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Former Dem Senator arrested on meth possession charges

Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019

* The Southern

Ned Mitchell, the former longtime mayor of Sesser, and another individual were arrested Tuesday afternoon on charges of unlawful possession of methamphetamine and booked at the Franklin County Jail, according to the Sesser Police Department.

Mitchell, 70, served as mayor from 1979 to 2013, when he was defeated by current Sesser Mayor Jason Ashmore. He also served briefly in the state Senate when he was appointed to fill an unexpired term in 1999.

Along with Mitchell, Elaina Kays, 42, of Sesser, also was arrested after police executed a search warrant on Mitchell’s residence in Sesser, according to a news release from Sesser’s police department. During the search of the home, police found methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia, the release stated. Formal charges are pending, according to the news release.

Ned was a big Grateful Dead fan and a decent guy back when I knew him. It’s so sad to see this happen to him.

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      

It’s Time To Put Our Progressive Values Into Action

Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019

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Unclear on the concepts

Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019

* Daily Herald editorial

J.B. Pritzker made waves in the days before his inauguration with the announcement that he plans to match salaries for top staffers with his own money. […]

In an Illinois News Network article posted Friday, State Rep. Grant Wehrli, a Republican from Naperville, raised legitimate concerns about mixing state salaries and private money.

“Who do they work for?” he asked. “Do they work for the people of the state of Illinois? Or do they have a greater loyalty to the governor as that’s where a large chunk of their income comes from?”

In addition, Wehrli questioned setting a precedent that only the wealthiest future governors could sustain.

We share Wehrli’s concerns and have others. Boosting salaries to attract top talent is one thing; doubling them at a time when the state is struggling financially is another.

* First of all, if Pritzker is doubling their salaries out of his own pocket, then what the heck does that have to do with the state’s financial struggles? That just doesn’t make any sense, particularly since many of those folks’ state paychecks will actually be somewhat lower than their predecessors’ salaries.

Second, the concept of “mixing state salaries and private money” has been enshrined in state law for years, as Scott Kennedy accurately points out…

Legislators, for instance, can supplement the pay of their district office staffers out of their campaign funds. They can also pay for their state offices out of campaign funds. They can’t do the reverse, of course, and pay for their campaign staff/offices out of their state funds.

* More nonsense

The most reasonable criticism, at least so far, comes from Mark Glennon of Wirepoints.

He pointed out that Pritzker is “subsidizing” political operatives — top aides and spin doctors, most of whom “helped Pritzker get elected.”

Since when has a new governor not hired anyone from their campaign staffs? By this logic, top staffers at the start of Bruce Rauner’s administration who worked for his 2014 campaign were being “subsidized.”

* But I’ve pointed this out before

Rachel Leven of the Better Government Association called the move “good intentioned.” But she asked, “what if another private individual or entity wanted to fund state positions. Could a future governor create a private fund based on donations from other individuals? What are the rules that would govern this?”

They’re making “slippery slope” arguments, raising suggestions that some governor in the future may do what Pritzker is not doing now and wondering if those hypothetical actions might cause a problem.

Well, they might. But it’s still comparing apples — what Pritzker is doing — to oranges — what some future governor might do.

Slippery slope arguments are inherently weak.

* Look, I really don’t have an opinion one way or another on this salary thing. But I do think many (not all) of the arguments against it are based on ignorance of the current law or partisanship.

Jealousy plays somewhat of a role here, too, and that’s a natural human response and I don’t know if Pritzker calculated that into his equation. It could very well damage the morale among the rest of his staff. And that wouldn’t be a good thing at the start of his administration. He is in effect saying that 20 people are vastly more important to him than the other 1,500, or whatever the number is.

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      

Question of the day

Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019

* Remember, it’s just a bill for now…

The Illinois Education Association initiated a bill to repeal the 3 percent salary limit law that shifts the state’s cost of paying for an educator’s pensionable earnings to local school districts and institutions of higher education and local property tax payers.

The bill, which is Senate Bill 60, was introduced by Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Plainfield), and House Bill 350 was introduced by Rep. Kathleen Willis (D-Addison) in the House, is meant to help ease the teacher shortage Illinois is currently facing.

“The 3 percent limitation is a disincentive for school districts to offer any increase in compensation above 3 percent regardless of whether the educator goes the extra mile to be the best in their field and provide the best education for students,” said Kathi Griffin, IEA president.

“Districts and higher education institutions are applying this to all active TRS and SURS members no matter how close they are to retirement. This is impacting the ability of our public schools and higher education institutions to attract and retain the best and brightest, while also having to compete against private sector and out-of-state entities that can offer more attractive financial packages. We are driving our own kids out of the state.”

Since the measure initially passed last summer as part of the Budget Implementation Bill, it has had a chilling effect on educator professional development, further inhibiting the ability of educational institutions to attract and retain educators into a profession that is in the midst of a sustainability crisis and has hampered contract negotiations across the state.

“This measure has had unintended consequences and we understand that. Repealing the 3 percent gets us back to where we were before and allows our school districts and institutions of higher education to better compete for talent in what is already a scarce marketplace because of the teacher shortage and allows us to do better for our students in Illinois,” Willis said.

Districts, not wanting to assume the pension costs for any salary increase above 3 percent, are refusing to reward teachers who earn master’s degrees, obtain additional academic credentials, perform extracurricular duties such as directing plays or coaching teams, become Nationally Board Certified Teachers, and other enhancements that directly benefit students.

“Restoring the threshold to where it was prior to last summer will give districts more leeway in what they can offer educators who go above and beyond for our students. We need to do all we can to attract the best and brightest to teaching, not push them away,” Bertino-Tarrant said.

IEA has been asking members to sign a petition in support of this repeal. To date, nearly 18,000 have done so.

* The Question: Your thoughts on this legislation?

- Posted by Rich Miller   61 Comments      

The other ones

Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019

* Yesterday was quarterly filing deadline day. I told subscribers about some of the major players this morning, but let’s take a look at some down-ballot statewide contests. Here’s our old pal Jason Helland, Republican candidate for secretary of state

Funds available at the beginning of the reporting period: $60,746.85
Total Receipts: $1,005.00
Subtotal: $61,751.85
Total Expenditures: $9,707.04
Funds available at the close of the reporting period: $52,044.81

He raised a thousand bucks and didn’t even spend $10K. He received another $7K in in-kinds from the state party for consulting work. And of that $9,700 in reported expenditures, $6,584 went to himself for things like mileage.

* Secretary of State Jesse White

Funds available at the beginning of the reporting period: $1,114,318.75
Total Receipts: $263,080.24
Subtotal: $1,377,398.99
Total Expenditures: $696,231.93
Funds available at the close of the reporting period: $681,167.06

White doesn’t appear on Illinois Election Data’s list of “grandfathered” committees

Prior to June 1998 surplus campaign funds could be converted to personal use so long as they paid taxes on that income. Cash on hand as of June 30, 1998 would be grandfathered in, surplus campaign funds could be converted to personal use (subject to tax) up to the balance as of 6/30/98.

White closed the committee he had back then at the end of 1998.

* Republican attorney general candidate Erika Harold

Funds available at the beginning of the reporting period: $174,592.81
Total Receipts: $2,826,577.90
Subtotal: $3,001,170.71
Total Expenditures: $2,933,706.77
Funds available at the close of the reporting period: $67,463.94

Harold spent $330K on digital advertising in the fourth quarter and over $2.3 million on TV.

* Attorney General Kwame Raoul

Funds available at the beginning of the reporting period: $653,311.16
Total Receipts: $5,162,089.81
Subtotal: $5,815,400.97
Total Expenditures: $5,497,153.49
Funds available at the close of the reporting period: $318,247.48

Raoul spent close to $5 million on advertising, paid $65K to P2 Consulting and spent $15K on election-day phone calls.

* Republican comptroller candidate Darlene Senger

Funds available at the beginning of the reporting period: $48,134.28
Total Receipts: $16,225.00
Subtotal: $64,359.28
Total Expenditures: $59,296.54
Funds available at the close of the reporting period: $5,062.74

Expenditures included $18K for a poll in October.

* Comptroller Susana Mendoza

Funds available at the beginning of the reporting period: $1,696,696.52
Total Receipts: $353,874.47
Subtotal: $2,050,570.99
Total Expenditures: $1,937,498.55
Funds available at the close of the reporting period: $113,072.44

Expenditures include her transfer of $500K to her mayoral committee. She spent almost $1.3 million on advertising.

* Republican treasurer candidate Jim Dodge…

Funds available at the beginning of the reporting period: $4,333.99
Total Receipts: $14,895.00
Subtotal: $19,228.99
Total Expenditures: $15,710.29
Funds available at the close of the reporting period: $3,518.70

Dodge owes himself over $32K.

* Treasurer Michael Frerichs

Funds available at the beginning of the reporting period: $1,333,004.12
Total Receipts: $411,150.00
Subtotal: $1,744,154.12
Total Expenditures: $0.00
Funds available at the close of the reporting period: $1,744,154.12

He spent nothing? Didn’t he have an ad?

…Adding… I’m told the Frerichs filing will be amended “shortly.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      

Pritzker issues new EO to study economic, workforce development

Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019

* Press release…

In another step to put state government on the side of working families, Governor JB Pritzker signed an executive order ensuring workforce development funding is directed to growing industries that will create the jobs of the future, standing with elected officials, educators and students at Southwestern Illinois Community College in St. Clair County.

“My administration is committed to building the workforce of tomorrow and ensuring hardworking Illinoisans are prepared for jobs in growing industries,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Our economy is changing, and it is critical that state resources are being used to meet the demands of the 21st century. This executive order will help ensure our workforce is prepared to fill jobs in industries with the greatest need and will help us attract new businesses to Illinois. We know there is more work to be done and I look forward to working with bipartisan members of the General Assembly to grow our economy and help working families thrive.”

Today, Governor Pritzker signed Executive Order 2019-03, which requires that:

    Review of Identified Targeted Growth Industries. The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity shall, within 90 days of the effective date of this Executive Order, deliver a report to the Governor containing a comprehensive review of industries the Department has identified for targeted growth to determine the ongoing effectiveness of investment in those industries and to identify emerging opportunities for investment in growing industries.

    Review of Effective and Efficient Investment in Targeted Industries. The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity shall, within 90 days of the effective date of this Executive Order, deliver a report to the Governor containing a comprehensive review of the return on investment for targeted industries with recommendations for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of existing investment, and best practices and lessons learned for future investment in emerging growth industries.

    Report on Improved Alignment of Workforce Resources for Disenfranchised Communities. The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity shall, within 90 days of the effective date of this Executive Order, deliver a report to the Governor containing comprehensive recommendations for improving alignment of workforce resources for communities that have been disenfranchised, including rural and urban communities.

The governor was joined by his nominee to lead DCEO Erin Guthrie, Sens. Christopher Belt and Paul Schimpf, Rep. LaToya Greenwood, St. Clair County’s Workforce Development Group Coordinator Rick Stubblefield, Southwestern Illinois College President Nick Mance and SWIC student Sonny Wilson.

“The state of Illinois is obligated to ensure that our next generation is ready to start a career and that our current workforce is trained to meet the needs of our growing economy,” said Erin Guthrie, the governor’s nominee to lead the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. “Today, Gov. Pritzker is taking an important first step in asking DCEO to identify and review growth industries in our state, ensure workforce development dollars are spent efficiently and effectively, and realign workforce resources for communities that have been disenfranchised, including rural and urban communities.”

“The state of Illinois has not been fully identifying and embracing innovative strategies to focus workforce development dollars on emerging growth industries, and it’s time to change that,” said Sen. Christopher Belt (D-57th). “Gov. Pritzker and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity will direct resources into growth industries like health care, information technology, and green technology to maximize job creation across the state and help us build a stronger economic foundation.”

“I would like to thank Governor Pritzker for coming to Southern Illinois to make this announcement,” said Sen. Paul Schimpf (R-58th). “I’m hopeful that this executive order will help steer badly-needed workforce development and job training dollars to our region.”

“Right now, the state is lagging behind when it comes to fostering economic growth and creating economic opportunity in communities across the entire state,” said Rep. LaToya Greenwood (D-114th). “Gov. Pritzker is tackling this failure head on and will get us back to the basics of effective governing and create a plan to move our state forward into a new day.”

“Gov. Pritzker is focused on getting the most return on investment that we can, so every dollar is invested into our future,” said Rick Stubblefield, coordinator of St. Clair County’s Workforce Development Group. “Gov. Pritzker understands the challenges and opportunity facing the business community — and the needs of the workers that drive our economy. His executive action today shows his commitment to building the workforce of tomorrow and revving up our state’s economic engine.”

“As the third largest employer in Belleville, Southwestern Illinois College is proud to host Gov. Pritzker on his second full day in office,” said Nick Mance, president of Southwestern Illinois College. “The governor is making a statement today by having his first public event outside the capitol in Belleville — that Southern Illinois is a top priority in his administration.”

“As a student here at SWIC, all I want is to build a better future, and today, Gov. Pritzker is helping me and thousands of other students by looking ahead at what it takes to build a 21st century workforce,” said Sonny Wilson, a student at Southwestern Illinois College. “The state needs to look at what industries are growing and prepare students like me to start a career, and that’s what Gov. Pritzker is moving us towards.”

I think the EO itself does a much better job of explaining the need for this action, so click here to read it.

Aside from the substance here, including an area Republican legislator in the event is a good move.

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      

Caption contest!

Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019

* E-mail…

Hi Rich,

Happy New Year!

May I suggest a photo for a caption contest? The Catholic Conference tweeted (attached) last night about the application opening of year 2 of the Tax Credit Scholarship program, and I included photos from a “celebration” that took place on Saturday at St. Mary Star of the Sea School, which is in Speaker Madigan’s district. The Speaker showed up, and we had a good crowd of parents, students, and staff. A fake check was presented representing the number of scholarships (201) and value (nearly $940,000) in the combined 22nd House/11th Senate districts.

The photo in the bottom right corner is my favorite. It’s of the Speaker and Principal Candice Usauskas of St. Mary Star of the Sea School sharing a laugh after the celebration. (I have no idea what they were talking about.) I’ve also attached that photo.

Thanks for your consideration – I appreciate it.

Mary Massingale
Director of Communications
Catholic Conference of Illinois

* Decisions, decisions…

Speaker Madigan with a giant check, or Speaker Madigan laughing with Principal Usauskas? I couldn’t decide which. You choose and caption accordingly.

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      

Protected: *** UPDATED x2 *** SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - New House GOP leaders and Senate Dem chairs

Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

“The Original Soda Taxer”

Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019

* Have a look…

From the spot

In Springfield, Susana Mendoza voted to hit working families with a massive new soda tax.

The ad claims she increased soda taxes by 600 percent.

* Coincidentally, we talked about this same bill from 2009 earlier today. It was part of the Video Gaming Act which funded the capital program. From the statute

Beginning September 1, 2009, each month the Department shall pay into the Capital Projects Fund an amount that is equal to an amount estimated by the Department to represent 80% of the net revenue realized for the preceding month from the sale of candy, grooming and hygiene products, and soft drinks that had been taxed at a rate of 1% prior to August 1, 2009 but that is now taxed at 6.25%. […]

Notwithstanding any other provisions of this Act, beginning August 1, 2009, “soft drinks” mean non-alcoholic beverages that contain natural or artificial sweeteners. “Soft drinks” do not include beverages that contain milk or milk products, soy, rice or similar milk substitutes, or greater than 50% of vegetable or fruit juice by volume.

By the way, an increase of 1 to 6.25 is actually a 525 percent increase, not 600. But whatevs.

* The legislation also increased the tax rate on candy. Here’s one of my all-time favorite legislative definitions

For purposes of this Section, “candy” means a preparation of sugar, honey, or other natural or artificial sweeteners in combination with chocolate, fruits, nuts or other ingredients or flavorings in the form of bars, drops, or pieces. “Candy” does not include any preparation that contains flour or requires refrigeration.

* Now, to the point. I’d wager that most people don’t remember these two tax hikes or never even heard about them when they passed.

Why? Because it was an agreed bill. Democrats and Republicans worked together on the drafting and both sides put votes on the legislation and almost nobody voted against it. The Retail Merchants Association also had a hand in crafting the bill and other business groups strongly supported doing an infrastructure program.

Without significant opposition, those tax hikes quickly faded from view.

The difference between now and then, however, is the prevalence of social media. It’s much easier for a small group of anti-taxers to spread their gospel than it was ten years ago.

…Adding… Rebecca Evans at the Susana Mendoza campaign…

“Gery Chico, Ed Burke’s endorsed candidate, is misrepresenting the facts in a desperate attempt to distract voters from his relationship with Ed Burke, whom he lobbied in City Hall. Susana voted for a bipartisan economic stimulus bill, a capitol bill that created 10s of thousands of jobs, putting people to work as the recession was ravaging Illinois. Toni Preckwinkle is the only candidate in this race who proposed a regressive soda tax.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      

More on the step increases

Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019

* Tribune

On his first full day in office, Gov. J.B. Pritzker tried to further distance his nascent administration from his predecessor’s, moving to enact certain pay increases state workers say they’re owed and didn’t receive under Republican Bruce Rauner.

In Rauner’s first weeks in office, he signed an executive order aimed at absolving state workers who don’t want to join a union from paying fees that support collective bargaining. That move led to a U.S. Supreme Court case that was seen as a blow to organized labor.

The Pritzker administration said Tuesday it would grant regular pay increases to workers that they haven’t received since 2015. And an executive order he signed prohibits the state from asking applicants about salary history, a practice that can hold down pay for women.

* Amanda Vinicky

“With multiple unions representing workers across many agencies, it will take several weeks to provide an accurate picture of both cost and timing of the restoration,” Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said. “However, the governor firmly believes that workers who have served the state without step increases should be brought to their current step level as expeditiously as possible.” […]

Pritzker’s move Tuesday is prospective, meaning that state employees eligible for what are known as “step raises” will be paid more (“at their appropriate step for purposes of pay” is how Pritzker’s office describes it) going forward.

Still unresolved is back pay for step increases missed the past few years.

* NBC 5

The move raised questions from critics about how the state will afford it. […]

It is estimated it will impact 15,000 AFSCME workers and cost about $415 million.

* Illinois Public Radio

The state has estimated paying for the step increases could cost up to $500 million.

Lost in all of this is that the $500 million number includes missed step increases from prior years. And it’s the high-ball number. It could be less. From a recent report by Gov. Rauner’s budget office

The state estimates a potential liability range of $170 million to $500 million. The highest estimate of liability has been included for this report.

* Tina Sfondeles

AFSCME says there is no added payroll for step increases in a typical budget year because of attrition. But the union now has thousands who were paid at a lower rate for the past four years. The union applauded Pritzker’s announcement and said it hopes employees see a bump in their pay “right away.”

And as for a contract for the state’s largest government worker union, both AFSCME and Pritzker’s administration said talks will begin soon. AFSCME plans to meet with its state bargaining committee — which includes delegates from 75 local unions — at the end of January. When Rauner took office in January 2015, talks didn’t begin until late February, the union said.

So, if AFSCME is correct, Rauner’s 2015 move to stop step increases will cost the state a bundle over the long-term, but it would have barely been felt (if at all) in the short-term because of natural attrition. Wonderful.

…Adding… From comments…

Pritzker is not “giving” AFSCME employees anything. This was negotiated for, agreed to, unlawfully withheld by Rauner, fought for in arbitration, appealed and won by AFSCME, appealed by Rauner, denied by the Supreme Court, and finally not implemented despite ILRB order by the state.

- Posted by Rich Miller   85 Comments      

It’s time to end this free ride

Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019

* Lots of sizzle in this graf

But the meteoric rise of video gambling has proven to be little more than a botched money grab, according to a ProPublica Illinois investigation of a system that has gone virtually unchecked since its inception. Based on dozens of interviews, thousands of pages of state financial records and an analysis of six years of gambling data, this unprecedented examination found that, far from helping pull the state out of its financial tailspin, the legalization of video gambling accelerated it and saddled Illinois with new, unfunded regulatory and social costs.

* More

At every key point, state officials made decisions that undercut taxpayers and helped the companies that market video gambling. Lawmakers accepted a far smaller share of the profits than what’s charged in other states, giving the companies a much larger piece. They went forward with the program assuming the machines could be installed in Chicago — they couldn’t. They ignored the inevitable regulatory and social costs. And they did not anticipate the extent to which video gaming would cut into casino profits, which are taxed at a higher rate. The net effect: People in Illinois gambled a lot more, but most of the additional money ended up in the coffers of the companies behind video gambling.

* A key point

Within months of the law’s passage, the state began borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars against the anticipated revenue. Bond documents claimed video gambling machines would raise $300 million each year to help cover the debt payments.

It wasn’t until 2017, eight years after the legalization of video gambling, that the state came close to collecting that amount. By then, video gambling had brought in less than $1 billion to pay the bond debt — $1.3 billion short of what lawmakers anticipated.

* But that shortfall is partially explained later on

The legislature assumed video gambling would be up and running within a year of the bill’s passage, to quickly begin generating revenue. Instead, it took three years.

That’s because the Illinois Gaming Board needlessly dragged its feet to get the program up and running and the liquor industry sued over a provision in the bill which raised alcohol taxes.

Another problem that’s briefly mentioned in the piece is that Chicago has never opted in. That decision created a huge revenue hole.

* The state should’ve just given the whole program to the Lottery and let it own and install the machines. Instead, the state made huge fortunes for a handful of video gaming companies.

And it’s abundantly clear that if a new gaming bill is passed then a video gaming tax hike is in order

The people who’ve benefited the most from video gaming are the big companies that make and install the machines and the large chains of gambling parlors. Leave the mom and pop operations alone, but those big entities ought to be coughing up a whole lot more money.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      

Barickman’s path forward

Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019

* From the end of Sen. Jason Barickman’s (R-Bloomington) op-ed

Illinois Republicans looking for a fresh start can take a reasoned stand against the liberal Democrats’ agenda. Doing so will help us rehabilitate our image with voters and make our candidates more electable than we were in 2018. However, we must do more than voice opposition. Republicans must make sound policy arguments and truly listen to voters who will be turned off by Democrats’ sharp turn to the left.

Meanwhile, Republicans must broaden our base without alienating core Republicans. We can do this by paying special attention to suburban and micro-urban voters who are center-right on economics but turned against Republicans candidates in November. We’ll need to champion quality of life issues by becoming vocal advocates for education, workforce, public safety and voters’ pocketbooks. Engaging in a two-way dialogue with women, minorities and young people will help us clarify our vision and communicate our policies in a manner that attracts voters turned off by partisanship and negativity. Republicans are committed to freedom and opportunity, but we must demonstrate these principals in a manner that resonates with today’s voter.

As a political party, Republicans across every region of the state must rebuild and unite from the ground up. This effort won’t be easy and comes in many forms. Precincts must be filled with activists who are motivated by a smaller, more functional government. Candidates willing to be champions for their communities must be recruited for local offices, including in the city of Chicago where Illinois Republicans have long surrendered to Democrats. We must offer these local candidates and their volunteers the training and resources they need as we rebuild.

Now that Gov. Pritzker has taken his oath of office, we’ll soon see the type of governor he’ll be. Let’s hope he’s the leader Illinois needs. He can start by operating in a bipartisan manner, inviting Republicans to participate in solving Illinois’ problems collaboratively with him, and pushing back on liberal Democrats who feel they’ve been given the keys to the bank and don’t need to compromise. If he demonstrates an openness to Republican ideas, we should work with him and find common ground. On the other hand, when Gov. Pritzker attempts to appease his liberal base and overreaches, we must vocally stand for approaches more in line with voters who will be turned off by a hard left turn. I and other Republicans are willing to work toward those goals.

Notably, the word “Madigan” appears nowhere in that piece.

- Posted by Rich Miller   87 Comments      

Why didn’t Pritzker specifically mention pensions Monday?

Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019

* Joe Cahill at Crain’s Chicago Business

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s inaugural address was most noteworthy for what he left out.

He went on for 2,600-plus words without mentioning the most urgent and potentially destructive crisis facing Illinois. The new governor had nothing to say about $130 billion in unfunded pension obligations to state employees, a yawning black hole of debt that threatens to swallow the state budget and suffocate Illinois’ economy.

I realize inaugural addresses are usually substance-lite recitations of uplifting themes and gauzy visions of the future. I wasn’t expecting Pritzker to deliver a localized version of President Donald Trump’s “American carnage.” Still, an inaugural address outlines an incoming governor’s agenda. Pritzker’s failure to talk about pensions indicates the state’s most pressing problem isn’t high on his priority list.

That’s discouraging. After all, a governor’s job is to solve the state’s problems. Pritzker’s predecessors couldn’t defuse the pension crisis. If he can do it, he’ll have accomplished more than any recent governor.

He needs to start working on it now. The pension problem is getting worse, not better. Legally required state contributions to the underfunded plans soaked up a quarter of state spending this year and will devour an ever-larger share in the future, leaving less for basic government functions, let alone the new initiatives Pritzker wants to pursue. Most troubling, even the larger contributions aren’t enough to keep the pension funding gap from widening. […]

Early in his speech, Pritzker emphasized the need for a “collective commitment to embracing hard choices.” Then he ducked the hardest—and most important—choice he’ll face.

* Since he apparently didn’t call to check, I asked the Pritzker administration for a response…

Governor Pritzker’s inaugural speech focused on possibility and promise while also addressing the fact that Illinois faces challenges. Like he said yesterday, the governor is committed to passing a balanced budget and pension obligations are included in that challenge, but Governor Pritzker is committed to bringing fiscal stability back to Illinois.

Your own thoughts on this?

- Posted by Rich Miller   81 Comments      

Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today’s edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)

Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019

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Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019

* Follow along with ScribbleLive

- Posted by Rich Miller   2 Comments      

* How Jason Van Dyke's projected 96-year sentence wound up being 81 months
* Pritzker campaign official pushes back hard against latest lawsuit
* Reader comments closed for the holiday weekend
* Question of the day
* Pritzker orders "comprehensive review" of problems, opportunities at state veterans' homes
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - This just in...
* It's just a bill
* "Trooper's trooper" laid to rest
* RNUG: Vallas' plan "appears to make Chicago's pension problem manageable"
* Because... Chicago!
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Update to this morning's edition
* What's up with this lawsuit threat?
* It's Time To Put Our Progressive Values Into Action
* Money isn't yet flowing toward Burke's challengers
* Lock up your guns and vaccinate your kids!
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