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*** LIVE *** Steve Schnorf’s “celebration of life”

Thursday, Mar 30, 2017

* The program will begin at 2 o’clock. Many thanks to BlueRoomStream.com for making this live feed available


- Posted by Rich Miller   6 Comments      


People, we really need a budget

Thursday, Mar 30, 2017

* Total year-over-year change in non-farm jobs from the Illinois Department of Employment Security. Click the pic for a better image

Hmm, let’s see… Job losses in Bloomington and Carbondale, with weak performance in Champaign?

If only there were some major, fully funded state universities in those towns which could spur some much-needed economic growth.

Also, Peoria and Decatur both have private universities, both of which likely have MAP Grant-reliant students.

- Posted by Rich Miller   71 Comments      


Rauner again hammers Mendoza over tech funding

Thursday, Mar 30, 2017

* Tweet…


* Press release…

The Rauner Administration released the following statement regarding the Auditor General’s release of the Statewide Single Audit report. The state’s lack of a centralized financial system has caused years of repeated audit findings, which can be resolved by fully implementing ERP or Enterprise Resource Planning. The following is attributable to Rauner spokeswoman Eleni Demertzis:

“The audit finding in the report perfectly illustrates why Illinois needs to modernize our antiquated technology systems. We continue to be baffled by Comptroller Mendoza’s decision to halt payments on technology upgrades that will bring more financial transparency and accountability to the State of Illinois. Making these upgrades will allow the Governor’s Office and every executive branch agency the ability to quickly prepare and complete accurate financial records that the people of the state deserve.”

The audit is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      


Because…. Madigan!

Thursday, Mar 30, 2017

* The Illinois Republican Party got itself involved in some Schaumburg Township trustee races and is using a familiar storyline…

I’ve heard of sins of the father, but not sins of the son.

* Dan Murray is the father of my former intern Mike Murray. Mike helped run former Sen. Dan Kotowski’s campaign in 2012 and was Rep. Fred Crespo’s campaign manager in 2016. Crespo won with 63 percent, so it’s not like this was some hugely targeted race. I barely remembered Mike was working there because I don’t think I ever actually reported on that no-contest race.

But, hey, “Madigan” is one of our state’s favorite pejoratives these days.

Also, Zuhair Nubani is an attorney. Never met the guy, don’t know him. But some background on that particular ILGOP claim is here and here.

…Adding… From Zuhair Nubani…

In my 25 years as a practicing attorney I have represented many clients across a wide spectrum of races, religions and creeds. Unlike my opponents I believe everyone in the United States has a fundamental right to legal counsel regardless of their race, religion or political belief. Bigotry and fear mongering has no place in our society

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 - Mendoza responds *** Republicans put Statehouse tracker on Mendoza

Thursday, Mar 30, 2017

* Press release…

SPOTTED: Mendoza’s “LOADED” Taxpayer Funded SUV
Mendoza Used Taxpayer Dollars to Buy $32,000 SUV With Heated Leather Seats, Navigation, Power Trunk

Last month, Comptroller Susana Mendoza drew heat for using taxpayer dollars just weeks into office to buy herself a $32,000 luxury featured SUV, sending her staff with a check to pay for the car in full.

Listing records reveal that Madigan’s comptroller spent taxpayer dollars to get herself a “LOADED” SUV with heated leather seats, navigation, and a power liftgate - luxury features paid for by you, the taxpayer.

New footage shows just how fancy Mendoza’s taxpayer purchase is.

* The video

*** UPDATE ***  From the twitters…


…Adding… The ILGOP tweeted back at her…


- Posted by Rich Miller   92 Comments      


Our sorry state

Thursday, Mar 30, 2017

* Ugh…


* More from the IMA…

- Posted by Rich Miller   53 Comments      


This year’s version of the “AFSCME bill”

Thursday, Mar 30, 2017

* AP

The Illinois Senate is telling Gov. Bruce Rauner it doesn’t want prison nurse jobs filled by private contractors.

Plainview Republican Sen. Sam McCann’s measure won approval Wednesday 40-15. It would prohibit the Department of Corrections from eliminating jobs of any state employees who provide prison health care services.

Republican Rauner’s administration announced last week it intended to dismiss 124 union nurses and privatize their positions this summer.

* Finke

The Senate voted 40-15 on Senate Bill 19, whose chief sponsor is Sen. Sam McCann, R-Plainview. […]

“We have to really think about what’s best for our districts, what’s best for the state, what’s best for these facilities, what’s best for the safety within the facilities,” he said, citing a 400-page study by the federal government that showed serious understaffing by Wexford. There have also been multiple lawsuits filed by inmates alleging inadequate care by Wexford.

“Wexford’s busy counting their money in Pennsylvania. I’m trying to keep Illinoisans working,” McCann said.

Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, said that Wexford has offered to hire at least some of the laid-off nurses. […]

A similar bill passed the General Assembly last year, but was vetoed by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. The bill died when the House failed to override the veto.

* Public Radio

Governor Bruce Rauner says his plan would save 8 million dollars per year. Private companies, in his view, can do the same work for cheaper. However, Democrats say that’s because private companies don’t pay their workers well. Four Republican senators, including Sam McCann from Plainview, agreed.

“Why can’t we be for working people?” he said. “Why would we let these nurses go, then hire them back the next day…for less.”

The Rauner administration says Illinois has been outsourcing other prison health services for 25 years.

* Related…

* Menard prison nurse hopes to keep job after layoff notice: For 11 years, Tara Chadderton has worked a graveyard shift at Menard Correctional Center. This past week, she received a layoff notice from the state. This prison nurse refuses to go quietly into the night. Employment in a maximum security prison is not for everyone, but Chadderton said she has found it to be a good fit for her. It takes a certain amount of mental toughness, as there are occasions when she and the other nurses are harassed by the inmates while they make the rounds delivering medication. They have been spit on, and had excrement thrown at them. She said some nights are worse than others.

* Layoffs looming as nurses worry about prison care: She said it is important nurses stand their ground sometimes to get their patients the care that is needed. “These people are somebody’s brother, somebody’s loved one. They’re people, too,” she said. “It’s not my job to judge. We’re hired to take care of them.”

* 13 Dixon prison nurses bracing for layoffs

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      


Audit finds Chicago State University has serious administrative problems

Thursday, Mar 30, 2017

* Time for a change

An audit of Chicago State University by the state’s auditor general released on Wednesday found that the embattled university improperly reported more than $51 million in federal awards.

According to the report by the state’s Auditor General Frank Mautino, the university did not properly prepare expenditure reports, as federal law requires, for federal awards amounting to $51,731,277 for two loan programs from the Department of Education.

Two awards from the Department of Health and Human Services related to a program for providing education and training to eligible individuals for health-care related professions were also improperly classified, the report said.

The university is required to identify in its accounts all federal awards received and expended, and the federal programs under which they are received, the report said.

The university responded that it agreed with the recommendation but said that it had properly reported the loan amounts within the “footnotes” of their report.

There’s more, so go read the whole thing. The official summary report digest is here.

* Related…

* Chicago State University Postpones Decision on Administration Changes

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


Legislators explain opposition to legalized pot, while Summers announces support

Thursday, Mar 30, 2017

* The Decatur Herald & Review interviewed some local legislators after the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute released a poll showing 66 percent of Illinoisans support legalizing marijuana

State Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, described himself as “old-fashioned” with his opposition to legalization, feeling it acts as a gateway drug to harder, illegal substances.

“I think it raises more problems than it could possibly answer,” he said. “With legalization, I don’t agree with it at all.”

However, Mitchell did say he would be open to some decriminalization in relation to marijuana.

State Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, expressed similar sentiments about marijuana being a gateway drug, saying that legalization would increase the rate of homelessness and poverty as well as put a financial strain on social services who help people with addiction.

“You’re going to have ill effects with legalization, especially if Illinois is the only Midwestern state to do this,” Righter said.

State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, said in an unrelated conference call Monday morning that he has not yet taken a stance on the matter, focusing most of his attention on school funding and a “grand bargain” budget bill. He did say he hopes the proposed plan starts a dialogue among lawmakers about legalization and that more information comes out in the coming months during hearings.

Hey, if we do become the only Midwestern state to legalize weed, the tourism potential would be pretty darned strong.

And why would legalized marijuana increase homelessness? There are plenty of homeless alcoholics, so should we ban their hugely addictive substance? Also, plenty of highly productive folks use marijuana. That argument is a total red herring. And a gateway drug? Dude, the 1980s called, it want its propaganda back. Also, you might as well ban beer, because it’s often a “gateway drug” to whiskey.

I mean, heck, even the curmudgeons at the Champaign News-Gazette grudgingly admitted this week that times have changed

But it seems obvious that more and more people expect less bad to result from law enforcement’s expansive and hugely expensive efforts to reduce consumption of a product in wide demand.

…Adding… As mentioned in comments, there are some very real gateway drugs that lead to the abuse of some truly dangerous substances, so maybe focus on those?

The so-called “Heroin Highway” from Chicago to Kane County is thriving, Kane County Sheriff’s Department officials said in Aurora.

“We are getting killed by heroin,” Kane County Sheriff’s Sgt. Aaron Feiza said at a forum in Aurora, calling the current situation a crisis.

Dealers from primarily Chicago’s West Side are bringing heroin into the Aurora area with a higher potency than before, which is causing more overdose deaths throughout the county, he said. […]

Thefts, burglaries and other crimes are up in Kane County and 99 percent of the time the crimes are associated with addiction, [Kane County Sheriff’s Sgt. Aaron Feiza] said.

He estimates 95 percent of heroin addicts he’s dealt with started using prescription drugs first. Prescription drugs often are more expensive - one pill can cost between $70 and $80, he said. Heroin becomes a cheaper alternative, Feiza said. A bag of heroin costs $10 or $15 for the same kind of high, he said.

…Adding More… Crain’s

Private insurance claims related to opioid abuse and dependence diagnoses increased 329 percent in Illinois between 2007 and 2014, according to data from Fair Health, a New York-based nonprofit that seeks to increase transparency in health care costs.

In Chicago alone, such claims increased 382 percent over the seven-year period.

Robin Gelburd, president of Fair Health—which analyzed more than 23 billion claims from more than 150 million privately insured Americans—says that while Chicago’s claims increased at a greater rate than the state’s, the city’s proportion of opioid claims remains smaller than that of the rest of Illinois, based on population.

Citing U.S. Census data from last year, she says Chicago represents 21 percent of Illinois’ overall population but only 14 percent of opioid-related diagnoses.

* Will there be problems with legalization? Of course there will be. But this failed national war on pot is hurting far more lives than the actual use of the product.

Also, Sen. Manar, way to stick your neck out, bud.

* Meanwhile, you’ll recall that I asked the Democratic gubernatorial candidates this week about their own position on the topic. I heard back from Kurt Summers last night…

I support the legalization of marijuana if the goals of the legislation are to take power away from gangs and reduce drug-related violence. The impact of the legislation should be to divert resources from arresting and prosecuting low-level, non-violent offenders to focus on those who seek to harm others. Our communities have been under siege for too long for this to be passed without support from community leaders and law enforcement officials. This isn’t just a criminal justice issue, it’s a public health issue, and we must commit the proper resources to address these issues responsibly.

…Adding… Tribune

Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers is continuing his flirtation with a run for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018, sending an email to supporters explaining why he’s weighing a bid and alerting them to an upcoming fundraiser.

In the Wednesday night email, titled “New Leadership in Illinois,” Summers says he’s been meeting with community leaders, union workers, business owners and others about a possible run and concluded that “Illinois needs someone who will fix our budget deficit, create jobs, improve education and fight for working people day-in and day-out.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   47 Comments      


RGA spending at least a million dollars on Rauner TV ads

Thursday, Mar 30, 2017

* Bernie

The next time Gov. BRUCE RAUNER could face a Democrat on the ballot is 19 months away — in November 2018.

But it’s just nine weeks until the scheduled May 31 end of the spring legislative session, when, in a normal year, it might be about the time a budget gets approved.

Of course the state hasn’t had a real budget in place since June 2015, so there is no normal.

Into that mix there is now added at least $1 million in ads featuring Republican Rauner — some with him saying, “The politicians that got us into this mess” want as a solution “higher taxes, more spending, no real reforms.” […]

JON THOMPSON, communications director for the Republican Governors Association, said the Rauner ad is paid for by State Solutions, a 501(c)4 affiliate of the RGA. He said the ad buy is seven figures and nearly statewide, including the Chicago and Springfield markets. The ads are also on digital platforms across the state.

If you missed seeing the ads, click here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   43 Comments      


Moody’s again warns state on budget gridlock

Thursday, Mar 30, 2017

* From a Moody’s press release…

The State of Illinois’ (Baa2 negative) credit rating is vulnerable to further downgrades as “grand bargain” talks to resolve an almost two-year budget impasses have broken down, and intensifying liquidity pressures have tripled the state’s chronic backlog of unpaid bills to a record $13 billion, Moody’s Investors Service says in a new report.

“Illinois is at a critical juncture and its leaders must choose between further credit deterioration and drift without compromise, or the potential for stabilization. With a budget consensus, Illinois could quickly secure its financial position,” said Ted Hampton, a Moody’s Vice President – Senior Credit Officer.

The report, “Illinois (State of): Record Bill Backlog Signals Critical Juncture for State’s Leaders,” notes Illinois is the lowest-rated state and is seven notches lower than the median Aa1 state rating. Illinois’ credit weakness incorporates very large unfunded pension liabilities, the two-year political standoff, and its long-running reliance on payment deferral to manage operating budget imbalances.

The state’s bill backlog reached a record $13 billion on March 20, according to the state comptroller, and if no agreement is reached it could approach $28 billion by the end of FY 2019. The lack of an agreement to raise revenue, which is at the center of the state’s fiscal impasse, means that Illinois taxes and other revenues are insufficient to cover its operations.

Failure to reach a consensus before the current legislative session adjourns on May 31 would signal political paralysis, leaving Illinois on a path toward unsustainable fiscal challenges that will heighten the risk of creditor-adverse actions. These could include borrowing from debt service funds, depleting available non-operating cash, or prioritizing core operating needs over debt service.

While the state’s growing liquidity pressures have not yet impacted its ability to pay bondholder debt, the state’s chronic underfunding and payment deferral is running into political and legal limits, notably at the state’s public universities, where Illinois has appropriated $1.5 billion less than it normally would have.

While Illinois’ current fiscal year operating deficit is $5.7 billion, the state could quickly begin stabilizing its finances once budget balancing measures have been reached. Liquidity would be promptly restored because Illinois’ financial pressures have been driven by gridlock, rather than economic conditions beyond the government’s control.

And while the “Grand Bargain” appears to be stalled in the legislature, Moody’s believes the revenue measures in the deal, combined with spending restraints that keep payment deferrals from recurring, could improve Illinois’ financial prospects.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      


*** LIVE *** Session coverage

Thursday, Mar 30, 2017

* Today’s post is sponsored by the American Heart Association of Illinois. Follow along in real time right here with ScribbleLive


- Posted by Rich Miller   2 Comments      


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Thursday, Mar 30, 2017

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* Question of the day
* The great Rauner pivot of 2017
* Rauner's rollout
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* *** UPDATED x1 *** Yet another problem at DCFS
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* *** UPDATED x1 *** "I’ve had hands up my skirt. I’ve had my hair pulled - There’s just kind of nothing you can really do"
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