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Sanguinetti warns of GOP’s “extinction”

Monday, Apr 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Nick Vlahos

House Speaker-for-Life Mike Madigan was the object of much ire last week during the Peoria County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day dinner. His long-term status as House and state Democratic Party leader — and as de facto leader of Illinois, in many ways — provided plenty of talking points.

The lieutenant governor, for one, sounded as if life as we know it from Mound City to East Dubuque would cease to exist if the Madigan-led Democrats ran the table in November.

“This is the election of a lifetime,” Evelyn Sanguinetti told the crowd at the Marriott Pere Marquette. “Right now, the extinction of our party is out there. And we have to fight.”


Close the FOID loophole

Monday, Apr 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Heritage Foundation on the Travis Reinking case

Clearly, there are questions about how this suspect managed to avoid a criminal or mental health history that would have disqualified him from firearm possession under federal law. There are also questions about whether the revocation of his state firearms permit should have been reported to the FBI background check database.

Yet, in many respects, Illinois law worked exactly as intended, and a mentally ill individual who posed a risk of danger to himself or others was disarmed.

The problem, of course, is that neither current law nor any more restrictive laws could have prevented the suspect’s father from returning the firearms to his son, or from procuring new ones for him.

Um, I can think of a new law that would’ve prevented the father from returning those guns to his son: Don’t let a relative or friend hold weapons for somebody whose FOID card has been revoked.

And the Illinois law most certainly did not work “exactly as intended” or Reinking’s guns would’ve been taken away from him long ago.

* Journal Times editorial

Reinking’s police record showed a history of recent aberrant behavior and the gun seizure recommended at the behest of federal authorities was clearly warranted.

Illinois lawmakers — and lawmakers in Wisconsin and elsewhere — should take note. Laws should be rewritten to require weapons in cases such as this be physically turned over to law enforcement, and released back to the owner only after a court determines that a thorough mental health evaluation has been done.

It should not be left to the judgment — or lack of judgment — of a family member or friend with a legitimate FOID card.

That law clearly failed the four victims of the Waffle House shooting. Close the loophole that allowed last week’s carnage.

* There’s also this idea from a Tribune editorial

Another measure pending in Springfield would allow police to seize the guns themselves, not just the FOID, if a judge determined the owner posed a threat to himself or others. Six states already have so-called red flag laws, and Illinois is among 18 others considering them.

The measure pushed by Rep. Kathleen Willis, D-Addison, would allow a family member or law enforcement officer to petition a court for a gun violence restraining order against a gun owner whose behavior demonstrates it is warranted. The judge would have to find that an actual threat existed, not just a suspicion or a sinking feeling. The guns could be seized for up to a year, though the person could seek to terminate the order by showing the court that the threat no longer existed.

Such a restraining order would apply narrowly to individuals whose behavior posed a clear threat. It also preserves those individuals’ due process rights.


Mendoza calls Rauner a “madman”

Monday, Apr 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Governing

After two ratings agencies dropped Illinois’ ratings to within one notch of junk bond status last year, Rauner said he “wouldn’t be surprised if there’s more ratings downgrades, there should be, because the majority in the General Assembly won’t get a balanced budget.” He also said, “Don’t listen to some Wall Street firm. That’s not what matters. Listen to the people of Illinois.”

Mendoza thinks Rauner wanted to create chaos with another downgrade, pointing to his support for federal legislation allowing states to seek bankruptcy-like protections to reduce their pension debts (they are not legally able to now) and his dismissive attitude toward the possibility of Illinois bonds being rated as junk.

“I think the governor, absolutely, on purpose, created this fiscal crisis. I say that without equivocation. Yes,” she says.

“On the very eve getting a budget passed, when we were teetering on the brink of going into junk bond status, here I am telling the markets, ‘Don’t worry, I’m going to make the debt service payments no matter what.’ And then Gov. Rauner is saying, ‘Don’t listen to the markets! The people don’t want a tax increase. Don’t listen to Wall Street.’”

“I thought, oh my God, he is metaphorically giving them the finger,” she says. “This madman is running this state into the ground.”

It never ends with those two.


Canaries in the coal mine?

Monday, Apr 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Uh-oh

After a years-long stretch in which the city’s economy substantially outpaced that of the state, Illinois’ economic malaise appears to have spread inside the Chicago city limits.

New data indicate employment growth in the city has flatlined, with only 510 more private-sector jobs in the city than in the same period a year ago and the number of employed Chicagoans almost dead even.

That stands in contrast to previous data indicating that, after several years of solid growth that led the metropolitan region and the state, the total number of jobs in Chicago proper was at the highest level in decades, driven by 2-plus percent annual job growth in the booming central area of the city.

The new figures come from Illinois Department of Employment Security surveys of households and employers as crunched by World Business Chicago, the city’s private-public corporate recruitment agency. WBC is chaired by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

* More

Seven metropolitan areas lost jobs over the month, with Chicago leading the way, dropping 3,700 jobs.

Following Chicago, Springfield shed 500 jobs (-0.4 percent); Peoria dropped 500 jobs (-0.3 percent); Decatur lost 300 jobs (-0.6 percent); Bloomington payrolls declined by 300 (-0.3 percent); Rockford dropped 200 jobs (-0.1 percent); and Davenport-Moline-Rock Island shed 200 jobs (-0.1 percent). Champaign-Urbana payrolls saw no change.

Fortunately, some areas of the Prairie State increased payrolls over the month. Lake-Kenosha County gained 700 jobs (+0.2 percent); Carbondale payrolls increased by 600 (+1.1 percent); Elgin added 600 jobs (+0.2 percent); Danville gained 100 jobs (+0.4 percent); and Kankakee added 100 jobs (+0.2 percent).

Although some areas experienced growth during the month of March, on net employment declined. Particularly concerning is the dip in Chicago area payrolls, as Chicago has been a catalyst in Illinois’ job recovery.

* Also

The last few winters haven’t been particularly cold. Natural gas remains historically cheap. Unemployment is low. Yet customer nonpayments to Peoples Gas, which heats Chicagoans’ homes, soared last year.

The amount Peoples reported as uncollectible in 2017 was $58.2 million, more than twice the $26.5 million it recorded in 2016, according to filings with the Illinois Commerce Commission. The 2017 figure was 5 percent of Peoples’ revenue for the year. It also was well above the $37 million in uncollectible bills at Peoples in 2014, the notorious “polar vortex” year, when heating bills spiked.​

To put 2017 in further context, uncollectible accounts at far larger Nicor Gas, which serves much of suburban Chicago, were just $11 million, less than 1 percent of its 2017 revenue.

…Adding… And then there’s this just around the corner…


Tillman: Uihlein “likes to give people a chance no one else would”

Monday, Apr 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From the Washington Post profile’s Dick Uihlein

“Dick does believe in the underdog and likes to give people a chance no one else would,” said John Tillman, a friend and chief executive of the Illinois Policy Institute, a conservative think tank funded by Uihlein. “He believes in building mechanisms of accountability for lawmakers. And too often, that means holding Republicans accountable when they fail to put taxpayers first.” […]

Another Uihlein project has focused on creating conservative-leaning news sources.

One of his major charitable targets, Think Freely Media, funds websites and newspapers that mix local reporting with conservative political opinion. The sites have local names such as Lake County Gazette or McHenry Times.

As the Chicago Tribune reported, a separate political committee funded by Uihlein disclosed paying a group funded by Think Freely to republish “newspapers” with articles about the key candidates that could be mailed to targeted voters.

Tillman, who also founded Think Freely, said Uihlein is guided by his commitment to conservative principles and to effecting change through the candidates and causes he supports.

“He is pragmatic and realistic about every investment he makes, whether it’s in policy, politics or charitable giving,” Tillman said.

Dan Proft, for whatever reason, is not mentioned, even though he has spent millions of U-bucks on legislative and statewide races.


Blast from the past considers, then drops bid for governor on same day

Monday, Apr 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Al Salvi lost badly to Dick Durbin for US Senate way back in 1996 and then got creamed by Jesse White two years later. But he started musing about a comeback on Facebook yesterday morning

Regarding whether to run for Governor, here are my current thoughts:

This year will be historic.

The conventional wisdom might as well be thrown out.

My wins before were for the statewide nomination of one of the two major political parties.

This is different: to have a well known and serious candidate running on the ticket of a party that normally gets 1%?

It would be front page stuff.

Illinois law makes this a perfect storm: the key is to get a known and serious candidate to run as a 3rd party candidate.

In Illinois, you only need a plurality, and Pritzger/Rauner will split the leftist vote.

It’s always amazing when people think they’re remembered 20 years after their last race.

* Yep. Easy Peasy

If I run for Governor as a 3rd Party candidate, it would be a 3-person race. Possible

The more I think of this, the more I like it! Illinois’ laws are perfect for this.

Theoretically, it could end up 34-33-33.

Maybe he isn’t reading the newspapers. Does the name “Sam McCann” ring a bell? Also, as he’s about to find out, Illinois laws are not “perfect for this.”

* The savior

Conservatives have no reason to vote this Nov-which hurts us in all down-ballot races

We need Constitutional Conservatives to have a reason to go to the polls. It’ll save 100s of GOP down-ballot candidates.

* Welp

Apparently, June 25 is the deadline to file 25,000 good signatures to run as an “Independent.” People who circulated for another party in the primary cannot circulate for us.

So, Independent is out.

I could be put on the ballot by the “Libertarians,” but this guy, who had a run-in with a Circuit Judge at Lake County Court (my brother), would have to back-out. Not promising for me getting on the ballot (or for Illinois)…

The referenced story is here. Salvi’s brother and Kash Jackson are clashing in family court. I’m thinking Kash ain’t gonna play ball.

* An hour later, he enters the bargaining stage

Heavily funded write-in candidacy?

Is there enough disgust with ILLINOIS out there?

He does have some personal wealth as a trial lawyer, so that may be playing into this.

* After many commenters urge him to run

Leaning toward running.


* Back to the Kash Jackson idea

Okay: The only way for me to get on the ballot is for “Kash” to give me his spot on the ballot as Libertarian candidate for Governor, and serve as my Lt. Guv.
(Chad, my friend, you’d have to drop on your sword— But you will be forever remembered!!!)

Libertarians in Illinois have to stop just trying to get their 5% (which gives them a spot on the ballot next time with no signatures).

Fellow Libertarians: LET’S WIN THIS TIME. Kash: give me your spot on the ballot and we will WIN!

* And then he circles back to the independent candidacy idea

Election experts: Is it true, that an “Independent” needs 25,000 signatures in 45 days? What about the Libertarian nominated by the Libertarian Party?

* He certainly thinks highly of himself

You are the most important “Focus Group” in history!

* And, finally, after several hours of this, an acceptance of sorts

Looks like I would need to gather 25,000 signatures for an independent bid.
No other choice.

The third-party candidacies from last election didn’t get much more than 1% of the vote, so they have no standing. They need 25,000 signatures to get on the ballot also.

So, it’s run on my own, by gathering my own 25,000 signatures…or drop the whole thing. Unbelievable that the third-party candidates of the past have done so so poorly: if any of them just received 5% of the vote, they wouldn’t need to gather such a large number of signatures.

They thus can’t even GET ON THE the ballot in 2018 without gathering the same number of signatures as individuals running as independents!

In other words, these third parties are worthless. Nobody will contest their signatures, though, because nobody fears them.

When I was nominated by the GOP, I ignored the third-party candidates (even though the libertarian only campaigned by going to gun shows, taking only MY votes )…

I should have challenged his signatures and that would have easily knocked off the entire libertarian slate from the ballot.

I didn’t think it was worth my time.

They did not have the necessary number of signatures then to be on the ballot, but they were irrelevant, so we let them on the ballot and did not contest their woefully short number of signatures.

This year, they will not get the necessary signatures, but nobody will challenge them because they are irrelevant.

If I get on the ballot on their ticket, though, the two main parties will certainly both challenge the signatures: a Catch 22.

Tough call.

I am now leaning against a run for governor. The swamp of Illinois has rigged this game.
It’s a shame, because conservatives will have less reason to go to the polls – and that will hurt the down-ballot conservative candidates.

Let’s hope that the corruption of Illinois does not contribute to the corrupt impeachment of our president.


The enemy of my enemy is my friend

Monday, Apr 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Sun-Times

For nearly a decade, Rod Blagojevich and his wife have aimed their message at the public, jurors and a collection of federal judges from Chicago to Washington, D.C.

As of this month, they are finally down to an audience of one: President Donald Trump.

But if they want to end the former governor’s 14-year prison sentence early, they’ll have to get Trump’s attention. To do so, Illinois’ former first lady and her husband’s supporters are already beginning to point toward two of Trump’s favorite targets:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller and former FBI Director James Comey.

“This same cast of characters that did this to my family are out there trying to do it to the president,” Patti Blagojevich told the Chicago Sun-Times in a phone interview.

There’s more, including Patrick Fitzgerald, who prosecuted Blagojevich and Scooter Libby. Trump recently pardoned Libby.


Mission inflation?

Monday, Apr 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Politico

An Illinois news platform that launches Monday says its mission is to battle all forms of “fake news” and sites designed to stoke the angry American political divide.

One Illinois is in response to Breitbart News and the libertarian-oriented Illinois Policy Institute said Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar, a onetime progressive Illinois gubernatorial candidate who serves as president and executive director.

“Our fundamental belief is people are good. The way you counter the IPI and Breitbart is you don’t fight fire with fire, you fight fire with water,” Pawar said. “Getting people angry is easy. But making people angry maintains the status quo.” […]

One Illinois’ debut story is about a small Mississippi River city near the Iowa border, Savanna, Illinois, which in 2016 overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump. The story describes newcomer Chris Lain, who moved into Savanna with his husband, not knowing whether they’d be accepted. Lain ran for mayor on the platform of downtown redevelopment and infrastructure investment, and was elected.

“This is a town that did go for Trump and then in April elected a gay liberal from Chicago,” Lain says in a video that posts on the site today.

If you go to the site you’ll see stories about former Quad Cities Democratic Senators Mike and Denny Jacobs, and then another story about rivers that quotes Denny, and then another about Savanna, which is right up the river from the QC’s, and then the aforementioned article about Savanna’s mayor, and then one entitled “From Togo to the Quad Cities,” and yet another one about eagles near the Quad Cities.

I don’t get it. How is this stuff supposed to counter Breitbart and the IPI?


Today’s number: 3,400 coal mining jobs

Monday, Apr 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Post-Dispatch

And, as Illinois data show, any rebounds in coal production don’t guarantee that jobs will follow, hand in hand — especially in an industry where automation has, for decades, eroded employment more aggressively than any perceived regulatory “war” on coal. Last year, for instance, coal production in the state was up 10 percent over 2016, according to Phil Gonet, president of the Illinois Coal Association. Employment, though, actually decreased by about 200 workers — to about 3,400 overall — with two mines closing down.


Question of the day

Monday, Apr 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Finke

There have been efforts for a while to place a statue of Ronald Reagan on the Statehouse grounds to honor the 40th president. U.S. Rep. DARIN LaHOOD of Peoria championed the effort when he was was a state senator, but he’s been in Congress since 2015. There’s still no Reagan statue.

Enter Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, who has been very active in activities surrounding the Illinois bicentennial celebration. He was approached about the idea of finally doing that Reagan statue. He discussed the idea with some others who thought it would be fitting in this bicentennial year to have a statue of not only Reagan, but also of Barack Obama. That would mean all four presidents with ties to Illinois would be represented by statues at the Capitol. (In case you didn’t realize it, there is a statue of Ulysses S. Grant, but it is inside the rotunda). […]

Then the bill started moving through the legislative process. Butler said “it was suggested” another statue be added to the mix. This one would be of James Thompson, longest-serving Illinois governor.

Done yet? Nope. Next up was Reuben Soderstrom. Who, you may ask? He was a state representative who also was president of the Illinois State Federation of Labor and later the Illinois AFL-CIO.

But wait, there’s more. The next suggestion was to add a statue of former Chicago Mayor Harold Washington. And why limit the selection to people born in the 20th century, especially when you might be able to swing a discount by ordering statues in bulk? Let’s add a statue of Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable, the first resident of Chicago.

* The Question: Your Statehouse statue suggestion(s)?


It’s just a bill

Monday, Apr 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Columbia Chronicle

During her senior year of high school, Amina Henderson-Redwan was leading a peace circle at Gage Park High School on Chicago’s Southwest Side when she felt an anxiety attack coming on.

As she tried to walk away, she said she got into a conflict with a school security guard and was arrested and detained for about five hours before being taken to a juvenile detention center.

Three years later, Henderson-Redawn is lobbying with the Voice of Youth in Chicago Education for legislation that will provide grants to fund mental health professionals in Illinois public schools. House Bill 4208 by state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Westchester, in December 2017, aims to do that.

“This bill is important because what I needed at that moment in time was a counselor. Someone who I could actually talk to, not be put in handcuffs while having an anxiety attack and feeling as though I couldn’t breathe,” Henderson-Redawn said. “I’m passionate about this bill because too many youth feel like their mental health is being ignored.”

Welch, a proponent of mental health services in schools, said the bill will create the Safe Schools Healthy Learning Environment grant for statewide schools to apply for and allocate funding where needed, whether it is school psychologists, social workers or after-school activities.

I’m not sure what the answer is, but something most definitely needs to change.

* More bills…

* Illinois debates effectiveness of racial-profile data: Jim Kaitschuk, executive director of the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association, said it’s time for the program to end. Individual departments can collect the data if they want, he said. “Originally, the traffic stop data was set up to be temporary, where we’d evaluate the data and see what needs to be changed,” he said. “Fourteen years later and we’ve kicked the can on (doing anything with) the study. What’s this data providing?” The 2016 report, the most recent one available, shows minorities statewide were 38 percent more likely to be stopped than whites. That’s up from the previous year, when minorities were 25 percent more likely to be stopped.

* Gun bills have seen mixed success in General Assembly

* Illinois moves closer to bump stock ban: Critics say it’s a redundancy of a federal law and could put people traveling through the state in prison.

* Illinois House approves required $40,000 salary for teachers

* Measure to allow state treasurer to use investment money to pay Illinois bill backlog advances to House

* Urban Farm Tax Credit Plan Gets Illinois House Approval


Enough with the games, please

Monday, Apr 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* DGA…

On Friday, Governor Bruce Rauner’s staff blew a deadline to deliver the legislature a plan on the future of the state-run Quincy Veterans’ Home. When Rauner first announced in January that his team would put together a plan, the fact that it was coming two-years into the Legionnaires’ crisis was not lost on the Chicago Tribune:

“More than 2 years after bacteria outbreak, Rauner proposes task force to figure out veterans home fixes.”

Four months and four more sick residents later, the administration missed the legislature’s deadline. But Rauner’s team did find time to finish a 35-page report pushing back against “misconceptions” about the state’s response to the crisis. The last “misconception” that needed “correction” was the argument “that the administration has not made this a top priority.”

“Bruce Rauner’s misplaced priorities and failed leadership are on display again at the state-run Quincy Veterans’ Home,” said DGA Illinois Communications Director Sam Salustro. “Two-and-a-half years and 13 deaths later, Rauner and his team are still more focused on covering-up their failures than ensuring the safety of Quincy residents.”

* WAND TV last week

Members of the Illinois House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees are urging Gov. Bruce Rauner to deliver a plan by Friday for remedying a Legionnaires’ disease crisis at the Quincy veterans home.

The letter dated Monday was signed by Democratic chairmen of the committees, Sen. Thomas Cullerton and Rep. Linda Chapa Lavia. Also signing were Sen. Sam McCann and Rep. David McSweeney, both Republicans. […]

Rauner adviser Michael Hoffman promised a final report by May 1. He agreed last week to aim for Friday. Lawmakers want to act before their May 31 adjournment.

The governor’s veterans affairs director resigned on Friday, which is probably one reason why there was a “delay.”

Look, Hoffman promised a report by May 1st, which is tomorrow. I’m not sure why those members thought it necessary to advance Hoffman’s deadline by a few days and then scream that their deadline wasn’t met, but putting gubernatorial candidate Sam McCann on that letter is a major hint that their demand was overtly political. The fact that the DGA is jumping on this so heavily is yet another tell.

I’m told Hoffman will meet his deadline. If he doesn’t, then we can pounce. If he does, maybe we can all focus on the substance of his report and not all this political process nonsense.

The object here should be to fix the Quincy facility for the benefit of the residents.


Pritzker calls lack of Democratic candidates a “failure, county by county”

Monday, Apr 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Bernie

Pritzker put out a video last week encouraging Democrats to run against unopposed Republicans.

“There are nearly 400 county-level Republicans running completely unopposed in November,” Pritzker says in the video. “If you’ve ever thought about running, now is the time. With failed leaders like (Governor) BRUCE RAUNER and Donald Trump, we need Democrats to win at every level.” […]

“I think this is a failure, county by county, to recruit enough people to run for those offices,” Pritzker said. “The Democratic Party should be encouraging people to run. … We should never let a GOP member of a county board or a state representative or a state senator go unchallenged.”

He also noted that many counties, including some in central and southern Illinois, have had Republican majorities, making Democrats doubt they can win.

“We have to have people running, and the people who run as Democrats, I think, will find in this year that there’s an opportunity, with a blue (Democratic) wave. … So I think we’re going to see a lot of people step up.”

* Here’s the video

* From the Illinois Democratic Chairs’ Association website

Across the United States, Democrats have been winning in districts that Republicans have historically held and that Donald Trump won by significant margins. A Blue Wave is coming! The IDCCA and its partners are looking to actively recruit candidates to fill down ballot County Wide and County Board races where we are not currently challenging Republicans.



Pharmacists say they’re being pushed out of business

Monday, Apr 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* SJ-R

Many owners of the state’s more than 500 independent pharmacies and smaller chains — including those in the Springfield area — are being paid less than the “acquisition cost,” or wholesale price, of the medicines they dispense to Medicaid patients.

[Garth Reynolds, executive director of the Illinois Pharmacists Association] said pharmacies also have seen their per-prescription “dispensing fee” from Medicaid — designed to cover professional services — drop from $5.50 for generics and $2.40 for brand-name drugs under the previous “fee-for-service” system to the current 45 cents per prescription.

As a result, many pharmacy owners say their overall payments from Medicaid have dropped by half or more because of rate cuts instituted by companies known as pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs.

At least one of those PBMs, CVS Caremark, pharmacy benefit manager for the huge CVS Pharmacy chain, appears to be working with CVS Pharmacy to put smaller pharmacies out of business so CVS can acquire them, Reynolds said.

“It’s kind of a predatory market practice and misuse of state tax dollars,” he said.

* Many problems are surfacing about these pharmacy benefit managers. And it’s not confined to Illinois

Did you know that for every 60-mg caplet of duloxetine dispensed in Ohio through a Medicaid-contracted managed-care company, taxpayers pay a middleman $1.54, but the middleman passes only about 18 cents of that to the pharmacy that supplies the drug and pockets the $1.36 difference?

* Check this out

CVS’s benefit manager cut Medicaid reimbursements to local Ohio pharmacies this past fall, which some say put them in financial jeopardy. Then CVS’s “acquisition unit” sent letters to many of those same pharmacies, saying times are tough and asking whether they would be interested in selling their business.

That appears to be happening in Illinois as well.

* Illinois legislators are being flooded with calls from their local pharmacists who are worried they’re about to go out of business

Kate Gainer of the Iowa Pharmacy Association encouraged lawmakers to further investigate pharmacy benefit managers, saying they engage in unfair practices that go largely unregulated. Gainer blamed the contracts for the closure of dozens of pharmacies across Iowa.

More background is here.


Pritzker points to pot as possible capital bill funding source

Monday, Apr 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* JB Pritzker was in Decatur the other day

Pritzker said during and after the roundtable that he will make creating a capital bill a priority if elected in November.

How to pay for for those capital projects remains to be seen.

With President Donald Trump’s administration asking for an 80 percent match in local and state funds for infrastructure projects, Pritzker said state leaders will have to look at a number of revenue streams to pay for a capital bill, likely to cost more than $1 billion.

Options floated by Pritzker on Friday include paying with revenue from a graduated income tax he hopes to get approved once elected, revenue from legalizing and taxing marijuana and, when the state’s credit rating improves, borrowing.

Earlier this month, he seemed to say he’d use part of the pot of weed money to increase school funding, but that could’ve just been the way the reporter chose to write the report.

Either way, borrowing isn’t revenue. You have to find money to pay for that bonding.


*** UPDATED x2 *** Hearing today will look at why thousands were kicked off Medicaid

Monday, Apr 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Whoa…

Click here and scroll all the way to the bottom for January’s enrollment numbers. Now, click here and scroll to the bottom for March’s numbers. Enrollment fell by 178,883.

*** UPDATE 1 *** But of course…

*** UPDATE 2 *** Press release…

State Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, and members of a House budget committee shined a light on the human face of the technical issues plaguing a Rauner administration IT upgrade that had incorrectly blocked tens of thousands from receiving services during late 2017 at a hearing Monday.

“Governor Rauner’s mismanagement of state contracts has led to misery for medically fragile children, nursing home residents and people with disabilities,” said Harris. “It’s another example of how the governor is focused on handing out contracts to private consultants and ignoring the plight of those at the bottom of the economic ladder.”

During the hearing, advocates from local social service agencies and frontline Department of Human Service workers testified as to how the new Integrated Eligibility System (IES) had failed residents.

“As a single parent of an adult with disabilities whose livelihood depends on Medicaid, I feel that the systemic Medicaid issues occurring in Illinois threaten the life I have worked so hard to achieve these last forty-one years for my daughter and myself,” said Shirley Perez, whose serves as Program Director of the Ligas Family Advocate Program and Executive Director of the Family Support Network of Illinois, and whose adult daughter was almost recently cut off from her Medicaid coverage. “When her redetermination notice failed, my heart just sank, even with years of experience as a parent and as a professional in the disability field who talks to other families about their issues daily. Please know that the impact of this problem is far greater than it might seem because it is a threat to our very existence.”

In 2017, the Illinois Department of Human Services began rolling out the second phase of the IES to process enrollment for several different services. However, in late 2017, more than 40,000 households lost their food stamp benefits. The IES change also created a state backlog in processing identification numbers for Medicaid patients, blocking some patients from receiving treatment. In both cases, officials had to scramble as thousands went without critical health and food benefits that often serve as the difference between life and death.

In addition to having technical issues, IES has gone way beyond its initial price tag, leading to a $300 million project whose extensions and amendments will end up costing more than the project’s original budget.

“The countless stories from families across Illinois on the widespread failures of the state’s new Medicaid computer system would be disastrous on their own,” Harris continued. “Yet the fact that the cost overruns on this failed system total more than $150 million makes it doubly outrageous. Taxpayers should not be coughing up hundreds of millions of tax dollars to actually make things worse.”


*** UPDATED x1 *** CTBA says its graduated tax would cut taxes for 98 percent

Monday, Apr 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability has a new report out about how a graduated income tax could be used to lower taxes for 98 percent of Illinoisans. Here’s the Tribune

Under one model, the state would keep its current 4.95 percent rate for income of up to $300,000. It would raise the rate to 7.5 percent for income between $300,000 and $400,000; hike it to 8 percent for income between $400,000 and $500,000; increase it to 9.25 percent for income between $500,000 and $1 million. Income above $1 million would be taxed at 9.85 percent. The top rate is what is used in Minnesota.

In that plan, a $300 credit would be applied to lower incomes, and that amount would get smaller as a taxpayer’s earnings got higher.

A second model from the group would levy a 4.5 percent tax on income up to $100,000; 4.95 percent on income between $100,000 and $300,000; 8 percent on income between $300,000 and $500,000; 9.25 percent on income between $500,000 and $1 million; and 9.85 percent on income of $1 million or more.

The group said under that model, anyone making under $314,000 of taxable income would see a tax cut of up to $450.

* CTBA press release…

· It is textbook capitalist policy that to be fair, a tax system should impose tax burden according to ability to pay—that is, it should impose higher tax burdens on affluent households than it does on low- and middle-income households, when tax burden is measured as a percentage of income. Illinois fails this basic standard of fairness, in large part because of its flat rate state income tax.

· Illinois’ unfair, flat rate income tax contributes to structural deficits. This is because a flat rate income tax cannot—by design—respond to the significant growth in income inequality that has occurred over the last three decades. This in turn has forced decision makers to underfund or cut the core public services of education, healthcare, human services, and public safety, which collectively account for over 90 percent of all General Fund spending on current services.

· Illinois’ unfair, flat rate income tax harms the private economy. Overtaxing low- and middle-income families, who are both good spenders and have flat to declining real incomes over time, reduces their consumer spending. The research shows that for every dollar the state cuts in General Fund spending on current services, the private sector loses an average of $1.36 in economic activity. Since most General Fund spending on core services covers the wages of the teachers, social workers, health care professionals, correctional officers, and other workers who provide public services, when Illinois’ structural deficit compels the state to reduce spending, it is for the most part cutting the earnings of these workers.

· Illinois’ flat income tax rate is out of the mainstream. Of the 41 US states that impose an individual income tax, Illinois is one of just eight that impose the same flat rate on the income of all earners, regardless of how much they make or their ability to pay.

I’d tell you more, but the group’s website was apparently hacked this morning. Not a good sign if you believe in omens.

…Adding… The full report was just sent via e-mail and is accessible online, so click here.

* The Tribune editorial board is, of course, dead set against a progressive income tax, profiling a suburban “chief revenue officer for a financial services company” who has “bought property in Florida and likely will move there” in its latest screed

Illinois is one of eight states with a flat income tax rate. Pritzker hasn’t disclosed his proposed income tax brackets, but the conversation has some Illinoisans looking at real estate websites.

The most recent Illinois Department of Revenue numbers for tax year 2016 show 1,111,515 filers reported adjusted gross incomes of $100,000 or more, for a total of $262.8 billion.

Note to everyone else: These people pay a lot in Illinois taxes. Rank-and-file taxpayers should be trying to keep them rather than sending them to Texas, Nevada, Florida and other states that don’t tax income. High-income earners help pay for the state services that the General Assembly loves to approve but not fund.

…Adding… Greg Hinz

Similarly, the report disputes the notion that raising taxes to pay for needed services hurts the state’s economy, pointing to what happened in Kansas, which slashed taxes, and Minnesota, which raised them. When people earning more than $300,000 a year leave Illinois, they generally don’t go to low-tax states but higher-tax localities including New York and California, [CTBA research director Daniel Kay Hertz] told me. “In those income brackets, people leave for opportunity, not because of taxes.”

*** UPDATE *** Rauner campaign…

Remember when the Pritzker campaign said they had “detailed plans” back in early January? Those were great times.

Well, it’s been four months since that bold claim and JB Pritzker still won’t give a single detail about his plans for a graduated income tax.

Check out his impressive dodging in this interview with the Belleville News-Democrat.

* Pritzker did, however, give some hints in that video, saying people who make $40-60K a year shouldn’t “bear the brunt” of the need for revenue.

He also suggested that a “small increase” has “very little impact” on wealthier people. But, he said a decrease in taxes for those in the middle class and those trying to get there “has a big impact on their standard of living.” The video is here.

* I asked Galia Slayen at the Pritzker campaign for a response to the CTBA study…

JB believes we need a progressive income tax system that asks those who can afford it to pay more, while providing a tax cut for the middle class and those striving to get there. This study shows examples of how a progressive income tax can raise additional revenue and provide a tax break to almost all Illinoisans. It’s no surprise that Bruce Rauner is once again lying about a tax break for Illinois families after his failed leadership decimated our state’s economy.

…Adding… Illinois Policy Institute…

“The CTBA’s progressive income tax plan promises more tax revenue for a bloated state government in exchange for much weaker economic growth. From 2006 to 2016, states without a progressive income tax saw 36 percent more GDP growth than states with a progressive income tax, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Over the same time, employment grew 37 percent faster in states without a progressive income tax, and wages increased 21 percent more in states without a progressive income tax. Productivity (or output per worker) – a measure of the quality of jobs – increased 28 percent more in states without a progressive income tax.

“CTBA claims Illinois’ economy would see a boost under a progressive income tax because the proposal would stimulate consumption, but they are mistaken to believe consumption alone accounts for a truly strong economy. In reality, investment – in things like businesses and housing – does much more to strengthen a state economy than surface-level goods consumption. Tax hikes at any level are a huge deterrent to investment. From 2006 to 2016, states where a smaller share of household incomes went to consumption saw faster economic growth than states where households spent a larger share of their incomes on consumption, according to the BEA. Those latter states were more likely to be progressive tax states.

“In addition to proposing a plan that would tank the state’s economy, the CTBA also mistakenly assumes that Illinois politicians can be trusted not to go back to the well and hike the tax rates under a progressive income tax structure. That is a fatal error that could leave middle-class families in the lurch.

“The truth is Illinois doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. State government spending grew 25 percent faster than personal incomes from 2005 to 2015, which is unsustainable. The right way to get Illinois’ government spending problems under control while also encouraging economic growth is to cap state spending to what taxpayers can afford, a solution that has gained bipartisan support this legislative session and that can be adopted in principle immediately under the plan outlined in SJRCA 21 and HJRCA 38.”


When will the TV ads reappear?

Monday, Apr 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My Sun-Times column

Believe it or not, one of the questions I’m asked the most these days is: “When will Gov. Rauner and J.B. Pritzker start airing their general election TV ads?”

A few weeks ago, Chicago pundit Dick Simpson predicted to Crain’s Chicago Business that the new campaign TV ads would start “any minute.” He went on to say that both candidates will be worried about the other candidate getting out front.

Four years ago, I mistakenly believed candidate Bruce Rauner would take a page from Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s 2014 re-election playbook and immediately bury Gov. Pat Quinn under a mountain of negative advertising. Instead, Rauner waited until July 11 to air his first general election TV ad.

So, what’s it gonna be this year?

From what I can gather, I don’t think Pritzker wants the blame for being the first to go back up on TV. Pritzker spent tens of millions of dollars in television ads since May 2 of last year and TV-viewing voters aren’t eager for more. By waiting for Rauner to pull the trigger, Pritzker can say he had no choice but to go back on the air to counter whatever Rauner does.

Besides, private polling reportedly shows Pritzker with a substantial double-digit lead over Rauner in what’s still looking like a favorable year for Democrats, so there’s no immediate need for Pritzker to start running ads.

After checking around, I don’t think the governor’s campaign is all that eager to resume spending big bucks on TV right away, either.

What I didn’t consider in 2014 was that at least part of the reason Rauner went dark was to help him fade away from voters’ consciousness after the primary, which allowed him to introduce a new messaging campaign for the general election.

Most TV ads quickly lose their impact not long after they’re pulled off the air. If you go up with a message, you gotta stay up with that message or most of your spending was for naught. So, if you want to introduce a revamped, general election message, you sometimes need to give that earlier message time to expire. It’s kind of like a reboot.

After Rauner’s bitter, unexpectedly close GOP primary against state Rep. Jeanne Ives, it’s probably best to get out of the public’s face for a while and allow people time to forget and maybe forgive. One of the best things about having such an early primary, after all, is it gives the winners plenty of time to try to heal the wounds before November.

Plus, what’s the rush? Running ads in April of 2006 allowed Gov. Blagojevich to quickly push Judy Baar Topinka’s poll numbers down, which helped dry up her fundraising. The first post-primary poll had Topinka leading the incumbent, but that changed in a hurry after the Blagojevich ad attack, and Topinka couldn’t immediately fight back because she had drained her account to win the Republican primary.

The only way to dry up J.B. Pritzker’s money is to completely crash the world economy and send us all back to the Stone Age. TV ads can do a lot, but they can’t do that. Rauner knows that if he airs ads, Pritzker can easily afford to immediately respond.

And while Rauner has shown a willingness to spend his personal fortune to win elections, people who’ve been close to him over the years say he does become reluctant and grumpy when it comes time to actually write the checks.

Besides, TV watchers truly do need a break from the primary’s bottomless pit of negative TV ads (and you can bet that most of the TV ads we’ll eventually see ain’t gonna be about flowers and ponies).

But not everyone is getting a rest. Both campaigns are currently advertising online, through social media, Google searches, etc.

The effectiveness of online advertising is growing by the day because it can be so finely targeted and because so many people are spending so much time on their computers and smart phones. TV is still the best way to reach voters, but it’s slowly starting to lose its punch as viewership declines and splinters into a million different directions (witness the amount of money Pritzker and Rauner had to spend to win). And they can advertise online without much notice by the news media.

By the way, this comes with the usual caveat that the greatest beauty of politics is it can always change in a big hurry. I’m hearing the governor may be getting pressured by someone close to him to start spending money soon, so we’ll see.


Reader comments closed for the weekend

Friday, Apr 27, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer will play us out

Won’t you help to sing

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Caption contest!

Friday, Apr 27, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From a recent event at the Standard Club…


Promises, promises

Friday, Apr 27, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* JB Pritzker is on a three-day “Unite for the Middle Class” tour. He stopped in Rockford and East Moline yesterday

As governor, Mr. Pritzker said he also will work to pass a capital bill to fund infrastructure across the state.

“Illinois has gone almost a decade without infrastructure investment,” Mr. Pritzker said. “It’s past time we had a capital bill in the state and we built up our infrastructure again. We are the supply-chain hub of the nation. We can only maintain that status if we invest in our roads, bridges and waterways.

“We are going to continue to build on that when I’m governor. We’ve got to have a capital bill that’s going to rebuild our infrastructure to a place where people want to come back to Illinois and build up jobs.”

* I asked the Pritzker campaign how he intends to pay for his plan. I was referred to Pritzker’s website where I found this

My plan will leverage as much federal money as possible to bring significant investment to our surface, rail, water, broadband and community infrastructure. It is time to imagine what Illinois can be in the 21st century and get this done.

Um, isn’t President Trump demanding an 80 percent state and local match for his mythical infrastructure plan?

* So, I suppose it’s back to Pritzker’s only revenue proposal: a progressive income tax. Considering all the spending promises he’s making, that’ll have to be huge.

Candidate Rauner touted his support of infrastructure spending without identifying a funding source. And Gov. Rauner has since talked often about passing a capital bill and hasn’t really ever said how he’ll pay for it.

George Ryan promised he’d do a capital bill without a tax hike during his campaign. He passed a capital bill, but he paid for it by hiking liquor taxes and vehicle license fees. Gov. Quinn passed a capital bill not long after being sworn into office, and taxes were imposed on candy to pay for part of that program.

Putting a progressive income tax on the ballot is not going to be easy because of GOP opposition and some Democratic reluctance. Passing it won’t be a simple matter, either. Infrastructure upgrades cost real money. And they have to be paid for with real money. Magic fairy dust doesn’t actually exist. /rant


Rauner dodges Illinois “death spiral” question, claims European trade trip will net “tens of thousands” of jobs

Friday, Apr 27, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Tribune

Asked by a reporter how he could sell Illinois to overseas investment after repeatedly saying the state was in a “death spiral,” Rauner said, “We sell all the advantages we have to sell — people, location, transportation, education, agriculture, heart of manufacturing, heart of American economy in the Midwest.”

Asked if Illinois was in a “death spiral,” Rauner declined to use the term but said Illinois has been “uncompetitive on our regulation and taxes for decades,” which has stunted the state’s economic growth.

* Meanwhile, as Illinois Working Together pointed out, this is what the Rauner folks were saying after the governor’s Asia trade trip last September

The head of the state’s economic development arm expects good things—hundreds of new jobs here, possibly thousands—in the wake of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s big trade mission to Japan and China last week. […]

But the overall news is good, he said, involving everything from a Chinese sovereign wealth unit to a Michigan Avenue retailer and investments in the state’s growing biotech business. The trip “absolutely” will pay dividends within the next year, he said. “My guess, it will be in the hundreds, if not thousands, of new jobs” in Illinois.

I haven’t seen any announcement trumpeting those “hundreds, if not thousands” of new jobs. But that was “only” seven months ago.

* And this is what the governor said yesterday about his European trade mission

When pressed on the number of jobs, the governor said there would be more than a couple of thousand jobs.

“Many thousands, over time it will be tens of thousands,” Rauner said.


Hey, everybody! Stop the games and get to work

Friday, Apr 27, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) and Illinois Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) filed joint resolutions today to adopt a revenue estimate in order to begin the budgeting process for fiscal year 2019.

“It is our constitutional duty to taxpayers across Illinois to spend within our means – something we have not done in decades here at the Capitol,” Durkin said. “The rejection of certifying a revenue estimate in Springfield is not acceptable and is legislative malpractice. We owe it to Illinois taxpayers to take this first step in finally balancing the state’s checkbook and putting Illinois on the right track towards fiscal stability.”

House Joint Resolution 124 adopts a revenue estimate of $37.672 billion for fiscal year 2019, based on the estimate provided by the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA).

* I might take them more seriously if the Senate President’s office hadn’t been told of their idea by a reporter

Cullerton’s spokesperson said he welcomes the Republican leaders’ interest in being part of the budget process and he’s even more optimistic we’ll have an on-time budget deal. He adds the estimate is the first Cullerton had heard of it.

* I’m hearing that the budgeteers haven’t even gotten to a revenue estimate for next fiscal year because the administration wants to focus the talks on a supplemental approp for this fiscal year

“Gov. Rauner has made his priorities clear on behalf of the people of Illinois, we need a balanced, full-year budget with no tax increases,” Rauner spokesperson Rachel Bold said in an email. “The governor presented a balanced budget to the General Assembly. It’s time for the General Assembly to work with us – acknowledge what revenue is available and control spending.”

Durkin said if House Speaker Mike Madigan doesn’t advance a revenue estimate resolution, his members will work to slow things down.

“We’ve shown this week and the last two weeks that when the Democrats are not going to be fair with us, that we could make the process not so easy,” Durkin said. “But the point of this is it is a damn state law that we do not follow.”

This is all so goofy. Yes, they should eventually pass a revenue estimate, but the GOGFA and GOMB estimates are nearly identical - less than 0.3 percent apart. They’re kicking all this dust in the air over what’s basically a premature process argument.

And, yeah, I get it. They’re the minority party. So, that’s what they do. But for once I’d like to see the Republican leadership triumvirate in this state actually negotiate in good faith on a budget without all the press conference nonsense. Former Leader Radogno did that last year, but the other two did not.

* And here’s an interesting little angle

State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, said a revenue estimate is required, but “the only revenue estimate I will support, the only one, is one that repeals the Madigan-Rauner tax hike.”

Rep. McSweeney is not alone. Some are claiming that any Republicans who vote for a revenue estimate bill are essentially endorsing last year’s tax hike. It’s just silly political gamesmanship, but it might be something that Durkin’s co-sponsors who are also targets (*cough*Parkhurst, Long, McAuliffe*cough*) might want to consider.


After remaining neutral in the primary, AFSCME endorses Pritzker

Friday, Apr 27, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

AFSCME Council 31, the largest union of public service workers in Illinois, today endorsed J.B. Pritzker for governor and Juliana Stratton for lieutenant governor.

“Bruce Rauner has caused conflict, refused to compromise and can’t be trusted. Working families are unquestionably worse off now than when he took office,” AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said.

“Repairing the damage done by Rauner is a big job. Illinois needs leaders like J.B. and Juliana who will bring people together and who care about working families,” Lynch said. “They’ve taken the time to travel the state and to listen to working people. They know the importance of public services and they value the women and men who provide those services in our communities every day. We look forward to working with J.B. and Juliana to rebuild our state.”

The Pritzker endorsement was made today in Springfield at a meeting of the executive committee of the union’s political program, known as AFSCME PEOPLE (Public Employees Organized to Promote Legislative Equality). The committee is comprised of rank-and-file union members from every part of Illinois.

Union members on the committee shared why they unanimously support Pritzker and Stratton.

“Everybody who works for a living has been harmed by Bruce Rauner. We need someone who will sit down with everyone and come up with solutions that are fair,” said Garry Cacciapaglia, a water plant operator in Rockford. “J.B. has already gone out and built bonds with many different groups all over the state. We’re excited to stand together to beat Bruce Rauner.”

“For working people tired of the last three-plus years of Bruce Rauner attacking us and never being on our side, J.B. Pritzker will bring dramatic and welcome change. For state employees, I believe J.B. will be someone who’s open and willing to work together and treat us fairly,” said Stephen Mittons, a child protective investigator in Chicago. “J.B. has a progressive platform to raise the revenue Illinois needs from those who can afford it.”

“Bruce Rauner starved universities, doing incalculable damage to university employees and the students we serve. We need a governor who will prioritize higher education,” said Ellen Larrimore, an archivist at Northeastern Illinois University. “I know that J.B. Pritzker believes in funding public higher education and understands the important role it plays in our state.”

“Under Rauner we’ve had to fight just to get a living wage. He doesn’t understand the work we do and never walked in our shoes,” said Yolanda Woods, a caregiver for children with disabilities in Springfield. “We need someone like J.B. Pritzker who’s compassionate enough to take the time and understand a single mother who works two jobs and still can’t make ends meet. We need someone who’s willing to stand up for what’s right and get the job done.”

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31 represents some 100,000 active and retired employees of city, county and state governments, public universities, school districts and not-for-profit agencies statewide.


…Adding… Pritzker campaign…

“I’m honored to have the support of AFSCME and the tens of thousands of workers it represents in Illinois,” said JB Pritzker. “While Bruce Rauner undercuts our workers and attacks their families at every chance, I will restore the respect our public sector workers deserve. I will defend collective bargaining rights for our unions and protect hard earned pensions. With the support of AFSCME members throughout Illinois, we will build on our statewide, grassroots campaign that is ready to put Springfield back on the side of working families and get our state back on track.”


*** UPDATED x1 *** Embattled Veterans’ Affairs director quits

Friday, Apr 27, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Tony Arnold and Dave McKinney

The head of the agency that oversees the state-run veterans’ home that’s been plagued by Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks is resigning, according to an email obtained Friday by WBEZ.

Erica Jeffries, who was Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s pick to lead the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs, has been at the helm of the agency during a series of Legionnaires’ outbreaks that have resulted in 13 deaths since 2015.

Troy Culbertson, a senior administrator with IDVA, told colleagues via email that Jeffries had accepted a new position and her final day leading the agency would be May 18. Culbertson told staff that Jeffries was leaving for a job with Johnson and Johnson, and that assistant director Harry Sawyer would become interim director.

Representatives from the IDVA and the governor’s office did not immediately confirm news of Jeffries’ departure.

*** UPDATE *** From the governor’s office…

Director Jeffries has indicated to the Governor that she is accepting an offer in the private sector. We thank her for her tremendous service to the State of Illinois and will be vetting appropriate successors in the coming weeks.


The perils of Medicaid managed care

Friday, Apr 27, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* AP

Health care advocates are urging Illinois legislators to reverse some of the policies enacted as part of a massive shift of Medicaid clients into managed care.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press, was dated Monday and addressed to key lawmakers who have their own questions about the state’s transfer of 800,000 people to the HealthChoice Illinois system of managed care organizations. MCOs coordinate health care and a focus on prevention, aiming to cut medical costs.

* From the letter

HealthChoice Illinois is the State’s largest public procurement, and it aims to place up to 80% of Illinois’s Medicaid population in managed care. Though HealthChoice Illinois is in its infancy, we already have concerns that HFS is abdicating its role as regulator. Indeed, a recent Illinois Auditor General report demonstrated that HFS lacks the data it needs to oversee the managed care program.

Media reports, House Appropriations-Human Services Committee hearings, and the Illinois Auditor General have already exposed numerous critical issues with HealthChoice Illinois. For example:

    ● The Department of Children and Family Services does not have an adequate plan for coverage for children who are Medically Fragile;

    ● Narrow provider networks will force beneficiaries to travel long distances for routine care;

    ● Cuts to already low reimbursement rates for medically-necessary supplies and equipment such as diabetes equipment, breast pumps, nutrition supplies, and oxygen equipment will hurt patient access and choice, as well as potentially diminish the quality of the medical supplies themselves;

    ● Poorly-written contracts between MCOs and nursing homes may violate state and federal regulations; and

    ● Deficiencies in HFS’s data collection processes impede the Department’s ability to oversee the managed care program.

Given the risks to patients, as well as our overall healthcare system, we call upon you, as leaders who understand the needs of the chronically ill and disabled, to impose new transparency and accountability guidelines on HealthChoice Illinois. Absent a significant improvement in HFS’s efforts, we believe that the General Assembly must act to hold MCOs accountable to guarantee our state’s most vulnerable citizens receive the quality care they deserve. We specifically request that any new MCO regulations take into account the reforms currently being considered by the General Assembly, including HB 4736, which would remove children who are Medically-Fragile from HealthChoice Illinois, and SB 2262, which would require MCOs to use the state fee schedule for medical supplies and equipment.

* Back to the AP

Andrea Durbin, CEO of the Illinois Collaboration on Youth, which represents young people under the care of the Department of Children and Family Services, more generally bemoaned that “there’s not enough information and almost no substantial planning.”

“All of these children have trauma,” Durbin said. “They have specialized needs, and who is caring for them? Who is reporting to courts on their progress? Who is making sure there’s coordinated care between children and perhaps the biological family?”


*** UPDATED x1 *** Question of the day

Friday, Apr 27, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Sen. Tom Cullerton’s SJRCA21

Proposes to amend the Finance Article of the Illinois Constitution. Provides that in no fiscal year shall the rate of growth of General Revenue Fund appropriations over the preceding fiscal year exceed the rate of growth of the Illinois economy.

Provides that if the General Assembly by adoption of a resolution approved by a record vote of a majority of the members of each house finds that an emergency exists and identifies the nature of the emergency, the General Assembly may provide for appropriations in excess of the amount authorized.

Rate of economic growth is defined as the “average annual growth rate of per capita gross domestic product in the State over the preceding ten calendar years, using data reported by the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, or its successor agency, before December 31 immediately preceding the beginning of the fiscal year.”

* The DuPage County Democrat has been working with the Illinois Policy Institute on his proposal

Illinois Policy Institute’s Adam Schuster said changing the constitution to cap state spending to the rate of growth in Illinois’ economy is needed.

“We see this from states ranging from California, to Texas, to Florida, so you could see that this is not a partisan measure, it’s not an ideological measure,” Schuster said. “It’s a good government, common sense way to control the rate of spending.”

* The Question: Should the state limit budgetary spending increases to the state’s rate of economic growth? Don’t forget to explain your answer in comments, please.

*** UPDATE *** The poll is being Freeped so I deleted it…

Continue on in comments, however.


Illinois Legislators: Make Health Coverage Fair by Supporting HB 4146

Friday, Apr 27, 2018 - Posted by Advertising Department

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Did you know that health plans are changing Illinois families’ benefits while consumers are locked into their plans for the year? People in Illinois, especially those living with chronic conditions, carefully shop for a health plan which covers the treatments they need at prices they can afford. But health plans aren’t delivering the benefits they have marketed and sold to Illinois consumers.

House Bill 4146 Fixes the Health Plan Bait-and-Switch

House Bill 4146 would simply prevent insurers from making unfair – and potentially unsafe – benefit changes while Illinoisans are locked into the plan. The legislation, however, would still allow insurers to utilize generics, add treatments to their formularies and also remove them for safety reasons.

Insurers need to deliver on the policies they sell. The Illinois Legislature should support HB 4146 to make health coverage fair.

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Who ruined Illinois?

Friday, Apr 27, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Governing has published a long piece by my old buddy Dan Vock entitled “Who Ruined Illinois?”

However bad you think government might be,” Bruce Rauner tells an audience, “it’s worse.” Rauner, a Republican governor seeking reelection, has plenty of reasons to portray his state as fundamentally broken. It’s a way to explain why he hasn’t been able to make the big changes in Illinois he promised when he ran four years ago. But it’s also a great line for a knowing audience, and the crowd of call center workers in Moline, on the Mississippi River, laughs appreciatively.

Illinois voters have endured a lot from their state government. It hasn’t been just one recession or one administration that’s done the damage, either. It’s been nearly a generation of political upheaval and dysfunction at the state Capitol. “Springfield has not been working for them, and I think voters, residents of Illinois are frustrated and angry. They should be,” Rauner tells me after his Moline event. “Always unbalanced budgets. Not paying pensions. Not growing the economy and creating good-paying jobs. Massive corruption, cronyism and patronage. And four of my nine predecessors have gone to prison. It’s a broken system.”

Nearly everyone agrees with Rauner that the system is broken, but there’s no consensus about why the system is failing. Pick your favorite culprit — legislators, unions, pensions — and you may have a case. But the one thing that current and former elected officials, academics and Springfield insiders cite most is perhaps the most painfully obvious: “Illinois government did work,” says former Gov. Jim Edgar, a Republican who presided over what now looks to be the state’s heyday in the 1990s. “But then we had bad luck with a couple of governors.”

Illinois governors are powerful. They have many executive tools at their disposal that their counterparts in other states don’t possess. As chief executives, they have the biggest say on the state’s financial situation and the biggest platform to tend to the state’s economy. But over the last two decades, public confidence, financial stability and economic growth in Illinois have all suffered.

During that time, Illinois has had four governors: two Republicans and two Democrats. George Ryan came first, starting in 1999, and despite substantial achievements in Springfield, erased the public’s trust in state government with a corruption scandal that landed him in prison. Rod Blagojevich swept into power in the wake of Ryan’s scandal, promising reform and renewal, but exited in disgrace after an FBI arrest and subsequent impeachment trial, leaving a state woefully unprepared for the Great Recession. Illinoisans breathed a sigh of relief when Pat Quinn stepped in, but the relief died quickly, as a major tax increase failed to steady Illinois’ finances, and low-level patronage scandals undercut his reputation as a reformer. Rauner capitalized on Quinn’s unpopularity and defeated him in 2014. But Rauner saw his own standing collapse last year when rank-and-file GOP lawmakers abandoned his cause after a two-year budget standoff.

* It’s most definitely worth a read, but our troubles started far earlier than 1998.

Four crucial decisions were made during Gov. Jim Thompson’s tenure that we’re still feeling today: 1) 3 percent compounded pension COLA; 2) Exemption of retirement income from the state income tax; 3) Exemption of food and medicine from the state sales tax; 4) Reduced overall state support for K-12.

We vastly widened our spending base while greatly narrowing our revenue base. And by not adequately funding K-12 (because of that widening/narrowing), property taxes were forced up (which legislators responded to by approving exemptions, which made everyone else pay more). Not to mention that as the state was beginning to transition from a manufacturing-based economy to a service economy, services were not (and still aren’t) taxed.

* I happen to admire Gov. Thompson very much and hindsight is 20/20, as they say. Way too many state pensioners in those days were dirt poor, so that 3 percent compounded interest was a lifesaver to many. Helping senior citizens every way possible was all the rage everywhere back then and they weren’t nearly the percentage of the population they are now, so the income tax exemption wasn’t as big a budget issue as it is today. Sen. Richard M. Daley fought hard for those very popular sales tax exemptions and overrode Thompson’s veto ahead of his first mayoral bid. And the state just didn’t have the money (until it approved a temporary tax hike) to adequately fund K-12.

Gov. Jim Edgar passed a bill to make the pension payments, but he backloaded the schedule until after he was safely out of office. Edgar famously left George Ryan with a billion-dollar surplus instead of putting that into the pension funds. Ryan spent that billion dollars almost before he finished taking the oath of office.

And none of the three governors since Ryan have managed to get a handle on our stark fiscal and economic problems.


Circular firing squad: State GOP committeeman vote disputed

Friday, Apr 27, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From one of Dan Proft’s papers a few days ago

Sources have told Prairie State Wire that Bob Winchester has retained counsel to challenge the voting procedures used in his race for Republican State Central Committee in the 15th Congressional District, which the Illinois Republican Party claims was won by Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet).

The first step in the legal action is expected to be an appeal to the Illinois State Board of Elections, which under law, must certify the votes in party elections. Among other charges, Winchester is expected to challenge the use of votes by acclamation in some counties — a move that gives the candidate with more than half of the votes the entire final tally, which violates party rules and may violate state law. […]

“Just because the party said Chapin won doesn’t mean he won,” [Mark Shaw, Lake County Republican chairman and central committeeman in the 10th Congressional District] said. “Until May 19, there is no party governing board, and Chaplin can’t just show up on that day and act like he’s a committeeman. The results have to be certified first, and I expect the board will find a lot of irregularities in the voting process.” […]

Results of the election show that Winchester received zero votes in nine of 33 counties, including four of the 10 most populated, a result that Shaw and others said would be impossible. […]

In all, 22 of 33 counties voted by acclamation, representing 63 percent of Rose’s vote and 59 percent of Winchester’s.

* Politico today

Why is this all significant? The outcome of the 15th district race could determine the next statewide chairman and likely the direction of a party that nearly threw out its incumbent governor in March. Enter the newly-elected Republican State Central Committeemen, who are to meet May 19th to vote on the next chairman. Each of the votes is weighted. The district with the greatest weighted vote? The one under dispute in the 15th. While Rose supports Schneider, Winchester had pledged his support to challenger Mark Shaw, who is Lake County’s GOP Chairman. GOP sources tell us that the unofficial breakdown is pretty closely divided between Schneider and Shaw, making the 15th district outcome all that more impactful.

Disunity: If Schneider cannot hold onto power, that’s a direct reflection on Rauner’s weakened grasp of his his party. That’s a particularly stinging rebuke since Rauner has almost single-handedly funded the Illinois Republican Party apparatus. Even if Schneider wins another term, this latest turmoil only shows there’s a long road to repairing the rift in the party.

* As it stands now, the opposition believes incumbent chairman Schneider has a 51.5-48.5 lead over Lake County’s Shaw if Sen. Rose is declared the victor and former party chairman Jack Dorgan votes for Schneider as well (and that’ll be an interesting moment if Rauner’s chairman is saved by a - gasp - Statehouse lobbyist).

But Rose’s district appears to have enough weighted votes that Shaw will likely beat Schneider if Winchester is seated (barring any flippers).

Winchester is being represented by a lawyer at Tony Peraica’s law firm. His letter to the state party is here. The attorney’s letter to the Illinois State Board of Elections is here.


McCann threatens to sue after staff services yanked

Friday, Apr 27, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady claims Sen. Sam McCann resigned from the SGOP caucus the day he announced his gubernatorial candidacy. McCann flatly denies he did that, so now we get this

State Sen. Sam McCann, R-Plainview, who last week announced he’s running a third-party campaign for governor, said Thursday that he is being denied regular services provided by Senate staff, and he may file a lawsuit to fight that denial on his constituents’ behalf.

“It’s totally unconstitutional,” McCann said. “I think the taxpayers need to know that … currently, in the 50th District, you are enduring taxation without representation.”

McCann said that services he’s talking about range from use of staff photographers to communications, to help in writing bills and coordinating their movement through committees.

“I had a group of Girl Scouts here this morning,” McCann said, but a staff photographer would not take a picture.

It appears that McCann’s legislative website has been taken offline as well.

…Adding… It should probably be pointed out that McCann still has access to his district office allotment.


Madigan files resolution supporting progressive income tax

Friday, Apr 27, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* This arrived late yesterday afternoon…

Speaker Michael J. Madigan, House Democrats and advocates for the middle class are calling out Gov. Bruce Rauner and Republicans for refusing to consider fair tax reform that would provide relief for the middle class while making the ultra-wealthy pay their fair share.

Madigan and Democratic lawmakers from across the state introduced House Resolution 1025 Wednesday, challenging Republican lawmakers to stop protecting millionaires, billionaires, and big corporations and instead work with Democrats to enact a fair system that cuts taxes on middle-class and low-income taxpayers. Rauner and legislative Republicans are defending a status quo that allows Rauner to pay at least $5 million less than he would in a state like Iowa.

“Governor Rauner is willfully misleading taxpayers because he doesn’t want anyone to see that he’s blocking tax relief for the middle class, all in an effort to protect a special deal for millionaires and billionaires like himself,” Madigan said. “Today, we set the record straight: A fair tax for Illinois is about putting more money in the pockets of middle-class families. If our Republican colleagues are serious about cutting taxes, creating jobs, and strengthening our economy, they will join us in creating a fair tax system that rewards families who work hard and play by the rules, instead of one that benefits Bruce Rauner, Donald Trump and their billionaire friends.”

Madigan’s resolution cites findings from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy that Illinois’ constitutionally mandated “flat tax” is one of the most regressive tax structures in the country, forcing low- and middle-income residents to pay a larger share of their incomes in taxes than the very wealthy. A taxpayer earning less than $19,000 pays 13.2 percent of their income in state taxes, while those with an income of $498,000 pay only 4.6 percent of their income in taxes.

House Democrats are calling for a progressive tax like those currently in place in 33 other states—including Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri and Indiana—which would put more money in working families’ pockets, allowing them to reinvest in local economies and stimulate business growth and economic development.

“There’s no excuse for the current tax system that forces struggling families to pay more than the very wealthy,” said Roberta Lynch, executive director of AFSCME Council 31. “Illinois working families need fair tax reform. By standing in the way, Governor Rauner and the politicians who follow him are protecting a status quo full of loopholes for those who are already at the top.”

“Last year Democrats and Republicans stood together because they knew we cannot continue to follow Bruce Rauner’s agenda of slashing critical services for our communities so his billionaire and millionaire buddies can get a tax cut,” said Greg Kelley, president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois. “Their votes to end the Rauner budget crisis were votes to put middle-class families ahead of the ultra-wealthy. Now we need a tax system that reflects this same value. I applaud House Democrats’ stand for a fairer system, and we look forward to working with them to get a progressive income tax passed in the future.”

“Throughout our state, parents who want their children to receive a world-class education and homeowners who want relief from rising property taxes can agree on one thing: the system is unfair and needs to change,” said Dan Montgomery, president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers and a high school English teacher. “This is the change we need, and this is the opportunity for all who claim they’re on the side of taxpayers and educators to prove it.”

“As Donald Trump stacks the deck even more in favor of the ultra-wealthy, Governor Rauner and his allies can no longer pretend to stand with the middle class while also protecting a tax system that so clearly reinforces inequality,” said Clem Balanoff, chair of Our Revolution Illinois. “If they are ready to build an Illinois that works for everyone instead of just the top 1 percent, they will stand with us to enact a fair tax system that reflects that.”

The resolution is here. It picked up a bunch of co-sponsors this morning, including a couple of semi-targets (Marty Moylan, who is always an anti-taxer, and Deb Conroy).

* Rauner campaign’s react yesterday…

“The Pritzker-Madigan ticket has officially endorsed a graduated income tax hike because they want to take more money out of the pockets of hardworking Illinoisans. A vote for JB Pritzker is a vote to give Mike Madigan total control of the state and to raise taxes yet again.” -Will Allison, Rauner campaign spokesman

* Rauner campaign this morning…

The Pritzker-Madigan ticket has formally announced its support for a graduated income tax hike after Mike Madigan issued a statement supporting the policy yesterday. This follows months of JB Pritzker campaigning on a tax hike – even stating that it would be a central theme of his campaign.

But the Pritzker-Madigan ticket still doesn’t want to say how high taxes will go. Pritzker has repeatedly dodged on specifics and Madigan responded with a firm “NO” when asked if he had any rates in mind.

How can Illinois families trust Pritzker and Madigan when they have provided no details for their plans?

* Attached video


Harvey back in hot water after Supreme Court ruling

Friday, Apr 27, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Daily Southtown

Harvey won’t be getting its hands on more than $1.4 million in tax revenues withheld by the state over pension funding failures any time soon, it appears.

On Thursday, the Illinois Supreme Court ordered that an earlier appellate court ruling in Harvey’s favor be vacated and sent the case back to the circuit court for a hearing, “at the earliest possible time.” […]

The comptroller’s office, which since February has garnished more than $1.4 million in city tax revenues at the request of the police pension fund, will continue intercepting those funds and holding them unless directed by the court to do otherwise, spokesman Abdon Pallasch said.

Because the comptroller’s office never had a chance to implement the appellate court order directing it to return the withheld funds to Harvey and refrain from garnishing any more, Thursday’s Supreme Court order will not change anything on their end, he said.

* Cook County Record

In neither the Supreme Court’s order, nor in the First District court’s order, did any justice offer an explanation or basis for their court’s respective rulings.

However, after the appellate court issued its ruling, lawyers for the Harvey Police Pension Fund intervened in the case, petitioning the Illinois Supreme Court to step in and vacate the appellate court’s ruling. In its briefs filed with the state high court, the Harvey pension fund attorneys asserted the appellate court had overstepped its authority, saying they believed the appellate justices had issued a ruling which had no basis in law to order the comptroller to turn over the funds demanded by Harvey.

“The appellate court’s Order is stunning in its breadth and was entered without explanation because there is no explanation that supports the Order,” the pension fund’s attorneys wrote.

“…Summarily reversing the trial court, and then directing the court to grant all the final relief the City seeks, without explanation why such relief is warranted, or why the trial court abused its discretion in denying the City’s emergency motion in the first instance, is not only wrong it is fundamentally unfair.”


SJ-R: “Shame on party members for not having the guts” to oust Madigan

Friday, Apr 27, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* SJ-R editorial

Thumbs Down: To Democrats for again electing Michael Madigan as the chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois.

Madigan, D-Chicago, has been speaker of the Illinois House for all but two years since 1983. He’s been elected chairman of the state party since 1998 by the Democratic State Central Committee. His most recent re-election to that post was Monday by the 36-member committee, which consists of a man and a woman from each of the state’s 18 congressional districts. There was only one no vote.

Being both House Speaker and party chairman has given Madigan unprecedented control for decades over the Democratic Party. In the House, he decides which elected members get chairmanships and whose bills get called. As party chairman, he decides which campaigns to help with staff and funding. His ability to punish or reward is unchecked. Those who have tried to push back are either made irrelevant in the House or given party-backed primary challengers.

This doesn’t happen elsewhere in the country, because most people realize one person should not hold that much power. Yet Illinois Democrats continually refuse to provide checks and balances on Madigan’s power. Shame on party members for not having the guts to give voters the change they both want and need.

Your thoughts?


*** LIVE *** Session coverage

Friday, Apr 27, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The Senate left town yesterday, but the House is in today. Watch the action with ScribbleLive

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Friday, Apr 27, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

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* Isabel’s afternoon roundup
* McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally abruptly aborts reelection bid without explanation
* Question of the day
* It’s just a bill
* Protect Illinois Hospitality – Vote No On House Bill 5345
* You gotta be kidding me
* Showcasing The Retailers Who Make Illinois Work
* Moody’s revises Illinois outlook from stable to positive (Updated)
* Open thread
* Isabel’s morning briefing
* Live coverage
* *** UPDATED x1 - Equality Illinois 'alarmed' over possible Harris appointment *** Personal PAC warns Democratic committeepersons about Sen. Napoleon Harris
* Yesterday's stories

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