Change Illinois Blog Dot Com
This blog is focused on the politics and social news of the 58th District of Illinois (Lake Bluff, Lake Forest, Highwood, Highland Park, Deerfield, Northbrook, Riverwoods, Bannockburn and Glencoe) and serves as a discussion group for concerned residents of the District and the State of Illinois who want to change the direction of our broken state government and improve the lives of all Illinoisans.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Friday, September 19, 2008
By: Lorene Yue Sept. 18, 2008
(Crain’s) — Illinois’ jobless rate in August not only beat the national average; it’s also the second-highest figure in nearly 15 years.
The seasonally adjusted rate of 7.3% was slightly higher than July’s 7.2% and higher than the country’s 6.1% August unemployment rate, according to figures released Thursday by the U.S Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Illinois Department of Employment Security.
There were 491,500 Illinois unemployed residents in August, the fourth-consecutive month that figure has grown.
The highest unemployment rate in the past 15 years was a 7.5% rate recorded in September 1993.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
The Pickens Plan for Energy
By REP Policy Director Jim DiPeso, published in the Hawaii Reporter on July 10, 2008
There are congressmen who see oil drilling hither and yon as the magical answer to the high cost of fuel.
Then, there is T. Boone Pickens, the Texas oilman from central casting whose Pickens Plan would put the U.S. on a healthier energy diet with a significantly smaller serving of oil.
The Pickens Plan would not be easy to implement, but it's a terrific example of the creative thinking that we need in order to fix our country's energy predicament. That's more than can be said for the tired ideas coming out of Congress.
The latest bromide to hit the airwaves is "drill here, drill now, pay less." The peddlers hope to convince Americans that a return to the glory days of cheap and easy oil is just around the corner.
Don't be fooled. As Pickens the oilman will tell any sloganeering congressman who cares to listen, cheap and easy oil is a thing of the past. Demand is up and low-cost pockets of black gold are increasingly hard to come by.
It's time to try something new. The Pickens Plan's centerpiece is to substitute wind for natural gas for meeting some 20 percent of the nation's electric power needs. In a recent report, the Department of Energy said that boosting wind's share of power generation to 20 percent is doable.
The freed-up gas would then be available to fuel automobiles, cutting oil imports by more than one-third.
Pickens says his primary motive is to reduce the drain of American dollars to oil exporting regimes, which he calls "the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind."
The Pickens Plan would benefit his sizable wind and natural gas investments. But no one should begrudge Pickens the wealth that would be his if the plan works.
Will it? That depends on many things falling into place. First, wind energy plants must beat the price of gas-fired generators. Wind is the fastest growing energy source in the country, but investment will plunge if Congress fails to renew production tax credits due to expire at the end of the year.
The wind blows hard and steadily on the western Great Plains. But few people live there. Transmission lines would have to be built to ferry the juice to big loads on the coasts. Utilities would have to figure out the technicalities of integrating wind energy into their grids.
A fueling infrastructure for natural gas-fueled cars would have to be built up. Automakers would have to manufacture the cars and consumers would have to be willing to buy them.
Pickens estimates that building the wind turbines and transmission lines would cost $1.2 trillion. It's a big number, but we spend that much on foreign oil every 20 months.
As Pickens points out, his plan is not a complete or permanent solution for oil dependence. But if it works, it would serve as a bridge to a more robust transportation system, with cars running partially or entirely on electricity. The juice may come from on-board fuel cells, or, perhaps more likely, from quick-charging batteries supplied by wind, other renewables, nukes, or coal plants equipped to capture and bury carbon dioxide.
The Pickens Plan is worth a serious look. It's not a panacea, but there is none to be found. The sooner we face that, the faster we can build an energy economy that cuts our dependence on dangerous regimes, keeps dollars at home, and helps us be better environmental stewards.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
08/28/2008, 10:28 am
Comment on this story | Print this story
Andrea Zelinski, firstname.lastname@example.org, 217-524-5797,
In Illinois, politics is all in the family.
But state Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, thinks it's time for a divorce.
He plans to introduce a bill this week that would make it harder for politicians who bow out of an election to pave the way to appoint someone of their choosing -- like a son or a daughter.
"I think people are fed up. They are offended that so many Chicago politicians seem to think they have a right to hand down a public office to their children," he said. "They don't trust us. Things like handing off a seat and carving voters out of the process makes it hard for them to trust us."
Just last week, Sen. President Emil Jones withdrew his name from the November ballot after announcing his retirement. His son, Emil Jones III, promptly filled his spot on the ticket after an approval from the district's Democratic committeemen.
State Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, was appointed to his Senate seat in 2005 after his father, former Sen. Denny Jacobs, stepped down from office.
"If you're dad's a fireman, you're going to be interested in being a firefighter. If you're dad's a construction worker, you're going to be interested in construction," said Jacobs, a fourth-generation elected official. "My father happened to be a politician."
Democratic Party chairmen appointed him in 2005 -- although sitting Rep. Mike Boland, D-East Moline, expressed interest in the post. Jacobs ran his first successful election as an incumbent in 2007.
County political committees choose who will fill mid-term and pre-election vacancies, said state Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, who serves as chairman for Bureau County Democrats.
He, too, was appointed to fill his father's seat in the General Assembly after state Rep. Richard Mautino died in office in 1991.
"Whenever this happens, it hits a nerve with the public," said Cindi Canary of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. "What tends to get people's goats is when it appears to be very blatant when it's their son or daughter."
While Murphy said the bill isn't specifically aimed at Jones, the matter did renew some questions he's had about the political appointment process.
In 1987, Kankakee Democratic County Chairman Phil Novak appointed himself to fill a vacancy in the House of Representatives.
Murphy said his bill would encompass federal, state and local politicians and would only be exempt in the event of a lawmaker's death in office or a debilitating illness that prevents them from serving their post.
The bill would require those recusing themselves from the election to make that decision official 90 days before the ballot is certified. In the case of Jones' retirement, he would have had to make that call by the end of May.
Under the proposed legislation, there then would be a special primary election where voters could choose between party candidates looking to fill the senator's seat in the November election.
But that's an expensive venture, says Ron Michaelson, former head of the State Board of Elections. The cost to rent polling places, pay election judges, order supplies and pay printing costs all will fall to taxpayers, he noted.
"It's a pretty tricky issue to solve," Michaelson
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Obama's Illinois Democrat Party--Not exactly a model of how to govern...Interesting Article from today's Daily Herald
"It was here in Springfield where I saw all that is America converge," he told a crowd of thousands that frigid February day in 2007. "It was here where we learned to disagree without being disagreeable. That it is possible to compromise so long as you know those principles that can never be compromised. And that so long as we are willing to listen to each other we can assume the best in people instead of the worst."
One has to wonder today what Springfield Obama was talking about.
Given complete control of state government, Illinois Democrats have produced unbalanced budgets, callous funding cuts, and antagonistic gridlock.
Yet the Democratic leader Obama describes as his political mentor believed state lawmakers deserved a pay raise for their work.
And the Democratic governor whose administration is under criminal investigation is quick to remind anyone listening of Obama's ties to those in trouble.
Plus, the Democrat who Obama backed for Cook County Board president produced the nation's highest sales tax.
Sheesh, it seems like enough to make Obama bid aloha to his adopted Land of Lincoln and start calling himself a Hawaiian Democrat. In the midst of Obama's shining moment in Denver this week, the Illinois Democratic Party could be a political blemish.
"I would guess they're going to try to keep Illinois out of the spotlight and if Illinois is in the spotlight, it will be a challenge for them to show the unity and hope that the national campaign is trying to emphasize," said John S. Jackson, political scientist and author who's written about presidential races, Obama's career and Illinois politics.
Some Illinois Democrats seem to recognize this. Gov. Rod Blagojevich was recently asked if he had any official role in this weeklong coronation of Obama.
"I've got a big speaking role," Blagojevich said. "I think it's something like four o'clock in the morning in the men's room of the convention center speaking to a handful of voters. I'm hopeful I can persuade them and we can carry Colorado.
The line might be funnier if Blagojevich hadn't used it four years earlier.
But there's little humor among the state's Democrats these days.
"They kill jobs. They kill education funding, they try to take away health care from people," the governor recently said of the Democrats in the Illinois House.
And in a recent memo, Illinois House Speaker and Democratic Party Chairman Michael Madigan criticized labor heads for buying into "the (expletive deleted) of the Blagojevich people."
Heading into this Democratic celebration, Illinois Democrats are downplaying their differences and painting the picture of a party united behind Obama, who was back in Springfield Saturday to appear with is running mate, Joe Biden.
"At this moment, everyone's on the same page," said Steve Brown, Madigan's spokesman, noting that Democrats moved up the Illinois primary to increase the visibility of Illinois and Obama's campaign.
The Chicago Democrat's presidential campaign offered this comment when asked whether it was concerned about the Illinois dysfunction becoming a political problem.
"Voters know that in Illinois and in Washington, Barack Obama stood up to members of both parties to pass sweeping ethics reforms that reduced the influence of money and special interests over the legislative process," said Illinois spokesman Justin DeJong.
Still, while the Illinois delegation will be front-and-center when Obama takes the stage later this week, don't look for him to tout any great accomplishments from back home. The ethics legislation he championed has been deemed insufficient. The new, tougher version lawmakers sent to the governor has - in a truly Illinois move - become a bargaining chip in a battle over billions worth of government spending.
Obama's campaign promises to bring national health care. But Illinois' venture into expanded health care has produced turmoil at every turn. Obama's idea of taxing employers who don't provide benefits to pay for health care is one that was rejected here.
Meanwhile, the Illinois Republican Party is trying to capitalize on this Democratic dysfunction, saying Democrats have failed at their chance to run the state. Don't be surprised if the McCain campaign doesn't also begin using this as ammunition.
"The campaign is aware of what's going on in Illinois," said Western Springs Republican state Rep. Jim Durkin, co-chair of McCain's Illinois effort. "I think it's fair game and I think the Republicans nationally should pounce on it."
With friends like these...
Here's a look at some of the key figures in Illinois politics and why Barack Obama might not want them in the spotlight.
Todd Stroger: Already facing claims of nepotism and cronyism regarding his ascension to Cook County Board president, Stroger then pushed a sales tax hike that makes the county's the highest in the country. Obama backed Stroger for the post.
Emil Jones Jr.: Obama's political mentor is an old-school Chicago Democrat who steered state money to favored institutions and got family on state payroll. Amidst recent Illinois financial gridlock, Jones wanted higher pay for lawmakers.
Michael Madigan: After Obama's pick for state treasurer - Alexi Giannoulias - beat Madigan's in 2006, the Illinois House speaker and Democratic Party chairman contemptuously called Obama "the Messiah." They've since buried the hatchet. Accused of thwarting the governor's agenda to advance his daughter, the state's attorney general.
Rod Blagojevich: During a recent spat with reporters, the Illinois governor repeatedly brought up Obama's name when asked about the conviction of Blagojevich's political fundraiser and adviser Tony Rezko. Blagojevich's administration is under federal investigation for its hiring and contracting practices.
Tony Rezko: Convicted this year for a multimillion-dollar state pension kickback scheme he orchestrated trading on his clout with the governor. Also had been a longtime pal of Obama who most recently helped the Obamas buy their Hyde Park mansion in 2005.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
By Kurt Erickson
SPRINGFIELD -- The question of the day for many state lawmakers Tuesday was: Why are we here? Called into special session by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, members of the House and Senate were directed to do something about the state’s school funding formula, which allows wide disparities in funding levels among the state’s 800-plus school districts.
But nearly everyone agreed the topic simply cannot be handled in a one-day, hours long session.
“It’s absurd,” said state Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth. “We know we can’t accomplish anything.”
Mitchell was among those who were particularly bothered by the $40,000 cost of calling lawmakers back to town at a time when budget cuts have affected numerous parts of state government. The issue, instead, should be dealt with during the regular legislative session which runs from January until June, he said.
House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, slammed Blagojevich for calling the special session.
“Today is a joke. It’s a sham. It’s a farce,” Cross said.
If nothing else, the special session put a spotlight on an issue that has been percolating for years.
In recent weeks, state Sen. James Meeks, a Calumet City Democrat, has brought the disparities in school funding to the forefront again.
Meeks, pastor of a large Chicago church, is calling for Chicago Public School students to boycott the first day of classes next month to protest a lack of state funding. He made his pitch for a funding revamp to Senate Democrats Tuesday, but emerged angry that Blagojevich was spending more time at the state fairgrounds Tuesday than meeting with lawmakers.
“He did not call a special session to deal with cows. He called a special session to deal with kids,” Meeks said. “If his priority is cows rather than kids, I guess he proved that today.”
Blagojevich says he opposes getting rid of local property taxes as the primary funding source for schools. He also said he’d veto any tax increase for education.
“I’m not going to raise taxes on people,” Blagojevich told reporters on Friday.
To avoid having to raise taxes for schools, Blagojevich previously called for using money from selling the state lottery to finance schools.
But, he now wants to use those proceeds to pay for a $25 billion public works program.
At the Illinois State Fair Tuesday evening, Blagojevich expressed disappointment.
“It’s disappointing to see that all the lawmakers did was convene for about a half an hour -not many of them showed up -and that was their answer for education funding,” the governor said.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Blagojevich scales back construction plan
1:34 PM CDT, July 31, 2008
CHICAGO - Lawmakers say Governor Rod Blagojevich has proposed ratcheting down the price tag of a statewide construction program and is abandoning a proposal to expand gambling to pay for it.
Top lawmakers who attended Thursday's meeting at Blagojevich's Chicago office say the capital plan would shrink from $34 billion to $25 billion.
It would be paid for in part by a partial lease of the state lottery rather than a large gambling expansion.
Representative Barbara Flynn Currie is already expressing skepticism about the lottery lease. She's a surrogate for House Speaker Michael Madigan, who skipped the meeting.
But House Republican leader Tom Cross says he thinks there's support for this latest plan, and he says he'll take it back to his caucus members.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
For Immediate Release Contact:
July 25, 2008 (815) 577-1400
Stratton Announces Agenda to Enact Nation’s Toughest Anti-Corruption Laws
Glencoe…Equipped with a commitment to regain public trust in government and reform the way Illinois conducts business, Republican candidate for State Representative of the 58th District Tim Stratton has a plan to enact the nation’s toughest anti-corruption laws. As part of the House Republican “Agenda for Action,” Stratton wants to end pay-to-play politics and provide greater transparency and oversight to state government.
“Illinois has become a playground of political corruption and U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has referred to the current administration as pay-to-play on steroids. Tax payers deserve a state government that finds pride in operating under the most honest and ethical principles,” Stratton said.
If elected, Stratton plans to put an end to pay-to-play politics and increase transparency by:
banning government officials from soliciting contributions from contractors conducting business with their office
preventing elected officials and other state appointees and employees from receiving fees related to legal, banking and consulting work with state bonds
increasing disclosures for investment advisors and consultants with work before a State board or commission
“As a frequent speaker across the state on government finance, I believe Illinois must conduct business like a corporation with appropriate checks and balances. It is simply wrong to trade jobs for campaign contributions. Instead companies who do business with the state should have to earn their work based on their quality of service and competitive costs,” Stratton said.
“If elected, I will work to ensure that state government is accountable to the people and not to special interest groups,” Stratton said.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
July 23, 2008 (815) 577-1400
State Rep. Candidate Tim Stratton Announces Plan to Produce Relief for Skyrocketing Property Taxes
Glencoe…Skyrocketing property taxes are putting an added financial burden on Lake County families and seniors. Republican candidate for State Representative of the 58th District Tim Stratton demonstrated his commitment to secure property tax relief by rolling out an Agenda for Action that will keep money in the bank accounts of Illinois residents.
Included as part of their Agenda for Action, Stratton and House Republicans propose:
• Increasing the Homestead Exemption from $6,000 to $7,500 and increasing the Senior Homestead Exemption from $4,000 to $5,500
• Doubling the Income Tax Credit from 5% to 10% to Increase the Property Tax Rebate
“Families and seniors in Lake County are enduring enough financial hardships with prices at the pump consistently climbing above $4 per gallon, escalating college tuitions rates, and the increasing costs of everyday necessities like food and medicine. During today’s troubling economy, we have a real opportunity to offer residents relief by helping them save on their property tax bills,” Stratton said.
The Homestead Exemption is applied against the assessed value of a home to reduce the assessment. Seniors can utilize both the General and Senior Homestead Exemptions; and families can utilize only the General Homestead Exemption. Under Stratton’s plan, a senior’s $200,000 home assessment would be lowered to $187,000 and their property taxes would be reduced.
“Many seniors are on fixed incomes and this type of savings would allow them to keep their homes. We also don’t want young families to be turned away from our community because they can’t afford the taxes,” Stratton said.
Additionally, all Illinois homeowners receive a 5% credit on their income taxes for property taxes paid. A homeowner who pays $5,500 in property taxes currently receives a $275 tax credit; but under Wait’s plan, the credit would double to $550.
Stratton, a Glencoe resident, is running to replace State Representative Karen May and draws a clear distinction between his commitments to fight taxes and her willingness to raise taxes.
“If elected, securing immediate property tax relief will be among my highest priorities. This is an issue that people care about because it’s affecting their quality of life and financial well-being,” Stratton said.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Daily Herald Editorial Board
Published: 7/17/2008 12:08 AM
Illinois House Republicans are saying the right things on what the state must do to honor its commitments to the public to be ethically and fiscally responsible in managing tax dollars and providing services.
The question is if a public that is disgusted with the state of affairs in Springfield will warm to these reforms. And, in turn, to the state Republicans proposing them. In that regard, there is not an item on the Republicans' agenda that the public should have trouble embracing.
House Republicans vow to fight for stronger anti-corruption measures - including supportt for an end to the pay-to-play scheming in which those who contribute to campaigns get the benefit of state contracts. Certainly the public is weary of seeing the wretched consequences of such in full display in federal corruption trials. It is satisfying to see the crooks nabbed and imprisoned. But better to have it all stopped before it lands on the desks of federal prosecutors.
The public should be pleased that House Republicans are hitting hard at the Democrats' penchant for expanding state government without a means of paying for it. The most recent and best evidence of this is the budget passed by a Democratic-controlled legislature, that by some Republican estimates is close to $3 billion out of balance. A continuation of such reckless disregard for fiscal discipline is going to hurt taxpayers for generations to come. House Republicans say they won't let that happen.
They also say they will ease the tax burden by offering more tax property relief. They also want to require that proposed state budgets be made available for public scrutiny. This way, taxpayers have a say in how much money should be spent before a vote is taken that leaves them no choice.
The Republicans' agenda goes beyond dollars and cents and ethical use of them. They support programs that taxpayers truly need the state to provide, such as a construction program to repair battered roads and bridges. They want to make higher education more affordable.
But if Republicans aren't having much luck getting their platform endorsed in the legislative chambers, where their power is diluted by their minority party status, they are hoping to make a good impression in the public arena. They are presenting their "Agenda for Action" in town hall meetings. One was held in Arlington Heights on Tuesday night.
The public should care about what Republicans are saying. Of course, Republicans have to back up their agenda by their own actions. These agendas come and go. And it sure wouldn't hurt if they were able to run a candidate for governor on a reform platform who would actually present voters with a real choice and a competitive race.
Voters would do well to end business-as-usual balloting by supporting those who are genuinely committed to reform. Republicans vow to offer such. For that matter, so should Democrats.
Friday, July 11, 2008
We need more Republicans in Springfield
July 11, 2008Recommend
STEVE HUNTLEY email@example.com
They're at it again. This time, a special session of the General Assembly is providing the spectacle of the battling, bickering Democrats slugging it out in the family feud that passes for government in Illinois these days.
Why anyone would cast a Democratic ballot in a legislative race is beyond me. Gov. Blagojevich, not on the ballot this year, is the prime culprit in the Springfield meltdown, but House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President Emil Jones are far from blameless. Still, a Barack Obama avalanche in the fall in a state already becoming ever more blue could pad the Democratic majorities.
I've written that voting Republican in legislative contests, no matter how worthy the Democratic candidate, is the only way you can protest the failure of one-party rule in Illinois. I also have suggested that the GOP needed to come up with its version of a Contract with America to give voters a reason to believe in Republicans again. It turns out that House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Kendall) was already working on that. He will unveil a House GOP "Agenda for Action" Tuesday. The seven-point agenda advocates:
• • A capital program to fix roads and bridges, build schools and hospitals, and create 700,000 jobs.
• • A balanced budget, ending carryover of unpaid bills into the next year, and a minimum "sunshine" period for everyone to examine budget bills.
• • Property tax relief.
• • Ethics legislation to end the state's "pay-to-play" scandals.
• • Reversing Blagojevich's years of cutting higher ed funding.
• • Electronic monitoring of abusive men to protect victims of domestic violence.
• • Cyber-safety laws to protect children from online sex offenders.
"There are no quick fixes or gimmicks here, just proposals reflecting the concerns the voters have about fiscal responsibility, job creation, lower taxes and ethics," Cross said. These are issues stuck in legislative limbo or passed but not acted on by Blagojevich.
The agenda's political goal is to "localize" the election and remind voters -- independents, Obamacans (Republicans in favor of the Democratic presidential contender) and Democrats disaffected by the Springfield antics -- that there's a reason to cast split-ticket ballots. That's not to say Republicans are abandoning John McCain. The agenda only recognizes that the enthusiasm for McCain is, in Cross' words, "tempered a little bit by the assumption" Obama will carry Illinois.
Polling in six battleground legislative districts in the northwest suburbs commissioned by Cross found the Democratic-led General Assembly earning only a 24 percent approval rating, with 62 percent of voters disapproving.
Blagojevich fared even worse at 20 percent approval vs. 76 percent disapproving. "Suburban voters are very aware of the lack of state government, that the Democratic leadership can't do anything of substance," Cross said.
In these six districts, the GOP is defending four seats (one open because of a retirement) and trying to retake the other two, the 44th District lost to Rep. Fred Crespo of Streamwood in 2006 and the 56th District lost last year when Rep. Paul Froehlich of Schaumburg switched to the Democratic side of the aisle. Cross said Republicans are "playing offense" to win those back with two strong candidates. Peggy Brothman, former Schaumburg District 54 Board of Education president is running against Crespo, and Anita Forte-Scott, owner of an early childhood education school, is trying to unseat Froehlich.
In the once solidly Republican suburbs, the poll found only a 1-percentage-point advantage for Republicans on the generic ballot.
"It's going to be a very tough year with Obama, the hometown guy with lots of appeal, at the head of their ticket," Cross acknowledged. "But I don't know why the voters would reward the Democrats [in Springfield] with more members." Amen.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
CHICAGO (WBBM) -- On the eve of the General Assemby's special session in Springfield, two prominent Illinoisans who helped draft a 31 billion dollar capital spending plan are pleading for its passage.
WBBM's Regine Schlesinger reports that otherwise, Illinois stands to lose 9-billion dollars in federal money.
Governor Blagojevich enlisted former US House Speaker Denny Hastert and Southern Illinois University president Glenn Poshard to help write the infrastructure repair bill. The bill they came up with easily passed the Senate but stalled in the House.
Now, they're pleading for state representatives to pass it in the 2-day special session. Hastert says the political feud between the Governor and some of his fellow Democrats shouldn't get in the way.
The spending plan would be funded by building a new Chicago casino, expanding gambling and leasing the Illinois lottery. Poshard and Hastert warn that if lawmakers don't approve their bill, Illinois will lose 9 billion dollars in federal money for transportation, highways and other vital needs.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Illinois Governor Outlines Possible Cuts As Budget Stalemate Continues - June 25, 2008
Illinois Budget Imbroglio - June 3, 2008 CHICAGO - Two days into a new fiscal year without a budget in place, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich yesterday announced a two-day special session of the General Assembly for next week aimed at winning passage of revenue measures that would trim about $850 million from a $2 billion deficit in the $59 billion operating budget approved by lawmakers. "Yesterday we started another fiscal year without a state budget. Last week I told the General Assembly that I would not sign a budget bill with a $2 billion shortfall - Illinoisans must be able to trust that our checks will not bounce," he said at a news conference. The governor's action is aimed at the state House, as the Senate did approve a series of revenue-generating measures in May when they signed off on a spending plan. The House approved the spending side of the package, but did not vote on a $16 billion pension obligation bond issue, the transfer of various funds, and a capital budget that combined would have trimmed the deficit by more than $1 billion. Yesterday, the governor backed off his push for the pension bond issue and did not provide another idea for how to replace the $400 million it would have saved in the fiscal 2009 budget. Blagojevich called on the House to approve the Illinois Works capital budget that would free up about $320 million in the operating budget and the transfer of $530 million from various non-general fund accounts. The governor last week outlined a series of potential cuts as he urged the House to return on its own. Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan's spokesman Steve Brown said there's not sufficient support for the various measures to win passage. The already strained relationship between the two Democrats has grown only more hostile in recent months.Yesterday, Brown said Madigan would "go to Springfield next week" as requested by the governor, but added there was "no way of knowing what happens after that. "The special session is set for July 9 and 10th. The governor said if the House fails to approve the needed-revenue measures during the first day, he would issue a proclamation on the secondenacting the cuts. "I will not take those actions lightly, and will only act when it becomes abundantly clear that the House can't or won't act responsibly on its own," said Blagojevich. Without a budget in place, Comptroller Dan Hynes has warned that bill payment could be delayed along with employee paychecks. Because of a drafting error in the budget, about 39 capital projects are being idled, but the governor said that would be fixed during the session next week. Support is strong for a capital budget, but differences remain among lawmakers on how to pay for it. The proposed capital budget relies on about $7 billion from a partial leasing of the Illinois Lottery, $800 million in upfront funds from the issuance of new gaming licenses, $7.8 billion in new general obligation borrowing, and local and federal matching dollars.About $6.2 billion of the bonding would be repaid with recurring gaming expansion revenues and $1.6 billion from transportation-related taxes and fees. The state has lacked a major infusion of capital dollars since the $12 billion Illinois Works program approved in 1999 and congressional officials have warned that without new funding the state risks the loss of federal matching dollars. With support for the pension borrowing plan more tenuous in the House among both Democratic and Republican members, the governor yesterday dropped his push to win its passage. The proposal calls for the restructuring of the 50-year payment schedule approved in 1995, increasing future year payments while trimming about $400 million off the fiscal 2009 payment. The infusion into the pension system of the funds raised through a new pension borrowing would help bring the funded ratio of the system up to 75% from 62%.
The current unfunded liability is $42 billion. The governor has promoted the pension plan as one that would ultimately trim 12 years off the time needed to reach a 90% funded ratio. Blagojevich said the pension plan overall would result in a savings of $34 billion in contributions. Yesterday, Moody's Investors Service issued a special report saying it was monitoring the situation in four states - California, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania - that have entered new fiscal years without a budget in place. The delay is not expected to impact debt service payments, but it does have the potential to disrupt the flow of a state's payment to vendors and employees, as well as to the cities, public universities and other municipalities that receive state funds. "Moody's views repeated delays, or those causing government shutdowns, as signs of political polarization, and for those reasons, the timing of state budget enactment can affect the ratings Moody's assigns to state issued general obligation bonds and other debt," analyst and author of the report Ted Hampton wrote.
Governor calls lawmakers back to Springfield
Posted by David Mendell at 12:35 p.m.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Wednesday called state lawmakers back to Springfield for a session next week to make changes to a state budget that he has so far refused to sign.
Blagojevich is trying to take political advantage of the House and Senate decision to send him a budget that may be $2 billion out of balance.
The governor called the special session for the House and Senate for July 9 and 10. But he is clearly aiming his pressure at House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago).
Madigan's House Democrats have refused to pass legislation that Blagojevich wants. That includes selling $16 billion in bonds to shore up pension plans and free up spending pressure in the new fiscal year that started July 1. He also wants them to pass a multi-billion dollar public works program.
Unlike 2007's yearlong budget impasse, this spring the House and Senate Democrats joined together to pass the shaky budget. But the House refused to go along with the Senate on a variety of proposals to help cover the proposed spending.
Madigan has said the governor should use his amendatory veto power to cut the budget if he thinks there is not enough revenue for it. Blagojevich does not want to take the political pain that would come from making huge spending cuts
Friday, June 27, 2008
June 8, 2008
Next time you drive over a pothole-filled road or become upset that your child is in an overcrowded classroom, think of the Illinois House Democrats and especially their "leader," House Speaker Michael Madigan.
In an amazing display of political idiocy, the House Democrats have failed to show any backbone to pass a $34 billion capital bill. That bill would have funded roads, bridges and schools, including $149 million for school construction in the Joliet Grade School District. Why did the House members choose a path of inactivity?
Because they were concerned that Gov. Rod Blagojevich might have too much power in deciding where the funds come from and where they will go.
In other words, the Democratic governor isn't trusted by many House Democrats, and because of this "mistrust," money won't be available on the innumerable projects that are so desperately needed.
Ironically, many of these same House Democrats had no problem giving former Republican governor and current federal inmate George Ryan free rein to spend in his $12 billion Illinois FIRST program, which was funded by higher license plate stickers and a raise in liquor taxes. Ryan gave $5.5 million for an ice arena in his hometown of Kankakee and used FIRST money to pay for an Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame. No House Democrats voiced concerns about Ryan's handouts.
But now the Democrats have a problem with Blagojevich. What's obvious is this problem is rooted in the inability of House Democrats to work for the people and instead cater to the petty interests of the misguided, bitter House Speaker who is having another of his endlessly exasperating and childish standoffs with the governor.
Republicans, led by House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, see the Democrats' inaction as unacceptable, and we agree.
"Do they trust him or not?" Cross said of the House Democrats' attitude toward the governor. "The fact that we don't like someone is not an excuse for not getting our work done."
Cross crystallizes our view. The Democratic-controlled Senate found the capital plan acceptable, including funding the bill by leasing the state lottery and expanding gambling.
Lawmakers haven't passed a new statewide construction program in nine years. And it appears that House Democrats are going extend the wait until at least the November veto session.
It's very clear. If you want road repairs, school additions and construction, then contact the House Democrats. They must decide whether to serve the people's interests or continue blindly following Madigan.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Kathleen Haughney, St. Louis Post Dispatch
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois politicians have been largely mired in scandal and controversy the past few years, and voters are tired of it, according to a recent poll.
Former Gov. George Ryan was sent to prison last fall on conspiracy and fraud charges. A top fundraiser for Gov. Rod Blagojevich was recently convicted for using his political influence to squeeze bribes from contractors seeking business with the state. And political infighting between lawmakers and Blagojevich has stopped a state infrastructure plan and balanced budget from materializing so far this year.
It's a problem that seems unlikely to yield a quick solution, and according to a recent poll by political reform coalition Midwest Democracy Network, voters aren't happy about it.
The poll, which surveyed 402 Illinoisans and had a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points, gave Blagojevich a 13 percent approval rating and the legislature a 17 percent rating.
"If any of us only had a 17 percent approval rating, we'd lose our jobs," said Cynthia Canary, director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform and a spokeswoman for Midwest Democracy Network.
The poll was conducted from April 21 through May 4, during the highly publicized trial of Blagojevich fundraiser Tony Rezko, who was convicted.
According to the poll, 3 percent of those polled "almost always" trust the government to do what is right, down from 7 percent in 2006. Meanwhile, 25 percent of respondents said they "almost never" trust the government, up from 14 percent in 2006.
Canary said voters are always grumbling about politicians, but recent years have been particularly bad in Illinois.
"In Illinois, in many ways this does stem back to the conviction of Gov. Ryan and the sense that our former governor went to jail and the response of our current governor and Legislature was nothing," she said. "They did nothing. They made no changes."
Brian Williamsen, a spokesman for Gov. Rod Blagojevich, said many voters are upset because of high prices at the pump, grocery stores and elsewhere. However, he added that the governor would not base any future decisions on public opinion polls that could swing up or down at any time.
"One thing that is pretty clear — times are rough, people are not pleased with the political games and the lack of action that they are seeing from their leaders, and really who can blame them," he said.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Excellent Article in Sun-Times about the Dangers of One Party Rule and Their Advice to Vote Republican!
Just Say No To Incompetent Government
How to say 'no' to incompetent government
June 17, 2008
STEVE HUNTLEY firstname.lastname@example.org
Voting matters. Sometimes folks find that out the hard way. That unhappy lot would include Cook County suburbanites jousting at windmills in their uphill campaign to secede from the county.
Two years ago these suburban residents probably didn't think it much mattered who ran county government -- only half of the registered voters cast ballots in the election that made Todd Stroger Cook County Board president. He rewarded their indifference with a big 1 percentage-point increase in the county sales tax. That will bring in more than enough money to cover a current budget shortfall -- enough to ensure more spend-thrift business-as-usual in county government for years. Now, despite the secession dreams of Palatine and a few other suburbs, voters have little choice but to wait until the 2010 elections to register their displeasure with Stroger.
Similarly, Illinois voters disillusioned by the incompetency of government under Gov. Blagojevich and disgusted by its corruption have to wait until 2010 in hopes of replacing him. A recall movement died in the state Senate. Impeachment is on the table, but as columnist Rich Miller wrote last week, House Speaker Michael Madigan is using that issue to try to win Republican seats and pad his majority. Although Blagojevich shoulders the lion's share of the blame for the breakdown of state government, he is not solely responsible. Madigan and Senate President Emil Jones have had a hand in the mess that Democratic one-party rule brings to Illinois.
But voters don't have to wait until 2010 to voice their dissatisfaction with that. They can vent in the balloting for the seats in the Illinois General Assembly at stake in the November elections.
Their watchword should be: Just say no to one-party rule.
That means voting Republican.
Yes, that's a hard sell in this blue state. With Barack Obama heading their ticket, Democrats are salivating over their prospects. The GOP brand nationally is in trouble. Many voters remember the corruption that sent former GOP Gov. George Ryan to prison. Still, those have to be weighed against a Democratic vote that is, in effect, a vote of confidence in a one-party stranglehold in Springfield, its petty bickering, poisonous feuds and incompetence.
The state Republican Party could do its part by coming up with a campaign to persuade voters that it is worthy of their trust. The Illinois GOP might take a page from Newt Gingrich's strategy in capturing the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994. His masterstroke was the "Contract with America," a simple and short list of goals that the Republicans would work to achieve if they gained control of the Congress. National Democrats stole the idea two years ago with their "six for '06" agenda of six goals if they retook the Congress, which they did.
Republicans need something like a five-item "Contract with Illinois" and a comprehensive media campaign to sell it to the voters. It should be clear-sighted and confined to bread-and-butter issues like jobs, taxes, health care, pension reform and ethics reform.
A media campaign would be expensive. Maybe one or more of the wealthy Republicans contemplating running for governor in 2010 could help out. After all, a successful wooing of voters to the idea of a stronger GOP role in Springfield could only help their chances two years down the road, just as Obama's change theme is riding the Democratic tide of 2006.
Sure, some worthy Democratic lawmakers might be lost. But Springfield is run by the party generals, not the field soldiers.
A GOP takeover in the Legislature likely isn't in the cards (especially as just 40 of the 59 Senate seats are in play). But just cutting into the big majorities of foot soldiers would tell the irresponsible generals Blagojevich, Madigan and Jones that the voters are mad as hell and aren't going to take it any more. It also might boost impeachment prospects. Voting matters.