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Senate passes budget bills by pretty amazing margins

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

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…

- Posted by Hannah Meisel   30 Comments      

Equal Rights Amendment passes with help from Durkin

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

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

- Posted by Hannah Meisel   22 Comments      

Question of the day

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

* How are you holding up?

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      

Some quick session updates

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

* 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.

- Posted by Rich Miller   6 Comments      

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

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

* 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.

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      

Stop Illinois Big Coal Bailouts

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

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It’s just a bill

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

* 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.

- Posted by Rich Miller   10 Comments      

Another side of the budget debate

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

* 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.

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      

Report: Rauner considers budget deal “balanced”

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

* 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.

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

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

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

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.

- Posted by Hannah Meisel   44 Comments      

Oppose police drones at protests

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

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

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

* 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

- Posted by Rich Miller   50 Comments      

Caption contest!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

* 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.

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      

Costello, Bristow highlight conservative votes

Wednesday, May 30, 2018


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.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      

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

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

* 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

- Posted by Rich Miller   66 Comments      

*** LIVE *** Session coverage

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

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

- Posted by Rich Miller   1 Comment      

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

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Budget details begin to leak out

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

[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.

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      

High hopes for higher ed in bill package

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

[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.


- Posted by Hannah Meisel   13 Comments      

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