* On Friday, Speaker Madigan said his campaign operation had “retained an independent counsel who is available to receive and investigate harassment allegations. Kelly Smith-Haley of Fox Swibel Levin & Carroll, LLP will provide independent review of allegations, conduct investigations, and provide recommendations for updating policies and procedures, including clear rules for conduct and penalties for violations.”
Smith-Haley’s two brothers, Mike Smith and Bill Smith, both work at Cornerstone Government Affairs - a public relations and lobbying firm that hired another top Madigan aide, Will Cousineau, eight months ago.
Cousineau worked for the speaker for 18 years, according to his biography on Cornerstone’s website, and served as Madigan’s political director for eight years. In that role, Cousineau oversaw legislative races across the state – including the 2016 campaign during which sources said allegations of misconduct surfaced against another high-ranking Madigan staffer Shaw Decremer, who was quietly dismissed last week. […]
Smith-Haley confirmed Tuesday that her brothers work with Cousineau, though she said she has “no ties to Cornerstone” and has met Cousineau “briefly” but “never spoken with him in a one-on-one setting.”
“This is exactly what I do for all my clients,” the employment attorney said, adding, “I would not have taken the assignment if I was not going to be independent.”
Smith-Haley said Mike Kasper, Madigan’s longtime attorney, asked her to take on the role. She said they know each other because their daughters attend school together, but she has never done any work for Kasper before.
I strongly believe a sister can be totally independent of her brothers. And finding a quality lawyer who has no connections to Speaker Madigan’s empire would be tough. But this is probably gonna give plenty of people pause and I wouldn’t blame them. The idea itself is good. The person he picked seems immensely qualified. But the rest of it is classic Michael J. Madigan.
…Adding… And for those who seem a bit unclear about what I meant, “classic MJM” is exactly the wrong way to go about things right now. Classic MJM is what got him into this position, it won’t get him out. In fact, it could bring on the end.
State Sen. Toi Hutchinson of Olympia Fields said “the reason you don’t have hordes of women running forward and telling their stories and naming names is because we are still not safe to do that.”
“Independence has to be connected to fair and impartial, and I don’t know if any of us know what that looks like right now,” said Hutchinson.
…Adding… From earlier today…
Speaker Madigan spox on @RepKellyCassidy's call for NEW independent investigation to #Harassment "will fully cooperate and I will ask independent counsel Kelly Smith-Haley to assist." Cassidy says Madigan never mentioned Smith-Haley to her, so confusion persists #twill
* From Madigan’s spokesman via e-mail with the subject line: “Clarification”…
Kelly Smith-Haley was asked to reach out to Rep. Cassidy as potential resource. I believe that has taken place.
Hope that helps.
*** UPDATE 1 *** Unlike, say, the Tribune, the SJ-R’s editorial board has not been a knee-jerk Madigan hater, so this is interesting…
Organizations reflect their leadership. Even if Madigan was not initially personally aware of these allegations in his political operation, he has allowed an environment to flourish that allowed harassment and bullying.
His actions — telling House Democrats in a letter that he takes responsibility and promises to do better, or appointing U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, state Comptroller Susana Mendoza and state Rep. Carol Ammons to facilitate a discussion about the role of women in the state’s Democratic Party — seem more about giving his own hide political cover than helping the people who have been hurt.
The concentration of power that Madigan holds isn’t healthy for Illinois Democrats. They should no longer accept that the speaker can also be the party chairman. It’s time for the state’s Democrats to demand change. They can start by insisting Madigan step down as chairman.
I strongly disagree on Rep. Ammons. She’s not about providing cover. But I’d bet you a dollar that there will be plenty more editorials like this in the coming days, even hours.
*** UPDATE 2 *** Rep. Kelly Cassidy on the Smith-Haley controversy…
It is hard, if not impossible, to find someone locally who can’t be connected to someone in the organization. The question becomes how that’s disclosed and handled.
*** UPDATE 3 *** JB Pritzker…
“I stand by Alaina and the women who have bravely come forward to share their story and as I’ve said, it’s clear that not enough was done and there needs to be a completely independent investigation to get to the bottom of what took place and hold the right people accountable. I agree with Rep. Kelly Cassidy and believe the people investigating Speaker Madigan’s operation should have no political or other ties to the Speaker. I am also glad that a task force has been set up and know that Congresswoman Bustos, Comptroller Mendoza and Representative Ammons will help make our party and our state stronger, just as they always have. In Juliana and my administration there will be zero tolerance for harassment of any kind and we will ensure there is an independent and external body to investigate all allegations in a timely fashion.”
* The fourth since the start of last week, that is…
The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) are reporting a fourth laboratory-confirmed case of Legionnaires’ disease at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy (IVHQ). The positive test result was confirmed earlier today. The resident is in stable condition.
Representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) returned to the home in Quincy last week, at the request of IDPH, to provide additional support and guidance. Staff from CDC are working with IVHQ and IDPH staff to:
- Conduct environmental and epidemiological assessments to identify potential exposure sources;
- Augment clinical testing protocols for individuals with respiratory symptoms to include not only testing for Legionella, but also influenza and other respiratory viruses;
- Conduct clinical and environmental sample testing at CDC;
- Identify important public health and infection control interventions; and
- Partner in communications with the local hospital to streamline testing.
In addition to infectious disease control and testing protocols, the teams will continue working to trace potential sources of Legionella bacteria and conduct additional environmental health testing.
Tell me again, why are we keeping those residents at that facility?
…Adding… Pritzker campaign…
Hours after Bruce Rauner’s administration skipped a legislative hearing on Rauner’s fatal mismanagement of the Quincy Veterans’ Home, a fourth case of Legionnaires’ disease was confirmed.
Outbreaks have plagued the home each year Rauner has been governor, and 13 Veterans and spouses have died on Rauner’s watch. A report late Friday revealed that Rauner’s Director of Veterans’ Affairs hid the real cost of replacing the water system at the home, once estimating it at over $500 million when it actually costs $8 million.
“After 13 lives were lost in Quincy, Bruce Rauner and his administration are desperately trying to cover up his fatal mismanagement and inability to stop the crisis from spiraling out of control,” said Pritzker campaign spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh. “Instead of just dodging questions, Rauner’s administration is now ditching hearings altogether, failing in their responsibility to protect the health of our nation’s heroes.”
Today, the Sierra Club Illinois Chapter announces their endorsement of Daniel Biss for Illinois Governor.
“Daniel Biss is the bold leader Illinois needs at this crucial time, with Donald Trump taking America backward and Bruce Rauner putting polluters first,” said Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter. “Daniel Biss knows that clean energy is the right choice for our future, and that clean air and water are a basic right of all Illinoisans. We know Daniel Biss will put people over polluters as our Governor because that is exactly what he has done in the General Assembly. That’s why Sierra Club is mobilizing our members and supporters in this race, to elect a bold champion for our future.”
“I’m proud to receive the endorsement of the Illinois Sierra Club, especially in an election with such drastic consequences for the environment,” said Daniel Biss. “Bruce Rauner, JB Pritzker, and Chris Kennedy all hold personal investments in dirty energy. We’ve seen how this financial stake has guided Bruce Rauner’s decision-making as he’s invited polluters to rewrite emissions standards, jeopardized funding for public resources, and failed to provide economic opportunity for communities that rely on the declining fossil fuel industry. We can’t allow another businessman to line his own pockets at our expense.”
“As a middle-class parent, community organizer, and progressive state senator, I’ve joined with the Sierra Club for years to fight for policies that prioritize our families and the future of our planet above corporate profits. We’ve organized around policies to support wind farm research, help local governments and businesses invest in renewables, and create clean energy jobs, and we’ve fought for the progressive revenue sources we need to do even more. It’s an honor to welcome them to our team.”
In endorsing Daniel Biss, the Sierra Club Illinois Chapter joins other progressive leaders and organizations including National Nurses United, MoveOn, BlackRoots Resistance, Reclaim Chicago, U.S. Congresswoman Robin Kelly, former Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon, State Representatives Kelly Cassidy, Carol Ammons and Will Guzzardi, and many more.
Kennedy criticized Biss as a “career politician” after the forum, attacking him for taking donations from Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, who recently fired a top aide for making “unwanted advances” with a political consultant.
Kennedy’s comments came minutes after the Biss campaign released a statement that called for Madigan to step down as chair of the Democratic party in Illinois.
Asked what else he wanted Biss to do, Kennedy said he should have been calling for Madigan to resign from the position last week. “To be part of the Springfield elite, to be a part of that system, and to promise change, I don’t think that’s possible,” he said.
Both candidates clarified that they are not necessarily calling for Madigan to step down as speaker.
“We’ve seen now days of evidence of evasion, dodging the question, trying to hide the problem instead of solve the problem. It’s time for him to step down,” Biss said.
* Speaking of which, I’m not totally sure why this never got any traction…
Advocates and domestic violence survivors to ask @DanielBiss to return Blair Hull's $25K saying he has a history of domestic violence (Hull lost to Obama 2004 Senate primary) will hold press conf outside Biss office Tuesday
I grew up right here in this neighborhood.
That’s the apartment we brought our kids home to.
I’ve seen gun violence outside my home.
Like every parent, I worry about my two kids.
So when I was asked to fill Barack Obama’s seat, I started our work.
Tougher laws for reckless gun dealers, keeping kids safe from online predators, and reforming the criminal justice system.
I’m Kwame Raoul.
This is the work of my life…and I’m just getting started.
* The Question: Your rating? Don’t forget to explain.
One candidate running for the state Senate has accused her primary opponent of hacking into her Facebook account.
Tanya Hildenbrand, who is running for the Republican nomination in the 57th State Senate District, filed a police report accusing Bob Romanik, a radio show host who is also running in the March 20 GOP primary, of hiring a private investigator to find incriminating evidence against her and of having someone hack into her Facebook account.
Romanik denied the accusations. […]
Hildenbrand said pictures were downloaded off of her page, altered and placed on Facebook pages supporting Romanik. Photos were altered to say she was supported by Black Lives Matter and that she received $500,000 in campaign funds. Hildenbrand said the statements are false. […]
Hildenbrand told police that a photo of her and Jason Madlock, a black Republican running for the state House of Representatives, was taken off her page and it later was posted to show support from Black Lives Matter. This was done on Martin Luther King Day, Hildenbrand said.
You don’t necessarily have to hack into a Facebook page to download somebody’s pics. Who knows what’s really going on here. But, man, some of those Romanik Facebook posts are just… really way out there. You can find a link to them in the BN-D’s story if you care to look around.
A candidate seeking an Illinois House seat says his wife was followed from Troy to Fairview Heights by a private detective, and he suspects involvement by the incumbent, state Rep. Charlie Meier.
Meier said the accusation is nonsense.
Don Moore, of Troy, is running in the Republican primary March 20 against Meier, who is from Okawville and has represented House District 108 since his first election in 2012.
“I believe a distinct line has been crossed, whenever a private investigator is following my wife,” Moore said in an interview Saturday. “As a husband and father, I take that personally and seriously.”
Announcer: For Norine Hammond, the “MeToo” movement means me-tooing Chicago Democrats. First, Hammond voted for Mike Madigan’s massive 32 percent increase. Then Hammond tried to protect a Chicago Democrat state Senator from a sexual harassment investigation by refusing to let a whistleblower tell her story.
Denise Rotheimer: There’s nobody in Springfield you can go to.
Announcer: That Chicago Democrat state Senator was later found to have broken the law. Norine Hammond protects the Chicago Democrats who prey on us.
Denise Rotheimer: I know these people don’t care.
Announcer: Isn’t it time we had someone in Springfield who did?
“Using the experience of any survivor to get himself closer to winning an election is sickening, and I won’t allow any victim to be used in that manner… No decent human being would use the sexual victimization of another for political gain… The 93rd District needs someone who represents its values, not someone who preys on victims and survivors.
Hi, my name is Denise Rotheimer. I’m a whistleblower who was the subject of a recent statement by Rep. Norine Hammond. Miss Hammond claimed that her opponent is using my experience of being sexually harassed for political purposes.
In fact, it’s Norine Hammond doing that which she accuses her opponent of doing. The ad for Mr. Griffith has given me more of a voice than Norine Hammond ever did.
It was Norine Hammond who left the Legislative Inspector General’s office vacant for three years while dozens of complaints, including mine, went uninvestigated. Hammond is lying about me, she is lying about her opponent and she is lying to you.
Norine Hammond is not in my corner. She never even allowed me to testify before her committee about my case.
The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee plans a hearing Tuesday on a 2016 engineers’ report that estimated an $8 million cost to replace plumbing at a veterans’ home stung by Legionnaires’ disease.
The Associated Press reported last week that the estimate is far below the $25 million to $30 million cost Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration had cited to lawmakers. Experts have said since the first outbreak at the Quincy home in 2015 that antiquated plumbing could house Legionella bacteria responsible for the deadly pneumonia-like malady.
Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director Erica Jeffries initially told WBEZ Chicago that new plumbing could cost more than $500 million.
Not $500 million, not $25-30 million, but $8 million.
Also, the Senate has been trying to get that 2016 report for a while, but the AP finally obtained it late last week.
* The hearing didn’t accomplish much because nobody showed up to testify…
Veterans Affairs Committee about to adjourn after @GovRauner’s agency department heads didn’t show up to answer questions about Quincy vets home. Republicans cry foul, say they weren’t given enough notice of the hearing. Some GOP Senators say they got first notice this morning. pic.twitter.com/ZZzokiYhR5
Hastings: they had report since 2016; delivered to us last Friday at 5pm; argument about notice is moot. Rauner admin is example of negligence, failed leadership resulting in 13 deaths. Their excuse of not being prepared is horrible.
* Gov. Rauner appeared before the Northwest Herald’s editorial board the other day and was asked how shifting the state’s pension burden to school districts over four years will affect property taxes in a place like McHenry County. His response…
We’re not only shifting pension responsibilities to where the decisions are made on what the pension costs will be in terms of deciding who gets what salaries, when they retire, what their terms are. We need to align responsibility for decision-making with responsibility for paying.
And other states have done this as well. Maryland Democrats did exactly the same thing. The Democrats in Maryland, a few years ago. If you look at the states that have deep financial trouble, and unfunded pensions and pension problems, the top twelve, I think states that have the biggest problems, they all have the state pick up pension payments, even though the decisions and responsibility for who’s getting the pensions and how they’re structured is done at the local level.
There’s a disconnect. If we align the interests, there will be economic incentive to keep the pension costs reasonable.
* He said that needed to be combined with “tools to local school districts and local governments to bring their costs down.” Those “tools” included more education funding, plus…
Local control of bargaining. Local control of bidding and contracting. Local control of consolidation. Local control of shared services. Local control of property tax levy. We will bring down our property tax burden and we’ll align our interests and get more money for our schools and it’ll be a win on every level. That’s how we’re gonna do it.
I agree that, over time, the state’s pension costs should be shifted to school districts for all the reasons the governor mentioned.
But doing it so quickly will definitely put pressure on property taxes. Also, his budget proposal doesn’t give K-12 schools much more money, he’s not gonna get that local control of collective bargaining.
Gov. Bruce Rauner is asking Illinois to do as he says, not practice what candidate Rauner preaches.
He delivered a budget address Wednesday that would do things very differently than what he advocates as the Illinois ideal. The biggest concern for most of Illinois is what would happen to property taxes.
“I spoke with Kelly Cassidy today. I told her I will cooperate fully and I will ask independent counsel Kelly Smith-Haley to assist.”
*** UPDATE 4 *** I checked in with Rep. Cassidy via text about her chat with Speaker Madigan today. “I spoke briefly to him as a professional courtesy that I was releasing the statement,” she wrote.
What did Madigan say? “He asked me how to accomplish the independence, and indicated he would be willing to cooperate.”
Also: “He never mentioned the firm or the attorney.”
[ *** End Of Updates *** ]
* Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago)…
“The slow and steady drip of accusations and dismissals has turned into an endless cycle of lather, rinse, repeat, highlighting the culture of harassment in the legislature and political campaigns.
I am calling for an independent investigation into this culture that appears to pervade the organizations led by Speaker Madigan. Because of the unique interconnectedness of his Capitol and political operations, the investigation must not be hampered by organizational boundaries. The investigator(s) should not be Democratic elected officials, individuals or firms with pre-existing ties to the Speaker and should have demonstrated experience with investigations of this nature.
We must get to the bottom of this with confidence in the independence of the investigator. We need to force the very real culture change required to truly show that #timesup.”
“We need a real, independent law firm, not someone that is hired by the chair of the party, and that’s what’s happened,” said Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake. “Whether or not they are wonderful people, it doesn’t matter. They’ve been hired by him. If you are going to do a true independent council, a true independent group, they have to be people that are clearly independent from the head of the (Democratic Party of Illinois).”
Bush said she did not believe the chair of the Democratic Party should serve as speaker of the House or president of the Senate. Bush stopped short of calling for Madigan to step down from his chairmanship of the party, but said “I think it’s something he should seriously consider, however, for the good of the party going forward.”
“I think there is an incestuous relationship that occurs there that is not healthy,” Bush said.
Asked about the calls for Madigan to step down as head of the party, Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said “that’s not going to happen.” He pointed to comments Madigan made last week following calls to resign by Democratic Rep. Scott Drury, a frequent critic of Madigan who is running for attorney general.
Rep. Drury, who is now back on the AG Dem ballot, has written a letter to Speaker Madigan, calling on him to step down as speaker and agree to testify under oath about sexual harassment and abuse; also wants an independent special counsel to conduct a statewide investigation.
Today, Comptroller Susana A. Mendoza, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos and State Representative Carol Ammons issued the following joint statement regarding the sexual harassment panel they are in the process of developing:
“We agreed to serve on this panel because it is clear that institutionalized systems have perpetuated sexism, sexual harassment, and inequality in our state’s political system. We thank the women who have come forward with their experiences for their bravery and courage.
“We recognize the importance and benefit to everyone when women are in positions of influential leadership and are active in all levels of our political system, from campaign staff to candidate. All women should be able to engage, achieve and excel in the workplace without fear of being excluded, harassed, discriminated, or retaliated against. It shouldn’t matter whether you work in a restaurant, a factory, a board room, a state capitol or a political campaign.
“When any woman finds herself being sexually harassed, resources should be readily available for her to seek justice and hold the perpetrators accountable. Survivors of sexual harassment must feel that their claims will be taken seriously, addressed promptly and that they can report incidents without fear of retribution. The culture of the ‘good old boy’ network is not changing fast enough and our panel will seek to accelerate the change of that culture.
“Since the hashtag MeToo caught fire in 2017, we have seen a flood of sexual harassment victims come forward. This is a problem on all levels of government and in all parties. The only significant and sustaining solution will be to change the dynamics and composition of leadership in politics.
“We have begun discussions about how to structure this panel and define its mission to include the voices of women around Illinois and make recommendations. At its core, in order for this panel to be effective in presenting legitimate findings and effective solutions, it must be completely independent. We take this responsibility seriously and, in the coming days, we will be publicly outlining the scope of the panel’s goals and our timeline after we have the opportunity to discuss the most effective path forward as a team.”
With a month to go before the March 20 primary, several statewide candidates are trying to ramp up their campaigns with a wave of television ads as voters start to tune in to the approaching election.
On Monday, governor hopefuls Jeanne Ives, a Republican, and Chris Kennedy, a Democrat, launched new TV spots […]
On the Republican side, in recent days Rauner has turned his attention away from Pritzker and toward his GOP primary challenger, Ives, a three-term Wheaton representative whom he earlier sought to dismiss as a “fringe” candidate. Now Rauner is employing his most-turned-to political attack, seeking to link Ives to Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, his chief political nemesis.
In response, Ives is up with a new ad in which a narrator calls her the only candidate for governor who “consistently fights for Illinois taxpayers.”
Kennedy gave his campaign another $250K a few days ago. But he still trails the pack.
I come from a family that has embraced the notion that we are all in this together. I’m Chris Kennedy. I’m running for governor because I’ve seen the potential of this state. Then I’ve seen the failings of the government.
The state needs to change. We have to make sure that education is paid for at the state level, and not through local property taxes.
I believe in building things up, not in tearing things down. I believe that compromise is not surrender.
I know this is doable, I know that we can do it. Let’s go where we need to go.
IL Sen. Kwame Raoul released the following statement regarding the latest alleged reports of inappropriate behavior during a Illinois political campaign:
“Last night, I was troubled to read the latest reports of allegations of “inappropriate behavior by a volunteer toward a candidate and staff during the 2016 election.” The details surrounding this situation remain unclear; however, what is clear is that we all must do more to prevent sexual assault, harassment and inequality in every workplace.
No single action or policy change will solve this problem. We all must work together to provide safe places for victims to come forward. In that same spirit, we also must commit to efficient and a just resolution of complaints. As Attorney General, I’ll work every day to ensure every survivor of abuses of power has access to justice.”
Last night, Raoul donated previous campaign contributions from Decremer to the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund. That fund will provide subsidized legal support to women and men who have experienced sexual harassment, assault, or abuse in the workplace while in pursuit of their careers.
Raoul also signed on to the Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association (IDCCA) zero-tolerance sexual harassment policy and pledge yesterday. You can view his tweet here: https://twitter.com/KwameRaoul/status/965760862056337408 and learn more about the pledge here: http://ildcca.org/2018/02/sexual-harassment-policy-and-pledge/
“There is still more work to do,” Raoul added.
Decremer didn’t make many campaign contributions and he only reported giving Raoul $250. But in a crowded race like the AG contest where everyone is looking for a way to get noticed, Raoul’s people made a smart move before a rival pointed it out.
* Quinn, in Decatur, calls for utility rate cuts: Attorney general candidate and former governor Pat Quinn, known for elaborate public messages over the decades to draw attention to Illinois political issues, on Monday made a campaign stop in Decatur to bang the drum on a familiar Quinn topic: keeping utility companies in check. In the pouring rain outside Decatur’s Ameren Illinois offices, the Democrat called for big utility companies to reimburse customers based on smaller federal tax bills for corporations that arose in Washington in December.
* Raoul blasts prevailing anti-worker agenda in Springfield: Raoul said the new unit would focus on prevailing minimum wage, employment classification and wage theft. He characterized opposition to the new unit as support of wage theft. “We have a governor and legislators who turn a blind eye to this,” he said. “In some cases, these (labor law) violations are slow walked (through the review process). We need to make sure the attorney general can go after these rogue contractors.”
* Former governor Quinn says he’ll fight for consumers as AG: Mr. Quinn said data collection and credit reporting companies, such as Equifax, were violating privacy laws. “Today, in the 21st century, your data is being taken from you without your compensation or permission,” he said. “Illinois does have in its constitution a privacy provision which is unlike most states,” he said. “Very few have an express provision of privacy, and it’s not in the federal constitution. But we do.
* Quinn: State Attorneys General ‘Last Line Of Defense’ Against Trump: Quinn also expressed a willingness to pursue more public corruption cases through the Illinois attorney general’s office. During Democrat Lisa Madigan’s tenure as attorney general, most of the high-profile corruption cases have been brought by federal prosecutors. (Madigan is not seeking re-election.) Quinn said he’s not afraid to confront other elected officials. He recalled his work on a legislative pay issue that upset some state lawmakers; Quinn said he was once booed during a trip to the Statehouse. “I’m not afraid to do that. If I get booed again, so be it,” Quinn said.
* Democratic AG candidates all want to put Peoples Gas on trial: “When you talk about specific instances like what is happening here, I believe in fact the attorney general should take action,” said former federal prosecutor Sharon Fairley. “When you have a polluter who has done harm to our community, you seek full remediation, you make sure they put in whatever preventive measures that need to happen to make sure it doesn’t happen again and you put in penalties that are not just perceived as the cost of doing business.”
This afternoon, WCIA-TV in the Champaign-Springfield-Decatur media market notified our campaign that they’ve officially decided to cancel their debate.
Somewhere in this state, hiding behind more than $30 million in TV ads, JB Pritzker is breathing a sigh of relief that he’s no longer obligated to face voters during what was to be the only televised debate happening outside of the Chicago market.
Pritzker’s decision that downstate voters aren’t worthy of hearing his positions on issues so they can vet the candidates against each other ultimately led to the debate being canceled.
The good news is Chris Kennedy still cares about voters throughout our state and he isn’t afraid to face them. Chris still plans to host a meet and greet in Champaign on Monday, March 5, the date this debate was to happen. He looks forward to hearing from voters and sharing his vision to bring radical change to Illinois.
Campaign Manager Abby Witt released the following statement in response to WCIA’s decision to cancel to only televised downstate debate.
“JB is borrowing a page from the billionaire playbook, avoiding debates and shunning reporters who ask tough questions.
“This is a critical election for middle class and working families. They are deciding who they trust to fight for them—and if he won’t show up for a Democratic debate, how can we trust him to show up when they need him the most.
“Our campaign is focused on meeting with voters and reporters in every community, and that’s why we’ll be hosting our own town hall in Champaign on March 5.”
Speaking on Illinois Public Media’s daily talk show, The 21st, Pritzker said he’s already done almost 50 forums and joint appearances.
“We actually have agreed back in December to do six debates, and that was very well known”, said Pritzker. “This debate came up later.”
A campaign spokesperson later reached out Monday evening to say Pritzker “misspoke” about the timing of the invitation for the Springfield debate, but did not provide another explanation for not participating.
* The official letter…
Our General Manager released this statement today explaining the company’s decision not to move forward with the March 5th debate. pic.twitter.com/tNfsuA9Wyu
I’m told by a good source that “not one” reporter in WCIA’s newsroom supports the station’s decision to kill the debate. The decision was “made by Nexstar corporate in tandem with CBS2 and KMOV in St Louis,” the source said. “Way above our heads.”
Last year’s state budget caused some real consternation among local government leaders because the General Assembly slashed their share of the state income tax by 10 percent for one year and skimmed 2 percent off the top of several local sales taxes.
Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed that budget. His veto was overridden, but the governor’s new budget recycles those same two ideas as well as the overall concept of off-loading state costs onto local taxpayers.
The biggest is Rauner’s proposal to shift some teacher and higher education pension costs to the local and university/college levels. The governor would shift 25 percent of costs per year to school districts and universities over just four years. That means, in four years, taxpayers in downstate and suburban school districts would pay over $1 billion a year for pension payments that they don’t pay now. And Chicago Public Schools would lose 100 percent of its state pension assistance in the first year, costing the city’s taxpayers an extra $228 million.
I just don’t see how the governor could ever pull this one off. And that means whoever drafts the final budget will have to patch a $591 million hole.
The budget proposal for next fiscal year also relies on an assumption that the General Assembly will pass an emergency $1.1 billion supplemental appropriations bill for this fiscal year by March. Much of that money is for the Department of Corrections. Now that a new budget is in place, creditors are demanding payment.
Not to mention that other creditors are going to be forced to wait in long lines until somebody can figure out how to reduce the state’s current $9 billion backlog of unpaid bills because the governor’s budget proposal almost totally punts that problem into the future.
Yes, the governor has lots of new money from the tax hike, so he should’ve been able to propose a far more balanced budget without all these gimmicks that probably won’t pass (like the pension cost shift) and the deferrals (like the backlog problem) which have to be dealt with eventually.
Rauner also avoided making direct budgetary cuts with his tax reduction proposal that claims to cut the income tax rate by a miniscule quarter of a percentage point by relying on revenues from a pension reform idea that may be unconstitutional and has not yet been endorsed by House Speaker Mike Madigan.
We’re now left with two major unanswered questions.
First, is the governor finally serious about negotiating the budget? He had the legislative leaders over to his office last week, which is the first time that’s happened in 14 months. But it was just a quickie budget briefing.
Second, will the Democrats work with Rauner to solve those problems in an election year or will they wait to see if Rauner loses?
Senate President John Cullerton issued a statement last week that may answer both questions: “I met with the governor this morning. He said he wants to roll back taxes and put more money in education. Here’s the problem. His budget does the opposite. He spends the entire tax increase. And he cuts money for education. It’s almost like he doesn’t know what his budget does. I can’t explain the disconnect. It seems intentionally deceptive and it’s troubling.”
So, probably a “no” on both.
* Finke: Don’t spend that tax cut all at once: Being the fiscally prudent guy he is, Rauner will not proceed with the tax cut unless the latest reform plan is found constitutional. At the pace the court works, that should be around the year 2021, assuming the law is passed this spring. If the law is found unconstitutional, we’ll probably hear more about the courts being under House Speaker MICHAEL MADIGAN’s control. If the reform should stand, you, dear taxpayer, will see a cut of 25 cents on every $100 of your state income tax bill. Go crazy.
* Rauner’s pension shift proposal ‘financially devastating’ to QPS: Quincy Public Schools Superintendent Roy Webb says a proposal by Gov. Bruce Rauner to shift pension costs to local schools would be “financially devastating” to the district. “It’s not in our budget at all. It’s not projected to be in our budget at all,” Webb said. “It would be very tough for Quincy Public Schools to try to take that on.”
* Kacich: Pension-cost shift a ‘nonstarter’ for many lawmakers: The keystone of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s 2019 budget — a plan to shift the cost of pension payments from the state to universities and local school districts over four years — is “a nonstarter,” says state Rep. Chad Hays, R-Catlin. He’s not alone in his assessment. Hays is among 46 House members (out of 118) who have signed onto a resolution (HR 27) sponsored by Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, that says that “an educational pension cost shift is financially wrong and would only serve to shift pension burdens from the state to the status of an unfunded mandate.”
* Opponents: Rauner insurance changes would hurt state workers, retired teachers: Rauner said his budget recommends “right-sizing employee health insurance plans so that government compensation is more in line with what the taxpayers have who are paying for it. Today, we pay almost 90 percent of the premiums for government employee health insurance policies that are way more expensive than plans in the private sector.” Rauner wants the split between the state and workers to be closer to 60/40. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents about 38,000 state employees, said the governor’s numbers are misleading. The union says the state pays 76 percent of health care costs and employees pay 24 percent, which is the national median according to a 2014 study on state employee health plans by the Pew Charitable Trusts.