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* I mentioned this story today in the subscriber section and now I’m starting to think that I’m kinda sorry I did

State lawmakers are poised to finally ban an oft-abused free college tuition program that’s drawn the scrutiny of federal prosecutors, a push that comes as a new scholarship program is being offered as a bargaining chip to win votes for a long-stalled proposal to build a Downstate power plant.

Those involved say the two issues are unrelated and not the result of the kind of political horse-trading that typically takes place in the General Assembly. But the timing has not gone unnoticed at the Capitol. […]

But even as one scholarship program may be going down, a new one is being offered as a way to attract support from lawmakers for a multibillion-dollar power plant Tenaska wants to build near Taylorville in central Illinois. The Nebraska-based energy company has reached an agreement with African-American and Latino lawmakers to put $1.5 million a year toward scholarships that would be awarded to disadvantaged youth throughout Illinois, according Bart Ford, a Tenaska vice president. […]

Tenaska’s scholarship proposal has grown to $1.5 million a year and $45 million over 30 years.

OK, the Trib makes it appear that the two issues are connected by saying that the “timing” of the Tenaska scholarship plan is somehow curious.

However, according to the Tenaska folks, the $1 million per year scholarship plan was first created in 2010. Back in October of 2011, Crain’s reported that there was a formal agreement on that particular plan with the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce.

Tenaska says it reached another agreement with the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association which expanded the plan to $1.5 million with a total investment of $45 million. According to the Tenaska folks, the agreement with HACIA was reached on December 12 of last year.

The HACAI agreement is here. The extra cash is outlined in the policy statement.

It’s tough to see how the timing is so curious here since this program is apparently several months old.

Also, according to the Tenaska folks, “the recipients of the scholarships will be chosen by a board of individuals chosen by Tenaska, HACIA and the IL Black Chamber of Commerce.” Legislators will not be eligible to serve on that panel. They might be able to influence the panel, of course, but they won’t actuallyt be on it.

* Related and a roundup…

* Cullerton reverses support for legislative scholarships

* Controversial legislative scholarships could be ending soon

* Legislative scholarship perk could end in Illinois

* Gov. Pat Quinn’s statement: This is welcome news today – we are very encouraged by the Senate President’s move to abolish the legislative scholarship program. This is the right thing for deserving students who need financial assistance to attend college and the right thing for taxpayers who deserve better than the status quo. Governor Quinn has repeatedly pushed to abolish this often abused program and strongly believes there is no way to mend it. As the governor has said many times, scholarships – paid for by Illinois taxpayers- should be awarded only to those with merit who are in true financial need. Members of the House have already voted to end the legislative scholarship program, and we urge the Senate to pass this legislation swiftly.

* Aquifer bill faces more amendments, moves to different committee

* DCFS Data Reveals Confirmed Illinois Child Abuse, Neglect Projected to Drop 27% Since 2008

* House committee passes bill blocking Crete detention center

* Editorial: Panel was right to advise against closing prisons

* Editorial: Politicians talk cuts, but won’t OK them

* Editorial: Prison supporters must keep plugging away

* State budget crisis threatens funding for day-care providers, families

* Rockford area leaders give transport wish lists to politicians

* Surveyed CEOs find Illinois business climate poor

* Bill would legalize citizens to record police

posted by Rich Miller
Thursday, May 3, 12 @ 11:25 am


  1. so, does the proposed scholarship fund go for poor kids of any color?

    Comment by amalia Thursday, May 3, 12 @ 11:39 am

  2. It’s still about the same as buying votes. Putting money toward pet projects to get legislation passed. Although, it’s at least a worthy cause, I think Tenaska is a bad idea; government should not be in the business of guaranteeing one business makes a profit on the backs of other business.

    Comment by Ahoy Thursday, May 3, 12 @ 11:42 am

  3. What’s the problem? Springfield is picking lots of winners here.

    Comment by Jokey Thursday, May 3, 12 @ 11:48 am

  4. “They might be able to influence the panel”
    You think? ;)

    Comment by Anonymous Thursday, May 3, 12 @ 11:54 am

  5. Regarding the legislative scholarship,
    From one recipient of a scholarships for the Univ of Illinois “Thank you to the citizens of Illinois for the opportunity. My family did not have the money to get me through 4 years of college, I transferred after 2 years of community college to UIUC and received from our local legislator, who I had never met prior to receiving the scholarship, a full year at Uof I. I hope your investment has proved out, I have been involved in public education for 12+ years, been elected to a local library board, served on several non-profit scholarships and foundation boards.” I hope I have repaid the investment, by the amount of taxes my wife and I contribute annually, I would think so. Nevertheless, Thank you for the opportunity to finish my education at our flagship university.
    I never campaigned for the State Rep who gave me the scholarship, I was never asked to. I am sure my story is much more common then the Tribune Editorial Board would like to think, but as I have learned in 20 years of State of Illinois Politics perception has little to do with reality.” and we all know reality doesn’t sell newspapers.

    And thank you to Michael Madigan for requiring his democratic Caucus for giving up scholarships to his constituents over the years and helping destroy another opportunity for kids in Illinois to go to college. Of course we can look at the bank account of the state and condition of the infrastructure to see what his long term leadership has shown us. (Sorry couldn’t resist the Jab)

    Comment by frustrated GOP Thursday, May 3, 12 @ 11:57 am

  6. Anyway you slice and dice it, the taxpayer is subsidizing about $90 per MWh, overruns will be the responsibility of the consumer and have a negative impact on competition. From the ICC:

    “After careful review of the FCR, the Commission concludes that the TEC facility features high costs to ratepayers with uncertain future benefits, and uncertainties that potentially add to already-significant costs.”

    And we’re doing this for what reason?

    Comment by Cincinnatus Thursday, May 3, 12 @ 11:57 am

  7. So how much do the electricty customers end up paying for this deal? The cost has to be passed on to someone. Can anything in this state be done on its merits? I guess 2 gov’s in jail isnt quite enough.

    Comment by Anon Thursday, May 3, 12 @ 12:01 pm

  8. Thank you to the Chicago Tribune for calling out the shenanigans in Joliet & Will County with the legislative appointments.

    Comment by Impeach Art Schultz Thursday, May 3, 12 @ 12:01 pm

  9. And Tenaska will be able to recoup all the costs of this pretty blatant bribe from consumers, right?

    Comment by Easy for them to say Thursday, May 3, 12 @ 12:02 pm

  10. Costs for these scholarships and other aspects of the MWDBE program cannot be passed through to ratepayers.

    Comment by Dave Lundy Thursday, May 3, 12 @ 1:13 pm

  11. “Costs for these scholarships and other aspects of the MWDBE program cannot be passed through to ratepayers.”

    Economically, how is that possible? All costs incurred by a company are passed on to their consumers. ALL. It’s where the money comes from.

    Comment by Cincinnatus Thursday, May 3, 12 @ 1:18 pm

  12. Actually, in the highly regulated energy world, there are specific costs that can and cannot be passed through to ratepayers. This is monitored closely and regulated by the ICC. It’s why they routinely slash ComEd and Ameren rate requests.

    Comment by Dave Lundy Thursday, May 3, 12 @ 1:57 pm


    Comment by Ray Midge Thursday, May 3, 12 @ 2:27 pm

  14. This is terribly offensive and about as close to the line as you can get without crossing it from Tenaska. The same company that is embroiled in a legal case in Oklahoma where they put two legislators on payroll while they had legislation pending.

    Just so I follow:

    Tenaska asks lawmakers to raise electric rates by $300 million

    Lawmakers vote for rate hike

    Tenaska pays $45 million from the rate hike back to scholarships where legislator will have influence (This is Illinois after all).

    The States’ Attorney and Attorney General should look into the legality of this. This is not horse trading of one vote for another.

    Comment by 1776 Thursday, May 3, 12 @ 2:31 pm

  15. MWDBE….MinoritiesWomenBusinessDisabilitiesBusinessEnterprises?
    so a person who is poor and white but who is male will not be eligible for the scholarships? or am I not getting something about this?

    Comment by amalia Thursday, May 3, 12 @ 2:40 pm

  16. ===The same company that is embroiled in a legal case in Oklahoma where they put two legislators on payroll while they had legislation pending.===


    ===Tenaska spokesman Dave Lundy pointed out that all Tenaska-related charges against a lobbyist and an attorney in Morgan’s case were dropped before the case when to trial, and all of the Tenaska-related charges against Morgan returned not-guilty verdicts.===

    Comment by Rich Miller Thursday, May 3, 12 @ 2:49 pm

  17. That Dave Lundy was quite on point. There was no there there in the Oklahoma situation, no wrongdoing was ever alleged and Tenaska folks testified at the request of the prosecutors. Case closed.

    Comment by Dave Lundy Thursday, May 3, 12 @ 3:04 pm

  18. @ Dave Lundy. Did Tenaska put two legislators on payroll while the legislation was being considered? Its a simple yes or no question.

    From press accounts, the answer is yes. They may not have broken any law but it still stinks. You can put lipstick on a pig but its still lipstick.

    Any I note that you don’t have any stated disagreement with my timeline…

    Comment by 1776 Thursday, May 3, 12 @ 3:56 pm

  19. Actually 1776, I have quite a few disagreements with your timeline. And no, they did not put two legislators on payroll.

    Comment by Dave Lundy Thursday, May 3, 12 @ 4:44 pm

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