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CMS warns comptroller over draining special funds

Friday, Feb 17, 2017

* From a letter sent by CMS Director Mike Hoffman to Assistant Comptroller Kevin Schoeben

Dear Mr. Schoeben:

Your office recently informed the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (“CMS”) that, effective immediately, we must stop relying on the State’s General Revenue Fund (“GRF”) to pay approximately 400 CMS employees. Instead, you directed us to pay this group of employees out of certain other limited state funds administered by CMS, namely the Facilities Management Revolving Fund and the State Garage Revolving Fund (together, the “Revolving Funds”).

We are concerned that your office’s direction may put the Comptroller out of compliance with the St. Clair County decision ordering you to continue processing payroll, regardless of the fund. And, of course, we need to make sure that this group of employees—indeed, all employees—continue to get paid for their important work. I write to flag these issues for you and clarify that our understanding of your position is correct.

It is important to keep in mind what these Revolving Funds are intended to support. The limited cash in the Revolving Funds must be used to cover critical state services such as leases and bond payments on facilities, utilities, maintenance of the State’s vehicles, and fuel-related costs. If landlords evict the State from its facilities or if local utility companies shut off service, citizens throughout Illinois could find themselves unable to go to State offices to apply for critical benefits and services that they are legally entitled to receive, such as medical care or child support. If the State cannot properly maintain its vehicles, including those by used by the State Police for patrolling our roads and highways, the Department of Corrections for transporting inmates, or the Department of Transportation for snow removal, the general welfare of the public may be placed in jeopardy.

The State Garage Revolving Fund also is the source of critical fuel-related payments that keep state vehicles on the road, as well as fund the maintenance of Department of Human Services’ vehicles that transport our most vulnerable citizens for medical treatment. By forcing CMS to drain the Revolving Funds, your office is putting those critical health and safety functions of the State at risk. And make no mistake, shifting payroll to these funds ensures they will be depleted long before the fiscal year is over. We have determined that, if payroll is included, the cash projected to be in Revolving Funds through the end of this fiscal year is not sufficient to cover all of the above critical services. Because these funds get the bulk of their revenues from GRF payments required to be made by the agencies that CMS serves, in the current budget impasse, those agencies do not have sufficient GRF or other available appropriations to make complete and timely payments into these CMS Revolving Funds.

This is yet another reason why keeping your comptroller happy is so important. If she really is trying to drain those special revolving funds down to nothing, that would indeed cause big problems for the administration.

* Doug Finke has the comptroller’s response

However, in a response to CMS, Mendoza’s office said it believes it is complying with the intent of the General Assembly to pay workers from the revolving funds this fiscal year. During the previous fiscal year, it said, more than $32 million from the funds was spent for payroll.

“Furthermore, our records indicate that CMS currently has active payroll appropriations of over $32 million from these funds for FY 2017 in which no expenditure has yet to be expended for payroll purposes,” Mendoza’s office said in a letter to CMS.

Mendoza’s office also said it is juggling payments for a wide range of state services. Illinois’ bill backlog has continued to climb, and some vendors have waited months for payments because the state isn’t collecting enough in taxes to pay all of its expenses.

“I hope you can understand our concern as we try to make payments from the extremely limited general revenues funds that all efforts to utilize existing resources from other state funds should be examined,” said Kevin Schoeben, assistant comptroller. “We are prepared to work with you to ensure that no critical state services are disrupted going forward. However, please also understand that the Office of Comptroller is tasked with the responsibility of addressing the continuity of critical services across the state of Illinois to the extent our limited state funds allow.”

Her point is basically she’s looking under couch cushions for change to make payroll. That’s understandable as well.

The governor’s office says the employees were formerly paid out of the revolving funds, “but were moved to GRF prior to the stop gap budget passage due to low fund balances.”

Either way, the governor’s people say, there are no appropriations now because the stopgap has expired and the still-valid court order allows the comptroller to pay from GRF, so they believe the comptroller should do so.

I don’t think we’ve seen the end of this story.

…Adding… The comptroller’s full response is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      


*** UPDATED x3 *** ISBE to vote on settling Urban League school funding lawsuit

Friday, Feb 17, 2017

*** UPDATE 1 ***  I’m hearing that the issues in the lawsuit have been so whittled down that this settlement will be very narrow. So, likely a false alarm. We’ll know more at about 4:30 this afternoon.

*** UPDATE 2 *** Yep. Really narrow. Not much there at all. Click here and go to page 173 of the board’s packet.

*** UPDATE 3 *** From CPS…

The Urban League raised critical and complex issues, challenging the State’s regressive methods of funding public education and its impact on the poor. We applaud the Urban League for its efforts.

Neither the Urban League case nor its settlement affects the lawsuit filed by CPS on Tuesday. The CPS case challenges Illinois’ discriminatory funding, which creates two separate and massively unequal systems of funding public education: one system for the predominantly white school districts in the rest of Illinois, and a separate system for CPS, whose African American, Hispanic, and other children of color make up 90 percent of Chicago students.

The State’s discriminatory system has shortchanged CPS by approximately $500 million in this fiscal year alone. CPS will continue to aggressively pursue its lawsuit.

[ *** End Of Updates *** ]

* The Illinois State Board of Education put out an agenda today for its upcoming Feb. 22nd meeting. Check out this item near the bottom…

Settlement Agreement in the Matter of the Chicago Urban League, et al. v. Illinois State Board of Education

I’ve put in calls to the State Board of Education, the Chicago Urban League and others and haven’t heard back yet. The State Board of Education’s chairman, James Meeks, hasn’t returned two calls but did say “Yes” via text when I asked if the ISBE was settling the lawsuit.

* For now, here’s some background on that particular suit

On August 20, 2008, plaintiffs in Chicago Urban League v. State of Illinois filed a complaint that asks the court to declare the state’s current school funding scheme unconstitutional. Plaintiffs claim that the education finance system is in violation of the education provision of the state constitution which guarantees all students “a high quality education” and that it also discriminates against families based on race in violation of the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003.

On April 15, 2009, the Circuit Court of Cook County held that plaintiffs’ claim that the state education finance system has the effect of providing substantially lower dollar amounts per student in “majority-minority” school districts states a valid cause of action under the Illinois Civil Rights Act and that the case may therefore proceed to trial. Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2001 ruling in Alexander v. Sandoval, 532 U.S. 275, individuals can not file discriminatory impact claims under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in federal court, but a private right of action is available under the Illinois Civil Rights Act, the provisions of which are similar to Title VI. Discovery and pre-trial motions have proceeded for the past several years. In this process, the court has narrowed the scope of the triable issues to include only actions taken by state board of education which may have a discriminatory impact; the impact of the basic state funding system enacted by the legislature is apparently beyond the scope of the issues that the court will consider.

The Illinois Court dismissed the plaintiffs’ education adequacy claims because of the binding precedent of Committee for Educational Rights v. Edgar, 672 N.E.2d 1178 (1996), in which the Illinois Supreme Court held that adequacy claims are not justiciable. After the trial is completed on the Civil Rights Act issues, the Plaintiffs may appeal the adequacy issues to the Supreme Court to ask it to re-consider that precedent.

During the summer of 2016, the Illinois State Board of Education and the plaintiffs entered into a series of intensive negotiations to settle the case. State Superintendent Tony Smith has stated that the state’s funding system is archaic and harmful to minority students and he and a number of board members reportedly would like to settle the suit. However, according to the plaintiffs, the board’s representatives have walked away from the talks, leading the plaintiffs to file a motion for summary judgment. Under prodding from a number of legislators who agree that the system is inequitable, the state has in recent years compiled a substantial amount of data that the plaintiffs believe will help them to prove their case.

And click here for a column I wrote last fall about the settlement talks.

This could be huge, campers.

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 - FY18 bills filed *** Get out your checkbook, Mr. Mayor

Friday, Feb 17, 2017

* Tribune

Mayor Rahm Emanuel mocked Gov. Bruce Rauner in a lengthy rant Thursday, saying he would donate $1,000 to charity if a reporter could provide evidence the governor has presented a full state budget plan while in office.

“I’ve asked the Police Department to get the hound dogs out to go find it. I’m giving you a thousand dollars to the charity of your choice. Find me the governor’s budget,” Emanuel said after a reporter asked him to comment on Rauner’s spending plan. “Produce it, line by line, like every chief executive has to do.

“I’ll stand here, with bathroom breaks, until you produce it,” Emanuel said during a five-minute dissection of what he said were Rauner’s shortcomings as a chief executive. “No. Because you’re asking me to comment on something that doesn’t exist.”

* If you watch the video in that story above, the mayor also says this

There is no budget line-by-line. He hasn’t produced one in three years. Three budget presentations. It does not exist.

He’s right that the governor hasn’t yet put his FY 18 proposal into bill form. But Rauner has had appropriations bills introduced in the past. Click here for the FY 17 bills and click here for the FY 16 bills.

Those are full state appropriations plans. Line-by-line. They’re not balanced, but they’re full.

* The mayor should make his $1000 check payable to Lutheran Social Services of Illinois.

Now, how about everyone get back to work?

*** UPDATE ***  The FY18 appropriations package has been introduced. Click here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      


Bob Michel passes away

Friday, Feb 17, 2017

* I’m sure there will be more of these, so check back…

Long time Peoria Congressman Robert “Bob” Michel has passed away at the age of 93. Michel represented Central Illinois in Congress for 38 years and also served as the Republican leader for 14 years. State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria), whose district includes Michel’s hometown of Peoria, issued the following statement:

“Bob Michel was a titan of Central Illinois politics. His Midwestern values of civility, compromise and compassion will be remembered by his ability to work across the aisle to do what was best for his district and the country.”

* Congressman Rodney Davis…

“I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of a good friend and mentor this morning,” said Davis. “Bob Michel was a war hero and one of the most respected members of Congress of all time. His 38 years of service in the U.S. House of Representatives and the incredible footprint he has left on Central Illinois and this country will never be forgotten. Bob’s ability to reach across the aisle to make a divided government work for the people he represented was second to none – a trait we should all strive to emulate each day. My thoughts and prayers are with his family this morning. He will truly be missed.”

* Treasurer Michael Frerichs…

“Illinois has lost a true gentleman and leader. Bob’s demeanor and ability to listen created an era that refused to allow political gamesmanship to overwhelm common decency and respect.

“He was a strong conservative who knew he did not have to shout to be heard. His service to our country, on the battlefield and in Congress, is a testament to servant leadership that benefited our entire country, not just his hometown of Peoria.

“My condolences to his friends and family, and may Bob find peace reuniting with his beloved wife, Corinne.”

* ILGOP…

“Our State and the Republican Party have lost a true statesman in the passing of Illinois native and former US House Republican Leader Bob Michel. Bob served our state and nation with honor and distinction both in uniform and in the halls of Congress. His reputation preceded him - Bob was a deft lawmaker, always ready to forge compromise, but never willing to sacrifice principle. More importantly, Bob Michel was a man of civility, respected by all on both sides of the aisle. The Illinois Republican Party sends its condolences to Bob’s family in their time of grieving.” - Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider

* Congressman Adam Kinzinger…

“A war hero, a distinguished public servant and the proud son of Illinois – Bob Michel was a selfless, principled leader who served for love of God and country. Today, we mourn his passing and remember the remarkable life he lived.

“A Peoria native with Midwestern values, Bob Michel represented his district in the U.S. House of Representatives for 38 years and served as the Republican Leader for 14 years. Prior to his role in Congress, Bob was a U.S. Army platoon leader in World War II where he received two Bronze Stars and the Purple Heart for his valor and dedicated service.

“Bob Michel, a member of the ‘Greatest Generation,’ loved his country and this great institution, and he served us proudly. Our country is better for having the courage, patriotism and leadership of The Honorable Bob Michel – and I, like so many others, will continue to be inspired by the legacy he leaves behind. I extend my deepest condolences to his children, family and friends, and the entire Peoria community.”

* Roll Call

Robert H. Michel, who as the House minority leader from 1981 until his 1994 retirement became the longest-serving congressional Republican leader who never experienced majority power, died Friday. He was 93 and had lived on Capitol Hill much of the time since stepping down after 19 terms representing Central Illinois, including a portion of Macon County.

Michel epitomized the congressional Old School in nearly every way, which worked to his advantage for almost all of his four decades in office. He prized collegiality, collaboration, civility and courtesy as essential political virtues. He evidenced a steady reverence for the institutional prerogatives, customs and limitations of what he fondly termed “the people’s House.”

He could reliably claim to know that his brand of middle-of-the-road policymaking would play in Peoria — because that was his hometown. He was far more comfortable using his sonorous baritone to croon “God Bless America” at the Rotary Club than to parry with pundits on one of the Sunday shows.

He didn’t have special policy expertise, particular oratorical gifts or unusual parliamentary skill, and his leadership style was neither overtly charismatic nor consciously intimidating. Instead, Michel (pronounced “Michael”) got what he needed from the GOP rank and file because he was a patient listener, a flexible goal-setter and gentle persuader.

* US Sen. Richard Durbin…

“Every politician alive should pray that, like Bob Michel, the last words said of him would be ‘the face of decency and public service’. Michel’s replacement as Republican leader in the U.S. House by Newt Gingrich marked the end of an era of civility in Congress. It has never been the same since. His passing this morning reminds us that the son of an immigrant from Peoria, a decorated veteran of World War II and a proud Republican leader can set a standard we all should aspire to. I have known Bob for 35 years. We had neighboring congressional districts downstate. We campaigned for each other’s opponents. But there was never a moment when we weren’t respectful and friends. His legacy goes beyond his years of service. He left a remarkable protégé in Ray LaHood who to this day embodies Bob Michel’s extraordinary values.”

* Gov. Bruce Rauner…

“Congressman Michel was the definition of a public servant. Best known for his bipartisan style and working cooperatively with Democrats and Republicans alike, he was beloved by all. He fought hard for his country in World War II, and spent the rest of his life tirelessly working on behalf of Peoria, the state of Illinois, and our nation. Diana and I send our deepest sympathies to his family.”

* House Republican Leader Jim Durkin…

“U.S. House Minority Leader Bob Michel was a true statesmen. He demonstrated the best qualities of a public servant and is a prime example for others in public service to follow. Not only did he devote 38 years of his life representing the citizens of central Illinois in our nation’s capital, he earned his reputation as a skilled negotiator by bringing Republicans and Democrats together to solve problems. I would like to extend my deepest condolences to his family and friends. He will be greatly missed,” said House Republican Leader Jim Durkin.

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      


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