Friday, July 31, 2009

Governor: Budget plan won't fund the full fiscal year

By Bethany Jaeger
Gov. Pat Quinn started using his unprecedented discretion to spread around about $3.4 billion largely to prevent drastic cuts to human services, followed by health care, education and public safety programs. At the same time, he continued to outline general areas of state operations that will get cut by $1 billion total. However, he said the reductions won’t free up enough money to satisfy such spending needs as financial aid for needy college students and health care liabilities for state employees and retirees.

During a Chicago news conference Friday afternoon, the governor’s office said the revised operating budget also does nothing to address the exceptionally high $3.9 billion backlog in unpaid bills. As a result, Quinn said he will continue to urge lawmakers to consider a temporary income tax increase to get through the rest of this fiscal year when they return to the Capitol in October.


Quinn said the roughly $26.1 billion spending plan would run out of money before the fiscal year ends next June. “We are aware of the fact that we are going to come up short this fiscal year.”

The General Assembly approved the spending plan July 15, giving the governor wide discretion in spending lump sums for each state agency. Legislators also approved a $3.4 billion short-term borrowing plan to make the state’s contribution into the public employee pension system, freeing up that same amount to put towards state operations. Of that, $2.2 billion is dedicated to community-based human services, while another $1.2 billion is up to the governor to divvy out. The plan also charged the governor with cutting an additional $1 billion.

Quinn said on Friday that he decided to spread the cuts out in a way that would maximize federal matching funds, as well as federal stimulus dollars. And he said he chose to fund health-related initiatives that focus on disease prevention and that could reduce demand for more expensive services later, including home health programs that allow senior citizens to remain in their homes rather than be sent to more expensive nursing homes.

The general areas of reductions have not changed since announced last month. The administration still plans to cut $185 million from state operations. The administration already sent out layoff notices earlier this month. Some employees will lose their jobs. Others will fill vacancies. Lawmakers and executive branch workers also will have to take one furlough day a month. The administration wants unionized employees to consider such concessions, but that would require the unions to open their active contracts that provide for annual pay raises.

“Do we really need the pay raise for union employees in the coming fiscal year, given all the things that have happened in this fiscal year?” Quinn said. “That’s $125 million. If the union said, ‘Well, we’ll take a pay freeze. We understand that we don’t want to, but we’re going to do that,’ then they can help save a lot of jobs.”

The idea is strongly opposed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, the largest public employee union. Officials have met with the administration to bargain over the impact of layoffs, but they have not negotiated whether unionized employees will take furlough days, according to Anders Lindall, Council 31 spokesman.

“Should the administration make a proposal, we’re obligated to listen and prepared to do so,” he said in an e-mail. “But the height of this terrible recession is the worst possible time to reduce services to Illinois residents, whether by furlough or layoff of the frontline employees who make those services happen.”

Jerry Stermer, Quinn’s chief of staff, said frontline employees such as Department of Corrections officers will not be subject to furlough days because they would be replaced by fellow workers who would be paid for overtime. Stermer said the administration within the week would release more details about which employees would have to take unpaid days off.

Other general areas of spending reductions include grants to local agencies and governments, which would be reduced by $250 million.

Even after the cuts, the administration contends that Medicaid funding will fall $600 million short of the need, and financial aid for low-income college students will be reduced by $225 million.

“Some legislators screamed to the heavens, ‘Cut, cut, cut,’” Quinn said. “We have cut. We have cut from here to Kingdom Come. I don’t like college scholarships being cut $225 million. That’s our future.”

On the other hand, the administration does plan to put more money toward some education programs, human services and other public health and safety initiatives.

As part of the $3.4 billion borrowing scheme, Quinn must dedicate $2.2 billion to human services. Here’s how he said he would spend it:
- $1.4 billion for grants to programs that serve people with developmental disabilities, drug and alcohol addictions and mental health needs.
- $342 million for Department on Aging community care program, aimed at keeping seniors in their homes.
- $272 million for the Department of Children and Family Services for court-ordered services.
- $27 million for community adult education and GED services.
- $18 million for Chicago-area mass transit subsidies and free rides for seniors and people with disabilities.

The remaining $1.2 billion is slated to be split among programs related to health, education, disease prevention and public transportation. Some examples include:
- $300 million for Medicaid.
- $700 million for group health insurance for state employees and retirees.
- $85 million for early childhood education (brining it up to about 90 percent of last year’s funding levels). See our July 21 blog for background.
- $11 million for bilingual education (bringing it up to about 90 percent of what they were operating at before).
- $17 million for HIV/AIDS community-based programs (“pretty much full strength” funding levels compared with last year).
- $9 million for breast and cervical cancer screening programs.
- $13 million for Amtrak.

Stermer said while the new spending plan authorizes $26 billion in spending from the general revenue fund, it falls $1.4 billion short of funding services at last year’s levels and does nothing to address the $3.9 billion backlog of unpaid bills.

The cuts that are being implemented now may not be the last, he said. “We may have to make additional cuts as time goes on if we cannot make resolution with the General Assembly as to the unmet needs.”

He referred to the administration’s belief that an income tax increase will be necessary to get through the rest of the fiscal year.


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GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - July 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 49,076 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the July 31, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Transparency (and maybe some blogging) needed on the 3rd Appellate Court

The Journal Star's award-winning editorial page opines that it is concerned at how long it took for the public to learn Illinois' 3rd District Appellate Court ordered school shooter Dione Alexander freed.

But cases like Alexander's, or the one concerning former Peoria attorney Robert Becker, whose conviction on a charge of sexually assaulting a child was just thrown out for a second time by the same court, merit immediate release and scrutiny. Folks ought to be able to find out in short order who's receiving a get-out-of-jail-early card and who gets another shot in court - sometimes it's a public safety issue - even if those rulings don't set legal precedents. Unfortunately, unless a judge or a lawyer involved speaks up, that's a hit-or-miss proposition.

Sure, a reporter, blogger or curious citizen could call the court every day for months and ask whether a ruling had come down, but that's just not practical. Unlike the state Supreme Court, which puts out a list of its expected rulings and posts them online in a commendably prompt way, appellate courts don't offer advance notice.

First, I agree with the editorial and kudos for pointing this out. But I find the comment about bloggers and curious citizens calling the court on a daily basis to be illuminating.

Isn't that something beat reporters used to do? Back when a "beat reporter" was someone devoted to one beat, and wasn't whatever warm body was available when there was a story that HAD to be covered.

But yeah, it would surprise me if someone "curious citizen" decided to pick up the slack and started pestering the clerks at the appellate court.

So, I'd like to see more transparency out of the court. But this is Illinois, so that is NOT going to happen. Publishers aren't going to deploy the personnel, so it's gonna have to be citizen journalists to the rescue

Cross posted to Peoria Pundit

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UI admissions panel narrows in on recommendations

By Maureen Foertsch McKinney
The committee entrusted with evaluating the admissions process at the University of Illinois is expected to recommend that Gov. Pat Quinn at least seek the resignation of the chair of the board of trustees, Niranjan Shah, said committee member Ric Estrada today.


The admissions review committee established last month by Quinn (press release here) is expected to review a report outline tomorrow and submit its recommendations by August 7.

In early June, the Chicago Tribune reported that over a five-year period, about 800 students were admitted after scoring recommendations from such clout wielders as Shah, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and university donors. The Tribune reported that students whose names were marked in red on so-called clout lists received preferential treatment, including special consideration for admission to the law school.

According to the Tribune, documents the newspaper obtained showed that Shah in 2007 directed Chancellor Richard Herman to hire his future son-in-law Maarten de Jeu at the Champaign-Urbana campus.

In testimony before the committee last week, as reported by the Tribune, Shah acknowledged that he intervened on a relative’s behalf when she forgot to apply to an honors program at the Champaign-Urbana campus.

Shah could not be reached for comment today.

Meanwhile, with his resignation Tuesday, University of Illinois trustee Lawrence Eppley joined mounting calls for the board step down.

Commission Chairman Abner Mikva, a former federal judge, told WGN radio in Chicago that he supports the mass resignation of the board. “I think the best thing that could happen, as far as the state and the governor, is if all of them would submit their resignations and he would decide which, if any, he would keep.”

Retired presidents James Stukel and Stanley Ikenberry earlier this week also told the panel they would support replacement of the current board, while current President B. Joseph White called the situation a “crisis” for his campus.

According to the Tribune, Eppley, a Chicago-based attorney, played a greater role in admissions requests than other trustees. Eppley also served as Blagojevich’s intermediary in cases that included “one in which a relative of political fundraiser Antoin ‘Tony’ Rezko’s had his rejection overturned following Eppley’s involvement,’’ the Tribune reported.

Then-Gov. George Ryan appointed Eppley to the board in 2001, and he was elevated to chair in 2003 by Blagojevich. His term would have expired in 2003.

“I thank him for his years of service and wish him well,’’ Quinn said in a statement announcing Eppley’s resignation.

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GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - July 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 49,028 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the July 30, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com . Thanks

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tribune Giving Jack Franks No Respect

by Cal Skinner

I mentioned that the Chicago Tribune's coverage of the Democratic Party primary for governor ignored McHenry County State Rep. Jack Franks in its Saturday article.

Being ignored is the cruelest thing a paper can do to a politician.

As I was reading my Tribune Monday, I noticed that political reporter Rick Pearson continues the trend.

It's a story about U.S. Senator Dick Durbin staying neutral in a race between appointed Governor Pat Quinn and State Comptroller Dan Hynes.

Not a word about Franks' ambition.

Perhaps our McHenry County Democrat should concentrate on lieutenant governor, state treasurer or state comptroller, none of which have incumbents running for re-election. That was my suggestion July 9th.

After I finished writing this article yesterday afternoon, I heard Franks quoted on WBEZ, public radio in Chicago, on the way to McHenry County College's tax hike preparation meeting. That's St. Louis' tax hike specialist's Unicom-ARC latest Northern Illinois project.

He said he was willing to go on the offensive against both Quinn and Hynes.

Posted first at McHenry County Blog.

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GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - July 29, 2009

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - July 28, 2009

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Monday, July 27, 2009

July 27, 2009

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bob Kaempfe Challenging Mike Tryon for State Representative Again

“Are you running for state rep. again?” I asked.

“Yes, I am,” Crystal Lake's Robert Kaempfe replied.

“I'm going to start gathering signatures at the County Fair.”

For the second election in a row, Kaempfe will be challenging Republican incumbent Mike Tryon, also of Crystal Lake.

Even though Kaempfe drew more votes in the Democratic Party primary election than Tryon did in the GOP contest, he did not in the fall, losing 61%-39%.

“If somebody is running unopposed, you do not have a choice. At the very least I'm giving the constituents in the 64th district a choice.

“Whether they take or not is up to them, but I'm giving them a choice.”

“What issues are you going to stress?” was my next question.

“First of all, I don't like lobbyists. Exelon Corporation, Tryon's got money from Exelon a couple of different times. Is Exelon Corporation really, really looking out for the interests of the common citizen?

“No.”

“So you're not going to take money from lobbyists?" I asked.

“I would take money from unions.”

“Why?”

“Because they are, in fact, representing the working families. They are trying to keep good paying jobs for the average workers," Kaempfe replied.

“The big money lobbyists have one thing in mind, money, greed, that's their bottom line.”

“Other issues?”

“Green energy. That's where the entire planet has to go. One of the ideas I had and Mike kind of pooh-poohed it last time around, was to pass a bill that with any new construction in the state, estimate the energy it would use and the bill would be that the new house has to produce about 30% of its own green energy--solar, wind, geothermal or a combination of them."

Last year Kaempfe used his installation of solar panels to lead by example.

“With geothermal you only have to go down about eight feet. You dig the foundation level a little deeper and out a little more to put the grid down.

“Another idea I had, at the end of Coventry Lane, there's a waste water treatment plant.

“Every notice that standpipe they out there? It has a flame on top. It's burning off methane, a natural byproduct of the process.

“This is real simple. If absolutely nothing else, compress the methane into tanks all spring, summer and fall and you use it to heat the waste water treatment plant during the winter.”

“How is that a state issue?” I asked.

“It is for Crystal Lake.

“Every city, no matter where it is, has methane that could be used to help heat the waste water treatment plant. It would save money.

“The bill there would be, if you have a waste water treatment plant, you save the methane and use it to heat your waste water treatment plant.

“All the state legislators get earmarks. Instead of making massive cuts on community services, how about hold off the earmarks?

“Didn't Algonquin Township get almost a half a million dollars?

“I think that money could have been better spent, if he had to have earmarks, on PADs or Pioneer Center, where people really, really need it.

“I'm just trying to look out for the average person.

“How about all the elected state officials? To show we're on the side of the people, we'll take a voluntary ten percent pay cut.

“Why not? They're making good money.

“Why not take a pay cut?”

= = = = =
State Rep. candidate Bob Kaempfe is seen addressing the crowd at Stage Left in Woodstock in the top photo. He poses with State Rep. Mike Tryon at McHenry County College's Shaw Center at State Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago) health care hearing last summer below.

Posted first at McHenry County Blog.

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GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - July 26, 2009

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - July 25, 2009

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Friday, July 24, 2009

GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - July 24, 2009

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - July 23, 2009

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - July 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 48,666 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the July 22, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Education cuts "rough" this year, worse next year

By Bethany Jaeger
Grant-funded education initiatives ranging from after-school programs to gifted education were “zeroed out” in a $7.2 billion budget adopted today by the Illinois State Board of Education.

The budget relies on about $362 million in cuts. It would have been worse without about $2 billion in federal stimulus funds, which won’t be available next fiscal year.

“This is a rough year. Next year could be a catastrophic year,” said Jesse Ruiz, chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education, which met in Springfield today for an emergency meeting to enact the fiscal year 2010 budget.


Next fiscal year, the board anticipates having to cut an additional $1 billion “just to tread water” and maintain this year’s funding levels, even with 25 percent to 100 percent reductions for education-related grants, said state superintendent Christopher Koch.

The cuts are the result of a $26 billion state operating budget enacted last week. The General Assembly relied on $3.5 billion in short-term borrowing. While much of that money is earmarked to helping prevent more severe reductions in grants to community-based services, none of it so far has been dedicated to education-related grants.

For instance, agricultural education was cut in half. Early childhood education programs were reduced by a third. Bilingual education lost funding by a quarter. And $3 million for homeless education programs was eliminated, but the board said federal stimulus dollars will cover some costs this fiscal year. As we wrote about in Illinois Issues magazine this spring, the number of homeless youth is increasing while funding has failed to keep pace for years.

When deciding how to spread the pain, the board chose to fully fund general state aid and so-called mandated categoricals, which cover special education and transportation costs. The minimum amount of state aid provided for each student increased by $160, bringing the so-called foundation level up to $6,119.

Board member Joyce Karon said fully funding general state aid and mandated categoricals accomplishes two goals: It spreads the money around to reach as many students as possible and grants the most flexibility to local school districts.

The board also avoided cutting programs or line items that would leverage significant amounts of federal matching funds. If the board decreased funding for certain programs, it would fail to satisfy federal requirements to maintain past funding levels, added Linda Mitchell, the board’s chief financial officer.

“The budget passed by the General Assembly gave the board a lot of discretion, and that means gave the board a lot of difficult choices — a lot of ‘Sophie’s Choices’ of which children and which programs,” Mitchell said.

Ruiz added that the General Assembly again is mandating that districts provide such services as bilingual education but it is not approving the necessary funding. “We are just in essence putting the burden on local districts to somehow find the means and putting more stress on them,” he said. “And we can’t, as regulators in that regard, let them off the hook. Yet, we’re kind of passing the buck.”

On multiple occasions he reminded more than two-dozen advocates in attendance that the new budget has a political context: Incumbents and candidates will be campaigning throughout the state as they prepare for the 2010 elections. He said this year’s budget process, while disheartening, should energize advocates to pressure politicians to explain why they rejected revenue increases.

“Before you give them a check and a dime, challenge them and ask them how they’d invest in education in the future,” he said. “And I don’t want platitudes. I want specific plans. And make sure how they’re going to balance it all.”

He continued: “We need to become very, very, very discriminating consumers of our public officials. And I for one would raise the benchmark in my level of scrutiny in that regard. Keep your dollars in your pocket. Give to a school before you give it to a candidate.”

One advocate was Linda Drust, Williamson County Early Childhood Cooperative executive director. She said the 33 percent reduction to early childhood block grants would mean that her organization, which serves five school districts in southern Illinois, would go from serving 600 at-risk children to 400. She said she did not have alternative funding sources.

One wild card is whether Gov. Pat Quinn will use some of his discretion in a limited amount of money left over to fund such grants as early childhood education. The short-term borrowing scheme approved as part of the fiscal year 2010 budget deal allotted $2.3 billion to community-based human services and left $1.3 billion for him to spend as he chooses.

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GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - July 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 48,610 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the July 21, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Jack Franks Meets with the Mayor

Yesterday, I wrote about McHenry County Democrat State Rep. Jack Frank's Friday.

Franks rolled out evidence of spending big bucks in his campaign disclosure. Look at the contributions' side of Franks' D-2. No contribution limits yet, remember.

The display of ready cash coming in big chunks should make second tier Democrats contemplating a statewide race (like Julie Hamos) give new respect to the resources Franks can bring to the table on behalf of his political ambitions.

Even first tier candidates like State Comptroller Dan Hynes probably does not have the family money to match Franks'.

What's Franks interested in?

My guesses are here.

He told the Northwest Herald he was interested in running for governor and, I guess, Franks could play the role that Mike Howlett took when Chicago ward bosses threw everything into defeating self-styled reform Democrat Dan Walker in 1976.

Franks has never portrayed himself as an organization guy, even as he has taken money from every union he could tap, including teachers' unions.

Not only did Franks display his financial resources Friday, but he was on WTTW's Chicago Tonight again.

And that wasn't all that happened.

The McHenry County Democrat was granted a face-to-face with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

My guess is that in their heart of hearts that they are pretty close in political views.

The political arena in Chicago has, of course, resulted in Daley moving left.

Franks has shown similar leftward movement on abortion and gun control during the past year. But on abortion, at least, he backed off.

It will be interesting to see how Franks will modify his stands as he moves from conservative McHenry County to the liberal electorate that rules statewide Democratic primary elections.

No one would suggest those who control the Democratic Party statewide are not composed of tax eaters.

I can't wait to see how they will react to Franks' current opposition to an income tax hike.

Published first on McHenry County Blog, where there is information about Jack Franks you won't find anywhere else.

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GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - July 20, 2009

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - July 19, 2009

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - July 18, 2009

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Friday, July 17, 2009

GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - July 17, 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 48,491 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the July 17, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

FutureGen on track to a 2010 decision

By Bethany Jaeger and Jamey Dunn
The east-central Illinois’ site for the first-of-its-kind, cleaner-burning power plant meets all environmental standards needed for FutureGen to continue, according to a recent decision by the federal government.

The U.S. Department on Energy issued a formal opinion called a record of decision, one regulatory step needed for the public-private partnership to move forward. Any small step forward is a big relief for a group of investors, as well as state and local officials, who have worked since at least 2004 to secure support of the technology called fully integrated carbon capture and sequestration. Simply, it would capture carbon dioxide pollutants and trap them underground. The goal is to capture 90 percent of the carbon emissions by the third year of a five-year test period, according to the record of decision.

The entire project and design of the Mattoon plant stalled in January 2008, when former President George Bush’s administration pulled support because of concerns about growing costs and increasing risks to taxpayers. A federal report by the Government Accountability Office, however, later indicated accounting errors overestimated the cost by $500 million.

The Mattoon site and the project were revived last month when U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu of President Barack Obama’s administration committed to working toward constructing FutureGen in Mattoon and contributing $1.073 billion, $1 billion of which is expected to come from the federal stimulus package. Including the cost of materials, recent estimates have said the total price tag could exceed $2 billion.

A group of investors and energy industry stakeholders called FutureGen Alliance would have to foot at least $400 million to $600 million of the remaining costs. The goal was for at least 20 partners to contribute a total of $20 million throughout the next four to six years.

But two partners recently dropped out of the alliance, reducing membership to nine. American Electric Power Co. and Southern Co. cited concerns about costs. Steve Higginbottom, spokesman for Southern Co., added that the company pulled out to focus on other technology research being conducted by the government and industry partners. The uncertainty of FutureGen also contributed, he said, but added: “We’re supportive of the FutureGen project. We think it has the potential to lead to some developments.”

The state’s involvement has included the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which now will contribute to more behind-the-scenes work, said Marcelyn Love, agency spokeswoman. That will include helping to prepare the final design and the site layout. “But we will continue to do whatever is needed to ensure that FutureGen can become a reality,” she said.


Illinois' recent enactment of a capital construction program includes $17 million, which Love said is intended to help pay for site development or construction.

The next stages in the project will start at the end of this month and continue through early 2010. The U.S. Energy Department listed the following steps:
  • Restart preliminary design activities.
  • Complete a site-specific preliminary design and update the cost estimate.
  • Expand the alliance sponsorship program.
  • Develop a complete funding plan.
  • Consider adding “subsurface characterization.”
A decision about whether to discontinue the project is expected by early 2010.

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Matteson Moves in Wrong Direction

The SouthtownStar reports that the wife of Matteson Mayor Andre Ashmore has been promoted and given a raise by the village of Matteson.

The mayor claims that "We have nothing to hide," but this promotion of a spouse is still an embarrassment for Matteson and the South Suburbs. It signals that politics as usual is still alive and casts a pall over Ashmore's leadership. This single act demonstrates that the corrosive system of patronage and reserving jobs for family members has spread from Chicago, infecting the Southland and poisoning our politics.

Mayor Ashmore hints that his wife is qualified "and maintained he had nothing to do with his wife landing a new job." Even if this was true, it's hardly a credible claim.

So why even try to make it?

Giving a job to your spouse is never going to look legitimate. Especially not in Illinois. Toni Ashmore will forever be tainted as the woman whose husband is the mayor. And she will have to live with the whispers that, if not for her husband, she wouldn't have gotten the job. Regardless of how talented or deserving she is.

Ethics are not the standards we have in good times, but the standards we hold unto when we are tested. Both Toni and Andre have been tested here, and they have come up short. Both have exhibited a lack of sound political judgment. Both have settled for the decaying political culture that has driven Illinois to the depths where we currently reside.

The Ashmore example stands in stark contrast to the example provided by President Barack Obama. Obama's message of change is being translated into moving the country forward. Ashmore's message of nepotism harkens back to the old corrupt system of patronage that has basically ruined Illinois. And it tells us that the connection between Rod Blagojevich and the Ashmores is stronger than we realized.

This is no small matter. Trying to bring good, honest government to the South Suburbs will undoubtedly be difficult. And we have to keep our eyes upon the fresh young faces that emerge, looking for evidence that this is their intention. It appears that Mayor Ashmore is looking more to Mayor Daley as a model than to Barack Obama. And that's a shame...

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GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - July 16, 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 48,436 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the July 8, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Budget deal reached but only builds a bridge

By Bethany Jaeger, with Jamey Dunn and Hilary Russell contributing
The state now has an operating budget in place, although the legislature likely will have to address a remaining $4 billion to $5 billion deficit later this year or early next year. Gov. Pat Quinn enacted the 12-month spending plan soon after it won approval by the General Assembly Wednesday night.

Numerous legislators described the package as less than ideal, the least bad option or a bridge to buy time until lawmakers agree on alternative revenue sources and long-term reforms. Instead of generating new revenue through a state income tax, the spending plan relies on various forms of borrowing and debt instruments.


Several lawmakers echoed the sentiments of House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie: “We have run out of options,” just as state workers and agencies have “run out of time.”

The governor signed the spending portion of the bill (Senate Bill 1216) late Wednesday night, which will allow the comptroller’s office to issue hard copies of paychecks to 5,000 to 6,000 state employees Thursday, said Carol Knowles, spokeswoman for the comptroller.

Human service agencies are in a less certain position. While community-based providers received some assurance of state support, the governor will have wide discretion when deciding how to divvy out limited remaining funds and where to further reduce spending.

The budget deal primarily relies on borrowing to pay public employee pensions, borrowing from state agencies and essentially borrowing from Medicaid providers that don’t receive federal stimulus funds because the payment cycle is likely to lengthen.

Sen. Donne Trotter, a Chicago Democrat and budget negotiator for his caucus, said, “It’s not the best deal, but it will keep us going until we can really sit down and get a grasp on how we’re going to change doing business here in the state of Illinois.”

Even Rep. Bill Black, a Danville Republican, who berated the recent budget-making process as primarily behind closed doors and inadequate for essential state services, ended up voting for the bill that he disliked. “Because there is no alternative,” he said afterward.

Spending = SB 1216
Grant-funded services will receive an average of 86 percent of the funding level originally sought by the governor, while much of state government operations will receive about the same level as last fiscal year.

The Illinois Department of Transportation will get some extra money to hire engineers who will handle the increased workload generated by the federal stimulus package and state’s $31 billion capital construction program recently enacted.

Cost-cutting measures (included in the BIMP) = SB 1912
There will be significant cuts, but the legislature left it up to the governor to decide when and where. Quinn also will have authority to take “administrative charge backs,” which basically are loans from state agencies that the state has to repay.

Members of the executive branch and of the General Assembly will have to take 12 unpaid days off, which amounts to about 4.5 percent of legislators’ annual salaries and stipends, according to Rep. Frank Mautino, assistant majority leader from Spring Valley. The governor also said he hopes to negotiate furlough days with unionized employees to avert the need for layoffs as large as 2,600 workers.

The governor now has authority to ask agencies to reserve a percentage of their funding in an attempt to save an additional $1.1 billion (on top of the $1 billion he’s already supposed to cut). He would have a rare range of flexibility in deciding how to cut that $1.1 billion.

“There is a check on it, but it’s a much greater latitude than anyone’s ever had, the first year of [former Gov. Rod] Blagojevich included,” Mautino said. If Quinn if were to lower a service provider’s payment rate or raise co-payment amounts for people enrolled in state-sponsored programs, then he would have to go first get approval from the legislative panel called the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules.

The governor won’t need that committee’s approval to tell state agencies to reserve a percentage of their funds to, say, hold the line on travel costs. To close a prison or other state facility, he would still have to go through a public review process of another legislative panel, the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability.

Elementary and secondary schools will receive about $161 more in general state aid per student than they received last year, but that’s less than the governor originally planned. Mautino said the hope among some lawmakers is that he’ll put more of his discretionary spending money into grants for early childhood education and other education-related programs.

Borrowing = SB 1292
One of the main revenue sources that prevented the need for deeper cuts is a short-term borrowing scheme that increased to about $3.5 billion. Of that, $2.2 billion will go to community-based human services. The governor will have wide discretion in spending the remaining $1.2 billion.

Rep. Patricia Bellock, a Hinsdale Republican, said such groups as substance abuse providers fear that their funding will remain cut because their services are not matched by federal Medicaid reimbursements. Currie said during floor debate that the governor would have discretion to shift money to those services.

The borrowing scheme received mixed reactions. “This is one of the only cards we have left on the table,” said Rep. Kevin McCarthy, an Orland Park Democrat.

“We are not acting prudently,” said Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat. “This will not balance the budget. Let’s not kid ourselves. This is only smoke and mirrors.”

Rep. Dave Winters, a Shirland Republican, added that borrowing this year would automatically create a budget hole next year because it’s a one-time revenue source that will have to be repaid by about $750 million a year. Sen. Bill Brady, a Republican from Bloomington, said that the budget sets the state up to fall off of a “financial cliff” next year because it relies on short-term borrowing and stimulus funds that will not be available in the future.

What’s not in the budget?
What the budget deal will not do is address the state’s multibillion-dollar backlog of unpaid bills. In fact, the spending plan might even create longer payment delays for providers that don’t receive extra federal stimulus funds for Medicaid reimbursements.

The state will maintain payment cycles for providers such as hospitals that capture extra federal stimulus funds. That does not include pharmacists or some grant-funded human services, however.

Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, an Evanston Democrat, said the longer-term structural deficit will continue to plague state-funded services. “One thing that we’ll know with absolute certainty is that all of the hospitals, nursing homes and community-based health and human service providers will continue to experience severe cash flow problems,” particularly as the economic downturn makes it harder for them to access lines of credit, said Schoenberg, who said he’s working on two backup proposals if the borrowing schemes don’t pan out as hoped.

What’s next?
The legislature adjourned without a date certain to return, although the annual fall “veto session” is scheduled to start October 14.

When the legislature comes back, it’ll have an opportunity to reassess whether the revenue outlook improved from the economic stimulus and state construction programs. And when crafting next year’s budget, they won’t have to tackle as large of a pension payment ($4 billion topped a ramped-up payment schedule this year).

But Senate President John Cullerton said the state won’t be able to borrow its way through another year and that a tax increase is “inevitable.” “Now you see why we need the tax increase, if for no other reason than to pay [bills] instead of borrowing.”

Chicago Democrat Sen. James Meeks, longtime advocate for an income tax increase similar to House Bill 174 that the Senate approved in May, was absent from the floor during the vote. Meeks has campaigned for the income tax increase because he said it would provide property tax relief and create more equitable funding for education. Earlier in the day, Meeks said: “You either borrow or you vote for revenue. So since I voted for revenue, I’m not voting for borrowing.”


Budget bills
FYI: These are the five bills the governor signed Wednesday night (the links might take a little bit longer to work):
  • SB 1216 = spending bill
  • SB 1292 = bonding bill ($3.5 billion)
  • SB 1912 = budget implementation bill (with cost-cutting measures)
  • SB 1433 = fund sweeps
  • HB 2206 = designates state and federal funds (link not available, yet)

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Whitney for Governor in 2010

It appears that Rich Whitney, the Green Party's candidate for Illinois Governor in 2006, is preparing to announce a run for Illinois Governor in 2010. Whitney garnered more than 10% of the total vote in the previous election, making the Green Party one of only three statewide legally established political parties in the state.

Whitney recently posted the following message on his website, suggesting that the news will come as early as this weekend:

In recent months, many people have asked me whether I intend to run for governor again, usually adding, 'you should have won last time,' and encouraging me to run in 2010. I thank all of you for your kind and supportive comments.

It is painfully clear that Illinois needs a genuine change of leadership in Springfield, from a party that represents the people. Please watch this space on July 15-16, 2009, as a major announcement regarding my future plans will appear at that time. Meanwhile, I encourage supporters to also visit the website of the Illinois Green Party, at www.ilgp.org, and please JOIN our Party, and, if possible, come to our upcoming State Party meeting in Champaign, July 17-19.

Doug Finke, at the State Journal-Register, previously reported that Whitney will make the announcement today, on Wednesday, July 15.

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GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - July 15, 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 48,378 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the July 15, 009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Expect ILGA action on Burr Oak this week

By Jamey Dunn
Public outcry and personal tragedy spurred quick reaction to a Chicago-area cemetery scandal.

Investigators revealed last week that bodies buried in Burr Oak, a historic African-American cemetery in Alsip, were moved and dumped into a mass grave in an apparent scheme to resell individual gravesites. Four cemetery employees have been charged in connection with the scam.

Rep. Monique Davis, a Chicago Democrat whose district includes Burr Oak, said that as early as tomorrow, the General Assembly could consider legislation intended to address regulatory gaps exposed by the crimes. “I think emergency legislation is surely needed,” she said.

The measure is part of a joint effort from area legislators, Comptroller Dan Hynes, Gov. Pat Quinn, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. It is expected to include:

  1. Licensing requirements for cemetery owners and staff that would be overseen by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
  2. Cemetery maintenance and record-keeping standards.
  3. Increased criminal penalties for disturbing a grave site, which already is a felony.
  4. Recourse for families to seek financial compensation if their relatives’ graves were affected by the Burr Oak scandal.

Legislators voiced concern that other cemeteries in Illinois might have severe maintenance problems and called on citizens to report any suspicious activities or neglect to local authorities.

Citizens will soon have a forum to air their concerns. A task force originally created to address collapse of the state’s pre-need funeral trust also will look into potential reforms of cemetery regulation and licensing. Rep. Dan Brady, a Bloomington Republican and licensed funeral director, said hearings could start by the end of the month and would allow victims of the Burr Oak scheme, law enforcement officials and industry insiders to testify and to offer input on possible reforms.

Sen. Donne Trotter, a Chicago Democrat who said he has 27 family members buried at Burr Oak, said it could be difficult for lawmakers to address such an emotionally raw issue that has personally affected many among their ranks. “There are no easy answers,” he said. “There can’t be — ’cause who would have thought?”

As for the four charged with disturbing graves at Burr Oak, Trotter added: “There’s not a jail cell or holding that’s cruel enough. There’s not a hell hot enough for these individuals to go to.”

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12-month budget deal within reach

By Bethany Jaeger, with Jamey Dunn contributing
The top four legislative leaders and the governor have a general agreement to work toward a full 12-month budget, as opposed to a partial-year budget that would last only five months, without raising income taxes.

But even with a general agreement, the state still is likely to face a deficit that the legislature would have to address this fall or winter, possibly during its annual fall “veto” session. The size of that deficit, however, is still unknown or, at least, debatable. The governor’s most recent estimate is a $9.2 billion gap in revenues versus spending.

The leaders met twice with the governor Tuesday. Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno said after the second meeting that while the state would still have a massive backlog of unpaid bills, the revenue outlook could improve with activity from the federal stimulus package, the statewide construction program enacted Monday and other longer-term reforms to Medicaid and pension liabilities sought by Republicans. “So we have to wait and see how the reforms and how the stimulus elements come together, and that may improve our revenue position,” she said. “I don’t know that. But I do know, as of tonight, we should avoid having a meltdown in state government.”

Not all were so sure. “They’re close," said Rep. Art Turner, a Chicago Democrat, "but … close counts in horseshoes. This is politics. We still haven’t gotten there, yet.”

The new fiscal year started July 1. Layoff notices to state employees went out July 7. Numerous human services providers that get state funding have reduced programs and laid off their own employees because their shoestring budgets can’t survive without knowing when they would receive their next state payments.

The general agreement among legislative leaders includes enacting a 12-month budget that relies on revenue from refinancing state debt (Senate Bill 1609, which already was enacted), sweeping dedicated funds (SB 1433) and borrowing more money. The short-term borrowing scheme has changed from its original version. Instead of floating $2.2 billion in bonds, the state would float $3.6 billion. The governor also would still have to cut an additional $1 billion in spending. The legislature would give him wide discretion to cut as he saw fit.

The short-term borrowing would help the state make its $4 billion payment into the public employee pension system this fiscal year. Borrowing would free up money that would be used to prevent severe cuts to community-based services. While numbers vary, one estimate by a House Democrat is that the new budget deal could result in service providers receiving about a 13 percent cut, as opposed to a 50 percent cut, as previously approved. The governor vetoed that measure (SB 1197).

Human services

So instead of the so-called 50 percent budget for human services, providers would get about 87 percent of what they received in state support last fiscal year.

“We’re getting very close to what [the governor] was looking for,” said House Minority Leader Tom Cross. But, he added, the situation has been painted as more severe than it needed to be. “I think the approach a month ago was to attempt to scare legislators into a tax increase. I didn’t think that was a good approach,” Cross said. “I think at the end of the day, [cuts to human services] will not be nearly as severely as the governor portrayed six weeks ago.”

Both Republican leaders and Senate President John Cullerton added that state employees and service providers now need reassurance that they’ll still get paid. “Unfortunately, some people come to believe that they’re going to be shut down, that their not-for-profit agencies are not going to be able to operate,” Cullerton said. “And that’s been unfortunate because that was never the case, never had to be the case.”

Under the new version of a budget deal, about $2.2 billion of the short-term borrowing scheme would benefit human services. Quinn would be able to decide how to spend the additional $1.3 billion that the legislature is expected to add to the borrowing scheme Wednesday.

Income tax update

An income tax increase temporarily is off the table. Quinn recently said he would delay his campaign for a tax increase until the fall or winter. Fewer votes would be needed in January. And some legislators have requested the governor “tone down the rhetoric” for the next few months, which would allow them to find out whether they face serious opponents in the 2010 elections before being called to vote on a tax increase.

But the idea of a tax hike still has support, particularly among Senate Democrats. “It’s not dead,” said Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat. “It may be on pause, but it’s definitely not dead.” Sooner or later, he added, state government will have to have a “revenue infusion” to keep operating.

Cullerton gave a sneak peak into his campaign for a tax increase when he seeks support from Republicans. He said if the legislature had approved an income tax increase this year, the state could have used the revenue to pay its backlogged bills rather than borrowing money to do so. “That would be a conservative, responsible response to a fiscal crisis,” he said. “That’s what our income tax increase could be characterized as.”

After spending most of the day in closed-door meetings, some legislators headed to the Major League Baseball All Star baseball game in St. Louis, where President Barack Obama was scheduled to toss the ceremonial opening pitch.

The legislative leaders are scheduled to meet again at 11 a.m. Wednesday. And they expect to take action on parts of the budget deal as early as Wednesday afternoon.

AFSCME lawsuit

If things fall into place tomorrow, then some groups of state workers would be paid up to a few days late. In an attempt to ensure that state workers continue to get paid if things fall apart and a budget is not in place, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 filed a lawsuit today in St. Clair County.

The union made a similar move in 2007 when the legislature failed to produce a budget by the end of the fiscal year. AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall said, “Unfortunately, we’re in the same boat.” The lawsuit would apply to all state employees.

“The fundamental legal principles are the same for any state employee,” Lindall said. “If you work, you are entitled to be paid in full and on time for that work.” He added that if lawmakers can agree on a budget in the next few days, the suit would not be necessary.

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GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - July 14, 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 48,321 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the July 14, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Ready, set, shovel

By Bethany Jaeger
Shovels could break ground within a few weeks as the state signs contracts for new road construction jobs. Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law a capital spending plan that his office said would create or retain as many as 439,000 jobs throughout the next six years.

“By advancing this now, we can still have an impact during this construction season. We should not let a minute go to waste,” Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno said in a statement. At a bill-signing ceremony in Chicago Monday afternoon, she added: “These last several years, successes in Illinois government have been few and far between. But what we have here today is a major success. It’s a beautiful thing.”


Trade group members are on the edge of their seats waiting for projects to start, according to Beth Tatro, director of external programs the Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association based in Itasca. “We’re at the point right now where our companies are starving,” she said. “This has been an early Christmas present.”

But time is tight for projects to begin this month. Engineers have to design the work, the department has to seek bids for contracts to do the work and then they’ll start building. “If the project is already on the shelf, as soon as we get the money, we can build them,” Tatro said. If some of the projects were designed three years ago, engineers might have to review the plans and adjust the costs.

According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, about $448 million in highway projects already have been let. And an additional $310 million would be obligated for highway projects this fiscal year. The distribution of money for downstate mass transit projects, however, has not yet been decided, according to the department.

In addition to improving transportation-related infrastructure such as roads, bridges and mass transit, the $31 billion capital plan will finance projects that build new schools, make schools and homes more energy efficient and support vocational and early childhood facilities. Environmental and economic development projects also are slated to help clean up contaminated sites, deploy broadband Internet technologies, support jobs in economically depressed areas and help build affordable housing units for veterans and people with disabilities. Another goal is to expand high-speed rail between Chicago and St. Louis.

The capital plan, however, does not mean the state has an operating budget. The lack of a state operating budget for the fiscal year that started July 1 has led to ongoing layoffs and service reductions for community service agencies. Without a spending plan in place this week, some state employees could not receive their full paychecks on time.

The governor indicated last Friday that he would postpone his campaign to enact a temporary income tax hike until this fall, which would allow incumbent legislators to know whether they have serious primary election challengers in 2010. Quinn also indicated last week that he would, despite early opposition, consider a five-month budget to at least keep the state operating until the legislature returns for its annual fall session in November.

The legislature will return to the Capitol Tuesday afternoon. Legislative leaders are scheduled to meet with the governor Tuesday morning.


“The General Assembly must pass a balanced budget that makes essential cuts and cost efficiencies, while also providing for our most vulnerable and needy residents,” Quinn said in a statement Monday.

The governor previously said he would not sign the capital plan into law without an operating budget on his desk because without it, bond rating agencies were likely to downgrade the state’s bond status, which would make it more expensive for the state to borrow.

Financing the statewide construction program
The flow of revenue to pay for projects outlined in the program, Illinois Jobs Now!, comes from a variety of fee increases and gaming expansions. Driving-related fees for vehicle titles, license plates and drivers’ licenses combine with expanded sales taxes on candy, some tea and coffee drinks, hygiene products and wine and beer.

The revenue bill is House Bill 255.
The spending bill is HB 312.
The bonding bill is HB 2400.

The state would garner 80 percent of the revenue generated by new sales taxes on candy and grooming products, which will include soaps, shampoo, toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorants and suntan lotions and sunscreens that don’t require prescriptions.

A more controversial and, potentially, legally challenging revenue source would be the legalization of video poker in places that serve alcohol. Numerous bars, clubs and riverboats throughout the state already have video poker machines, but hundreds illegally pay winners under-the-table. The new state law would legalize the payouts and then tax the profits, generating up to $300 million a year once fully implemented, according to the governor’s office.

Supporters, including coin machine operators and beverage and hospitality associations, said it’s a voluntary tax that averts the need to raise other general state taxes to pay for critical construction projects. Opponents have said video poker increases the likelihood of gambling addictions and social problems that go along with them. A portion of the revenue will go to gambling addiction services.

Each restaurant, bar, veterans’ hall, truck stop would be stripped of existing machines and would have to install up to five standardized machines that would be connected to and regulated by state gaming authorities. But before they could install the machines, the county or municipality would first have to submit the question of whether to allow legalized video poker to voters. A majority of voters would have to say OK.

The new law also allows the state to partner with a private management firm to run the Illinois Lottery, although the state would still own and maintain control of the asset. And Illinois could start a pilot project for up to four years to allow people 18 and older to buy Lotto and Mega Million lottery tickets online, mainly in an effort to target people who don’t often play the lottery. But the pilot program would first need federal approval from the U.S. Department of Justice. The University of Illinois will conduct a study about the effect of families buying lottery tickets in a report due to the state in January 2011.

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GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - July 13, 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 48,287 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the July 13, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - July 12, 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 48,261 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the July 12, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - July 11, 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 48,219 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the July 11, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Friday, July 10, 2009

GOPUSA ILLINOIS 7/10/09 EXTRA -- KIRK V. MCKENNA?

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 48,189 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the July 10, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Burris: No longer in the running

By Bethany Jaeger
No Lisa Madigan. No Roland Burris. The race to be the next U.S. senator from Illinois just narrowed to a more classic competition. The seat has gained national attention for its previous occupant, President Barack Obama.

Madigan, the Illinois attorney general, announced yesterday and Burris announced today that they opted not run in 2010.

“It’s an open seat, and the focus is more going to be more on national issues than would have been the case if Burris were running or if Lisa Madigan essentially would have cleared the field,” said Kent Redfield, political scientist at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

If Madigan would have run, Redfield said she would have been the Democrats’ strongest candidate. “Her not running is a minus for the Democrats, but Burris not running is certainly a plus. There’s no question about that.”


Burris never shed the cloud that hovered over his appointment by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The then-governor had just been arrested on federal corruption charges, accused of trying to personally profit from his powers to appoint the state’s next senator. Early polling of 644 likely voters showed that just 5.3 percent of respondents supported Burris as a candidate for a full term. Numerous Illinois officials, including U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and then-Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, urged Burris step down. Burris wouldn’t budge. His ambitious style came through in, "Always in the running," our profile of him in Illinois Issues magazine.

Burris said today during a Chicago news conference that fundraising had a lot to do with his decision not to run in 2010. Here’s an excerpt of his announcement:

Life is about choices. Make no mistake, I love serving in the United States Senate. I love serving the people of Illinois, make no mistake.

I’m the only African-American serving in the Senate, and I believe that diversity and representation of all segments of our society is essential to who we are as a nation.

The reality of being a U.S. senator today [is that it] requires not only a significant time commitment to performing the job, but an almost equal commitment to raising funds to run competitively for the office.

Political races have become far too expensive in this country.

I was called to choose between spending my time raising funds or spending my time raising issues for my state. The people … should always come first.

The chronicles of Burris’ statements about whether he spoke to Blagojevich, Blagojevich’s brother or Blagojevich’s inner circle was the never-ending story. First he testified to an Illinois House committee that was investigating cause for the governor's impeachment. He said he only spoke with Lon Monk, Blagojevich’s former chief of staff. Then Burris revealed in a follow-up affidavit that he also spoke with the governor’s brother, as well as three insiders: Doug Scofield, John Wyma and former Deputy Gov. John Harris, who just pleaded guilty to wire fraud in the ongoing Blagojevich corruption case.

Burris most recently avoided perjury charges in Sangamon County, where State’s Attorney John Schmidt said Burris’s statements might have been vague, but there’s no proof that he intentionally mislead the Illinois House committee. Burris still faces a probe by the U.S. Senate.

His bow out of the 2010 election eliminated an easy target for the GOP, Redfield said. “It kind of takes Burris and Blagojevich out of the Senate race.”

Now, likely candidates are taking shape. On the Democratic side, they include state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. Redfield says he has the advantage of being the only candidate so far who has run a statewide race before. He also has a significant campaign kitty, with reportedly more than $1 million raised for his potential Senate bid. Two candidates with less name recognition include Cheryle Jackson, chief executive officer of the Chicago Urban League, and Chris Kennedy, head of Chicago’s Merchandise Mart and son of the late U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. Redfield said Jackson also could have a slight disadvantage by being tied to Blagojevich. She was his communications director during his first term.

On the Republican side, U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk of Hinsdale has been reported as set to run for the Senate seat. Redfield said he brings his national experience to the table, but as a moderate Republican, he would have to work to gain the moderate and independent vote. Andy McKenna, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party and businessman, also has reportedly discussed the idea. He lost his 2006 bid.

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GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - July 10, 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 48,133 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the July 10, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Looks good for capital, not so much for budget

By Bethany Jaeger
It’s taken a decade, but Gov. Pat Quinn said that come Monday, the state would have a major infrastructure program in place to help spur the economy and send people back to work.

Downstate legislators who met with the governor Thursday afternoon in the Executive Mansion expressed bittersweet sentiments: The governor would sign the long-awaited public works program to send laborers and others back to work, but thousands of other public employees and the people they serve are on the brink of losing their jobs and their access to critical aid. That's because the governor and the legislature still haven’t enacted a balanced operating budget, despite a new fiscal year that started July 1.

Rep. Brandon Phelps, a Harrisburg Democrat, for instance, is in a downstate area in need of economic development. However, he also has a prison in his district that could lose employees under Quinn's plan to cut spending by an additional $1 billion. Enacting the capital bill wouldn’t prevent layoffs of 1,000 Department of Correction employees, he said, adding that such significant layoffs might not save as much money as needed to cover the increased overtime costs.

The General Assembly is scheduled to return to the capital city Tuesday, about the same time the comptroller’s office needs to process checks so the first round of state employees would get paid on time. The governor, facing doubt about whether he can persuade more legislators to support an income tax increase to fill what he says is a $9.2 billion budget deficit, said he would consider Plan B, even if that includes a temporary spending plan.

“I’m open to anything that gets us moving in a positive direction, whatever it takes,” Quinn said. That could include a five-month budget so he could continue to lobby for an income tax increase.

But, asked Rep. Bill Black, a Danville Republican, at what level would the five-month budget be based? Would it be based on the $26 billion plan already approved by the legislature but partially vetoed by the governor? Or would it be the $28 billion originally proposed by Quinn?

In May, the legislature approved along partisan lines a budget that reduced funding for human services by half of what the governor proposed. Quinn then vetoed much of that spending plan and said that regardless of whether an income tax increase passes, he would still have to make about $1 billion in cuts. He recently announced a general plan that lacked specifics, although legislators said today they hope by Tuesday to receive more details.

Rep. Roger Eddy, a Hutsonville Republican, said a five-month budget is risky because it would assume that the legislature would approve an income tax increase before the end of the year. “Then you’ve spent for five months based on revenue you may or may not get. I think it’s very risky.” He added, however, that it might be the most politically palatable option for many legislators because by this fall, incumbents would know whether they faced a serious challenger in the next election.

Either way, Eddy said, Quinn faces a “triple negative” in trying to persuade lawmakers to vote for a tax hike because the new revenue would not prevent further budget cuts. “It would be nice to vote for a tax increase — if you have to — and go home and talk about all the new wonderful programs you’re going to start. This combination is: Vote for revenue, borrow $2.2 billion, make $1 billion in cuts above the cuts that have already been made. That’s a pretty tough sell.”

Rep. Mike Bost, a Murphysboro Republican, said he appreciates that Quinn is showing some direction in where he might cut, but he’s concerned that the governor is making broad statements to stir up local residents so they pressure their legislators to approve an income tax increase. The GOP has remained mostly united on opposing a tax hike without action on other cuts and what they see as reforms because they fear giving billions of new dollars to a group of leaders which he said “can’t control themselves.”

Legislators said they could be in session Tuesday through Thursday, although several expressed doubt about how they would solve the budget impasse by then. “I think it’s going to be a challenge for all the pieces to come together,” said Rep. Bob Flider, a Mount Zion Democrat.

CAPITAL

After the legislature in May overwhelmingly approved the first major infrastructure program in a decade, Quinn said he wouldn’t sign the package into law until he received a balanced operating budget on his desk. With little consensus on how to balance a severely out-of-whack budget, the capital program remained in limbo and jeopardized federal matching funds.

The governor said today he would sign the capital program into law on Monday. He previously said on May 31 that the lack of an operating budget would hurt the state’s bond rating, making it more expensive to borrow money.

Thursday afternoon, he said the state still needed both. “I think we need to have a good budget that is a balanced budget that’s fair and decent. Together with a good jobs program, we can get Illinois focused on economic recovery and budget stabilization.”

Shovels might not move dirt for weeks, maybe months. We’ll have more on that and other reaction soon.

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