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Fox Lake shooting react

Tuesday, Sep 1, 2015

* No doubt you’ve heard of or have been following today’s big story about slain Fox Lake Police Lt. Joseph Gliniewicz. The latest as of 3:53 pm

CNN is reporting one of the three suspects in the shooting is in custody[ADDING: CNN has walked back its story - all three men are still at large]. Heavily armed police have conducted an extensive manhunt through the day in the village for three male suspects who are considered armed and dangerous.

More

The Fox Lake police officer shot and killed while chasing three suspects Tuesday morning was a 32-year veteran of the force who went by the nickname “G.I. Joe” and was married with four children, according to police and family.

“He’s got four sons who are going to have to go on alone,” said Terry Resetar, mother-in-law of the slain officer, Charles Joseph Gliniewicz.

Gliniewicz radioed shortly before 8 a.m. while on routine patrol that he was going to check on some suspicious activity, Lake County sheriff’s spokesman Chris Covelli said during a news conference.

He then radioed he was in a “foot pursuit” but communication was lost after that, Covelli said. Other officers responded and found him shot near Route 12 and Sayton Road, he said.

Gliniewicz was discovered in a marshy area, stripped of his gun and other gear, according to Lake County Undersheriff Raymond Rose. He died at the scene, the undersheriff said.

* They only recently released the name of the officer, which is why it’s not mentioned in these reacts. Let’s start with the ISP…

Illinois State Police (ISP) officials have deployed multiple resources to assist the Fox Lake Police Department in the apprehension of two suspects wanted in connection with the murder of a Fox Lake police officer.

ISP Patrol, Zone 1 Investigations, ISP SWAT, ISP Air Operations, and several investigative support units are on scene at this time assisting with the search.

Anyone with any information is encouraged to contact Lake County Sheriff’s Detective Covelli at 847-313-9350 immediately.

* Illinois FOP…

“Today the Fraternal Order of Police lost a fellow member and brother who died heroically serving his community. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the slain officer’s family, friends and fellow police officers. He leaves a legacy of several decades of service to Fox Lake for which we are humbly grateful,” said Illinois FOP President Chris Southwood. “This is the very real danger that all law enforcement officials knowingly face every day when they put on the badge and go out to protect all of us. We pledge to honor his memory by continuing to protect and serve the citizens of Illinois, and hope that those responsible can be quickly apprehended without further bloodshed and brought to justice.”

* Rep. Barb Wheeler

“As information continues to come in about the shooting of another police officer in the line of duty in Fox Lake, I hope we can all remain calm and pray for the officer’s family and the other officers in harms way right now,” Wheeler, a Crystal Lake Republican, said in a statement. “Eleven police officers have needless lost their lives since Aug. 20th alone in America because of shootings and sadly our communities have been directly impacted today.”

* US Rep. Bob Dold…

“I was deeply saddened to learn of the tragic death of Lieutenant Gliniewicz this morning as he was performing his duty to protect our community,” Rep. Dold said. “Today is a heartbreaking reminder of the sacrifices made every day by those who have dedicated their lives to protect us. My thoughts and prayers are with Lieutenant Gliniewicz’s family, friends, fellow officers and the entire Fox Lake community. As the search for the suspects continues, I strongly encourage all members of our community to stay alert and remain vigilant.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


AFSCME responds to Rauner’s racial argument

Tuesday, Sep 1, 2015

* From Council 31 in response to an earlier post today. All emphasis in original…

AFSCME Sets the Record Straight

The latest memo from Jason Barclay to “Agency Directors” is another faux document created solely to be “leaked” for public relations purposes. From the earliest days of the current set of contract negotiations, AFSCME has requested from the Rauner Administration data on the representation of minorities at all levels of government—and nearly six months later, the Administration has consistently refused to provide a single piece of the requested data.

There is no evidence at all that using seniority as a factor in promotions is a bar to advancement for minorities in the promotion process. In fact, data provided to our union by the previous administration demonstrates that minorities in union positions have a higher promotion rate than minorities in non-union positions. This is affirmed by numerous studies demonstrating the positive impact of union membership on the economic progress of minorities and by the thousands of minorities who are union members that have successfully moved up the ladder in Illinois state government.

Reliance on seniority has eliminated the favoritism and political cronyism that too often prevails in state government, allowing minorities to advance based on their experience and skills acquired to do the job.

It’s important to note that no provisions of the union contract have any bearing on hiring or promotion into leadership/management positions in state government. The Rauner Administration has complete control of hiring/promotions in all management level positions. Why hasn’t the Administration released its own hiring/promotion data for non-bargaining unit positions?

The Union has advocated for the development of the Upward Mobility Program in state government to allow employees to continue their education and advance to higher level positions. This program has been very well-utilized by minorities in state government and has helped many to earn degrees and promotions to higher-paying jobs. Yet in the current contract negotiations the Administration is trying to wipe out all funding for this program—and for all other forms of tuition reimbursement for employees in state government.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


Oh, c’mon

Tuesday, Sep 1, 2015

* This is a total non-issue

The Federal Election Commission on Thursday asked Sen. Mark Kirk’s campaign about contributions from mega-donors Sam Zell, a Chicago investor, and Bernard Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot, and 11 others because their donations may have exceeded the legal limits.

The FEC wants answers from Kirk’s campaign by Oct. 1. Its request for information was triggered by his campaign report for April to June 2015.

Kevin Artl, a spokesman for Kirk’s campaign, said Friday that the campaign knew about the issues and was taking action. “Our internal controls identified these concerns in advance of the FEC letter, and we are proactively addressing,” he said.

In June, Zell gave Kirk $2,700 for the 2016 primary and $2,700 for the 2016 general election, reports show. Those are the maximum sums allowed.

But the FEC took notice because Zell already had given to Kirk’s primary with a $2,500 donation in 2011, reports show.

A contributor gave money five years ago, then gave again. This stuff happens a lot with US Senators and their six-year terms. I mean, it’s not like the campaign was trying to sneak something past the FEC and break a law here.

What usually happens in cases like this is the FEC sends a routine inquiry letter to the campaign, which is given about a month to fix the problem(s).

Sen. Dick Durbin’s campaign committee received one of those FEC letters this past spring (click here) regarding six different topics (including a contributor with a “foreign” address). There was no Tribune story about that letter because it’s really no big deal.

* On the other hand

Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett’s ties to SUPES Academy were viewed as “a plus, not a negative” when the consulting firm landed a $20.5 million no-bid contract now linked to a federal criminal probe, former school board member and current U.S. Senate candidate Andrea Zopp said Monday.

During a meeting with the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board, Zopp also said CPS’ history of deficit spending was necessary to get better “outcomes” for students, adding that school board members had no control over larger issues like ensuring proper public funding for education. […]

Zopp said distract staff conducted a review process on the SUPES contract, though she acknowledged that the review staff also worked for Byrd-Bennett. Asked if contracting with Byrd-Bennett’s former firm raised any alarms, Zopp said, “No. I mean, actually it didn’t.”

“That was a plus, not a negative because she had experience with them,” Zopp said of Byrd-Bennett and SUPES. “So being an employee in and of itself would not raise a bell. To me it was (Byrd-Bennett saying), ‘I work there, I know what they do is good. I did it.’ Me, at the time, I had a lot of respect for her and what she had done so that was a plus.”

Yeah, go with that explanation. I’m sure it’ll work.

- Posted by Rich Miller   11 Comments      


Question of the day

Tuesday, Sep 1, 2015

* Rep. Greg Harris visited one of Exelon’s nuclear power plants today and posted a photo to Facebook. But then somebody posted a slightly more creative version…

* The Question: Caption?

- Posted by Rich Miller   56 Comments      


Chris Crane: New Plan Will Help Ensure Reliable Power

Tuesday, Sep 1, 2015

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

The following is excerpted from a Daily Herald op-ed by Exelon Corporation President and CEO Chris Crane:

“Keeping the lights on, safely and reliably, is Exelon’s primary responsibility to customers. Part of that is planning ahead to make sure we have enough power to meet our region’s needs for years to come.

Over the past decade, the power generation system has dramatically changed. The grid was once powered almost entirely by highly reliable power plants like nuclear and coal, which have fuel on site and can run 24/7 in all weather conditions. Today it has moved toward natural gas, which is subject to supply disruption if home heating becomes critical or the gas delivery system freezes, and renewables, which only run when the sun shines or when the wind blows. …

While this shift has helped provide cleaner power, it has led to a major unintended consequence — the system is no longer sufficiently reliable, especially during extreme weather.

The challenges became clear during the 2014 polar vortex, when PJM, which operates an electric grid from northern Illinois to the mid-Atlantic, lost 22 percent of its power generation and came dangerously close to a large-scale blackout. A recent decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the agency charged with ensuring the reliability of the grid, will help avoid such a crisis. …

The plan, known as capacity performance, only pays power plants that deliver power when promised — especially in the hottest or coldest weather — and imposes financial penalties on those that don’t. …

[A]uctions under the new plan [will] ensure enough supply for customers’ needs in years to come. …

Importantly, any auction proceeds will be reinvested in improving the reliability of our power plants…

Exelon is constantly investing in its nuclear power plants, spending nearly $1 billion annually to add the latest technologies and keep them operating safely and reliably. …

Now is an opportune time to implement these reforms for a more reliable grid that will keep homes lit and warm, businesses running, and our economy growing.”

Learn more about reliable nuclear energy at www.NuclearPowersIllinois.com

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Teamsters leader: Rauner admin “compromised and gave concessions” for “fair” agreement

Tuesday, Sep 1, 2015

* Finke

The Rauner administration said Monday it has reached tentative or final agreements on new labor contracts with five groups of Teamsters units representing about 4,600 workers statewide.

The announcement comes as the Illinois House prepares to return to Springfield on Wednesday and possibly vote on overriding Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of Senate Bill 1229. The bill, pushed by Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, would place contract talks in the hands of an independent arbitrator in the event an agreement cannot be reached at the bargaining table.

The Rauner administration has previously used settlements with Teamsters locals as evidence that it bargains in good faith and can reach contract settlements with unions representing public employees.

In a statement, the administration said it has reached final or tentative agreements with all Teamsters units with which it negotiates labor contracts.

* From the governor’s office…

The terms of the agreement include:

    · Maintenance of the current level of health care benefits for employees and their dependents as part of the State’s continued contributions to the independent Teamsters Local 727 Health & Welfare Fund.
    · A four-year wage freeze, continuing the 75% in-hire rate.
    · Continuation of a 40-hour work week.
    · A new performance incentive program to reward employees with bonuses for cost-saving measures and meeting or exceeding performance metrics.
    · A collaborative program that allows management and the Teamsters to work together to provide low-cost alternatives to outsourcing.
    · A reduction in the payout for accumulated unused vacation from 75 to 45 days for employees hired after January 1, 2016.

Status with various Teamster bargaining units:

    · Teamsters Local 700 (Cook County highway maintainers): 300 members; agreement ratified by members.
    · Teamsters Local 700 (Master Sergeants): 200 members; agreement ratified by members.
    · Teamsters Local 330 (suburban group): 300 members; tentative agreement signed; members will hold ratification vote in the next few weeks.
    · Teamsters Local 916 (Protech): 1100 members; tentative agreement signed; members will hold ratification vote in the next few weeks.
    · Teamsters Downstate Illinois State Employee Negotiating Committee: 2700 members; tentative agreement signed; members will hold ratification vote in the next few weeks.

* And the react from John T. Coli, the Teamsters Union’s International Vice President for the Central Region…

“Members of the Rauner Administration proved to be tough, but reasonable and honest negotiators. They compromised and gave concessions to us in order to reach an agreement that was fair to the state as well as the Teamsters. Our negotiations prove that when both sides come to the table and leave political agendas at the door, the citizens of Illinois benefit.

- Posted by Rich Miller   75 Comments      


State avoids contempt citation… for now

Tuesday, Sep 1, 2015

* AP

A U.S. judge has cited Illinois’ efforts in recent days to make court-ordered payments to social-service providers in deciding not to hold the state in contempt.

Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman ruled at a Tuesday hearing in Chicago focused on services for the disabled. Coleman raised the prospect of a contempt finding last week after Illinois missed a deadline for certain payments as the state budget standoff continues.

A plaintiffs’ attorney, Barry Taylor, told Coleman that Illinois is now “making a good-faith effort.” But he and other attorneys also said court pressure had worked.

Coleman says she’ll entertain another contempt motion if the state falters again on payments.

* Sun-Times

While there are ongoing budget issues facing the state, Coleman said she wasn’t getting in the middle of it. “This court is not going to allow political wrangling,” affect her decisions, she said.

Still, Coleman tweaked the comptroller’s office for not flagging a cash-flow issue when it failed to comply with her order to pay services for the severely developmentally disabled by Aug. 21.

“That was disturbing to the court,” she said.

* Tribune

On Tuesday, Coleman scolded the state for previously failing “to explain the difficulty they were having in a timely way,” saying the legal wrangling over the payments “cost a lot of time, effort, trees.”

Coleman said she was satisfied that “every attempt has been made to try to cooperate,” and instructed the two sides to draft an order that would allow a court monitor to keep track of the payments to make sure the state complies with her order.

…Adding… From Ed McManus…

Attorneys for the state and lawyers representing Illinois residents with developmental disabilities finally made peace today in federal court in Chicago.

The disability lawyers had proposed that state officials be held in contempt of court for failing to make payments to provider agencies. But the state now says it is making the payments, and the contempt idea has been dropped.

Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman indicated she was upset with remarks by Comptroller Leslie Munger that she doesn’t like being governed by a court. Coleman said Munger needs to realize that she must comply with federal court consent decrees–specifically the Ligas decree, which protects the rights of people with developmental disabilities. An attorney for Munger quickly assured Coleman that Munger “never intended to be critical of your role.”

Ed McManus, a Wilmette-based consultant who represents many of the providers, said his agencies are breathing a sigh of relief. “Most of them have now been paid or apparently are about to be paid, and that’s great. But it’s really inexcusable that the state administration dragged its feet for all this time–since July 1–while these providers were scraping by, cutting their employees’ hours, and paying interest to banks to borrow money the state should have been paying them. The State of Illinois needs to wake up and start doing much better in providing care to our most vulnerable residents.”

Attorney Barry Taylor of Equip for Equality, representing the plaintiffs in the Ligas case, said it has now been agreed that the court-appointed monitor in the case, Ronnie Cohn, will act as a conduit for any providers that still have issues. The agencies were instructed to contact her with problems, Taylor said, and she will work with the state to correct them.

Taylor expressed concern about an announcement the Department of Human Services made last week that it is no longer making expedited payments to the smaller providers. Judge Coleman stressed that she has previously ordered that the expedited payment process be continued.

The state said all payments to ICFDDs for FY15 were processed and sent to the comptroller last night, so those payments should be made soon.

…Adding More… From the comptroller…

Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger released the following statement Tuesday in response to a Federal Court’s denial of a motion to hold the state in contempt of court over payments tied to the Ligas Consent Decree impacting services for people with developmental disabilities:

“I am grateful to the Court for recognizing that our office has done, and will continue to do, everything in its power to ensure that the state’s budget shortfall does not impact payment for services for people with developmental disabilities.

“Since being sworn into office eight months ago, I have made payments for those serving our most vulnerable my top priority. Long before I assumed public office, I spent years volunteering for an organization serving the intellectually and developmentally disabled - and I saw firsthand the pain that is caused when the state does not meet its obligations in a timely fashion. As the state’s Chief Fiscal Officer, I have made it my mission to ensure that other organizations do not face similar hardship.

“I have traveled the state meeting with nonprofit and social service providers in recent months, and whether I’m in Rockford or East St. Louis, the message is the same: to truly bring relief to those serving our most vulnerable, Illinois must pass a balanced budget.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      


Group: Proposed child care rule changes are illegal

Tuesday, Sep 1, 2015

* A memo from Emily Miller at Voices for Illinois Children to the Department of Human Services’ Bureau of Administrative Rules and Procedures. All emphasis in original…

Voices for Illinois Children does not support the proposed rule change to the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) under 89 Illinois Administrative Code 50; 39 Ill. Reg. 9731. We fully endorse the comments made by the Ounce of Prevention Fund, Illinois Action for Children, and the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty law regarding concerns with every section of the proposed rule, and we add the following comment:

Voices strongly supports the vision laid out for child care by 305 ILCS 5/9A-11, which states that families with children need child care in order to work and recognizes the important role the state plays in helping low-income working families become and remain self-sufficient.

The department’s proposed rules severely and arbitrarily restricts access to child care in a manner that violates both the letter and spirit of state law.

Specifically, the limits on eligibility to 50% of the federal poverty level violate 305 ILCS 9A-11(a) and (b.) While the department is free to establish rules related to the eligibility of families for child care assistance, as of 2008, 305 ILCS 9A-11(b) expressly prohibits the department from reducing eligibility below 185% of the current year’s federal poverty level. A change to 50% of FPL requires a change to statute, and cannot legally be accomplished through the administrative rulemaking process.

In addition, 305 ILCS 5, Section 9A-11(b) requires that the department fund child care for families transitioning from TANF to work and families at risk of becoming recipients of TANF—two categories wrongfully excluded from eligibility in the department’s rule.

In fact, the reduction in eligibility from 185% of the federal poverty level (FPL) to 50% FPL put every low- and middle-income family at risk of becoming recipients of TANF because parents are forced to choose between having an enriching, safe place for their child to be and going to work every day.

Under new eligibility restrictions, a single mother with one child who works full time at minimum wage makes too much money to quality for assistance. Only if a single mother worked at an hourly rate just over $4 per hour could she still quality for child care assistance. Given the state’s minimum wage requirement (a requirement Voices fully supports an expansion of), it is a legal impossibility for a single mother of one to work full time for minimum wage and receive quality for child care. That is an unlawful and unwise change in public policy that sends our state backwards, and forces families to rely on more costly government services rather than become and remain self-sufficient.

In order to fulfill the stated purpose and spirit of the child care statute, it is unreasonable and unlawful for the department to restrict eligibility of CCAP in the manner contained in the rule.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments; we await your response.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 - Quinn’s office responds *** Art returned after police report filed

Tuesday, Sep 1, 2015

* Kerry Lester

“We definitely didn’t steal anything,” Billy Morgan, a spokesman for former Gov. Pat Quinn says, referring to downstate artist Cameron Schilling’s sketches of fallen soldiers from the suburbs and throughout Illinois.

But Gov. Bruce Rauner’s staff members weren’t buying that when they filed a previously unpublished police report in March questioning where the art had gone after Quinn left office. […]

Quinn made veterans issues a hallmark of his tenure, and there was a question whether the exhibit — valued at $5,000 — was state property or his.

Rauner’s staff certainly thought the portraits were Illinois property and filed the police report after former Quinn chief of staff Ryan Croke, a Wheeling native, told Rauner chief Mike Zolnierowicz, who grew up in Downers Grove, that he thought the sketches could be found on the 16th floor of the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago.

But they weren’t.

Two months ago, the artwork quietly turned up again, and police reviewed surveillance video to verify how it got back into the building, noticing it was returned by former Quinn staffers.

Quinn, in the police report, told police the drawings were inadvertently moved by staff to his campaign headquarters. No charges were filed, and the portraits are now on traveling display — this week, they’re at the Du Quoin State Fair.

Sheesh.

*** UPDATE *** From an e-mail…

Hello Rich,

FYI, as you will see via attached, this police report was conveniently requested AFTER the display was promptly returned upon learning of this inadvertent mistake by CMS movers.

Let’s call this what it is: an attempt by the current administration to distract from their failure to govern responsibly. Instead of making up phony controversies, they should focus on the budget.

Best,
William Morgan

Click here for the attachment.

…Adding… If you read the police report, the art was returned shortly after the cops were first contacted. This appears to have been an ongoing thing dating from at least December.

- Posted by Rich Miller   72 Comments      


NORML: GA should accept Rauner’s AV

Tuesday, Sep 1, 2015

* WUIS

A marijuana advocacy group is urging Illinois lawmakers to accept Governor Bruce Rauner’s changes to a marijuana decriminalization plan.

In his amendatory veto, the Governor supported lowering penalties for possession of pot but he did tighten the amount someone could have to avoid a criminal charge.

The National Organization to Reform Marijuana laws says it’s still a move in the right direction.

“I think if he’s honest about reducing our prison population, if he’s honest about reforming our criminal justice system, this is a very easy win I think to accomplish those types of goals,” Dan Linn, Executive Director of NORML’s Illinois chapter, said.

The governor’s full veto message is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      


Maybe not

Tuesday, Sep 1, 2015

* Sun-Times

Dozens of counties across the country have been put on notice by the Public Interest Legal Foundation after it says 141 counties across the United States have more registered voters on the books than people alive in those counties.

What state is one of the worst offenders? That’s right, Illinois.

The public interest law firm dedicated to election integrity sent letters to county election officials in 21 states, which is the first move before bringing a lawsuit against those counties under the federal National Voter Registration Act. The NVRA requires election officials to maintain current voter roles and ensure only eligible voters are registered.

“Corrupted voter rolls provide the perfect environment for voter fraud,” said J. Christian Adams, President and General Counsel of PILF. “Close elections tainted by voter fraud turned control of the United States Senate in 2009. Too much is at stake in 2016 to allow that to happen again.”

Michigan is the worst offender, according to the group, with 24 counties on the list. Kentucky is second with 18, and Illinois is third at 17. Indiana (11), Alabama (10) and Colorado (10) round out the five offenders counties nationally.

* From Jon Musgrave at IllinoisHistory.com…

Rich,

I don’t know if you’ve seen the Public Interest Law Foundation release showing Illinois the second worst state in the union with the number of counties that have more registered voters than voting age population. Here’s the link if you haven’t - http://publicinterestlegal.org/election-law-live/scores-of-counties-put-on-notice-about-corrupted-voter-rolls/.

I saw a reference to it on a blog I read and thought I would check it out. I expected Alexander County to rank near the top of the Illinois counties based on its past and was surprised to find Franklin County at the highest. Not only was it the highest in Illinois but at 190 percent registered voters to voting age population is was the worst in the entire country.

I had my doubts so I ran the numbers using the ISBE and the Census Bureau websites. Turns out PILF’s numbers don’t add up. Of the 17 counties, only three have more registered voters than voting age residents.

Attached is a spreadsheet with my calculations.

Voting fraud is a problem. Playing hanky-panky with absentee ballots happens every election and it starts with sloppy voter rolls. I support efforts to clean them up, but PILF needs to be standing on solid ground when they start threatening federal lawsuits.

I’ve been a precinct committeeman, candidate and many times an election judge as well as a journalist at different times. This grabbed my attention because it was the perfect numbers story I would have ran with in a heartbeat.

I don’t know if it’s “too bad,” or “thank goodness,” it’s not really a problem, though I would love to run the numbers for East St. Louis and other troubled election authorities of which PILF seems completely ignorant.

* Click for a larger version

Also keep in mind that a lot of this problem is caused when counties don’t purge their voter rolls often enough. It’s not necessarily criminal intent here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      


Message synergy

Tuesday, Sep 1, 2015

* From an August 28th Chicago Tribune editorial on the AFSCME bill entitled “Don’t cave to Madigan: Why independent Democrats should put taxpayers first”

Consider Rep. Carol Sente of Vernon Hills, who’s been pro-business and budget-conscious. She sponsored a 2011 bill that became law and assures that contracts governors and other statewide officials cut with unions only extend through their terms and don’t hamstring their successors. AFSCME leaders fought her, but she stood up to them: “When a governor comes in, it’s a new term. We want the opportunity for him or her not to have their hands tied,” she said at the time.

A House override this week clearly would tie Rauner’s hands.

Sente voted for the bill in May, but everyone knew Rauner would veto it. It was a safer vote then than it is now. Will she vote to override? We’ll see. She and other swing Democrats are tight-lipped.

Adding to the intrigue: Sente faced a tough re-election campaign last fall against Republican Leslie Munger, whom Rauner later appointed state comptroller. The Democratic Party of Illinois, chaired by Madigan, spent more than $300,000 defending Sente’s seat.

* Two days later, this full-page ad appeared on the back page of the front section of the Chicago Tribune…

- Posted by Rich Miller   76 Comments      


AFSCME claims threats, calls Rauner opposition “hysteria”

Tuesday, Sep 1, 2015

* From AFSCME….

Governor Rauner and his allies are threatening your legislator, IL State House District 99 Raymond Poe, and other legislators if they stand up for workers’ rights. It is critically important that we provide a positive message of support and encouragement to state representatives to counter Rauner’s intimidation tactics.

The vote on SB 1229 is set for Wednesday. IL State House District 99 Raymond Poe needs to hear from you TODAY. Even if you’ve already called, call again right away. You can call our legislative hotline at 888-912-5959 with this message: Please vote YES to override the governor’s veto of SB 1229. Don’t give in to Rauner’s threats. Stand up for your constituents.

Rauner is doing everything in his power to prevent legislators from voting to override his veto of SB 1229. This critically important legislation would put the brakes on Rauner’s schemes to force state workers out on strike and try to break the union. Instead of allowing Rauner to lock out state workers, SB 1229 provides for an independent arbitrator to resolve the state contract dispute.

The governor’s hysteria over this bill is a plain indication that he is not willing to work toward a fair contract settlement, but rather is trying to provoke a confrontation. He’s looking for a way to impose his extreme demands on state employees. If he gets away with his scheme, every AFSCME member, no matter where they work, will be hurt—and public sector retirees will be hurt too.

SB 1229 simply extends to all state employees the same fair arbitration procedures in contract disputes that have applied to police officers, firefighters and other public safety employees for decades. The Fraternal Order of Police, the Associated Firefighters of Illinois and the Police Benevolent have all come out in support of the bill, pointing out that arbitration can be a means to avoid conflict and reach contract settlements that are fair to all.

Fortunately, the Illinois Senate has already rejected Rauner’s plan for massive disruption of public services by voting to override his veto of SB 1229. This week—likely in less than 48 hours—the House will vote on the veto motion. A three-fifths vote is required to override.

That’s why it’s so important that you can your representative right now. IL State House District 99 Raymond Poe needs to hear from you TODAY. Just call 888-912-5959 and follow the prompts to be connected to your legislator’s office. Our message: “Please vote YES to override the governor’s veto of SB 1229. Don’t give in to Rauner’s threats. Stand up for your constituents.”

Thank you.

In Unity,

Roberta Lynch
Executive Director

* I followed up about the alleged threats and was sent this…

As you know, Rauner has applied intense pressure on every Republican member (and some Dems) in the House to uphold the veto. His talking points handed out to the Republican Caucus calls SB1229 “especially dangerous” and an “affront to taxpayers” while his political arm “Turnaround Illinois” flooded targeted Republican House districts, including Poe’s, with robo calls calling it the “pick-your-pocket bill” and threatening “billions” in new taxes. One of our retiree members received 4 such calls in a day.

Our ask to our members is to call Representative Poe with a positive message that encourages him to vote based on what’s best for his constituents, not on Rauner’s over-the-top bombast.

- Posted by Rich Miller   82 Comments      


Rauner using race as an issue against AFSCME bill

Tuesday, Sep 1, 2015

…Adding… AFSCME has responded. Click here to read it.

* The veto override is scheduled for Wednesday, so the heat will continue to ramp up

To: Agency Directors
From: Jason Barclay
General Counsel [to the governor]
Re: SB 1229 and Minority Hiring and Promotion Date: August 28, 2015

As you are aware, it is the responsibility of the Illinois Department of Human Rights (“IDHR”) to assist your agencies in ensuring that the state workforce accurately reflects the demographic makeup of our state. Summaries provided by IDHR from Fiscal Year 2014 indicate that state workers in minority groups, including race, national origin, sex, and disability, have been significantly underrepresented in many areas of state government in previous administrations. State law, 56 Ill. Admin. Code, Ch. II Section 2520.700, requires agencies to establish action plans to correct these deficiencies in state hiring and promotion practices.

It is Governor Rauner’s goal to meet, and where possible, exceed these important utilization goals by hiring, mentoring, and promoting qualified minority candidates throughout state government. Since 93% of all employees are in a union, to properly address the current underutilization rates, we need the support, cooperation, and partnership of the state’s unions as well.

In fact, in one of his first acts as Governor, Governor Rauner issued Executive Order 15-12 that requires labor organizations with state contracts to report the number of minorities and veterans participating in union apprenticeship and training programs. These programs are important pipelines for filling new vacancies in state agencies, and historically many union apprenticeship and training programs have not reflected the state’s demographic population.

The second critical impediment to addressing minority underutilization is removing seniority provisions in the state’s collective bargaining agreements that require the state to promote more senior, white and/or male candidates over more junior minority candidates that are equally or even more qualified than a senior candidate. We told the unions these provisions are unacceptable to this Governor. We want to promote candidates based upon their performance, not their tenure. And where minority candidates can be promoted into leadership positions, our agency directors should be given the opportunity to do so without restriction.

In contract negotiations, we proposed underutilization language in AFSCME’s next contract, for instance, that says:

    “Where there exists an underutilization of a minority class in a given geographical region and/or job category, the Agency, after utilizing the Upward Mobility Program where applicable, may in accordance with applicable law, fill the position at its discretion to address the underutilization.”

On August 25, AFSCME rejected this proposal. We made clear at the bargaining table that this proposal is non-negotiable because it is a critical element of the Governor’s efforts to transform the culture of state hiring that gives underrepresented candidates more opportunities, and rewards high performance. This important provision, however, could be a casualty of SB 1229 if the Governor’s veto of the automatic arbitration bill is overridden.

As we have explained previously, an unelected arbitrator, and not the Governor, would decide whether minority candidates, and not more senior white candidates, are eligible for promotion since AFSCME will not voluntarily agree to this provision on their own. If these regressive hiring practices are not eliminated in our next collective bargaining agreements, it will make it very difficult to adequately address the systemic underutilization of minorities throughout state government.

To get this important message out to state legislators, we would ask that you start to identify how the rejection of this language could specifically impact individual candidates and overall hiring and promotion practices in your agencies. Unfortunately, many do not yet realize that SB 1229 can have sweeping implications far beyond the severe budgetary impacts that have already been publicized.

We appreciate your continued assistance in gathering information to educate the General Assembly and the public on this damaging bill.

* Meanwhile, Greg Hinz compares the AFSCME bill to impeachment

Voters had varied reasons to elect Rauner over Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn last year. But clearly one of the main ones was the desire for change, change that Rauner loudly promised to deliver by cutting spending and remaking the way Springfield does business. Having given him that power, it strikes me as disingenuous for lawmakers to take it away, sort of partially impeaching him on the cheap. Too much money is at stake in a state that isn’t close to balancing the books.

Now, an argument can be made that governors have too much power in labor negotiations. But now is not the time to change that. Beyond that, even Rauner is not going to blithely declare a legal impasse in negotiations and unilaterally impose a new contract. If he does, lawmakers—and the public—will have plenty of chance to respond, starting in next year’s legislative elections.

On balance, labor negotiations are supposed to be tough matches of bluffing, chest-thumping, histrionics and, occasionally, strikes. The state will be far better off if the current process is allowed to proceed under the current rules, rather than having one side run a trick play.

The House ought to reject, or at least sidetrack, the override move. Then Rauner ought to return to the table and work out a deal that a hard-strapped state and its workers can live with.

- Posted by Rich Miller   52 Comments      


Running on empty and can’t fill the tank

Tuesday, Sep 1, 2015

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

The state fiscal crisis is only going to get worse, and the solution is becoming more difficult by the day.

As you probably know, the General Assembly and the governor have not yet agreed on a full state budget. But because of various federal judicial orders, a signed education funding bill and several ongoing statutory “continuing appropriations” (debt service, pension payments, legislative salaries, etc.), the government is on pace to spend billions of dollars more than it will bring in this fiscal year.

Guesstimates have been tossed around by various folks that the state could run out of money by March or maybe April if no formal budget agreement is reached. That’s because all the judicial orders, etc. are based on last fiscal year’s budget, but last year’s budget was based on revenue from a 5 percent income tax that automatically fell to 3.75 percent in January.

Long term is grim, but so is the short term.

On August 18th, Federal District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman gave the state three days to make July’s $120 million payment for services to developmentally disabled people.

But Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger claimed there wasn’t enough money in the state’s “checking account” to meet state payroll, make required bond, pension and school payments, fund other federal consent decrees and comply with the order.

A partial payment of $70 million was made last week and then the rest was paid a few days later after Coleman threatened the state with a contempt of court citation.

And things are only going to get worse. The comptroller’s people say their office sets aside about $540 million a month for state pension payments. The comptroller’s office estimates that by November or December the state will not have enough money in the bank to make its monthly pension payments.

But they can’t even start working on a fiscal solution until Gov. Bruce Rauner’s demands about his anti-union “Turnaround Agenda” are met.

And the problem with agreeing to any of Rauner’s ideas is that everybody figures he will attempt to hold up next year’s budget for even more anti-labor stuff.

One theory (on both sides) has long been that this thing has to play itself all the way out so that we don’t have to go through it ever again. Therefore, the Democrats may wait to see what the governor does when the state’s prisons run out of food, or the government literally runs out of money. Rauner may wait to see what the Dems do when private human service providers fold en masse.

So they’ll likely keep circling each other, throwing jabs and issuing taunts. They’re basically just attempting to run out the clock on each other, creating diversions until “doomsday” is finally reached.

But every day they wait will make it that much tougher to craft a final budget deal because basic math is not on their side.

Rauner essentially agreed in private months ago to a 1 percentage point income tax hike—from the current personal rate of 3.75 percent up to 4.75 percent–if, that is, they can first reach a deal on his agenda.

Let’s just say a miracle happens and they come to terms by the first week of September. In order to bring in the same amount of revenue as a full-year 1 percentage point hike, the effective tax rate over the fiscal year’s remaining 10 months would have to be significantly higher than 4.75 percent.

And now factor in candidate petition filing, which begins Sept. 1 and runs through Nov. 30. How do you convince Republicans and Democrats to vote for a tax hike while petitions are in the streets?

That’s why Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno said not long ago that she didn’t see a resolution until December. But if they wait until December, when a three-fifths majority would still be required to pass a new budget, why not just wait until January, when a simple majority would only be required?

If that happens, then the income tax rate on Jan. 1—halfway through the fiscal year—would have to be 5.75 percent to produce the same revenue as a 4.75 percent rate back on July 1.

And what if they wait until the state runs out of money, sometime after the party primaries end? Trust me, you don’t even want to know what the tax rate would have to be.

The other option is to not raise taxes that high and just postpone billions of dollars in state bill payments. I’m not sure which is worse.

- Posted by Rich Miller   49 Comments      


Attorneys: Providers still not being paid

Monday, Aug 31, 2015

[Comments now opened.]

* From Ed McManus…

Attorneys for Illinois residents with developmental disabilities told the federal court Monday afternoon that many provider agencies still have not been paid for the services they have provided. (See attached documents) They said the court needs to order a mechanism to ensure that complete and accurate information about payments is provided, so that compliance with the Ligas consent decree can be evaluated. “The state consistently has failed to provide all of the relevant information throughout this dispute.”

The lawyers said they “do not now advocate a finding of contempt. Our goal simply is to make sure that the payments required by the decree and this court’s orders are made in a timely manner.” The state should be ordered to bring to the court’s attention, in advance, any potential non-compliance to avoid “the type of inefficient and disruptive ‘fire drill’ that the court and the parties have been through over the past several weeks.”

The lawyers had asked Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman last week to consider finding state officials in contempt of court for failing to comply with Ligas, a decree issued in 2011 in which the state agreed to enhance the disability system.

Ed McManus, a Wilmette-based consultant representing many of the provider agencies, said: “It is good that the state has now made most of the payments, but these agencies had to wait two long months, and that was unconscionable. Many of them had exhausted their reserves and maxed out their lines of credit. What a shame that the state caused all this anxiety for these vulnerable people and their dedicated providers.”

The court filing said:

    –Some group home providers still remain unpaid for July and August services, and many intermediate care facilities have not been paid for all Fiscal 2015 services.

    –Contrary to the assertions of the comptroller’s attorney, the state did have funds available to make payments Aug. 21 as ordered by the court.

    –State statutory and state constitutional obligations do not have priority over the consent decree. The lawyers are not asking the court to require that Ligas payments take precedence. They are simply arguing that their payments should not automatically be put in line after these other payments. “The state put the payments required by this court and federal law behind many other payments.”

    –A south suburban provider, Family Assn. Plus, received a letter from the state Aug. 25 announcing that it was eliminating the expedited payment program, which provides money faster to agencies that need it. The attorneys said this announcement must be rescinded immediately. “Such a suspension would be devastating to the providers participating in this program.”

Another hearing before Judge Coleman is scheduled for Tuesday.

* Attachments…

* Ligas - Reply Memorandum

* Exhibit A

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      


Moody’s: Illinois ratings will be based on whether state can deal with revenue problems and show it can make required pension payments

Monday, Aug 31, 2015

[Comments now opened.]

* Summary…

Moody’s has issued a short report concerning the ongoing budget stalemate in Illinois (rated A3/negative outlook). Illinois has had budget delays before and the weak governance is already factored into the state’s rating. However, the nature of the eventual agreement will matter far more to the state’s fiscal situation than the long delay that has already occurred. The report’s highlights are:

    * Pension funding pressures are growing, and the state cannot reduce liabilities through benefit cuts. Costs of constitutionally protected pension benefits are rising and funding pressure will be compounded by retiree healthcare benefit costs, which are rising by about 6.5% a year.

    * Illinois still has options to address its current-year deficit. An approximately $5 billion projected deficit can be offset with a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases including reinstating higher income tax rates.

    * The current impasse underscores the state’s governance weaknesses. Illinois has had late budgets before. This time, the Republican governor’s struggles to reach agreement with the legislature’s strong Democrat majorities have not yet strained the state’s finances, but that will change if an accord is not reached soon.

The press release is below and the report is attached. If you have any questions or wish to speak to anyone at Moody’s, please contact me. Thanks

David Jacobson

AVP, Communications Strategist - Public Finance Group

Moody’s Investors Service

* Press release…

Moody’s: Illinois’ budget impasse secondary to intensifying pension and revenue problems

The State of Illinois’ (A3 negative) current budget stalemate underscores the weak governance already incorporated into its rating, and is symptomatic of the state’s severe fiscal challenges, Moody’s Investors Service says in “State of Illinois: Late Budget Matters Less than Solving Pension and Revenue Problems.”

“Illinois projects its income and other taxes to generate $32 billion this fiscal year, or $5.4 billion less than expenditures without cuts,” author of the report and Moody’s Vice President – Sr Credit Officer Ted Hampton says. “While the state still has options to address its current-year deficit, continued political gridlock and the inability to reach an agreement by late September will greatly increase the likelihood of the deficit moving from projected to actual.”

The state also faces intensifying pressure to fund retiree benefits, which account for roughly 24% of its current general fund expenditures. The pension funding situation is compounded by retiree healthcare benefits costs, which are growing at about 6.5% a year.

“The state’s ability to manage these pressures will be a primary determinant of future rating actions. Given the state’s ironclad protection of benefits for current workers and retirees, Illinois requires a long-term plan to ensure it can at least comply with statutory funding requirements,” Hampton says.

Moody’s says the state has been deficient for many years in meeting the standardized annual required contribution (ARC) requirements to its pensions, and has been legally blocked from reducing its accrued liabilities via pension benefit cuts.

In the absence of a budget, Illinois will eventually have insufficient revenues to fund likely expenses, even as the pace of spending has slowed from last year. Some expenses have been paid because they do not require appropriation, have been mandated by court orders, or are allowed under limited appropriation measures.

Like other states, Illinois has had budget delays before, most recently in FY 2010. Moody’s believes it is unlikely Illinois can significantly reduce expenses without having a full budget in place, especially with services like healthcare that continue to be provided.

* The full analysis (click here) includes a possible road map

Illinois has the economic capacity to absorb higher income tax rates. It is one of only eight states that levy a flat individual income tax. Among those states, Illinois’ current rate is comparatively low: the average among these states is 4.4%, compared with 3.75% in Illinois. Unlike excise taxes, income taxes can be implemented retroactively, although the political feasibility of applying higher income taxes retroactive to July 1 has diminished, given that a quarter of the state’s fiscal year likely will have elapsed before new policies can be implemented.

Raising the individual rate to 4.75% from 3.75% and the corporate rate to 6.75% from 5.25% for the second half of this fiscal year would generate approximately $2.4 billion of additional revenue, leaving about $2.2 billion of the deficit to be addressed by other measures. The state could probably impose $1.7 billion of expenditure cuts, less than half the $3.7 billion of savings in the governor’s proposed budget that were not related to employee benefit reductions. This would leave $500 million to be addressed by additional new revenue, or non-recurring measures.

As time has elapsed, the difficulty of realizing such savings has increased; imposing these spending cuts in a shortened period may prove politically challenging. The cuts would reduce monthly outflows by about 9%, twice the monthly reduction that would have been required if such cuts had been put in place for the full year.

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


PREVIOUS POSTS »
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* AFSCME claims threats, calls Rauner opposition "hysteria"
* Rauner using race as an issue against AFSCME bill
* Running on empty and can't fill the tank
* Attorneys: Providers still not being paid
* Moody's: Illinois ratings will be based on whether state can deal with revenue problems and show it can make required pension payments
* Yesterday's blog posts

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