During brief remarks, Rauner criticized the state for failing to meet goals aimed at encouraging the use of minority businesses in state government, as well as high minority unemployment.
“I’m a business guy. I’m not a politician. I don’t like to pay lip service. I don’t frankly like to talk about stuff. I like to do things that get results. Results are all that matters,” he told the audience.
* I was trying to explain some campaign finance loopholes earlier today and when the conversation was over I got up to walk around and found myself humming that old state tourism advertising jingle: “Illinois, you put me in a happy state.”
And now I have an earworm that I can’t shake. So, I decided to make some lemonade…
* The Question: Your suggestions for a new state tourism ad slogan?
A bill in Springfield would expand on the Jan. 1 law by requiring life insurance companies to go through their records and cross-check the names of the insured against all deaths since 1996. The Social Security Administration already maintains what is called the Death Master File, a database of all deaths nationally.
If a death occurred and a benefit was unclaimed dating back to 1996, the insurance company would have to attempt to find the beneficiary. […]
Insurers who object to Martwick’s bill say the legislation is too onerous. It’s too heavy-handed. The American Council of Life Insurers says that while it supports efforts to cross-check records with the federal database going forward, retroactively asking companies to dig back to 1996 is a violation of contract law in the Illinois Constitution. The insurance industry is fighting the legislation in Springfield.
But keep in mind the legislation became necessary only when it was clear some insurance companies were looking the other way and hanging on to benefits. An audit within the treasurer’s office found roughly $550 million in benefits since 2011 had gone unclaimed, perhaps because beneficiaries didn’t know the money was there.
Some insurers have routinely matched the names of their insureds against Social Security’s death list. But this bill is for the ones that haven’t. Lawmakers ought to recognize that.
The insurance companies have been ramping up their lobster contingent against this bill, which is backed by Treasurer Frerichs, and it’s becoming quite the fight.
Amid a national push by unions and worker advocates for a $15 minimum wage, Illinois Democrats hope to pass an ambitious hike during the spring legislative session, despite a warning from Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner that he opposes an increase of any kind.
The proposal would lift the state’s minimum wage from its current $8.25 to $15 over the next five years, a more accelerated leap than previous adjustments in Illinois. It also would constitute a larger jump than increases toward $15 approved last year in New York and California, where the rates had been $9 and $10, respectively.
But, as with previous efforts in Illinois, the measure is likely to be tied up in the state’s electoral politics.
Sponsors of the legislation acknowledge Rauner’s opposition but have signaled they want to force him to act on the measure ahead of next year’s gubernatorial election, in which he already faces half a dozen Democratic challengers.
The known first bill addressing the United Airline passenger debacle was filed in Springfield Monday by State Rep. Peter Breen (R-Lombard).
Breen’s bill focuses on limiting law enforcement’s involvement in removing passengers and restricting the state from doing business with airlines that remove ticketed passengers. It also protects passengers from prosecution and provides for attorney fees.
Breen says the measure would prohibit that type of scenario from ever playing out again at Illinois airports. The self-proclaimed head of the “Frequent Flyer Caucus,” Breen is one of the most seasoned travelers in the General Assembly, logging tens of thousands of airline miles annually.
Not only is next year’s Illinois gubernatorial election already crowded on the Democratic side, it also might be the most expensive governor’s race in American history, some experts are predicting.
According to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, Illinois is No. 1 in the nation for most candidates who have officially filed their candidacy and started fundraising. It’s also No. 1 for dollars raised, nearly doubling the next-closest state.
The group says the candidates, who include at least three who are independently wealthy, have raised more than $61 million toward the 2018 race, with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner leading the pack with $50 million of his own funds donated in December and Democrat J.B. Pritzker, who just entered the race, personally chipping in $7 million.
The next three states are Texas, where one gubernatorial candidate has reported raising more than $34 million; New York, with nearly $24 million raised by one candidate; and California, where three candidates have raised about $17 million.
Sarah Brune, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, said spending for next year’s governor’s race is already more than half the total from 2014, when Rauner was elected.
When asked where the problem lies amongst the governor’s administration and the legislature, Daiber said there is “plenty of blame that can be spread in a lot of places.“
”I think compromise is the issue at stake here. I think it’s something that’s failed to happen for two years. I don’t like to put the whole blame on the governor, but realistically he came in with the Turnaround Agenda, and he’s dug in. Residents of western Illinois are sort of held hostage. I don’t think that’s they way you govern. He would’ve been more successful if he came in, found common ground with Democratic leadership, passed a budget, and then said, ‘Look, I want to rebuild the business climate in Illinois, here are some of my agenda items. What can we work on here?’ That’s not what’s happened here.” […]
“Illinois is a rich state. It has the financial capacity to be prosperous. The agricultural industry base isn’t talked about a lot in Illinois, but it’s the meat and potatoes of the economy. All the businesses and industries in Illinois are solid because of agriculture. I have been involved in agriculture all my life. With being governor, I think it’s just an advantage for that business group.“
* Several candidates attended the March for Science on Saturday…
Representatives for gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss were also out campaigning. They pointed out that as a former U. of C. math professor, he would be uniquely qualified to solve Illinois’s budget issues. It is true, he probably has more experience with imaginary numbers than most.
Kennedy had to leave before he was supposed to speak and nobody told the hosts. So, there was an awkwardly long pause when the emcee called Kennedy up to give his speech and he wasn’t in the room. Oops. I got some texts and calls last night and this morning wondering what had happened, but I’m told all is well. Kennedy is heading to Caseville today.
At the same time that nursing home workers are negotiating a new contract, they are also working in Springfield with the Alzheimer’s Association to pass new safe staffing legislation. Despite a 2010 law which set minimum staffing requirements at long-term care facilities, more than one-third of nursing home facilities across Illinois continue to staff at dangerously low levels, leading to the improper discharge of seniors and people with disabilities into hospitals and psychiatric units. As Illinois faces one of the worst rates of long-term care resident abandonment in the nation, the state legislature is currently considering two bills —SB 1624 and HB 3392— that would make it harder for nursing homes to violate existing legal staffing requirements and chalk up small penalties to the cost of doing business.
There could be fireworks this week if the House takes up a bill that would provide public money for abortions and to protect abortion rights in the event Roe v. Wade is reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Already a controversial bill, the measure’s profile was heightened last week when Rauner said he would veto it. Rauner said his reason is the sharp division that exists over whether public money should be used to pay for abortions.
Abortion-rights proponents accused Rauner of reneging on a position he took during the 2014 campaign in which he expressed support for abortion rights, including Medicaid funding of abortions, in a candidate questionnaire.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, had said she would call the bill for a vote Tuesday when a large women’s rally is planned in Springfield. That was before Rauner’s veto threat was made, though.
Even some proponents of the bill say they do not believe there are enough votes in the House to override a veto, even if the bill passes that chamber and the Senate. Some Republican lawmakers also said they believe the real reason for the bill is to put Rauner on the spot.
Abortion-rights advocates — and some Democratic candidates for governor — are calling Rauner a flip-flopper. But many conservative supporters say they’re still with him. While Rauner’s stance on the bill is unlikely to affect his primary — in which, for now, he has no challenger — it may strip off some votes in the general election, specifically votes from college-educated younger women and suburban female voters, according to Brian Gaines, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
“Abortion is one where inconsistency hurts more. So Rauner’s challenge is to say something like there’s something specific about the bill that is a problem. That even for a pro-choicer like me, there’s some reason why. Something that would sort of persuade suburban female voters that are the ones I presume he would lose that probably make the margin for a Republican governor to win or lose in a state like this,” Gaines said. “You’re starting off with a normal vote disadvantage and you have to poach away people who sometimes vote for the other people.”
According to CNN exit polls from the 2014 election — which offers just a snapshot of a small percentage of voters after leaving a polling place — Rauner had the support of about 44 percent of women voters. Among voters who called themselves moderates, about 52 percent backed Rauner. He was even able to secure the votes of about 11 percent of Democratic women who were polled.
Other polls conducted before the election showed Rauner had strong support from suburban women who were social moderates but fiscal conservatives.
Gaines said it’s hard to predict what campaign commercials might be used against Rauner but he said “flip-floppers” are sometimes highlighted in campaign ads. He called abortion and guns key issues to one-issue voters.
Maybe. I think there are “better” avenues to go down than flip-flopping. Truthfulness, trustworthiness, and, of course, the “tacking to the far right” angle that’s being used by the Democrats and this letter to the editor writer…
Gov. Bruce Rauner’s threat to veto an abortion rights bill is the epitome of hypocrisy. Candidate Rauner was decidedly pro-choice and supportive of Planned Parenthood. The Rauners still attend fundraisers for this organization that, at times, performs abortions and offers other health care services for women. Does he not see that this latest veto threat is nothing more than a naked ploy to appeal to an ultraconservative political base that he feels he need for re-election?
Without further ado, here’s the question I’ll pose to you this week: Which is more important to you — taxpayer-funded abortions or a balanced budget? Now don’t think too hard because it really isn’t a trick question. And yes, it really is a “this or that” question.
Why? Because instead of continuing to work toward an agreement that could lead toward fiscal certainty and responsibility, House leadership has opted instead to push a bill that reaffirms taxpayer-funded abortions. Though there is absolutely no practical reason to bring HB 40 to a vote, some members on the other side of the aisle are relishing an opportunity to put Governor Rauner in a tough spot.
Thankfully, Governor Rauner has not caved to this shameless political ploy. He announced that if both chambers pass this sideshow of a bill, he will put an abrupt end to the political theater by vetoing HB 40. To that I say, “Bravo, Governor Rauner, bravo!”
In a way, we sympathize with the [governor]. The politics of this bill are miserable for him, and you can bet that plenty of Democrats support the legislation not because they are strongly pro-choice but because they are strongly anti-Rauner. Raw politics is driving this debate.
But that in no way changes the merits of the case. This is an important bill, extending access to a legal medical procedure to all women in Illinois and getting rid of the trigger provision. It didn’t belong in the bill way back in 1975 and certainly doesn’t belong today.
We urge the governor to put his principles first and support it.
With the Illinois General Assembly scheduled to return to session today amidst a crippling 22-month long state budget impasse, State Representative Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) has announced he will not be voting on any non-essential legislation until a state budget is brought to the House Floor for debate and a vote.
Representative Batinick identified four categories of essential legislation that he will continue to vote on. Those categories include: any budget-related bills, legislation that would make state government more efficient, legislation that has the ability to produce private-sector job growth; and any bills which impact immediate public safety concerns.
“We have to put our priorities in the right place,” Rep. Batinick said. “Right now, that means passing a state budget and ending this destructive, unnecessary impasse. I may be only one legislator, but I can do my part and set an example by personally refusing to participate in wasting the legislature’s time by voting on any bills that are non-essential or distract from the most important thing we should be doing right now, which is to pass a budget.”
The Illinois House of Representatives is scheduled to return to session in Springfield April 24-28.
When Gov. BRUCE RAUNER appeared at a campaign-paid appearance last week at Fulgenzi’s Pizza & Pasta in Springfield, he was introduced by state Rep. TIM BUTLER, R-Springfield, who compared the governor to the 16th president.
Butler, who was named to the House in March 2015 and was unopposed for a full term in 2016, said he was “struck” by Rauner’s inauguration speech, when the governor said, “‘Some in government will be tempted to once again take the easy road, to leave the real problems for another day and the next generation.’”
“We love Lincoln here in Springfield,” Butler said. “And I will say, no one has exemplified Abraham Lincoln’s words more … ‘Be sure to put your feet in the right place, and stand firm.’” (Lincoln actually said, “then stand firm,” but Butler was quite close.)
“Governor Rauner has stood firm against 50 years of Speaker … MIKE MADIGAN, and he’s doing the people’s work,” Butler said.
SIU fell three notches Thursday in S&P Global Ratings’ latest round of long-term and underlying ratings. SIU received a BB rating, down from BBB, and was placed on CreditWatch with negative implications.
“The downgrade and CreditWatch negative status reflect our belief that the state may fail to pass a fiscal year 2017 budget by the end of May, which would likely result in no additional operating appropriations distributed to the university for the remainder of fiscal 2017,” S&P Global Rating Credit Analyst Jamie Seman said in a release of the rating on standardandpoors.com.
SIU President Randy Dunn told State Rep. Christian Mitchell, D-Chicago, and State Rep. John Cavaletto, R-Salem, during an informational hearing of the House Economic Opportunity Committee at SIU on Thursday that the university is facing a “crisis of confidence” in attracting students due to the state’s budget impasse. He reiterated that in a statement released on Friday.
“Yet again, SIU is paying the price for the inaction of our state lawmakers to fully pass a state budget that helps fund university operations and lives up to the longstanding commitment Illinois had made to higher education. SIU is not closing and not going anywhere, but as we are in the 22nd month of the budget impasse, the loss of the state’s commitment to public higher education makes it that much more difficult to maintain the services SIU provides not just to our students, but the regions we serve. This has got to end,” SIU President Randy Dunn said.
No mention of what that downgrade actually means. And a statement from the university president placing sole blame on the General Assembly.
Recently, Rauner has been making appearances around the state repeating that he believes a deal is once again close.
“We’re negotiating in the Senate right now. Democrats and Republicans are coming together,” Rauner said last week. “We’re very close. We could get it done in the next couple of weeks.”
Sources from both parties said that while individual senators may discuss issues connected with the bargain, they weren’t aware of formal negotiations taking place. […]
Even though an overall state budget is still unresolved, the House has moved a bill that authorizes more than $800 million for higher education and human services. The bill would still have to be approved by the Senate before it could go to Rauner. […]
However, Rauner and a number of Republicans believe passage of a stopgap measure will take pressure off of lawmakers to come up with a full budget.
The Illinois General Assembly - unable to reach a budget deal in more than two years - will make one more try this week.
As legislators return to Springfield on Monday following a two-week recess, the Illinois Senate is expected to amend the stopgap budget and send it back to the House, but there’s no clear indication that a deal has been reached.
Subscribers know more details, but think about this for a second: If the Senate Democrats really believed they were making any significant progress with the governor on their long-sought grand bargain, would they be advancing a stopgap bill that could upset the apple cart?
The speculation at the Capitol held that if the state’s budget impasse continues through next year’s election, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner will campaign on the fact that he blocked Democrats from hiking taxes.
End the speculation. Cue the campaign.
In a fundraising letter sent to Republican supporters from the governor’s campaign, Rauner says: “Speaker Mike Madigan and the Springfield Democrats REFUSE TO FIX our state. Illinois taxpayers deserve a balanced budget WITHOUT any tax increases.”
That’s a sharp contrast to what the governor previously has said, including his acknowledgment that the state needs more revenue as well as spending cuts to achieve a balanced budget. (He’s not alone in that view — leading Democrats have said the same. The shortfall is just too big.) […]
“In the midst of the ongoing budget impasse in Springfield, I don’t normally have time to write personal letters like this but I urgently need to hear back from you ASAP,” Rauner said in the form letter addressed to “Dear Fellow Taxpayer” and marked “Personal & Confidential, Urgent Reply Requested, Please Respond in 7 Days.”
Let’s get something straight right off the bat: Legalizing marijuana will not solve Illinois’ horrible budget deficit problem. It won’t solve our crime problem. It won’t solve our unemployment problem. It won’t solve our high property tax problem.
There are no magic elixirs for Illinois. One solution won’t fix all that ails us because, bluntly, too much ails us. But legalization is a practical step forward.
Illinois needs at least $6 billion in revenue and cuts to balance its budget. In September 2015, Gov. Bruce Rauner sent a memo to state lawmakers claiming that if Illinois had just an “average” unemployment rate and an “average” gross state product, and if we could convince people to stop moving away, we’d see $500 million in annual state tax growth. He said he could achieve that growth by implementing reforms like reductions to workers’ compensation benefits and restrictions on lawsuits.
But Rauner’s projected revenue growth could be almost matched or even surpassed by legalizing marijuana, which analysts say could funnel $350 million to $700 million a year to state coffers. The governor has held up budget negotiations for two years until he gets his reforms, and the state has gone deeply into debt. Our social services network is falling apart, and our universities are crumbling. I think some of the governor’s reforms have merit, but he doesn’t have the only solutions.
A few things. First, please click here to read the rest before commenting because there’s lots more to this argument. Second, you’ll note that I’ve gone back to referencing the governor’s 2015 revenue projections for his Turn Around agenda. He said a year ago that he’d be releasing updated projections, but he hasn’t ever done that. So, they’re the only numbers we have and they were relevant to my column. Third, tort reform and other items have since been removed from his agenda, so his $500 million estimate is probably too high. Fourth, Rauner’s revenue projections are long-term, while legalizing marijuana could produce much faster fiscal results.
Congratulations, everybody! Illinois now has five public universities with junk bond credit ratings. That has to be some kind of record.
Last week, S&P Global Ratings lowered the credit score of both Southern Illinois University and Western Illinois University into junk bond status. Eastern, Northeastern and Governor’s State were already in junk bond territory and their ratings were lowered even further last week. The University of Illinois, the state’s flagship, was also downgraded to just three notches above junk status and, like all the other universities, put on a “credit watch with negative implications,” meaning it could be downgraded again within the next 90 days.
All of the downgrade reports noted that none of the universities have received any funds since their partial “stopgap” appropriation in June of last year. The reports also seemed to advocate for another stopgap funding bill this fiscal year.
For instance, while noting in the U of I’s report that a stopgap had been passed last year to cover the first six months of this fiscal year, S&P went on to write: “the state has yet to pass a budget for fiscal 2017 and has not conclusively communicated plans for stop-gap funding to support the state’s public higher education institutions.”
As you may know, Gov. Bruce Rauner and his legislative Republicans are adamantly opposed to another temporary stopgap budget that would use existing special state funds that are currently piling up in bank accounts to help out struggling universities, college students and human service providers and recipients.
Their argument is that distributing the money would take the pressure off everyone to pass a real budget with the governor’s demanded reforms. At the same time, Rauner and GOP legislators want to take state employees out of the “pressure” equation with a continuing appropriation, which means those salaries would essentially be funded throughout eternity. But since the lack of funding for social services and higher education over the past two years hasn’t spurred anyone in Springfield to action, it might be that only an actual government shutdown after state employees can’t come to work will actually move the needle.
“If state operating appropriations are received in fiscal 2017,” S&P declared in its SIU downgrade report, “we will incorporate the impact of those appropriations at that time,” suggesting that some money thrown at the universities via a stopgap plan could forestall another immediate ratings downgrade.
Junk status means many investment institutions, like pension funds, cannot buy those bonds. So, while the state hobbles the universities by refusing to make full appropriations, it’s also undermining their ability to borrow at semi-reasonable rates. Speculators looking for relatively high returns on bonds that have to be repaid will gladly buy those bonds and rake in the dough. Meanwhile, precious dollars that the universities cannot afford to spend have to be used to make higher interest payments. It’s a horrific fiscal cycle and, in our case, it’s completely man-made.
It could take our universities a decade or more to recover from these body blows. At the very least, we need a stopgap budget now and then a full, “real” budget before the beginning of next fiscal year.
The governor is currently running all over the state proclaiming to anyone who will listen that a deal is “very close.” He said at an Elk Grove Village event last week that “a big comprehensive package” was being prepared. Democrats say they have no idea what he’s talking about.
Rauner had better be right because, even though the Democratic Party has its own dirty hands here, the governor is the state’s chief executive, so he will wear the jacket for failure. He’s come up with excuse after excuse for more than two years now for why he can’t get a budget passed, or even why he won’t propose his own balanced budget. No more.
And if you dig a little deeper at those S&P reports, you’ll see that the ratings agency had some very specific warnings for state government as well.
Illinois’ credit rating is just barely above junk status. And S&P warned in several of its downgrades that the universities could be in for a “multinotch downgrade” if the state’s rating is lowered. Another downgrade report warned that there was “at least a one-in-two likelihood of a rating change within the next 90 days,” more than implying that action against the state’s credit rating could happen soon.
* Editorial: The longer we wait, the worse it will get: The 2016 State Higher Education Finance report released Thursday by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association identified our state as an outlier, saying: “It’s impossible to examine state higher education finances in 2016 without separating the collapse in Illinois from a more nuanced picture across the rest of the country.” The report noted that thanks to the 22-month long budget impasse, appropriations per full-time student dropped by 80 percent in Illinois. Enrollment in public institutions dropped by 46,000 students. Illinois was so horrible it weighed down the rest of the country: If Illinois is included, overall public support for higher education fell by 1.8 percent. Remove Illinois, and overall support increased by 3.2 percent. That’s mortifying.