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But his e-mails…

Tuesday, Dec 18, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* A release of internal e-mails by the Special Projects Desk at Gizmodo Media Group shows why Todd Ricketts might have a bit of a tough time if he decides to run for Illinois governor in 2022

From: [Republican strategist] Fred Davis

To: Joe Ricketts, Pete Ricketts, Todd Ricketts

Date: May 17, 2012

Subject: URGENT. Suggest not taking calls right now.

We just got a call that the NY Times has a HARD copy of our proposal on Reverend Wright.

Putting aside the terrible disappointment that this was leaked, we’re waiting for Brian to get off his TV appearance so we can work out a strategy on how to respond. The story is for tomorrow, and needless to say they think it’s a big deal.

The writers are Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg. They say they will soon be, “calling around,” and I wanted to get you this news immediately to be sure none of the three of you take their calls and get caught off guard.

As soon as we have Brian, we’ll be back in touch with a response plan.

Just when things yesterday were going so well…


* From that NY Times story

A group of high-profile Republican strategists is working with a conservative billionaire on a proposal to mount one of the most provocative campaigns of the “super PAC” era and attack President Obama in ways that Republicans have so far shied away from. […]

The group suggested hiring as a spokesman an “extremely literate conservative African-American” who can argue that Mr. Obama misled the nation by presenting himself as what the proposal calls a “metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln.”

* Back to the e-mails

From: Todd Ricketts

To: Joe Ricketts

Date: January 25, 2012

Subject: The Greece Nextdoor

This why every other day I contemplate moving out of Illinois. If Scott Walker wins maybe I will move north. If not, I may have to move to Texas. Government unions self-dealing themselves outrageous benefits and pensions through the Democratic party have gutted not only Illinois but the entire nation.

Daley bankrupted the city over the last 20 years and when push came shove he conveniently decided to leave office when he realized to was getting around the situation.

Walker won, but Todd never moved, of course.

From the link he forwarded

In other words, higher taxes led to fiscal deterioration in Illinois, just as tax increases in Europe have been followed by bad outcomes.

That actually didn’t happen until the tax hike was allowed to roll back.

* More

From: Todd Ricketts

To: Joe Ricketts, Pete Ricketts, Tom Ricketts, Laura Ricketts, and others

Date: July 4, 2009

Subject: new religion

One of the reasons I am so skeptical of global warming alarmism is for exactly what this article points out. Global warming is a religion and anyone who doesn’t believe is a heretic.

Todd […]

From: Todd Ricketts

To: Tom Ricketts, Joe Ricketts, L.B.

Date: February 3, 2010

Subject: canadian health care

So if we adopt a Canadian style healthcare, as much of the Obama plan would be, where would we go when we actually want to get good care?

Not everything in these e-mails is a killer issue, but some of it is enough to paint a not-so-pretty picture.

* By the way, Bruce Rauner makes an appearance in the e-mails in this exchange with Todd’s father

From: Bruce Rauner

To: Joe Ricketts

Date: May 20, 2012

Subject: (no subject)

Hi joe – hope you’re doing well despite all the recent baloney in the media – I’ll be riding the harley from livingston down to jackson for nfwf board meeting aug 13-15 and the freedomworks/tea party conference aug 16-17th – will be free afternoon of 15th and morning of 16th and was wondering if you’d like to go for a ride or have a cigar

From: Joe Ricketts

To: Bruce Rauner

Date: June 3, 2012

Subject: RE: (no subject)

Hi Bruce,

I’m co-hosting a cocktail party for AEI in Jackson on the 15th but these things usually don’t last long. I don’t have the details as yet so let me get back to you after I get them.

I’m not a taking my motorcycle out of storage this summer as I will not have time to ride it; got a very full summer lined up. I enjoy being busy but not really this busy but things will slow down after the elections. If the mandate of Obama Care is not knocked down and if Obama gets reelected I may have to give up my citizenship and go to New Zealand.

A cigar sounds good.

Rauner was at a tea party event in 2012?


Permanent Legislative Inspector General finally named

Tuesday, Dec 18, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Only like three years late, but who’s counting?…

* Got tired of waiting on a text version in lieu of the 20th Century pdf file they sent, so here’s the release…


Rockford airport still waiting on its money

Tuesday, Dec 18, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* September of 2015

[Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Cheri Bustos] are urging Gov. Bruce Rauner to release [$16.3 million] they say the state pledged for improvements at Chicago Rockford International Airport.

Rauner and Democrats who control the Legislature have been unable to agree on a fiscal year 2016 budget which was supposed to take effect July 1.

The airport project is under way and Congress is considering adding $2.5 million in federal money. Durbin and Bustos say if the state reneges it could jeopardize the project and hundreds of jobs.

They say they believe Illinois state lawmakers appropriated the money in 2014.

* Also from September of 2015

Rauner’s spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said Sunday that proper documentation allowing the money to be released wasn’t submitted.

* November of 2015

A line of credit between about a half-dozen local banks and the Greater Rockford Airport Authority will free up funds to complete an airplane-repair hangar on schedule next fall.

The $41 million project at Chicago Rockford International Airport will bring hundreds of jobs to the area and provide new educational opportunities for Rock Valley College.

* May 31, 2018

The Greater Rockford Airport Authority could accelerate payoff of a $16.3 million debt if Gov. Bruce Rauner signs the state budget bill lawmakers approved this week.

The $38.5 billion spending plan, approved by the Illinois Senate on Wednesday and the Illinois House on Thursday, includes a $14.7 million grant for the airport’s maintenance, repair and overhaul facility, where jets are repaired and maintained.

The money represents the state’s contribution to the $40 million jet repair hub, which opened in 2016. Former governor Pat Quinn promised the money to the airport in 2014. But Rauner’s administration froze the money amid a budget stalemate in late 2015.

* June 21, 2018

Chicago Rockford International Airport is going to have to wait until at least next month for $14.7 million from the state to help pay for AAR Corp.’s maintenance, repair and overhaul facility.

The money, included in the fiscal 2019 state budget signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner, cannot be released until the new fiscal year starts July 1, said Jamey Dunn, a spokeswoman for the Illinois comptroller’s office.

The timing is important. Airport director Mike Dunn said the airport spends about $100,000 a month in interest payments to five banks that teamed up to extend a $17 million line of credit to the airport to ensure that the jet repair hub would be completed on schedule.

Rauner says he’s keeping tabs on when the money will be delivered.

“I hope that to be very soon,” he said Thursday during a stop in Rockford. “I’m a big advocate for the Chicago Rockford Airport.”

* Chuck Sweeny yesterday

Wish Four: That the new governor will release the $14.7 million the state owes Chicago Rockford International Airport for its promised share of the $40 million AAR maintenance, repair and overhaul facility. The money is in the budget but the soon-to-be-ex-Gov. Bruce Rauner refused to release it. Until the money is released the airport board must pay $80,000 a month in interest to five banks that lent it money to keep the AAR project flying.

I checked with the comptroller’s office today. They claim the funds have been released by the governor’s office, but they say they have not yet received a payment voucher from the relevant state agency.


Fight for change, but don’t succumb to cynicism in the meantime

Tuesday, Dec 18, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* This is a common belief in Illinois

Last month, there were 39 Senate seats up for election, but only 18 had more than one candidate running. In the House, all 118 seats are up for election every two years, but only 64 were competitive.

One reason people don’t run is because they know the fix is in. The maps are rigged. The Illinois politicians are picking their voters.

I have long been on record as favoring independently drawn district maps. But if everyone listened to the pundits and just threw up their hands in disgust and walked away, a bunch of Republicans wouldn’t have won two years ago and lots of Democrats and a couple of Republicans wouldn’t have won this year.

Start with the Republicans this year. Rodney Davis’ 13th Congressional District and Mike Bost’s 12th CD were both drawn to favor Democrats. But they’re both still with us despite a national Democratic landslide.

Now, to some of the Democrats. Gov. Bruce Rauner won the 21st Senate District by 32 points four years ago. He won the 24th Senate District by 29 points. And he won the 29th by 13 points. Those three districts are all Republican suburban areas that the Democrats barely bothered with before now. This year Democratic candidates won all three districts.

Maps can be overcome with waves and with strong candidates running good campaigns, as happened with Downstate GOP candidates two years ago. This year, Democrat Mary Edly-Allen defeated GOP Rep. Helene Miller Walsh in the 51st House District by less than a point. But Rauner won it four years ago by 40 points and he won it this year by 12.

Strong waves can also obliterate maps. Democratic Rep.-elect Anne Stava-Murray reported raising just $3,000 in the third quarter, but she defeated GOP Rep. David Olsen by almost 2 points, just a point behind Pritzker’s margin. Rauner won that district by 23 points four years ago.

* So, again, while I truly do want to see an independent map-making process in this state, one never knows when lightning might strike and that’s why my hat is always off to the people who fully engage in the process rather than just glumly choose to sit on the sidelines because they “know” they can’t win.


Open thread

Tuesday, Dec 18, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I wrote myself into a wall on three straight blog posts, so I got nothing right now. Hopefully, I can finish one or two of them soon. In the meantime, please be kind to each other and keep it Illinois-centric.


Question of the day: Golden Horseshoe Awards

Tuesday, Dec 18, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The 2018 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Illinois US Representative goes to Cheri Bustos

It’s one thing to cling on as a Democrat in what is solidly Trump country, but to win by a 20% margin in 2016 and 2018? you are doing something right and I’m not the only one who thinks that. She just got elected chair of the DCCC and many people (including me) think her of doing things could help us retake seats outside the burbs and city area. Definitely the brightest shining star out of all the US Reps.

* The 2018 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best elected statewide official goes to Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti

Although her office doesn’t have any specific duties outside of being 2nd in line and doing what the governor wants, Sanguinetti and her staff have done a lot on the issue of local government consolidation, reducing LLC fees (she took the lead on that before Rauner), rural education and healthcare, and aggressively working to fight against and recommend the best policies that help those suffering from opioids. She may not get most attention due to the position or administration, but the Lt. Gov has done good work she can be proud of during her 4 years of service.

Sanguinetti only received one nomination, but it was so strong that it convinced me.

Congrats to our winners.

* On to today’s categories…

* Best Contract Lobbyist

* Best In-House Lobbyist

As always, make sure to explain your nominations or they won’t count. And do your best to nominate in both categories, please.


Quick mayoral roundup

Tuesday, Dec 18, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

…Adding… Corrected…

* Oh, for crying out loud

* Good move…

* Onward…

* Press release…

This morning, Susana Mendoza addressed the City Club of Chicago, laying out her bold vision to shape Chicago for the next generation and put the city’s neighborhoods first. During the speech, Mendoza unveiled her 50NEW Initiative to rebuild public schools as strong academic centers and hubs of community activity that will also help address violence in Chicago’s neighborhoods.

50NEW is a comprehensive plan that would use extra space in existing neighborhood schools to offer daycare, supper for students, family services, job training, and more. Instead of closing schools, 50NEW would help transform them into community hubs where Chicago families can access a quality public education alongside the support services they need to thrive.

50 represents the community schools that will be created within existing, underutilized school buildings over the next eight years. NEW stands for Neighborhood Education Works reflecting the program’s steadfast commitment to building a strong public education system for the next generation.

“We have to think boldly and transformationally,” said Susana Mendoza. “Instead of asking which 50 schools we should close next, I’ll be focused on which 50 underutilized schools we should be doubling down on, turning them into true community hubs and stronger academic centers. I’m ready to get to work on our schools at every level, from the neighborhood school my son attends, to implementing my 50NEW Initiative to transform the most under-resourced neighborhoods in our city. I’m excited to work with all Chicagoans to shape our future together – a future based on a vision for the next generation, not just the next four years.”

* And I totally agree with Laura Washington

“Ja’Mal Green needs to fix his pacifier,” replied former state Sen. Rickey “Hollywood” Hendon, Wilson’s political consultant and a lifelong Machine pol.

I agree with Hollywood on this one. If you want to play with the big boys and girls, you’ve got to be one.

Yes, the system is unfair. Yes, it was set up to favor those who know how to play the game. But those are the rules. If you aren’t tough enough to surmount a pile of paperwork, you aren’t ready for City Hall.

In 2019, Chicago will need a mayor with the muscle and moxie to take on the bullies and blowhards.

Weak, whiny politicians seem to be in vogue these days, although Illinois just rid itself of one of the prime local examples of these self-made victims.

* Related…

* What Does the Next Chicago Mayor Have in Mind for Affordable Housing?

* Preckwinkle vows to dump Police Supt. Eddie Johnson for denying code of silence: “It’s very important that police be accountable for their conduct. And if you won’t even acknowledge that there’s a code of silence in the Police Department, how can you possibly do that? . . . If you start out by saying . . . we have never condoned or covered up bad police behaviors, I don’t think that’s a characteristic of an effective leader.”

* Emanuel, Johnson fire back at Preckwinkle for targeting superintendent: Without mentioning Preckwinkle by name, Johnson accused the county board president, now running for mayor, of misconstruing or misinterpreting what he had to say about the code of silence in a deposition.

* Mendoza Calls Preckwinkle a ‘Bully’ Over Petition Challenges

* Lightfoot: Give Preckwinkle a ‘bag of coal’ for bad-faith petition challenges

* Susana Mendoza on Her Battle to Become Chicago’s Next Mayor


Ives backs Krupa even after allegations emerge

Tuesday, Dec 18, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Rep. Jeanne Ives

Meet David Krupa and help him take out Mike Madigan’s General!

I am sending this to my entire statewide email list and beyond. And I am asking all of you to send this guy $10 to keep his fight going against the Madigan Machine. See how to contribute below.

Here is the headline of the recent John Kass column in the Chicago Tribune:

College kid beats back the Chicago machine and Boss Madigan blinks

Kass summed it up in his opening line, “DePaul University freshman David Krupa scored an impressive victory in Chicago politics on Saturday: Boss Madigan — the most powerful Democrat in Illinois — backed out of a challenge to Krupa’s candidacy for alderman in the Southwest Side’s 13th Ward.

“I am truly humbled to be the first candidate on the ballot to challenge the 13th Ward since 1991,” Krupa, 19, told me at the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners offices on Saturday. “This is a huge defeat for (Michael) Madigan’s organization, and the beginning of the end of boss politics.”

* But there’s another issue about something that happened just last year. CBS 2

Aldermanic candidate for Chicago’s 13th Ward, David Krupa, is talking about a 2017 order of protection obtained by CBS 2.

The court documents were filed by the father of a girl Krupa dated on and off for about 2.5 years.

He described it as “just a teenage relationship.”

Her father decided that she wouldn’t be able to handle a relationship at that time–he filled it out for her,” he said.

Interestingly enough, the station didn’t disclose what the claims were.

* Politico did

In 2017, he was accused of abuse by his former high school girlfriend. An emergency order of protection was granted in June 2017 and extended for nine months after Juliet Schmidt filed her complaint, according to court documents sent to POLITICO. The filing in the Circuit Court of Cook County Domestic Violence division describes Krupa as a “controlling” boyfriend who “isolated” Schmidt from her friends, whom he referred to as “liberal faggots.” The document details incessant text messages and an incident in which he chased Schmidt in his car while she was walking.

“It was emotionally abusive,” Schmidt told POLITICO in an interview Sunday. “It wasn’t healthy for me to continue the relationship. He had a lot of issues of control. I could see him taking advantage of that in political office.”

In seeking the order of protection, Schmidt wrote, “I am afraid that David Krupa will continue to physically abuse me, harass me, interfere with my personal liberty and stalk me. Therefore, I fear for the safety of myself.” The order of protection ran nine months and ended when neither Schmidt nor Krupa could agree on a hearing date, Schmidt said. The judge didn’t rule on the case and Schmidt left Chicago to attend college out of state.

There’s also an allegation that Krupa removed his condom during intercourse without her knowledge or consent and a claim that the young woman attempted to commit suicide because of his behavior.

* Press release…

Based on recently-reported details of 13th Ward Aldermanic candidate David Krupa’s unacceptable personal conduct towards a young woman and his extreme Trump agenda, a group of leaders and activists are calling for the opportunity for a full public vetting of Krupa so voters can reject his candidacy.

The following statement can be attributed to Personal PAC President and CEO Terry Cosgrove, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 President-Business Manager James Sweeney, and the Chicago Teachers’ Union:

    “David Krupa has sold out to the extreme Trump agenda that would deny health care to millions, harass and intimidate families in our community, and allow deadly, military-style assault weapons on our streets. Even more troubling is the existence of an order of protection against Mr. Krupa citing malicious and outrageous behavior against a woman. Mr. Krupa has put himself forward as a candidate for public office, and we believe he should now have to face voters and explain himself.

    “Voters deserve to see everything Mr. Krupa is hiding from them, and they deserve the opportunity to reject him. No one whose personal conduct and whose extreme agenda so offend the people of Chicago should have the opportunity to hide behind false claims of victimhood, but that is no doubt what a politician like Mr. Krupa would attempt to do should he be removed from the ballot. Given his past conduct, we hope voters have the chance to reject his outrageous candidacy.”


Did Dahleen Glanton nail it? We’ll know soon enough

Tuesday, Dec 18, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Sunday afternoon…

* Phil Rogers

Blagojevich is roughly halfway through a 14-year corruption sentence at the federal prison in suburban Denver. Over the weekend, President Donald Trump dispatched a tweet that seemed to equate his case with Blagojevich’s own legal troubles.

But whether that means a Christmas commutation is in the works, isn’t clear.

The latest drama began Friday night, when Patti Blagojevich made an appearance on Fox News Channel, equating her husband’s case to special counsel Robert Mueller’s most recent probes into fundraising for the Trump inaugural.

* Some of what she said

“They were successful at going after my husband and locking him up and throwing away the key. And because no one stopped them for doing that to my husband, they are going after a bigger target. They’ve been emboldened because they got away with it with my husband. They undid an election, going after someone they didn’t like for some reason and used every means within power to do it.

“Once they set their sights on you, they will keep on until they have you sitting in jail for 14 years. They keep putting pressure on people who are close to you, your friends and other associates, people who have committed wrongdoing unrelated to you and put pressure on them.”

* Pearson

As she has in previous appearances on Fox News, the former first lady once again sought to portray that portions of her husband’s conviction on charges of attempting to sell the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Obama’s 2008 election to the presidency had been thrown out.

In reality, her husband was still convicted of wire fraud involving discussions to personally profit from selling the Senate appointment. The charges that were dropped were due to a technicality involving jury instructions.

The former first lady, seeking to appeal to Trump during a holiday time when pardons and commutations are often granted, used her Friday Fox News interview to call her husband’s prosecutors the “same political assassins” who are doing the same thing “to President Trump right now.”

Federal prosecutors, she said, “are trying taking legal fundraising contributions and legal requests for fundraising and turning them into something that is a, you know, they’re crimes and they’re nonexisting crimes,” she said on Fox News.

But neither the former first lady, nor Fox News, mentioned her husband’s convictions for attempting to shake down an executive of a children’s hospital and a racetrack owner for campaign cash in exchange for official acts.

* To the headline: Dahleen Glanton

Bingo! Two days later, the president calls you “wonderful” in a tweet.

“Required television watching is last weeks @marthamaccallum interview with the wonderful wife of Rod Blagojevich … If that doesn’t tell you something about what has been going on in our Country, nothing will. Very sad!”

The only problem is that he doesn’t mention the word clemency. Then you realize your performance as the compassionate, Trump-supporting Patti Blagojevich must have been too good. The president actually thought you were genuinely concerned about him.


An army of one

Tuesday, Dec 18, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Rep. Scott Drury (D-Former Federal Prosecutor) confirms that he went to Springfield to teach everyone how to behave

A former federal prosecutor, Drury arrived at the Statehouse in 2013 as an idealist out to fix a culture in which lawmakers, he says, too often made legislative decisions based on “How does this benefit me?”

“I saw being a state representative as an opportunity to show people in Illinois that government is something you can trust,” said Drury, reflecting on his six years in office.

“I viewed my job as trying to change a culture, a perception. Sometimes it caused me to rub elbows with people, and not be the most liked person on a given day,” he conceded. “But that was the only way to make change in a state that is so resistant to change.” […]

“Just think back to the last gubernatorial campaign in the primary,” Drury said, of the often-heard calls for leadership term limits among candidates on the campaign trail.

“That never would have happened if I wasn’t continually injecting that into the conversation,” Drury said.

It takes all kinds to make a General Assembly. Come one, come all. But while change can start with the actions of one person, it almost never actually happens with just one person. Drury was essentially a legislative coalition of one throughout his brief tenure.



Tuesday, Dec 18, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Many thanks to everyone who attended my City Club speech yesterday and to those who asked questions. You can click here if you missed it. Good crowd. Laughed at all my jokes.

Also, thanks to the folks who bought tickets through our charity auction benefiting Lutheran Social Services of Illinois and to those who donated online. And thanks to those who brought toys to and/or donated at the event. I didn’t get a count on the number of toys, but there were tons of them.

The online auction combined with yesterday’s direct giving raised more than $6,000 for LSSI’s programs. Amazing. Click here to learn more about that invaluable organization.


…Adding… I just noticed that Dave Dahl did a story about the speech

Rich Miller of Capitol Fax says outgoing Gov. Bruce Rauner will not be missed.

“There will be no Rauner nostalgia in Illinois,” Miller said, “and Rauner is reinforcing this ever since the election with some of the bizarre things that he has said and done.” Then, referring to former State Sen. Karen McConnaughey as “Gov. Karen McConnaughay,” said, “You might have seen her in the news in recent days.” […]

“It’s hard to explain this, but [JB Pritzker] can just talk like a normal person. I’ve never seen a normal person elected governor in my life. It’s very odd.”

Miller praised Pritzker for surrounding himself with women and minorities in his campaign, transition team, and – presumably – his administration.

Miller predicts Pritzker and House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) will get along well — at least until it’s time to redraw the political maps after the 2020 Census. Pritzker has favored a “fair map” concept, while, Miller says, Madigan traditionally wants one which is fair to Democrats.


SB 1226 Endangers Safe Drinking Water & Public Health

Tuesday, Dec 18, 2018 - Posted by Advertising Department

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Illinois continues to reel from the fatal outbreak of legionella at the Quincy Veterans’ Home. School and park districts are scrambling to address troubling levels of lead in water lines and drinking fountains. Now the House is considering a radical measure that would eliminate longstanding protections that ensure the proper installation of drinking water systems and would, in so doing, endanger safe drinking water in Illinois.

SB 1226 would put the health of all Illinoisans, especially seniors and children, at risk by effectively deregulating the practice of plumbing for public works projects, commercial construction, and residential buildings over four stories. In addition, it:

    * Would be a regulatory nightmare. Representatives of the Illinois Department of Public Health and Capital Development Board strongly oppose the bill and believe it conflicts with multiple statutes.

    * Would compromise existing energy efficiency standards. The Illinois Environmental Council opposed the bill in committee.

    * Is also opposed by: the Illinois Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Contractors Association; Illinois Mechanical & Specialty Contractors Association; South Suburban Building Officials Association; Central Illinois Chapter of the Illinois Plumbing Education Association; and organizations representing licensed plumbers, registered plumbing contractors, and plumbing inspectors across our state.

At a time of heightened awareness about threats to safe drinking water, the last thing Illinois needs is the creation of a legislative loophole that enables unqualified individuals to work on water supply systems.

Learn more here.

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I just don’t see it happening

Tuesday, Dec 18, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

We’ve seen a big push over the past few weeks for an Arizona-style pension “fix” here. That state’s voters have twice approved constitutional amendments to limit future benefits for public employees – once in 2016 and then again last month.

If Arizona can do it, the logic goes, so can Illinois. The Illinois Policy Institute, the Chicago Tribune editorial board and a host of politicians and others on the right have been pushing this idea of late. Even Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was once close pals with Gov. Bruce Rauner, now says he wants Illinois to amend its Constitution as Arizona did.

The state constitutions of Illinois and Arizona have very similar language prohibiting reductions to pension benefits and welding pensions to contract law.

But the two are very different states. In 2016, when Arizona’s legislature approved a pension reform bill to limit first responders’ pension benefits and then voters approved amending their constitution to match that legislation by a 70-30 margin, the Republican Party held the Arizona governor’s mansion and had super-majorities in both legislative chambers. The opposite will be true here starting in January.

This year, the Arizona legislature passed a bill to limit pension benefit increases for corrections employees and elected officials. You’d think the addition of politicians to the pension reform list would attract even more public backing, but you’d be wrong. Voters did approve the change, but with just 51.72 percent of the vote, signaling weakening popular support for the idea.

Arizona’s threshold for voter-approval of constitutional amendments is considerably lower than Illinois’. In that state, a simple majority of those voting on the amendment suffices. But Illinois requires approval from either three-fifths of those voting on the amendment or a simple majority of all those voting in the election. The “Yes” votes in Arizona amounted to just 47 percent of all ballots cast in the election. That wouldn’t have been enough to succeed in Illinois.

Arizona’s politicians brokered an agreement with unions before passing enabling legislation and sending the question to voters. Illinois unions, emerging victorious from a bitter four-year war with a doggedly anti-union Republican governor, are clearly in no mood for such talks.

The Illinois AFL-CIO and the Chicago Federation of Labor issued a joint statement after Mayor Emanuel backed an Arizona-style reform which began: “Too many politicians, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel himself, have wasted years pushing extreme, immoral and illegal schemes to slash pension benefits instead of working together to craft fair, sustainable and constitutional funding solutions.” Whew.

Gov. Rauner was asked earlier this year about amending the state’s Constitution to delete our strict pension language, but even he said he had doubts about its legality and didn’t believe Illinois voters would ever approve it.

Back in 2012, a proposed constitutional amendment to require three-fifths votes in the General Assembly to increase pension benefits received 56 percent of the popular vote and therefore failed.

The Arizona pension changes have yet to be challenged in court. So, even if you could somehow convince the Democratic supermajorities and a Democratic governor who ran on the slogan “Pensions are a promise” to flip on the unions and place the question on the ballot and then even if Illinois’ Democratic-leaning voters approved it, you’d undoubtedly see an immediate legal challenge here.

And despite all the recent hot talk, it does not appear that a pension payment “doomsday” is soon upon us which could force reluctant Democrats to take drastic action.

The General Assembly’s Commission on Governmental Forecasting and Accountability released a report last week projecting that annual state pension payments will increase an average of $300 million a year over the next 10 years. That’s a lot of money, but it’s still fiscally manageable.

And in just a few months, Illinois will make its last billion-dollar annual installment payment on bonds sold by then-Gov. Pat Quinn to make two yearly pension contributions, giving Illinois some fiscal breathing room.

The bond rating agencies might be a different story, however. If they threaten to push Illinois into junk bond status over the state’s huge unfunded pension liability, that might prod the Democrats into taking some action.

And a deep recession combined with more rounds of large and unfavorable actuarial readjustments by the state’s pension funds could combine to make the state’s annual payments impossible.

Pressure from local officials will also likely mount because lots of municipalities under-funded their public safety pension funds and are now in a world of hurt.

Even so, while I could be wrong, I just don’t see it happening yet.



Tuesday, Dec 18, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Follow along with ScribbleLive

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* Reader comments closed for the weekend
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Afternoon roundup
* Bears dangle possible move to Naperville
* Pritzker suggests changing Invest in Kids tax credit
* Question of the day
* Fentanyl overdose deaths have fallen 42 percent in Chicago this year compared to 2022
* Crowds ease at Mexican border, but will that lead to fewer asylum-seekers in Chicago?
* Pritzker, other Dem governors warn school textbook publishers: "Sanitizing our educational texts for the mercurial comfort of a few today ultimately limits the next generation’s ability to make informed decisions for themselves"
* Justice Jesse Reyes announces second bid for state's top court
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
* Open thread
* Isabel’s morning briefing
* Live coverage
* Yesterday's stories

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