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Open thread 2

Thursday, Jan 18, 2018

* Finally finished with the doctor, but I think I’m done for the day.

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      

Open thread

Thursday, Jan 18, 2018

* Flu-related doctor’s appointment. It could take a while, so talk amongst yourselves and I’ll be back when I can.

Keep it Illinois-centric and be kind to each other. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   46 Comments      

DHS slammed after care disrupted for “thousands” of mentally ill

Thursday, Jan 18, 2018

* From the Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois’ Marvin Lindsey…

The launch of a new state computer system designed to create a “more efficient system” of registering Medicaid recipients to receive mental health care and addiction treatment services has had the opposite effect, according to advocates.

The Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) new “Integrated Eligibility System” has failed to function as intended and has disrupted care for “thousands” of individuals with mental illness. The glitch has also stalled payment to providers as processing patient registration has ballooned to a 90-day delay in many cases, leading to “chaos and delay”, says the Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois (CBHA), a statewide advocacy group.

“Since DHS’ new computer system went live in October 2017, we have been telling DHS that a computer glitch has unleashed chaos and delays for individuals in need of behavioral health services,” said CBHA CEO Marvin Lindsey. “Now we’re in January 2018, and the problem remains unresolved and thousands are being affected as a result.”

DHS’ top official, Secretary James Dimas, acknowledged in a December 18, 2017 letter to the advocacy group that his agency’s new computer system has been hit by delays.

“As with any new technology system this large and complex, as we adjust to this new system IDHS has experienced some delays in the assignment and processing of Recipient Identification Numbers (RINs) which are required for billing and receiving payment for rendered services,” Dimas wrote. “[…] At the current time the backlog is between 10 and 12 days …”

CBHA’s Lindsey fired back in his own letter hotly disputing Dimas’ 10 to 12-day backlog claim after hearing an uproar from his member agencies, saying it’s closer to 60 days and in other cases more than 90.

“I would like to make a correction to your statement that the current time the backlog is between 10 and 12 days,” Lindsey wrote. “We have members who are still waiting on e-RINs to be processed from as far back as September. Most of our members are reporting delays from 30-60 days.”

Lindsey also warned Dimas that DHS’ computer system dysfunction was blocking access to care for those with “behavioral health illness.”

“Some of our members are reporting up to 350 people awaiting e-RINs, which, again, means there are 350 people who could not access treatment,” Lindsey said in his letter. “While the 350 clients are on the high end and cover delays of about 60 days, many of our members are reporting delays from 30-45 days, but, more importantly, consumers seeking help for their behavioral health illness are not able to access treatment.”

Lindsey said that his group has been working with the state agency but the problem remains unresolved.

“The seriousness of the problem has yet to break through to the department officials,” Lindsey said. “We need a fix. And we need it last week.”

The breakdown of DHS’ behavioral health patient registration system is the latest debacle linked to the state’s new computer system. In December, more than 40,000 Illinois families lost their food stamp benefits because of a glitch in the state’s new technology platform.

The Dimas letter referenced above is here.

* From IDHS…

Helping individuals access mental health services in the community is a top priority for IDHS and our staff work tirelessly to ensure that we are facilitating the process of receiving those services. We are aware that the processing of Recipient Identification Numbers (RINs), which are required for billing and receiving payment for services, is behind. We believe this issue to be related to a series of retirements in this unit which reduced staff by more than half. We have implemented a temporary staffing plan that will more than quadruple the current staff dedicated to this issue and would eliminate the backlog in 2-3 months.

Contrary to Mr. Lindsey’s note to the press, department officials take this issue very seriously. We have been working collaboratively with the Illinois Association of Behavioral Health to explore different options to expedite the process. We welcome CBHA to engage with us in a similar discussion.

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      

Mendoza wants emergency Deloitte contract review

Thursday, Jan 18, 2018

* Press release


Deloitte Consulting to receive additional $9 million for 90 days of ‘emergency’ help on costly statewide tech overhaul

Illinois Comptroller Susana A. Mendoza on Tuesday called for further review by independent procurement officials of an $8.9 million, 90-day ‘emergency’ contract between the Illinois Toll Highway Authority and Deloitte Consulting for the ‘continuation of implementation services’ for the State’s Enterprise Resource Program (ERP), a state Information Technology upgrade project that has ballooned in cost under the Rauner Administration.

In a document published online on Jan. 11, Tollway officials said the additional dollars are needed because the funds assigned to the project through the State’s Department of Innovation Technology (DOIT) are depleted.

“Failing to properly estimate cost and overspending is not an emergency - it’s poor project management. This is part of a pattern of cost overruns, missed deadlines and contract mismanagement by Governor Bruce Rauner and, once again, taxpayers are footing the bill,” Comptroller Mendoza said.

State procurement practices by the Illinois Department of Healthcare & Family Services were the topic of a series of recent hearings hosted by lawmakers. In December, the State’s Chief Procurement Officer determined the Rauner Administration had misapplied an exemption to award a $12 million consulting contract to McKinsey & Company. In an unprecedented step by the Chief Procurement Officer, the McKinsey contract with the Illinois Department of Healthcare & Family Services (HFS) was invalidated.

Mendoza pointed to a $67.5 million sole source contract with the state’s Department of Human Services (DHS) for additional work on another Deloitte project to provide food stamps and other benefits to Illinoisans as another recent example of contract mismanagement by the Rauner Administration. The cost of the Deloitte benefits contract has skyrocketed to $288 million—more than double the original $143 million budget approved in 2012.

The ‘emergency’ Tollway deal is not subject to competitive bidding or a public hearing. Unlike a sole source contract, there is no waiting period for it to take effect. It is not subject to review by the State’s independent Chief Procurement Officer or the State’s Procurement Policy Board. A contract bulletin posted last week provides no details as to how the $9 million will be spent.

Comptroller Mendoza has criticized the Rauner Administration for failing to publicly disclose information regarding ERP program goals, deadlines and costs. For nearly a year, DOIT has failed to answer basic questions from the Office of the Comptroller and lawmakers regarding the status of the ERP, program staffing and funding levels. Pending a response to repeated inquiries, the Office of the Comptroller has placed a hold on payment of certain ERP contracts, representing just two percent of the FY2017 DOIT budget.

Comptroller Mendoza said applying an emergency contract designation when it’s not merited sets an alarming precedent.

“Procurement rules should be a check on irresponsible spending. Those rules are being circumvented here and we would ask that the State’s independent procurement officials review the contract and determine if this is an appropriate use of an emergency contract. To me, the Tollway has failed to make a convincing case. This isn’t a broken water main that poses a danger to drivers on a state roadway. Before a cash-strapped state starts handing over $100,000 a day there should be vetting via an open and transparent process.” Comptroller Mendoza said.

By statute, the conditions under which emergency procurements can take place include a threat to public health or safety; protecting against further loss or damage to State property; preventing disruption in services that affect health, safety or the collection of substantial state revenues; or capitalizing on a discounted price to take advantage of cost savings.

…Adding… From the tollway…


The Illinois Tollway followed the instructions of the independent Chief Procurement Office to use a 90-day emergency procurement to continue work necessary to ensure there is no disruption in our process of implementing the Enterprise Resource Program (ERP).

The procurement will fund work over the next 12 months to complete Phase 1 of the Tollway’s ERP, which is replacing an outdated, costly and obsolete system with a new platform that will streamline administrative operations, provide greater transparency and enhance automated reporting while reducing or preventing audit issues.
These improvements will enable the Tollway to operate more efficiently.


Dan Rozek
Sr. Manager of Communications
Illinois Tollway

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      

The plot thickens on Rauner’s AV

Thursday, Jan 18, 2018

* From the Senate Republicans

Schools do better under current school funding formula than SB 444

Last year, Illinois lawmakers passed, and the Governor signed, historic school funding reform. Then, during the fall veto session, the General Assembly passed a trailer bill (Senate Bill 444) making two technical changes dealing with how Equalized Assessed Valuation (EAV) is calculated in the new school funding formula. The trailer bill advanced so the modeling done by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) for the new formula matched up with the bill that was passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor.

This is unprecedented in terms of school funding; where typically lawmakers get a model of the bill as it was enacted, rather than changing the enacted bill to match the modeling. Unfortunately, ISBE pointed out the discrepancy too late. However, as it turns out, Illinois school districts fare much better under the state’s historic new funding reform law (passed last summer) than they would under SB 444. It is also worth noting ISBE has told staff that “implementation of the new funding law will occur regardless of SB 444” and they will “allocate tier funding based on the law as written.”

According to the Senate Republicans, Chicago Public Schools would receive $45.5 million more under the SB444 trailer bill, which was proposed by the ISBE.

* And that led Dusty Rhodes to tweet this

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      

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Thursday, Jan 18, 2018

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Frerichs: Don’t use new federal rules on 529 programs for state taxes

Thursday, Jan 18, 2018

* Education Week on the new federal tax laws

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act creates a new wrinkle for 529 college savings plans, which are tax advantaged. The bill would allow parents to use them for K-12 expenses, including private school choice, as well as postsecondary costs. The bill puts a $10,000 cap on the money people can set aside for K-12 in these plans.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and others have applauded the move, although DeVos said Tuesday the move has limitations. But others argue it will mainly help wealthier parents who can afford to set money aside, and those already sending their children to private schools.

In a last-minute twist, the Senate parliamentarian on Tuesday ruled that the slice of this provision that allowed 529 plan dollars to be spent on home schooling violated the chamber’s rule. The Senate and then the House voted to approve the bill without this provision covering home schooling costs.

* But Treasurer Frerichs just sent out a warning…

Families that use their Bright Start or Bright Directions college savings accounts to pay for tuition, fees or other expenses at private or parochial schools, including Catholic schools, would violate Illinois’ tax code, Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs cautioned today. Frerichs also emphasized that federal tax reform did not change any of the benefits for using Bright Start or Bright Directions to save or pay for higher education.

Illinois’ tax code specifically limits tax-free growth in Bright Start and Bright Directions accounts when used for qualified higher education expenses. As such, a distribution from a 529 plan for K-12 costs is not a qualified expense for Illinois tax purposes. Families who claim the deduction could face state tax penalties if caught by a state tax auditor.

“Our analysis concludes that families who use Bright Start or Bright Directions money on elementary or high school expenses and then cite those expenditures when seeking tax relief will be in conflict with state law and could incur tax penalties if audited by state authorities,” Frerichs said.

In Illinois, the 529 Bright Start and Bright Directions plans are managed by the state treasurer’s office. The recently passed federal tax package allows states to expand 529 programs to private and religious K‑12 tuition expenses in 2018 and beyond. The federal legislation took effect Jan. 1 and could affect tax filers in 2019.

Here is how the tax break works for Bright Start and Bright Directions college savers who are Illinois taxpayers: Contributions to the accounts reduce a taxpayer’s Illinois adjusted gross income up to $10,000 for individuals and $20,000 for married couples filing jointly. At the federal level, the earnings generated within Bright Start and Bright Directions are not subject to federal income taxes while they accumulate. Also, distributions from these plans are not subject to federal or state income taxes when used for qualified higher education costs such as tuition, mandatory fees, certain room and board, computers and required supplies.

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      

“Watchdog” flatly denies getting money from Illinois Policy Institute, but group funded 98 percent of budget

Thursday, Jan 18, 2018

* Sun-Times

When former Chicago City Council Inspector General Faisal Khan launched his not-for-profit anti-corruption group close to two years ago, he insisted it was independent and nonpartisan.

At the time, Khan refused to disclose who was funding the organization, which he called Project Six — a reference to the group of civic leaders who led the fight against Al Capone during Prohibition. […]

The most recent federal tax filing for the Illinois Policy Institute shows it gave $623,789 to Project Six in 2016 — 98 percent of the group’s first-year budget. The records don’t reveal — and Project Six officials haven’t said — where the rest of its money comes from.

The Illinois Policy Institute, in turn, has received extensive support from foundations tied to some of the country’s biggest Republican contributors, including the Koch, Mercer and Uihlein families, as well as Gov. Bruce Rauner and first lady Diana Rauner’s charitable foundation. […]

In the interviews, Khan offered shifting accounts of Project Six’s financial support. He initially denied the Illinois Policy Institute was among his group’s primary funding sources.

“We’re not getting the money from IPI,” he said. “We get money from all sorts of donors, but we don’t release their names because they fear reprisal from the city of Chicago.”

Who’s watching the watchdogs? The Sun-Times.

- Posted by Rich Miller   43 Comments      

Governor promised “superstar” appointee a year ago, hasn’t delivered

Thursday, Jan 18, 2018

* One year ago today

Gov. Bruce Rauner says there is potential for “superstar” talent to join the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

The Republican governor is tasked with filling the seats for three trustee terms that expired this month. Rauner said he is interviewing a number of high-caliber candidates.

“If we could land one or two of the individuals we are talking with, it would be national or international headlines,” Rauner said while on a visit to Champaign’s Franklin Middle School on Wednesday. He indicated the candidates care about the UI and already have connections to the school.

* This week

As the board prepares to elect new officers Thursday in Chicago, Gov. Bruce Rauner has yet to choose an appointee for the ninth statewide seat vacated last January.

“Our administration is still in the process of considering candidates for this vacancy,” Rauner spokeswoman Rachel Bold said Tuesday.

Last January, three members’ terms expired: Democrats Patricia Brown-Holmes and Ricardo Estrada and Republican Karen Hasara. At the time, the governor said he hoped to fill those vacancies with “superstar” talent.

“If we could land one or two of the individuals we are talking with,” he said 11 months ago, “it would be national or international headlines.”

Bold did not respond to questions about whether those individuals were still in the mix.

* Today’s News-Gazette editorial

It’s hard to dismiss the suspicion that Gov. Bruce Rauner has forgotten that he needs to make one more appointment to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

Rauner, obviously, has a lot on his mind these days.

His office is preparing a budget for the new fiscal year that begins July 1. He’s preparing for legislators to return to Springfield while running for re-election. So he’s clearly busy.

Nonetheless, it’s past time for him to fill the only vacancy on the nine-member University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      

Chicago survives the first cut in Amazon HQ2 sweepstakes

Thursday, Jan 18, 2018

* Crain’s

Amazon today announced that it has picked 20 metro areas “to move to the next phase of the process” as it looks for a home for a second headquarters. The 20 areas in alphabetical order:

    Austin, Texas
    Columbus, Ohio
    Los Angeles
    Montgomery County, Md.
    Nashville, Tenn.
    Newark, N.J.
    New York City
    Northern Virginia
    Raleigh, N.C.
    Washington D.C.

The list is a broad mix of cities big and small, ranging from Columbus, Ohio, and Indianapolis to Los Angeles and New York. It includes many of the early favorites, including Austin, Denver, Boston, Toronto and Washington, D.C. Three of the 20 finalists are near the nation’s capital, where Amazon has 2,500 employees.

Chicago was seen as a likely contender, based on Amazon’s criteria of wanting to be in an urban area with more than 1 million people within 45 minutes of an international airport and preferably have direct access to mass transit.


…Adding… Tribune

“Today we are announcing the communities that will proceed to the next step in the HQ2 process. Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough — all the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity,” Amazon tweeted.

On its website, Amazon said, “In the coming months, Amazon will work with each of the candidate locations to dive deeper into their proposals, request additional information as necessary, and evaluate the feasibility of a future partnership that can accommodate our hiring plans as well as benefit our employees and the local community. We expect to make a decision in 2018.”

Illinois, Chicago and Cook County teamed up to offer more than $2 billion in incentives to Amazon, and offered 10 proposed sites. They are Lincoln Yards, a development along the Chicago River near Lincoln Park and Bucktown; the Downtown Gateway District, which includes space in Willis Tower and redevelopment of the old main post office and Union Station; City Center Campus, a proposed redevelopment of the state-owned Thompson Center in the Loop; the River District, a 37-acre development along the river and Halsted Street; the Burnham Lakefront, a Bronzeville development that includes the Michael Reese Hospital site; the 78, a development planned on 62 acres along the river between the South Loop and Chinatown; Fulton Market district properties controlled by multiple owners; Illinois Medical District redevelopment; the soon-to-be-vacated, 145-acre McDonald’s campus in Oak Brook, which the company will leave for Fulton Market; and more than 260 acres available for development on the longtime Motorola Solutions campus in Schaumburg, where Zurich North America recently built a new headquarters.

…Adding… Mayor Emanuel’s office…

Today’s news makes clear that Amazon recognizes Chicago’s great strengths - access to talent, transportation, higher education, affordability and quality of life, which are the keys to growth and prosperity.

As companies including GE Healthcare, ConAgra and McDonalds have concluded, Chicago offers unparalleled opportunities, and we are going to continue to work as a region to make the case to Amazon that Chicago is the ideal location for HQ2. We are prepared to compete at the next level and the next level after that.

- Posted by Rich Miller   51 Comments      

Rauner to air entire Blagojevich/Pritzker audio this weekend

Thursday, Jan 18, 2018

* Press release…

Today, Citizens for Rauner is launching an extended television ad featuring all 11 minutes of the FBI wiretap between JB Pritzker and disgraced former governor Rod Blagojevich. It will air in every major media market in Illinois on Saturday, January 20 and Sunday, January 21.

It is in response to JB Pritzker’s claim that last week’s ad featuring his conversation with Blagojevich, in which his insider dealings were exposed, was “selectively edited.” That ad highlighted 60 unedited seconds taken straight from the Chicago Tribune reporting of the FBI wiretaps.

JB Pritzker cannot simply dismiss his conversations with a convicted former governor in which he lobbied for his own appointment to statewide political office and encouraged him to engage in a quid pro quo — especially in light of their well-documented, decades-long, cozy political friendship. JB Pritzker is part of the corruption and cronyism that has plagued Illinois for decades. The people of Illinois deserve better.

* The intro is really long, but here you go

* Mark Brown

As far as the Blagojevich tape making Pritzker unelectable, the evidence would indicate even Rauner doesn’t necessarily believe so.

If he did, why would he be trying so hard to blow up Pritzker’s candidacy at this early stage before Pritzker is even the Democratic nominee?

At the very least, though, the recording is a significant problem for Pritzker, one that he keeps trying to shrug off in the affable style that is nearly as responsible for his popularity with Democratic insiders as his very deep pockets.

In an otherwise strong presentation to the Sun-Times’ Editorial Board, Pritzker stuck to his usual talking points when asked about his relationship with Blagojevich.

“Gov. Blagojevich broke the trust with the people of the state of Illinois, and he’s in prison where he belongs,” Pritzker said. “Sadly, we have a government and once again a governor that’s focused on themselves and not on doing what’s right for the people of the state of Illinois. I’m proud about doing public service. Any conversations I had were about doing public service, and any suggestion by Gov. Blagojevich of any contribution I rebuffed.” […]

My own take is that it’s less damning in its entirety than portrayed, though hardly reassuring.

- Posted by Rich Miller   87 Comments      

Adlai III endorses Biss

Thursday, Jan 18, 2018

* Press release…

Today, Daniel Biss announced the endorsement of former United States Senator Adlai Stevenson III.

“Daniel is the only Democratic candidate for governor with legislative experience, having served with distinction in both the House and Senate,” said Adlai Stevenson. “He knows state government—its structure, its processes, and how to pass the policies he believes in. He’s a reformer and a unifier with unparalleled intelligence and integrity. He’s not a billionaire—but the people of Illinois want elections, not auctions. After years of following Daniel’s career, I know he’s the leader we need to get Illinois back on track, and that’s why I’m proud to endorse him today.”

“It’s an honor to receive Adlai’s endorsement,” said Daniel Biss. “A dedicated public servant, long-standing advocate of good government reforms, and expert on all things Illinois politics, Adlai is a trusted friend and advisor. I look forward to having him on our team and to drawing on his experience and ideas as we fight for our shared values in this election cycle and beyond.”

In endorsing Daniel Biss, Adlai Stevenson III joins other progressive leaders and organizations including U.S. Congresswoman Robin Kelly, former Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon, State Representatives Kelly Cassidy, Carol Ammons and Will Guzzardi, and many more.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      

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Thursday, Jan 18, 2018

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Question of the day

Wednesday, Jan 17, 2018

* AP

The November election race for Illinois governor cost $28 million just for the last three months of 2017.

Campaign finance disclosure reports filed this week show that $9 of every $10 was spent by two candidates — Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker.

* The Question: Do you support public financing of campaigns? Why or why not?

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      

Here we go again…

Wednesday, Jan 17, 2018

* Belleville News-Democrat

Gov. Bruce Rauner says the spending plan he will present during his budget address next month will be balanced, but would include spending cuts.

Rauner, who spoke with reporters after meeting with small business owners at the Edwardsville Public Safety Building, said he would not give specifics about possible cuts in the 2018-19 budget. […]

The state House is scheduled to go back into session Jan. 23 and the state Senate on Jan. 30. Rauner’s State Of The State Address is scheduled for Jan. 31, and his budget address is scheduled for Feb. 14.

“I have proposed a balanced budget every year I’ve been governor,” Rauner said.

* Politifact last year

Gov. Rauner said he proposed a balanced budget.

“Today we present you with a balanced budget that shows what is possible if we all come together on a comprehensive approach to state finances and job creation” the governor told lawmakers.

Yet, the budget book produced by the governor’s office of management and budget suggests the budget is balanced by “working together on a grand bargain.” A so-called grand bargain budget compromise, though, has not been achieved or enacted.

Illinois government finance experts agree Rauner’s proposal is not balanced.

We rate this claim Pants On Fire.

- Posted by Rich Miller   47 Comments      

Who raised what in AG race?

Wednesday, Jan 17, 2018

* Sun-Times

In the heated primary for attorney general, Democrats tried to raise money quick after incumbent Lisa Madigan’s surprise decision not to seek re-election. State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, reported $781,825, spent about $109,000 and has $1.079 million on hand. He received $5,000 from Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, and smaller contributions from other fellow Democratic lawmakers. And he took in $10,000 each from Top Tobacco, Top Tubes and Republic Tobacco, all contributions that have been criticized by some of his opponents.

Former Gov. Pat Quinn received about $79,000 in contributions for his bid for attorney general, including a $55,400 transfer from the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters PAC. He spent $32,496.08 and has $278,714.04 on hand.

Former Civilian Office of Police Accountability chief Sharon Fairley received more than $195,000 in contributions, and reported a $300,000 loan from herself. She has $387,840 on hand. Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti took in $345,000 in contributions and spent about $146,000. He has a bit more than $198,000.

State Rep. Scott Drury, D-Highwood, took in $506,000 in contributions and spent about $72,100. He has $731,187.94 on hand.

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering took in more than $452,000 in contributions and $178,000 in loans. She spent $146,000 and had $574,383 on hand.

Chicago Park Board President Jesse Ruiz took in about $449,000 in contributions and loaned himself $100,000. He spent $194,000 and had $355,147 on hand.

Attorney Aaron Goldstein reported nearly $18,000 in contributions and loaned himself $185,000. He spent nearly $30,000 and has $206,959 on hand.

* Meanwhile, on the GOP side

Erika Harold opposed legalizing marijuana back in 2014 when she ran for Congress — but on Tuesday, the Republican attorney general candidate said she believes Illinois should start “exploring” legalization.

She noted that there is a push in Illinois to legalize pot, and the state should be ready.

“I want Illinois to prepared for that because I think that’s ultimately where we’re going to be,” Harold said. “And I think we want to be prepared to deal with it in a way that makes sense and that protects people as much as possible.” […]

While Harold — who lost a bid for Congress in 2014 to U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis — criticized outgoing attorney general Lisa Madigan for over-politicizing her post in fighting President Donald Trump’s policies, the Harvard-educated lawyer and former Miss America on Tuesday also took issue with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ memo that rescinded a policy that discouraged federal prosecutors in most marijuana cases from bringing charges wherever the drug is legal under state laws. It essentially allows federal prosecutors to more aggressively prosecute marijuana laws.

* Back to the Democrats

Then there’s state Rep. Scott Drury of suburban Highwood. He’s the real black sheep of this august group, the bete noir of a party establishment led by Democratic state party chairman and all-powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Madigan not only doesn’t want Drury to win the Democratic Party’s nomination to run for his daughter’s current job, he also doesn’t — make that didn’t — want Drury in the race at all.

That’s why powerful Democrats tried — and failed — to knock Drury off the ballot with a clever ploy to challenge the legality of his candidate filing.

Was Madigan behind the effort?

He’s too clever to leave his fingerprints behind. But Madigan’s chief of staff, Tim Mapes, obtained copies of Drury’s petitions, and Drury was the only candidate whose petitions were challenged by party regulars.

As I told subscribers weeks ago, Mapes pulled petitions for just about every candidate in just about every race throughout the state.

* Related…

* Dems try to stand out in attorney general primary

* Candidates for Illinois Attorney General discuss women’s issues, Trump: Chicago resident Milton Davis said he was impressed with the candidates’ qualifications and answers. Still, Davis said it was hard for a specific candidate to stand out in a crowded field with similar progressive views. “There was not any one,” Davis said. “I saw some of the same answers come from different people.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      

Warning issued over putting medically fragile children in Medicaid managed care

Wednesday, Jan 17, 2018

* Susan Agrawal writing in Crain’s

Recent questions over Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Medicaid managed care overhaul have mostly focused on the program’s rising costs and secretive contracting processes. Much less attention has been paid to the potential human impact of the program, which will force more than 500,000 people to change their insurance plans, and touch roughly one quarter of all Illinois residents. While the goal of the program is to improve health and reduce costs, there will, in fact, be plenty of people harmed by the transition.

Among the most at-risk are children with chronic, severe medical conditions, also known as children who are medically fragile. For children who are medically fragile, managed care will be devastating. Cutting services and benefits is the only way for managed care organizations to reduce costs for this population.

Until her death in 2014, my daughter Karuna participated in a program called the Medically Fragile, Technology Dependent Medicaid Waiver, which allows children requiring ventilators, tracheostomies or central intravenous lines to live at home, thanks to home nursing provided by Illinois Medicaid. Traditionally, states have recognized that children like Karuna aren’t a good fit for managed care, because their needs are too specialized and extraordinary. Unfortunately, the Rauner administration chose to ignore this precedent, and plans on moving these children into managed care starting in July.

The few states that have moved individuals who are medically fragile into managed care have experienced unanticipated negative outcomes, including loss of home nursing care; elimination of therapy services, medication and service denials; hospitalizations; emergency visits; and even deaths. In Illinois, the situation would likely be even worse, since managed care organization contracts have no provisions that would ensure children who are medically fragile maintain access to their medical equipment suppliers, home nurses and pediatric subspecialists. These omissions will put the lives of children like Karuna at risk, and will also inevitably cost taxpayers, who will be forced to pay for hospitalizations when children can’t get the care they need at home.

* Related…

* Health Insurer Centene Is Sued Over Lack of Medical Coverage: People signed up for insurance and they “ discovered there were no doctors,” said Seth Lesser, a partner at the law firm of Klafter Olsen & Lesser who is representing some of the policyholders.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      

Schakowsky, Gutierrez endorse Lipinski’s Democratic opponent

Wednesday, Jan 17, 2018

* Sun-Times

In a rare break of the usual tradition of House incumbents either backing each other or staying neutral in a primary, Illinois Democratic Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Luis Gutierrez on Wednesday are endorsing challenger Marie Newman over Rep. Dan Lipinski.

Newman winning the backing of Schakowsky and Gutierrez dramatizes the intra-party Democratic divide that is animating this contest for the third congressional district seat.

Lipinski is one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress. Newman’s views are allied with Schakowsky and Gutierrez, prominent members of the Democratic progressive wing.

Informing Newman’s bid: In the March 2016 presidential primary, in the third district, Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent, beat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clinton went on to defeat President Donald Trump in the district.

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      

Rauner tied to Greitens, Pritzker tied to Blagojevich

Wednesday, Jan 17, 2018

* DGA…

Governor Bruce Rauner reiterated yesterday that an ad, featuring embattled Governor Eric Greitens, was only taken down because of scheduling. Rauner said the campaign decision to take down the ad was “not related” to news that Greitens has been accused of blackmailing his mistress, or that Greitens is facing calls for his own resignation. Nope, Rauner was not making any grand statement with his decision.

Rauner’s put at least $1.3 million behind an ad featuring Governor Greitens, which has been running on and off since Rauner announced for reelection. When news broke last week that Greitens was accused of blackmailing his mistress, Rauner did not renounce Greitens’ endorsement and his campaign told reporters the ad was simply being shifted out of rotation. Rauner’s campaign even left up a Facebook post with the ad.

Yesterday, Rauner was asked if the ad came down because of accusations against Greitens – Rauner said that was not the case (watch here):

    “Question: In regard to your past political support for Governor Greitens, maybe you can tell us why the ‘Thank You, Mike Madigan’ ad was pulled and do you think Governor Greitens should resign?

    “Rauner: Ah, well, the charges that have been made, the allegations in that situation are very serious. There is an investigation underway. And I do hope they get to the truth in that situation very quickly.

    “Question: So, you have not made any decision on whether he should resign?

    “Rauner: I think the investigation is underway.

    “Question: Why was the ad pulled, the ‘Thank You, Mike Madigan’ ad?

    “Rauner: Ah, I don’t think those were related. I think there’s a plan in place that’s been going on for a while about messaging and that’s a separate issue.”

Back at home, members of his own party are calling for Greitens to step aside. But not Bruce Rauner, who has not ruled out running the ad again.

“Bruce Rauner is sticking by his political allies rather than doing what is right,” said DGA Illinois Communications Director Sam Salustro. “It’s time for Rauner to cut ties with Governor Greitens, stop playing his video on social media, and promise never to run the ad again. Rauner has failed to show any moral leadership this week and giving political support to an accused blackmailer is sending the wrong message.”

* Rauner campaign…

Last week, in response to a new Citizens for Rauner TV ad, JB Pritzker claimed that “nobody knew” the FBI was investigating now-imprisoned ex-governor Rod Blagojevich at the time he was caught on FBI wiretap negotiating with him for his own appointment to statewide political office.

But his own words on FBI tapes about cutting an insider deal with Blagojevich, combined with prominent media reports publicly showing how the investigation into corruption in the Blagojevich administration unfolded, clearly show that JB Pritzker wasn’t telling the truth.

So why did JB Pritzker lie to cover up his ties to Blagojevich? Because telling the truth would reveal decades of corrupt, insider dealing in the midst of his campaign for governor. The two were cozy political allies, engaged in endless favor-trading – until one of them ended up behind bars.

Here’s a timeline to illustrate their unseemly connection:

1996 – JB Pritzker makes his first appearance as a money man for Blagojevich’s political career, saying ‘I’m JB Pritzker; I help with fund-raising’ (Jorge Oclander, “In Mell’s World, It’s Politics as Usual,” Chicago Sun-Times, 3/23/1996)

1996 – JB Pritzker and his wife give $3,000 to Blagojevich’s congressional campaign

1998 – After JB Pritzker finished 3rd out of five candidates in the Democratic primary for U.S. Congress in Illinois’ 9th Congressional district, Blagojevich gushes praise on the failed candidate, saying, “Remember, Abraham Lincoln didn’t win his first election and Mario Cuomo lost several races before he got elected. For JB, this is only the beginning”

2002 – JB Pritzker gives $30,000 to Blagojevich’s first gubernatorial run (State Board of Elections)

2003 – As a reward for being a member of his infamous $25,000 Club, Blagojevich appoints JB Pritzker as chair of the Illinois Human Rights Commission

2006 – Pritzker gives $100,000 to Blagojevich’s reelection campaign (State Board of Elections)

2006 – As a reward for being his 5th biggest donor, Blagojevich authorizes $1 million state grant to Holocaust museum project for which JB Pritzker served as finance chief

2008 – FBI wiretaps reveal Pritzker encouraged Blagojevich to engage in a quid pro quo with Mike Madigan for President-elect Obama’s soon-to-be vacated U.S. Senate seat, while lobbying for a top state job for himself

2018 – JB Pritzker claims no one knew Blagojevich was being investigated

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      

Some states looking for ways around federal tax law

Wednesday, Jan 17, 2018

* Maryland

Democrats in Maryland’s state legislature on Tuesday rolled out three bills in response to the new tax overhaul that President Trump signed last month, including trying to protect state and local tax (SALT) deductions. […]

One of the bills is designed to mitigate the fact that the new tax law caps the SALT deduction at $10,000. Under the measure, Maryland residents would be able to make charitable contributions to a state fund and receive a credit against their state taxes. The donations could still be deductible from federal taxes.

The other two bills would decouple Maryland’s tax code from the federal tax code.

One would allow Maryland residents to still claim personal exemptions on their state taxes, even though personal exemptions are eliminated from the federal tax code. Lawmakers said that residents would see state tax increases absent this change.

The other would separate the Maryland and federal estate taxes. The new federal tax law increases the amount that’s exempt from the estate tax to about $11 million for an individual, and Maryland Democrats want to limit the state’s exemption about to about $5 million.

* More

The federal tax bill would ultimately cost Marylanders about $1 billion, Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. estimated, with “$680 million in exemptions taken away.”

The bills would lower state taxes for about 92 percent of Marylanders, they said.

* Meanwhile, in New York

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed conversion from an income tax to a payroll tax would be voluntary for some businesses, officials said Tuesday.

Cuomo, a Democrat, broke with expectation and did not include details of his planned changes to the state tax code when he unveiled a $168.2 billion spending plan. Instead, the governor said his tax commissioner will release a preliminary report on the potential change on Wednesday, as well as other proposals to help high-tax New York avoid the pinch of federal limits on the deductibility of state and local taxes.

That includes, as other states have proposed, setting up dedicated funds through which New Yorkers could donate to local governments and allowing businesses to substitute payroll taxes — which are fully deductible under the federal tax bill, H.R. 1 (115) — for income taxes, whose combined deductibility with property taxes is capped at $10,000. […]

The payroll tax switch has been described by business leaders as more complicated than the donation-credit ideas advancing in New Jersey and California, but its principal benefit is its application to a wider range of people — not simply those who elect to use it, as a donation would be.

* California

The proposed California workaround, by Senate leader Kevin de Leon, is the first of what are expected to be several legislative efforts in high-tax states to mitigate the impact of the SALT deduction cap on their residents.

The average state and local tax deduction claimed by Californians is well above the cap, at $18,438, according to de Leon’s office.

To help ensure they can still deduct much or all of the state and local taxes they pay, de Leon has proposed letting residents make a charitable contribution to the state in exchange for a tax credit.

That way, the charitable contribution would be deductible on their federal return, since the new federal tax law doesn’t limit deductions for charitable gifts except in certain instances.

…Adding… HB4237

Amends the Illinois Income Tax Act. Creates an income tax credit in an amount equal to the contributions made by the taxpayer to the Illinois Excellence Fund during the taxable year. Amends the State Finance Act. Creates the Illinois Excellence Fund. Provides that moneys in the Fund shall be used for exclusively public purposes, as specified under Section 170 of the Internal Revenue Code relating to charitable contributions and gifts. Amends the Counties Code. Provides that the county board may establish a fund in the county treasury for the purpose of accepting contributions for exclusively public purposes, as specified under Section 170 of the Internal Revenue Code relating to charitable contributions and gifts and may provide for a credit against the taxpayer’s property tax liability in an amount equal to the amount of the contribution. Effective immediately.

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      

*** UPDATED x2 - Pritzker, Rauner, RGA respond *** Watch Dem candidates appear at Sun-Times

Wednesday, Jan 17, 2018

* The Chicago Sun-Times is broadcasting its editorial board meeting with the Democratic gubernatorial candidates on YouTube. Watch it

*** UPDATE 1 *** Rauner campaign…

Following the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board meeting with Democratic candidates for Illinois governor, Citizens for Rauner Communications Director Will Allison released the following statement:

“One thing was clear from today’s forum: no matter who wins the Democratic primary, he’ll be running on an agenda of more tax hikes on Illinois families and businesses. For JB Pritzker, he claims he has detailed plans, but when will he specify the rates on his progressive income tax proposal?” - Will Allison, Communications Director for Citizens for Rauner

* RGA…

“Today’s Chicago Sun-Times editorial board meeting was a train-wreck for Illinois Democrats, with candidates arguing amongst themselves over who is most beholden to the special interests and crooked politics that have dominated Illinois for so long. The reality is that they all have deep ties to disgraced politicians like Mike Madigan or Rod Blagojevich, and that the general election will be a stark contrast between their politics as usual and the reform agenda of Governor Bruce Rauner.” – Republican Governors Association Spokesman Steven Yaffe

*** UPDATE 2 *** Pritzker campaign…

Today, JB Pritzker demonstrated why he is the best candidate to take on Bruce Rauner and get Illinois back on track at the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board interview. JB highlighted his record of getting big things done for Illinois’ working families and standing up for progressive values while consistently holding Bruce Rauner accountable for his failed leadership. JB laid out his plans to reverse Rauner’s systemic disinvestment in Illinois communities and grow the economy statewide, demonstrating he is the candidate with the vision and leadership to move Illinois forward.

“JB is the only candidate in this race ready to take on Bruce Rauner and he made that clear at the Sun-Times today,” said Pritzker campaign manager Anne Caprara. “With his record of standing up for progressive values and his plans to grow the Illinois economy and create jobs statewide, it is clear that JB has the vision and leadership to move Illinois forward. JB was proud to hold that record up to Bruce Rauner’s record of failed leadership and will continue to make that message clear throughout this campaign.”

The campaign also released this video excerpt

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      

Poll: Rauner leads Ives 65-21

Wednesday, Jan 17, 2018

* We Ask America poll of 1,026 likely voters taken January 14-16 with a margin of error of ±3.06 percent

If the GOP Primary for Illinois governor were held today, for whom would you vote?

    Bruce Rauner 64.59%
    Jeanne Ives 20.51%
    Undecided 14.90%

Please give us your general opinion of Jeanne Ives.

    Never heard of 68.43%
    Favorable 13.92%
    Unfavorable 4.51%
    Neutral 13.14%

Please give us your general opinion of Bruce Rauner.

    Never heard of 0.39%
    Favorable 64.71%
    Unfavorable 25.10%
    Neutral 9.80%

A We Ask America poll taken in October had the race at 64-19.

* Tribune

* Bruce Rauner: Raised $2.9 million. Spent $12.8 million. Had $55.6 million in the bank.

* Jeanne Ives: Raised $433,660. Spent $38,922. Had $662,464 in the bank.

- Posted by Rich Miller   51 Comments      

Not the governor’s greatest day

Wednesday, Jan 17, 2018

* Tribune

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s campaign on Tuesday clarified the governor believes former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke is a racist, amid Democratic criticism that Rauner failed to take such a stand a day earlier.


Governor Bruce Rauner went on the record calling former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke a racist.

The governor faced criticism after refusing to take that stand on WVON Radio on Martin Luther King Day.

* AP

After fumbling the answer to a question about whether a former Ku Klux Klan leader is a racist, the campaign of Republican Bruce Rauner on Tuesday clarified the governor’s opinion of David Duke.

During a radio interview on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, Rauner was asked if President Donald Trump was racist following reports he used vulgar language to refer to African nations. Trump allegedly also questioned why America would want to accept more immigrants from Haiti. Rauner repeatedly declined to directly answer, saying “that language has no place in our political conversation.”

When WVON-AM host Charles Thomas on Monday asked if Duke is a racist, Rauner would only respond “we have racism in our society.”

“We have got to come together to change our system,” Rauner said.

* Back to the Tribune

It’s not the first time Rauner has been criticized for attempting to brush aside questions about racism. Last summer, he resisted denouncing a political cartoon amid complaints that its message was racist. He also was slow to label a deadly incident in Charlottesville, Va. involving white supremacists as domestic terrorism.

Whether it’s because he’s being cautious or isn’t prepared for such questions, Rauner’s responses sometimes end up making the issues bigger than they otherwise might have been. Facing a primary challenge from his right flank and looking ahead to a potentially tough general election, Rauner’s political calculation has been to avoid further alienating his conservative base, even if that means allowing a narrative to emerge that calls into question his willingness to denounce the fringe elements from his party.

* Korecki makes a good point

It’s been a tough road for Gov. Rauner, who can hardly go a day, it seems, without putting out a fire, tamping down a crisis or making an unforced error.

It happened again this week when Rauner joined WVON hosts on the Martin Luther King holiday. That’s when Charles Thomas (former ABC political reporter) and Maze Jackson asked Rauner about Donald Trump’s recent immigration comments and whether the president was racist. Rauner danced around it, as he does with just about every Trump question. Thomas pushed Rauner: “is David Duke racist? … I mean, what about Donald Trump?” […]

Duke, the former KKK leader, wrote of Rauner on his web site: “deep down in his soul, deep down something’s happened inside of him, and he knows that I’m not really a racist.”

Nah man, Rauner definitely thinks you’re a racist. Rauner’s problem is that he ties himself into a pretzel to avoid talking about Trump. Now he’s paying the price.

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** Kennedy needs to dig deeper, but can he?

Wednesday, Jan 17, 2018

*** UPDATE *** As I said would happen earlier today, Kennedy just reported depositing another $250K into his campaign account.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* Politico

But a source from the Kennedy campaign tells POLITICO that Kennedy later this week is expected to give himself a “significant boost” by once again digging into his own pockets. Kennedy so far has donated $500,000 to his own campaign fund. He’s up against billionaire J.B. Pritzker who has plowed $42 million into his bid. However, lesser known candidate, state Sen. Daniel Biss, waited to start ads until after the new year and has burned through less cash, giving him more money to play with before Election Day.

Kennedy has actually contributed $750,000 to his campaign so far. Those contributions, in $250,000 increments, have mostly been made at the end of the quarters. He can’t wait until the end of this quarter, which would fall after primary day. So, he’s planning to kick in his usual $250K later this week, I’m told.

Obviously, he needs a whole lot more cash than that. And there are those on the campaign pushing him to dig much deeper into his bank account. But Kennedy doesn’t have Pritzker or Rauner money. A longtime friend of his told me not long ago that he believed Kennedy was worth about $10 million. So, by that measure, after this next $250K check, Kennedy will have kicked in ten percent of his net worth. Pritzker would need to spend $340 million before reaching that same point.



Spending on advertising ramped up significantly this quarter, with candidates reporting a total of $15 million in advertising-related costs. This compares to just $6.2 million spent on ads in the 3rd quarter, and $7.5 million spent in the 2nd quarter. J.B. Pritzker led the pack in ad spending with $8.4 million. Governor Rauner followed close behind with $6.7 million in reported ad spending in the 4th quarter. Senator Biss reporting $85,000 in ad-related costs, while candidates Kennedy and Ives both reported about $11,000 each in ad spending. Kennedy reported an additional $32,000 in printing costs, which could include some print advertising.

Personnel was the next most costly expenditure reported by gubernatorial candidates, with a total of $3.1 million spent on staffing-related items. J.B. Pritzker reported $2 million in personnel costs, while Rauner reported just under $400,000. Chris Kennedy spent an amount close to Rauner, with $381,000, and Senator Biss reported about $300,000 in personnel costs. Total payroll costs slightly exceeded the third quarter, in which candidates reported spending a total of $2.35 million.

Finally, candidates spent heavily on consulting services. Chris Kennedy spent a considerable amount in this category, totaling about $912,000 – just over half of his $1.6 million in spending for the quarter. Over $681,000 of his consultant spending was labeled as “media consulting.” Pritzker spent the most on consulting with $1.6 million, and Rauner and Biss trailed with $376,000 and $112,000 respectively.

Man, that Pritzker and his spending. Whew. $2 million on staff? In three months?

And the way I read Kennedy’s D-2, most of Kennedy’s “media consulting” expenditures were actually for producing and broadcasting his TV ad. So, I don’t think ICPR got that one right.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      

The fight for second place

Wednesday, Jan 17, 2018

* Mary Ann Ahern

A Democratic candidate for Illinois governor accused another on Tuesday of not playing by the rules when it comes to affordable housing.

State Sen. Daniel Biss said one of his opponents, Chris Kennedy, is pushing people out of their neighborhood with the Wolf Point development on Chicago’s Near North Side.

One luxury high-rise is already up and another is on its way in the Wolf Point development, owned by the Kennedy family, along with three others.

But Biss claimed Tuesday that Kennedy should have considered how to provide affordable housing in the building - an issue that may have never surfaced had Kennedy not first criticized Mayor Rahm Emanuel of a similar offense. […]

“When Chris Kennedy skirts the rules by using his connections to powerful attorneys to avoid affordable housing requirements, that doesn’t just make him richer, that pushes people out of a neighborhood and makes working families struggle more,” Biss said Tuesday.

However, Kennedy fired back and claimed Biss is misinformed.

“There was no law broken, there was no law skirted, there was no payoff,” Kennedy said, arguing that the land was zoned back in 1973, and therefore the city rules on affordable housing do not apply.

I’m not clear about how the Wolf Point development is “pushing people out of their neighborhood.” Seems overly dramatic.

* On to Mark Brown, who points out that a big aspect of Biss’ press conference was a push for rent control legislation

On Tuesday, Biss used a luxury high-rise development being constructed by one of his opponents, Chris Kennedy, as the backdrop to make his case for repealing the state’s rent control ban.

Biss and his lieutenant governor running mate, Rep. Litesa Wallace, were joined at the press conference by Rep. Will Guzzardi, who is the main sponsor of the repeal legislation, and Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th), who said he wants the city to enact rent control. […]

But he’s found surprising company on the rent control issue from Pritzker, who also has staked a claim to it as he tries to burnish his own progressive credentials and fight back against Biss’ portrayal of him as just another out-of-touch billionaire.

In an interview last week, Pritzker told me he also favors removing the state “moratorium” so that local communities could “choose to have rent control.”

“That’s one example of how we might be able to begin to fight gentrification,” he said.

Pritzker also pointedly noted: “That’s not something that Chris Kennedy has advocated.”

A Kennedy spokeswoman confirmed his opposition to rent control and accused Biss of “political pandering.”

“Chris supports affordable housing and the need to put an end to strategic gentrification. Rent control is not a solution solving either of those issues. In fact, studies show that rent control worsens income inequality in gentrifying cities,” she said.

* Greg Hinz on the politics

But with Pritzker believed to be well ahead in the polls—though short of 50 percent—the only way to catch him may be for either Biss or Kennedy to effectively implode or otherwise be made irrelevant, leaving the survivor with a better shot.

Biss’ pivot to attacking Kennedy is “a smart move,” said Democratic consultant Tom Bowen, who is not working for a candidate for governor this winter. “The battle for the No. 2 position is the only way to block Pritzker. Fracturing the vote won’t work.”

Put a different way, with Pritzker having consolidated support from labor, committeemen and much of the rest of the party establishment, the question is whether Kennedy or Biss will be able to do so among progressives.

Said a close Kennedy ally, “Biss has no choice” but to go negative on Kennedy. “He has to find a way to step over Chris to have a shot against Pritzker.”

Pritzker doesn’t need 50 percent in a multi-candidate primary, but the rest of this is right. Biss has to somehow leapfrog Kennedy.

But this fight for second place can’t last too long. The object is to win, not come in second. Kennedy’s famous last name keeps him in the race. Biss has a few million bucks to play with, but that’s not enough to overcome Kennedy’s inherent advantage.

Your thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      

Group offers possible fix to problems with Rauner’s AV

Wednesday, Jan 17, 2018

* Background is here. This isn’t a bad idea at all

Empower Illinois understands and appreciates the effort to resolve the recognition issue facing many private K-12 schools in Illinois. All quality private schools deserve access to the Tax Credit Scholarship Program provided by the Invest in Kids Act.

After the passage of SB1947, many private schools found themselves investigating how to participate in the tax credit program.

While many were registered with the Illinois State Board of Education, a significant number had not pursued recognition, a voluntary process many deemed unnecessary in the private school marketplace.

While Governor Rauner’s amendatory veto of SB444 aimed to allow these schools to participate this year, it went too far, decreasing the standard schools need to meet in order to participate, and imperiling the positive funding opportunities of SB444.

Empower Illinois believes that a compromise can be reached, which will increase the number of schools that can participate in the program without decreasing their quality, instead improving the standards that allow participation in the program. The compromise, if signed by the Governor, will also allow SB444 to become law.

EI urges legislators to refile SB444, with the following amendment added:

“Qualified school” means a non-public school located in Illinois and recognized by the Board pursuant to Section 2-3.25o of the School Code or accredited by an accrediting agency approved by the Board. A non-public school shall become a qualified school immediately upon being recognized by the Board or immediately upon having their accreditation status approved by the Board.

Accreditation, like recognition, is a detailed review process, but it goes further — it not only looks at the health and safety at non-public schools, but also a school’s academic quality.

Further, it is our position that if a school is recognized or accredited in the 2017-2018 school year, IDOR should allow SGOs to list these schools for donors to donate to, and for students to receive scholarships. Of course, SGOs would not be able to submit payment to these schools until they officially become recognized or upon adoption of the suggested amendment, accredited too.

This amendment would not unnecessarily hold up critical public-school funding in Illinois while also increasing the number, and quality of non-public schools that can participate in the first year of the tax credit scholarship program.

It’s a win-win for all; especially the children for whom are our priority.

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      

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Wednesday, Jan 17, 2018

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Chris Kennedy’s 4th quarter burn rate topped 150 percent, had just $737K in the bank

Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018

* This is not the D-2 you want to file just before the final sprint to primary day

And $250,000 of that million dollars he raised came from his own pocket.

…Adding… To put this into a bit of perspective, Sen. Daniel Biss ended the 4th quarter with $3.1 million in the bank. That’s well over four times what Kennedy had on hand. Ridiculous.

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 - Rauner campaign responds *** David Duke tries to use Rauner quote to his own advantage

Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018

* Background is here. As noted at that link, the governor’s campaign eventually said Rauner “believes that David Duke is a racist,” but Duke either didn’t get the memo or ignored it…

Former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke is thanking Bruce Rauner for not calling him a racist. Duke posted audio and the following image on his website:

Around the 19-minute mark, Duke says: “I think that’s what happened to the Governor of Illinois. Probably at some point, he’s heard about David Duke a million times, he’s in politics, he goes to, he’s read some of the things I say, and deep down in his soul, deep down something’s happened inside of him, and he knows that I’m not really a racist.”

“While Bruce Rauner doesn’t have too many people in his corner as of late, he just picked up a new supporter: Former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke,” said Pritzker campaign communications director Galia Slayen. “With one of the most avowed white supremacists by his side, perhaps Rauner would like to try out a different talking point on whether or not Duke is a racist.”

* I was actually listening to the Duke broadcast when the press release came through (a GOP buddy of mine sent me a link). Duke also said this

But it’s very interesting that the governor wouldn’t do it. And I think in the course of discussions, in the course of a conversation, sometimes the truth is kinda blurted out, or the truth is stated sometimes in absentia because he wouldn’t call Trump a racist and he wouldn’t call me a racist specifically. The quotation is pretty amazing about what happened here. So he had a black guy interviewing him and a white guy interviewing him and said, ‘well is Trump or not racist? You won’t call Trump a racist? Will you call David Duke a racist?’ And he didn’t answer it. He answered in general terms: ‘Well, we have racism in this country.’

Governor, the next time Charles Thomas pitches you a softball, please, just swing at it.

…Adding… I stopped listening after just a few minutes, but someone else I know kept at it. Duke did address the campaign statement about him being a racist…

And of course the governor, after this happened, of course all of his probably Jewish advisors, they said quote ‘The governor believes that David Duke is a racist.’ He just didn’t say so in the interview because it wasn’t scripted then.


*** UPDATE *** Rauner campaign spokesman Will Allison…

Governor Rauner believes that David Duke is a racist and it’s shameful that Duke is blatantly making things up for his website. JB Pritzker should be ashamed that he is providing David Duke a platform by promoting his lies.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      

Rauner marks yet another milestone in criminal justice reform

Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018

* Press release…

Gov. Bruce Rauner is building on his efforts to improve outcomes for individuals who are incarcerated in Illinois.

He toured Logan Correctional Center, the female inmate facility in Lincoln, just before signing House Bill 1479 and solidifying the creation of a new women’s division within the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC).

House Bill 1479 comes on the heels of passage of House Bill 3904, the Women’s Correctional Services Act. These historic pieces of legislation require the IDOC to appoint a chief administrator for the women’s division, incorporate gender-responsive programming, and address the specific challenges that female offenders face.

“Men and women respond to incarceration differently. It’s time we adjust our strategies and find solutions that set women up for success when they leave prison,” Rauner said. “Many of these women are mothers. If we don’t take steps to help put them on a better path, we will see their sons and daughters cycle through the prison system. We can’t have that.”

The department jump-started its efforts to restructure its operations for female offenders in 2015, after the Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform suggested it implement gender-responsive and trauma-informed treatment programs.

Now, incarcerated women are participating in courses tailored to help them overcome any physical, sexual or emotional abuse they may have experienced and get on a path to healing.

These pieces of legislation ensure IDOC staff is trained to work collaboratively with women to address their unique needs and improve safety and wellness throughout all women’s correctional facilities.

“We recognize that making real change also means investing in our staff, giving them tools that help keep them safe on the job,” said IDOC Director John Baldwin. “We’re teaching them how to use their authority effectively, how to understand the needs of female offenders, and how to help the women restructure their thinking about challenging situations. Our staff had never received these types of training before 2015.”

“As chief sponsor of this national model legislation, I was proud to work with the Illinois Department of Corrections and The Women’s Justice Initiative on such an unprecedented effort to improve safety and outcomes for justice-involved women in prisons and our communities,” said state Rep. Julianna Stratton, D-Chicago. “I commend my colleagues and the administration for coming together in such a bipartisan manner on behalf of this long overlooked population, which disproportionately impacts communities of color, and hope they will continue to be supportive throughout the implementation process.”

“Incarcerated women face a unique set of challenges, including higher rates of mental illness, histories of abuse, generational poverty and discrimination,” said state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Chicago Heights, who was the chief sponsor of the bill in the Senate. “Putting an increased focus on these challenges eliminates antiquated policy that for too long has failed to ensure women receive the rehabilitation needed to become successful members of our society.”

“The creation of a women’s division within the Department of Corrections is a major step forward for our state,” said Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield. “This division will focus resources to address the specific needs of women who are incarcerated and will make Illinois a leader on trauma-informed services specific to the female population in our correctional system. I applaud my colleagues who championed this legislation and Gov. Rauner for his commitment to reforming our criminal justice system.”

Criminal Justice Reform has been a staple of the Rauner administration. Rauner has worked with the General Assembly to remove barriers that prevented people convicted of crimes from receiving their professional licenses in healthcare industries and cosmetology. And, men and women who leave prison now have access to their birth certificates and state identification, making it easier to secure housing, find employment and open a bank account.

Within weeks of taking office, Rauner announced his goal of reducing the prison population by 25 percent by the year 2025. When Rauner was inaugurated in January 2015, the IDOC population stood at 48,214. As of mid-January of this year, the number is 41,050, a 14.8 percent drop.

* Related…

* Rauner tours Lincoln prison, touts reforms helping female inmates

* Rauner signs law creating IDOC women’s division at Logan prison

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      

IDPH loses yet another medical marijuana court case

Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018

* Tribune

A judge has ordered Illinois officials to add intractable pain as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana, a ruling that could greatly expand access to the drug.

The Illinois Department of Public Health had rejected intractable pain — defined as pain that’s resistant to treatment — but Cook County Judge Raymond Mitchell ordered the agency to add the condition.

A health department spokeswoman said Tuesday the agency will appeal the ruling. The change is expected to be put on hold while the appeal is pursued. […]

Mednick had previously petitioned the state to put intractable pain on the marijuana treatment access list, and the now-defunct Illinois Medical Cannabis Advisory Board agreed it should be on the list, voting 10-0 to recommend adding the condition.

But the health department’s director, Dr. Nirav Shah, denied the recommendation in January 2016, citing a “lack of high-quality data” from clinical trials to establish that the benefits outweighed the risks.

* This isn’t the first time Director Shah has lost in court. He ought to give up…

* Judge Rules IBS Gets A Second Chance To Be Added To Approved List

* Illinois ordered to rethink medical marijuana for migraines

* Judge orders Illinois to authorize medical marijuana for PTSD

* Judge Orders Post-Operative Chronic Pain be Added to Medical Marijuana Program

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      

Question of the day

Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018

* Gubernatorial candidates Jeanne Ives and Tio Hardimann pose for a photo

* The Question: Caption?

- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      

Rauner says he’s for Medicaid work requirement, but won’t make it a priority

Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018

* Pritzker campaign…

Hi there–

Bruce Rauner announced this month that he is in favor of imposing work requirements for Medicaid eligibility. His decision comes after the Trump administration released new guidelines supporting these work requirements, in yet another display of Rauner standing with Donald Trump instead of working families in Illinois.

Tell Bruce Rauner that these requirements are bad for Illinois.

Imposing these work requirements hurts the people of our state. The requirements could cause thousands of Illinoisans to lose their health insurance, decreasing their chances of ever becoming healthy enough to work. In addition, a great deal of time and resources would be needed to check every recipient’s eligibility. This would result in high administrative costs that would inevitably be passed on to taxpayers.

We need a governor who fights to make sure all Illinoisans have access to quality healthcare. Rather than try to kick people off Medicaid, my healthcare plan, IllinoisCares, is a public option allowing anyone to buy into a state healthcare plan.This would give Illinoisans a lower-cost option when faced with rising premiums, at no additional cost to taxpayers.

Healthcare is a right, not a privilege. The leader of this state should understand that, and work hard to ensure that all Illinoisans are covered. Instead, Bruce Rauner is cowering to Donald Trump and supporting policies that could result in thousands losing their healthcare.

Help put an end to Rauner’s harmful policies by calling and making your voice heard.

Thanks for your help—

* But it’s not that simple

“I do support a work requirement for able-bodied adults in Medicaid and our administration is working on that,” Rauner said at a news conference after speaking to small business owners at Bradley University’s Peoria Next Innovation Center. […]

In Illinois, though, Rauner said “our first challenge is to make sure we’ve got jobs — good jobs — available for everyone.

“We don’t have jobs available for everyone and that’s got to be our priority, because trying to force people to work but if there’s no work opportunity, that’s not going to succeed,” he added.

Asked if he would push for a work requirement during the upcoming legislative session, Rauner, who is seeking re-election in the fall, reiterated a laundry list of other items he said he would prioritize first: reforming regulatory burdens, dropping the income tax rate and giving local governments more control over addressing property tax burdens.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      

Kaegi touts liberal backing while Berrios points to Rauner-connected contributions

Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018

* Fritz Kaegi campaign fundraising e-mail…


Team Fritz is growing! With the endorsements of State Representative Will Guzzardi and Chicago’s City Council Progressive Reform Caucus Chair Ald. Scott Waguespack, we’re adding to the growing list of endorsements from some of the County’s most progressive leaders. They know that, together, we can take a stand against pay-to-play, partisan politics.

Join Rep. Guzzardi, Ald. Waguespack, and other progressive leaders on Team Fritz by chipping in $5+ today:

* Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios’ campaign…

Fritz Kaegi continues to deny his close ties to Republicans but the donations to his campaign tell a different story. He has accepted tens of thousands of dollars from Republican donors, who have also contributed to Republican Governor Bruce Rauner.

Kaegi has raised in excess of $20,000 in campaign contributions from the same donors that contribute to Bruce Rauner. Right-wing conservative Charles McQuaid not only contributed to Kaegi and Rauner but he also contributed to the Liberty Principles PAC, the Illinois Liberty PAC and the Chicago Young Republicans. It is also of note that he also contributed to the Illinois Citizens for Life PAC.

Shame on Kaegi for running away from his association with Wall Street Republicans, who played a reckless role in the financial collapse of our economy and also profit off the private prison system that disproportionately hurts working families, African Americans, and Latinos.

The attached document is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   11 Comments      

Report: Rauner pushing to fire Steelers coach Tomlin

Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018

* Mike Florio

Plenty of Steelers fans currently are upset with the performance of coach Mike Tomlin, given the team’s inability to get back to the Super Bowl or, more specifically, to get past the Patriots. (And now the Jaguars.) A small group of Steelers fans who own pieces of the franchise’s equity are particularly miffed with Tomlin — sufficiently miffed that they want to see a change get made.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, some of the team’s limited partners intend to lobby owner Art Rooney to fire of Tomlin and to hire a new coach.

The limited partners, who became involved nearly a decade ago as member of the Rooney family sold their interest in the team after acquiring gaming interests that violate league policy, have no authority over the management of the team, but they have a pipeline to owner Art Rooney. Per the source, they plan to utilize it.

The group of limited partners includes Rob Citrone, Paul Evanson, Larry Paul, Stephen Paul, Bruce Rauner, Paul Sams, John Stallworh, Benjamin Statler, Scott Swank, David Tepper, Thomas Tull, Peter Varischetti, and Mike Wilkins.

Um, OK.

* From Pritzker’s campaign manager, who is a huge Philadelphia Eagles fan…


- Posted by Rich Miller   56 Comments      

Rauner declines invite to debate Ives in Springfield next month

Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018


Governor Bruce Rauner’s campaign says thanks, but no thanks. The Rauner camp has declined an invitation from WMAY and the State Journal-Register to participate in a Republican primary debate against challenger Jeanne Ives next month.

The Ives campaign had agreed to take part, but without Rauner’s participation, the event has been canceled.

* Related…

* Jeanne Ives Wins Wheeling Township Republican Party Endorsement

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      

Rauner statement rated “Half True”

Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018

* The Better Government Association and Politifact Illinois take a look at Gov. Rauner’s attempt to blame the media for misreporting the dangers at the Quincy veterans’ home

Rauner insists his administration did not drop the ball, and recently spent seven days living at the home to make a public show that it was safe.

He also took aim at the media for casting blame his way without telling the whole story.

In an interview with the editorial board of the Joliet Herald-News, Rauner said news reports failed to explain that the source of the disease is basically everywhere.

“The reality is, and this is what’s not getting into the reports, the Legionella bacteria is in most water systems in Illinois,” Rauner told the paper. “There were just two infections of Legionnaires at Northwestern Hospital, which is not even an old facility and I think is regarded as a really well-run facility. These things happen.”

* Conclusion

The governor’s statement glosses over the reality that any such contamination is likely present at low and non-threatening levels. The use of the word “most” is also questionable since there’s no real quantifiable evidence. The CDC avoids quantifying the presence of the bacteria, which thrives on slime in poorly maintained internal water systems.

The governor has a point that the bacteria lurks in a number of water systems. But his statement makes an unprovable claim about the extent of the contamination.

The governor’s claim is overbroad and lacking in context. We rate it Half True.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      

The unintended consequences of Rauner’s AV

Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018

* Let’s go back to the governor’s amendatory veto of SB444

As written, the Act requires non-public schools to be “recognized” by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) [in order to qualify to receive Invest in Kids scholarships]. This language creates an eligibility mandate from what is otherwise a voluntary distinction for which schools may apply. Eligibility should be expanded to also include schools that are registered with ISBE, a necessary precursor to becoming “recognized.” While it is prudent to require compliance with ISBE measures that protect the health, safety and well-being of students, the current timelines to become recognized will exclude at least 36 schools that are still in the process of registering for and moving toward recognition; the ramifications of this initial exclusion could potentially last for two years. The students attending or looking to attend these schools deserve the same access to Invest in Kids scholarships as those in already recognized schools. Their educational opportunities cannot wait for years.

By including those who have registered with ISBE as well as those already recognized, the law will better maximize the number of schools and therefore the number of children who can benefit from this promising new program.

The problem that’s being overlooked is that there are far more than 36 schools which could benefit from the governor’s proposed changed. Right now, in order to qualify for the scholarship program, schools have to be “recognized” by the ISBE. And that means several hoops must first be cleared

That term — “recognized” — sounds bland. But it’s kind of a big deal. It’s the stamp of approval the State Board of Education gives to schools that meet a 17-page list of standards for curriculum, health and safety. For example, a school has to prove students are immunized, and that staff members have passed criminal background checks. Then all that information is verified by investigators who visit the facility.

* Under the governor’s amendatory veto, non-public schools would merely have to file some registration paperwork with the State Board of Education by February 15th and they would qualify for the new scholarship program

Registration requires a simple 5-page form pledging “assurances,” and it’s on the honor system. No site visit required.

* With that in mind…

…Adding… From Patty Schuh…

From the ISBE website: “Please note that for purposes of registration, a nonpublic school is any nonprofit, non-home-based, and nonpublic elementary or secondary school (Section 2-3.25o(e)) of the Illinois School Code) that is in compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and attendance at which satisfies the requirements of Section 26-1 of the Illinois School Code. Only such schools can register and re-register.

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      

Ives takes heat for claiming solution to Chicago’s gun crime is fathers in the home

Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018

* NBC 5

Gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy left the stage during a forum on Monday after Republican State Rep. Jeanne Ives argued the solution to gun violence in Illinois was having “more fathers in the home.”

Kennedy, a Democrat, replied by pointing out he had grown up without a father before standing up and walking out of the venue. […]

“It hit a very special nerve for me,” Kennedy said in an interview with NBC 5. “I lost my father to someone with a gun. For someone to say simply the solution is to have a father-in-law – I don’t know. How shall I react? What should my family have done?”

Kathleen Murphy, a spokesperson for Ives, said in a statement Monday night that the representative did not mean to offend Mr. Kennedy during the forum.

However, Murphy also reiterated the importance of fathers in domestic life, citing “similar statements” like President Barack Obama’s 2008 Father’s Day speech at the Apostolic Church of God on Chicago’s South Side. In his speech, the then-candidate said, “too many fathers also are is missing — missing from too many lives and too many homes.”

“Those are President Obama’s words, and that was what she was echoing today,” Murphy said. “She certainly meant no offense to Mr. Kennedy.”

Nobody doubts the importance of fathers. But that’s not what Rep. Ives said at the event. She claimed that putting fathers in the home was the actual solution

“The problem is the gun violence in this city of Chicago, predominantly. And you know how you’re going to solve it? Fathers in the home,” she said. As the audience booed and shouted, she repeated, “Fathers in the home.”

* More

A Democratic rival for the nomination, J.B. Pritzker, who lost his father to a heart attack at age 7, said of Kennedy’s response to Ives, “I think (there are) too many people unfortunately losing family members to gun violence. I don’t know what was going through Chris’ head other than I can only imagine the grief that he feels when he thinks of his father’s death.”

As for Ives’ solution for gun crimes, Pritzker said, “It’s not just an issue about how many parents are in the home. It’s about quality education. It’s about health care. It’s about jobs. If you want to avoid violence in a community, provide real economic opportunity. She doesn’t understand any of that.”

* Meanwhile, from a Monday press release

When Does the #MeToo Reckoning Come to Springfield?

Today, State Representative Jeanne Ives, a conservative reform Republican for Governor, and whistleblower Denise Rotheimer held a joint press conference during which Ives called on both parties to end their bipartisan protection racket and take the complaints of sexual harassment seriously. She demanded that:

(1) The Legislative Ethics Committee should invite Denise Rotheimer to testify to her claims against State Sen. Ira Silverstein at their next hearing.

(2) The 27 other complaints that were ignored for as long as three years should be immediately released to the public with the names of the accusers redacted.

We have elections in March and November. It is because of the failures of legislative leaders, the ethics committee and the governor that we’re at this point. They failed to do their job and ensure that a Legislative Inspector General was in place and that complaints were handled in a timely manner. The voters shouldn’t have to pay the price. Given the political gamesmanship, it is appropriate to give these complaints the opportunities to be adjudicated in the court of public opinion in addition to, where appropriate, public hearings and/or courts of law.

Let me be clear, I don’t know the names or party affiliations of the other legislators against whom claims have been filed. And I don’t care who they are.
We either have a system that checks the abuses of those in power or we have a system where those in power abuse.

Rotheimer’s testimony illustrated the bipartisan nature of the sexual harassment crisis in Springfield. She noted that she turned to Senate President John Cullerton and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin. Neither came to her aide. Both brushed off her complaints with lip-service, instead of action.

Rotheimer added that she is supporting Jeanne Ives in the Governor’s Race because of her independence as a State Representative saying, “Jeanne Ives is the type of leader we need in the Governor’s Office. Jeanne Ives will be in charge. She has already taken charge by using her leadership position to confront the culture of corruption in Springfield and to challenge the policies that enable it to exist.”

The video of the Rotheimer and Ives event is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   82 Comments      

Illinois schools superintendent to recommend $7.2 billion state funding hike

Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018

* From the CEO of the Illinois Association of School Business Officials…


* From the ISBE

The design of [Evidence-Based Funding] is to calculate an individual Adequacy Target for each Organizational Unit in the state. (In most cases, “Organizational Unit” refers to school districts.) That Adequacy Target is based on 34 individual cost factors, which include additional supports based on Organizational Units’ populations of low-income children and English Learners. Additional supports for students with special needs are provided based on the overall enrollment of the Organizational Unit. These students and their needs are further protected by the statutory requirement that each Organizational Unit provide a spending plan for the EBF it receives with specific detail regarding the expenditure of funds attributable to low-income children, students with special needs, and English Learners.

EBF has provided a more equitable distribution formula and a path toward adequacy. The fact remains that the primary funding source for education in the State of Illinois is the property tax system. At this point in time, the state has not fulfilled its constitutional mandate to assume the primary responsibility for financing the system of public education. Without that commitment from the state, there is a wide variance in what school districts can commit locally, with an inequitable result for students. As previously stated, preliminary Adequacy Target calculations show that Organizational Units in Illinois range from having 46 percent to having 284 percent of the resources necessary to provide a quality education to students. Federal funds support our highest-needs children and families and on average make up 10 percent of funds provided to districts, so we believe “primary responsibility” constitutes ensuring that every district can meet at least 90 percent of its individual Adequacy Target through a combination of state and local funding support.

The Superintendent is recommending $13,884,200,000 for FY 2019 to meet this 90 percent threshold and ensure adequate supports for all children in the State of Illinois based upon the singular definition of adequacy provided for in statute. The recommended appropriation level is preliminary and will be refined when FY 2018 EBF calculations are finalized later in the spring.

* Meanwhile, over in higher education

A rift has emerged as education leaders debate how aggressively to push lawmakers for state aid. At the heart of the issue is how to finance the state’s public universities following two years of almost non-existent state funding.

Presidents of the state’s nine public universities wrote a letter openly opposing the budget that the state higher education board presented at its meeting in December. In unusually blunt terms, the presidents told the board its request to state lawmakers was too conservative and would “place further burdens on public universities” after “two years of financial calamity.” […]

The [Illinois Board of Higher Education’s] funding proposal seeks about $3.47 billion for public universities, community colleges, grants and various higher education divisions for 2018-19. It would be a $254 million increase over current funding, according to the board report.

The share for public universities would be a little more than $1.1 billion, a $24.1 million increase from this year.

That isn’t enough for the school presidents. They want the board to request $1.2 billion from the state, matching the allocation for public universities in 2015, the last year there was a budget before the impasse began.

* Finke on Gov. Rauner’s pledge to balance the budget and roll back the tax hike

“We will introduce a plan to repeal the Madigan tax hike and require the budget to be truly balanced. No balanced budget — no pay for legislators,” said another Twitter entry.

If this is going to be a legitimate effort at repealing last summer’s income tax hike, then Rauner will include in his plan just how the state will cope with that loss in revenue. One way would be to once again let the bill backlog balloon to ridiculous amounts and put the state’s bond rating in jeopardy. That’s probably not the preferable approach, which makes it essential for the person or persons who propose getting rid of the tax hike to explain how the state will deal with it.

Somehow, though, that never seems to be part of the proposal.

The first six months of the state’s fiscal year are in the books and guess what? Income tax collections are up by about $2.2 billion over a year ago. As well they should be, given the income tax increase passed in July.

Plus, the amount of money from the feds grew by $2.5 billion because the state borrowed money and paid off Medicaid bills with it.

Still, the bill backlog was at $8.75 billion as of Friday. Worth remembering as the campaign season heats up and more people call for cutting state taxes.

Gonna be tough enough to do all that even without the aforementioned public pressures to increase spending.

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      

Rauner says solution to high black unemployment is getting rid of Madigan

Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018

* WVON’s Charles Thomas asked Gov. Bruce Rauner yesterday what he is currently doing to change the dynamic of black unemployment in Illinois (which, Rauner noted, is the highest in the country). The governor’s response

Here’s the simple fact. We used to be the Land of Lincoln. Now, we’re the Land of Madigan. We used to be the land of opportunity, now we’re the land of unemployment and high property taxes. We used to be the land of achievement, now we’re the land of corruption.

What we’ve got to do together, Democrats and Republicans have got to unite to change the system, get Madigan and his crew out of power.

Except on January 3rd, the governor admitted that Madigan isn’t “gonna go anywhere.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      

Kennedy blames U of I’s African-American enrollment decline on predecessors

Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018

* I told you last week that the University of Illinois’ African-American enrollment fell while Chris Kennedy was chairman of the board of trustees. WCIA’s Mark Maxwell followed up with the candidate

In his campaign speeches, Kennedy holds up higher education as the life boat to help rescue people from an island of poverty. But while he was Chairman of the Board at the University of Illinois, he repeatedly increased the cost of tuition while African American student enrollment suffered.

“When you have a 27 percent increase of tuition between 2009-2014 for in-state residents, you are talking about at least $2,500 extra in money,” said Gus Wood, an African American Studies Ph.D. student at the Urbana-Champaign campus. “I tie the rising of tuition directly to the pricing out and the lack of African-American people on the campus,” Wood said.

[Evan F. Moore, an adjunct journalism professor for Chicago’s DePaul University who has written extensively on education, violence and Chicago culture] said, “When the school raises tuition, that pushes out students, especially poor students. There is definitely a correlation there.”

The year before Kennedy became board chairman, African American enrollment was at 2,596 students, which made up 6.44 percent of the total student population according to data compiled by the Division of Management Information. The university raised tuition by 9.5 percent in 2010, 6.9 percent in 2011, 4.8 percent in 2012 and 1.7 percent in 2013.

In 2009, African American enrollment slipped slightly down to 2,572 students before a significant dropoff down to 2,276 in 2010. Black student enrollment eroded each consecutive year Kennedy was in charge for a total decline of nearly 15 percent until the admissions office reported a slight uptick in 2015, his final year on the board.

Kennedy denied there was a correlation between rising cost of tuition and the broadening diversity gap on campus during an interview with WCIA on Monday morning.

“No, I don’t think that is what occurred,” Kennedy said, suggesting the problems were already set in motion before he took the job. “I think the major decline in African American enrollment at the University of Illinois occurred between 2009 and 2010 before anything the new board did could have possibly affected those outcomes.

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      

Blagojevich roundup: Pritzker’s response, Patti’s response, US Attorney reveals new probe into leak

Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

When a dramatic new element is introduced into a political campaign, it’s always instructive to watch how the targeted candidate responds. Did the candidate appear ready for the new turn of events, or was s/he caught flat-footed?

The JB Pritzker campaign appeared to pass that test last week when Gov. Bruce Rauner’s campaign unexpectedly (for some of us) launched a new TV attack ad against it.

It turns out, the Pritzker campaign already had a response ad in the can, just waiting for whatever might come. So, when the Rauner campaign’s new TV ad featuring an FBI-wiretapped conversation between Pritzker and Rod Blagojevich was leaked online last week, the Pritzker folks unveiled their counter-assault within minutes.

“It’s no surprise Bruce Rauner is already on TV attacking me,” Pritzker says to the camera in his 30-second response ad. “He’d rather play politics in the Democratic primary than defend his own record.”

Another 60-second ad — which looks like it may have initially been intended only for online use because the quality wasn’t as high — featured TV news clips designed to whack Rauner over the ongoing problems at the Quincy veterans’ home, where 13 residents have died since 2015 after contracting Legionnaires’ disease. Rauner last week finally formed a task force in an attempt to prevent more deaths.

This is the first time in memory that a sitting Illinois governor has openly played in a rival’s opposing party primary campaign. We’ve seen this sort of thing in other states, but not here. Several Illinois unions did dump a bunch of money into the 2014 Republican primary to prevent Rauner’s nomination, so the governor can be forgiven for wanting a bit of payback against the unions’ candidate (Pritzker) this time around.

The Rauner folks have gone back and forth for months about which candidate they’d rather not face. Pritzker has unlimited money, but he has some opposition research issues (like Blagojevich, his ties to Speaker Madigan and his now-infamous decision to rip the toilets out of a vacant mansion to lower his property taxes). Chris Kennedy has had trouble raising money, but he does have a famous name, not many opposition research issues and is successfully positioning himself as an independent.

More likely, I think, somebody upstairs may have just decided that it was time to put the wood to Pritzker, who has been having a lot of fun attacking Rauner for months. And since other Democratic candidates don’t have the cash to do it, Rauner will.

The Pritzker campaign’s current ad buy is substantially larger than Rauner’s, I’m told, and they’re willing to increase that amount if need be. They’re also reportedly readying some more response ads.

* But there’s more to this angle. Sun-Times

Patti Blagojevich hit the local television news circuit Friday to slam Gov. Bruce Rauner’s campaign for using her husband’s FBI-wiretapped phone conversation in a political attack ad against Democratic primary frontrunner J.B. Pritzker.

“There is a federal court order not allowing these tapes to see the light of day,” Patti Blagojevich said in a sit-down interview with WFLD-Fox 32, one of at least four interviews she gave on Friday. “We fought so hard in court to try to get tapes just like this.” […]

“Somebody from the US Attorney’s Office (or one of their former employees) and Rauner’s Campaign should be criminally charged for breaking the still standing court order sealing the tapes,” Patti Blagojevich wrote in a Facebook post. “This is clearly a case of someone from the US Attorney’s office playing partisan politics, while they did everything they could to make sure we could not play the tapes that vindicated Rod.”

Rauner campaign spokesman Will Allison said they used the recordings that were included in the Tribune story. A representative for the U.S. attorney’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.

“This is a perfectly legal conversation between my husband and J.B. talking about different things that he wanted to accomplish with regards to President Obama’s Senate seat . . . These are all things we wanted heard at trial,” Patti Blagojevich told Fox 32.


“We’ve been fighting for five years to get those tapes heard. And now somebody leaks them and now they’re in a political attack ad.”

She says while she feels bad for Pritzker, the audio proves her husband isn’t guilty.

“One thing my husband loves to do is he loves to talk. And he loves to talk with his advisors, his lawyers. And all these people and do this war gaming. What if we do this? What if we do that? How about if we do this? How about if we do that? And unfortunately, what you saw in the trial was just one side of all those conversations.”

* NBC 5

A sub-current of the Rauner ad controversy involves questions over how the un-played tapes were leaked. The portion used in the commercial was part of an 11 minute montage featured by the Tribune last year.

How the Tribune got those tapes, is not entirely clear.

“That particular tape was never played at trial,” Joe Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office confirmed. “We are working on it also—we want to know who gave it out.”

Fitzpatrick said it did not come from anyone in the U.S. Attorney’s office, and noted that copies had been distributed to all legal teams involved in the two Blagojevich trials.

“And that includes paralegals, their investigators, a lot of people get their hands on these,” he said.


* Mary Ann Ahern

The new ads feature taped conversations between Pritzker and Blagojevich, recorded during the time that the FBI was investigating the then-governor. In an exclusive interview with NBC 5, the candidate himself commented on the interview conducted by the FBI about the conversation.

“They just wanted to know more about the conversation, if there was more that I could tell them about the conversation,” he said.

Pritzker says that he was telling Blagojevich on the tapes that he would be interested in being the state’s treasurer, not that he would be interested in the Senate seat vacated by former President Barack Obama.

“It’s not surprising that looking to do more public service is something I was interested in,” he said. “Who knew that he was doing things that were against the interests of the people?”

Who knew? Lots of people. C’mon, man.

…Adding… I never noticed it in the original Tribune story last May, but Pritzker’s campaign has already admitted he talked to the FBI back in the day

Pritzker did not directly ask for the Senate appointment on the calls the Tribune obtained. The Pritzker campaign acknowledged late Wednesday that “J.B. had one short interview with” the FBI as part of the Blagojevich investigation. Federal authorities did not call Pritzker as a witness at either of Blagojevich’s two trials, nor did they accuse him of any wrongdoing.

…Adding… Rauner campaign…

JB Pritzker Lies to Cover Up Ties to Blagojevich

JB Pritzker answered questions on Friday surrounding Citizens for Rauner’s new Pritzker-Blagojevich TV ad. Pritzker claims that he didn’t know Blagojevich was facing FBI investigations at the time of the wiretaps, which occurred just one month before the former governor was arrested.

Pritzker specifically says that “nobody knew that the FBI was investigating the man.” He goes on to say, “Who knew, you know, that it was, that he was actually doing things that were against the interests of the people.” Watch HERE.

As NBC Chicago reporter Mary Ann Ahern explains, it was “widely believed” at the time that the FBI was investigating Blagojevich.

Not only is Pritzker making a patently false claim – his own words on the FBI tapes show that he knew, at the time, that Blagojevich was being investigated and was facing legal trouble. In a conversation between Pritzker and Blagojevich towards the end of the tapes released by the Chicago Tribune, Pritzker specifically cites Blagojevich’s “legal problems” and says “we gotta get the legal thing behind you.”

This conversation, combined with years of well-publicized media reports, makes crystal clear that JB Pritzker knew Rod Blagojevich was under federal investigation, contrary to what he is now claiming.

BLAGOJEVICH: If you can do for me what you did for [Lisa Madigan] before the end of the year, can you think about that?

PRITZKER: Well I can’t, uh, not while everything’s up in the air. But I hear ya. Yeah I, I hear ya.

BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah. But anyways, if we go in that direction though, if that does happen, I mean there’s some other people who can help us that you know.


BLAGOJEVICH: If you feel skittish about that, which I believe you shouldn’t. But go ahead.

PRITZKER: Yeah, I don’t think we should even talk about it, but I understand what you’re saying. Assuming no legal problems, that you, you know, your pitch is going to be, with all the other crap that you could say here, I’ve done real things.


PRITZKER: And so, I think you’ve got a lot to run on. It’s just, we gotta get the legal thing behind you.


PRITZKER: That’s for sure.

BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah but there’s statutes of limitations and things, and those dates are running. And those things will come and go long before there’s a re-election.

PRITZKER: Is that right? Soon?

BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah, and then.


BLAGOJEVICH: It’ll just fade away.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      

Pritzker slammed for floating vehicle miles tax idea

Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018

* Daily Herald

Charging gas taxes based on how many miles people drive instead of how much fuel they burn could pump up revenues to help fix Illinois’ roads and bridges, Democratic candidate for governor J.B. Pritzker told the Daily Herald editorial board.

Called a vehicle miles traveled or VMT tax, it’s an idea worth exploring, the billionaire Hyatt hotel heir said in a Thursday interview where he also pushed for a graduated income tax, but gave few specifics.

“We have to invest in infrastructure — it’s been too many years since we had a capital bill,” said the 52-year old Chicagoan, one of six candidates in the March 20 Democratic primary.

His plan would focus “on rebuilding roads, bridges and waterways and in my view we need statewide broadband internet access,” Pritzker said.

But with more fuel-efficient vehicles, traditional gas tax income is shrinking, Pritzker noted.

“In some states (such as Oregon) they have done tests recently for a VMT tax because we have more and more electric cars on the road, more and more hybrids, and because gas mileage is rising. It’s only fair if you’re on a road and traveling on that road that you should pay your fair share,” he said.

A VMT tax “is something we should look at … we have to careful how it gets implemented and that’s why it should only be a test at this point.”

Local 150 of the Operating Engineers, one of Pritzker’s earliest labor endorsers, is the top proponent of the VMT idea in Illinois.

* From the Republican Governors Association…

Illinois Democrat gubernatorial candidate and billionaire heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune J.B. Pritzker is already on record supporting a bevy of tax increases, including a major hike in the state income tax. Now, he’s proposing yet another tax – and this one could lead to an unprecedented government invasion of privacy.

The Daily Herald reported over the weekend that Pritzker is open to a new gas tax that would require the government to track how many miles people drive. Pritzker says that the tax and government tracking scheme is “an idea worth exploring.”

A similar tax was proposed by Illinois Democrats last year, and was rapidly shelved after “public outrage.” The proposal required a “tracking device to monitor mileage.”

J.B. Pritzker’s willingness to let the government install tracking devices in people’s vehicles underscores just how out of touch the Hyatt heir is with the concerns of voters.

- Posted by Rich Miller   71 Comments      

Rauner sticks tightly to talking points when asked about Trump and even David Duke

Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018

* CBS 2

Gov. Rauner said there was “no place in our political conversation” for vulgar language reportedly used by President Trump in a meeting on immigration, but would not call the president racist.

The governor, who was appearing on WVON radio on Monday, was asked about Trump’s description of places like Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations as “sh*tholes.” The president made those comments in a meeting to discuss a bipartisan agreement on immigration, according to Sen. Dick Durbin. Trump denies he used that language.

Rauner was asked directly by WVON’s morning show host Maze Jackson if Trump was a racist and Rauner wouldn’t answer, saying again that such language as no place in politics.

Co-host Charles Thomas pressed the governor again, saying “you won’t call him a racist?”

“You know what? We have racists in our society,” Rauner said. “We have got to come together to change the system in Illinois. Illinois is broken. Our system is broken. African-American families are suffering in Illinois. It’s worse than anywhere with unemployment. We have got to change our system.”

That’s not all Charles asked.

* From the transcript

MAZE JACKSON: “The President of the United States used language that we’ve never heard before, we call – we said he said ‘shitolee’ on this show. You heard his comments. Is Donald Trump racist? Is he a racist?”

RAUNER: “I’ll say this. That language has no place in our political conversation.”

JACKSON: “But is he a racist?”

RAUNER: “That language has no place in our political conversation.”

JACKSON: “But we’ve got it. We heard it. He said it. So it’s in the universe. So, to a – to the Haitians that live in this city, in the state – what’s up with Donald Trump? How do you respond to that?”

RAUNER: “That language has no place in our political conversation.”

CHARLES THOMAS: “But you won’t call him a racist?”

RAUNER: “No place.”

THOMAS: “Is David Duke a racist? I mean, is… what about Donald Trump?

RAUNER: “You know what? We have racists in our society. We have got to come together to change the system in Illinois. Illinois is broken. Our system is broken. African American families are suffering in Illinois. It’s worse than anywhere with unemployment. We have got to change our system.”

* Video

* Pritzker campaign…

“Donald Trump built his political career on pitting our communities against each other and now spews vile, hateful language from the White House on a daily basis,” said JB Pritzker. “From casual private conversation to tweets seen around the world, Trump’s racist views and words sadly represent our country. Strong state leaders have pushed back and defended the communities that are under attack by this president, but Bruce Rauner is sitting on the sidelines. To have the governor of this state remain silent and refuse to call Trump what he clearly is — a racist — is an embarrassing insult to communities across Illinois. Bruce Rauner’s corrupt pact with Trump, ratified by his silence, must end.”

…Adding… Sun-Times

Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner refused in a morning interview on WVON 1690 AM to apply the “racist” label not only to Trump, but to former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. The campaign of J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat running to challenge Rauner, quickly pounced.

“The governor believes that David Duke is a racist,” Justin Giorgio, a spokesman for
Rauner’s campaign, said later in an email. “As he stated in his interview this morning, the governor is working to bring all Illinoisans together to overcome the racism that exists in our society.”

…Adding… Pritzker campaign…

During a WVON interview yesterday, Bruce Rauner refused to call former KKK leader David Duke a racist.

Rauner fell back on his favorite talking point, “our system is broken,” to avoid criticizing the notorious white supremacist. While a spokesman later attempted to clean up Rauner’s dodge, Rauner failed to answer a simple question about one of the country’s foremost bigots.

“It is abundantly clear that former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke is racist and it is inexcusable that Bruce Rauner would rather mince words than answer a simple question,” said Pritzker campaign spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh. “Instead of having a spine and standing up for what’s right, Rauner dodges even the most basic of questions to avoid giving Illinoisans the answers they deserve.”

* Sen. Kwame Raoul…

Gov. Rauner’s refusal to call former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke a racist on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is flat out Trumpian.

Martin Luther King, Jr. taught us that our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter and Bruce Rauner’s inability to clearly state that David Duke is a racist is pretty damning.

In the spirit of MLK, I’m asking that we all speak out against the injustices that are taking place in our communities and across the state. We must speak a little bit louder against hate. We must speak a little bit louder against fear. And we must unabashedly speak louder against those who try to divide us!

…Adding… DGA…

Like clockwork, Governor Bruce Rauner was in the news again for failing to take a strong moral stand on an easy-to-call situation. Yesterday, during an interview with WVON, Governor Bruce Rauner was pressed on President Donald Trump’s most recent and outrageous comments on immigrants. Rauner fell back on talking points, refused to address the substance on Trump’s comments, and would not condemn David Duke as “racist.”

Rauner’s campaign later clarified that, of course, he believed David Duke was racist. But the WVON interview is another example, just in the past six months, of Rauner’s reluctance to show real leadership on moral issues:

    Charlottesville and Terrorism: Rauner initially refused to use the term “terrorism” to describe the Neo-Nazi attacks in Charlottesville. Rauner had to be shamed into clarifying his language later that day.

    Charlottesville and Trump: Rauner waited days to addressed President Trump’s “both sides” comments on Charlottesville, and only after Trump repeated his comments. Rauner was questioned by reporters why he initially didn’t use Trump’s name in his condemnation of his language.

    Illinois Policy Institute Cartoon: Rauner infamously refused to look at a cartoon denounced by the Illinois legislature, but drawn by his close allies at the IPI. A week-long saga would eventually result in Rauner’s office issuing a statement that said, “as a white male”, he had nothing to add. Multiple communications staffers were fired.

    Anthem Protests: Despite his tepidity to address pretty much any issue spurred by Trump, Rauner jumped into the debate on protests at football games, siding with the President.

The pattern is getting hard to ignore.

“Bruce Rauner’s wait-and-see approach to leadership really clarifies who he’s looking out for, and it’s not Illinois residents,” said DGA Illinois Communications Director Sam Salustro. “Time after time, Rauner has had to be shamed into taking a moral stand on issues offensive or upsetting to Illinoisans. Rauner’s reluctance to take on President Trump is only hurting Illinois families.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   43 Comments      

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