Policy Institute, however, thinks local governments and school districts should take even bigger hits, along with a property tax freeze

Reforms can end the state’s $1.4 billion pension subsidy to school districts and universities – subsidies that let those institutions dole out higher pay, end-of-career salary hikes and pensionable perks that dramatically drive up the cost of pensions.

Reforms can also reduce the state subsidies to local governments – excluding cities with populations below 5,000 – which prop up the nation’s most numerous units of local government and the bureaucracies that run them, saving $1.3 billion.

* Meanwhile, Greg Hinz

[IML Executive Director Brad Cole] says his group will not object if all of the proceeds from an income tax hike go to the state, with local governments not receiving their usual cut.

“As long as we’re not losing anything, that’s acceptable,” Cole says.

They didn’t get their usual piece of the 2011 tax, either, and the Senate’s plan as currently drafted does not give them a chunk of its proposed income tax hike.

- Posted by Rich Miller   51 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** SIU’s Dunn: “We need to acknowledge that FY16 is now lost”

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* SIU President Randy Dunn on the governor’s proposed budget plan…

Since we haven’t had a real budget going on for 20 months now, remember that it’s become customary to analyze proposals against our last “normal” year of state appropriations … FY15.

If you look at the higher education sector overall for FY18, general funds for institutional grants and other initiatives are down 9.9% from 2015, but that figure doesn’t include the state’s share of pension funding contributed for university and community college employees. (If you count pension funding as part of our state support, the drop looks a little less daunting at 6.7%.)

Each of the public universities would be funded next year at an 85% level from where we were for FY15. For the SIU System, that would mean a loss of roughly $30 million; the $199 million received three years previous would drop to $169.554 million for general operations in 2018. However, each institution would also have the opportunity to earn back a 5% funding performance set-aside, theoretically bringing the appropriation level up to 90% of 2015. The performance funding model would be the same one utilized by the Illinois Board of Higher Education already — which is only at a .5% level currently. While I’m a firm believer in the concept that governors and legislatures should have the prerogative to drive some portion of state support based on performance, I do worry about two things with such plans: 1) “Access” schools — and this institutional value is part of SIU’s DNA — will start curtailing, if not denying admissions to a swath of students who appear even somewhat at-risk of not being able to meet whatever performance metrics are chosen; and 2) Performance funding turns into a redistribution mechanism where those institutions which already may be advantaged in terms of resources available, student profile, geographic service region, and the like receive even more support … while struggling schools attempting to serve higher-need students are penalized. In my view, neither of those unintended consequences is good public policy.

But I digress. Back to the budget details: Two designated appropriations important to SIUE — one for the School of Pharmacy, and the other for debt payment to the City of Edwardsville for the newly constructed fire station on the campus — would be completely zeroed out. By contrast, a separate directed appropriation which was first added for SIUC in 2015 — for the Daily Egyptian student newspaper — is maintained for FY18, to supplement a student fee increase by the campus for that same purpose that year. And while there is some funding re-appropriated for previously approved projects, no new capital funding for HIED is proposed for yet another year.

As I listened to the governor deliver his budget address in the House Gallery last Wednesday, I did find elements that I was heartened to hear. Illinois’ need-based student aid program, the Monetary Award Program, is recommended for a 10% increase in funding which would serve another 12,000 students statewide who are MAP-eligible but have not had access to funds. That’s important to SIU. As well, Governor Rauner acknowledged the need to get serious about making progress on deferred maintenance of state facilities across all public sectors; for the SIU System alone, that total is a staggering $700 million if you count every possible capital renovation, repair, and replacement project currently on our books.

* And here he talks about the Senate’s attempt at a compromise…

Right now those important questions are getting immediate attention in the Illinois Senate to see if an evolving “grand bargain” budget — for FY17 — can yet be achieved. Given we’ve had no predictable revenue or viable long-term funding plan from the state since June 30, 2015, the “urgency here is critical” — to quote Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno. Senate leaders are saying that a vote needs to be taken by the end of this month … or close to it … if that chamber’s bipartisan plan is going to provide a way forward. You see, the Senate’s omnibus budget deal would make a state income tax increase retroactive to January 1 to meet its revenue goal; but, waiting much longer to pass a 2017 budget would force too high of “backloading” of state tax withholding in the final months of the fiscal year to make it palatable to most voters (i.e., six months of state tax taken out over four months of pay). So time is of the essence.

I am supportive of the Senate plan as it presently exists, even though there are parts of it I don’t like — and figuring out the pension reform piece will be tough. While it pains me greatly to say it, we need to acknowledge that FY16 is now lost — essentially a year when Illinois higher education absorbed a 73% state cut. But we all survived it, even if badly wounded … and reality says that time and politics have moved on. However, the spending plan for SIU now contained in Senate Bill 6, at $93.4 million — taken in conjunction with the stopgap money appropriated last June 30 — would bring us back to a normal year of funding (a/k/a FY15) once again. Besides that, the budget deal would have the symbolic impact (maybe psychological, even) of getting the stalemate broken while offering a working template for moving into FY18. Plus we would be assured of reimbursement for the millions of dollars we’ve already advanced to the State of Illinois this year to cover MAP grants and a multitude of other contracts and services.

The political instincts of more than a few experienced Springfield hands suggest that if we leave this opportunity empty-handed, the last glimmer of hope for a reliable, predictable, viable state budget anytime in the next couple of years leaves with it. Such an outcome would do nothing to help our steadily shrinking state of higher education in Illinois. So it is time for a deal to get done, and if it does, we’ll be the first to champion the cause.

*** UPDATE ***  Oy

The head of the Heartland Community College board of trustees thinks the district needs to consider creating a budget without any money from the state.

Noting there is still no state budget seven months into the fiscal year and “no indication that it’s coming,” Chairman Gregg Chadwick said at Tuesday night’s meeting, “I’m not sure it makes sense to continue to assume we’ll have state money.”

Heartland’s budget for the current fiscal year, which began July 1, calls for about $1.2 million in revenue from the state.

His comments came as the board voted to increase tuition and fees by 2.8 percent, raising the total per-credit-hour cost from $144 to $148.

* Related…

* WIU Student Enrollment Dips Below 10K: There are 9,469 students enrolled at Western Illinois University this spring semester. It’s the first time this century Western’s student body has dropped below 10,000. Dr. Ron Williams, Western’s Interim Vice President of Student Services and the Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs, said spring 2017 enrollment is down about 6.5% compared to last spring. He said that is less than the 10% drop the university projected.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      

Mystery solved on Rauner’s whereabouts

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* Mary Ann Ahern yesterday

Gov. Bruce Rauner has not had a public schedule since delivering his budget address last Wednesday.

Traditionally, after the budget address, the governor travels to promote his budget agenda. But not this year.

Repeated questions to Rauner’s press spokesman about his whereabouts have gone unanswered. She will not say where the governor is, whether he is in Illinois or out of town.

* He’s back today and Ahern caught up with him…

His Twitter account was active while he was gone, including a video post about a recent visit to a school.

- Posted by Rich Miller   46 Comments      

Would term limits make much of a difference?

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* The BGA has an interesting look at term limits

In Maine, a 2004 study from the NCSL and the University of Maine found that legislators elected under term limits “are more partisan and ideological than in the past.” That echoes an observation from Maine Gov. Paul LePage, himself a hard-edged Republican partisan, who nonetheless has lamented the polarizing effect of term-limits

Two decades of term limits delivered “young people with firm agendas” who are “hurting us in the long haul,” LePage complained in a 2014 speech in which he also lauded Martin’s long experience in the Maine legislature as an asset. Martin, LePage argued, was someone who “knew what worked and didn’t work.”

Michigan voters also easily adopted term limits in 1992, enacting caps of six years for House members and eight for state senators.

John Cherry, a Democrat from the Flint area, was among those impacted by the caps, leaving the legislature in 2002 after serving 20 years. But that same year he was elected Michigan’s lieutenant governor, a position he held until 2011. Cherry’s wife is now a state representative.

Cherry said the practical effect of term limits is twofold. First, he said, members elected to the House get to like the $71,685 annual salary and start to angle for a Senate run six years later when term limits kick in. Second, he said, restricting the time members can stay in the legislature hinders the ability or the inclination to address complex issues.

Exhibit A, he said, lay in a recent warning from a state commission appointed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder that Michigan faced a $59.6 billion infrastructure funding gap over the next 20 years. Cherry said the political aversion to raising taxes or fees to maintain roads and other services has convinced many lawmakers to “kick the can down the road” rather than jeopardize the loss of a good salary.

“Infrastructure has suffered more than anything else in Michigan because you have to raise fees to maintain it,” said Cherry, whose old senate district in Flint is now grappling with the cost of a crumbling water system that poisoned the city’s water supply. “The influence has shifted to lobbyists, and anything complex is made more difficult to deal with.”

I’m mostly an agnostic on term limits. They most certainly shift power to governors, which could be a real problem here considering some of the governor’s the voters have elected. On the other hand, there’s Speaker Madigan’s tenure. And short-timers may try to tailor their votes to help them land when they’re out of office, but legislators often do the same thing here. Just look at the former rosters of the utility-related committees, for example.

And everything else in the above excerpt could also be said of Illinois, which has no lawmaker term limits. The GA is far more partisan than it used to be and they’ve been forever kicking the can on important issues. I mean, we can’t even get a budget after two years of not really trying. And, of course, part of the reason for that is the lobbyists, which as I write this are attempting to kill off the Senate’s grand bargain attempt.

* Related…

* WTTW: A Portrait of Michael Madigan

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      

Study looks at how race of prez delegates may influence GOP primary voters here

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* From the abstract to a new study involving Republican presidential primary voting in Illinois

We exploit a natural experiment to study voter taste-based discrimination against nonwhite political candidates. In Illinois Republican presidential primary elections, voters do not vote for presidential candidates directly. Instead, they vote delegate- by-delegate for delegate candidates listed as bound to vote for particular presidential candidates at the Republican nominating convention. To maximize their support for their preferred presidential candidate, voters must vote for all that candidate’s delegates. However, some delegates’ names imply they are not white. Incentives for statistical discrimination against nonwhite delegates are negligible, as delegates have effectively no discretion, and taste-based discrimination against them is costly, as it undermines voters’ preferred presidential candidates.

Examining within-presidential- candidate variation in delegate vote totals in primaries from 2000–2016, we estimate that about 10 percent of voters do not vote for their preferred presidential candidate’s delegates who have names that indicate the delegates are nonwhite, indicating that a considerable share of voters act upon racially-discriminatory tastes. This finding is robust to multiple methods for measuring delegate race, to controls for voters’ possible prior information about delegates, to ballot order, and to other possible confounds we consider. Heterogeneity across candidates and geographies is also broadly consistent with taste-based theories.

* You may recall this story from last March

If Donald Trump somehow falls three delegates short of reaching the magic 1,237 delegates needed for the Republican nomination, he may be haunted by an obscure outcome from the primary voting in Illinois on Tuesday. There’s clear evidence that Trump supporters in Illinois gave fewer votes to Trump-pledged delegate candidates who have minority or foreign-sounding names like “Sadiq,” “Fakroddin” and “Uribe,” potentially costing him three of the state’s 69 delegates.

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      

Kennedy fundraises off of proposed budget cuts

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* Tribune

Democratic governor candidate Chris Kennedy used a fundraising email Tuesday to criticize proposed cuts in Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget affecting people with disabilities.

“Working to better the lives of people with developmental disabilities wasn’t so much a suggestion as it was a call to action in my family, and we are all better people because of it,” Kennedy said, a reference to his aunt, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and her husband, Sargent Shriver, who formally launched the Special Olympics in Chicago in 1968.

Kennedy called the Special Olympics movement “perhaps our single greatest export to the world” from Illinois.

He said he was “angered” that Rauner’s budget plan “zeroed out funding for a number of nonprofit organizations aimed at improving the lives of our special needs brothers and sisters.”

“This is not who we are in Illinois. We are kinder, more compassionate and more forward thinking than this. The path to economic prosperity and fiscal responsibility for our state does not lie in jeopardizing the wellness of Illinoisans with disabilities,” Kennedy said.

That story is a whole lot more crisp than the e-mail was. Click here to read it in full.

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      

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Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

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* IEPA issues "seal order" on Sterigenics plant
* Reader comments closed for the holiday weekend
* Rep. Chapa LaVia will head IDVA after previous appointee bows out
* Question of the day
* Mary Morrissey named new executive director of DPI
* Transparency issues
* It's just a bill
* Amazon leads $700 million investment round for Rivian
* Hysterical much?
* Minimum wage roundup
* Poll: Five points separate five mayoral candidates as union money whacks Daley
* Should the state sell the Tollway to boost the pension funds?
* Southern Illinois state's attorney vows not to enforce assault weapons ban if it becomes law
* Daley would keep hope alive for those who want pension benefit cuts
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