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Lou Lang coverage roundup

Thursday, May 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

By Hannah Meisel

* Boy what a day. In case you are not plugged into this world, here are the basics: on Tuesday it was reported that a woman would come forward on Thursday to accuse a “leading lawmaker” of harassment. This morning the woman went on Dan Proft’s radio show only identifying herself as “M,” and then at a 1 p.m. press conference in the Capitol, she identified herself as a medical marijuana advocate named Maryann Loncar.

Loncar accused top Madigan ally Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) of years of harassment. But when pressed by reporters during the press conference, Loncar revealed that the reason for the abuse was because she claims she was privy to knowledge of an alleged $170 million “bribe” offered to Lang and two other Democrats by someone in the medical marijuana industry. However, the person she heard this from disputes this claim, as Rich reported earlier.

Lang then held his own press conference, where he was flanked by female supporters — lawmakers and lobbyists — who spoke to Lang’s leadership and even mentorship of women.

* Tribune

Democratic Rep. Lou Lang of Skokie announced he was stepping down as House deputy majority leader in a statement released as advocate Maryann Loncar was taking questions from reporters at the Capitol.

Loncar accused Lang of years of verbal abuse after they initially worked together to pass the state’s 2013 law that legalized medical marijuana. Loncar said that several years ago, Lang made her uncomfortable by putting his hand on her lower back and asking if her husband knew how lucky he was.

Loncar said that on another occasion, Lang called her at night as she was out at dinner, saying he would have come to meet her if she were alone.

Lang’s announcement came less than 24 hours after he won approval of the federal Equal Rights Amendment, which seeks to guarantee that rights can’t be denied because of a person’s sex.


Loncar said she became “privy” to information she shouldn’t have when she witnessed Lang being offered a $170 million bribe, and that’s when Lang retaliated, with behavior such as telling her ex-husband: “I can help you bury her if you want.”

She says she never contacted police or other authorities in part out of distrust and fear of further retaliation, but that she came forward Thursday despite fearing for her life, hoping that other women will speak out against Lang and others in power. […]

Lang also denied any suggestion of a bribe.

“If I have $170 million somewhere, help me find it,” he said.

* NBC5

Loncar said her experience was similar to allegations brought forth by other people who have come forward, including state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, who alleged retaliation from House Speaker Michael Madigan after she spoke out questioning his office’s handling of harassment claims.

“It’s what everybody else is talking about,” Loncar said Thursday morning. “It’s Representative Cassidy and other people that stand up and say if you don’t conform and go along with everything they tell you, regardless of your own morals, your own mindset, you will be blackballed and that you will be treated unfairly and you will be harassed and you will be singled out. And no matter how many times you go through a video for 15 minutes and answer questions on sexual harassment, that’s not enough. That’s not enough.”

* Sun-Times

Loncar also claimed Lang killed a hemp farming bill she had been advocating for, a claim many organizations are disputing.

Jen Walling, executive director and lobbyist on behalf of the Illinois Environmental Council, said the initial hemp farming bill “wasn’t killed because of Lou Lang.”

“That is absolutely not true,” Walling said, adding that the measure failed because an agreement couldn’t be reached with the Medical Cannabis Association. A revamped Industrial Hemp Bill was sent to the governor on Wednesday after being passed by the state Senate.

Walling called Loncar a “citizen advocate,” who was not involved in negotiations or in any meetings regarding the initial hemp bill.

“I’m not belittling her other claims but I’m absolutely sure that Lou did not kill this bill,” Walling said.

Walling told Rich the same thing today.


Alaina Hampton: Women who stood with Lang “truly disheartening”

Thursday, May 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

“Rep. Lang’s press conference today was a perfect example of why victims don’t come forward. To see so many Democratic women standing with and singing the praises of a powerful man, just hours after he was accused of harassment, in an effort to undermine his accuser, was truly disheartening. To the women who stood with Rep. Lang today–think about what message you sent to all of us who have been victimized by men in power in Springfield.”

–Alaina Hampton

* She’s referring to these folks…

And if you somehow don’t know who Alaina Hampton is, click here.


*** UPDATED x1 *** Rauner says he’ll “enact” the budget

Thursday, May 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

Gov. Bruce Rauner today offered the following comment on the passage of the Fiscal Year 2019 budget:

“We started this year’s budget process with the common-sense goals of a full-year balanced budget and no new taxes. With this budget, we can come as close as any General Assembly and Governor in Illinois have in a very long time. It’s a step in the right direction, though it does not include much-needed debt paydown and reforms that would reduce taxes, grow our economy, create jobs and raise family incomes. The Fiscal Year 2019 budget is the result of bipartisan effort and compromise. We worked together to provide a budget to the people of Illinois that can be balanced, with hard work and continued bipartisan effort to deliver on the promises it makes. I’ll be taking action quickly to enact the Fiscal Year 19 budget into law.”

*** UPDATE *** Speaker Madigan…

House Speaker Michael J. Madigan issued the following statement Thursday after passing a bipartisan, balanced budget:

“For the second time in as many years, House Democrats have worked alongside our Republican colleagues in the Legislature to pass a bipartisan, balanced budget. As House Democrats have said throughout the past four years, when we can work together in good faith we can accomplish great things.

“Our budget holds the line on taxes and spending, and creates a $15 million surplus that will be used to pay down old bills. We cut government bureaucracy like high-paid consultants and duplicative IT systems at state agencies to invest our finite resources in critical services, provide $350 million in new funding for public schools, and reverse the governor’s cuts to education programs, health care, child care and senior services.

“While there is more work to be done, this compromise budget shows yet again that when extreme demands are not preconditions to negotiation, Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature can work together to move Illinois forward.”


*** UPDATED x1 *** More on Loncar’s bribery allegations

Thursday, May 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Illinois News Network

During questioning from media members, [Maryann Loncar] also said that [Rep. Lou Lang] was retaliating against her because she witnessed an attempted bribe involving Lang. She said having that knowledge made her fear for her life. When asked why she hadn’t gone to the authorities about the potential crime, she said she was waiting for the right time but had the details journaled. She said others were also privy to the bribe offer.

* Hannah Meisel transcribed this part of Loncar’s press conference…

Bernie: And you learned the bad information about him when?

Loncar: Probably about five years ago. The real, yeah this isn’t right.

Bernie: Does this it involve money?

Loncar, Yes of course it involves money. This is Illinois.

Bernie: How so? Somebody giving somebody something?

Loncar: Yes.

Bernie: Like what? Like a bribe or something?

Loncar: Yes.

Bernie: Who was offering that? Was it taken?

Loncar: No, because we stopped it. We were the meddling kids who stopped it.

Reporter: You’re saying the bribe was offered to Lou Lang?

Loncar: Um, y- It was offered — it was spoken to to him and two other senators. Democrats.

Amanda: You’re saying two other senators?

Loncar: Yeah. There were three of them.

Bernie: By a grower? Or developer?

Loncar: Down those lines yes.

Bernie: You wanna say who as long as we’re going this far?

Loncar: Um *long pause*

Rotheimer: It’s your call.

Ives: Maryann, if you don’t want to —

Loncar: You’re dealing with a lot of people who have a lot of money. The truth is you all know the truth.

Hannah: How much money are we talking about?

Loncar: We’re talking about at least 170-something million dollars. Is that enough for everybody to know?

Hannah: That sounds more like —

Reporter: A contractual bribe?

Loncar: No, it doesn’t. We have many people over the years that have written about this. Many.

Bishop: So you said earlier you wanted the cannabis title program to be non-profit. So it’s in this context that this bribe —

Loncar: Yes, the people who had the choice of writing HB1.

Reporter: You’re not talking about contractual arrangements, you’re talking about a bribe to three people of $170 million?

Loncar: Yeah, I’m talking about a meeting at the Capitol. That we weren’t supposed to be privy to, that we weren’t supposed to know about.

Reporter: And they didn’t accept the bribe?

Loncar: This is Illinois. Do I have to bring it back to that we’re the most corrupt state of all of the states?

Tina: But did they accept the bribe?

Loncar: We didn’t give them the chance to accept it.

Hannah: When you’re saying you meddled, what did you specifically do?

Loncar: We went to the news. I went to Andy Shaw specifically and sent him all the information I had on it and he wrote something about it.

Loncar: “I have written all of this down and I have documentation.” “Eventually I will release it…I’d like to be able to show all this to

Bernie: And the illegality is often in offering the bribe. If he didn’t take it, then it’s not illegal. If you offer it, it’s illegal. So you’re saying it’s not Lou Lang but somebody else who was illegal.

Loncar: Um, no. I’m saying all of these people were culpable of going that direction. And as advocates when we found out about it we stopped that direction. And this is why I am being targeted. Make no mistake about it.

Bishop: Do you fear for your life?

Loncar: Yes, yes every day.

Tina: How did you end up at that meeting?

Loncar: Mike Graham was at the meeting with another individual. I was at a hotel waiting for them to be done.


Bernie: And is the person who offered the money for this —

Loncar: They didn’t get a license and they sued.

Bernie: Okay and they’re not in operation now?

Loncar: Nope, they sued because they thought they had worked this legislation. Their lawyer basically said that they earned it.

Bernie: Are they in Chicago?

Loncar: They are up north near Lake County.

Hannah: Do you know if they sued in federal court or county court?

Loncar: They sued downtown. They sued saying that they should have gotten a license and they put a lot into it.

*** UPDATE *** Mike Graham and I have talked before on Facebook, so this afternoon I reached out to him about Loncar’s claim that he was a witness to an attempted $170 million bribery scheme. His response…

Maryann misspoke on the “bribe” was not an accurate description. I believe it was 12/4/12 stakeholders meeting. (As written before)Medponics owners entered the meeting and said “we can just give you $170M and we will take all operations”, at which time the room erupted with no’s–Lang was never directly offered or demanded anything! Maryann was just overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation

He added that he believed the $170 million was intended as a payment to the state for all of the operating licenses.


*** UPDATED x1 *** *** LIVE VIDEO *** Rep. Lang press conference to respond to allegations

Thursday, May 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Again, many thanks to the folks at for access to this press conference which is scheduled to begin at 3 o’clock. Rep. Lang’s press release did not deny any of the allegations made against him, so I’m sure he’ll be asked about them at his event

Click here if the embed doesn’t work for you.

And if you can’t watch videos at work, click here to follow along with our live coverage post.

*** UPDATE *** Rep. Lang was asked if the allegations were true: “From beginning to the end the allegations are absurd.”


Speaker Madigan responds to allegations against Lang

Thursday, May 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

House Speaker Michael J. Madigan issued the following statement Thursday:

“I appreciate the courage it takes for individuals to come forward to share their experiences, and in doing so urge us all to do better.

“Representative Lang has already requested that the legislative inspector general immediately conduct a full investigation of these allegations and I’m hopeful she will conduct this investigation quickly and thoroughly. After consultation with me, Representative Lang has submitted his resignation from House leadership, as well as from the Legislative Ethics Commission and the Joint Commission on Administrative Rules.”

That kind of implies that Lang’s been forced out of leadership, etc.


Rep. Lou Lang responds to allegations

Thursday, May 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

The following statement can be attributed to Illinois House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D-Skokie):

“Let me say this. My original sponsorship of medical marijuana legislation in 2013 was focused on the patients who came to my office, some in wheel chairs. Some were too ill to come. The sick children, the ill men and women were my priority. And the patients remain my priority with each new iteration of the law.

My priority was not helping those seeking to profit off medical marijuana, like, Ms. Loncar, who wanted a cannabis dispensary license for her company, Patient’s Health Center, but, apparently failed at her money-making effort to secure a dispensary license. Because I refused to let the medical marijuana profiteers trump the interests of patients, I made some people mad. So be it.

Therefore, I have submitted a formal request to the Special Legislative Inspector General to begin an immediate investigation. Additionally, after consultation with Speaker Madigan, I have decided, in order to maintain the integrity of the Legislative Ethics Commission and the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules as well as to avoid distraction from the agenda of the House Democratic Caucus, to submit my resignation from the Commission, JCAR, and from my post as House Deputy Majority Leader.”

Lang’s letter to the IG is here. His letter to Madigan is here.


*** UPDATED x1 *** *** LIVE VIDEO *** Alleged abuse victim’s press conference

Thursday, May 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Many, many thanks to the folks at for this access to today’s press conference. I’m hearing there may also be a follow-up presser by the accused legislator. The first presser is scheduled to start at 1 o’clock

Click here if the embed doesn’t work for you.

And if you can’t watch videos at work, click here to follow along with our live coverage post.

*** UPDATE *** The worst-kept Statehouse secret of the week is now public. House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang is the alleged abuser. He also sits on the Legislative Ethics Commission. Here’s the press release…


Cornerstone Credit Union Awards $12,000 in Scholarships

Thursday, May 31, 2018 - Posted by Advertising Department

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

This month, Cornerstone Credit Union awarded $12,000 in college scholarships to three members graduating from high school this spring. The 2018 Founders’ Scholarships will be distributed in increments over four years to encourage degree completion. The credit union chose outstanding local students who have demonstrated leadership and dedication during their high school years while remaining involved in the community. Cornerstone Credit Union is a full-service, not-for-profit financial cooperative serving over 13,500 members in the Freeport, South Beloit, and Sterling areas. Visit to learn more about their community involvement.

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Alleged victim appears on Proft’s radio show

Thursday, May 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* As I’ve already told subscribers, Dan Proft scored a big scoop this morning. The woman who plans to hold a press conference at one o’clock this afternoon with Rep. Jeanne Ives and Denise Rotheimer appeared on his WIND radio show today. From Proft…

EXCLUSIVE: Springfield Sexual Harassment Victim Speaks Out

“It’s a certified terrible frat house,” is the way a sexual harassment victim coming forward today describes Springfield.

The woman, who will only identify herself as “M,” joined Dan Proft and Amy for an exclusive interview detailing the sexual harassment allegations she will make against a leading state legislator. “This has gone on probably for the last four to five years where I’ve been harassed and blackballed and threatened” she shared.

You can watch the in-studio video by clicking here.


Legislators, governor avoid addressing bill backlog in budget agreement

Thursday, May 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The biggest single problem with this agreed budget, which is the same big problem as Gov. Rauner’s introduced budget, is that it doesn’t appropriate money to pay off overdue bills except for what’s been included for unappropriated spending during the impasse. The current bill backlog is $6.6 billion, but that’s expected to rise.

Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) said last night that the unaddressed backlog issue is her chief regret about the new budget. I’ve yet to see any reporting on this topic.

* I asked Comptroller Susana Mendoza’s spokesperson about this budgetary short-coming…

This consensus budget provides stability. It gives us the tools to manage debt responsibly going forward. Our Debt Transparency Act gave legislators and taxpayers the numbers they needed to craft this budget with a clear picture of the state’s backlog of bills. That backlog as of today stands at $6.6 billion. It will take a long time to reduce that. But a consensus budget like this certainly beats the chaos of the budget impasse in previous years.

Looking on the bright side, I suppose.


What’s in the capital bill?

Thursday, May 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

By Hannah Meisel

* Capital project spending is included in the overall budget bill, HB109. As noted yesterday, $53,775,000 will go to the Quincy Veterans’ Home for capital improvements like piping replacement, and “water quality improvement projects.” It’s not the $245 million the Rauner administration asked for earlier this month, but until a new home can be built, the pipes need replacing at the very least.

We hear Quincy money was a bit of a trade for the $172 million included in the budget for improvements necessary to build the Obama Presidential Library in Jackson Park. Some of that money will go to various improvements, but a bulk will go toward building a new Metra station at 59th Street.

* What else?

- $400 million in deferred maintenance. Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) told me last night that there had to be an increase in deferred maintenance “…because we’ve had no capital for so long in a budget impasse,” she said. “There’s a lot of built-up emergency needs.”

- Speaking of emergencies, there’s also $100 million for statewide emergency spending.

- $75 million for higher education facilities and emergency projects.

- $30 million for improvements on the coliseum on the State Fairgrounds in Springfield. You may recall that a few years ago it closed because some of the beams inside were threatening to fall.

- HB109 also reinstates appropriation authority for all DCEO community grants, which have not had any appropriation authority since 2015.

- $29 million increase in OSLAD grant funding.


- The bill also contains $8.8 billion in IDOT capital re-appropriations for projects put on hold during the budget impasse.

- $2.9 billion in IDOT pay-as-you-go capital, including $2.2 billion for IDOT’s FY2019 road program.

- $50 million for high-speed rail projects and maintenance.

* Oh, and the Thompson Center? The budget does rely on $270 million in savings from a potential sale of the building. The $270 million figure comes from an early estimation of the land’s worth. Other estimations have been lower, but the budgeteers say it’s actually a conservative estimate, given recent upticks in value of real estate around that area.

Sen. Steans couldn’t tell reporters when Gov. Rauner would receive the bill for selling the Thompson Center, but did say Rauner probably won’t be waiting all the way until November.

Of course, there are still major snags that would need to be worked out, like the Blue Line stop underneath the Thompson Center and other zoning. When reporter Brian Mackey pointed that out a few days ago, Steans and other Democrats said that savings which won’t actually be realized wouldn’t be included in the budget. “That’s why I think it will be [real] because we’re going to send him the bill.”

As for the issues that need to be resolved: “We believe it needs to go through the regular city of Chicago process,” Steans said.

Guess we’ll see what happens there.


Report: Trump “strongly considering” Blagojevich commutation

Thursday, May 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Dana Kozlov last night

Former Governor Rod Blagojevich is preparing to formally ask President Donald Trump to release him from prison early. […]

Blagojevich’s attorney, Len Goodman, says he plans to send his formal petition for a commutation of sentence to the President in the next few weeks.

* Today…

…Adding… More info…


My favorite Statehouse tweets of the week

Thursday, May 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* These two made me chuckle…

* And these are from last night’s ERA debate in the House…


Stop Illinois Big Coal Bailouts

Thursday, May 31, 2018 - Posted by Advertising Department

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Learn More

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Tobacco 21 bill clears House on second try

Thursday, May 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The proponents regrouped after they came up short Tuesday and worked extremely hard to flip the votes. Man, did they ever scurry. It was quite something to behold. Senate President John Cullerton, who has been an anti-tobacco advocate for decades, also personally lobbied House members. Speaker Madigan did not vote either way on the bill the first time around, but he voted “Yes” yesterday and that seemed to help as well

The Illinois House has voted to bar tobacco sales to those under age 21 a day after the legislation fell four votes short.

Chicago Democratic Rep. Camille Lilly’s plan would prohibit sales of tobacco products to minors. The ban would include e-cigarettes and vaping materials.

It was approved 61-49 and goes to the governor for action.

* NPR Illinois

This comes more than a decade after state lawmakers banned smoking in most public places. Since then, cigarette prices have risen and public opinion on smoking has gone from bad to worse. Health advocates and even the military lobbied to raise the smoking age, arguing generations of teens have developed bad habits. In doing so, they say, those teens are now under-prepared for careers in the military.

While many Republicans rejected the move, Rep. Tim Butler (R-Springfield) broke ranks.

“This is a vote I’m making on my own personal beliefs,” he told the House chamber during debate. “If we can take steps to make a healthier Illinois, I think we should do it.”

The Illinois Chamber of Commerce says Illinois could stand to lose millions of dollars in tax revenue. Other opponents echoed those sentiments, arguing a higher minimum age would send buyers — and their sales tax money — to surrounding states.

The bill is here.


*** UPDATED x1 *** Moody’s warns against reducing pension contributions

Thursday, May 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Moody’s press release…

When fiscal 2019 begins on July 1, the State of Illinois (Baa3 negative) faces a sharp jump in its budgetary fixed costs for debt service, retiree healthcare, and pension contributions, part of a trend that may intensify in future years, Moody’s Investors Service says in a new report. A failure to adopt mitigating strategies soon will greatly increase the state’s risk that these rising costs will become unaffordable without severe public services cuts.

Without any revenue increases or legislation to reduce the state’s retirement benefit burden, Illinois’ total fixed costs will reach or exceed 30% of state-source revenue next year, with pensions accounting for more than half of the costs. Debt service, reflecting the state’s issuance of $6 billion of bonds in November 2017 to help reduce a backlog of unpaid bills, is scheduled to increase by 17%.

“Given their magnitude and growth trajectory, the state’s unfunded pension liabilities will likely require more than a single response,” said Moody’s analysts Ted Hampton and Tom Aaron, co-authors of the report. Illinois could raise revenue, shift some of the funding responsibility to local governments and public universities, or seek to reduce benefits. All of these approaches face potential political or even legal impediments, but the risks of inaction are significant for the state’s credit quality.

“Under some scenarios, Illinois could eventually find the burden of paying for retirement benefits becomes extremely difficult to manage,” Hampton said. “Part of the problem is that state officials always face the temptation of making the ultimate reckoning worse by pushing costs to the future, and they’ve used that approach many times in the past.”

In 2017, Illinois managed to keep the impact of its fixed costs from exceeding 30% of own-source revenues – approximately triple the median level for US states — by increasing income tax rates to boost revenues and passing legislation requiring that recent actuarial assumption changes be phased in over five years.

However, the growth of Illinois’ projected pension funding requirements will outpace its organic growth of tax revenues and the state’s economy. Moody’s says it anticipates that the state’s economy will continue to lag national trends as in recent years.

Severely unfunded pension liabilities leave Illinois far more exposed to adverse events such as a recession. Illinois’ pension funding needs will remain elevated even under favorable circumstances, but if the coming years include a recession and stock market downturn, the state’s funding burden could quickly become unsustainable without painful corrective actions.

“Illinois does have some ability to keep pushing costs to future years, in view of its plans’ assets on hand, but a decision to reduce current pension contributions would cast doubt on the state’s long-term ability to afford both accumulated liabilities and current services,” Aaron says. “Easing funding in favor of fiscal relief could erode the state’s credit.”

It’s unclear if Moody’s is aware of the pension proposals in the new budget.

*** UPDATE *** I asked David Jacobson, Moody’s VP for communications, if the ratings firm was aware of the pension changes in the BIMP. His e-mailed response…

We are, but don’t comment on pending legislation. Should this become official we will analyze the credit implications.


*** UPDATED x1 *** Pension savings explained

Thursday, May 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Click the pic for a larger image of these internal legislative dot points

I’m told the savings were calculated by the pension funds’ actuaries.

*** UPDATE *** From Rep. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield)….

There are a lot of misconceptions about the pension buyouts. Let me clarify a few things:

Is the only savings the “haircut” annuitants take to get the lump sum?

    No. Depending on the system, we have an expected rate of return of 7-7.25%. Therefore the unfunded portion of the shortfall grows at that amount each year. By bonding to buy people out of the system we are saving interest costs because we can sell bonds at less than 7% right now. The spread between 7-7.25% and whatever we sell the bonds for is additional long term savings.

Will anyone take the buyout?

    When I introduced HB4427 in Jan 2016, buyouts had only been done in the private sector. But since then, Missouri passed a bill very simliar to the HB315 I filed last Jan. That bill is for vested inctives. In Missouri there was a 22% take-up rate. That is the take-up rate that is being used.

What is done with the money?

    It does need to be rolled into a qualified retirement account. It will not be immediately taxed by the Feds. But, once it is in the account the annuitant can do with it whatever it wants to do.

What about negative-selection?

    The reason there is a “time-window” for these buyouts is to limit negative selection. People have to decide quickly. Plus, at a haircut of 30%-40% we would have to have a whole bunch of sick people in the state to have to plan lose money.


Senate leaders crow about bipartisan budget deal

Thursday, May 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady last night after the Senate passed the budget with only two “No” votes, both from his caucus…

“The budget we passed contains no tax increase and is born of bipartisan compromise. As we move forward, it is vital we continue to work together to ensure this balanced budget is accomplished,” said Brady. “This budget came about because we built trust and I believe we’ve got the start of something special here.”

* From Senate President John Cullerton last night…

The Illinois Senate approved a bipartisan budget deal that invests in public education at all levels and balances through targeted savings, reforms and utilizing existing state revenues.

“This is an important step forward. This budget helps restore stability to Illinois, which is what we need. There remains more work to do, but this is a bipartisan accomplishment that we can hopefully build upon,” said Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton.

The budget was negotiated by bipartisan working groups, finalized by legislative leaders and then approved in a bipartisan vote that signifies, at least for now, an end to years of partisan budget fights that decimated universities, human service providers and ballooned the state’s debt.

The state’s operating budget totals $38.5 billion, which is a $600 million increase over the current budget. That increase is largely due to education funding increases and making required pension payments.

The proposal won Senate approval 56-2. It now goes to the Illinois House.

Highlights include …


    $350 million increase in K-12 education to honor the commitments made when lawmakers overhauled how the state funds public schools last year. The new funding formula ensures every school district will see an increase.

    $50 million increase for early childhood programs.

    The budget deal does not include shifting millions in state pension costs onto local school districts.

    State support for the retired teacher health insurance program (TRIP) is maintained.

Higher Education:

    Higher education sees a 2 percent increase after years of budget cuts. That translates into a $25 million increase for public universities and community colleges.

    In addition, the state creates a $25 million scholarship fund to be matched by public universities and community colleges. The goal of this new tuition assistance program is to keep Illinois students in Illinois attending Illinois schools.

    The budget deal does not include shifting millions in state pension costs to universities and colleges.

Human Services:

    The budget includes and funds a 50-cent wage increase for caregivers who work primarily with developmentally disabled individuals.

    Numerous human service programs including those addressing epilepsy, autism, youth employment, addiction treatment and community mental health had been cut if not zeroed out in the governor’s budget. They are funded in this budget deal.

Local Government:

    Local governments would see a nearly $120 million increase over the current budget.

    A 10 percent cut in the Local Government Distributive Fund in the current budget is reduced to a 5 percent cut. That results in a nearly $100 million increase for local governments.

    The existing budget also implemented a 2 percent administrative fee for the state processing sales tax revenue for local governments. That fee is reduced to 1.5 percent in the FY19 budget. The result is an increase of nearly $20 million going to local governments.

Financial details:

    A more than $1 billion budget hole wiped out through savings, reforms and utilizing other available revenues.

    The state is authorized to tap into up to $800 million sitting available in various state accounts. This allows the state to utilize that money now to fund programs and services and pay it back over the next two years.

    A series of voluntary pension reforms are projected to bring in $445 million in budget savings.

Those reforms include:

    Inactive buyout: Former public sector workers vested in the program and owed an annuity when they reach the qualifying retirement age would gain the option of cashing out now for 60 percent of the value. Savings estimated at $41 million

    COLA buyout: Tier 1 employees owed a compounding 3 percent COLA in retirement would get the option of having the state buyout the compounded COLA for 70 percent of the value. Savings estimated at $382 million.

    Pension spiking: End of career raises would be limited to 3 percent, currently 6 percent. This means if school districts award end of career raises in excess of 3 percent, the retirement system charges them to cover the increased expense to state taxpayers. Savings estimated at $22 million.


*** LIVE *** Session coverage

Thursday, May 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Follow along with ScribbleLive


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Thursday, May 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

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Senate passes budget bills by pretty amazing margins

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

By Hannah Meisel

* The mood is downright jovial as I write this from the Senate press box. The appropriations bill, HB109, passed with 56 yes votes, 2 no votes and one non-voting member. The budget implementation bill (HB HB3342) passed with 54 yeas, 2 nays and 2 present votes (one of which happened to be Senate President Cullerton…but I’m told it’s got to do with conflicts of interest from his law practice).

Senate also approved HB4290, which addresses back pay owed to state workers, 58-0.

Seriously incredible margins here. It really speaks to the trust built during the budget process (and don’t discount the impact that the Grand Bargain talks made last year, despite it falling apart after Gov. Rauner apparently threw a wrench into the process). I’ll leave you with this…


Equal Rights Amendment passes with help from Durkin

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

By Hannah Meisel

* In a surprising move, House GOP Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) helped give the Equal Rights Amendment the extra boost needed to pass the House. Durkin is a pro-life Catholic, and one of the loudest arguments against the ERA is it will open the door for more abortions.

Earlier today Rep. Silvana Tabares (D-Chicago) had an excused absence, and everyone I asked had no idea what was going to happen with the Equal Rights Amendment. Then just before 6 p.m., Lou Lang introduced the ERA. If you heard psychotic clacking down the hallway in the Capitol basement, that was me running for the elevator. Two hours of debate later, it passed. Here’s the roll call. Watch video of the board during the vote here.

* GOP votes for the bill…

Steve Andersson
Dan Brady
Jim Durkin
David Harris
Chad Hays
David Olsen
Bob Pritchard
Grant Wehrli
David Welter
Christine Winger

* Dem votes against the bill…

Rita Mayfield
Mary Flowers
Natalie Phelps Finnie
Jerry Costello
Monica Bristow

* Notable moments from the debate…

Everyone acknowledges that if Illinois’ passage of the ERA triggers another state to do the same, this will end up in a legal battle over whether the ratification deadline (originally 1979 and then pushed to 1982) is truly dead. Also other states have attempted to rescind their ratification votes.

* More background


Question of the day

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* How are you holding up?


Some quick session updates

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Start reading if you want…

The Quincy veterans’ home will get $53,775,000 for various improvements, which is agreed language. Let us know what else you find in there.

…Adding… House Amendment 2 to SB3128 is the statutory language on the Quincy veterans’ home rebuild. It gives the administration five years to do a “design build,” and has some Procurement Code relief similar to what they did with the Thompson Center. It also requires the administration to provide unredacted copies of any communication with the federal government related to the project, because they haven’t yet received assurances that the feds will pay for it.

The BIMP will likely be added to HB3342.

* Meanwhile, Senate President John Cullerton unveiled new language today on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s carjacking bill. Senate Amendment 2 to HB1804 is reportedly backed by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. It removes all the language on presumptive juvenile detention (Rep. Jaime Andrade’s proposal removed part of it), but it retains the “inference” language

For a minor arrested or taken into custody for vehicular hijacking or aggravated vehicular hijacking, a previous finding of delinquency for vehicular hijacking or aggravated vehicular hijacking shall be given greater weight in determining whether secured custody of a minor is a matter of immediate and urgent necessity for the protection of the minor or of the person or property of another.

The original legislation is here. Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) was the sponsor of that bill, but she handed over sponsorship to Rep. Andrade today. She said this afternoon she’s not sure yet how she’ll vote on the new bill. She voted against Rep. Andrade’s bill.

* Some good news via press release…

The Small Business Advocacy Council (SBAC) is proud to announce that legislation amending the archaic Liquor Control Act of 1934 passed out of the Illinois House and Senate with strong bipartisan support.

The SBAC lead the charge to pass SB2436, a bill to amend this outdated statute which prohibits the sale of alcohol within 100 feet of a religious institution, school, hospital or military station. Until now, the only recourse for a small business owner to receive an exemption was for a bill to be drafted, passed by the General Assembly and signed into law. Most small business owners don’t have the time or resources to tackle this burdensome process.

The whole process was ridiculous. Good riddance. Let the city council decide stuff like this if they want.

…Adding… I should note that Gov. Rauner feels the same way I do on this topic. He vetoed the last exemption after saying he’d never sign another one. He pushed hard to get this changed. Good for him.

* Also…

* As always in times like these, keep a close eye on our live coverage post for constant updates.


Ives to attend tomorrow’s press conference about “leading lawmaker” who is “longtime abuser”

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Background is here. From Denise Rotheimer’s Facebook page…

Big news! The allegation that is coming out on Thursday is a game changer. When his name is mentioned…time is up. I am so grateful for the courage that she has to go public. She’s relying on me for moral support because she is terrified about going public.

I told her representative Jeanne Ives has been a great support for me and offered to invite her. She asked me to have Jeanne there. I called Jeanne Ives told her the accuser really wants her to be there and she said Yes I will be there for her.

Jeanne said she will ask her colleagues to also join us to give this woman support while she discloses the abuse she suffered by a legislator who hold leadership in Springfield. Hopefully others will join us and give the accuser a strong showing of support to offset her feelings of being terrified by going public on Thursday. It’s not easy to do and she deserves our support.

Mary Ann Ahern confirmed Ives’ likely attendance.

* Meanwhile, the highlighted passages below from Tina Sfondeles’ story has got a whole lot of Statehouse types wondering who this “leading lawmaker” might be

Denise Rotheimer says she’s scheduled a 1 p.m. news conference on Thursday to help support a “female activist” who endured “abuse” by a “leading lawmaker.”

Rotheimer said a similar incident happened last week to a female legislator, who has not come forward.

“I can’t discuss the name of the person who was being abused in Springfield but I am aware of it and the abuser is the same person [who abused] this woman,” Rotheimer said. “So I let her know about what happened last week and wanted to see if she’d be able to come out because this is happening to another woman, who happens to be a legislator.”

“This is abuse of power,” she said, adding the abuse was not a form of sexual harassment.

I have a hunch because I’ve heard lots of rumors about something that allegedly happened last week, but I have no proof yet, and for all I know this could be a different case. Anyway, please stop calling and texting me to ask me who it might be. I’ll let you know when I know. Thanks.

Also, as before, no speculation will be allowed in comments. You’ll be banned for life if you try. If you have a legit tip, send it to me. Don’t do it in comments.


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It’s just a bill

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Tina Sfondeles with the scoop

A gaming expansion bill shot down in an Illinois House committee on Monday — which would have added a Chicago casino — now has a big opponent: Mayor Rahm Emanuel. […]

No one from the city has reached out to [gaming bill sponsor Rep. Bob Rita] to express any objections, [spokesperson Ryan Keith] said.

But a top mayoral adviser, who asked to remain anonymous, said on Tuesday that Emanuel opposes the casino bill in its existing form and believes it’s going nowhere in the spring session.

“If there is gaming in Chicago, it would have to be under a different tax and revenue-sharing structure where more of the money comes back to local government,” the Emanuel adviser said.

* More legislation-related items…

* With no evidence teens are driving up carjackings, lawmakers pass Emanuel’s juvenile lock-up bill: When asked Tuesday whether witnesses or proponents had provided lawmakers any data to prove that juveniles were the cause of rising carjackings, Andrade said he had only been given general police interaction data which was not specific to juveniles, nor specific to carjackings.

* Bill to raise tobacco buying age sees delay in House: The House voted against SB 2332 on Tuesday, which would have raised the minimum purchase age to 21. California, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey and Oregon have already passes the same idea into law. A total of 26 Illinois municipalities, including Chicago, Aurora, Evanston and Naperville, have raised the age in Illinois.

* Plan to raise smoking age to 21 stalls in Illinois House: Opposing members cited the likely decline in tax revenue and the belief the bill constituted government overreach.

* Groups fight huge expansion of police drone monitoring of protests: On Monday, another two amendments were introduced. One, put forth by proponents of expansion, would limit the use of facial recognition technology at events of more than 1,500 people and require police departments to maintain policies on reporting when drones are used. Another, by those, including state rep Ann Williams, would bump the minimum crowd size for drone monitoring to 10,000, limit the use of facial recognition software, and add requirements that police destroy the footage within a set period of time.

* The Immigrant Tenant Protection Act passed out of the IL House in a 62-48 vote. It prohibits landlords from intimidating, harassing or evicting tenants based on citizenship status. It was amended so it heads back to the Senate for approval before it can go to the governor.

* The AIM HIGH Grant Pilot Program passed out of the House today in a 111-6 vote. The program is aimed at increasing enrollment at Illinois universities. It now goes back to the Senate for their approval of an amendment before it can be sent to the governor.

* SB20, which deals with Human Rights Commission speeding up review process on sexual harassment and other complaints, passes IL House 110-0, and heads to governor’s desk. Rep. Jimenez (who sponsors bill, along with Currie), said before, process could take up to 7 years.

* Tribune editorial: Why Illinois pols should switch to lower SALT: It’s been nice forcing people in lower-tax states to help pull our overloaded wagon. But that ride is over.

* Abortion Argument Hurdle To Equal Rights Amendment Ratification: Lang says opponents tying the proposal to abortion has been harmful to the effort. Opponents claim the proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution’s goal is to further abortion access. “When the language for the Equal Rights Amendment was actually written by Alice Paul in the 1920s, we didn’t have legal abortion in this country,” Lang said. “So to say that people wrote this with a plan to expand abortion services is just nonsensical.”

* By a 79-33 vote, House passes legislation lifting Court of Claims caps for Quincy Legionnaires families to $2 million. Moves back to Senate for concurrence. Rauner administration filed witness slips in opposition to the bill.

* Additional water sample tests positive at Quincy veterans home: A water sample taken from a shower head pipe at the veterans home in downstate Quincy has tested positive for the presence of the legionnella bacteria, according to the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tested 22 water samples earlier this year and 21 came back negative, the state said.


Another side of the budget debate

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Without even seeing it, the Illinois News Network’s news director says this is a bad budget

This budget is nothing to celebrate.

In fact, this budget and the regular session that led to it aren’t any better than the now infamous 2017 extended summer session.

Yes, lawmakers last year passed the largest permanent tax hike in the state’s history, increasing personal income taxes by 32 percent, and corporate taxes by 33 percent. That was as bad for the state as it was for workers and job creators because of the long-term negative impacts it will have on the economy.

But at least there was a very public debate about it. And many lawmakers who defied their constituencies and voted for the tax increases were held accountable for it and decided to leave office.

This year, budget negotiations have been held mostly behind closed doors, with legislative leaders working on a spending plan with little public scrutiny.

* Wirepoints is also up in arms

Go-along-to-get-along politics over the last three decades has brought Illinois to the brink. Most of the mess has come when governors and the legislature agreed to compromise and work together. As Gov. Jim Edgar said of his own efforts at cooperation, he attempted to bring “civility, compromise, compassion.” Unfortunately, those three c’s have taken Illinois in the wrong direction.

It’s how Edgar got his failed and damaging pension ramp passed. It’s how Govs. Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn kicked-the-can with multi-billion dollar pension bonds. It’s also how, year after year, the Illinois legislature passes phony budgets that are always unbalanced. Quiet, maybe a little fuss, then agreement at the last minute. That’s how they like it.

Quiet negotiations today means that Rauner is no longer fighting back like he used to.

Maybe his political calculations tell him to go along to get along – that it might get him more votes. Or maybe, as cartoonist Eric Allie suggested in an older piece, Rauner is just the next Republican governor to capitulate.

This time last year, the opposing sides weren’t even talking to each other about the budget. Now, the secretive “budgeteer” meetings are reportedly going well. The rumor is the two groups are only off by less than $100 million.

If that’s all true – and we certainly haven’t heard much from the governor – then Rauner’s no longer fighting to partially roll back the tax hike as he recently promised. It seems, rather, that he’s now happy to use every penny and more of that $5 billion tax hike.

Nor is he fighting for major pension, labor or property tax reforms. At least none that he’s communicated openly.

* Also…

* While we’re on the general topic, the Illinois Policy Institute has released its annual report for 2017. From the chapter entitled “Spurring a Springfield Exodus

From the very beginning, our goal with the Illinois Policy Institute and Illinois Policy was to put mechanisms of accountability in place – those who seek to put Illinois on a path to prosperity should succeed, and those who threaten it should fail.

Following the summer’s tax hike fight, we saw the power of these mechanisms to bring historic change to Springfield.

Just one year into the current General Assembly, nine of the 15 Republicans who voted for the tax hike have announced they will not run for re-election. Another 25 lawmakers have either resigned their seats or will not be holding on to their seats in the next General Assembly.

This is an exodus unlike anything Springfield insiders have ever seen.

Curiously, no mention was made in the report of all those Policy Institute staffers who went to work for Gov. Rauner soon after that tax hike vote and then suffered their own mass “exodus” when the governor gave them the boot.


Report: Rauner considers budget deal “balanced”

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Tina Sfondeles

If all goes well, the Illinois General Assembly is in a position to pass a budget on Wednesday that Republicans — with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s approval — say is balanced. […]

And a budget summary from Senate Republicans, given a stamp of approval by Rauner’s office, calls the budget “balanced.” That summary touts that it contains no tax increases — a key talking point for both his administration and his re-election campaign. […]

Revenue changes include using a $200 million fund balance from a Refund Fund to offset costs, as well as using $66 million from “higher than expected state investment returns.” The Senate GOP summary also concludes that the sale of the Thompson Center would bring in $300 million. That inclusion has been a point of contention for years, and was also in Rauner’s budget proposal last year. […]

It also includes $500 million for a proposed Discovery Partners’ Institute through the University of Illinois — a project both Rauner and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have touted as a significant addition to the state’s educational landscape.

Money would be included to help build a new Quincy veterans’ home, although the number is not specified in the document.

…Adding… There’s some confusion in comments. Anticipated proceeds from the Thompson Center sale were previously booked as end-of-year surplus cash. They weren’t appropriated. Likely gonna be the same this year. We’ll see.


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Wednesday, May 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

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*** UPDATED x1 *** SIU board meeting today in Springfield

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

By Hannah Meisel

* Southern Illinois University’s board of trustees is having a special meeting here in Springfield today as tensions reach a fever pitch over a potential split between SIU’s Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses. Click here to watch the Daily Egyptian’s live video stream.

On Sunday, the Southern called for SIU system president Randy Dunn to resign because of his perceived nonchalance about a possible split, and oh yeah, the “b*tchers from Carbondale” comment still seems to be poisoning the conversation

Randy Dunn can no longer effectively serve as president of the Southern Illinois University system.

According to documents obtained by SIU Carbondale faculty member Kathleen Chwalisz and others provided by Board of Trustees member Phil Gilbert, Dunn appears to have withheld information from SIUC Chancellor Carlo Montemagno regarding a proposed $5.1 million shift in funding from the Carbondale campus to SIU Edwardsville.

The funding shift was in reference to the 60-40 split in state monies Dunn insists has been a part of the SIU system’s budgeting process since 1979.

To compound matters even further, Dunn sent a damning email to SIU Edwardsville chancellor Randy Pembrook, SIUE Budget Director Bill Winter, and Vice President for Administrative Affairs Duane Stucky stating that a reference to the 60-40 split was “simply to shut up the bitchers from Carbondale who are saying loudly we shouldn’t even be doing the $5.125M at this time.”

* Other coverage from today includes this Tribune story

Southern Illinois’ trustees have scheduled a special meeting on Wednesday to discuss several bills that could dramatically change how the university is run. The outcome could compel the board to depart from its publicly neutral stance.

At issue is how money is divided between the flagship campus in Carbondale and its sister school in Edwardsville, which receives less funding even though it has grown to nearly match Carbondale’s enrollment.

“It is difficult to wear two different hats,” Edwardsville Chancellor Randy Pembrook said. “On one hand, we’re talking about what is in the best interest of the system, but the trustees live in a certain area, and they’re human. They are part of a community and these universities are very important parts of their towns.”

* Local TV

During the open portion there will be three resolutions on the table (HB 1292, 1293, 1294) in regards to the 50/50 Appropriations, SIU System Split, and the “Reconstitution” of the Board of Trustees.

The board will vote on the University’s position on this, whether in favor, against or if they will remain neutral.

Randy Dunn has already said he wouldn’t resign. We covered this last week, but Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea) says publicly that he’s going to call his bill to split SIU if the resolution to study the issue doesn’t go through. We’ll see what happens today.

*** UPDATE *** The board of trustees rejected a resolution to split the system in two and passed a resolution to oppose splitting the system.


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Legislator cites “Red Dawn” as reason to oppose gun dealer licensing bill

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* NPR Illinois

The Illinois legislature has again moved to regulate gun dealers. It comes after Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed a similar measure back in March, calling it “onerous bureaucracy.”

To satisfy Rauner’s concerns from the first time around, lawmakers from both parties revamped the legislation, calling it gun dealer certification. Instead of all-out licensing, the state would simply certify that a dealer is running a clean business. That, they say, would cut down on costs and red tape opponents took issue with in the first place.

Rep. Kathleen Willis (D-Addison) says the measure will still help to curb illegal gun sales, but now is more business-friendly.

“I cannot stress that enough! I stated that numerous times. It is not going to put a gun shop out of business,” Willis exasperatedly told the House during a debate.

* SJ-R

The effort rose from the ashes of a failed attempt to license gun shops at the state level. That bill, Senate Bill 1657, would have required gun dealers to register for a five-year license with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. The idea was to ensure professional standards, like proper employee training and adequate video surveillance, were being met. […]

The effort was not enough to win over some, however, with most downstate lawmakers in both parties voting “no.” In addition to concerns about the effect it would have on small businesses and law-abiding gun owners, many believed the measure to be a slippery slope to a gun registry.

Rep. Allen Skillicorn, R-West Dundee, invoked “Red Dawn,” a 1984 movie where the Soviet Union invades the United States, in stating his opposition.

“When the bad guys invaded the town, what did they do? They went to the sporting goods store and they wanted to look up the gun registry,” Skillicorn said. “They wanted to look up the records of who owned the guns. Nothing is going to stop the state of Illinois from looking up this information if we now require this. This is a gun registry and that’s it.”

* Here’s the scene he was talking about


Caption contest!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The mascot was in town to demand that the Senate finally take action on a bill to allow an elected Chicago school board, a concept that Rep. Guzzardi strongly supports…

There’s a metaphor in there somewhere, but please keep it clean. Thanks.


Costello, Bristow highlight conservative votes

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller


Recent moves by two metro-east Democratic state representatives who are facing Republican challengers in November’s election could be seen as listening to constituents’ concerns as well as political expediency.

Last week, state Reps. Jerry Costello II, D-Smithton, and Monica Bristow, D-Godfrey, voiced support for bringing back the death penalty in cases beyond doubt where a firefighter or police officer is killed, or there is a mass murder. […]

Bristow and Costello also recently voted against legislation that would allow for a mechanism to temporarily take someone’s guns away if they’re deemed dangerous. On Tuesday, they voted against a new version of a proposed gun dealer licensing bill. […]

Bristow and Costello on Tuesday also participated in a news conference where a bipartisan group of legislators objected to taxpayer-funded abortions being included in the state budget. Rauner signed a bill last year to provide state-mandated health insurance and Medicaid coverage for abortions. […]

Costello also has not endorsed anyone for governor and doesn’t know if he’ll formally back any candidate. He was not present when Democratic legislators from the metro-east formally backed Pritzker in December

One area the two disagree on is a progressive income tax. Costello is strongly opposed, but Bristow voted for Speaker Madigan’s resolution in support of the concept yesterday.

* From Rep. Bristow’s Republican opponent Mike Babcock…

“Rep. Bristow’s first session as a lawmaker is wrapping up and we know that she wants a pay raise for legislators and higher taxes for working families. Bristow just voted in favor of a graduated income tax hike crafted by Chicago democrats. She has shown time and again that when Mike Madigan asks for her help in sticking it to taxpayers, she follows along. Enough is enough - let’s grow our economy instead of raising taxes and cut spending instead of passing unbalanced budgets every year.”

* As I told you yesterday, Democratic Rep. Natalie Phelps Finnie, who is also a Tier One target, voted for the progressive income tax resolution. From her Republican opponent Patrick Windhorst…

“Over 30,000 people fled the state of Illinois last year because the financial burden of living here is too great. Rep. Phelps Finnie just voted to make the tax burden even greater on our working families. Raising taxes, again, on the middle class and those just trying to get by in Southern Illinois is fundamentally wrong. When Rep. Phelps Finnie takes our voice to Springfield and uses it to echo Mike Madigan’s tax-raising agenda, Southern Illinois loses.”


Rauner compares himself to Ricketts’ Cubs turnaround in new digital ad

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

Rauner Campaign Releases New Digital Ad: “Going to Bat for Illinois”

Today, the Rauner campaign launched a new digital ad, “Going to Bat for Illinois.” It features the governor touring the Wrigleyville neighborhood and talking about the Chicago Cubs’ rebuild that resulted in a World Series championship.

Born near Wrigley Field, Governor Rauner says that just like the Cubs, we can turn Illinois around with more jobs, lower taxes, and ending corruption in state government.

* Rate it


*** LIVE *** Session coverage

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Looks like they’re very close to final action on the budget. Follow along with ScribbleLive

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

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Budget details begin to leak out

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

[This post has been bumped up to Wednesday from Tuesday night for visibility purposes.]

* Tribune

Lawmakers have entered what could be the final stages of negotiating a budget that would limit state spending to $38.5 billion by cutting funding for prisons and human services and buying out some state pensioners, according to budget documents obtained by the Tribune. […]

The budget blueprint envisions spending $5.9 billion on human services, $1.8 billion on colleges and universities, $1.7 billion on public safety and $1.2 billion on government services, the documents show. A new $25 million scholarship program would be created to encourage students to attend school in Illinois. Universities would be asked to match it. Early childhood education and K-12 schools would get a total of $8.4 billion, which represents an increase of $50 million for early childhood education and $350 million for primary and secondary schools — the yearly increase that was envisioned in a new education funding formula that was enacted last year.

The plan lays out spending $20.4 billion on pensions, debt payments, Medicaid and health insurance for state workers — all expenses over which lawmakers have little control.

It would make $124 million in cuts at state agencies, including $47 million from both the Department of Corrections and the Department of Human Services. And pension costs would go down by $444 million, largely due to two new “buyout” plans that were not explained in the outline documents.

* Sun-Times

With fingers crossed, lawmakers say they’re hoping to pass the budget framework entirely as soon as Thursday morning. And sources said Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration is on board with the proposal, so far. […]

According to the budget document, budget reductions include $124 million to state agencies, including nearly $47 million each for the Departments of Corrections and the for social services and $55 million less for the Department of Juvenile Justice.

Pension costs would drop by nearly $445 million. The documents attribute $41 million of that to an “inactive buyout,” which would include a group of workers who haven’t reached retirement. Another $22 million would be cut by limiting salary spiking to 3 percent. […]

According to a budget framework, the budget does not include a shift of the normal cost of employee pensions to the local employer and removing the state group health insurance program from collective bargaining; or eliminating health insurance subsidies for retired teachers. […]

The framework includes an additional $350 million for evidence based funding for school districts; an additional $50 million for early childhood; an increase of 2 percent to universities and community colleges; $25 million for a new tuition grant program that will provide additional tuition assistance to try to stem the tide of students fleeing Illinois; a $0.50 wage increase for Direct Service Providers; and an increase in rates to child providers by 4.26 percent.

* SJ-R

Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, also said “there are several decisions that are yet to be made by the leaders” before the final touches can be placed on the budget. He said the issues include how to handle certain infrastructure projects like replacement of the Illinois Veterans’ Home in Quincy and funding for the Obama presidential library in Chicago.

One thing that is not on the table is an expansive capital construction plan that would involve issuing bonds and finding a new revenue source to pay for them.

“We’re not talking about raising gasoline taxes or (imposing) a vehicle mileage tax,” said Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, one of the budget negotiators.


Lawmakers will try to boost enrollment at Illinois’ public universities via a new program (Senate Bill 2927) on the fast track that would create a merit-based “AIM HIGH” scholarship available to Illinois residents with qualifying grade point averages and incomes. Regional schools like Southern Illinois University and Western Illinois University have seen steep enrollment declines that administrators attribute to higher education funding cuts over the years, and particularly during the recent years-long budget stalemate.

Such spending could trigger nips and tucks in spending on other priorities.

The budget is not predicated proceeds from an expansion of gambling, after opposition from the city of Chicago helped to fell a massive gambling expansion package that would allow it and five other locations to host casinos. […]

While there’s a general sense of optimism in Springfield, there is a constant undercurrent of unease: Democrats doubting that under pressure from conservatives or with an eye toward November’s election Rauner will not sign a deal into law, Republicans who fear that Democrats will use the levers of legislative power to pull a fast one and will tuck a new, expensive program into a budget bill at the last minute.

Subscribers will have more tomorrow.


High hopes for higher ed in bill package

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

[This post has been bumped up to Wednesday from Tuesday night for visibility purposes.]

By Hannah Meisel

* The higher education working group did a quick presser this afternoon to unveil their package of six bills that colleges and universities have been asking for, especially as they have been hammered over the last few years of a budget impasse combined with the brain drain they were already facing. Some institutions responded by freezing tuition, raising tuition, or increasing non-domestic recruitment. All solutions come with their own baggage.

From a Sunday story about SIU…

Adjusted for inflation, the cost of SIU Carbondale’s tuition and fees has increased about 150 percent for Illinois residents in the last two decades.

We’ll come back to that story, but back to today’s news.

Two big ones in the package are the AIM HIGH Grant Pilot Program (SB2927) and HB5020, which would stop the practice of making MAP grants kind of a “one and done” deal.

AIM HIGH is a $25 million ask for a new merit-based scholarship. Conditions for the scholarship would include Illinois citizenship and meeting a benchmark GPA and test scores. Lawmakers said they were crossing their fingers that it could be included in a final budget this week, but seemed like they wouldn’t be losing any sleep if it waited til the fall. It’s meant to bring in two types of students missing from Illinois campuses: those who go elsewhere and those who go nowhere.

“Several of our public university presidents told us that their biggest competitor is nowhere,” Sen. Pat McGuire (D-Joliet) told reporters. “These are students who gain admission to Illinois public universities but come fall they don’t matriculate to the public university to which they gained acceptance, nor to a community college. They don’t go to any two- or four-year institution.”

Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) said HB5020 is exactly what admissions officers have been asking for. MAP grants are currently administered on a one-year basis and students who received a MAP grant one year is never guaranteed one the next year. HB5020 would give MAP grantees priority the following year, for four years.

“These out-of-state schools come in and offer four-year awards and then [in-state schools] are stuck back pedaling, ‘Well, you might get MAP, you might not and it’s only good for a year, yada yada yada,’” Rose said.

* One other notable bill in the package would “greatly” expand debt limits at the state’s public universities in order for them to address deferred maintenance. Some universities desperately need this. Always striking to see a brand new building next to a dilapidated one.

Back to the SIU story

When it comes to increased reliance on tuition, SIUC is not alone: A 2018 study by the State Higher Education Executive Officers found that tuition, rather than state and local dollars, has become the primary revenue source for public colleges and universities in most states across the nation.

John Jackson, now a visiting lecturer with SIUC’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, watched the university increasingly turn to tuition as the state’s funding retracted or barely grew over the course of his four-decade career as an administrator and teacher at the institution. […]

Jackson, who has been writing and editing a book about the last fifty years of SIUC’s history, said he considers rising tuition the number-one cause of the university’s precipitous enrollment decline. […]

“Yes, there is evidence that cutting state appropriations raises tuition. There is also evidence that higher tuition actually leads to lower state appropriations. … It’s a very complicated nest of factors and publicity that really cause these tuition changes,” [Jennifer Delaney, an associate professor of higher education at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign] said.



* Isabel’s afternoon roundup
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* Question of the day
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* Protect Illinois Hospitality – Vote No On House Bill 5345
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* Showcasing The Retailers Who Make Illinois Work
* Moody’s revises Illinois outlook from stable to positive (Updated)
* Open thread
* Isabel’s morning briefing
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* *** 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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