Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Search for a common ground

By Bethany Jaeger, with Jamey Dunn contributing
House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton advanced their first joint measure to reform state government, focusing on the management of the public employee pension systems and targeting board members appointed by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. At the same time, the independent reform commission created by Gov. Pat Quinn issued its first set of recommendations for beefing up state ethics laws and improving transparency of government operations.



How the legislative reform committee and the governor’s reform commission will work together, however, is yet to be seen. So far, they’ve operated in similar hemispheres but in separate quarters. They’ve heard hours of testimony from a lot of the same witnesses, they’ve debated some of the same proposals and they’ve used the same language to define their missions. To date, they have not yet testified to each other's public hearings. And the governor’s reform commission is different in that it “has a voice but not a vote,” to borrow the words of Patrick Collins, former federal prosecutor and chair of the governor’s commission. What is realistic by the end of the spring legislative session depends on the level of support the proposals can gain from the legislative leaders and their members, although Quinn has indicated he's willing to use his executive powers to institute some of changes.

One item to note is that the House speaker and the Senate president have been meeting about once a week for breakfast with Quinn to talk about a broad range of issues facing the state, including everything from a potential $12.4 billion budget deficit to possible ethics reforms. Madigan told Illinois Issues this morning said he finds those meetings to be “very productive.” He added: “They’re not 100 percent harmonious. … There’s differences, but you’ve got people who are committed to working through differences and coming to a result.”

In terms of ethics, some of the proposals of the governor's reform commission already are being considered by the legislature. In addition to pension reforms advanced by Madigan and Cullerton, the governor’s reform commission offered two more starting points: The “pay” side (or campaign finance) and the “play” side (or state procurement), to borrow another Collins phrase. The governor’s Illinois Reform Commission will issue many more recommendations in its final report by the end of April.

Pension board reforms
Madigan and Cullerton started with pensions. Their measure, SB 364, would remove all members of the existing pension oversight boards, and Quinn would have 30 days to nominate new members. The governor would be able to nominate current members to stay, but they would have to get Senate approval. Board members currently are reimbursed for expenses but are not paid for their work, and that would remain.

While Madigan said he did not intend to accuse current members of corruption, he said it was important to start over with a “clean slate.” The measure also would require all board members to follow the same ethics standards currently applied to legislators and executive branch employees. The standards are meant to prevent conflicts of interest and so-called pay-to-play politics from influencing the investment decisions made by the pension boards, investment managers and consultants.

Similar pension reforms passed the House twice before but stalled in the Senate under then-President Emil Jones Jr.

Madigan said this morning that the pension reforms illustrate the good that can come out of cooperation between presiding officers. “The people of Illinois feel that they deserve better, and they’re right. And with myself and Sen. Cullerton working together — not trying to one-up anybody, not trying to play gotcha-politics — I think that we can accomplish a lot.”

Campaign contribution limits (The “pay” side of pay-to-play)
The Illinois Reform Commission recommends campaign contribution limits of $2,400 for individuals and $5,000 for political committees and would completely ban contributions from lobbyists and trusts. The legislature is split on the idea of campaign contributions, with opponents saying that there are too many loopholes and that it wouldn't reduce the cost of political campaigns. All four legislative leaders have said they could consider campaign finance reform, but contribution limits are not considered the priority. The legislature already is considering some measures that would limit contributions, including:

  • HB 24: Rep. Harry Osterman’s bill resembles the commission’s recommendations. He’s a Chicago Democrat.
  • SB 1768: Sen. Heather Steans’ bill would enforce similar limits for individuals and political committees that are not controlled by the candidates, but it also would cap the amount political committees for the Democratic and Republican caucuses could transfer to candidates at $30,000, among other things. She’s a Chicago Democrat.
  • SB 1548: Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno’s bill would limit donations for all individuals, political parties, corporations, unions, etc., at $10,000. She’s a Lemont Republican.
  • SB 2257: Sen. Kwame Raoul’s bill would, among other things, limit individual donations at $7,500 and corporate and labor group donations at $20,000. He’s another Chicago Democrat.

Two measures would establish a voluntary public financing system for judges and set various limits on the amount candidates could raise from individuals, political committees, corporations, labor groups, etc. They include:
  • SB 2144, sponsored by Raoul.
  • HB 1390, sponsored by freshman Rep. Will Burns, a Chicago Democrat.

Here are more highlights from the Illinois Reform Commission's recommendations for campaign finance, including extending last year’s pay-to-play ban to prevent state contractors from donating to legislators, as well as executive officers.

Procurement (The “play” side of pay-to-play)
The Illinois Reform Commission recommends the following:
  • Make the procurement officials part of an independent arm of government to shield them from political pressure.
  • Establish an independent contract monitor to review contracts and expose problematic deals.
  • Scale back exemptions to the procurement code.
  • Apply the procurement code to legislative, judicial and such quasi-governmental bodies as the Illinois Finance Authority.
  • Subject no-bid and emergency contracts to tighter scrutiny and limitations.
  • Disclose subcontractors, lobbyists and agents representing clients.
  • Document any contact between vendors or their agents and procurement staff.
  • Post all procurement information online.

Auditor General Bill Holland echoed some of the recommendations today during a special legislative hearing about state government reforms. But he added that the procurement code currently does not prevent agencies from accepting services before the terms of a contract are settled or before the contract is officially filed. He said that was “unacceptable” and said that all documents related to the contracting process, including losing proposals, should be made public.

Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, an Evanston Democrat, said the state also should tighten provisions on informal advisers, something noted during the corruption trial and conviction of former Blagojevich adviser Tony Rezko.

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Cardinal, Jack Franks' Constituents Weigh in on HB 2354

At last weekend's services at Catholic Church services in the Chicago Archdiocese a letter from Cardinal Francis George was distributed in church bulletins.


And, today, McHenry County residents delivered multiple messages via a YouTube production by Michael Brown of Testimony Pictures to House Bill 2354 co-sponsors State Representatives Jack Franks and Mark Beaubien.

The Cardinal also speaks to House Bill 2354, the bill which stimulated McHenry County pro-lifers to run an ad urging the withdrawal of support from the two.

And also stimulated the demonstration in front of State Rep. Franks' Route 47 office.

Cardinal George emphasizes the removal of “the right to conscientious objection to abortion and related procedures for all health care workers.”

Rarely has the Catholic Church been this fully engaged in Springfield politics.

But as often happens when zealots take complete control, they try to push through legislative language which activates the other side. In this case, the rabidly pro-abortion Personal PAC overplayed its hand. Now it has the Catholic Church's hierarchy with which to contend.

The bill “will make it impossible for Catholic hospitals to continue to be places where life is always respected, where no one is deliberately killed,” the Cardinal explains.

He evokes Abraham Lincoln's 1844 defense of Catholics' “rights of conscience,” even though his Whig Party is described as “often anti-Catholic.”

The entire entire letter follows:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

In the midst of Lent, with its drama of sin and grace, of evil and good, I write about a threat to our freedom to practice our religion in our State.

Before the Illinois General Assembly there is a proposal (HB 2354, the “Reproductive Health and Access Act”) that would remove the right to conscientious objection to abortion and related procedures for all health care workers.

Thirty years ago, we were told that abortion is a rare but necessary tragedy and that abortion providers should not be legally punished.

Today we are being told that abortion is a human right and that those who qualify it in any manner or who will not provide it should be legally punished.

This proposed law will drive Catholic doctors and nurses from health care and will make it impossible for Catholic hospitals to continue to be places where life is always respected, where no one is deliberately killed.

In our country, we recognize conscientious objection to war, even though defending one’s country is a noble and moral act.

We recognize the conscientious objection of those doctors who will not cooperate in administering the death penalty, even for terrible crimes.

Why do some Illinois legislators want to take away conscientious objection to abortion?

The enemies of human life and religious freedom in Illinois are well funded.

Pressure on legislators is great and is increasing.

I ask you to contact your Representative this week to express your dismay that the Illinois legislature, elected democratically, would debate a bill that removes freedom of conscientious decision-making for health care workers as a condition of their employment.

If, as we are told, the State should not come between a doctor and a mother, then surely all can agree that the State should not come between a health care worker and God.

We have, unfortunately, had to get used to the fact that our laws no longer protect unborn human life; now we are to get used to the fact that our laws will no longer protect conscience.

In 1844, Abraham Lincoln broke with his own party, the often anti-Catholic Whigs, and proposed:
“Resolved, that the guarantee of the rights of conscience, as found in our Constitution, is most sacred and inviolable, and one that belongs no less to the Catholic, than to the Protestant; and that all attempts to abridge or interfere with these rights, either of Catholic or Protestant, directly or indirectly, have our decided disapprobation, and shall ever have our most effective opposition.”
Illinois HB 2354 betrays the legacy of Lincoln in his home State.

This proposed law will rend the already fragile garment of our civic unity and further alienate many from our government. Catholics and all people of good will should work to ensure its defeat. I also ask you to thank those legislators who are courageously opposing HB 2354 and to pray for those who are supporting it. To contact your legislator, please go to www.ilga.gov, or call 312-368-1066.

Thank you and God bless you.



Francis Cardinal George, OMI
Archbishop of Chicago
Other stories that might be of interest:
3-28-9 Saturday Demonstration in Front of Jack Franks' Woodstock Office

3-30-9 Anatomy of a Demonstration

3-31-9 HB 2354 Video Shows Disappointment, Pleas for Changing of Mind and Promises of Opposition


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GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - March 31, 2009

Articles of interest to Illinois Republicans recently posted by ABC7, NBC5, CBS2, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain's Chicago Business, Daily Herald, Suburban Chicago News, Suburban Life, Pioneer Local, Southtown Star, Rockford Register Star, Bloomington Pantagraph, Peoria Journal Star, Springfield State Journal Register, Belleville News Democrat, Southern Illinoisan, Illinois Review, Public Affairs, Champion News, Illinois Family Institute, Americans For Truth, Chicago Daily Observer, Tom Roeser, Capitalfax, etc. Since January 1, 2005, GOPUSA ILLINOIS has brought 43,508 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the March 31, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Monday, March 30, 2009

ICPR Finds Contract Lobbyists Were Paid $6 Million in Government Funds to Influence State Government

Cross posted from ICPR's blog, The Race is On:

But Private Sector Spending on Lobbying Remains a Secret in Illinois

Local governments and public agencies spent more than $6 million to hire professional lobbyists to influence Illinois state government last year, according to a report released Tuesday by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR).

"Because Illinois has relatively weak laws to regulate lobbying activity and transparency, it’s impossible to know specifics about lobbyists’ work," said David Morrison, Deputy Director of ICPR and lead researcher and writer of the report. "Nor can the public know the cost of lobbying on behalf of private organizations that are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)."

There are more than 1,500 professional lobbyists paid to influence Illinois government. If it were not for FOIA, the public would have no idea how much money is involved. Most neighboring Midwestern states, and most large industrial states, provide the public with far more information about lobbying and lobbyists than does Illinois.

Morrison noted that the public knows even less about the tens of millions of dollars spent on lobbying by private special interest groups, such as corporations and labor unions, because their contracts are not public documents.

“There’s a lot of money flowing to lobbyists, private professionals who are paid to influence state policy,” Morrison said. “In most cases, we don’t know what these lobbyists are doing: who they’re talking to, what agenda items they’re pushing, and what they're trying to block.”

Illinois law requires lobbyists to disclose meals, gifts, and travel paid for by lobbyists. But what special interests pay lobbyists, and which clients are footing the bills for those meals, gifts, and travel, is a mystery.

Even worse, some of the lobbying firms hired by local governments did not comply with state ethics laws related to their work. Illinois law requires professional lobbyists to register with the Secretary of State and disclose their clients before performing work. ICPR found several who did not register themselves or their clients in a timely manner; some did not register themselves or their clients at all.

Morrison said ICPR’s analysis demonstrates the need for greater disclosure and more transparency as it relates to lobbying on the state level. He noted that the federal government, many other states and even Cook County and the City of Chicago have more comprehensive sunshine requirements for their lobbyists.

“Illinoisans are being kept in the dark about lobbying and how it affects their government,” Morrison said. “We need new laws mandating greater transparency so that the public can get a better handle on how their taxpayer dollars are being spent and how special interest groups are influencing their government.”

This is ICPR's second report on lobbying expenditures by units of governments. The report covering FY2007 found $5 million in spending. Among the 96 units of governments in both reports, total spending on lobbying grew 15% since last year.

The report recommends changes to Illinois' Lobbyist Registration Act, including:

• All lobbyists, whether representing a government or private entity, should be required to disclose the terms of lobbying contracts, including financial arrangements.
• Lobbyists hiring other lobbyists as subcontractors should disclose whether the subcontractors are lobbying for all or only some of the primary lobbyist’s clients.
• Units of government should be required to acknowledge that they have hired a lobbyist.
• There should be a "cooling-off period" between the time a government employee or official leaves public service and his or her engagement as a lobbyist targeting former colleagues.
• The Secretary of State should have the clear authority to audit lobbyist disclosure reports and punish violators.

To comment, please visit ICPR's blog.


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GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - March 30, 2009

Articles of interest to Illinois Republicans recently posted by ABC7, NBC5, CBS2, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain's Chicago Business, Daily Herald, Suburban Chicago News, Suburban Life, Pioneer Local, Southtown Star, Rockford Register Star, Bloomington Pantagraph, Peoria Journal Star, Springfield State Journal Register, Belleville News Democrat, Southern Illinoisan, Illinois Review, Public Affairs, Champion News, Illinois Family Institute, Americans For Truth, Chicago Daily Observer, Tom Roeser, Capitalfax, etc. Since January 1, 2005, GOPUSA ILLINOIS has brought 43,479 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the March 30, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - March 29, 2009

Articles of interest to Illinois Republicans recently posted by ABC7, NBC5, CBS2, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain's Chicago Business, Daily Herald, Suburban Chicago News, Suburban Life, Pioneer Local, Southtown Star, Rockford Register Star, Bloomington Pantagraph, Peoria Journal Star, Springfield State Journal Register, Belleville News Democrat, Southern Illinoisan, Illinois Review, Public Affairs, Champion News, Illinois Family Institute, Americans For Truth, Chicago Daily Observer, Tom Roeser, Capitalfax, etc. Since January 1, 2005, GOPUSA ILLINOIS has brought 43,453 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the March 29, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - March 28, 2009

Articles of interest to Illinois Republicans recently posted by ABC7, NBC5, CBS2, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain's Chicago Business, Daily Herald, Suburban Chicago News, Suburban Life, Pioneer Local, Southtown Star, Rockford Register Star, Bloomington Pantagraph, Peoria Journal Star, Springfield State Journal Register, Belleville News Democrat, Southern Illinoisan, Illinois Review, Public Affairs, Champion News, Illinois Family Institute, Americans For Truth, Chicago Daily Observer, Tom Roeser, Capitalfax, etc. Since January 1, 2005, GOPUSA ILLINOIS has brought 43,420 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the March 28, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Transit and taxpayers

By Bethany Jaeger
Mass transit advocates say Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposed capital program needs an overhaul and relies on “fuzzy math,” and they look to an increase in the state’s motor fuel tax to help pump more money into transportation projects.


Quinn said this week that he wants to see the start of a capital program approved by the legislature by April 3. “I think it should be for roads, bridges and public transit. We shouldn’t forget that one of the key things of reducing our reliance on petroleum and foreign oil is having good public transit, as well as improving our roads and bridges.”

Yet, his proposal to provide about $4.6 billion for mass transit systems over five years doesn’t satisfy Chicago-based civic organizations. They said that Quinn’s plan relies more on federal funds and matching grants, including only about $1.5 billion in new state spending for transit.

“It’s not even enough money to cover the basic maintenance and repair needs to keep the [Chicago] region’s transit network in its current condition, much less to upgrade the transit network,” said Brian Imus, state director of Illinois Public Interest Research Group. He joined leaders of Chicago Metropolis 2020 and the Metropolitan Planning Council today in a teleconference.

Given the economy, a business and labor-based group called the Transportation for Illinois Coalition recently reduced it’s request for transportation infrastructure from $23 billion over five years to $13.5 billion over five years, but that would only fund a “minimally adequate, maintenance- and safety-focused program.”

To reach the $13.5 billion, it would take about a 13-cent increase in the state’s motor fuel tax, said Chicago Metropolis 2020 Vice President Jim LaBelle. The motor fuel tax has been 19 cents a gallon since 1990. If it were adjusted for inflation, it would be about 32 cents, he said.

Quinn, however, opposes the motor fuel tax increase. The idea has support from Senate President John Cullerton, and the House currently is considering HB 1, which would increase the tax by 8 cents a gallon.

LaBelle said his organization would support a motor fuel tax increase if it were accompanied by reforms to the way the state prioritizes construction projects and distributes the money. The group supports HB 2359, Rep. Kathy Ryg’s bill that we wrote about earlier this week. It would create regional transportation policy groups to advise the Illinois Department of Transportation when ranking projects.

Peter Skosey, vice president at the Metropolitan Planning Council, agreed with the need for a new planning process. “We for too long have spent our dollars based upon arbitrary geographies and political clout and less upon strategic investments.”

Watch whether Ryg’s measure combines with Rep. John Bradley’s 8-cent increase in the motor fuel tax to create a new revenue source, as well as a new way of distributing that money to transportation projects.


The state's TAB

By Jamey Dunn

The state’s new Taxpayer Action Board, created by Gov. Pat Quinn by executive order, held its first meeting today. The board plans to explore only ways to reduce spending, not ways to find new revenue sources, according to Tom Johnson, chairman of the new board and president of the Taxpayers’ Federation of Illinois. (He’s also a former director of the Illinois Department of Revenue during Gov. Jim Thompson’s administration.)

The board is supposed to make recommendations by May 22, nine days before the state constitutional deadline for the General Assembly to adjourn for the summer.

The board is charged with proposing ways to streamline government operations to save money, particularly for Medicaid, education, human services, as well as pensions and health care benefits for state workers.

The board is comprised of former lawmakers, policy experts, educators, business leaders, tax experts and individuals from health care and human services. Organizations such as the Metropolitan Planning Council and the Illinois Farm Bureau also have members on the board.

Jerry Stermer, Quinn’s chief of staff, said at the meeting that the board was formed to get a new perspective on the state’s deficit from people who represent their communities. “Maybe we’ve asked some of these questions before, but let’s ask them again. Let’s ask them in a different way, and let’s see if there are some redesigns, some reshuffling of the deck,” he said.

The state Senate also formed a special Deficit Reduction Committee, which issued a bare bones report with pages of testimony but few recommendations after four weeks of public hearings. See more here.

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6 Ailing Chimps Quarantined After Seventh Dies


This is very unfortunate. I hope that they find out what's wrong with these chimps before another one dies. And I hope the chimps are back on display soon!



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GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - March 27, 2009

Articles of interest to Illinois Republicans recently posted by ABC7, NBC5, CBS2, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain's Chicago Business, Daily Herald, Suburban Chicago News, Suburban Life, Pioneer Local, Southtown Star, Rockford Register Star, Bloomington Pantagraph, Peoria Journal Star, Springfield State Journal Register, Belleville News Democrat, Southern Illinoisan, Illinois Review, Public Affairs, Champion News, Illinois Family Institute, Americans For Truth, Chicago Daily Observer, Tom Roeser, Capitalfax, etc. Since January 1, 2005, GOPUSA ILLINOIS has brought 43,389 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the March 27, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - March 26, 2009

Articles of interest to Illinois Republicans recently posted by ABC7, NBC5, CBS2, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain's Chicago Business, Daily Herald, Suburban Chicago News, Suburban Life, Pioneer Local, Southtown Star, Rockford Register Star, Bloomington Pantagraph, Peoria Journal Star, Springfield State Journal Register, Belleville News Democrat, Southern Illinoisan, Illinois Review, Public Affairs, Champion News, Illinois Family Institute, Americans For Truth, Chicago Daily Observer, Tom Roeser, Capitalfax, etc. Since January 1, 2005, GOPUSA ILLINOIS has brought 43,350 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the March 26, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Starting points, but no consensus, yet

By Hilary Russell and Jamey Dunn
It's the time of year when legislative leaders continue to say everything is on the table, but nothing seems to be falling to the ground.

The Senate’s special Deficit Reduction Committee ended today without any clearer answers about solving the state’s financial crisis than when the committee started meeting a month ago. Gov. Pat Quinn also held a meeting with Republican leaders and business leaders today in the Statehouse in an attempt to find some consensus.

Neither provided a common ground. But they did provide more "starting points."



“We had a really good discussion and dialogue,” Quinn said. “I’m sure not everyone is of the same mind, but I think it’s healthy to have a discussion about our economic crisis. The statistics yesterday were extremely sobering.” The state’s unemployment rate reached 8.6 percent, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

The meeting included House Minority Leader Tom Cross of Oswego, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont and business leaders, including the Tooling and Manufacturing Association and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.

The special Senate committee charged with finding consensus about where to cut spending out of the state budget with little consensus. Here's the report.

“What we did not come up with in the past four weeks — and this was not the intent of this committee — we did not come up with the final solution,” said Sen. Donne Trotter, co-chair of the committee and a Chicago Democrat. “We did, in fact, meet and define some parameters in which we should start this appropriation process as we go forward with the strong intent to be out of here by May 31.”

Republicans want to cut spending and avoid raising taxes.

“We heard many people from this committee who passionately and sincerely believe that raising taxes is essential,” said co-chair Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican. “Speaking for myself, … I think the proposal to raise taxes is profoundly misguided. Raising taxes in Illinois will cost more Illinoisans their jobs. Period. With 8.6 percent unemployment, we cannot afford to lose any more jobs.”

Quinn proposed a 1.5 percentage point increase in the state income tax as part of his budget plan for next fiscal year, which is projected to have up to a $12.4 billion deficit.

Democrats, in turn, said cutting spending is not nearly enough to fill the gap.

“I hope we can also agree that we cannot solely cut our way out of this deficit,” said Sen. John Sullivan, a Rushville Democrat. “The cuts will be, to say the least, drastic and devastating, and when you talk about making some of the cuts that would be necessary to balance this budget, we would be laying off thousands of people across the state of Illinois to do that.”

One way to increase the number of jobs available is for the legislature to pass a capital bill; the problem reverts to how to pay for it.

Quinn proposes funding the capital plan through fee increases and some new tax revenues. Republicans oppose that idea and support gaming as a funding source.

One example is to legalize video gaming. Sullivan said revisiting gaming as a funding source for a capital plan, however, is a mistake. He said that two previous capital bills that included gaming advanced through the Senate with bipartisan support, but they stalled in the House. “We tried it. It didn’t work. There wasn’t enough support in both chambers for it to become law,” he said. “So, why are we still having that discussion?”

Sullivan suggested that lawmakers move on to an income tax increase or come up with some new suggestions for funding sources.

Watch for Republicans to release some proposals next week. In the meantime, Murphy said that some of the broad suggestions made by the committee such as Medicaid and pension reforms are important starting points. The one thing everyone seems to agree on is the need to pass a capital plan. “We just have to get around to doing it and stop making excuses,” Murphy said.
Quinn remains opposed to gambling expansion. " I think it's a bad bet. Take a look at some of the stocks at these gambling firms. I don't think you'd want to buy those penny stocks today.”

Video gaming advances in the House
By Bethany Jaeger
Meanwhile, a House committee advanced a bill that would legalize video poker machines and tax them, potentially generating between $300 million and $500 million a year, according to Rep. Frank Mautino, the Democratic sponsor. He would dedicate the revenue to school construction projects, starting with a list of 23 schools that have been waiting for money that the state promised to them since 2002.

“The realization is that some of the things in the governor’s budget proposal are going to fail,” Mautino said shortly after his bill sailed through committee. “And so there have to be other alternatives that are out there. I don’t think the speaker’s interested in a big gambling package, but here’s something that we have to make a decision to either get rid of it or tax it — because they’re producing this money one way or the other.

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Party politics

By Bethany Jaeger
Politics often intertwine with state government, but it’s not often that state government tries to control the operations of political parties.



Democrats today advanced a measure that would force the Republican Party to change the way it selects State Central Committee members to match the process of the Democrats. Currently, the general public elects Republican precinct committeemen, who then internally select people to lead the GOP State Central Committee. On the contrary, the Democratic State Central Committee members are elected directly by voters during primary elections.

Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat and an assistant majority leader in his chamber, is the new sponsor of HB 825, which would require open ballots for Republican State Central Committee members, too. He said the change would improve transparency and would respond to Republicans’ repeated argument that voters elect someone to replace U.S. Sen. Roland Burris, a Democrat appointed by impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill the seat vacated by President Barack Obama.

Republicans debated the idea of letting voters elect their State Central Committee members but rejected it during a statewide convention last year.

Yet, a similar bill, SB 600, is sponsored by Republican Sen. Chris Lauzen and has the support of Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno. Several top Democrats also have signed on in support. Patty Schuh, spokeswoman for Senate Republicans, said while the caucus is split on the measure, it's peculiar that Democrats want to have such a heavy hand in the way Republicans conduct their own business.

Rep. Michael Tryon, a Crystal Lake Republican, said political parties are private organizations that should have the right to self-governance, and it would be “very wrong” for one political party to dictate to another how to operate.

Rep. Skip Saviano, an Elmwood Park Republican who also is a Republican State Central Committee members, said the Democratic leadership flat out is trying to retaliate against Republicans for calling them out on inconsistencies over how to handle Burris’ controversial appointment. It also would kick the GOP when it’s already down, when they hold minorities in both chambers and don’t hold a single constitutional office. “This is an attempt to keep the Republican Party in disarray,” Saviano said to Lang during a House committee this morning.

Saviano said there’s been a longstanding agreement that each political party could conduct its own business. “Now, they’ve crossed the line.”

Then again, the numbers favor the Democrats, which have enough votes to send the bill to the Senate without a single Republican vote. “If they want it to be a done deal, Democrats could pass it and hijack the Republican Party,” Saviano said. “I mean, that’s what this is all about.”

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GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - March 25, 2009

Articles of interest to Illinois Republicans recently posted by ABC7, NBC5, CBS2, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain's Chicago Business, Daily Herald, Suburban Chicago News, Suburban Life, Pioneer Local, Southtown Star, Rockford Register Star, Bloomington Pantagraph, Peoria Journal Star, Springfield State Journal Register, Belleville News Democrat, Southern Illinoisan, Illinois Review, Public Affairs, Champion News, Illinois Family Institute, Americans For Truth, Chicago Daily Observer, Tom Roeser, Capitalfax, etc. Since January 1, 2005, GOPUSA ILLINOIS has brought 43,315 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the March 25, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Will the "cutting committee" cut much?

By Jamey Dunn and Hilary Russell
The state’s budget deficit could be worse than Gov. Pat Quinn’s projection of $11.6 billion next fiscal year. But some education-funding reform advocates see a silver lining in that the dire budget constraints could open the door for a longstanding effort to restructure the way Illinois pays for public education.


They’re again supporting a so-called tax swap, which would increase the state income tax and expand the state sales tax to apply to services. The new revenues would help offer property tax relief. Sen. James Meeks, a Chicago Democrat who has been pushing the idea for seven years, says relying less on property taxes to fund public education would help address funding disparities between property rich and property poor school districts.

We’ll find out tomorrow morning whether such tax reforms will be included in a series of recommendations that a special bipartisan committee will pass along to legislative leaders as they try to figure out how to balance next year’s state budget. The special committee is led by a rare co-chairmanship of one Democrat and one Republican. Sen. Donne Trotter is the Democratic chairman. He said the committee is considering recommending such revenue changes as a tax swap, as well as other changes to the public employee pension system, that both parties can support.


“There’s probably going to be a larger stack of things that we could agree upon than things that we can’t,” Trotter said. However, he added that there’s a good chance that the committee could produce a majority and minority opinion reports.

Trotter said Meeks’ tax reforms have support from committee members of both political parties.

Legislators’ reluctance to raise state income taxes has been one of the main roadblocks to various tax swap proposals advanced in the past seven years, but Meeks said the likelihood of an income tax hike this year creates a “now or never” opportunity for reform. The latest proposal, SB 750, would raise the state income tax from 3 percent to 5 percent for individuals and from 4 percent to 8 percent for corporations.

While the tax reforms traditionally have been proposed as a way to reform education funding, Meeks said he’s open to using new tax revenues to plug the state’s budget deficit for up to two years. But then it would have to switch to fund education. If lawmakers only consider the deficit, he said, “we’ll end up raising taxes, but we won’t end up fixing anything.”

Ralph Martire, executive director of the Chicago-based Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, supports Meeks’ plan for education funding and said there’s an added reason (scroll down) to reform the state’s tax structure. “The bottom line is Illinois cannot get to a balanced budget situation without adjusting both of its major taxes,” he said. He added that expanding the state sales tax could allow for a lower rate.

The Taxpayers’ Federation of Illinois opposes the bill because, according to organization president Tom Johnson, property tax is a reliable revenue source for local governments even in hard times. He added that the state may not be able to keep up with the property tax relief, which he said could “vanish in a relatively short period of time.”

Tomorrow morning’s Budget Deficit Reduction Committee will wrap up four weeks of testimony, which started out by focusing more on what agencies and advocates couldn’t live without than what they were willing to cut. The last two meetings have changed the focus to more concrete examples of ways the state could generate money while it also saved money.

Sen. Matt Murphy, the Republican co-chair from Palatine, said: “I love the idea of restraining future growth for spending because there’s never gonna be enough tax revenue if we don’t get a handle on the spending. I look forward to coming out with a collection of deficit reduction measures that we think can help fill this hole and do it in a way that’s productive for the long-term benefits for the state.”

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GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - March 24, 2009

Articles of interest to Illinois Republicans recently posted by ABC7, NBC5, CBS2, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain's Chicago Business, Daily Herald, Suburban Chicago News, Suburban Life, Pioneer Local, Southtown Star, Rockford Register Star, Bloomington Pantagraph, Peoria Journal Star, Springfield State Journal Register, Belleville News Democrat, Southern Illinoisan, Illinois Review, Public Affairs, Champion News, Illinois Family Institute, Americans For Truth, Chicago Daily Observer, Tom Roeser, Capitalfax, etc. Since January 1, 2005, GOPUSA ILLINOIS has brought 43,270 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the March 24, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Countdown to capital begins

By Bethany Jaeger and Jamey Dunn
Gov. Pat Quinn wants at least a portion of his statewide plan for major construction projects approved by the General Assembly before April 3. That’s the last session day scheduled before legislators are supposed to head home for a two-week spring break, and Quinn reportedly said today that he thinks they should bypass spring break to work on a capital plan.


The $26 billion plan, called Illinois Jobs Now, eventually would fund infrastructure, mass transit, railroad improvements, new school buildings, housing, conservation projects, and water treatment projects. Two new projects also would include an airport near Chicago’s south suburbs and the construction of the first veterans’ home within Chicago.

The proposed funding mechanisms, as usual, spark controversy. If Quinn’s budget plan were approved, vehicle-related fees would help fund road and bridge construction. (Driver’s license fees would increase from $10 to $20; license plate fees would go from $79 to $99; and vehicle registration fees would rise from $15 to $30.) Mass transit projects would be funded by title transfer fees, which would increase from $65 to $105.

Plans to build new schools, then, would be funded by shaving a portion of tax revenues typically given to local governments.

In addition to federal stimulus money, Quinn also proposes using about $150 million a year from the state’s dedicated Road Fund. That would allow the state to bond/borrow money to pay for projects specifically for roads and bridges.

That’s one portion of a capital plan that could be done by April 3. Senate President John Cullerton said it could be realistic for the legislature to approve increasing the amount the state may borrow for the purposes of kick-starting a road program and tapping into federal matching funds.

The part of the capital plan that will take the longest to negotiate is other sources of funding, especially if it's intertwined with an attempt to increase the state income tax rate or motor fuel tax rate. For instance, Cullerton said he still supports the idea of increasing the state’s 19-cent tax on each gallon of motor fuel, which hasn’t changed since 1990. He describes the motor fuel tax as a traditional way to pay for roads, and because it’s a so-called user fee, people could adjust their lifestyles if they didn’t want to pay more. (Senate Democrats are working on a plan that would increase the tax by about 16 cents, while the House is considering a bill to increase the tax by 8 cents.) According to Cullerton, an 8-cent increase could generate $500 million.

Sen. Martin Sandoval, a Chicago Democrat who chairs the Transportation Committee in his chamber, agreed that an increase in the gasoline tax has support in the legislature and would fund a “robust” capital plan. He’s sponsoring SB 200, which doesn’t have language, yet, but could be used to advance a motor fuel tax bill.

Sandoval is one critic of Quinn’s capital plan because, he said, he’s concerned it would be unfair to Chicago. “Mass transit takes a huge hit at a time when we’re preparing for the Olympics, at a time when we’re trying to protect the environment, at a time when we’re trying to put people back to work. Gov. Quinn is going in the wrong direction when it relates to mass transit.”

Under Quinn’s proposed budget, the Chicago-area Regional Transportation Authority would lose $32 million in grants for operating assistance. Public transportation also would lose about $42 million, but that’s based on decreased sales tax revenues. Downstate transportation districts, on the other hand, would see an increase of about $24 million.

Jennifer Morrison, managing director of the Transportation for Illinois Coalition, said that her organization was encouraged by Quinn's emphasis on a long-awaited capital plan but that the funding for mass transit, highways and local roads would be “way too small to make any meaningful impact.” She added that the budget plan is “more than a little unclear” about which revenue sources would be designated to which projects.

While neither Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno nor House Minority Leader Tom Cross supports Quinn’s fee increases, they said last week that they do hope to meet with the governor to work out a compromise.

Another part of the plan that will take a long time to negotiate is how the money would be distributed throughout the state. Not only could it differ depending on the source of revenue approved by the legislature, but it also could change if Democratic Rep. Kathleen Ryg of Vernon Hills has her say.

She wants the planning process to empower local stakeholders through various metropolitan planning organizations. House Bill 2359 would create a new advisory committee to the Illinois Department of Transportation when prioritizing road projects. Ryg said the new committee would help assure taxpayers and state officials that the limited amount of money available would be spent on the best use, particularly as a capital bill is drafted and new revenue sources are generated.

The recent appointment of Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig, a former state representative and budget expert for House Democrats, actually could help the measure advance. Ryg said this afternoon that she changed her bill from its original form in response to concerns expressed by Hannig shortly after his transition from the legislature to the state agency. Now Ryg's bill would ensure more representation for all areas of the state, including those that don't have metropolitan planning organizations.

Her bill also would change the way projects would get funded. Currently, engineers distribute money based on such factors as the condition of roads, the traffic flow and the population served. Ryg said her bill would fund the greatest maintenance needs first, and then the regional groups would advise the Transportation Department on other local needs. All areas of the state would be evaluated under the same set of new criteria.

Regardless of which revenue sources the General Assembly ultimately agrees upon, the influx of money has some legislators nervous about whether their districts will benefit. So watch for the concept in Ryg’s bill to serve as a potential “accountability” measure, meant to assure legislators that, at the least, their areas would be represented in the decision-making process.

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GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - March 23, 2009

Articles of interest to Illinois Republicans recently posted by ABC7, NBC5, CBS2, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain's Chicago Business, Daily Herald, Suburban Chicago News, Suburban Life, Pioneer Local, Southtown Star, Rockford Register Star, Bloomington Pantagraph, Peoria Journal Star, Springfield State Journal Register, Belleville News Democrat, Southern Illinoisan, Illinois Review, Public Affairs, Champion News, Illinois Family Institute, Americans For Truth, Chicago Daily Observer, Tom Roeser, Capitalfax, etc. Since January 1, 2005, GOPUSA ILLINOIS has brought 43,247 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the March 23, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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SIU Poll: Majority of >100K respondents favor a higher tax rate on high incomes

This report is a few months old, but particularly timely.

The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University conducted a poll last fall and asked Illinois respondents what revenue-generators they would support. The most popular way for the State to raise more money was a federal-style progressive income tax where higher incomes pay a higher rate than lower incomes. 65.9 percent of respondents favored a progressive income tax.





Interestingly, while 74.2 percent of respondents who make less than $50K annually favored a progressive tax, and 68.9 percent of those who make between $50K and $100K favored the tax, more than half of the people who make more than $100K and would presumably pay the higher rate still favored a higher rate for themselves. 57.5% of the respondents who make more than $100,000 support a higher rate for higher incomes. (See page 26 of Professor Charles Leonard's Public Policy Institute Occasional Paper #12 to read the report yourself.)

Governor Quinn's proposal to raise the state's flat rate income tax rate from 3% to 4.5% combined with the uber-progressive move to triple the amount of tax-free income from $2,000 to $6,000 is as close to setting up a progressive tax as the General Assembly can get, since the Constitution unfortunately mandates a flat rate.

So while it is not only the right thing to do to tax lower income people less than higher income people (why would we possibly tax people who are earning money below the poverty line?), according to the SIU poll, it is also the most popular option on the table -- even among the people who would pay more.

I suspect a progressive income tax is popular because it is the right thing to do.

Cross-posted with Progressive Advocacy

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

New Mexico Sends Contribution Limits Measure to Governor

Cross posted from ICPR's blog, The Race is On:

Bill Richardson Expected to Sign
Soon only 4 States will have Wide-Open Campaign Finance System
s

Late last Friday, the New Mexico House of Representative gave final approval to a bill to create a system of campaign contribution limits. The proposal would prohibit donations to statewide candidates in excess of $5,000 per election from individuals and $10,000 from political committees. Non—statewide candidates would be barred from receiving more than $2,300 per election from individuals and $5,000 from committees.

The measure was filed at the behest of Gov. Bill Richardson, who has indicated that he will sign it.

New Mexico is currently one of only 5 states with no limits at all on campaign donations; Illinois is another. Contribution limits proposal are pending in the Illinois General Assembly: HB 24, SB 1768 and SB 1604. Call your legislator to tell them you don’t want to have to move to New Mexico to find legislators willing to tackle this problem. Call 800-719-3020 today and call for change.

To comment, please visit ICPR's blog.

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While Molski is Pessimistic about Flossmoor's Future, Braun Looks Forward

The local League of Women Voters held their Flossmoor Candidates Forum on Thursday, March 19 at the Flossmoor Library. More than 50 people showed up, including members of several candidate's families. There were several pieces of news out of the Forum, but perhaps the most interesting news was the sharp contrasts between the two mayoral candidates. Roger Molski was stuck on his "we can't do that" meme, while challenger Paul Braun was thinking creatively, offering fresh ideas and basically reminding us, Yes We Can.

Roger Molski was first with his opening statement. He mentioned that he came to Flossmoor because it resembled Grosse Point, MI. Then he told us why he was running for re-election:

I am terribly proud to say that I am the Mayor of Flossmoor and my mother who passed away last year was *really* proud to tell everyone in the world that Roger is the Mayor of Flossmoor.


He ended:

It's a team effort, and I am very, very proud to be Mayor and head of this team.

Then Paul Braun got up and introduced himself:

I am running because I believe that village government can do more for our residents than what's been going on. I am running because I believe that we can continue to maintain high quality public services -- police and fire -- and public works while at the same time doing more to increase economic development for our town.

Then Braun noted the biggest difference between his candidacy and that of Molski.

Washington has decided to pump 787 billion dollars into our economy and my question is, will Flossmoor be there to take advantage of that.

Braun laid out a strategy for getting more federal (and state) dollars into Flossmoor. Molski would later say, "They can't help us."

Braun ended by saying:

I am running because I'm passionate and I care about our town.

The first question asked by an audience member of the mayoral candidates was, "What changes will you try to make that is different than what's going on at the present time?"

Braun took the first crack at it:

My focus primarily is on economic development for our town in terms of making changes for the future. As I said in my opening statement, we're in the middle of a perfect storm, and while we're going to do everything we can to attract business to our community, new business to our community that's compatible with our community, I believe that for the next two year period we really need to be chasing dollars that are going to come from Washington and from the state of Illinois.

Braun said that he wants to be on the board of the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, and that Flossmoor should join the Illinois Municipal League. Finally, he said:

we also need to be federally involved, as well. I'm committed to go to Washington, if necessary, to go knock on doors to get the funds that are necessary for our town. Because with those funds, that takes the pressure off of us, our taxpayers, the resident's tax burden. Some of you may have seen that a number of our recent mayors went to Washington and that we did not.

He ended by saying that if we don't get more active, "We could lose out on the dollars that are available to us."

Roger Molski then said,

The changes that you're going to see in the next four years in the village will revolve around economic development. I have been working ver, veryy hard for a long period of time, I've become a semi-expert on commercial development.

As a so-called "expert on commercial development," Roger Molski is the first and only mayor in Flossmoor -- probably in the South Suburbs -- to bring *blight* to our village. Then he pooh-poohed the idea of getting stimulus dollars for Flossmoor:

Washington will not reduce your tax dollars but good solid commercial developments in our TIF area will.

This is one of the reasons that people who know Roger Molski question his judgment, whether he is capable of leading in the 21st century. Molski's record of development in the past four years was to bring in a (now) bankrupt developer who happens to be a personal friend of his. He rammed the project through the board -- despite the questions that were raised about the troubled developer. Molski took $88,000 a year in property tax revenues off our tax rolls and left a black hole in the heart of our downtown commercial district.

Why should Flossmoor not be a contender for federal stimulus dollars? Molski's reasoning is unclear. Probably it's too much work for him. He seems to prefer to continue what he knows -- that is, bringing more blight to Flossmoor!

Then they were asked about whether Flossmoor should have business licenses for local businesses. Paul Braun noted that the question was first posed to him by the downtown Flossmoor business association who were actually in favor of commercial business licenses. "I'm not exactly opposed to it," he concluded. Roger Molski flatly stated, "We're not going to do it."

Another audience member asked, What is Flossmoor doing to obtain its share of stimulus money?

Roger Molski was a little perturbed:

If it's to be gotten, we're going to get our share for the projects that the trustees cited.

Paul Braun noted that Flossmoor was really depending upon our village manager and staff for requests for federal stimulus dollars. Where other cities have their mayors being aggressive about getting federal money, Molski was on vacation during the height of the process. Braun promised to be more proactive. He has "a totally different take on things:"

I think we were a bit late in terms of getting that information, not through any fault of anybody at this point, other than the fact that we're not focused on looking a bit outside our village in terms of regional, state and federal matters. So, in terms of getting economic stimulus dollars, yes, we're going to get trickle down at this point. But what I'm talking about is actually going after it, instead of waiting for it to come to us by sending letters and applying for projects, we need to be out there.

He then quoted a Southtown Star article that quoted Blue Island Mayor Don Peloquin:

Communities with more clout, more village officials on political boards and mayors with more time to lobby on behalf of their towns usually have more access to money, Peloquin said.

Braun concluded:

I plan on doing a lot more than just waiting for the money to trickle down to us, we need to apply for it. We need to be out there actively seeking it and that means outside of our village.

The next question asked was, What plans does Flossmoor have for foreclosed or empty housing?

Molski claimed that the number wasn't that high and there wasn't a lot that we can do about it.

But as far as what we can do as a village, it's very limited.

Paul Braun was thinking about how to make Flossmoor more attractive to new people coming into the village:

If we can maintain the current tax level, which will be difficult, that makes Flossmoor more attractive to new people coming into town to turn these houses over.

He said that's why he's so interested in pursuing federal and state dollars, to ease the tax burdens of Flossmoor residents.

Why aren't the streets better maintained?

Roger Molski noted Flossmoor Road is a county road and the village isn't responsible for it:

It's their road. And we're willing to a transfer of that road if they completely rebuild it.

This speaks to one of the other complaints that people have about the current mayor. He doesn't seem to have influence with other local officials, to get them to keep their word to him or to Flossmoor.

Paul Braun noted that the federal stimulus package had some infrastructure money with it. He wants to apply for federal money to resurface all the roads in Flossmoor.

We need to be out there. SSMA is responsible for dishing out those funds, so let's get there and let's get an application in.

How does a store with a liquor license across the street from 3,000 students fit in with the character of Flossmoor?

Paul Braun answered bluntly:

It doesn't.

Braun wants to get community input about what residents think about Molski's latest idea.

Going forward, I don't think it's the proper location. You'll hear others say, 'well, they can go to the Jewel or they can go elsewhere,' well let them go elsewhere. I don't think we need that across the street from the high school at this point. I don't think it sets the proper example.

Then Braun noted that the high school is against this:

But, again, the high school district does not want it. 233, I've talked to school board, they do not want liquor at that location. So that tells you something right off the bat. If they don't want it, I don't see why the village needs to press it.

Molski re-acted defensively. "That is a done deal, it's been approved," Molski said. "It's been approved, it's going to be there."

The CVS is approved, everything about it is done, it's going there.

What kind of relationship does Flossmoor have with Metra and CN to maintain the Via Duct?

Paul Braun noted that he's heard complaints about the Flossmoor station, and that "Over all, we have as good a relationship as any other local town does have with Metra." He also said: "We've had our challenges from time to time in terms of maintenance issues regarding Via Duct."

Molski responded by basically pointing to his lack of influence:

The Canadian National people are difficult people to deal with. Their philosophy sometimes is that "we were there first."

"We're constantly on them," Molski ended. In other words, Roger Molski is doing everything he can. And it isn't good enough. His record -- which is what he wants people to use as their guide in voting in this race -- is one of failure.

What can be done about Flossmoor Square?

Paul Braun observed that "Flossmoor Square has caused us much community pain." I suppose we ought to say that Molski counts this vacant lot continually in his list of accomplishments, but I suspect Braun is right. For everyone except the mayor, this blight does cause us pain. Isn't it nice that the mayor has some place besides Flossmoor to go home to, so he doesn't wake up to this black hole in our commercial district every day?

Must be nice.

Braun suggested that we should "clean it up now" -- and, more importantly, that the village should be more proactive in staving off the "rumor mill." Most of us know that Chuck Bruti went through bankruptcy, but the mayor prevented the village from keeping up on that process -- probably because Bruti was the mayor's friend and Flossmoor Square was the mayor's project. Braun concluded:

We have to do something, this wait and see is not working. Its a top priority for me if I'm elected mayor.

Molski was basically in denial. He suggested that the economic downturn started four years ago, and that's the reason why Flossmoor Square has failed. "We can't do anything about it," Molski claimed.

He is wrong. Roger Molski may not be able to do something about it, but that's largely because he doesn't have the ability to lead Flossmoor or the vision to take it into the future.

Molski concluded the night by asking people to vote on his record. Are you happy with the empty lot in the heart of our downtown that Molski brought to Flossmoor in the last four years? Are you happy with the fact that Molski is bringing in a store that sells liquor across the street from H-F High School (against their wishes)? Are you happy with Molski being in vacation in Florida while other local mayors were in Washington, DC asking for stimulus money for their communities?

This is Roger Molski's record for the past four years. He may be proud of it. But I don't think too many of us who actually live here can afford it any more. Roger Molski is far too focused on what we can't do. Paul Braun reminds us, Yes We Can. The choice is stark, and the implications are clear.

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GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - March 22, 2009

Articles of interest to Illinois Republicans recently posted by ABC7, NBC5, CBS2, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain's Chicago Business, Daily Herald, Suburban Chicago News, Suburban Life, Pioneer Local, Southtown Star, Rockford Register Star, Bloomington Pantagraph, Peoria Journal Star, Springfield State Journal Register, Belleville News Democrat, Southern Illinoisan, Illinois Review, Public Affairs, Champion News, Illinois Family Institute, Americans For Truth, Chicago Daily Observer, Tom Roeser, Capitalfax, etc. Since January 1, 2005, GOPUSA ILLINOIS has brought 43,223 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the March 22, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

50% Tax Hike Not Enough

One of the states mega-taxeating advocates State Senator and Rev. James Meeks thinks a 50% income tax is not high enough.

That's what Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown reported yesterday.

How does Brown feel?

Here's the end of his column:

“...I support his overall goal. If we're going to raise the income tax, this is the time to deal with education funding, too.

“There are more legislators than you might expect who are willing to raise taxes, even in this economy, but if they're going to take the political hit, they're only going to do it once, and they're going to want to have something more to show for it than getting the state's bills paid more quickly.”
And, if this McHenry County Blog interests you, this one about Pat Quinn tax hike editorial cartoons might be of interest.

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GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - March 21, 2009

Articles of interest to Illinois Republicans recently posted by ABC7, NBC5, CBS2, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain's Chicago Business, Daily Herald, Suburban Chicago News, Suburban Life, Pioneer Local, Southtown Star, Rockford Register Star, Bloomington Pantagraph, Peoria Journal Star, Springfield State Journal Register, Belleville News Democrat, Southern Illinoisan, Illinois Review, Public Affairs, Champion News, Illinois Family Institute, Americans For Truth, Chicago Daily Observer, Tom Roeser, Capitalfax, etc. Since January 1, 2005, GOPUSA ILLINOIS has brought 42,535 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the March 2, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Friday, March 20, 2009

GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - March 20, 2009

Articles of interest to Illinois Republicans recently posted by ABC7, NBC5, CBS2, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain's Chicago Business, Daily Herald, Suburban Chicago News, Suburban Life, Pioneer Local, Southtown Star, Rockford Register Star, Bloomington Pantagraph, Peoria Journal Star, Springfield State Journal Register, Belleville News Democrat, Southern Illinoisan, Illinois Review, Public Affairs, Champion News, Illinois Family Institute, Americans For Truth, Chicago Daily Observer, Tom Roeser, Capitalfax, etc. Since January 1, 2005, GOPUSA ILLINOIS has brought 43,162 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the March 20, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

About that "50% Increase"

As the graph below will show you, the much-balleyhooed "50%" tax increase fails to ring true. We found this out when looking at what the Effective tax rate is currently, versus what it would be under Gov. Quinn's plan. As you see, the tax increase tops out at about 20% for any family of 4 that could consider themselves middle class.


50% graph


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This Is a Joke, Right?

Let's see. The budget supposedly has a $11 billion deficit and its predecessor is getting an award.

Here's the citation below the award:

“The Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA)presented a Distinguished Budget Presentation Award to the State of Illinois, for its annual budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2008 (fiscal year 2009). According to GFOA, this award “reflects the highest form of recognition in governmental budgeting.

"In order to receive this award, a governmental unit must satisfy nationally recognized guidelines for effective budget presentation. These guidelines are designed to assess how well the entity’s budget serves as a policy document, as an operations guide, as a financial plan, and as a communications device.

“The Government Finance Officers Association’s Distinguished Budget Presentation Awards Program, established in 1984, recognizes exemplary budget documentation by state, provincial and local governments, as well as public universities and colleges. Entities participating in the program submit copies of their operating budgets for review. Each budget document is evaluated using a comprehensive evaluation checklist and those judged proficient receive the award.

“We are very pleased to have received this national recognition. We believe our current budget continues to conform to program requirements, and we are submitting it to GFOA to determine its eligibility for another award.”


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GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - March 19, 2009

Articles of interest to Illinois Republicans recently posted by ABC7, NBC5, CBS2, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain's Chicago Business, Daily Herald, Suburban Chicago News, Suburban Life, Pioneer Local, Southtown Star, Rockford Register Star, Bloomington Pantagraph, Peoria Journal Star, Springfield State Journal Register, Belleville News Democrat, Southern Illinoisan, Illinois Review, Public Affairs, Champion News, Illinois Family Institute, Americans For Truth, Chicago Daily Observer, Tom Roeser, Capitalfax, etc. Since January 1, 2005, GOPUSA ILLINOIS has brought 43,107 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the March 19, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Legislators eye "adjustments"

By Bethany Jaeger, Jamey Dunn and Hilary Russell
Gov. Pat Quinn wrote his 40-minute Budget Address himself, just one indication of the change under the Capitol dome since the impeachment and removal of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.


Wearing glasses and a navy blue suit, Quinn opened his speech Wednesday before the General Assembly to a standing ovation from Democrats and Republicans. But the tone soon changed when Quinn described the context in which he proposes a bold spending and revenue plan:

  • An integrity crisis — The state citizenry is damaged and embarrassed by the “bipartisan betrayal” of former Govs. George Ryan, a Republican serving in federal prison, and Blagojevich, a Democrat fighting federal corruption allegations.
  • A fiscal crisis — The budget deficit is projected to be $11.6 billion by the end of fiscal year 2010, and the state can’t afford to pay nearly $5 billion in overdue bills.
  • An economic crisis — Unemployment is rising to nearly 8 percent.
“To be direct and honest, our state is facing its greatest crisis in modern times," Quinn said.

David Merriman, an economist and professor of public administration with the Institute of Government and Public Affairs, said in stark contrast to the budgets proposed by Blagojevich, “Quinn’s proposals are transparent, and the effects are relatively simple to identify. There is little or no smoke and mirrors.”

Senate President John Cullerton said he could see the looks on the faces of Democratic and Republican legislators. “Even if you didn’t agree with everything he said, it was just so gratifying to see the reaction of the members based on the governor’s sincerity and his words.”

Cullerton also pointed to the weighty proposals of an income tax increase, a road and school construction program, a reformed pension system and a slight bump in education funding. “It’s a lot of work, and he’s to be congratulated for making those proposals.”

But that doesn’t mean Quinn will get everything he wants. Legislators of both political parties already are eyeing “adjustments,” in Cullerton’s words, to ensure that an income tax increase is used as a last resort.

“If we cut as much as the governor has proposed, and we guarantee that we have paid our bills, and we guarantee that we have a capital bill, then — and only then — do we look to the income tax and determine whether we need it,” Cullerton said. “And, if so, how much we have to raise it?”

Income taxes
As we said last night, Quinn’s blueprint relies on a state income tax increase of 1.5 percentage points for individuals and 2.4 percentage points for businesses. But some of the new tax revenue would be shaved off to provide a heightened personal tax exemption, from the current $2,000 to $6,000 per individual. The net revenue: about $3.15 billion, according to House Democrats.

That’s one area subject to negotiations. Senate Democrats want to look at a personal exemption that’s lower than Quinn’s proposal or, possibly, phasing it in over a few years. Or, while they eventually could sign on to an income tax increase, they might seek a lower rate.

Pensions
Quinn also wants to restructure the public employee pension system, which we wrote about last week. Business groups have been advocating for pension reform for years. Yet, there’s a concern about Quinn’s plan to divert money away from the amount the state is supposed to pay into those systems through 2011.

Quinn proposes changing benefits for newly hired employees. Among other changes, that would increase the retirement age and require them to pay more into their retirement benefits. At the same time, Quinn proposes shorting the amount the state pays into the pension system by $500 million this year and $2.3 billion next fiscal year (CORRECTION: I misread a chart and mistakenly thought there would be a third year of reduced pension funding. I was wrong. There are only two years, totaling $2.8 billion. I sincerely apologize.). The pension reforms are estimated to save about $160 million by 2045.

Cullerton said while he believes the governor’s pension reforms could save money over time, “we just have to examine the numbers and make sure that those savings that we would get in the future would justify lower payments into those funds right now.”

Public employee unions reject the idea in its entirety. According to Anders Lindall, spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, retiree benefits average about $18,000 a year. He said the state’s debt should have nothing to do with employees who consistently contribute to their benefits. “Cutting future benefits will not reduce the state’s current debt by a single penny, and skipping payments on the basis of such imagined savings will only compound the current crisis.”

State employees
AFSCME also opposes Quinn’s idea of making current employees, minus public safety, health care and university workers, take four unpaid days off, called furlough days, and pay more into their health care plans.

There’s a contract in place, Lindall said. “The state can’t force changes in any of these areas. Under our contract, they have to negotiate it. If they don’t negotiate those changes, we will enforce our contract in court.”

What else is on the table?
Republicans say everything — from budget cuts to expanded gaming — should be on the table before resorting to an income tax increase.

While Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno agreed with parts of Quinn’s proposed budget such as pension reforms and the removal of a gas tax increase as a revenue source, she called an income tax increase “premature and irresponsible right now.”

House Minority Leader Tom Cross agreed that Medicaid spending should be reduced and, he added, lawmakers need to ensure they assess all the possibilities for using federal stimulus funds to help fill in the deficit.

Neither GOP leader would say that the state could pay off its debts without raising taxes, but they both said that tax increases should only be considered when all other options have been exhausted. Both also said that Republicans would be less wary of a tax increase if it would have a set end date.

Expanded gaming as a revenue source isn’t dead, either. Rep. Jim Durkin, a Western Springs Republican, said the state still should consider leasing the Illinois Lottery to a private entity to raise money, which has been tried before. Radogno agreed that the state should look to the “voluntary activity of gambling” for increased revenues.

Democrats also have been considering expanding gaming as a revenue source, although Cullerton said he would not intend to expand gaming as a way to pay for a capital construction plan. He did say gaming could be used to lessen the need for an income tax increase.

We'll talk more about capital plans soon.

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Quinn Hits Business

Unmentioned in Governor Pat Quinn's budget address was what his 50% income tax hike proposal will do to Illinois business.

Here's what the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce says,

“If this plan were passed, Illinois would have the 5th highest corporate income tax rate in the nation, though we would be close to tied for second. Illinois at 9.7% would be surpassed only by Iowa at 12%, Minnesota at 9.8%, Pennsylvania at 9.99%, and DC at 9.975%. (All three of these states have graduated taxes, but the rates shown are the highest rate for that state.)

“This, in combination with lost incentives, would be one more reason for employers to look elsewhere to avoid Illinois’ long‐standing anti‐business climate.”
Since there are no mitigating increases in deductions for business taxpayers, the tax hike would be at least 50% on those who create jobs in Illinois.

Indeed, if “loopholes” are closed for business, its tax burden would increase by more than 50%.

Talk about a reason to think about leaving Illinois...

Or a reason not to expand or bring a new business to Illinois.

Posted first on McHenry County Blog, where you might be interested in reading
A $5 Billion Deficit, Plus $1 Billion a Year in New Spending Equals $11 Billion

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Quinn Tax Reform Calculator

Let's see if this will work on here.

QUINN TAX CALCULATOR

How will you be affected by Governor Quinn's Proposed Tax Reform?

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State of Illinois Governor Quinn’s Proposed Budget Summary

Source: State of Illinois FY2010 Budget Book



FY2010 General Funds Budget:


  • Revenues - $33.076 billion (after new proposed revenues)
  • Operating Expenditures - $30.662 billion
  • Pay-back short-term borrowing - $2.318 billion
  • Pay old FY2009 bills - $1.333 billion
  • Remaining FY2010 budget deficit - $1.237 billion (likely carried over to FY2011)



CLOSING THE DEFICIT



Current FY2009 deficit: $4.317 billion


  • REVENUE: New FY2009 Federal Stimulus funds: $2.155 billion
  • REVENUE: Fund sweeps: $199 million
  • CUT: Pension payments: $550 million
  • CUT: Other spending decreases: $155 million
  • INCREASE: One-time Medicaid backlog pay-down: $1.491 billion (necessary to get federal funds)

New FY2009 deficit: $2.748 billion.

The State of Illinois will borrow $2.25 billion to pay bills this year and pay it back in FY2010. That leaves $1.333 billion in bills carried over to FY2010, $835 of which was carried over to FY2009 from FY2008.



Projected FY2010 deficit: $7.289 billion

  • REVENUE: New FY2010 Federal Stimulus funds: $1.843 billion
  • REVENUE: Income and corporate income tax increase: $3.207 billion
  • REVENUE: Loophole closures, fee increases, and fund sweeps: $1.054 billion
  • CUT: Pension payments: $2.296 billion
  • CUT: Other spending decreases: $1.303 billion

New FY2009 surplus: $2.404 billion.

The State will use some of that surplus ($2.318 billion) to pay-back short-term borrowing. The rest ($97 million) will go toward paying down the $1.333 billion in bills carried over from FY2009 to FY2010.



We will be updating our information all day and in the weeks ahead as it comes out. Head on over to Wonkish.com for updates and a nifty Quinn Tax Reform calculator.

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GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - March 18, 2009

Articles of interest to Illinois Republicans recently posted by ABC7, NBC5, CBS2, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain's Chicago Business, Daily Herald, Suburban Chicago News, Suburban Life, Pioneer Local, Southtown Star, Rockford Register Star, Bloomington Pantagraph, Peoria Journal Star, Springfield State Journal Register, Belleville News Democrat, Southern Illinoisan, Illinois Review, Public Affairs, Champion News, Illinois Family Institute, Americans For Truth, Chicago Daily Observer, Tom Roeser, Capitalfax, etc. Since January 1, 2005, GOPUSA ILLINOIS has brought 43,071 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the March 18, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Share the wealth and spread the pain

By Bethany Jaeger, with Jamey Dunn and Hilary Russell contributing
The theme of Gov. Pat Quinn’s first budget proposal, which will be announced at noon Wednesday before the General Assembly, is “shared sacrifice.”



It is “a very difficult budget, but it’s an honest budget,” Jack Lavin, Quinn’s chief operating officer, said during a Springfield budget briefing tonight. “It’s an honest budget that we present the people of Illinois to address the tsunami of red ink that we are facing, but it’s one worth having — shared sacrifice, shared responsibility — to address this unprecedented budget crisis.”

The tsunami of red ink he’s talking about is the recent $11.6 billion deficit projected by the end of next fiscal year. The budget proposal needs to go through the legislative process, meaning it’s far from a done deal. For it to become law, Quinn will have to persuade lawmakers to take a series of politically tough votes.

The most controversial item would be to increase the state income tax rate on individuals and businesses. The rate levied on individuals would rise from 3 percent to 4.5 percent, while the rate applied to corporations would jump from 4.8 percent to 7.2 percent.

According to the administration, if Quinn's budget is enacted, about half of the state’s 11.3 million taxpayers would pay more in state income taxes, while the rest could pay less.

That’s partially because Quinn wants to help individuals cope with the increased rate by tripling the personal exemption from $2,000 to $6,000, which would take a chunk out of the new tax revenue. A family of four would pay no state income tax on the first $24,000 they earned.

Quinn also proposes implementing a “back-to-school sales tax holiday” for 10 days each August to help spur the economy and help families better afford everything from school supplies to gym shoes for kids.

Jerry Stermer, Quinn’s chief of staff, said the extraordinary budget scenario creates a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reform the state’s tax structure based on ability to pay. “So those who have more ability can pay more. Those who have less ability ought to be asked to pay much less. And this would bring that kind of fairness to our code.”

If the legislature didn’t enact all of Quinn’s proposals, his administration says drastic changes would occur. According to Ginger Ostro, Quinn’s budget director, if the state cut spending without raising new revenue to fill the deficit, state government would return to 2004 funding levels. The result: 800,000 people losing health care coverage, 200 state police officers laid off, 34,000 teachers laid off, per-student education funding down by $1,200 per child, and one of the state’s four veteran’s homes closed.

Highlights
State employees (Pending negotiations with public employee unions)

  • Take four furlough days (one each quarter) — $36 million saved.
  • Pay more into their health care plans (the administration offered no estimate per person) — $200 million saved.

Pension benefits
  • Maintain the “defined benefit” plan, but new employees would receive fewer benefits.
  • Employees would increase their contributions by 2 percentage points.
  • Cost-of-living adjustments would be readjusted to 50 percent of the consumer price index or 3 percent, whichever is lower.
  • Similar to the Social Security system, retirement age for new employees would be 67.
  • Employees covered by Social Security would earn 1.5 percent of their final pay per year of service. Employees not covered by Social Security would earn 2 percent.
  • Estimated savings by the new system: $162 million by 2045.

Pension funding
  • The administration would pay less than scheduled into the five public employee pension systems by $550 million this fiscal year and by nearly $2.3 billion next fiscal year.

Budget cuts
  • The $500 million in cuts implemented in FY09 would remain.
  • Across-the-board 2 percent reductions in grant programs, excluding programs for education and health care — $80 million saved.
  • Reduce some community grant amounts by 10 percent and eliminate other grants altogether.
  • Consolidate the Historic Preservation Agency into the Department of Natural Resources, reducing some administrative positions — $2.3 million saved.
  • Other cuts and efficiencies to state agencies — $390 million total saved.

Federal stimulus
  • Use about $4 billion of federal stimulus funds to plug the state deficit.
  • Use $2.9 billion in federal stimulus funds to reduce the Medicaid payment cycle to 30 days.
  • Use $2 billion to support elementary, secondary and higher education to avoid budget cuts below current FY09 levels.

Road and school construction
$26 billion plan paid for by:
  • Increase driver's license fees from $10 to $20.
  • Increase license plate fees from $79 to $99.
  • Increase vehicle registration fees from $15 to $30.
  • Increase title transfer fees from $65 to $105.
  • Use Road Fund money.
  • Shave some of the local governments’ share of tax revenues to pay for school construction.
  • No increase in motor fuel taxes.
We'll have reaction from lawmakers and policy analysts after Quinn's budget address tomorrow.

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