Welcome to the Senate Republican Press Search.

Full text for Articles for Yesterday, Friday, June 23, 2017 - 27 Articles

Print

From the community: Sen. Oberweis: Funding reform gives more state money to local schools
Aurora Beacon News
Friday, June 23, 2017  |   Editorial  |   Editorial Board
Education Funding (36a) Oberweis, Jim--State Senate, 25

Schools across the 25th Senate District will receive more money from the state, under a compromise proposal that will overhaul Illinois' current broken education funding formula, according to State Sen. Jim Oberweis (R-Sugar Grove).

 

Data provided by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) shows unparalleled gains for schools across the state.

 

"Our suburban schools have traditionally relied heavily on local property taxes for the bulk of their funding, and education reform plans in recent years would have placed an even heavier burden on local property taxpayers. Attempts at education funding reform have long been politicized, shifting resources from some school districts at the expense of others," Oberweis said. "We did not support any such plans that take already scant state resources from our students to prop up schools in other regions of Illinois."

 

Senate Bill 1124 (Senate Floor Amendment 3) relies on an evidence-based model that provides for low-income students while ensuring that all 852 school districts across the state receive more state funding than they would under any other education proposal being considered.

 

Some of the biggest area gains include West Chicago School District 33, Plano Community Unit School District 88, Aurora West Unit School District 129, School District 46, and Oswego Community Unit School District 308, which each would receive at least $500 or more in additional state funding per student.

 

Senate Bill 1124 has many bipartisan components but it differs from other reform plans, like Senate Bill 1, in the way it treats Chicago Public Schools. Whereas Senate Bill 1 funnels hundreds of millions of dollars toward just the one district, Senate Bill 1124 treats all districts equally and rejects the cycle of Chicago Public Schools bailouts.

"Illinois has a history of sending a disproportionate amount of our tax dollars to a broken Chicago Public Schools system," Oberweis said. "Senate Bill 1124 ensures all districts are treated equally under the same system, putting an end to special deals for Chicago Public Schools."

 

Full results of the ISBE analysis for Senate Bill 1124 (Senate Floor Amendment 3) are available at https://www.isbe.net/Pages/Education-Funding-Proposals.aspx.

 


Department of Aging lags in creating caregiver registry, audit finds
Belleville News Democrat
Friday, June 23, 2017  |   Article  |   Casey Bischel
Human Services (75)

A recent audit faulted the Illinois Department of Aging for failing to establish a registry that would track caregivers whose negligence or abuse resulted in the death of a client.

 

Adult Protective Services currently reports neglectful and abusive caregivers to the specific agencies that caregivers work for, but a registry would allow other state agencies to see who those caregivers are, according to Department of Aging spokeswoman Veronica Vera.

 

The department was supposed to establish the registry as part of the Adult Protective Services Act, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2015. The act also required state agencies to check the new registry before hiring or paying caregivers, but the registry still hasn’t been established.

 

Those agencies include the Department of Aging, the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, the Department of Human Services, and the Department of Public Health, according to the audit.

 

Caregivers whose abuse or neglect cause someone receiving in-home and community-based treatment from the state to die are supposed be reported to the Department of Aging, which is supposed to put the caregiver on the Adult Protective Service Registry.

 

The Department of Aging said that a lack of resources has been a problem in creating the registry. Hurdles included staff vacancies, technical difficulties, drafting administrative rules, competing priorities and other things, according to the audit.

 

“As we work to implement the APS Registry, Adult Protective Services continues to report any caregiver ... with a substantiated finding of abuse, neglect or exploitation to the administering state agency ... to prevent that caregiver from continuing to serve recipients of in-home services,” the Department of Aging said in a statement.


Lawmakers still divided over budget after 2nd session day
Carbondale Southern Illinoisan
Friday, June 23, 2017  |   Article  |   AP
Budget--State (8)

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois lawmakers remain deeply divided after the second day of a special session aimed at approving a state budget.

The Democrat-controlled House and Senate met briefly Thursday. The House later held a hearing on changes to workers' compensation laws, though Republicans called it a "stall tactic."

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner wants to reduce workers' compensation costs for employers and other pro-business changes as part of a budget deal. Democrats say his changes would hurt workers.

Rauner called the special session to force a deal before July 1. Otherwise, Illinois will enter its third year without a budget.

Senate Democrats are pushing a $37.3 billion plan that includes cuts and an income tax increase.

Republicans want a plan that includes Rauner's changes along with an income tax increase.


Voice of The Southern: Thumbs up to Street Machine Nationals, thumbs down to budget impasse
Carbondale Southern Illinoisan
Friday, June 23, 2017  |   Editorial  |   STAFF
Budget--State (8) , Crime (28) , Education Funding (36a)

Thumbs down to the 723 days Illinois has been without a budget. At this point there are hardly words to describe the anger, frustration and futility experienced by Illinois residents. This week, Gov. Bruce Rauner has called the General Assembly into emergency session to try to hammer out a budget agreement. Pardon our cynicism, but wouldn’t that have been a splendid idea 722 days ago? To term the situation an emergency 722 days after the fact — that’s almost laughable. However, our legislators and our governor have done so much harm to the state it’s difficult to find any humor in the situation.

Thumbs up to the the 34th annual General Tire Street Machine Nationals starting Friday at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds. A bonus thumbs up to the fact that officials want the event to keep returning to Du Quoin. “We plan on being back for sure. We have been in talks already and we are looking at renewing our contract while we are in town. Our goal is to get another three years, and at this time, I see no reason for it not to happen,” said Matthew Louck, Family Events vice president of marketing and communication. That is great news for Du Quoin and the rest of Southern Illinois, as the event is wildly popular in the region. It has something for all ages and runs through Sunday. Tickets are $15 at the gate and children 9 and younger are admitted free with a paid adult.

Thumbs up to Harrisburg officials for the effort to clean up the city of derelict properties. Through a series of actions, Mayor John McPeek and Fire Chief John Gunning hope to ultimately restore those properties to the tax rolls. “We have got a long way to go. There are now areas that look really good. But there are areas where it doesn’t look like we are doing anything. That is not the case. We are hitting those areas in pockets trying to get the worst of them out first,” Gunning said of the city’s efforts. And, Harrisburg isn’t stopping now, as it has no shortage of future projects. Good for Harrisburg — any time efforts can be made to make things cleaner, it’s a good thing.

Thumbs down to the transparent semantic games played by politicians. It was just a couple months ago that Gov. Bruce Rauner said to The Southern Illinoisan’s editorial board that Illinois schools were fully funded. Within the past week, we’ve run news stories about funding issues surrounding athletic teams, and the possibility that area schools will not be able to open this fall due to inadequate funding.

Thumbs down to the fact that there won’t be a fireworks display in Anna this year. On Wednesday, the city announced the cancellation of the annual event at Anna City Park in a news release from Mayor Steve Hartline. The reason: The Illinois State Fire Marshal did not issue a license in June to the vendor allowing them to conduct a fireworks display, and efforts to find another vendor were limited because of time. The city council does intend to continue having Fourth of July fireworks at Anna City Park in the future. It’s a shame that Anna won’t have fireworks, but there are plenty of other displays that residents can attend in the area.

Thumbs up to Saluki baseball players Chad Whitmer, Joey Marciano, Nick Hutchins and Greg Lambert for being selected in Major League Baseball’s draft. Whitmer, a pitcher, was the highest pick, going to the New York Yankees in the 10th round. Greg Lambert, and infielder-outfielder, was taken by the San Diego Padres. Catcher Nick Hutchins went to the Kansas City Royals, and Marciano, a left-handed pitcher, was drafted by the San Francisco Giants.


Democratic gov candidates upbraid Rauner for ‘racist’ campaign tactics
Chicago Sun Times
Friday, June 23, 2017  |   Article  |   Mark Brown
Candidates--Statewide (12)

Two Democratic candidates for governor accused Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday of using “racist” tactics by appealing to the anti-Chicago sentiments of Downstate voters.

Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston and Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) made their remarks during an endorsement session held by the Cook County Democratic Party.

Pawar, the only non-white announced candidate, hit the Republican governor the hardest.

“He goes to Downstate majority poor white communities, and he tells those communities that the reason they don’t get their fair share of investment for schools or for infrastructure or for jobs is because of those people in Chicago and Cook County, and we know who ‘those people’ are,” Pawar said.

OPINION

“It’s code. He calls our schools ‘prisons.’ He refers to Chicago public school teachers as virtually illiterate. We know what he’s saying. He is betting and preying on people’s economic fears and anxieties in majority poor white communities and telling them that they don’t get their fair share because of ‘those people,’” he continued.

“I don’t know what you call that, but I call that racist,” Pawar said.

Earlier, Biss was asked about Rauner’s regional divide-and-conquer strategy, particularly in relation to education funding legislation that the governor has called a “Chicago bailout.”

“We’ve seen these vicious geographical fights set up in Illinois for a lot of decades, and you know as well as I do that there is ugly, ugly racist overtones to what happens when politicians go Downstate and demagogue about the city of Chicago,” Biss said. “We know that, and Bruce Rauner is better at that than anybody.”

Pawar and Biss have each faced difficulty breaking into the media conversation about the governor’s race with so much attention on the Democratic side going to the campaigns of billionaire J.B. Pritzker and millionaire Chris Kennedy.

But I don’t think either of them was playing the race card to grab a headline. In fact, Pawar used his attack on Rauner to set up an argument that Democrats need a better strategy to beat him than getting behind the candidate with the most money or fame — meaning Pritzker or Kennedy.

I’ve been trying to call out Rauner for how he tries to pit Downstate against Chicago since I first saw him on the campaign trail in early 2014. It’s definitely his strategy.

But the longer I’m at this job I’ve found it best to save accusations of racism for the most blatant racists, and I’m not putting Rauner in that category.

It also should be remembered Rauner went in front of the Chicago City Council right after he was elected and told Chicagoans to our faces he was never going to give us a “bailout,” at least not without getting some toys in return.

Cook County Democrats referred to Thursday’s meeting as “pre-slating.” The traditional slating session at which the party will endorse candidates for the March 2018 primary is scheduled for August.

Pritzker, who is expected to get the party’s backing, said as little as possible that might be regarded as controversial during his own appearance.

As expected, Kennedy made a plea for Democrats to make no party endorsement before the primary, but he did so in the mildest language. He has little choice given that he has almost no support from the committeemen who will make the endorsement decision.

Most of the rest of the state Democratic ticket already appears set, with incumbents in place — with one notable exception.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White sent his longtime ally, Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), to tell the committeemen he has yet to make a final decision on whether he will run again.

In a statement read by Burnett, White reminded everyone he announced two years ago at the Illinois State Fair that this would be his last term, but said many have asked him to reconsider and that he is still weighing his options.


Does Rauner have any guiding principles on health care insurance?
Chicago Sun Times
Friday, June 23, 2017  |   Article  |   Lynn Sweet
Health Care , Rauner, Bruce
The Senate Republicans released their health care insurance draft bill on Thursday — the House version to overhaul Obamacare passed in May — and once again, GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner isn’t doing much to make sure the final measure is good for Illinois.

A core element to GOP proposals is to shift to states the authority to reshape health insurance rules: for those who get it through employers; via Medicaid, the state/public plan for the low-income medically needy; or through the exchanges established under former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Governors become far more important in the GOP vision of how health insurance should be delivered in this nation.

In Illinois, the politically explosive issue of rising premiums will become the fault of the governor and Illinois General Assembly — not Washington, if the GOP state-centric Obamacare overhaul plans become law.

 

OPINION

 

Rauner is abdicating his responsibilities to the people of the State of Illinois by his silence — and he can’t blame this one on Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, who doubles as the chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois.

People should know: What are Rauner’s guiding health care insurance principles?

• Under GOP proposals, federal Medicaid funds flowing to Illinois would be curbed starting in 2021, though the Senate plan is more generous than the House version.

This could cause greater strain on a state budget — if Illinois had one. Rauner has now gone more than 700 days without sending state lawmakers a budget.

Medicaid funding is critical to providers such as Cook County and Mount Sinai Hospitals. What’s the Rauner plan to make up for less Medicaid funding at publicly owned hospitals and clinics?

Where would the money come from? If there is no more cash, what should be cut?

• Obamacare requires coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, with caps on how much they could be charged. The Senate bill would allow a state to limit the benefits allowed for someone with a pre-existing condition.

Would Rauner want to change current rules concerning capping coverage costs and for people with pre-existing conditions? Should any benefits be reduced?

• At present, Obamacare mandates coverage for 10 essential benefits. The Senate bill allows for states to apply for a waiver so an insurance plan could offer less. That may impact the price.

What is the Rauner view when it comes to the essential benefit current package? Should it be cut? Stay the same?

At present, Obamacare covers inpatient care; emergency room visits; prenatal and baby care; mental health treatment including psychotherapy; prescription drugs; physical and occupational therapy; lab tests; preventive health care services, and dental and vision care for kids.

In a June 6 letter to Rauner, signed by all the Illinois congressional Democrats, they have a point when they write the governor about his “failure” to provide information about how congressional GOP health care legislation could affect Illinois. They ask him to speak out about the “policies you either support or oppose to improve care for residents of our state.”

From the Senate floor on Thursday, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said of the Senate bill, “you can put a lace collar on a pit bull, and it’s still a mean dog.”

What’s Rauner’s take?

Health care in Illinois should be a top issue in the 2018 race for governor.

Keep in mind no organized entity in Illinois is speaking out in support of the GOP health insurance overhaul measures — no hospital or medical or nursing home groups.

After the House bill passed in May, Rauner said in a statement the GOP measure “continues to be of deep concern to our administration.”

On Thursday, Rauner deputy chief of staff Lance Trover said in an email, “The Senate proposal is being reviewed. We will have no further comment. I will refer you to the governor’s previous comments on this issue.’’

The Democratic primary rivals, fighting to take on Rauner next year, haven’t yet realized in their unfolding campaigns the potential of health care as an issue of concern to voters from Chicago to Cairo — and the flank Rauner leaves exposed by his silence.


Emanuel-Rauner tensions rise over phone tax, Thompson Center sale
Chicago Sun Times
Friday, June 23, 2017  |   Article  |   Tina Sfondeles and Fran Spielman
Chicago Mayor (16) , Rauner, Bruce Durkin, Jim--State House, 82 , Madigan, Michael--State House, 22 , Raoul, Kwame--State Senate, 13
The war between Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner escalated again on Thursday, with Rauner declaring he won’t support a phone-tax increase that would help Chicago’s cash-strapped city government, and Emanuel accusing the governor of torpedoing a compromise deal to sell the Thompson Center state office building.

The latest squabbles showed the overt distrust between the onetime friends — and added to the uncertainty of whether an Illinois government budget deal can be reached before the state’s financial year ends on June 30.

Illinois has been without a budget for more than 700 days, with government operations being funded through a series of court orders. Social-service agencies and state universities are among the groups that have been hurt badly by the impasse, which also has stalled the awarding of state taxpayer dollars to schools, including the broke Chicago Public School system.

Amid the chaos, lawmakers on a bipartisan basis on May 31 approved a wide-ranging telecommunications bill that included a hike in Chicago’s monthly 911 telephone-bill surcharge by 28 percent — from $3.90 to $5 — with 911 surcharges in other communities to rise from 87 cents to $1.50. The Chicago City Council and other local governments would need to approve the increases before they take effect, according to the legislation.

In Chicago, the increase would bring in roughly $27 million a year that Emanuel desperately needs.

But a Rauner administration memo on Thursday noted that the governor “has been very clear that the surcharge increases would be unacceptable” in part because Chicago “has already received two significant [phone-tax increases] in the last four years.”

Knowing it would be dead on arrival, the Democratic-controlled Legislature hasn’t yet sent Rauner the legislation, which also includes long-term funding for 911 systems statewide.

Rauner is requesting a new bill be sent to him without the surcharges in the interest of public safety, but it was unclear whether that would happen as Democrats spar with him on education funding and other budget matters.

Amid the phone-tax brouhaha, Emanuel fired a shot of his own, disclosing that Rauner had passed on a chance to sell the Thompson Center, which could provide money to both the state and city governments.

The Democratic mayor said he offered to drop his objections to the sale — and agree to “maximum zoning” for the site to maximize its financial potential — if Rauner would sign off on the mayor’s plan to save two of four city pension funds “as a show of good faith.”

But Rauner turned down the deal, prompting Emanuel to say the governor is “congenitally incapable” of compromise.

“I think he is congenitally incapable of saying ‘Yes.’You asked for something. I’ll get it done for you,” Emanuel said.  “I’m not sure he knows how to say `yes.’ I’m not sure he’s capable of it. . . . Politics is the art of the possible. And he’s making everything impossible.”

Asked about the Thompson Center deal, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said the governor “may not view the [Thompson Center] bill as significant, but it is significant. . . .

“The governor is going to have to work with the mayor of Chicago,” said Madigan, a top Emanuel ally.

Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said he had been involved in the Rauner administration’s dealings with the mayor regarding the Thompson Center — and that there are “trust issues” between the two sides.

Durkin said Emanuel’s demand for pension assistance from Springfield as part of the Thompson Center deal was out of line. The pension issue, he said, should be dealt with as part of larger, statewide pension-reform package that Rauner has been seeking.

The Rauner administration said the mayor’s offer wasn’t a “fair trade” and instead asked  Senate Democrats to send the governor a bill targeting repeat gun offenders that passed both chambers last month.

Rauner aides on Thursday evening contended Emanuel didn’t want the gun bill sent to the governor because it would disprove the mayor’s argument that the governor can’t get bipartisan deals done.

“No one’s buying whatever nonsense the governor’s office is selling. They already said the governor would sign the gun bill,” Adam Collins, Emanuel’s communications director, wrote in an emailed statement. “The facts here are indisputable. They have said selling the Thompson Center is a top priority for them and that it will net the state $300 million. They told us they needed assurances on zoning. We offered the governor’s office exactly what they asked for, and they said no.”

Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, who co-sponsored the gun measure, said that he’s not interested in the bill being caught up in a political game. Raoul sent the bill on Thursday, and it will be signed on Friday afternoon.

Tina Sfondeles reported from Springfield. Fran Spielman reported from Chicago.


Governor, speaker handle stress by two-wheeling it
Chicago Sun Times
Friday, June 23, 2017  |   Article  |   Michael Sneed
Rauner, Bruce Madigan, Michael--State House, 22

Let’s talk stress.

They both bike.

Gov. Bruce Rauner straddles a Harley and hits the open road to hidden outposts Downstate.

House Speaker Mike Madigan prefers to keep his bike stationary, exercising in the privacy of his Springfield and Chicago homes.

Illinois is still at a standstill; the state’s two most powerful polar opposite pols are still at odds with each other since July 2015 — the last time we had a full state budget.

So as the new fiscal year deadline (June 30) approaches, Sneed asked the men how they handle the stress of it all.

Here’s how.

“Well, I take long walks with our dog and ride my motorcycle,” Rauner said. “I head out alone and explore roads or find a little park to sit and think. Or a brew pub to strike up conversations.

“It’s really wonderful when people describing themselves as Democrats tell me to stay the course. That I’m doing the right thing,” he said.

“That energizes me and I know it sounds strange, but my wife tells me she hasn’t seen me this happy in 20 years. I feel totally honored and humbled to get the opportunity to improve the future of 13 million people.”

Then there is the story of the big bullfrog that impacted his life and taught him the power of persistence.

“I’m not very patient, but persistence is the key to success in every endeavor — and I learned that one day trying to catch a bullfrog on my grandfather’s farm in Wisconsin,” he said.

“There was a little pond in back of his house with big bullfrogs living in it. So I went out there because I loved catching frogs and salamanders and snakes.

“I spotted a big bullfrog pop up around lunchtime, and I waited all day to catch it. I missed lunch and dinner and most of the day, and finally figured out how to grab him by the legs under the lily pad.

“I just stayed out there and finally came up behind him. I’ll never forget it. It was the biggest day of my life.”

(He ultimately released the bullfrog.)

“I learned then you just had to keep trying. You may fail a lot, but you never give up. If you want to achieve something, you stick with it.

“That’s how I feel about the state.

“It breaks my heart to see what is happening to the people of Illinois. Painful to see our economic system broken. Social service agencies struggling. High unemployment. Neighborhood violence. People who don’t see a future. Disadvantaged kids without a dream.

“It’s is so sad and tragic and keeps me up at night. Sure I feel pain. But this has been going on for years. So I volunteered to try and fix it rather than run away [out of state] like so many Illinoisans have done. I wanted to stay here and fix it.

“So I handle the stress spending time with my best friend, my wife, Diana, who is a Democrat and my pillar of strength. This isn’t about partisanship. It’s about good government. What is hard is all our children now live out of state. Diana cries about that.”

Lest we forget, how does Madigan handle stress?

“He handles it with . . . experience,” said Steve Brown, Madigan’s spokesman.

“Sure, there’s stress. But he always handles the rigors of the day by exercising on a regular basis. He keeps a stationary bike in his apartment in Springfield, just like he does at home. He has always had a very health-oriented diet. Chicken and fish. That sort of thing.

“Besides that, he does not go into a panic when someone on television lobs criticism at him!”

Play ball!
  Congrats to Chicago Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts on the birth of son
Steele Edward, who was born last Friday. Both parents are over the
moon. Imagine the size of the mitt in that baby crib!!! Yay!Sneedlings . . .

Congrats to retired Cook County Circuit Court Judge Russell Hartigan, who was installed last weekend as the 141st president of the Illinois State Bar Association. The sold-out event was also attended by former Illinois Attorney General Neil Hartigan, a second cousin. Natch. . . . Today’s birthdays: Zinedine Zidane, 45; Jason Mraz, 40; Randy Jackson, 61, and Secretary of State Jesse White, ageless.


Rauner to sign bill targeting repeat gun offenders
Chicago Sun Times
Friday, June 23, 2017  |   Article  |   Tina Sfondeles
Chicago Mayor (16) , Guns and Gun Control, FOID, Concealed Carry (46) , Rauner, Bruce
A day after a gun measure targeting repeat offenders got caught up in a feud between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner, the governor’s office said he plans to sign the measure into law Friday as a show of compromise.

Rauner plans to sign the bill at 3 p.m. in his Springfield office.

Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, who came to Springfield in support of the bill, was en route to the Capitol for the signing, according to a spokesman.

On Thursday, Emanuel revealed he offered to drop his objections to the sale of the Thompson Center — and agree to “maximum zoning” for the site to maximize its financial potential — if Rauner would sign off on the mayor’s plan to save two of four city pension funds “as a show of good faith.”

Rauner turned down the deal, prompting Emanuel call the governor “congenitally incapable” of compromise.

The Rauner administration said the mayor’s offer wasn’t a “fair trade” and instead asked Senate Democrats to send the governor the bill targeting repeat gun offenders that passed both chambers last month.

Rauner aides had argued Thursday evening that Emanuel didn’t want the gun bill sent to the governor because it would disprove the mayor’s argument that the governor can’t get bipartisan deals done.

State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, sent the bill to the governor’s office Thursday, saying he wasn’t interested in having it caught up in a political game.

“I want it done not for politics sake, not for anybody claiming a win, not even for me,” Raoul said. “Because, as far as the crime is concerned, this is only a piece of the puzzle. And so I don’t even claim it as a win. We have a lot more work to do on that front.”

In May, Johnson had told a Senate committee the bill would target 1,400 people who, as repeat offenders, are more likely to commit gun crimes. It was the second time Johnson pushed for the bill in Springfield, which he said would create a “mental culture to not pick up a gun.”

The bill urges judges to hand down sentences on the higher end of the sentencing ranges for unlawful use of a weapon by a felon and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon.

It stalled in March amid lack of Republican support over the sentencing reforms — and concerns from the governor’s office. At issue were some provisions of the bill, including reducing the sentencing for those charged with possession of 100 grams or more of cocaine, heroin or fentanyl.


Senate GOP health care bill hammers Illinois, while Rauner is AWOL
Chicago Sun Times
Friday, June 23, 2017  |   Editorial  |   Editorial Board
Obamacare, Affordable Care Act , Rauner, Bruce

The Senate bill is as mean-spirited as the House bill. Illinois would get hammered even harder. And Gov. Bruce Rauner is still AWOL.

Other than that, what’s not to like?

The rich, at least, would get richer.

It is no surprise that the proposed Senate Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, finally dragged into the light Thursday, is horribly wrong-headed. Any “reform” of Obamacare that is driven by a desire, above all, to cut taxes by hundreds of millions of dollars for rich people is sure to leave many other Americans worse off. The Senate GOP plan would leave tens of millions more Americans without insurance, result in higher premiums for older Americans, and allow insurance companies to water down benefits to joke status.

We had held out hope the Senate GOP bill might be notably more compassionate than the House GOP monstrosity. No such luck.

EDITORIAL

It’s the same old ravaging of Medicaid. The Senate bill would phase out the extra money the federal government gives states to expand Medicaid to poor people. This would be devastating to Illinois, where 650,000 poor people are covered by Medicaid thanks largely to $3 billion a year from the feds. Medicaid expansion, created by the Affordable Care Act, has dramatically reduced costs for Cook County public hospitals and clinics because so many more patients now are covered.

It’s the same old hit on the elderly. The Senate bill also would cap future federal spending per person for traditional Medicaid, which serves low-income kids, pregnant women, the elderly and people with disabilities. The rate of growth in spending would be capped beginning in 2025, just when the average baby boomer turns 80. This is scary news, boomers, given that Medicaid pays for half of all nursing home care in the United States. Do not plan on getting old.

It’s the same old hit on older working men and women. As with the House plan, passed along party lines in May, the Senate plan would allow insurers to charge older customers five times more than younger ones for the same health plan. Under Obamacare, the ratio is three-to-one.

It’s the same old attack on the quality of health care. The Senate plan would allow states to waive federal rules that set a floor on what benefits insurers must cover, such as maternity care, mental health care and cancer treatments. Critics warn that this could be a back door way for insurance companies to deny coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions.

It is the same old dumping of human beings. The House bill, as scored by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, would throw some 23 million people off the insurance roles. The Senate bill, yet to be scored, likely would do the same.

And it is the same old Bruce Rauner. When we asked the governor’s office Thursday for his reaction to the Senate bill, we were told he has to “take a look at it.” But the Senate bill holds no secrets; it’s the House bill in different wrapping paper.

The governor has been disappointing in his reluctance to take a firm stand. After the House bill was passed, he said he feared it would leave Illinois “in the lurch” but he declined to get specific. So here’s a specific: The Senate GOP’s scheme to shrink Medicaid could blow a $40 billion hole in Illinois’ budget over ten years.

It is hard to imagine that a more hands-on governor of the past, such as Jim Thompson or Jim Edgar, would not be weighing in more forcefully, fighting for their state. Other governors are doing just that.


How to curb Illinois university scandals
Chicago Tribune
Friday, June 23, 2017  |   Editorial  |   Editorial Board
Budget--State (8) , Education Funding (36a) , Education--Higher (37)

Illinois has nine separate boards overseeing 12 state-owned universities. That's nine separate fiefdoms. And nine chances for leaders at those institutions to skirt ethics requirements the way outgoing Northern Illinois University President Doug Baker and three other administrators allegedly did.

Maybe you missed what happened recently at NIU. In a capsule: The president of one of Illinois' top universities is resigning in disgrace because of allegations of serious mismanagement of taxpayer funds. NIU spent more than $1 million and ignored competitive bidding laws to improperly hire five consultants, pay for their travel and lodging expenses, and keep them on staff for too long at exorbitant pay levels, a state executive inspector general's report concludes.

The report lands while Baker and his fellow college administrators plead with lawmakers in Springfield to send them more money — and warn of dire consequences if they don't.

How rich is that.

Baker, who has denied wrongdoing, steps down at the end of June. He'll collect a six-figure severance on his way out the door.

This editorial isn't about what Baker and his administrators did or didn't do. Or about Illinois lawmakers' abysmal failure to pass a budget and fund the state's university system.

It's about Illinois' opportunity to demolish this state's Balkanized higher ed bureaucracy and replace it with a streamlined system geared to stronger oversight and designed to boost student learning.

That's what Illinois had before 1995, when the legislature dismantled what was known as the "system of systems" — four governing boards representing 12 universities — and created more boards to allow greater local control. In the ensuing ego-fest, these boards think not in terms of higher-ed needs statewide, but in terms of growing Local U.

Now it's time to go back to the future: Make schools accountable to centralized oversight. Streamline procurement and other business operations. Then funnel a larger chunk of cash into classrooms and labs.

"A common refrain heard from stakeholders involved in Illinois higher education is that the higher education system no longer has the capacity to plan initiatives and address big-picture issues," concludes a 2017 report from Lumina Foundation's Strategy Labs. "Instead, its decentralized nature following restructuring in 1995 has been blamed for limited accountability and a lack of coordination among campuses."

The group wisely recommends that Illinois develop a Big Picture strategy to better target scarce resources to meet state and regional needs.

No, tighter controls and more oversight won't curb all abuses. But university presidents and their minions might think twice about, say, doling out huge salaries to consultants if they knew the green eyeshades at a statewide oversight office were peering over their shoulders.

This isn't just about money. Gov. Bruce Rauner has suggested that Illinois rethink which degrees schools offer, scrub out redundancies and focus resources where students will get the best value for their tuition dollar. Let individual schools build expertise in a few fields, not compete with one another for students in every field.

As we've said before, there's a strong model across the border: Wisconsin's single, centrally overseen and multi-tiered system of 26 campuses offering 250 majors. Other systems, including New York's, also could provide lessons for Illinois lawmakers seeking to rebuild Illinois public college system.

Yes, schools need money. And no, the legislature hasn't done its part. But eventually, money will flow ... into the same sprawling and haphazard system that allowed Chicago State University to register an 11 percent graduation rate without raising a statewide howl. That allowed the NIU scandal ... and the scandal that will surely follow.

Lawmakers, start to fix this broken system now.

Copyright © 2017, Chicago Tribune


Madigan and the Do-Littles
Chicago Tribune
Friday, June 23, 2017  |   Editorial  |   Editorial Board
Legislature (56) Madigan, Michael--State House, 22

Day Two of the Illinois General Assembly's special session wound down Thursday without passage of a state budget. Surprised? Only 24 of the Senate's 37 Democrats showed up. Seventeen House lawmakers missed the day altogether. Rep. Cynthia Soto, D-Chicago, wasn't in Springfield because she was presenting her credentials to the Cook County Democratic Party. She'd rather be a commissioner on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, and she wants the party's endorsement.

We might be outraged. Except, the no-shows didn't miss much of anything. This in a state whose finances are imploding for lack of decisions from its leaders.

The House took up a series of resolutions — nonbinding, mostly housekeeping items. Members voted to name a portion of Roosevelt Road in Chicago "Muhammad Ali Road." They voted to name an overpass in Southern Illinois the "Veterans Memorial Overpass." They approved issuing medallions for Illinois' 200th birthday, approaching in 2018. Everyone ready to party?

Then the House did a repeat performance of 2015, hosting an extensive hearing on workers' compensation, an issue that has been debated for years.

Thursday was another day of wasted time, by design. The two chambers are in their own little worlds, not laboring as a team to deliver solutions for Illinois' grave challenges.

Maybe Democratic leaders John Cullerton and Michael Madigan think their chambers' conspicuous inaction embarrasses Gov. Bruce Rauner. He was the one who called lawmakers back to Springfield until the end of the month to pass a budget.

Cullerton says his chamber has sent several pieces of important legislation to the House, where they sit. Madigan, though, has no excuse for his decision to do nothing substantive on the second day of the special session — just as on the first day. Inertia was his choice.

Madigan says his chamber is working on a budget — behind closed doors, supposedly. He ignored the budget blueprint Rauner introduced in February. He ignored a budget the Senate passed in May. He has not addressed the Republicans' budget unveiled earlier this month. He has not done anything to meaningfully advance a budget all year.

Here's the remarkable part: Madigan's Democratic members — all of whom, unless they retire to Pensionville, have to ask voters to re-elect them next year — don't seem to mind.

You would think if they genuinely were frustrated by the lack of a state budget, as they ceaselessly pretend, they would protest. You would think these lawmakers, whose role as public servants is to put the interests of the state ahead of their own and their party's, would confront Madigan for snubbing every budget proposal out there, including the one from their Senate colleagues. You'd think they would be staging a coup, determined to put a stop to the nonsense and the inaction that threatens their political futures and, more important, Illinois' future.

They're not. No urgency. They go along with the silliness and the cynicism. They went along, again, on Thursday.

They voted on a resolution promoting the upcoming solar eclipse. But they haven't addressed a more purposeful resolution, introduced by Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, to study the state's property tax system. Citing the Tribune's "The Tax Divide" series that focused on inequitable Cook County assessments, Ives asked that her proposal creating a task force to study the issue get a vote on the House floor. No dice. Her resolution is bottled up in a subcommittee.

Instead, the House voted for nonbinding resolutions to promote glass recycling and to protect federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

Folks, this is your legislature. This is your money. This is your state.

What a sorry little spectacle in Springfield.


Medicaid expansion could end early in Illinois under Senate Obamacare replacement bill
Chicago Tribune
Friday, June 23, 2017  |   Article  |   Lisa SchenckerContact Reporter
Medicaid, Managed Care

Many low-income adults across the nation could lose Medicaid expansion coverage under the Senate's Obamacare replacement bill — but in Illinois those losses could come three years earlier because of a state law.

About 650,000 Illinois residents could lose their Medicaid expansion coverage in 2021, if the Senate bill becomes law and a state statute, meant to keep Illinois' Medicaid expenses in check, remains in place.

The Senate health care bill unveiled Thursday would, over time, wind down the amount of federal dollars given to states to pay for Medicaid expansion, a program that has provided coverage to low-income adults who didn't previously qualify.

Currently the federal government pays states for 95 percent of the costs of Medicaid expansion. The Senate bill would reduce those payments by 5 percentage points each year, starting in 2020. Then in 2024, the federal government would dramatically cut funding for Medicaid expansion, leaving some states picking up about half the cost.

Illinois, however, would face a more immediate deadline than 2024. Under state law, Illinois must end its participation in Medicaid expansion if federal funding for the program dips below 90 percent. In the Senate bill, that's slated to happen in 2021.

Illinois lawmakers put the requirement in place when they passed legislation in 2013 to take part in Medicaid expansion, which is optional for states.

Illinois is one of eight states with such "trigger" laws." States passed them out of concern that the federal government would eventually pull back funding for expansion, leaving states holding the bag, said Jesse Cross-Call, a senior health policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which opposes the Senate bill.

The possibility that Illinois might have to end Medicaid expansion in 2021 worries many Illinois medical providers.

"Medicaid expansion is absolutely one of the best things that's happened to the Medicaid program in Illinois," said Roberta Rakove, senior vice president for strategy and external affairs for Sinai Health System, which operates Mount Sinai and Holy Cross hospitals. "We're opposed to ending the program at all, but (2021) is really just around the corner, and to have to deal with the end of the expansion that quickly, if we couldn't change the legislation, would be very serious."

Rakove said Sinai Health System has seen its rate of uninsured patients decrease by about half since Medicaid expansion went into effect.

A.J. Wilhelmi, president and CEO of the Illinois Health and Hospital Association, said an end to Medicaid expansion in 2021 would be "devastating" to patients and a blow to the state's hospitals, many of which are already operating in the red or on slim margins.

If the Senate bill passes, Wilhelmi said the hospital association will urge state lawmakers to re-examine Illinois' trigger law.

Others, however, say if Illinois lawmakers erased the trigger law, the state could be on the hook for a growing share of Medicaid expansion costs that it can't afford. In the first six months of this year alone, Illinois is spending an estimated $61.8 million for its 5 percent share of Medicaid expansion costs, according to the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.

Plus, critics of Medicaid expansion have long contended that it draws dollars away from those who most need them in favor of expanding coverage to able-bodied adults who should be able to work, securing health insurance on their own or through an employer.

The Senate bill also would allow low-income people, who might have previously qualified for Medicaid expansion, to get subsidies to help pay health insurance premiums.

If Illinois lawmakers allow expansion to continue, it will jeopardize funding for things like education, public safety and services for children with developmental disabilities, said Jonathan Ingram, a senior fellow with the conservative Illinois Policy Institute.

"Medicaid is already crowding out funding for all other priorities," Ingram said in an email. "Continuing the expansion will only make that problem worse."

lschencker@chicagotribune.com


Morning Spin for Friday, June 23, 2017
Chicago Tribune
Friday, June 23, 2017  |   Editorial  |   Editorial Board
Rauner, Bruce

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration said Thursday he would not support legislation that would allow the city to raise telephone fees in order to pay for 911 emergency service.

The measure, which was approved in the final hours of the spring legislative session, contained a provision extending the Emergency Telephone System Act. That law is set to expire on July 1, and allows phone carriers to collect money to support local 911 services.

Before lawmakers passed it, the measure was changed to allow for fee hikes in Chicago and across the state. Chicago could raise its 911 fee to $5 per month, up from the current $3.90, pending approval by the city council. Outside the city, the monthly rate next year would nearly double to $1.50 per line, up from 87 cents.

On Thursday, Jason Heffley, Rauner’s adviser on energy and environment issues, sent a letter saying the fee increases are “unacceptable” and the governor would not sign the measure as is. Heffley said the city already has received two significant increases in 911 fees in the last four years, from $1.25 to $2.50 in 2013 and from $2.50 to $3.90 in 2014.

Emanuel aides have said if the mayor were to move forward and pursue the tax hike, he would use it for "needed modernizations and operations at our 911 center.” If approved by aldermen, the tax could generate as much as $27 million per year for the city, based on its previous returns. If officials were to spend the money on improving the 911 service, that would free up extra money elsewhere that the city planned to spend on the 911 center.

Heffley called on lawmakers to pass a new bill that does not include the surcharge hikes but ensures that the Emergency Telephone System Act is extended to provide money for local 911 services.

“The General Assembly should not put the 911 system at risk by sending the governor legislation with poison pills knowing full well he will not sign them into law,” Heffley wrote to Cindy Barbera-Brelle, the statewide 911 administrator. “There is time left to send the governor a clean 911 bill prior to July 1. Please inform all local 911 operators of this potential danger and highlight the importance of passing a clean sunset extension by June 30.”

The measure also allows AT&T to end traditional landline telephone service in Illinois. The company bills the effort as a move to modernization that would allow it to invest more resources into its wireless and internet-based phone networks. Critics say the bill would leave behind hundreds of thousands of residents, particularly seniors, who rely on traditional landline telephone service. (Monique Garcia)

 

What's on tap

*Mayor Emanuel will tour the Blackhawks new community training center, attend the grand opening of a comestics store and give a speech at the American Library Association's annual conference.

*Gov. Rauner has no public events.

*The Illinois House and Senate meet for their third day of special session. On the schedule is a Committee of the Whole hearing about property taxes.

 

From the notebook

*More consent decree pressure: A coalition of community groups seeking Chicago Police Department accountability added its voice Thursday to the chorus of critics who say Mayor Emanuel needs to enter into a court-enforceable agreement to make sure reform takes place.

The Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability held a City Hall news conference to complain that Emanuel’s decision to opt instead for an out-of-court memorandum of understanding to govern police changes will foster deeper distrust among Chicagoans who are already reluctant to cooperate with officers.

“Without a federal judge involved to enforce a reform plan, we can’t be sure the city is doing everything necessary to bring about the necessary reforms,” said GAPA coordinator Mecole Jordan.

“We’ve been hearing Mayor Emanuel and Supt. Eddie Johnson say ‘Trust me, trust us,’ ” Jordan said. “But the residents that we work with every single day did trust the city leaders. They trusted them to serve and protect. They trusted them to tell the truth. They trusted them not to violate their civil rights. But that trust is now severely broken.”

Later Thursday, Emanuel said while he understands “a jaundiced view” toward police reform efforts because of the department's history, a memorandum of agreement without court supervision can work here because of his commitment to making necessary changes.

“I appreciate people stepping back and wondering whether this is on the level, given the 30-year history, the history of the Chicago Police Department,” he said while speaking to reporters in Pilsen at an announcement about a city arts program. “But we are actually in the middle of making all the changes without a court order, and continue to do it; and we will do it.”

Asked whether he would rule out seeking a court order, the mayor responded: “It’s not about –- we’re working through all the issues. The question is, how do you keep your police professional, proactive and engaged in fighting gun violence while you fundamentally, simultaneously make reforms?”

Emanuel this month backed away from a written commitment he made with then-President Barack Obama's administration for Chicago to enter into a consent decree -- an agreement that gives a federal judge and a court-appointed monitor the power to enforce reforms of the Police Department. The mayor is instead now negotiating an out-of-court agreement with President Donald Trump's Justice Department.

The decision has also drawn criticism from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, all of whom have called on Emanuel to pursue a court-enforceable consent decree. (John Byrne)

*Should underpass close? Mayor Emanuel tried to walk the line Thursday between the city’s treasured vision of an open and accessible lakefront and the call following a recent shooting for the overnight closure of at least one downtown pedestrian underpass linking the tony Streeterville neighborhood to the beach.

Responding to a question about Ald. Brendan Reilly’s request for the Ohio Street underpass to be closed at midnight, Emanuel didn’t answer directly.

“Look, I think, we’re going to make sure every part of the city has access, we’re going to also work with aldermen to make sure that their neighborhoods are safe,” he said. “So we’re going to figure out a way to do it. I know you want a yes or no, but it’s not that simple.”

Reilly called for the closure after the fatal shooting last weekend of Raven Lemons near the underpass. (John Byrne)

*Pay attention, Siri: The serious tenor of a Thursday meeting of Cook County Democratic leaders featured a few comedic interruptions.

Five candidates for governor appeared before the Cook County Democratic organization ahead of a planned August endorsement in the primary race to take on Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

As Ald. Ameya Pawar delivered his remarks, he was confronted by the voice of Siri on a committeeman’s iPhone saying, “Sorry, I missed that.”

And Bob Daiber, a regional school superintendent for Downstate Madison County, was asked about a choice for a lieutenant governor.

He said he would put a priority on a Hispanic or African-American running mate.

“Anyone in the room interested?” he asked. (Rick Pearson)

*Human Rights Campaign backs Schneider in IL-10: The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay rights organization, is scheduled Friday to make an early endorsement of Democratic U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider for re-election.

The group plans to cite Schneider’s longtime support for marriage equality and his co-sponsorship of the Equality Act, which would provide protections against discrimination in employment, housing and other areas.

The HRC created some controversy in the 2016 elections when it backed the Republican that Schneider defeated in the North Shore's 10th District, Bob Dold, as well as then-GOP U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, who lost a bid for a second term to Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth.

“Since before my first campaign for Congress, I’ve been a proud supporter of equality, and now that marriage equality is the law of the land, I’m working hard to ensure all people have full equal protections under the law in employment, housing and more,” Schneider, of Deerfield, said in a statement.

“It is a great honor to accept the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign, especially during Pride Month, and I look forward to continuing to work with HRC to champion equality for all,” he said. (Rick Pearson)

*On the Sunday Spin: Chicago Tribune political reporter Rick Pearson’s guests are state Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington; state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie; and Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno of Lemont. The Sunday Spin airs from 7-9 a.m. on WGN AM-720.

 

What we're writing (Busy news day edition)

*Why Emanuel-Rauner talks on Thompson Center fell apart.

*Republicans propose new schools plan in Springfield that would give CPS less, but a budget again remains elusive.

*Kennedy urges Democratic leaders to not endorse in governor primary.

*Tribune property tax series animates Cook County assessor race.

*Preckwinkle says no new taxes next year, even as soda tax begins July 1.

*4 finalists for U.S. attorney's job in Chicago emerge.

*Foxx declines to represent political foe Alvarez in lawsuit deposition.

*Durbin on GOP health care plan: "Put a lace collar on a pit bull and it's still a mean dog."

*Former College of DuPage administrators settle lawsuit over wrongful termination.

*Obama Presidential Center's plan now includes Lake Shore Drive changes, more road closures.

*Jury awards $300,000 to man cop punched while handcuffed.

*Supreme Court ruling could make it harder to file class-action lawsuits against companies.

 

What we're reading

*No little plans: More than $20 billion of megaprojects in Chicago's pipeline.

*Springfield bishop restricts participation of same-sex couples.

*Corey Feldman: "And one day, all the truth will be revealed."

 

Follow the money

*Track Illinois campaign contributions in real time here and here

 

Beyond Chicago

*What the Senate Republican health care plan changes about Obamacare.

*Four GOP senators came out against it, putting its future in question.

*Trump says he didn't record meetings with Comey.

*Experts say U.S. leaving climate pact could doom some small islands.


Rauner will sign gun crime bill favored by Emanuel
Chicago Tribune
Friday, June 23, 2017  |   Article  |   Monique GarciaContact Reporter
Guns and Gun Control, FOID, Concealed Carry (46) , Rauner, Bruce

Gov. Bruce Rauner is scheduled to sign legislation Friday afternoon that would crack down on repeat gun offenders, days after the bill became one of the latest pawns in the feud between the chief executive and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Emanuel and Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson have pushed the measure as a way to help reduce crime in the city. Instead of a range of 3 to 14 years for some repeat gun crimes, judges would hand out sentences of 7 to 14 years. If they wanted to depart from that guideline, they would have to explain why.

The planned bill-signing comes as Emanuel and Rauner have been at loggerheads. The Democratic mayor repeatedly pushes for state help to ease Chicago's financial pressures amid opposition from the Republican governor, who has sought to leverage the city's needs to push for broader statewide economic changes.

Recently, Emanuel sought to engage in some horse trading. The mayor offered Rauner zoning changes that would help the governor sell the aging Thompson Center. In exchange, Emanuel asked Rauner to sign a bill the governor previously vetoed that would allow the city to restructure pension contributions for Chicago's laborers and municipal workers.

Rauner rejected Emanuel's offer on two counts. The Rauner administration argued Emanuel hadn't given the state zoning approval for enough square footage to fetch top dollar for the land and insisted that the pension bill was too tall a request in exchange for a Loop real estate deal.

Negotiations between the Emanuel and Rauner administrations fell apart after a meeting Monday. By Thursday afternoon, Emanuel was portraying the failed deal as yet another missed opportunity for Rauner, who has estimated a Thompson Center sale could bring in $300 million for the state.

The Rauner administration countered that if Emanuel was interested in demonstrating to the public that the two offices were capable of working together, then the mayor should travel to Springfield and hold a signing ceremony for the gun bill. Rauner's folks argued doing so would disprove Emanuel's argument that the governor is unable to cut bipartisan deals. But they noted that as of Thursday, the Senate hadn't forwarded the governor the bill paperwork yet.

Rauner had the bill by Friday morning, and he plans an afternoon signing ceremony in his Springfield office. Johnson, who testified in favor of the bill, is scheduled to attend.

Despite bipartisan support for the bill, state Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago dismissed the idea that the legislation was a victory for Rauner.

"This notion of a regular process that's been followed for years being used as something to deny him a win has the mistaken premise that it's a win for him in the first place," Raoul said.

Raoul contended that "the most he did for the bill was dilute it," saying many changes initially in the bill to lower the prison population by lessening penalties for various drug laws were stripped out at the request of Republicans.

Among the opponents were some African-American lawmakers, who contend there is no proof tougher sentences do anything to drive down crime, saying the proposal would lead to a spike in arrests of African-American and Latino men.

House GOP Leader Jim Durkin, who helped negotiate the bill, sought to address the concerns of some lawmakers by offering changes that establish a trial program for first-time, nonviolent offenders charged with certain weapons crimes that is focused on rehabilitation and keeping them out of the prison system. He also changed the bill so it would expire in five years, at which point lawmakers would have to review its effectiveness.

mcgarcia@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @MoniqueGarcia


Republicans propose new schools plan in Springfield, but budget again remains elusive
Chicago Tribune
Friday, June 23, 2017  |   Article  |   Kim Geiger and Monique GarciaContact Reporter
Budget--State (8) , Education Funding (36a) , Workers' Compensation (97)

Republican lawmakers Thursday put forward a new plan to overhaul the state's education funding system and send less money to Chicago Public Schools than a competing proposal from Democrats, who are unlikely to approve it.

Democrats, meanwhile, used a second day of a special session called by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner to hold an hours-long hearing highlighting their objections to GOP efforts to change Illinois' workers' compensation rules.

Both sides postured to appear ready for compromise in the historic budget fight in displays heavy on stagecraft but showing no promise of moving things any closer to a deal for a real budget for state government. Rauner has called lawmakers to meet for the next eight days, through June 30, to try to find a solution to the nearly two-year budget fight.

The Republican education plan would send significantly less money to CPS than a proposal backed by Democrats who control the General Assembly. Thus, it is unlikely to be approved. A rewrite of the Illinois education funding formula is among the seven-piece agenda unveiled last week by Rauner's Republican allies, who contend the governor needs "substantial compliance" on that package in order to be willing to approve a budget and the tax hikes needed to make it balance.

Democrats turned their attention to workers' compensation — another issue on the Republicans' seven-part "Capitol Compromise" agenda — by calling a hearing to address the issue. That tactic, one that House Speaker Michael Madigan has employed repeatedly over the years, provided a venue for Democrats to appear to be seriously contemplating Rauner's requests while also highlighting their objections.

Attendance Thursday was sparse in the Senate, where Democrats contend they've already done their work, passing a budget in May that relies on $5.4 billion in new revenue from various tax hikes. In the House, where Democrats have yet to unveil their own spending plan, lawmakers plowed through various nonbinding resolutions.

One urges Congress to continue funding Planned Parenthood. Another designates southern Illinois as the "Eclipse Crossroads of America" ahead of the Aug. 21 solar eclipse.

The busywork sparked an outburst from Rep. Peter Breen, R-Lombard.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we are 700 days without a budget, what the hell are we doing voting on these damn resolutions?" Breen shouted. "Why are we not doing the budget?"

Instead, House Democrats held a series of hearings on Thursday designed to put pressure on Rauner to cut a deal. A panel took testimony from parents and teachers worried that schools might not open on time in the fall, and Madigan later convened the entire House into a Committee of the Whole to talk about injury insurance for workers who are hurt on the job. Rauner wants lawmakers to help him enact cost-cutting measures for that program, which he says will lure employers and jobs back to Illinois.

Rauner and his allies have dismissed Madigan's hearings as a sham, saying they are used by Democrats to attack the governor and distract from Madigan's failure to introduce a budget plan of his own.

Madigan said Thursday that he'd met with House Republican Leader Jim Durkin a day earlier to say Democrats are prepared to "do a budget and the revenue to pay for that budget," but he declined to say when that plan would surface and what the tax component would look like.

Asked if he was prepared to sit down and negotiate one-on-one with the governor — the two have not engaged in regular sit-downs for the past year — Madigan said he was willing to work with anyone but said Rauner is "a very difficult person to bargain with, to engage with."

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin shot back that Democrats have yet to negotiate in good faith, choosing to pass bills that nibble around the edges of an issue but don't put in place the actual changes Rauner wants. Durkin noted that it will now take Republican votes to put a budget in place, and he called on Madigan to include the GOP in developing a plan.

"He needs Republican votes but we are not going to give him those votes unless we see him moving forward with us and reaching some type of reasonable conclusion on what we are asking for," Durkin said. "It's a very simple pathway to get this done."

Senate Democrats last month gave up on an attempt to strike a compromise deal with Rauner's Republicans and instead passed their own plan that requires increasing the personal income tax rate from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent and the corporate income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 7 percent, extending the state's share of the 6.25 percent sales tax to services like tattooing and piercing and imposing new taxes on satellite television and streaming services such as Netflix.

Durkin has said the governor would sign a tweaked version of that proposal, but only if Democrats show "substantial compliance" in approving the other items on his wish list, which includes the workers' compensation changes and the education funding formula overhaul.

Sen. Jason Barickman, a Bloomington Republican, on Thursday laid out what Rauner's side would consider a satisfying compromise on the education funding issue. The proposal would provide about $323 million less to Chicago Public Schools compared to a competing proposal that was passed by Democrats in late May and has yet to be sent to Rauner's desk.

Barickman said the Republicans had picked up where negotiations had stalled in late May.

"We looked at where we were then and we asked ourselves, how can we close the gap here to reach a meaningful compromise with the Democrat majority that allows us to produce a fair and equitable funding formula," Barickman said.

But the proposal eliminates hundreds of millions of dollars that Democrats had insisted on providing for C P S, including $215 million for the district's teacher pension fund — CPS is the only district in the state that pays for its own teacher pension system — and $202 million in special grants that the district has historically received from the state.

Those changes allow Republicans, in their bill, to redistribute more than $672 million in state aid to schools across the state, with CPS receiving $165 million above what it got this year. It's a much worse deal than CPS would get under the Democrat-bill that leaders have yet to send to Rauner's desk. That bill would allow CPS to keep its special block grant money, provide the district with yearly help in paying its pensions, and would give CPS $71 million of a $350 million proposed increase in spending on education statewide.

kgeiger@chicagotribune.com


The price we must pay to save Illinois
Chicago Tribune
Friday, June 23, 2017  |   Letter to Editor  |   Monte Andrews, Pontiac
Legislature (56)

I thoroughly enjoyed John Kass' tongue-in-cheek article that proposes to dissolve Illinois and have it absorbed into the surrounding states. As a transplant from Minnesota to Illinois nine years ago, my assessment of Illinois has always been: Love the people. Hate the politics and the inability of too many voters (north of I-80) to free themselves from the same crooked, self-serving politicians who have financially destroyed all of Illinois.

Drastic times call for very drastic measures. Any help from the federal government to rescue Illinois should come with a price: All politicians currently serving in the Illinois House and Senate must not be allowed to run in their respective districts’ next election. All candidates must be new, and those candidates who win and serve must understand that their pensions will not nearly be what their predecessors’ were. I suggest the current members get no pension, but that would create a storm in the courts, costing more taxpayer money. I also suggest that the newly elected representation come in with term-limit proposals in hand. The people have to demand it — but in Illinois, will they?
Monte Andrews, Pontiac

What Wisconsin gets right
Chicago Tribune
Friday, June 23, 2017  |   Letter to Editor  |   Dixon Galvez-Searle, Chicago
Taxes, misc. (89)

I heartily endorse John Kass' proposal to dissolve the state of Illinois. I am especially eager to see the North Shore absorbed into the state of Wisconsin, where its wealthiest residents would be taxed at a rate of 7.65 percent (which is more than double the 3.75 percent rate they pay now).

Had Illinois followed the lead of our neighbors to the north and implemented a progressive income tax, then perhaps it wouldn't have come to this.

— Dixon Galvez-Searle, Chicago


Why Emanuel-Rauner talks on Thompson Center fell apart
Chicago Tribune
Friday, June 23, 2017  |   Article  |   Bill Ruthhart, Monique Garcia and John ByrneContact Reporters
Chicago Mayor (16) , Rauner, Bruce

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner's latest attempt at let's make a deal careened off the rails Thursday, with each side blaming the other over a failed trade that would have cleared the way for more city pension reform and the sale of the Thompson Center.

It's the latest episode in a series of finger-pointing episodes between a mayor eager to complete political transactions and a governor who often is steadfast in demanding statewide financial and tax changes in exchange for legislative help for Chicago.

Given that, it's little surprise Emanuel initiated the latest talks.

The mayor offered Rauner zoning changes that would help the governor sell the aging Thompson Center. In exchange, Emanuel asked Rauner to sign a bill he previously vetoed that would allow the city to restructure pension contributions for Chicago's laborers and municipal workers.

Rauner rejected Emanuel's offer on two counts, sources for both sides confirmed. The Rauner administration argued Emanuel hadn't given the state zoning approval for enough square footage to fetch top dollar for the land and insisted the pension bill was too tall a request in exchange for a Loop real estate deal.

In perhaps an indication of the frayed relationship between the onetime vacation friends, Emanuel and Rauner did not discuss the deal directly, sources confirmed. Instead, the negotiations were led by Rauner chief of staff Richard Goldberg and Emanuel senior adviser Michael Rendina.

The talks came as Rauner has called for unity at the Capitol to end the state's two-year budget impasse, even as the Republican governor has helped fund TV ads that attack a key person he'll have to negotiate with — Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Negotiations between the Emanuel and Rauner administrations fell apart after a meeting Monday, sources said. By Thursday afternoon, Emanuel was portraying the failed deal as yet another missed opportunity for Rauner, who has estimated a Thompson Center sale could bring in $300 million for the state.

"All he had to do was sign the laborer pension reform. ... I think he is congenitally incapable of saying yes," Emanuel said. "You asked for something. I'm going to do it. I'll get it done for you, and then you can prove to everybody around — the speaker, the Senate president — you're ready to work together. And you said no."

Thompson Center

Rauner has been trying to sell the Thompson Center for about two years, and he got some help last month when the legislature passed a bill giving him the authority to do so. The bill is on hold for now.

Parts of the hulking, 17-story glass-and-steel office building with a soaring atrium have fallen into disrepair after years of neglect. Rauner has argued it's time to sell the building on a prime full block in Chicago's Loop because the repair costs now total $326 million.

Rauner, though, has declined to release a breakdown of the maintenance cost or a copy of a financial study he cites as proof the property could be sold for a similar price — $300 million.

The Chicago Tribune first reported last month that a major sticking point in the sale and redevelopment of the property centered on what zoning upgrades Emanuel's administration and downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly would allow, as well as how much in fees City Hall could secure from a future developer to put up taller and more dense buildings than what is currently allowed.

That continued to be a key issue in recent negotiations, according to sources familiar with the talks but not authorized to speak about them publicly.

To get $300 million, the governor's aides have acknowledged Rauner would need a major zoning change from City Hall for 3 million square feet, triple what currently is allowed. That would require a boost of four zoning classifications to the maximum allowed, while Emanuel's office had favored an upgrade of just two zoning classifications.

The mayor and Reilly, though, agreed to give Rauner the maximum limit and rush the zoning changes through next week's City Council meeting. Reilly said he was willing to "pinch my nose" and agree to "essentially double the value of that state land" if it meant shoring up the two pension funds. "I'm absolutely shocked the governor backed away from that offer," said Reilly, 42nd. "This seems to be a recurring problem with this governor: snatching defeat from the jaws of victory."

The Rauner administration, however, wanted more. The maximum zoning limit allows for 2 million square feet, and under city ordinance a future developer would have to pay the city millions of dollars to build up to 3 million square feet. The governor's office wanted the city to waive those payments. Emanuel earmarks such money for development in struggling neighborhoods on the city's South and West sides.

A Rauner administration source acknowledged it is unusual to have the fees waived or ask for such a large zoning increase without specific project details on the table but said it was worth doing to maximize the sale price for taxpayers. Still, waiving all the fees was still be negotiated and was not a deal breaker, the source said.

Pension bill

The bigger hangup for Rauner was signing off on Emanuel's pension legislation. The measure would require new hires to pay more into the municipal workers and laborers retirement funds and also increase the amount taxpayers contribute to those plans. Emanuel and aldermen already increased fees on phone bills and approved a new tax on water service to cover the taxpayer portion through 2023, but after that the city will have to come up with hundreds of millions of additional dollars.

Rauner vetoed the bill, arguing those down-the-road costs would have amounted to him signing a future property tax increase into law. A tax increase in exchange for a redevelopment that would generate property taxes for the city wasn't a fair trade for the governor, Rauner aides said.

Emanuel, however, described the deal as a "one-for-one trade."

It wasn't a winning deal for Rauner, though, said House Republican leader Jim Durkin, who said Emanuel called him to assist on negotiations with Rauner's office. Durkin said instead of trying to get Rauner to sign the pension bill now, Emanuel should use his influence with Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton to reach a state budget deal by the end of the month, when the state's credit rating could drop to junk status and state road projects could be suspended.

"It's a little late in the game" for "horse trading," said Durkin, who added the city's pension bill could be dealt with later. "The mayor of Chicago does not need to have this pension bill to be an important player over the next week and a half. His city needs help."

Emanuel countered that it's Rauner who needs to demonstrate a capacity to get something done. "I'm not sure he knows how to say yes. And I'm not sure he's capable of it," Emanuel said. "And I think he has a fundamental question, because politics … is the art of the possible. And he's making everything impossible."

Chicago Tribune's Hal Dardick contributed. Garcia reported from Springfield.

bruthhart@chicagotribune.com

mcgarcia@chicagotribune.com

The Rauner administration countered that if Emanuel was interested in demonstrating to the public that the two offices were capable of working together, then the mayor should travel to Springfield and hold a signing ceremony with the governor on a bill the legislature recently passed to increase penalties for gun crimes. The Senate hasn't forwarded the bill yet.

"The mayor doesn't want the gun crimes bill sent to the governor because it would disprove his argument that the governor can't get bipartisan deals done," Rauner spokesman Lance Trover said.

The Senate tends to wait the full 30 days it has after approval before sending the bill. Sponsoring Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, said he wasn't asked by the governor's office to make an exception, but he'll speed up the process now.


Why would any Democrat want to be Boss Madigan's footman, aka governor?
Chicago Tribune
Friday, June 23, 2017  |   Column  |   John Kass
Candidates--Statewide (12) Madigan, Michael--State House, 22
s Democratic candidates for governor pitched their cases to the Cook County Democratic organization on why they were best to take on Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, something bothered me.

The man who wasn't there.

I just couldn't shake it. It was like some aggravating pebble in my shoe, but not your average pebble.

It was huge pebble, about the size of a wizened 75-year-old ward boss from the Southwest Side of Chicago.

The Democratic candidates who spoke at the pre-slating on Thursday each gave a good accounting of himself.

Chris Kennedy asked the Democrats not to endorse a candidate, and he talked of ethics, which irritated a few. But he made sense when he said the Democrats must "help restore faith in government because, if we don't, we'll never get the funding we need to make changes."

Billionaire J.B. Pritzker, who has this thing wired through Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, said fellow Democrats who criticize him or even mention Boss Madigan are doing the work of Rauner.

Then he talked of how he's spending time and effort "building the party," which is code for "I'm paying for a lot of stuff, so don't mention Boss Madigan."

Young progressives Daniel Biss and Ameya Pawar talked of reaching out to young voters from the Chicago area. Each has a future.

And Pawar seems to be positioning himself not as much for a run for governor but for some other office down the line, perhaps mayor of Chicago.

Downstate farmer/educator Bob Daiber said bluntly that he was the only one running who could get Republican votes out of central and southern Illinois.

But as they spoke, there was that darn pebble again, itching inside my 4EEE Oxford.

And it had eyes, the terrible icy blue eyes of the Night King in "Game of Thrones" or the oculist in "The Great Gatsby."

Those blue eyes see every weakness. They open earlier than yours do and they close much later than yours. Those are the eyes boring in on a tired Rauner, getting him to almost cave in supporting a tax increase, which would end Rauner's political life.

These are the eyes of the man who runs things in Illinois, the man didn't have to be there Thursday to hear the candidates.

Boss Madigan.

And this is what I've been wondering:

Why would these Democrats work so hard, spend millions of dollars and kiss so many behinds to become governor, all the while knowing that if they succeed, Boss Madigan will tell them what to do?

Don't think he won't boss them. Because he will. He runs the legislature and always tells governors what to do. Especially Democrats.

Ask former Gov. Patrick Quinn, a Democrat. He's got the psychic scars to prove it. Unfortunately, you can't ask another Democrat, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is in federal prison and won't be available for quotes any time soon.

So knowing this about Madigan, why do they run?

I hoped J.B. Pritzker would explain it, since he's the one linked to Boss Madigan, but he said anyone who brought up Madigan was doing Rauner's work.

He wanted to talk about how he would lead Illinois once he got rid of Rauner.

"It's clear that Illinois wants a leader," Pritzker said. "Illinois needs a leader."

It seemed heartfelt, because I think Pritzker truly wants to be a "leader." And it's a lot more dynamic than saying, "Illinois needs a son-in-law."

But isn't that what a Democratic governor would be in Illinois? A son-in-law?

A Democrat running for governor with Boss Madigan around is like a wealthy bridegroom stuck with paying for the entire wedding in the hopes of joining the family business. Traditionally, the son-in-law isn't expected to foot the bill, but this is Illinois.

So the groom pays for the band and the banquet hall; takes care of the priest and the bartenders; the florists, the pastry chefs, the wine merchants, the bakers, the butchers and the cooks. He pays them all.

He also pays for the wedding dress, and the photographers, and the video people and airline tickets for the relatives — and one for Aunt Ida's evil little ferret, Pepe — paying for every dang thing.

But after he marries the bride and joins the family business, he realizes that the thing he most worried about is coming true, like those nightmares that continue even while you think you're awake at the kitchen table and then the goblins arrive, eating your dog.

That bridegroom paid for so much, and reporters write glowingly about his great promise and a "New Day for Illinois"; and people expect him to do something. Because he is something. He's the governor.

But then he learns that, governor or no, he's just the son-in-law in the family business; and now that all the bills are paid, the Boss is happy. And the Boss isn't going anywhere.

He's the Boss. And the son-in-law is the son-in-law. He might be a rich son-in-law like Pritzker, who can buy the house next door and remove the toilets for a tax break on his own mansion; or a relatively poor one like Quinn, with paper napkins and a picnic table in the dining room. It really doesn't matter.

The son-in-law is the one who gets sent out for coffee, and for apples for the Boss' lunch. If you don't think it works that way, you're either a stranger to these lands or you're sucking up to Madigan for biscuits.

Because that's politics in Illinois. And this thing is just beginning.

Listen to the Chicago Way podcast — with John Kass and Jeff Carlin — and our guest, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, here: wgnradio.com/category/wgn-plus/thechicagoway.

jskass@chicagotribune.com


Rauner rejects huge Thompson Center offer
Crain's Chicago Business
Friday, June 23, 2017  |   Column  |   Greg Hinz
Rauner, Bruce

Gov. Bruce Rauner has rejected a new offer from Mayor Rahm Emanuel to clear the way for construction of an enormous 2 million-square-foot office tower where the aging Thompson Center now stands, sources close to the matter in both Chicago and Springfield are reporting.

Insiders say Rauner had two reasons: He wanted a free hand to sell the state-owned property for an even larger building, one approaching the size of Willis Tower. And he was unwilling to grant Emanuel's requests to, in exchange, sign a bill dealing with city pensions, arguing that the mayor instead needs to lean on House Speaker Michael Madigan to make concessions on broader statewide matters.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has rejected a new offer from Mayor Rahm Emanuel to clear the way for construction of an enormous 2 million-square-foot office tower where the aging Thompson Center now stands, sources close to the matter in both Chicago and Springfield are reporting.

Insiders say Rauner had two reasons: He wanted a free hand to sell the state-owned property for an even larger building, one approaching the size of Willis Tower. And he was unwilling to grant Emanuel's requests to, in exchange, sign a bill dealing with city pensions, arguing that the mayor instead needs to lean on House Speaker Michael Madigan to make concessions on broader statewide matters. The previously unreported offer and its rejection is the latest sign of just how locked down Springfield is as Democratic lawmakers and Rauner remain deadlocked over terms of passing the first full state budget in three years.

The deal would have allowed Rauner to dispose of the Thompson site, perhaps netting the $300 million the governor wants to shore up his budget, putting the Loop site back on the taxable property rolls. Emanuel would have won final approval of a plan designed to refinance and put on stronger footing two city pension funds that cover municipal workers and laborers.

But the deal didn't get done—even though House GOP Leader Jim Durkin personally intervened in recent days in an effort to reach a compromise. And now, "not much is going to pass until" a broader deal on the budget, taxes and other structural changes Rauner wants is agreed upon, says one top state government insider.

THE BACKSTORY

"I think the governor has missed an excellent opportunity," said downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd, who confirmed that he'd agreed, reluctantly, to rush through zoning on the property at next week's City Council meeting on June 28. "For the life of me, I can't understand why."

Here's the story, as related by several people with firsthand knowledge of the situation.

Rauner has been pushing for a while for permission to sell Thompson Center, which has hundreds of millions of dollars in deferred maintenance and never has been popular with state workers despite its iconic architectural status. For a while, Madigan held up action, but finally agreed to proceed after both sides agreed on a plan to preserve the large Chicago Transit Authority subway station under the building during construction of a new tower.

But negotiations between Rauner and the city broke down over whether the new building would have to undergo routine city zoning approval and whether developers would have to pay up to $50 million to the city under an existing ordinance that requires such a fee for extra-large buildings. In recent days, with Durkin's help, negotiations quietly resumed. Emanuel offered to change zoning on the site in such a way as to double the size of a building there. In technical terms, the floor area ratio, or FAR, of a building would go from the current 8 to 16, enough according to the city to allow a building of up to 2 million square feet. That's roughly the size of the two Prudential Plaza buildings, which together have 2.2 million square feet, and not far behind Trump Tower's 2.7 million.

To sweeten the deal, Emanuel agreed to rush the rezoning without hearings through next week's council session. He also agreed to waive any fee for the extra zoning, to an FAR of 16.

In exchange, Emanuel wanted Rauner to sign a bill to refinance the city's municipal and laborers pension funds. Rauner vetoed an earlier version of the bill. Both now are billions of dollars short of assets needed to pay promised benefits, and Emanuel's bill would have put in more city cash (from, in part, a higher tax on cell phones) in exchange for some concessions regarding new workers and more time to pay off the old debt.

But Rauner said no.

Sources confirm that he wanted both an FAR of 24 on the site and removal of any fee on the added density, roughly $30 million. At 3 million square feet, that would be only about a quarter less than Willis Tower's 3.9 million square feet. He also wanted Emanuel to actively intervene on behalf of a statewide pension bill that has cleared the Senate but has stalled in the House.

The city pension bill "leads to a cliff that will hit taxpayers" down the road, said one Rauner source. But that source made it clear the major reason Rauner rejected it is Emanuel's inability or unwillingness to move Madigan in the larger dispute.

"They want to just cut whatever deal they want on what they want and then get out (of Springfield)," that source said. "(Emanuel) should be at the table and pressing Madigan."

But City Hall sources say Emanuel did offer to help with Madigan on one sticky issue: workers' compensation reform. Said one senior city official, "I'm not sure Rauner knows how to get to a 'yes.'"

Sources also say the city was willing to consider an FAR of 24, but only for a "special" building that would have to go through the routine zoning process.

All of that leaves the Thompson Center issue dead. At least for now.

4:40 P.M. UPDATE:

Team Rauner is upping the ante.

Rauner is vetoing a statewide 911 funding bill that overwhelmingly passed both houses, indicating that among the reasons is that Chicago has already hiked its 911 phone tax enough in his view and that another hike, from $3.90 a month to $5, would go to "bail out" pensions.

Also, Rauner aides are now actively pushing the argument that Emanuel ought to lean on Democrats to send to him a bill boosting penalties for certain repeat gun offenders if he wants a Thompson Center deal. But the measure was one of Emanuel's top priorities, and Springfield sources say it's a case of needed paperwork still being done and that no one has a hold on the bill.

In fact, Senate President John Cullerton's office says the bill now is expected to go to Rauner on June 29. Then maybe we'll find out whether Rauner is going to change his mind and sign on to Emanuel's Thompson Center offer.


Health care leaders cautious, concerned about proposed bill
Freeport Journal Standard
Friday, June 23, 2017  |   Article  |   By Isaac Guerrero, Staff writer
Congress (22) , Health Care
ROCKFORD — Health care leaders in the Rockford area are taking a wait- and- see approach before they form an opinion on the merits of a Senate bill that would dismantle much of the Affordable Care Act. But one thing is clear: hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans could lose coverage in four years if the bill becomes law. Senate leaders have worked on the bill in private for weeks and went public Thursday with the language of their proposal. It's similar to the bill passed by the House in May, but with several key differences, including cuts and structural changes to Medicaid, which insures one in five Americans. “No one’s really had a chance yet to dissect the 142- page bill entirely, but it’s clearly going to be most detrimental to Illinois, which currently ranks last among all 50 states for Medicaid funding,” said Mark Gridley, president and CEO of FHN, Freeport’s largest employer and the parent of FHN Memorial Hospital. The Affordable Care Act has provided insurance for about 1 million people in Illinois — 650,000 residents through the expansion of Medicaid and another 350,000 via marketplace insurance plans. The Senate bill would reduce Medicaid expansion coverage for many low-income adults across the country, but it would happen sooner in Illinois, Gridley said. The Senate bill would reduce federal payments to states for Medicaid expansion by 5 percentage points per year beginning in 2020. However, a 2013 state “trigger” law designed to keep Medicaid spending in check requires Illinois to stop providing Medicaid expansion benefits if federal funding dips below 90 percent. That would happen in 2021, if the Senate bill became law. “The 650,000 people who were added to Medicaid in Illinois would lose their coverage within 90 days when that happens,” Gridley said. OSF HealthCare leaders remain concerned about any proposal that cuts access to care or curtails Medicaid spending. Administrators at the Peoria-based health system, the parent of Rockford’s OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center, declined the Register Star’s request for an interview Thursday and referred to a written statement that the health system issued in March when the House was working on its bill. “The elimination of pre- existing conditions restrictions, the ability for those under 26 years of age to continue on their parents’ insurance, and the expansion of Medicaid are certainly areas to be continued,” the statement said. “ Issues around the affordability of both Medicaid and benefit plans offered through the public exchanges must be addressed.”

Counterpoint: Illinois should cut property taxes now
State Journal Register
Friday, June 23, 2017  |   Editorial  |   Editorial Board
Taxes, property (87)

Property taxes in Illinois are too high and the longer we wait to address the problem the more our property taxes will go up.

 

According to the Tax Foundation, only the state of New Jersey has higher property taxes. It seems Illinois and New Jersey are in a fierce battle for the title of the state with the highest property taxes in the country.

 

Citizens in Illinois are tired of the inaction when it comes to property tax relief. In fact, a statewide poll released in March by the Illinois Policy Institute showed 67 percent of Illinois residents support a permanent property tax freeze.

 

Everywhere I go, I constantly hear from constituents who are upset about property taxes. When I have constituents come up to me and point out how even a freeze won’t be the kind of relief they need because their taxes are so high, that

tells me we must do more than just freeze property tax rates — we should lower them.

 

I have sponsored a measure (House Bill 1768) which would reduce property tax levies by 10 percent total (5 percent each year for two years) for all local governments, except school districts and community colleges. The non-school tax levies would then be permanently frozen at the new lower tax levies. My bill would also permanently freeze tax levies for school districts and community colleges.

 

I have voted more than 20 times in the House in recent years to freeze property tax rates. Earlier this year, the House approved property tax freeze legislation during the lame duck session of the Legislature.

 

In addition, I have consistently sponsored legislation (House Bill 347) to give voters the ability to dissolve local governments if they so desire. Not only do we need to cut property taxes and freeze property tax rates, but we also need to give citizens the ability to lower costs by eliminating the number of units of local government in Illinois. Illinois has nearly 7,000 units of local government. If we want to lower the cost of government, we need to decrease the number of local governments in our state.

 

We do not need to keep debating the issue and defining the problem. We know property taxes in Illinois are too high. We know that people are leaving Illinois in droves in part because the taxes are too high. More than 114,000 residents left the state from July 2015 to July 2016; the net loss was about 37,500 people once you factor in births and those who moved into the state.

 

Property tax rates are hurting working families and our senior citizens. They need relief. It is really that simple.

 

The longer we delay action on solving the property tax issue in Illinois, the more people are going to leave. The more people who leave Illinois, the higher the tax burden will be on those still living in the state. Taxes go up and people move out of the state. To make up the difference, taxes go up again and even more people leave. It is a vicious cycle we must break. We can’t keep raising taxes. It is time to lower property taxes and make Illinois a destination for jobs and opportunities.

 

The status quo is not working. We have billions of dollars of unpaid bills. Our credit rating is one notch above junk bond status. We have some of the worst pension debt in the nation. What about our current financial situation can be considered a success?

 

So why are continuing with the status quo?

 

We need more jobs that will create more taxpayers in Illinois. The time has come for both legislative chambers to send a property tax reduction bill to the governor for him to sign it into law. The legislature is in Springfield for a Special Session. It is time for the legislature to take decisive action on behalf of taxpayers in Illinois. Let’s end the cycle of tax increases and the mass exodus of people from Illinois by reducing and then freezing property taxes in Illinois.

 

— David McSweeney is a Republican from Barrington Hills who represents the 52nd District in the Illinois House.


Illinois House leaders meet, but no action on a budget
State Journal Register
Friday, June 23, 2017  |   Article  |   Doug Fink
Legislature (56) Barickman, Jason--State Senate, 53 , Durkin, Jim--State House, 82 , Madigan, Michael--State House, 22 , Manar, Andy--State Senate, 48

After months of silence, the two Illinois House leaders met for about 30 minutes to discuss ways of bringing the state’s two-year budget impasse to an end.

The discussion came as House Democrats continue working on their own spending-and-revenue plan that would be an alternative to a proposal offered by Republicans and one that already passed the Senate with Democratic support.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs met late Wednesday afternoon, the first time they’ve gotten together in months, Durkin said.

“The fact the speaker and I are talking, I think there’s some progress in that,” Durkin said.

But their descriptions of the meeting didn’t indicate if it will prove to be a vehicle to end the impasse. Both Madigan and Durkin said they pledged to work with each other to pass a balanced budget.

Durkin, though, said Republicans still need proof that Democrats will support things like workers’ compensation changes, a property tax freeze and pension reform.

“I made it very clear that we’re willing to work with (Madigan) to put votes on a budget bill, but we need assistance with priorities we’ve talked about the last two years,” Durkin said. “The fact is, I’m not going to talk to him about revenue unless they produce votes (on Republican priorities).”

Durkin said there may be an indication of the House Democrats’ intentions this weekend when a House committee is scheduled to take up a Republican plan for workers’ compensation changes. Republicans have charged that a workers’ comp reform bill supported by Democrats was watered down and didn’t really help employers.

For his part, Madigan continued to blame Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner for the budget impasse. At an impromptu news conference Thursday, Madigan said Rauner is “a very difficult person to bargain with, to engage with. There’s a 2 ½-year record of where he moves the goal post at all times.”

Madigan said Democrats “have taken great steps to be responsive to requests from the governor,” like passing bills to promote government consolidation and streamline state purchasing rules.

“We would feel that if we’re being responsive to the governor’s requests, he ought to engage with us on the budget-making and on raising money to pay for the budget,” Madigan said. “I haven’t seen that yet.”

Illinois lawmakers have until June 30 if they want to avoid starting another fiscal year with no permanent budget in place. Bond-rating agencies have threatened to cut the state’s rating to junk status if a budget isn’t passed by then.

The House Democrats’ top negotiator on Thursday gave no timetable for when his caucus’s spending-and-tax-hike proposals would be made public.

Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, offered few details, although he did say there are concerns that the Senate Democrat proposal includes some savings that might not materialize. That includes $440 million from changes in state employee health insurance that hasn’t been negotiated with unions and savings from pension changes that would likely be challenged in court and could be found unconstitutional.

Harris also said that House Democrats are unlikely to support making any tax hikes retroactive to Jan. 1. The Senate Democrat revenue bill makes the tax hikes retroactive to the first of the year. Republicans have insisted any tax hikes not take effect until July 1.

Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, helped author the Senate revenue package. She said any spending-and-revenue plan that passes the House with bipartisan support will get serious consideration in the Senate.

Also Thursday, Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, released numbers from the State Board of Education that he said proves a Republican-backed school funding reform plan provides more money for needy districts than a plan pushed by Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill. Rauner and other Republicans have called Manar’s bill a bailout for Chicago Public Schools.

Figures released Thursday show Springfield schools would get a $1.1 million increase under Manar’s proposal, but a $2.1 million increase under Barickman’s.

Manar issued a statement later saying Barickman didn’t introduce his bill until after the General Assembly’s scheduled adjournment. Manar’s bill has been approved by the legislature, but has not been sent to Rauner.

The increases for Springfield are hypothetical. School funding depends on passage of a budget and tax hike.

-- Contact Doug Finke: doug.finke@sj-r.com, 788-1527, twitter.com/dougfinkesjr.


Point: Education of state’s children harmed with property tax freeze
State Journal Register
Friday, June 23, 2017  |   Article  |   Phil Pritzker
Education Funding (36a) , Taxes, property (87)

The proposed legislation in the Illinois General Assembly regarding a “property tax freeze” would undoubtedly have an adverse effect on local school districts across the state, while providing a limited benefit for individual taxpayers.

The proposed “freeze” is not a cap on individual taxpayers’ property tax bills. In fact, some property tax bills could still increase, depending on individual circumstances. Decreases in individual bills would be relatively small. The limit in the proposed legislation is a cap on the property tax extension levied by a unit of local government or school district — the aggregate amount of all property tax receipts.

The net effect is that hundreds of millions of dollars would be lost to local school districts because of a property tax freeze. The best-case scenario under budget plans currently being discussed in the Capitol would be, if legislators reach a budget compromise, an increase to public schools of $250 million to $300 million. Statewide in the first year, it is estimated that a property tax freeze would reduce the amount of local school district budgets by twice that amount, with a compounding effect each year. The bottom line is that school districts and children would experience a net loss of funding.

The year-to-year changes in the property tax extensions are, generally, not caused by an increase in the tax rate but by the natural increase in the value of the property. So when a taxpayer’s property tax bill increases, it is because the value of their home and property increased and it is simply a reflection of that value. When a taxpayer sells a home, he/she certainly lists the property at the higher present value and expects to be compensated accordingly. The property tax simply mirrors that same tenet.

So why are property taxes in Illinois higher than those in most other states? The method of funding public schools here depends much more on local funds. Statewide, approximately 60 percent of local property tax receipts are levied by school districts while the rest are levied by other local units of government. This minimizes the amount of investment the state has to put into funding its public schools. Compared to other states (based on the percentages of state versus local share), Illinois far and away provides the least amount of commitment of state funds to its public school system. A greater state share of school funding would, de facto, help bring relief to local property taxpayers.

Because legislators have for decades chosen to limit the state’s contribution, our K-12 schools have relied on property tax funds to provide the educational programs demanded by residents of the district. On the positive side, these funds have always been reliable and predictable and are assessed at — and stay in — the local community. Those elected officials that make the decisions on the levying of taxes are closest to taxpayers and voters, which provides the ultimate accountability.

Because of the recent dire fiscal shape of the state, the commitment of funds to local schools has waned. The current funding formula still uses a foundation level of state funding that was set in 2009, and those promised dollars have not all been paid to school districts. It is estimated that currently the state of Illinois owes local school districts nearly $1 billion.

The Illinois Association of School Boards does not advocate for maintaining the status quo in our school funding mechanisms or tax structures. School boards from every corner of the state have convened to adopt position statements for the Association, which call for adopting a more equitable funding formula and comprehensive property tax reform. This includes reforming our laws on property tax rates, property tax assessment practices, the property tax appeals process, Tax Increment Finance district criteria, and relief for our seniors, the disabled and those in our community on fixed incomes.

The simple fix cannot be to arbitrarily cap access to the only reliable and locally supported revenue source for school districts.

— Phil Pritzker is president of the Illinois Association of School Boards and member of the board of education at Wheeling CCSD 21; Ben Schwarm is deputy executive director of the Illinois Association of School Boards.


Senate Bill 1 is the best choice
State Journal Register
Friday, June 23, 2017  |   Letter to Editor  |   Maurine Magliocco and Susan Eby
Education Funding (36a) , Legislature (56)

As members of the Faith Coalition for the Common Good and as downstaters our entire lives, we would hope Gov. Bruce Rauner and his Secretary of Education Beth Purvis would remember President Abraham Lincoln’s stirring words: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” The state of Illinois is our house, one which is much stronger when it works for all the people who live in it, and the recently passed bill on education funding reform, Senate Bill 1, does just that. We urge the governor to support it.

In a recent article by Jason Nevel, Purvis said the governor likes 90 percent of the bill, but intends to veto it because of the provisions that help Chicago Public Schools. We agree with state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, when he says that most people would consider 90 percent a win and we regret the governor’s failure to see that all districts throughout the state will benefit when Chicago is fully integrated into the same funding system. No longer will Chicago be unfairly the only district in the state paying its own teachers’ pension and no longer will it receive its block grant.

Because of compromises made over the past year that no district would lose funding, Chicago too will be “held harmless” under this legislation, which is only fair. Chicago is the state’s largest school district, serving one out of three of the state’s low-income students, but low-income students throughout the state benefit from Senate Bill 1.

Maurine Magliocco and Susan Eby

Springfield


Springfield schools benefit most under Republican funding reform plan
WICS
Friday, June 23, 2017  |   Article  |   Rachel Droze
Education Funding (36a) Barickman, Jason--State Senate, 53

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WICS) — Under the Republican education reform, the state would pay Springfield over $2 million than what they currently receive.

Under the Democratic plan, they'd receive over a million more.

Republicans said their plan creates an equitable system for all schools by not providing a bailout for Chicago.

Democrats say Republicans put their plan forward too late and should work on the bill introduced during session.

A side-by-side comparison of the two education funding plans out there can be found here.