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It looks like the lid is on for the night

Monday, Jul 31, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Yep…

Vetoes and special session proclamations have to be sent to the Secretary of State’s Index Division and it closed at 4:30 this afternoon. The office will almost always stay open if they get a request from the governor’s office, but no request was reportedly received.


*** UPDATED x1 *** Madigan says he’ll continue trying to negotiate, blames Rauner

Monday, Jul 31, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

Speaker Michael J. Madigan issued the following statement Monday:

“House Democrats will continue to reach across the aisle and work with legislative Republicans in order to enact bipartisan education funding reform. Every child in Illinois deserves a great education, but too many are being held back by one of the most unfair funding formulas in the country, and the reform we need is being held back by a governor who is determined to pit one child against another for political gain.

“Democrats know that many legislative Republicans share our commitment to fair funding for all schools. We will work together on behalf of our children, our schools and our communities, even if the governor continues to choose chaos over compromise.”

*** UPDATE ***  Press release…

A comprehensive overhaul of Illinois’ worst-in-the-nation school funding system was delivered to Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday. The legislation (Senate Bill 1) is the product of years of work and months of intense negotiations. No school in Illinois loses funding under this plan.

Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton issued the following statement.

“By merely signing his name the governor can deliver on his promise to overhaul the worst school funding system in the nation. This reform has been 20 years in the making. I encourage Governor Rauner to make it law. Students, parents, teachers and taxpayers have waited long enough. This is a chance to make a huge, meaningful change for Illinois. This is an opportunity to make Illinois more competitive and more compassionate. I hope the governor will seize the opportunity. Do the right thing, Mr. Governor, sign the bill.”

* Related…

* Rahm to Rauner: Sign school bill and get 90 percent of what you want: “Play regional politics and petty politics” on another issue, Emanuel said.


Not defending, just saying

Monday, Jul 31, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Bernie

One of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s first acts after a major shakeup of his staff was to call a special session to try to force action on an education funding bill on which he’s at odds with the legislature.

The first three days featured little movement, with more time spent in dueling press conferences. Lawmakers are meeting this weekend to try to negotiate before Rauner’s promised veto of the bill, which the Senate is supposed to send to him on Monday.

Opinions differ on whether it was wise for Rauner to call the special session, and on how his new top staff members might be affecting his administration.

“I don’t know if this new staff … knows what special sessions are,” said former Gov. Jim Edgar. “I mean, they’re completely from outside of state government.”

The former governor isn’t around much and the “Institute” has been a thorn in his side for a few years, so he may be forgiven for apparently not realizing that Rauner’s new chief of staff, Kristina Rasmussen, has been a Statehouse lobbyist for the Illinois Policy Institute for several years. So, I think she probably knows what a special session is.

And, while almost none of the other new Rauner hires has any real government experience, almost all they did at the “Institute” was follow every twist and turn of state government. That doesn’t make them experts at governing, by any means, but they do at least know the topic.

Can they govern? To be determined.

Your thoughts?


Republicans want AG Madigan to reissue opinion they already have

Monday, Jul 31, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From the Illinois Constitution with emphasis added by me

The General Assembly by law shall make appropriations for all expenditures of public funds by the State. Appropriations for a fiscal year shall not exceed funds estimated by the General Assembly to be available during that year..

* The House Republicans have been complaining for months that the House Democrats hadn’t released an official revenue estimate, which they’ve done in the past. And they want Attorney General Lisa Madigan to step in. From the Illinois Policy Institute’s news service

Did the Illinois General Assembly pass an illegal budget? House Republicans are asking Attorney General Lisa Madigan to weigh in on whether lawmakers skipped a vital step in the process.

For nearly two years, state Rep. Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego, has been pleading with House leadership to adopt a revenue estimate in its budget-making process, which he believes state law requires.

In May, Wheeler and many others asked Madigan to give her opinion as to whether lawmakers need to officially adopt an expectation of how much they’ll bring in before they can pass a budget. He did not receive a response, although Madigan was not required to provide one.

The attorney general is, however, required to respond to Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, who sent her the same request in May. There are very few exceptions to state law regarding official opinions that would allow her to ignore his request. State law says that the attorney general will “give written opinions, when requested by either branch of the General Assembly, or any committee thereof, upon constitutional or legal questions.” But the official opinion guidelines say “all guidelines are subject to exception where special circumstances can be shown to warrant an exception.”

“I don’t make these requests lightly,” Durkin said Thursday. “I’m simply asking for the attorney general to officially memorialize what she said informally in 2014.”

Durkin said that, three years ago, Madigan informally said the revenue estimate was necessary.

“It’s been more than two months since my request, and her silence on an issue as important as this is extremely concerning,” Durkin said.

I’m not sure why resending a new opinion on the exact same topic from 2014 would do any good. Like Durkin says, he’s “simply asking for the attorney general to officially memorialize what she said informally in 2014.” It seems like much ado about nothing.

You can click here to see the 2014 opinion. Whether official or unofficial, her opinion isn’t binding and so can’t change anything. Also, I really doubt anyone could convince the judicial branch to start micromanaging the legislative appropriations process.


*** UPDATED x2 - Manar responds - Barickman explains *** Talks appear to break down, SB1 hold lifted

Monday, Jul 31, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The Senate has released the parliamentary hold on SB1. As I write this, however, it has not yet been officially sent to the governor. [ADDING: The bill has now been transmitted.]

A little background from today…

The Democrats claimed that they were making progress. The Republicans obviously weren’t convinced.

And away we go…

*** UPDATE 1 ***  Sen. Barickman told reporters this today

[Sen. Andy Manar] asked whether the Republican negotiators would be willing to attend a meeting this afternoon where the Democrats would make an offer. He said that that offer would be a generous offer. And that it would be an offer that reflects the Democrats’ attempts to accommodate Republican priorities that help us bring an end to this impasse… When we attended that meeting, no offer was made. In fact, we spent nearly an hour doing nothing more than listening to the Democrats shuffle their papers and seemingly try to buy time so that they could continue this crisis that they have unnecessarily created. […]

The Democrats are notorious for claiming that there’s progress, when in fact in the actually negotiations they express no interest in actually moving the ball forward and coming to an agreement.

Sen. Manar said he wouldn’t even respond to that.

*** UPDATE 2 *** So, I bated Sen. Manar a little bit and he finally gave his side of the story, saying he wanted to be careful not to completely derail the talks.

Manar’s version is vastly different than Barickman’s. According to Manar, the Democrats have been moving toward one of the Republicans’ chief demands and the Democrats left the meeting promising language within a few hours designed to address the demands. Manar says he thought there’d be another meeting later today.

Instead, Barickman held a press conference to say the Democrats failed to make good on a promise to have language at the first afternoon meeting. Manar sounded stunned at this turn of events.


ISBE: No schools have submitted plans to delay reopening

Monday, Jul 31, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* After reading innumerable horror stories about how some schools might not be able to reopen after summer break if the school funding formula issue isn’t resolved soon, I tried to find out if there were actually any such cases. As I told subscribers this morning, I couldn’t find a single school that planned on staying closed.

The following is an e-mail I received from the Illinois State Board of Education this afternoon after a communications mixup on Friday. Note the last line…


I have attached a list of all school districts’ days cash on hand, according to the fiscal year 2017 School District Budget Plans submitted to ISBE in the fall of 2016. The budget plans indicated that at the end of fiscal year 2017, 401 districts would have fewer than 180 days cash on hand, and 144 districts would have fewer than 90 days cash on hand. (The budget plans do not reflect the current actual days cash on hand and may or may not have contemplated state payment delays.)

As of July 24, 2017, no school districts had submitted requests to amend their calendars to delay the start of the school year.

And then they updated…

I checked again, and as of today, no school districts have submitted requests to amend their calendars to delay the start of the 2017-18 school year.

The attachment is here.

None of this fear mongering would even be necessary had the big brains at the top of the food chain worked out a deal. And, if you’ve been monitoring the live coverage post (and read this morning’s subscriber edition), you know something could be afoot. We’ll see.

* This is from Dr. Jennifer Garrison, the Sandoval C.U.S.D. Superintendent, about her own district’s situation…

We are doing a cash flow analysis each week at a minimum to determine how long Sandoval C.U.S.D. 501 can stay open without FY18 general state aid. The projection as of this morning making payroll and paying only essential bills based on our cash on hand is September 1st. It is important to note that I have implemented a purchasing freeze and only essential items to open our doors to start school are being approved.

Once our local tax revenue comes in, we can operate another month. If our local tax revenue comes in before August 31st, that puts us to October 1st. This is the best case scenario without any unforeseen costs.

Let’s hope this doesn’t last until October.


Two more legislators are leaving

Monday, Jul 31, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Friday and today…

* From Rep. Pritchard’s press release, which he intended to send out tomorrow, but was instead leaked…

As the 2018 election cycle approaches, State Representative Bob Pritchard announces he will not seek re-election. “I have appreciated the opportunity to represent the residents of the 70th district over the past 14 years but feel the time has come for another to voice the interests of this district,” he said.

“Like our founding fathers, I do not believe serving in the legislature should be a career but rather long enough to learn the process, make contributions and then return to other activities,” Pritchard stated. He will serve out his term which ends in January of 2019 and continue to be activity engaged in the issues and events of the district. He looks forward to spending more time in the family farming operations, with his grandchildren and in various organizations.

Pritchard said some of the challenges facing our state are a result of representatives serving too long, being unwilling to compromise on difficult issues, and losing the perspective of the impact government has upon private citizens and businesses. “I think we have a better system of government when more citizens take time from their careers to run for public office, and experience the challenges of making public policy for their communities or for a state as diverse as Illinois,” the legislator added.

“I have enjoyed the opportunity to make new friends, listen to the ideas and concerns of residents, and participate in the life of each community in the district,” Pritchard added. “I have tried to keep people informed of the complex issues facing the legislature and our state, and encourage their participation in the process of creating public policies. My efforts would not have been possible without the able assistance of district director Jesse Sheehan, assistant Shelley Ziola, staff in Springfield, and numerous supporters. I deeply appreciate their efforts.”

Pritchard has served on numerous House committees and sponsored legislation on many important issues during his time in the legislature involving agriculture, education, veterans affairs, human services, healthcare, the environment and government operations. He is currently Republican spokesperson on several committees including education and state government administration, plus Co-Chair of the General Assembly Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability.

Pritchard voted for the budget and tax hike but missed the override vote.

…Adding… This doesn’t include a few legislators who are running for other offices, like Sen. Daniel Biss, Rep. Scott Drury (both running for governor, at least for now), Rep. Laura Fine (running for Biss’ Senate seat) and Rep. Cynthia Soto (MWRD)…

More to come.

…Adding More… Sen. McCarter is also not running again due to a self-imposed term limit.


ILGOP whacks Kennedy over “basket of taxes” comment

Monday, Jul 31, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller


Kennedy Proposes “a basket of taxes”
On Top of Mike Madigan’s 32% Permanent Income Tax Hike

For Chris Kennedy, Mike Madigan’s 32% permanent income tax hike is only the beginning.

Just this weekend, Kennedy was quoted in the Journal Standard proposing a “basket of taxes”.

And just days ago, a bumbling Kennedy told the 40th Ward Democrats that “we need to broaden” the income tax.

Watch here.

Kennedy’s tax-hiking remarks all come after Madigan’s 32% income tax hike became law.

It’s clear that Chris Kennedy is just another Madigan Democrat who will take even more of your hard-earned money.

* Context from the linked story

He strongly criticized what he said is a “massive disinvestment in education” resulting in “creation of an education underclass.” […]

We asked how the formula should be changed.

Kennedy proposes “a basket of taxes including a graduated, progressive income tax.” He does not think the school property tax should be eliminated completely, however.

That change has not happened, Kennedy charged, “because of a handful of (legislators) who make their money as property tax appeals lawyers.”

Kennedy didn’t name names, but he left nothing to the imagination about whom he meant: The most important property tax appeals lawyer in the legislature is House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Democrat who controls the fate of all legislation. Kennedy proposed a law to ban lawmakers from being involved in a business that benefits from legislative action or inaction.

But, yeah, he’s a Madigan pawn.


What’s up with SB1?

Monday, Jul 31, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I was told at about 11 this morning that in twenty minutes or so paperwork would be filed to remove the parliamentary hold from Senate Bill 1, the education funding reform bill. That hasn’t happened yet. Gov. Rauner has said he will immediately issue an amendatory veto once it gets to his desk, but I’m informed that negotiations took place this morning. I’m not sure when exactly that hold will be removed, so stay tuned and keep an eye on the live coverage post for updates.

From the AP

There was little movement last week in the first three days of a special session, though late in the week both parties tapped a handful of lawmakers to negotiate over the weekend.

Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat who sponsored the initial bill, said legislators spoke for two days, but declined to elaborate on the details of their discussions until Monday’s session day.

“It was productive,” he said of the talks. “It was time well spent.”

* Related…

* Manar to Rauner: Step out of the shadows and join school reform talks: “If the governor does not come forward to show and explain his threatened veto, I will have little choice but to file an override motion as soon as that veto arrives in the Senate.”

* Rauner expected to finally receive, quickly veto school funding bill today

* Black leaders call on Rauner to sign school funding bill

* A look at the political gridlock over state school funding

* Rep. Steve Reick: Stand Down, Chicken Little. The Sky Isn’t Falling, Schools Will Open

* Back to school bash tempered by lack of school funding budget in Illinois: The Illinois State Board of Education says the funding plan must be approved by August 3rd for schools receive payment on time.

* Principal calls a donation ‘essential’ because of ‘state funding crisis’

* Zorn: The politics of education funding in Illinois is truly deranged: Rauner is clearly suffering from an advanced case of Madigan Derangement Syndrome — the belief that veteran Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan is the cause of all of the state’s economic woes and the primary obstacle to recovery.


Ives denounces suggested school funding deal

Monday, Jul 31, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Dr. Howard Fuller, a Distinguished Professor of Education at Marquette University, writing for Real Clear Education about the opportunities presented by the current special session

This special session is such an important moment in Illinois. It provides an opportunity to chart a different course for how the state tackles the challenge of providing all students with access to high-quality education. And it begins with using this debate over education funding to enact a tax credit scholarship program that allows individuals and corporations to allocate a portion of their owed state taxes to private, nonprofit scholarship-granting organizations that issue scholarships to low-income students.

By signing a bill with this language into law, the governor would propel Illinois to the forefront of the crucial battle to truly change education in America. Illinois could join the growing list of states that realize there is no one-size fits all system that works for our children, particularly our most vulnerable children.

To take advantage of this special moment in time a conversation is not enough; concrete action is needed. Given the stakes, the policymakers must right now do what’s best for kids.

* On the very same day, the National Review ran this op-ed from Jeanne Allen, the founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform

Fortunately, a bipartisan school-funding-reform commission has been working to come up with a replacement for the byzantine system that has controlled funding for state schools for years. While Democrats and Republicans agree on much of the bill, in its current form it amounts to a taxpayer bailout of the Chicago Public Schools system, which has skipped most payments into its teacher pension funds for more than a decade and failed to deliver even an adequate education to most of its students for decades.

However, Governor Rauner has an opportunity to craft a compromise solution that provides the key to better education for all kids and ensures that schools open on time. The grand bargain would be simple: He agrees to Democrats’ demands if they include a tax-credit scholarship program in the education-funding-formula legislation.

* Rep. Jeanne Ives isn’t amused

I am arguably one of the most conservative state reps in Illinois- my ACU rating for the past two years is 100%, lifetime 98%. Every year I have filed every year a school choice bill of some type, in some years more than one. In full disclosure my children attend both Catholic school AND public school - so I have an educated and unhypocritcal opinion on the matter. I believe in parental choice as do a number of public school teachers who also send their children to private school even as their unions rally against parental choice. Stick with me here on this lengthy discussion…

This year I not only filed a school choice bill, I also got a hearing on it in committee - primarily because the Democrats wanted to embarrass me even though the Democrat Chairperson, sends his kids to private school. Well, my bill failed in committee- it was a re-write of former Democratic State Senator (African-American) bill - didn’t matter, killed anyway and Republicans voted against it too - they like the teacher union money as much as Democrats.

Back to the article and my point, even I, as someone who favors school choice, would not make a deal to pass SB1 and bailout Chicago for a tax credit for scholarships.

SB1, and its Republican version that does not include the obvious Chicago bailout, would still be a terrible bill for education and taxpayers in Illinois.

The author here has no idea what the deal would mean for the children, families, and taxpayers I represent. Visit to learn more. Oh, and I sit on the pension committee- the author has no idea how badly underfunded they really are.


Question of the day

Monday, Jul 31, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From an e-mail…

Dear Mr. Rich Miller,

I’m working on a project and wondering if I might ask you for some assistance. I’m a student research assistant working with Peter Ubertaccio, PhD, a professor of politics at Stonehill College in Massachusetts. Prof. Ubertaccio may have already reached out to you several weeks ago, but we wanted to send our request along again in case that initial email got lost in the shuffle. The project is at the intersection of political and food culture. At the moment, we are putting together a comprehensive list of the “must go-to” food establishments and events for politicians in each state.

I wonder if you have any thoughts on the food establishments (restaurants/diners) or events (annual dinners/festivals/fairs) that a candidate for political office in Illinois must attend? Not a place to just be seen, but an authentic stop for both good regional cuisine and to meet ordinary voters.

Any thoughts or advice will be greatly appreciated.

Three restaurants spring immediately to mind. 17th Street Barbecue in southern Illinois, which was called “Illinois’ true barbecue mecca” by the Tribune, is a regular stop for campaigners. In Chicago, Manny’s Deli is a must-visit. The restaurant is celebrating its 75th anniversary. I also think Valois, on the city’s South Side, should be included.

There are almost too many festivals, fairs and annual dinners to even count.

* The Question: What are some food establishments (restaurants/diners) or events (annual dinners/festivals/fairs) that a candidate for political office in Illinois must attend?

Keep in mind this question is not about the best restaurant to find local political insiders. And please explain your choices and identify the locations.


“A closer look at Rauner’s world”

Monday, Jul 31, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Click here for the SJ-R’s web of connections involving Gov. Rauner, the Illinois Policy Institute, Dan Proft, etc. One thing they missed was Leslie Munger’s ties to the “right to work” folks.

* Related…

* How is Rauner’s new staff affecting his administration?


*** UPDATED x1 *** A comparison of Trump and Rauner, and Pritzker jumps in hard

Monday, Jul 31, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Greg Hinz

In politics and government, just like business, it takes more than good ideas and adequate financing to succeed. A CEO needs the right team around him or her, and all parties have to trust each other, to believe that those with whom they work will have their back out there in the jungle. There’s a word for that: loyalty. And the recent tribulations of President Donald Trump and Gov. Bruce Rauner underline the perils of forgoing that trait.

In Trump’s case, the clearest example is the trial and informal impeachment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, though the just-concluded cage match between top staffers Reince Priebus and Anthony Scaramucci was rooted in the same phenomenon. […]

Then there’s Rauner, now two weeks into his big purge and retreat to the comforting cocoon of ideological soul mates. If the governor wanted to change his staff, if he thought some of them weren’t performing, he had every right to bring in new lieutenants. But frog-marching loyal staff out the door without trying to find them other posts is just mean. No one who works for this governor now can know how long they’ll last.

That’s not just inside baseball, voters. It’s an indication of what this governor does when he’s cornered: He doesn’t grow and look for compromise; he calls in people who will tell him he’s right.

* I wrote a column about that topic almost exactly a year ago

Both have used divisiveness. Rauner has repeatedly attempted to divide the state between Chicagoans and the “hard-working” people everywhere else. Trump points to illegal immigrants and Muslims as the root of our nation’s alleged decline.

Rauner’s policy vagueness during his campaign was legendary, and he still doesn’t like to get too deep into the weeds of substantive issues. Trump’s only specific proposals involve a “great wall” on the Mexican border and a ban on immigration from terrorist-prone countries. Otherwise, he’s not so keen on the details.

They’ve both promised miracles. Rauner claims his economic reforms will result in a dramatic turnaround for Illinois without offering much evidence. In his convention speech, Trump said, “Beginning on Jan. 20, 2017, safety will be restored.”

They both have their bogeymen. For Rauner, it’s always about Madigan, but he’s also referred to Illinois Supreme Court justices and Illinois Senate President John Cullerton as “corrupt.” For Trump, it’s Hillary Clinton—and anyone else who crosses him. […]

But like former Republican New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at the Democratic convention, in Illinois we need a “problem solver, not a bomb thrower,” who can bring people together to “get things done.”

On that, and on that alone, the two men are far too similar for my taste.

* Politico today

Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez is joining Illinois gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker at Trump Tower in downtown Chicago to give a speech that, no surprise, links the Republican president to the Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner. Get there at 10:30 a.m. if you want to hear it live. But if not, here are some highlights:

On Trump: “Donald Trump’s legislative agenda threatens to wreak havoc on the lives of Illinois families. Trump is actively working to dismantle health care in the United States, stripping millions of families of their coverage and targeting those who need it most. He is waging war on science in his refusal to acknowledge climate change and his rejection of the policies that will preserve our future. Trump’s attacks on public education, immigrant families, and people of color are tearing communities apart, and undermining the principles that make this country strong. Every day, Trump is exploiting divisions and peddling hate.”

On Rauner: “Rauner is silent in the face of Trump’s attacks and refuses to put in place policies that will protect Illinois families. Worse, Rauner is actively working to force a special interest agenda on Illinois that will amplify Donald Trump’s destruction. After a 736-day budget crisis, with a state economy in turmoil, and with public schools at risk, Illinois simply can’t afford Trump’s agenda and Rauner’s failed leadership.”

A bit of a campaign reset, perhaps? We’ll see what his new TV ads say.

*** UPDATE ***  Pritzker has released a “five-point plan to resist Trump”…

PROTECTING HEALTH CARE: JB will work to expand access to care, increase patient choice, and keep costs down by providing a public option health insurance plan. JB will also sign HB 40 into law and defend women’s health and the right to choose.

FUNDING EDUCATION: JB will invest in a public education system — from early childhood through higher education — that improves the well-being of every child and prepares them for the jobs of tomorrow. He will also oppose school vouchers and charter school expansion.

RESTORING OUR ENVIRONMENT: JB will ensure Illinois upholds the Paris Climate Agreement, expand clean energy production, and invest in green jobs. JB will also fully fund Illinois conservation programs and fight to maintain full funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

FIGHTING FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM: JB will enhance funding for immigrant and refugee services, increase health care options for undocumented adults, improve the U-Visa certification process for victims of violent crimes, provide access to financial aid for undocumented students, and oppose a federal registry program based on race, religion, and country of origin. He will also sign the Illinois Trust Act.

STANDING UP TO INTOLERANCE: JB will expand access to capital for small business job growth in underserved communities, fully fund after-school and anti-violence programs, and declare that transgender individuals are welcome to serve their state as state troopers. He will also stand against LGBT bullying and intolerance in our schools.


Drury lashes out at Madigan, calls him “Illinois’ own Dr. Frankenstein”

Monday, Jul 31, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…


HIGHLAND PARK, ILLINOIS – Scott Drury, Democratic candidate for Governor, released the following statement today:

“As the finger-pointing continues over who is responsible for the lack of an education-funding bill, overshadowed is why this is an issue at all in 2017. Without question, Bruce Rauner’s ascension to power was the direct result of Mike Madigan’s failed policies and leadership. When Democrats had total control of Illinois, instead of promoting progressive ideas that helped the working class, Madigan promoted structural deficits, unfunded pension liabilities and education inequity, while Illinois’ reputation as one of the most corrupt states in modern history flourished. Against, this backdrop, Democrats lost the 2014 gubernatorial election, as voters searched for anything but more of the same.”

“Madigan is Illinois’ own Dr. Frankenstein – the man responsible for creating a monster he cannot control. If Illinois is to prosper, we not only have to reject Bruce Rauner, we have to elect a leader who understands and rejects the failed policies and leadership of Madigan that put him into power. The failure to do this will lead to four more years of Madigan’s creation – Bruce Rauner.”


*** UPDATED x1 *** Some reliable Madigan haters begin to turn on the governor

Monday, Jul 31, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The QC Times is one of the most reliable editorial voices against House Speaker Michael Madigan, but it is turning on Gov. Rauner in a big way over SB1

Rauner is scrambling and his agenda is a shambles. And his acts of desperation are making him more difficult to support and defend by the day.

This month’s veto override that ended a two-year budget impasse was a significant loss for Illinois’ Republican governor. The standoff accomplished nothing of value. That bipartisan rebuke of Rauner’s veto, in many ways, left Illinois back where it started prior to Rauner taking office. […]

There’s no doubt that much of Rauner’s consternation is about playing to his base. It’s easy to bang around downstate Illinois blasting Chicago fat cats. Parochialism is good politics in a state like Illinois. But it’s also an explosive chemical compound.

Divisive populist regionalism will never fix Illinois’ failing pension system. It’s a pointless attack on the symptom that does nothing to cure the disease.

More than two years of brinkmanship accomplished precisely zilch for Illinois. But, politically desperate, it appears Rauner is going all in as his 2018 re-election bid nears. After the budget defeat, he sacked his most senior staff. He replaced it with right-wing partisans from the Illinois Policy Institute. And now, he’s banging around the state scapegoating his state’s one major market.

Rauner’s rightward leap risks not only his political fortunes but the well-being of his state.

* Same with the Peoria Journal Star

Indeed, the language leaping out of sleepy Sangamon County has been uncommonly colorful. A Republican governor who promised to veto part of SB1 should Democrats ever get around to sending it to him finds the latter’s behavior “unconscionable,” their stalling tactics “evil,” the minority’s efforts to take back control nothing short of a coming “revolution,” according to various reports. The Democrat Senate president, meanwhile, questions the governor’s “mental state” while inviting him to negotiate something more to his/their liking.

This a clearly furious governor finds “outrageous!” while continuing to demand that Democrats put SB1 “on my desk!” so that he can have his way with it. Curiously, this governor from Chicago has declared war on his Chicago — granted, no Republican gets much love from Chicago — characterizing this as a “bailout” for the city’s school pension system. He calls a special session, to which many legislators hardly pay attention, judging by the no-shows.

Gov. Bruce Rauner continues to berate House Speaker Michael Madigan as public enemy number one, even though it’s the Senate’s John Cullerton who’s sitting on the bill. Apparently he’s decided it’s more politically advantageous to have the monster that is state government wear Madigan’s face. Meantime, the governor doesn’t do his own cause many favors when he can’t quite say how he arrived at the numbers he insists make downstate schools big winners, or explain how the savings necessary to do that seem to be coming out of Chicago’s block grant rather than pensions, or be more specific about his promised veto. […]

But on which party will parents take out their wrath? That’s the gamble, isn’t it? We’re in a pox-on-all-their-houses sort of mood. They argue ad nauseam, but nothing gets done. Illinois on school funding reform, meet Congress on health care reform.

* The Tribune, however, remains firmly in the governor’s camp

For Illinois households with school-age children, August is not simply a month on the calendar. It is closure and reset. Sleepovers taper off. Bedtimes get earlier. School shoes displace flip-flops. Wet bathing suits yield to pleated pants.

The sweet back-to-school ritual is unfolding across Illinois, even as lawmakers in Springfield jockey over legislation — a fight that could jam a shiv into the August calendar. Without agreement on an education funding bill, schools might not be able to open on time. Yes, parents, while you’ve been preoccupied with lemonade stands and summer camps, Democrats in Springfield have been jeopardizing the timely opening of schools.

Democrats and a handful of Republicans supported a budget in early July that tied money for schools to a controversial rewrite of the school funding formula, which they had approved May 31. On top of that gamble, the Senate refused to send the rewrite package to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk. Two months have passed with no action, only dueling press conferences and noisy insults.

Just when you think Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan couldn’t be more scheming, they prove you wrong. In this case, they’re jeopardizing the start of the school year. Brinkmanship at its worst. A game of chicken with school families trapped midfield.

*** UPDATE ***  The ILGOP finds other supporting editorials…

Editorial boards this weekend slammed Mike Madigan, John Cullerton, and Democrats in Springfield for holding school funding hostage to their Chicago bailout demands.

The Chicago Tribune: Dear Illinois parents: You’re being played by Democrats in Springfield

    Yes, parents, while you’ve been preoccupied with lemonade stands and summer camps, Democrats in Springfield have been jeopardizing the timely opening of schools.
    … Just when you think Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan couldn’t be more scheming, they prove you wrong. In this case, they’re jeopardizing the start of the school year. Brinkmanship at its worst. A game of chicken with school families trapped midfield.
    To emphasize, parents: August is here and your legislature has not agreed on how to send your state tax money to your schools. You’re being played. You’re supposed to panic and blame a governor who’s, yes, still waiting for that May 31 funding bill to arrive.

The Belleville News-Democrat: Illinois lawmakers set time bomb to get Rauner, hit students instead

    Lawmakers couldn’t pass a budget for more than two years and were willing to owe other people $15 billion, but they sure got their paychecks on time. The rest of us don’t get paid if we don’t work.
    So could it be that they realize the optics are bad on that issue? They fear facing voters in 2018 looking like a bunch of self-serving, ineffective louts? Do they think limiting the per diems would give them the ability to say, “See, we aren’t all about us”?
    They got a chance to earn another $111 a day plus mileage this past week, when Rauner called lawmakers back into session to advance Senate Bill 1, the education funding bill. They failed to do so because Rauner promised an amendatory veto to remove a Chicago Public School pension bail-out. Big surprise, because they are likely doing all this to force an August showdown to get that Chicago money and hand Rauner another fanny-whoooping — at the cost of our students.

Herald & Review: Our view: We’re back where we started with Springfield

    What’s the better solution? Remove the Chicago pension funding proviso from the legislation.
    That would meet Rauner’s satisfaction while preserving the core mission to fix the backwards funding formula.
    It’s easy for us to say, but Chicago pensions shouldn’t break this legislation. We must think of students statewide.
    Remove the pension rule.
    Sign the bill.


Rauner vows to “oppose this tax hike until it’s gone”

Monday, Jul 31, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From a Saturday night fundraising e-mail…

Thank you for your continued support; the response to our Tax Hike outreach efforts has been amazing.

We’re close to our goal, but we need your help to raise $5,000 more to fully fund our program.

Will you consider chipping in $32 in protest of the 32% tax hike?

Your donation will directly support our efforts to show the Madigan Machine that we’re going to oppose this tax hike until it’s gone.

We’ve set a deadline of July 31 at midnight to fully fund the Tax Hike opposition program so we can hit the ground running in August.

Illinois needs change, and together we can stop the old school style politics that have been plaguing our state for decades.

Please help us fully fund our efforts to stop the 32% tax hike with an immediate donation of $32 today!

Thanks for all of your support,

Bruce Rauner

Hat tip to Patrick Yeagle, who points out the mention of a “tax hike opposition program,” and asks “What’s he planning?”


The stunning costs of CPS borrowing

Monday, Jul 31, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Tribune

Chicago Public Schools’ latest long-term borrowing deal will buy the district a bit of financial breathing room through 2019 but comes at an immense cost to future generations.

By the time the $500 million loan is paid off, children now entering kindergarten will be in their mid-30s and the school district will have spent $850 million in interest costs alone — making the total expense of the bond issue a whopping $1.35 billion.

And only a small fraction of the money from the long-term bonds issued in July will be used for school construction or classroom improvements, which budget experts say should be the primary use for long-term debt. CPS is using the biggest chunk of the loan to reimburse itself for failed bond market deals the district previously covered with cash. Another large portion will be used to shave a few hundred million dollars off old debts — even as it extends those debts as much as 25 years.

In addition, the deal commits an enormous sum of state aid to bondholders through 2046, even as state funding remains at the center of an ongoing battle in Springfield. If state aid is ever not enough to cover bond payments, CPS has pledged to turn to property taxes to pay for the loan.

Go read the whole thing.


A good plan to stop the override, but no plan yet to pass a bill

Monday, Jul 31, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

During the lead-up to the recent special legislative session over the state budget and a tax hike, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s staff studied whether their boss had the power to force legislators to attend the sessions.

A court ruled during the Rod Blagojevich era that the General Assembly must convene at the date and time ordered by the governor, but Rauner’s staff found nothing in state statutes that gives the governor the power to, for instance, deploy the Illinois State Police to haul legislators to Springfield. You may recall 2011, when several Wisconsin and Indiana Democratic legislators attempted to deny their General Assemblies a quorum by fleeing to Illinois, outside the jurisdiction of their respective state police forces. But, as we’ve seen time and time again, for better or for worse, we aren’t Wisconsin or Indiana.

The battle plan to kill the Democrats’ education funding reform bill (Senate Bill 1) that was plotted before Gov. Rauner’s infamous staff purge in early July, and which still appears to be mostly operative, actually anticipated low special session turnout since there likely wouldn’t be much of anything to vote on. They figured that the Democrats would wait a while before lifting the parliamentary brick off the education funding reform bill - the better to foment a crisis atmosphere as the clock ticks down to schools reopening after summer break.

So, legislators not showing up for session will likely only amplify the governor’s contention that the majority party isn’t interested in preventing a crisis and funding schools. The cops aren’t needed.

Overall, the plan devised a while back is pretty good, even though it relies heavily on stoking the flames of regionalism with an unspoken but still clear racial element. Rauner’s “Chicago bailout” card is about the easiest one to throw in this state, and it has been played longer than anyone reading this has been alive.

Despite the fact that Downstate pays far less in state taxes than it receives in state benefits, people who live there think Chicago is the place that gets all the taxpayer goodies. It’s actually suburbanites who pay the bills on net, and with their high local property taxes and a recent income tax hike, those folks are probably (and understandably) not thrilled with the idea of bailing out the city’s notorious school system.

The bill’s supporters have lined up an impressive list of Downstate and suburban school superintendents in strong support of SB 1. Education groups like Stand for Children (which was, ironically enough, brought to Illinois by then-private citizen Bruce Rauner) have been advertising locally to back the plan.

But school superintendents are often resented by local taxpayers for their high salaries. And at least one has already been singled out by conservative political activist Dan Proft’s newspaper empire. Proft’s outfit published a snarky article last week about Harrisburg Superintendent Mike Gauch, a prominent SB 1 supporter who is often cited by proponents. The piece noted that Gauch and his wife, a Carbondale public school teacher, make a combined $220,000 per year, plus benefits.

“The Gauches represent a new reality in Southern Illinois,” the article claimed, “a public employee power couple whose income ranks them among the wealthiest families in Saline County.

Aside from the class warfare angle, the superintendents don’t have a vote in the General Assembly. So, while they can credibly claim all they want that SB 1 isn’t a Chicago bailout, the governor simply counters with his own numbers (which he won’t verify) that Downstate and suburban schools would do much better with his plan (which he refused to disclose for weeks).

The idea of using the superintendents was not just to encourage Republican legislators to support SB 1, but to give them ample political cover if they decided to cross the governor and override his veto. But since the governor has concocted his own proposal with his own numbers (which show that schools outside the city will get lots more money than they would under SB 1), that encouragement now means little and the cover is blown.

Downstate and suburban Democrats who vote to override his veto are also put in a bind because the governor can claim that those Democrats voted against their districts and for Chicago.

Preventing a veto override is the governor’s main effort here, but passing a bill into law that reforms school funding is a whole different matter. Without such a law on the books, billions of dollars of state education formula money can’t be distributed. And as I write this, that solution doesn’t seem to be on anyone’s horizon.


*** LIVE *** Special session coverage

Monday, Jul 31, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Today is the day that the Senate plans to send SB1 to Gov. Rauner’s desk following a weekend of legislative negotiations. Follow all the twists and turns with ScribbleLive

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Monday, Jul 31, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

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Annual State Fair Democrat Day rally canceled

Monday, Jul 31, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

[This post has been bumped up from Friday to Monday for easier display and comments are now open.]

* Mostly true…

* Democrat Day itself has not been canceled. Party members will still get their free tickets to the fair just like Republicans will on Governor’s Day. But the traditional noontime rally has been canceled.

Steve Brown told me part of the problem with Democrat Day over the years was that the same people make pretty much the same speeches at both the county party chairman’s brunch and then at the state fairgrounds rally a couple of hours or so later. It gets boring and repetitive and kinda pointless. It can be a real drag sitting in the hot sun listening to the same speech you just heard at brunch.

So, it looks like this could be the end of a very long era. I don’t know how far back the tradition goes, but it’s a very long time. Back in the day, the first Mayor Daley would send trainloads of people to the fair. It used to be a huge deal, but the rally crowds for both parties have seemed to taper off in recent years and I don’t think that Speaker Madigan likes doing it, either. Maybe it’ll restart if the Democrats elect a governor again, whenever that might be, because then Madigan won’t have to be in charge.

* From a Crain’s column I wrote back in 2014

The Illinois State Fair’s “Director’s Lawn” is a tree-lined venue far from the corn dogs, grandstand concerts and beer tents.

The lawn spreads out in front of a rather dingy house used by the state’s director of agriculture, off a road marred by potholes and best accessed via a special gate that often is closed during the fair because there’s so little public parking. A million or so people attend the fair each year.

The grass on the lawn is trampled flat. But no events ever are as crowded as the annual Governor’s Day and the accompanying rally for the party out of power.

Even in this era of high-tech campaigns, the twin events unofficially kick off the governor’s race, despite the fairgrounds’ somewhat rundown appearance. Politicians high and low attend. The more important ones give speeches, the less important mill about and try to interest others in shaking their hands. Every major media outlet sends reporters.

There usually are four crowds. There’s the “true believers,” young men and women who work or volunteer for the candidates. They wear matching T-shirts, carry signs and fire up the crowds by cheering or shouting slogans on command.

Then there are the “older believers,” folks who aren’t nearly as youthful or fired up but still strongly support their candidates. They sit in the front section with a clear view of the stage.

The “space-fillers” mostly are bused in to increase the crowd. They sit where they can’t see the speakers, either behind the stands for the news media or off to the side under a canvas tent. They chat among themselves and enjoy the free food.

The fourth group is the “hacks in the back.” These are the political professionals, high-level campaign operatives, lobbyists and legislators. They’ve heard enough speeches, so they gossip at the rear of the lawn near the free beer.

No more free beer and hot dogs and politicking on the Director’s Lawn this year, at least for the Democrats.


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