Saturday, June 24, 2017

Medicaid expansion could end early in Illinois under Senate Obamacare replacement bill – Chicago Tribune

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.

Judge’s ruling in trade secrets case indicates ‘inevitable disclosure’ doctrine still applies in IL – Cook County Record

Important to those of you who have or deal with non-compete agreements.

Democratic gov candidates upbraid Rauner for ‘racist’ campaign tactics – Chicago Sun-TImes

Comment: Of course they did. SOP for the today's left.

Metra inks $2.7M in contracts to lobbyist firms – Illinois Policy

Comment: We respectfully disagree that this is unwise spending, PROVIDED the lobbyists are good at the federal level, and assuming you look at this from a selfish perspective for Illinois. Billions of dollars can be had for millions properly spent. Sad, but that's the way Washington works if Illinois wants to get its fair share.

Day 2: Illinois House and Senate adjourn special session after only 23 minutes

Less than 43 minutes of work over two days has cost Illinois taxpayers $100,000.

Illinois legislators meet for 2nd day of budget session – NWI Times

Comment: And they did nothing but some virtue signalling and grandstanding -- voting on a bunch on nonbinding resolutions unrelated to the budget.

Illinois’ fiscal mess is all too familiar to Californians – Orange County Register

"If we don’t get a handle on our debts, without bleeding employers and individual taxpayers dry in the process, Illinois could be our future as well."

Black exodus accelerates in Cook County, census shows – Chicago Tribune

Between 2015 and 2016, more than 12,000 black residents left Cook County, an increase from the previous year when about 9,000 residents left. The greater Chicago area, which for the census includes parts of Indiana and Wisconsin, has lost nearly 46,000 black residents since 2010. That exodus is larger than in any other metropolitan area in the country.

$50,000 for 7 minutes of work today for Illinois House – Illinois Policy

The Illinois House of Representatives met for seven minutes and 30 seconds on June 21 before adjourning, failing to consider any budget proposals – and costing Illinois taxpayers $50,000 for less than 10 minutes of work.

Backlog of human rights cases expected to continue after lawmakers block Rauner executive order – INN

Before leaving town last month, lawmakers didn’t give Gov. Bruce Rauner spending authority to pay down the backlog of bills the state owes. However, they did take action to block the governor from addressing the the backlog of human rights cases.

Lucci: Forget the unemployment rate, Illinois is in a depression – Opinion – INN

Illinois economic activity has grown at a slower rate than what occurred during the worst decade of America’s Great Depression, from 1930-1939.

In this part of the Midwest, the problem isn’t China. It’s too many jobs. – The Washington Post

In Kosciusko County, Indiana, the lack of laborers not only threatens to stunt the growth of these companies, experts warn, but it could also force them to decamp their home town in search of workers.

The Illinois Capitulation – Wall Street Journal

"Gov. Bruce Rauner cries uncle on taxes and economic reform."  

Puerto Rico And The Mess To Come – Daily Caller

"Why should you care about what happens to the economy of an island you’ll probably never visit? Because...the problems in Puerto Rico may well visit a state near you soon...."

Report: Illinois is home to most expensive apartment rentals in Midwest – INN

The housing wage, as the National Low Income Housing Coalition calls it, is what someone would need to earn to afford a two-bedroom apartment. It varies from more than $23 per hour in Cook County to $12.60 in Adams County along the Mississippi River. The statewide average is $20.87, more than $4 per hour more than Illinois' closest neighbor, Wisconsin.

Township businesses file class action lawsuit after skyrocketing property taxes – INN

Business property owners in a downstate community have filed a lawsuit with the county after their property taxes skyrocketed by up to 400 percent in one year.

Governor candidate Biss is a traitor, say private-equity investors – Crain’s

Dan Biss is a shamelessly opportunistic, lying rat. As one who knows him, worked in the venture capital community on his previous work, and is a constituent of his, I can attest directly. He knows full well he's peddling nonsense, exploiting misconceptions of the far left.

What do Illinois and Hawaii have in common that’s causing residents to flee? – The Hill

"The common denominator here is bad policy and lack of opportunity, whether in paradise or the Land of Lincoln."

Democrats strangely mum on Berrios – Opinion – Chicago Tribune

"Let me know when the Democrats who represent the areas hardest hit, who claim to be the voice for the little guy, hold Berrios and the Democrats who make money off the broken system, particularly property tax lawyers House Speaker Michael Madigan and Ald. Ed Burke, accountable."

State rep calls for forensic audit of Illinois’ $15B in unpaid bills – Illinois Review

Skillicorn said that it is appropriate for an immediate suspension of the payment penalty under the Prompt Pay Act, which will save Illinois taxpayers over $800 million.

Illinois is Collapsing: It’s Coming Everywhere – Market Ticker

"It was obvious that Illinois was going to fail as a state before I left in 2000.... Go ahead folks, keep pretending. It won't work because it can't, but denial of mathematics is something that politicians are exceedingly good at."

Workforce dropout causes Illinois unemployment to fall slightly – Illinois Policy

A new report from the Illinois Department of Employment Security shows Illinois had a modest net gain of 2,400 jobs in May, but still has fewer jobs today than before the Great Recession began.

Is Congress paving way for Illinois to file Bankruptcy? – Illinois Leaks

"According to unnamed sources, we have been told that the US Congress is working towards passage of a bill that would allow Illinois and others to file bankruptcy. Such a bill may not be all that different than that found in the Purto Rico bankruptcy that recently took place."

Illinois job providers plan to largely hold steady with their employment rates – INN

  Employment company Manpower released its quarterly employment projections for July through September. Of the companies they polled in Illinois, almost three quarters don't plan to expand their payrolls in the next three months.

Berg: Where have all the new homes gone? – Opinion – INN

Since the Great Recession, Illinois new housing starts plunged 75 percent, the worst in the nation. States the housing bubble hit hardest – Nevada, Florida and Arizona – have all seen a less severe drop in new single-family housing permits than Illinois. “This recovery has been the slowest since World War II,” said Ed Boss, chief economist at the Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. “But Illinois is doing far worse than the nation as a whole and even...

IDOT to put brakes on roadwork due to state budget impasse – Chicago Sun-Times

    The Illinois Department of Transportation will shut down roadwork statewide if lawmakers don’t pass a budget by the end of the month, officials announced Wednesday.

Environmentalists Demand Trillions in Lower Returns for Pensions – National Review

Apart from being impractical, since four of our nation’s Fortune 500 companies are in the energy industry, divesting from fossil fuels would be a stunningly poor investment strategy, according to a new report conducted by Professor Daniel Fischel of the University of Chicago Law School and economists Christopher Fiore and Todd Kendall.

Illinois a joking matter no longer – Fort Wayne News-Sentinel

From an econ prof in Indiana: "It is time to stop joking, as the situation has become much more grim.Chicago is the nation’s third largest metropolitan area, and is the most important city in the Midwest... This will be a disaster for the Midwest.... A Chicago bankruptcy is likely unavoidable.... The time for jokes about Illinois has passed."

Illinois’ economic growth is worse than during the Great Depression – Illinois Policy

Illinois’ total state economic activity has increased by only 4 percent since 2007, which is lower than the U.S.’ 10 percent GDP growth during the worst decade of the Great Depression.  

Illinois Budget Fight Goes Back To Court(s) – Peoria Public Radio

Up Tuesday are state employees. Normally their pay must be appropriated by the legislature — but when that didn’t happen in 2015, the AFSCME union convinced a judge to just order the payments. Then, on Wednesday, social service providers will ask for the same special treatment as state workers. They'll also be before Judge LeChien in St. Clair County.

Illinois Reduces Risk of Bank Swap Fees If Rating Is Cut to Junk – Bloomberg

Illinois’s bankers agreed to soften the blow if the state’s bond rating is downgraded to junk.

Raging Contagion – Opinion – The Bond Buyer

"Whether contagion has been having a very direct effect is challenging to discern. But, I have witnessed more open speculation about the topic than I have in some forty years in the business. A case in point is...whether the bankruptcy code should be modified to permit states to file."

Illinois Democrat Introduces “COVFEFE Act” – ZeroHedge

The bill introduced by Rep. Mike Quigley seeks to amend the Presidential Records Act to include the term "social media" as a documentary material for preservation in the National Archives, "ensuring additional preservation of presidential communication and statements while promoting government accountability and transparency."

The Monk Who Left the Monastery to Fix Broken Retirement Plans – The New York Times

“It’s been a very circuitous journey to find out what my calling is, what is being asked of me in the truest sense, that will bring all of my being,” he said. “This requires all of my mind, heart and devotion. And that is a beautiful thing.”

Another nail in the fiscal coffin – State Journal-Register

The state is paying in full for pensions and debt service, and also a large part of K-12 spending. Any of those areas could be possibilities for coming up with money to meet the latest court order. Or maybe they’ll figure out some other way to shift money into payments for Medicaid.

How Illinois became America’s failed state – Politico

Comment: We post this for the purpose of showing the perspective of Illinois' dumbest and most biased reporter, Natasha Korecki. She expects you to believe that our problems boil down to a personal feud between Rauner and Madigan, and in that, it's pretty simple -- Rauner is the villain for not raising taxes.

Illinois manufacturers’ default rate doubles year over year – INN

A Thomson-Reuters poll of small manufacturing businesses shows Illinois' manufacturers were approved for 3.4 percent fewer loans in April 2017 than the same month last year. The national average was a 1.2 percent decline. At the same time, manufacturers have doubled their rate of defaults in the past year.

Illinois spreads reach high-yield levels – $ – Bond Buyer

Not waiting for credit rating downgrades, Illinois general obligation bonds are already trading at junk bond levels.

Nursing homes can sue IL to force prompt processing of Medicaid claims [another decision on late payments] – Cook County Record

 A federal judge has cleared the way for yet another group of lawsuits demanding the financially-troubled state of Illinois be forced to more promptly process and pay Medicaid claims, saying federal law allows Medicaid recipients and, by extension, health care agencies to sue the state for failing to abide federal law requiring the payment of Medicaid claims “with reasonable promptness.”

Illinois lawmakers pass legislation requiring financial impact statements on executive orders, ignore cost of bills they pass – Illinois Policy

House Bill 2379 would require fiscal impact statements on every executive order. However, less than 3 percent of bills enacted into law in the 99th General Assembly had fiscal notes.

The Wemstroms: Illinois needs a modern tax system – JournalStandard

Comment: In case you didn't know, this is what morons look like, and this is what they write: "The new budget needs to raise taxes: income tax, an automotive gas tax for transportation, a separate carbon tax, a financial transaction tax, retirees’ income tax and an obesity tax on soda."

Illinois bonds hit hard after U.S. judge’s Medicaid ruling – Reuters

llinois general obligation bond prices plummeted and yields soared in the U.S. municipal market on Thursday, a day after a federal judge ordered the cash-strapped state to find more money to pay Medicaid providers.

Chicago’s newest billionaire, 31-year-old Rishi Shah, is self-made – Sun-Times

Rishi Shah, who quit college to pursue entrepreneurial dreams, became a billionaire last week. And his business partner, Shradha Agarwal, is close behind. Outcome Health installs touchscreens in doctor’s offices and uses specialized software to help physicians and patients make treatment decisions. Health care marketers and pharmaceutical companies use them too.

Federal judge: State can’t keep skimping on Medicaid while fully funding worker pay, debt obligations – Cook County Record

Comment: The order sure seems to suggest that the payment priority that supposedly protects the state's general obligation bonds is not the end of the story -- some kind of parity has to be achieved with Medicaid obligations going unpaid. Full text of the order linked here.

Illinois’ pension debt grew by $25B during 2011 income tax hike – Illinois Policy

Despite $30 billion in extra tax revenue, the politicians who passed Illinois’ 2011 income tax hike failed to solve Illinois’ pension crisis or pay off the state’s bill backlog.

lllinois lawmakers preempt potential denial of pre-existing conditions – INN

Illinois lawmakers are getting out ahead of the possibility that Congress may allow health insurance companies to turn away people with pre-existing conditions. But some say it jumps the gun because they don't know what will happen.

Renegotiation means ‘sweeping changes’ for state college savings plan – Sun-Times

Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs on Tuesday unveiled what he called “sweeping changes” coming to Bright Start, seeking to allay investor fears.

Coercion? Or free choice? – News-Gazette

An Illinois case has the potential to change the legal landscape for public employees.

Illinois has the worst personal income growth in the U.S. – Illinois Policy

Illinoisans have experienced income growth of only 0.8 percent per year from the end of 2007 to the end of 2016. This leaves Illinois tied with Nevada and behind even low-growth states such as Mississippi and Connecticut.

Janus case could bring Right to Work to public sector workers in all 50 states – Illinois Policy

The public employees in Janus v. AFSCME have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the state of Illinois from forcing workers to pay union fees as a condition of government employment.

Supreme Court sides with Illinois hospital in pension dispute – ABC News

Religious hospitals don't have to comply with federal laws protecting pension plans, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled Monday in a case that affects retirement benefits for roughly a million workers nationwide. Illinois' Advocate Health Care is among those affected.

Illinois years behind in scoring state science tests; officials blame budget – Chicago Tribune

Three years after Illinois made a bold change in how science would be taught and tested, little is known about how students have performed because neither schools nor families have seen state science exam scores since 2013-14.

Governor’s Turnaround Agenda seeing behind-the-scenes successes – INN

With $14 billion in unpaid bills, it's tough for Illinois taxpayers to get excited about new computers and updated websites. But that's where the successes of the Turnaround Agenda are.

Illinois owes over $250 billion in pension debt – Illinois Policy

Moody’s Investors Service cited Illinois’ $250 billion in pension debt and the lengthy budget impasse as reasons for its one-notch credit downgrade.

As Cash Flow Tightens, Medicaid Ruling Looms – NPR IL

A court hearing scheduled for Tuesday has the potential to shake up Illinois' already-precarious financial situation. Organizations that run the state’s Medicaid program are asking a judge to speed up their payments.

Blue Cross customer treatment examined, 27 years after last report released – Chicago Tribune

Illinois is conducting a broad review of how Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois treats consumers — 27 years after regulators last released such a report on the state's dominant health insurer.

Williamson treasurer calls property taxes a puzzle with no real solution – SW IL News

As much as anyone, Williamson County Treasurer Brinson Venable believes taxes are too high in Illinois, but he also wonders how some towns and cities will survive if a property tax freeze is enacted.

Study: Illinois’ public pensions are worse off than state claims – INN

More on that study by Stanford University's Hoover Institute.

Connecticut’s Tax Comeuppance – Wall Street Journal

With the rich tapped out, the state may resort to Puerto Rico bonds.

Bill preventing pension double dipping awaits Rauner’s signature – Illinois Policy

House Bill 418 would prevent retired police officers from double dipping in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, which has placed a burden on taxpayers at the local level.

Illinois Senate’s education finance bill bails out Chicago, fails at reform – Illinois Policy

Senate Bill 1 provides a $215 million annual pension bailout and other carve-outs worth hundreds of millions of dollars to CPS.

NIU president’s alleged ethical lapses too serious to overlook – Editorial – Sun-Times

If a scorching report by a state ethics watchdog is correct, Doug Baker should no longer be president of Northern Illinois University.

Former Illinois senator wants money from pay increases he missed – Chicago Tribune

Michael Noland, a Democrat from Elgin, contends that not getting the raises violates a provision in the Illinois Constitution that bars changes to a lawmaker's pay during a term in office.

Illinois should make public university tuition more affordable – not subsidize inflated costs with tax dollars – Illinois Policy

House Bill 1316 would force taxpayers to help fill the gap between high tuition costs and student affordability. The bill would increase government spending, but undermine Illinois’ public colleges and universities' incentive to lower tuition costs to compete for students.

Fact-checking Madigan: Rauner’s agenda is packed with budgetary items – Illinois Policy

The truth is it’s impossible to pass a budget without making decisions about Rauner’s original reform agenda. The “Turnaround Agenda” is full of direct budgetary items.

Kadner: Let’s understand why Illinois has the highest property taxes – Opinion – Sun-TImes

"Property taxes are high because the state has failed to fulfill its constitutional mandate to fund public education."

St. Clair, Madison counties home to multimillion-dollar property tax slush funds – Illinois Policy

Property taxes are set to increase in Madison and St. Clair counties, and local taxpayers should know that through TIF districts, politicians divert tax dollars that could go toward schools, libraries and public services to separate accounts that foster a lack of transparency and accountability.

Berg: Madigan, Cullerton will hit the pension lottery – INN

After just one year of retirement, Madigan’s annual pension will shoot up to more than $130,000. And it will continue to grow by 3 percent each year. This is unconscionable.

After Caterpillar, where does Peoria go from here? – JournalStar

So what happens to a company town when the company leaves town? That’s being pondered in Peoria after Caterpillar announced plans to move its world headquarters to the Chicago suburbs.  

Illinois House passes $15 per hour minimum wage bill – Northwest Herald

It’s unclear what will happen if Senate Bill 81 makes it to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk. If other regulations are included, it’s possible Rauner will sign the bill

Illinois fiscal collapse began long before the 2-year budget impasse – Illinois Policy

Illinois’ budgetary mess preceded Gov. Bruce Rauner’s tenure, with years of gimmicks, borrowing and broken promises.

Illinois Dems move Left more than ever during session’s last days – Illinois Review

During the concluding days of the current legislative session, the Democrat majority voted to make state income taxpayers pay 33 percent more than they do now. But they also successfully passed out of the House and Senate some of the nation's most socially-radical public policy bills, including the following:
  • Making every publicly-funded school, pre-school, nursing home and medical facility places for criminals in America illegally to avoid deportation and seek protection from law enforcement;
  • Forcing every business in Illinois to raise their employees' minimum wage to $15;
  • Automatically registering persons to vote that apply for drivers' licenses;
  • Expanding taxpayer health care coverage (such as for Medicaid recipients and state workers) unrestricted abortion coverage.

J.B. Pritzker sought political office from Blagojevich, 2008 FBI wiretaps show – Chicago Tribune

Phone calls secretly recorded by federal agents — never before publicly revealed — captured that exchange and other conversations between the influential Democratic donor and the then-governor discussing politics, their futures and the ramifications of Blagojevich's authority to fill the Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

With spotlight on Semaj’s death, DCFS director resigns – Sun-Times

As his agency faces another crisis, George Sheldon on Wednesday resigned as head of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

OEIG report says president ‘mismanaged’ NIU – Rock River Times

An Office of Executive Inspector General investigation into Northern Illinois University’s hiring and spending practices has found that President Doug Baker routinely circumvented state laws and regulations to reward friends and associates.

Illinois Caregiver System Hangs By Thread, Provider Warns – CBS Chicago

A bill now before lawmakers would require the state to increase Medicaid reimbursement so that caregivers could make $15 an hour. It passed the Senate and was before the House.

That $12,000 in wasted taxpayer money just the norm in Illinois – Editorial – Sun-Times

In Illinois such wastefulness is normal, going largely unnoticed and unpoliced, because our state has an absurdly large number of local government entities, some 7,000. That’s the most in the United States. Illinois would be more taxpayer-friendly if hundreds of unnecessary units of government were given the ax, as reformers have been pushing for years.

Illinois income tax hike to 5% opens door for a progressive tax hike – Illinois Policy

An income tax hike to 5 percent makes a call for a progressive tax system during the 2018 gubernatorial race a much easier sell.

Downstate tourism thriving according to state director – WJBC

Jobe said 110 million domestic visitors were recorded in Illinois in 2016, up by one million from 2015. That resulted in about $2.6 billion tourism dollars. an increase of $105 million over the year directly related to tourism, and 20,000 new tourism jobs over the last two years.

Most Illinois high school students will graduate, few are ready for college – INN

Only 25 percent of graduating seniors in 2016 showed college readiness in all four core subjects on the ACT," ISBE says. "That's English, math, reading, and science."

McCaleb: Lawmakers travel to Oz for brain drain solution – Opinion – INN

"On Memorial Day, something I can only describe as surreal happened. On the House floor, Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, actually acknowledged one of the state's many problems...."

World Economic Forum Predicts ‘$224 Trillion Retirement Gap’ (Seriously) – The 401(k) Specialist

The report is the latest study to calculate the impact of aging populations on the pension gap in the world’s six largest markets, which include the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Netherlands, Canada and Australia.

Illinois payment strains underscored by court case – Fidelity Investments

From The Bondy Buyer's Yvette Shields: Illinois officials told a federal judge last week that moving payments to Medicaid providers and insurers up the payment chain could endanger other state priority payments like debt service.

New Report Shows Personal Injury Lawyers Gaming the System for Profit – Illinois Review

Illinois was ranked the third-worst state in the country for legal fairness, according to a report from the respected Harris Poll company, and our state is home to three of the worst “Judicial Hellholes” in the country, as ranked by the American Tort Reform Association.

Mike Keiser knows where golf is alive and well. (It’s not Illinois) – Crain’s

Golf is a struggling business in Illinois. But Wisconsin "is now the new mecca of golf. With the U.S. Open, it's arrived in the big time."

Illinois has higher gas prices than national average, all neighboring states, heading into Memorial Day weekend – Illinois Policy

Motorists in Chicago face higher gas prices than the national and state average, due in part to the multiple layers of taxes heaped upon by state, county and local government.

Rep. Ives blasts House Dems, says Illinoisans don’t want massive tax hike – INN

State Rep. Jeanne Ives on Sunday blasted her Democrat colleagues in the House for using a procedural tactic to remove her as chief sponsor of a Senate bill to raise $5.4 billion in taxes on Illinoisans.

Poll underscores loss of hope for unemployed in Illinois – Chicago City Wire

Across the country, 33 percent of those without work say they have more or less given up, a decrease from 40 percent in 2016, but in Illinois, the rate of relative hopelessness regarding employment has gone from 33 percent in 2015 to 41 percent in 2016 to 44 percent this year. The statistics come from a survey conducted by Harris Poll.

Illinois Senate Democrats twerk taxpayers with latest budget attempt – Belleville News-Democrat

"It is just a performance." Illinoisans are overwhelmingly against what is coming out of the statehouse. The state budget impasse is worrying 94 percent of Illinoisans and 67 percent said their families have been directly impacted, according to a new poll of voters by the Illinois Policy Institute. Nearly two-thirds are against raising the state income tax. Half want cuts as the only tool to close the budget gap and half are against an income tax hike even with property tax relief.

‘Termination Of A Race’: Black Unemployment At Crisis Levels, Leaders Say – DNAinfo Chicago

Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. was joined by city, county and federal politicians Friday pledging to focus on improving the issues put in stark relief by an analysis by the Illinois Policy Institute.

Majority of Illinois Cities Are Shrinking – Illinois Policy

While major headlines broke over news that Chicago was the only one of America’s largest 20 cities to shrink from July 2015 to July 2016, most of Illinois’ other cities with 50,000 people or more also lost population.

‘Secret’ Sanctuary State Bill Set To Pass Illinois Legislature – Daily Caller

llinois politicians have devised a legislative euphemism, the “Illinois Trust Act,” to keep the bill hush-hush. In fact, ICIRR organizers say they intentionally avoided the word, “sanctuary." If voters actually knew what was in the bill, there would be political hell to pay.

Six Terrifying Graphs That Summarize America’s Public Pension Crisis – Zero Hedge

"Illinois nearly completed the coveted state, county and city trifecta but was narrowly 'bested' by Wayne County, Michigan."

Senate passes first-in-nation financial tax, despite government report saying it will cause mass evasion – INN

Less than an hour after Democrats in the Illinois Senate endorsed a budget that would raise income taxes, they voted to become the only state in the nation to impose a new 20 percent tax on financial managers.

Comment: This may be the stupidest, most suicidal bill the Illinois Senate has ever passed. It would destroy Illinois' financial services sector. See our earlier article on the bill linked here.

Health insurers stiffed by budgetless Illinois take plea to federal court – Crain’s

A federal judge could decide today whether insurers collectively owed more than $2 billion by the state of Illinois can move to the front of the long line of vendors waiting to get paid.

The Scorecard: The damaging cost of a retroactive income tax hike – Opinion – INN

The income tax increased passed yesterday by the Illinois Senate would nearly double the impact on taxpayers in 2017, because they would have to make up for the tax deductions that weren't taken out of their paychecks in the first five months of the year. If enacted June 1, the effective income tax rate on Illinois wage earners actually would be 5.81 percent for the remainder of 2017.  

Fact-checking BGA’s claims on ‘low-spending’ Illinois – Illinois Policy

While the Better Government Association has claimed Illinois’ budget contains no fat to trim, a deeper analysis reveals the state has many areas of expensive inefficiency to reform in state and local government costs, the Medicaid program and K-12 education.

Illinois Senate Democrats pass $5.4B tax increase – Illinois Policy

Each Illinois household would have to pay an additional $1,125 more in taxes each year, on average, under the Senate's tax-hike plan.

Next month’s electricity price hike is just the start – Crain’s

The substantial hike in Northern Illinois' cost of electricity beginning next month is just the beginning of the increases for years to come.

Illinois’ middle class shrank over the last 40 years. Here’s why. – Chicago Tribune

The shrinking of the middle class has come as the middle-income jobs that used to form its bedrock have eroded. In 1980, nearly 20 percent of middle-income heads of household were working in office and administrative support, and that declined to 15 percent by 2015. The sharpest decline has been in production, which includes manufacturing.

Government financial disclosure: words matter too – Truth in Accounting

Do governments in weak financial condition exhibit unclear writing in their annual financial reports, compared to governments in relatively good condition? Illinois has dug a significantly worse financial hole for itself than Indiana.  Coincidentally, or not, the latest letter of transmittal for Illinois shows a higher passive verb frequency and a higher comma/sentence ratio than for Indiana.

New focus on Illinois swap terms amid threats to state’s bond ratings – Fidelity

A downgrade to junk would mean Illinois faces termination events on some swaps tied to $600 million of floating-rate paper while any rating cut would raise its interest fees.

Puerto Rico’s Bankruptcy: Template For Other Troubled Cities [and for Illinois] – Forbes

From a fixed income money manager: "I project this bankruptcy will become the template for all the cities, counties and a few states whose budgets, unfunded pension and health care liabilities are out of control. As a matter of fact, many of us in Bondland have a new word: Illi-Rico. That’s right. Illinois, the state that is $14 billion in arrears paying its bills, two years without a budget, with under funded pensions like you wouldn’t believe."

Paper: State of Illinois’ middle class shrinking – Illinois News Bur.

A new report from a University of Illinois expert in urban development and local economies found that the share of middle-income households in the state of Illinois has fallen steadily from nearly 60 percent in 1970 to below 50 percent in the current, post-Great Recession period.

SB 1905 designed to ban local Right to Work in Illinois – Illinois Policy

The Illinois House Labor and Commerce Committee has passed a bill to prohibit municipalities in Illinois from enacting local Right-to-Work measures. The bill now heads to the full House of Representatives for a hearing.

Harvard Study: It Pays to Write Well

"Overall, our evidence supports the notion that firms can meaningfully increase their market value by increasing the readability of their annual reports. By the same token, firms with poorly written annual reports are punished by investors and trade at a discount."

Poll: More jobless Illinoisans have stopped looking for work than in other states – INN

A poll done for Express Employment Professionals shows 44 percent of Illinois job seekers they polled had given up on the search. The national poll done in March and April shows a third of job seekers nationwide say the same thing.

Studies: High corporate, property taxes stunt job growth in Illinois – INN

An April Anderson Economic Group study ranked the tax burdens on businesses for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Illinois businesses paid 9.4 percent of their profits in taxes to the state in 2015, while businesses in most of Illinois’ neighboring states paid percentages in the range of 7 to 8.7 percent, according to the study.

Illinois’ Medicaid Problems Could Jeopardize Money For Schools, State Workers, Attorneys say – WBEZ

Attorneys for the Illinois state government say payments to schools, services for foster children and even state employees could be in jeopardy if the state is forced to speed up payments to Medicaid service providers, who have threatened to stop seeing low income patients.

State of Illinois’ Springfield utility bills piling up again – Associated Press

Illinois owes about $3.5 million in past-due payments to City Water, Light and Power, City Water, Light and Power.

To create jobs and grow the economy, Illinois needs a modern communications law – Opinion – The Southern

Rob Karr is the Illinois Retail Merchants president and CEO. Greg Baise is the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association president and CEO. Todd Maisch is the Illinois Chamber of Commerce president and CEO.

You’ll pay more to cool your house this summer – Crain’s

ComEd's power price beginning June 1, which the utility filed yesterday with state regulators, will be 9 percent higher than it is now. The current charge of 6.32 cents per kilowatt-hour is going up to 6.89 cents.

Lone ‘no’ vote on homestead exemptions for various groups says it’s not reform Illinois needs – INN

“It’s like that ball. You squeeze in one place and it pops in somewhere else. It’s going to increase the tax burden on commercial and industrial property and on rental properties as well.”

Illinois Punished by Market as Deadline Nears Amid Fighting – Bloomberg

Bondholders are demanding yields of 4.49 percent on Illinois’s 10-year bonds, some 2.45 percentage points more than those of benchmark tax-exempt debt. That’s the biggest gap since the Bloomberg indexes began in January 2013.

Nonfarm payrolls remain 25,600 below prior peak – Unemployment rate drops to 4.7% in April – IDES

“Illinois did not participate in the nation’s job growth in April,” said IDES Director Jeff Mays. “Furthermore, the decline in the unemployment rate was largely due to a drop in the labor force, not more people working.”

Civic Committee releases budget plan that includes $8B revenue package – Sun-Times

Note that this is from the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, which is different from The Civic Federation. The Civic Committee's report on this proposal is linked here.

New report gives apples to apples look at Rauner Agenda – INN

A new report from Southern Illinois University's Paul Simon Public Policy Institute confirms what a lot of Illinois residents already know. Property taxes in the state are too high and Illinois is far behind its neighbors when it comes to workers' compensation costs.

6 key reasons to say ‘no’ to Flynn Currie, Durkin pension bills – Illinois Policy

Illinois state Reps. Barbara Flynn Currie and Jim Durkin have introduced pension bills that are unfair to new and current workers, are potentially unconstitutional, bail out Chicago Public Schools’ pensions, and perpetuate Illinois’ broken pension system.

Kennedy-led company used Madigan’s firm for property tax refunds – Illinois Policy

Gubernatorial hopeful Chris Kennedy is advocating for “a property tax system that can’t be abused by the wealthy and insiders.” But new documents suggest a Kennedy-led company enlisted the help of the city’s most politically connected property tax law firm to lower its bills.

Berg: State lawmakers don’t really care about the budget – Opinion – INN

“I have an announcement,” Chicago Democrat Barbara Flynn-Currie said the afternoon of May 10 on the floor of the Illinois House of Representatives, “perk up your ears. Listen close.” “Friday session has been cancelled.” Illinois lawmakers erupted in giddy applause. The video footage is disturbing.

Illinois’ unpaid bills jump to $14.3B – Illinois Policy

New numbers from the Illinois comptroller’s office show that Illinois’ unpaid bill backlog has climbed to more than $14 billion. In August 2016, Moody’s Investors Service predicted Illinois’ bill backlog would reach $14 billion by summer 2017.

Illinois House Leaders Propose Public Pension Changes – IL Public Radio

Illinois House leaders of both parties have introduced legislation to change the state’s public pension systems. But some constitutional lawyers say it has little chance of getting through the Illinois Supreme Court.

Illinois Looks to Marijuana to Plug Huge Hole it Its Budget – Entrepreneur

Tax revenues generated by legalized marijuana, plus shedding the huge costs of arresting and jailing nonviolent offenders, are powerfully appealing to fiscally beleagured states.

Rep. Rodney Davis’ bill would end Jesse Jackson Jr. workers’ comp pay – Sun-Times

Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., is filing a bill on Wednesday to ban former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., from collecting about $100,000 a year in workers’ compensation —for an unspecified job-related injury — because he was convicted of looting his campaign fund

Senate’s ‘grand bargain’ bills to be separated as standalone bills – INN

The state Senate’s so-called grand bargain of interconnected bills unveiled earlier this year as a way to end the long-standing budget impasse is set to now be separated, not interconnected.

Education burdened by unnecessary administration costs – Opinion – Daily Herald

Administrators have taken over education. Many district administrations -- over and above what already exists at the school level -- are simply unnecessary. They are redundant, and don't add educational value to the people who are often considered last in school funding, the students.

Senate Dems to push forward on ‘grand bargain’ – Associated Press

Prediction: The grand bargain won't make it through the full General Assembly. Perhaps a stopgap, partial budget will pass, but a downgrade of Illinois bonds to junk status likely will happen in June.

Illinois lawmakers attempt to bail out Chicago Public Schools yet again – Illinois Policy

State lawmakers’ latest bill not only forces a failed “evidence-based” education funding program on Illinois, but also bails out Chicago Public Schools.

Another Illinois manufacturer leaves for Wisconsin – INN

Prestige Metals' owner John Annessi made the call to move his business from northern Illinois to Wisconsin. The move was less than 10 miles. He says there are savings and the area offered business incentives, but it was more personal for him too, being a Kenosha-area native.

House Democrats add their own demands to Illinois budget talks – INN

Democrats in the Illinois House on Tuesday attached their own list of demands to budget negotiations in Springfield. Top Madigan lieutenant state Rep Lou Lang, D-Skokie, said if Gov. Bruce Rauner continues to insist on workers' compensation reforms and property tax freezes, they're going to insist on a new business tax and an Obamacare guarantee.

McCaleb: After Tuesday’s press conference, it’s back to the sidelines, or the dugout, for House Democrats – Opinion – INN

At a head-scratcher of a press conference Tuesday morning, Democratic leaders in the House – not the top leader, mind you – made clear that they're ready to "roll up their sleeves" and get to work with Gov. Bruce Rauner on finding common ground on a budget and structural reforms that Rauner has insisted be a part of any deal.

Political cowardice on workers’ compensation is destroying blue-collar jobs – Illinois Policy

Illinois is home to the highest workers’ compensation costs in the region, and the weakest manufacturing recovery. New research details pain points and ways to fix the system while protecting worker safety.

Illinois last in U.S. in new home construction; builders say high property taxes hurting – INN

Illinois used to see 45,000 new homes built each year. Bill Ward, director of the Illinois Home Builders Association, said crews are lucky to get a quarter of that in 2017. "The state of Illinois is 50th in the nation in new home construction," Ward said. "And we've been in last place for the past five years."

4 insurers out of running for Rauner’s Medicaid overhaul – Chicago Tribune

On Monday, the state released a list of insurers that responded to a request for proposals to be part of Rauner's re-imagined Medicaid managed care program. In Medicaid managed care, private insurers administer Medicaid benefits, whereas the state administers benefits in traditional Medicaid.

Lawmakers want answers from state child welfare officials – Chicago Tribune

Some Illinois lawmakers are demanding answers from the Department of Children and Family Services about recent child abuse deaths and new policies that push investigators to speed up abuse and neglect investigations.

Gov. Bruce Rauner to John Cullerton: Don’t buckle under Madigan’s pressure. Let’s make a deal for taxpayers – State Journal-Register

Memo to politicians: If you want your op-eds read, don't publish them behind a paywall.

Charleston legislator targeted by vandalism; union connection suspected – East Central Reporter

“Besides busting up all the equipment they could find, whoever did this made a point of spray painting things like “‘Trump’ with a ‘not’ circle over it and ‘Rauner’ with an ‘X’ over it,” Phillips said, adding that words like “union strong” and “rat” were also sprayed across the grounds.

Realtors: Most Illinois homes worth less than their value 10 years ago – INN

"I have one house listed at $169,900 with a tax bill of $9,200," a Lake County Realtor said. "Their tax payment is bigger than their house payment."

The Pension Storm Cometh – The American Interest

"The numbers are so grim that it is hard to see how America gets through the next recession and its aftermath without a wave of municipal bankruptcies."

Saving Illinois starts with changing its Constitution, groups argue – Sangamon Sun

Amending the Illinois Constitution is the only way to reform policies that have destroyed the economic and political landscape of the state for decades, according to An Illinois Constitution for the 21st Century, a book co-published by the Illinois Policy Institute and Liberty Justice Center.

Stanford’s Hoover Institution Releases 2017 Study Highlighting Unfunded Liabilities Of State And Local Governments

See our own article linked here on what this study says about the staggering pension liabilities of Illinois, Chicago and Cook County.

Legislator: Bill Would Trigger $2.2B in Illinois Wind Energy Projects – WTTW

Comment: You shouldn't believe a single word in this or anything else coming out of the renewable energy sector and its proponents. They are habitual bullshitters.

Illinois a good state to be a cop – INN

"When it comes to pay, when it comes to pensions, when it comes to benefits, Illinois really does set their police officers up for success."

‘Nearly bankrupt’: A multi-part review of how the ACHA ended up broke: Retirement contracts – The Southern

In a heartbreaking letter, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson recently told the Cairo school district that there’s just not a lot of options for new housing in Cairo for a “nearly bankrupt housing authority.”

In swing districts, voters vent over health care, fear Trump – State Journal-Register

Comment: "Free stuff for everybody," c'mon sing it.

Jobless giving up, so are rest of Illinois residents – Editorial – Belleville News Democrat

Unemployment is an important measure of an economy’s health, but it is only part of the picture. Those who have given up on ever finding a job is a hidden, truer measure.

‘Absurd’ math used to calculate ‘Comeback Agenda,’ financial pro says – Lake County Gazette

"There's no way that anyone would stick around to pay this liability," Mark Glennon, founder of Wirepoints. "And it wouldn't be going to pay for higher education or schools or whatever the left wants to see the money spent on. It would be going toward paying down that legacy pension debt."

US faces crisis as pension funding hole hits $3.85 trillion – Financial Times

US cities and states face a “looming crisis” after the collective funding hole in the public pension system jumped by $434bn in just one year, raising fears of further Detroit-style bankruptcies.

States to persist with secure choice – Pensions & Investments

Congressional resolutions that unraveled safe harbors for states and cities to create retirement programs for private-sector employees accomplished two things: They stiffened those states' resolve to push ahead, and they dramatized the urgency of finding a way to help what AARP estimates to be as many as 55 million workers who lack access to a retirement plan.

IL minor league baseball asks for minimum wage exemption to mirror federal law – IRN

Independent minor league baseball in Illinois could be threatened by minimum wage increase without help from lawmakers in Springfield.

Horseradish capital of the world prepares to celebrate its prized root in Southern Illinois – INN

Collinsville is known as the horseradish capital of the world, growing 60 percent to 80 percent of the root that’s enjoyed everywhere, and the city is inviting visitors to come celebrate its cash crop at this year’s International Horseradish Festival.

Krug: So much for bulletproof predictions – INN

"I think what’s lost in the willful indifference to Illinoisans is that, as taxpayers, we are all volunteers. We are here on our own volition. It might not be easy to leave. It might cost us a few dollars against our investments, but we could leave any time we’d like. Choose to look at it any other way than that, my friend, and you’re blowing smoke."

Florida woman seen hitting herself with fallen sprinkler piece highlights fraud case – Sun-Sentinel

Comment: This story is from Florida, but anecdotal stories of widespread worker's comp fraud in Chicago have been rampant for decades. Sure wish somebody would get to the bottom of it.

Illinois to lose more than 10 percent of federal grant funding under Trump budget – INN

Pew Charitable Trusts says one of the largest proposed cuts is in federal grants to help needy households pay their heating bills through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP. The state would have to decide to either send out tens of millions more in tax dollars through the state program or roll back the service.

Metro East median property taxes rank in the top 50 highest in Illinois – Illinois Policy

High property taxes in the Metro East region are fueling out-migration from the area.

‘Grand bargain’ redux: Brady plan the next in a long list of failed ‘compromises’ for Illinoisans – Illinois Policy

Comment: The grapevine says Governor Rauner's staff is now lobbying for passage of the "Grand Bargain."

On ‘Grand Bargain,’ Senate Democrats Say They’ve Nothing Left To Concede – NPR IL

Comment: But they've conceded to nothing yet! There is absolutely nothing in the Grand Bargain that can be described as a "concession" by Dems.

Fear of junk bond ratings hangs over Illinois budget crisis – Reuters

Illinois faces costly consequences if it fails to pass a budget by the end of May and is hit with more credit rating downgrades, state lawmakers were warned this week.

17% of Illinois homes are seriously underwater – Illinois Policy

Senators differ on need for tax increases in balanced budget plan – INN

"The state is only expected to bring in about $31.5 billion but is on pace, without cuts and reforms, to spend upwards to $40 billion."

Radogno and Durkin Op-Ed: Fresh thinking will fix Illinois – State Journal-Register

— State Sen. Christine Radogno, R-Lamont, is the Senate Republican Leader and Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, is the House Republican Leader in the Illinois legislature.

Illinois senator’s proposal offers pension reform through 401(k)-style plans – Illinois Policy

State Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, has proposed a plan that would give all state workers access to retirement plans that offer portability and flexibility – and an escape from Illinois’ broken pension system.

Illinois Issues: Fiscal Fantasy – NPR Illinois

Comment: Progress, at last! It's great to see somebody in the regular media wising up to the reality that government budget numbers are bunk.

‘Home repair tax’ will hurt Illinois home building industry, Quad Cities builders say – Rock Island Today

Legislators are mulling a 6.25 percent "home repair tax" that could damage the home building and repair industry and negatively impact property value.

Berg: Illinois teachers get no respect from state government Opinion – INN

Three ways that Illinois lawmakers are failing teachers and the families who rely on them.

Audio – Speaker Michael Madigan sits down with WGN Radio’s Patti Vasquez

Comment: Don't waste 30 minutes on this. Summarized, Madigan says it's all the fault of Rauner and his extreme right wing agenda, specifically, workers comp, prevailing wages and collective bargaining. And Valasquez, like most reporters, never bothered to ask for even an outline of a financial plan that would put Illinois on a sustainable path. A disgraceful performance by both Madigan and Valasquez.

Jim Nowlan: ‘Politics of blame’ game diminishes us all – Mywebtimes

"I am afraid there is no stopping this counterproductive, hyper-focused 'blame train.' It’s the way of politics today."

Why The Online Threat To Big Retail Means Bigger Holes In Illinois Budgets – BGA

The ongoing retrenchment foreshadows a funding crisis for communities that look to sales tax revenue as a key revenue source. Property tax revenue, too, gets squeezed because abandoned properties get reassessed at lower rates.

Pension Tension, Part 2: Don’t California My Texas – Nasdaq

Comment: Excellent piece on the huge interstate issues arising from state and local financial and pension problems: "The rub is there’s nothing random about the rot spreading across the municipal landscape. The buck will eventually stop somewhere.... The theory is taxpayers will take the tax hikes of the future required to rescue pensions lying down.... Targeted residents are much more apt to follow in Cook County’s fleeing population’s footsteps, that is, pull up stakes and move to lower tax states."

DMV hiring embezzler for second state job enough to drive you crazy – Belleville News Democrat

So you work for Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, embezzle $234,000 from the bursar’s office where students make tuition payments and serve 15 months in the federal pen. Does that disqualify you from another state job? Heck no.

Illinois’ Voter Registration Database Hackers Home in on Galesburg Residents – Government Technology

The hackers were able to access the information through the portion of the board's online voter registration tool that requires voters to type in their driver's license number or state identification number.

More jobless Illinoisans are giving up the job search, study finds – Chicago Tribune

A survey conducted by Harris Poll for Express Employment Professionals, a staffing agency, in March and April found 44 percent of jobless people in Illinois said they had completely given up looking for a job. That's worse than the 41 percent who said the same last year and the 33 percent who said so in 2015.

It falls to Gov. Rauner, above all, to get budget deal done – Editorial – Sun-Times

Presented without comment. No, scratch that. Presenting the moonbat viewpoint of the Sun-Times editorial board.

Lucci: prices reveal high demand to get out of Illinois – IL Policy

Go to and check the price for a one-way truck rental moving from Chicago to Dallas on Saturday, July 1st. You’ll find that the current price for a one-way move is $1,650 for a 20 foot truck. Now put the trip in reverse, making the one-way move from Dallas to Chicago instead of from Chicago to Dallas. The price for the reverse move with the same truck, the same mileage and the same date is $460. Comment: Not that market data mean diddly to Illinois lawmakers.

How well are Wisconsin public pensions funded? – Right Wisconsin

New rules for reporting government pension data show that the state Wisconsin Retirement System--a multi-employer pension fund providing benefits for many state and local government retirees--is one of the best-funded in the country. Milwaukee’s three pension systems are not quite as healthy as the Wisconsin Retirement System, but they’re in relatively good shape at 87 percent funded on average. However, while the state of Wisconsin's pension plan is extremely well-funded at 103 percent, the state’s unfunded bills, including $1 billion of unfunded retiree health care benefits, total $9.1 billion, equaling $4,600 per taxpayer.

IL state senator introduces bill to make pensions 401(k) style – WAND

Senator Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, filed Senate Bill 1012, which would change the state employee pension system to a 401 (k) style plan. This would only apply to new employees hired after July 1,2018. State workers, teachers, university employees, judges, and members of the General Assembly would be included in this plan. Comment: No chance of passing with this General Assembly.

New Leadership Needed in Government Reporting -The CPA Journal

By Bill Bergman, director of research at Truth in Accounting, Chicago, IL: "Sadly, in many cases, [government budgets and reports] have been hijacked as tools of propaganda and deception. The deception has been facilitated by GAAP for decades, until the looming truth became too obvious to ignore."

Felon mayor wants new car before second felony ends her term – Belleville News-Democrat

She ended her probation just days before the Alorton (population 2,000) mayor election. The treatment cleared the felony from her record so she could take office after being removed from the same office because of it.

Illinois Struggles To Expand Charter Schools Despite Giant Pot Of Federal Money – WBEZ

Blaming the state’s budget crisis and a hostile political climate, Illinois education officials are dramatically scaling back the number of charter schools they estimate will open in the next several years, putting at risk millions of dollars meant to fund the expansion of charter schools in the state.

For Illinois governor: Trade union leaders flock to the party that poorly serves their members – Editorial – Chicago Tribune

Fourteen trade unions already have made their endorsement in the 2018 race for Illinois governor. It might be the earliest and least vetted endorsement ever.

Quad Cities area is a sellers’ market, depending on which side of river you’re on – INN

According to the Quad City Times, the average sales price for a home in Davenport and Bettendorf was $192,200. In Rock Island and Moline, it was $108,100.

Indiana has added five times more union members than Illinois since passing Right to Work – Illinois Policy

Indiana’s sharp rise in union members is due to its robust economic growth and increase in manufacturing jobs, while Illinois’ economy continues to lose factories and sees little growth in union members.

Illinois trails surrounding states in post-recession employment growth – Illinois Policy

Illinois still has 144,000 fewer people working compared with the state’s pre-recession employment level, while surrounding states have all experienced employment growth.

Civic Federation blasts Rauner budget, lawmakers over impasse – Sun-Times

Full text of the Civic Federation report is linked here. As with their previous report, it calls for $9 billion per year in new revenue by 2022, a progressive income tax and assumption by the state of the unfunded liability of the Chicago teachers' pension.

McCaleb: Grand bargain is back, which should scare taxpayers – Opinion – INN

State Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, is trying to broker a deal between Gov. Bruce Rauner and Senate Democrats on a compromise budget that would include all of the original grand bargain's tax increases.

State and Local Government Pensions at the Crossroads – CPA Journal

A detailed look for fellow wonks.  

Wut?!: Illinois pols expand Medicaid for illegals; slash disabled kids’ aid – Conservative Review

"Here’s your 'America’s screwed-up priorities' story of the day from the progressive-infested land of corruption, the state of Illinois."

Bill would require tax disclosure for presidential candidate to appear on Illinois’ ballot – INN

Illinois state senators progressed a bill that would have removed President Donald Trump from the ballot in Illinois if it were law last year.

University of Illinois-Springfield faculty end strike – WAND

After five days out of the classroom, University of Illinois-Springfield United Faculty reached a tentative agreement with University administration and suspended its strike. The deal was reached following three days of bargaining sessions.

Puerto Rico Illinois? – Editorial – News Gazette

Economist Herbert Stein, stating a fundamental rule that goes well beyond his area of expertise, warned that "trends that can't continue, won't."

Tourism grows in Illinois – WJOL

More than 1-million more visitors spent time in Illinois in 2016 than the year before. The average stay is 3 percent longer than the previous year according to the Illinois Office of Tourism.

A $10 Million Boondoggle You’re Going to Pay For – Illinoyances

Last week, the Democrats in the House rammed through a piece of legislation (HB 2622) in which the state will loan $10 million to a new “public” workers’ comp insurance company to compete with the over 300 companies now licensed to sell such insurance in Illinois.

35 years later, Illinois targeted again with ERA resurgence – Associated Press

Protestors chained themselves together on the Illinois Capitol steps. Some on hunger strikes, having gone a month without food, sat inside under the dome. Others staged a House-floor sit-in, forming their hands into illuminati pyramids signifying the few at the top commanding the many at the bottom.

What if Illinois grew like Indiana? – Illinois Policy

Despite Illinois’ built-in economic advantages, personal income in Indiana is growing much faster than personal income in Illinois.

Guest Column: Want an Illinois budget? Adopt a revenue estimate!

Autor Keith Wheeler is a Republican from Oswego who represents the 50th District in the Illinois House.

UI Springfield official caught in illegal hiring web News-Gazette

A top-ranking official a the University of Illinois' Springfield campus was identified as among the wrongdoers in a court-ordered investigation of the illegal state patronage hiring scandal that occurred from 2009-14 under former Gov. Pat Quinn. Source: Jim Dey: Top UI Springfield official caught in illegal hiring web |

Illinois homeowners need relief, but don’t be duped by fake property tax reform – Illinois Policy

Effective property tax reform must rein in the government costs that drive up taxes.

Puerto Rico’s ‘bankruptcy’ a warning to Illinois – Illinois Policy

After Puerto Rico declared a form of bankruptcy May 3, The New York Times used these words to describe the U.S. territory’s fiscal woes: “borrowing to pay operating expenses, year after year”; “unable to provide its citizens effective services”; and “rising pension costs, crumbling infrastructure, departing taxpayers and credit downgrades.” This diagnosis should sound very familiar to anyone living in Illinois.

Puerto Rico is the frightening Ghost of Illinois Future – Editorial – Chicago Tribune

Comment: The Tribune's editorial board are among the very few in our press who understand the depths of our problems.

No. Illinois University to cut jobs, upkeep under budget woes – A.P.

Northern Illinois University officials say cuts and deferred maintenance will be necessary to save money as the school faces a $35 million funding gap from the lack of a state budget.

Senator questions U of I’s financial transparency, priorities – INN

A state senator says it’s hard to put a budget together for the state’s flagship campus when lawmakers don’t have financial statements for the previous fiscal year. Sen. Chapin Rose said recently that the University of Illinois hasn’t put out reports for how much their individual campuses spent for fiscal year 2016 or for 2017.

Housing crisis sparks fears of an end for Illinois town – A.P.

A government plan to tear down a crumbling public housing complex in the southern Illinois town of Cairo has sent roughly 200 families searching for new homes and sparked fears that the once-thriving river city could be coming to an end.

Former Gov. Edgar: Speaker Madigan is ‘not the big problem’ in Springfield political standoff – The Southern

Comment: He's partly right. Empty suits like Edgar are also part of the problem.

Chicago can’t carry state on its big shoulders, data suggest – Chicago City Wire

“This is Chicago and other major metropolitan areas gaining at the expense of medium-sized cities,” Michael Pagano told the BGA. “If you are in a Peoria or a community that has a single industry, there are fewer opportunities in a Chicago, with access to a very well-educated workforce and professional opportunities.”

Wisconsin to Illinois workers: Move north for manufacturing jobs – INN

New employment numbers show Wisconsin surpassed many of its Midwest neighbors in creating new manufacturing jobs over the past year, prompting one Wisconsin business leader to put out the welcome mat to Illinois workers.

Illinois to move forward after Congress blocks states’ retirement plans – WGN

The U.S. Senate passed a bill that blocks states from launching programs that automatically enroll people into IRA-type plans. President Trump plans to sign it into law.

A Year Later, Illinois Service Providers Back in Court Seeking Money – WTTW

A coalition including First Lady Diana Rauner’s Ounce of Prevention organization again asked the judicial branch to force the state to make good on its contracts.

Ranking Illinois – Chicago Tribune

"Here you'll find metrics that we think are vital (or in a few cases entertaining) to understand the state of this state in 2017."

Really big walleye & pike on Lake Michigan: Fishes of the Week – Sun-Times

Comment: Per our commitment to deliver all headlines of major importance to Illinois' economy and government. We deliver.

Illinois Senate passes anti-Trump law enforcement immigration bill – Chicago Tribune

Senate Democrats pushed through a measure Thursday that would prevent state and local police from making arrests due to a person's citizenship status, an effort supporters say is designed to build trust between law enforcement and communities living in fear following the immigration crackdown under President Donald Trump.

Central Grocers files for bankruptcy, will lay off 550 at Joliet warehouse – Chicago Tribune

Central Grocers is a grocery cooperative that has long operated as wholesaler for more than 400 independent grocery stores in the Chicago area — including chains like Treasure Island, Pete's Fresh Market, Angelo Caputo's Fresh Market and Sunset Foods.

Study: Income tax rate has major impact on pro sports teams win-loss record – INN

According to University of Illinois at Chicago professor Erik Hembre, it's because the better players are more likely to gravitate toward states that allow them to keep more of their money.

State Farm to close 11 facilities, affecting 4,200 employees – Pantagraph

But some of those jobs may be coming to its Bloomington IL headquarters.

Obamacare repeal vote: Roskam, Hultgren, Kinzinger vote yes – Sun-Times

House Republicans narrowly passed a bill on Thursday to repeal Obamacare health insurance, with Illinois House members voting on partisan lines: the Democrats opposed and all Republicans backed the measure heading to an uncertain fate in then Senate.

Illinois Senate bill intended to kill local worker freedom laws in Illinois – Illinois Policy

The Illinois Senate has passed a bill to overturn municipal Right-to-Work ordinances and prevent Illinois localities from expanding worker freedom in their communities.

Senate vote deals blow to Illinois retirement savings program – Chicago Tribune

A U.S. Senate vote Wednesday will complicate Illinois' effort to make workplace retirement savings plans available to 1.3 million workers, but state Treasurer Michael Frerichs said the federal action will not stop Illinois from going ahead with its novel Secure Choice program.

Thickburger may put ex-con politician into deep fryer – Belleville News-Democrat

If you don’t remember Kelvin Ellis, he was the guy who turned East St. Louis City Hall into a whorehouse — literally.

Anyone care about costs? – Editorial – News-Gazette

The second question is why is the Legislature so intent on not knowing the financial consequences of the decisions it makes?

Federal lunch changes maybe not enough for Illinois school – INN

Monticello High School is one of a several Illinois schools that dropped out of the USDA lunch program because of the regulations and the high cost to comply. Zimmerman said his district never made money serving lunch. The district as a whole regularly lost about $60,000 a year, but under the stricter federal lunch program, he lost twice that.

18 year old Deerfield High senior sworn onto school board – Illinois Review

Jake Leahy believes he's the youngest person in Illinois currently serving in an elected position - and he very well could be.

Illinois manufacturing crisis is nearing critical stage, manufacturing leaders warn – WQAD

The numbers are prompting a warning from the Illinois Manufacturers' Association: this crisis will keep eroding the middle class.

Illinois could be punished by bond investors over Puerto Rico bailout – Opinion – Crain’s

"The problem this would create for that investors will surmise that legislation that allows Puerto Rico to write down a portion of all its debts would serve as a template for Illinois when it finds itself unable to pay its bills. If that became accepted wisdom in financial markets, investors would become even less inclined to lend, causing interest rates on Illinois debt to jump even more and hastening the day of fiscal reckoning.

Puerto Rico Declares a Form of Bankruptcy – The New York Times

Comment: Well, that didn't take long. (We said yesterday this was coming.)

Property tax freeze opposition is premature – Editorial – QC Online

"A long-term property tax freeze alone is ill-conceived, especially if any companion revenues could later be independently changed or dropped. But the action by the suburban mayors does nothing to encourage the needed compromise and seeks to take one of the most important chips off the table."

Kentucky to get nearly $3B in new business investments since passing economic reforms – Illinois Policy

Companies have announced billions in new business investment in Kentucky a few months after the state passed key economic reforms. Illinois lawmakers should take note.

Durbin’s Debit-Card Price Controls Hit the Poor Hardest – WSJ

Limits on fees lead banks to charge the poor more for other services—or to stop offering them at all. Comment: Classic grandstanding from a leader in the stuff-that-doesn't-work crowd.

Unqualified? Unreasonable salary expectations? You’re hired in Illinois – Editorial – Belleville News-Democrat

Rod Blagojevich was pretty open about his view on patronage hires and power politics, even trying to sell Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat. But it appears “the reformer” administration of Gov. Pat Quinn raised it to a fine art, with 70 IDOT jobs going to the politically connected.

How boosting homeowner’s exemption could raise your property taxes – Daily Herald

Comment: Read this for a wonderful illustration of rampant idiocy in the Illinois General Assembly. This foolish bill passed the House 108 to 1 with little discussion and little press.

Southern Illinois’ wide range of property taxes – Illinois Policy

When it comes to property taxes in southern Illinois, homeowners face a wide variety of rates. Though not as expensive as the record-high property tax rates in the greater Chicago area, property taxes are still a significant expense for many homeowners in southern Illinois.

Illinois’ Late Payments Could Cost Medicaid Patients Access To Doctors – WBEZ

More than two dozen doctors, health care providers and insurance companies are warning a federal judge in Chicago that they may stop serving hundreds of thousands of poor patients in Illinois if the state government continues to delay its court-ordered Medicaid reimbursement payments.

5 consequences of decades of Illinois’ bad budget deals – Illinois Policy

Another Band-Aid budget deal won’t fix the financial problems that plague Illinois or stop the state’s credit rating from falling to junk.

Puerto Rico hit with lawsuits after litigation freeze ends – A.P.

Comment: This will be a teaching moment for broke Illinois municipalities and perhaps, eventually, for the state itself. It will rapidly become clear that insolvency without bankruptcy means chaos and and a tsunami of litigation, so Puerto Rico will go into the form of bankruptcy Congress authorized in the PROMESA legislation for it. Insolvent entities need structured, fair reorganization proceedings.

McCaleb: Is Statehouse conversation fake because it ignores Illinois’ fiscal reality? – Opinion

Comment: Well, yes, it is, as Wirepoints readers have known for years.

Capital One received more than $20 million in tax breaks from Illinois in 2015 – Illinois Policy

The state agreed to the tax credits in exchange for Capital One hiring 210 new employees and retaining 900.

Manufacturers call for “Meaningful” Workers’ Compensation Reform – Illinois Review

"This week, House Democrats passed two bills under the guise of reform. Nothing could be further from the truth," the IMA statement said. "It's window dressing and a political sham...."

Illinois’ medical debt spiral injures people, economy – Chicago Tribune

Late payment by the state if medical and insurance claims is an acute and escalating problem, one that threatens the fiscal health of all types of state and area medical care providers and their communities. Left unchecked, it will become a financial infection that leads to extensive service disruptions, job losses and serious consequences for patient care.

Illinois skews national data on universities’ overall health downward – INN

The drop in state funding for colleges and universities in Illinois was so dramatic last year that it skewed data on a national report on higher education finance and raised new questions about the state’s ability to maintain a skilled workforce.

Decatur property taxes put the hurt on remaining residents – Illinois Policy

With an average property tax bill of more than $2,000 a year, Decatur continues to hike taxes on a shrinking population.

Durbin Lauds $1 Trillion Spending Plan As ‘Dramatic Victory’ – CBS Chicago

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin applauded the $1 trillion spending deal reached in Washington as a “dramatic victory” that would fund the government through September; without putting money towards President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall, or making his proposed cuts to popular domestic programs.

Flash Index Down Slightly, as Illinois’ Slow Economic Growth Continues – Illinois Public Media

The University of Illinois Flash Index measured the state’s economy for April at 104.3, down a tenth of a point from March. Any number above 100 on the Index represents a growing economy.

AT&T wants out from ‘old-phone’ requirement – INN

If you have a landline, chances are it's not from the phone company. More likely it’s provided by your cable company. And that's why AT&T is asking Illinois lawmakers to help roll back a decades-old requirement that forces it to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on technology that most people don't want and don't use.

How Trump’s tax proposals would affect Illinois – Illinois Policy

The corporate tax reforms under President Donald Trump’s proposed tax plan could strengthen Illinois’ position as a home for businesses, but the state’s uncompetitive income, property and death tax policies would put its residents at an even greater disadvantage with respect to other states if the president’s plan passes.

Political scale tips toward GOP in southern Illinois, northeast Missouri – Herald-Review

Four of the nation's 19 congressional districts with the biggest shifts toward Republicans between the 2012 and 2016 elections either encompass or come close to the St. Louis suburbs.

Expert: Illinois lacks discipline, dollars for pension plans – Sangamon Sun

Andrew Biggs, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank, believes that ideally, governments would get out of the plan altogether.

Schools: ‘Dire decisions’ could come without state budget – A.P.

Superintendents in hundreds of Illinois school districts are imploring lawmakers and the governor to end the state’s budget stalemate, with one official saying schools could face “dire decisions” if a deal isn’t made.

More budget cuts on the way in Danville – Editorial – Commercial News

Danville City Council members recently approved a budget for the new fiscal year that begins Monday that included cuts of about 3 percent to every department's budget. "The exercise is something those in the private sector have experienced for years. The public sector appears to just be catching up."  

Illinois’ April 30 Tax Freedom Day tied for latest in Midwest – Illinois Policy

When it comes to taxes, everyone works for the government. Illinoisans worked 120 days – from Jan. 1 until April 30 – to pay the taxes they owe to federal, state and local governments.

Powerful pols got in on illegal state hiring scheme –

Top aides to former Gov. Pat Quinn, powerful legislators and state bureaucrats ignored the law barring patronage hiring to put friends, family members and political supporters on the IDOT payroll "with little regard for the actual hiring need or whether the candidate was qualified to fill the stated duties of the job."

Dynegy to decide by year-end whether to exit southern Illinois – Crain’s

Illinois' largest downstate power generator will decide by the end of this year how much of a presence, if any, to retain in the southern half of the state.

In a trade war with Canada, Illinois — and Chicago — would be a casualty – Opinion – Chicago Tribune

Comment: There will be no trade war. This is a negotiation.

Illinois Equal Pay Act Goes To Senate – Peoria Public Radio

It received support from both sides of the aisle.

Illinois on track to become first ‘junk’-rated state in nation – Illinois Policy

The state of Illinois’ financial condition is just one month shy of being designated “junk” by the nation’s credit agencies. The agencies have warned that if Illinois doesn’t resolve its budget issues by May 31 – the end of the state legislative session – it may be punished with more downgrades. It’s quite possible the agencies could downgrade Illinois bonds to junk status.

Was Pat Quinn running the state of Illinois — or a job fair? – Chicago Tribune

To accommodate all the requests, Quinn staffers foisted new hires on state agencies, sometimes creating a new position or displacing a candidate who'd already been selected on merit.

Illinois gun dealer licensing bill passes the Senate – WAND

Comment: Opponents are fuming. See link here.

Budget impasse spurs question: Should unpaid dentists be allowed to bail on state contracts? – Chicago Tribune

Dentists should be allowed to back out of their contracts to care for state employees if Illinois doesn't pay them for six months, says a plan advanced by lawmakers Wednesday.

Budget fury boils over in town hall – IllinoisHomepage

The 'Enough is Enough' town hall drew more than 150 people to a hotel venue in downtown Springfield where a panel of guests gave thorough explanations for how Illinois arrived in this unprecedented budget crisis and floated theories on how the state's leaders might forge a comeback.

Illinois Bill Could Keep Presidential Candidates Off the Ballot – CBS St. Louis

Presidential candidates would have to release their tax returns under a bill passed by the Illinois Senate.

ISBE report: Almost half of Illinois school districts are deficit spending – INN

More Illinois school districts are turning to deficit spending and long-term borrowing to meet operational costs, according to an Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) report released last week.

Suburban Mayors Band Together Against Property Tax Freeze – Associated Press

The proposal is a key element of Gov. Bruce Rauner's agenda. The Republican has insisted on the freeze before agreeing to a state budget. Leaders representing more than 150 cities and villages surrounding Chicago say a freeze would handicap local government and do nothing to address Illinois' budget problems.

Federal investigation exposes Madigan patronage – Illinois Policy

With House Speaker Mike Madigan’s longevity comes a patronage army paid with public dollars.

Bill to shore up Chicago municipal workers’ pensions passes House – Chicago Sun-Times

The Illinois House on Thursday once again passed a bill designed to shore up the pension funds for Chicago laborers and other city workers — a measure with identical language to a bill Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed in March. Comment: No, it doesn't shore up anything. It delays the contribution schedule -- kicks the can. Additional revenue that would go to the two funds was the city's separate undertaking.

Report Says Illinois and Indiana highlight Rich State/Poor State differences – INN

llinois doesn't need any tax increases or pension debt to have one of the country's worst economic outlooks. State lawmakers simply need to keep doing what they've been doing, and Illinois will be left behind, according to a new report.

Illinois lawmakers, public don’t know cost of vast majority of new legislation – INN

Between January 2015 and January of this year, Illinois lawmakers approved just under 1,000 proposed laws. But only 27 of them came with a fiscal note detailing their cost.

Illinois Title 1 reform for schools inches forward – Rockford RegisterStar

A pair of bills — House Bill 656 and Senate Bill 195 — are seeking the same thing: to eliminate the state’s “federal funds rate” or “pension surcharge.” It’s an additional fee that school districts have to pay into the Illinois Teacher Retirement System if they use federal Title 1 dollars to hire certified teachers.

Berg: Feckless Frank and the arrogance of Illinois’ political insiders – Opinion – INN

Mautino’s few critics in the General Assembly were dismissed as petty, partisan and paranoid. But outsiders knew something was fishy about Frank. And they were right.

Clueless In Springfield – Ignoring Legislative Costs –

When it comes to voting on bills impacting taxpayers wallets lawmakers rarely have any idea how much the legislation will cost according to an analysis by the Illinois Policy Institute. The newly released research shows between March 2015 to January 2017 the General Assembly passed 938 bills that were ultimately signed into law. Yet only 27 of those have fiscal notes or price tags attached.

Rauner Gives Illinois a Grade A – WTTW

Comment: Will Rauner go with a tax increase or not? Amanda Vinicky does a good job here pressing that question, on which Rauner has been ambiguous.

Lucci: Illinois Democrats responsible for the nation’s highest black unemployment rate – Opinion – INN

Economic success starts with education. Yet my experience showed me that Illinois’ education system is a failure, especially for black families. I tested and taught hundreds of black students on Chicago’s south side. A normal student was in eighth grade, but his math skills were in second grade.

Think Public Pensions Can’t Be Cut? Think Again. – Governing

The only truly secure guarantee that a public employee has is a fully funded pension system. But that's a guarantee that's likely to become rarer as cities face mounting fiscal strains. Of the nation's 89,000 local governments, some 11,000 have defaulted on bonds at some point in our history. As pension costs continue to escalate, it's nearly certain that the number of defaults will rise. How lucky do you feel? Will your city run out of money?

Illinois governor seeks to oust improperly hired employees – Associated Press

The administration of Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner says it wants a judge to decide whether state employees who were improperly hired under former Gov. Pat Quinn should keep union contract job protections.

Chicago to replace computer-automated dispatch system – Chicago Sun-Times

The computer-automated dispatch that forms the guts of Chicago’s 911 emergency center will be replaced with an upgrade that allows people to text and send photos and videos from emergency scenes, improving the quality of the city’s response, a top mayoral aide said Monday.

Cullerton: Illinois Senate will vote on stopgap budget Rauner opposes – Chicago Tribune

Democratic Illinois Senate President John Cullerton said Tuesday that his chamber will vote this week on a proposal to send more than $815 million to universities and social service providers that have gone months without funding, despite objections from Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

In Illinois, a unique effort to protect the grid from hackers – Midwest Energy News

State regulators in Illinois are staking out a unique foothold in an area of growing concern among public utilities: the security of information and digital assets in the smart-grid era.

Illinois universities’ credit descends into junk territory – Illinois Policy

Illinois universities have hiked tuition and relied on state subsidies to pay for exorbitant administrative salaries – and now they’re feeling the effects of that destructive behavior.

Familiar Theme in Work Comp Report – WBGZ

A new report about Illinois’ workers’ compensation shows a 6 percent cost decrease, but it remains more expensive than other states, bolstering one of the main drivers Gov. Bruce Rauner says is pushing business out of Illinois.

McCaleb: As lawmakers return, taxpayers need to watch these budget possibilities – Opinion – INN

State lawmakers have not passed a full budget in 22 months, and face a May 31 deadline to adopt a 2018 fiscal plan or risk going into a third consecutive year without one. Despite not having a budget, the state's backlog of bills continues to grow – it now exceeds $13 billion – because court orders have put deficit spending on autopilot.

Rasmussen: Women’s march on Springfield promotes status quo – Opinion – INN

So to those organizing this week’s march, they may preach “progressive” ideals and a path forward. But really, they are marching to keep Illinois on a path of economic destruction. On behalf of most of the women of Illinois – and those who have left – please hear our message: No, thanks.

Illinois trails national average – News-Gazette

There's good — and bad — news about the employment picture in the nation and Illinois. As has been the case for months now, the national unemployment numbers present a mixed picture. On the surface, they're good, almost encouraging. But a deeper examination shows just how far the lagging economic recovery has to go.

Illinois lawmakers passed 938 bills that became law from 2015 to 2017 – just 3% had a price tag – Illinois Policy

Illinois lawmakers vote on bills without fully understanding how the legislation will affect the state’s finances. That goes a long way toward explaining the state’s more than $12.5 billion in backlogged bills, $130 billion in unfunded state pension liabilities, and $8 billion in deficit spending.

Illinois foreclosure rates among worst – JournalCourier

ATTOM Data Solutions’ latest foreclosure information for the first three months of 2017 says Illinois has one foreclosed home for every 317 housing units. That’s worse than all but three other states.

Illinois lawmakers return to unresolved issues – JournalStar

After a two-week spring break, state lawmakers return to Springfield this week to resume work on an end to the budget stalemate that has eluded them for nearly two years.

Hearing Probes Illinois Auditor General’s Campaign Spending – A.P.

An Illinois State Board of Elections hearing officer is expected to issue a recommendation next month regarding allegations that the state's auditor general violated campaign finance disclosure laws while serving as a Democratic state representative.

Illinois Democrats aim high with minimum wage proposals – A.P.

Amid a national push by unions and worker advocates for a $15 minimum wage, Illinois Democrats hope to pass an ambitious hike during the spring legislative session, despite a warning from Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner that he opposes an increase of any kind.

Rauner’s improbable fundraising pitch: Balanced budget without tax hike – Chicago Tribune

In a fundraising letter sent to Republican supporters from the governor’s campaign, Rauner says: “Speaker Mike Madigan and the Springfield Democrats REFUSE TO FIX our state. Illinois taxpayers deserve a balanced budget WITHOUT any tax increases.” That’s a sharp contrast to what the governor previously has said, including his acknowledgment that the state needs more revenue as well as spending cuts to achieve a balanced budget.

Independent grocery store workers seek union decertification – INN

“Every single employee on the grocery side would like to just be rid of them,” Madden said. "They are intimidating people. They will lie to get what they want, in my opinion.” A personal anecdote from my first job bagging groceries: When I started and the union rep came with the forms to sign me up I naively asked, "What if I don't want to give part of my paycheck for this?"  "Well, kid," he answered. "You know how most...

Cairo IL searching for its hero – Opinion – The Southern

"Let’s cut right to the chase — the situation in Cairo is untenable."

Solar interest shines on Illinois farmland – Iowa Farmer Today

Comment: Let's hope farmers are being very careful about this, and see our own article from yesterday about related pending IL legislation.

Chicago home sales come roaring back in March – Chicago Tribune

The Illinois Realtors reported Friday a 13.1 percent jump in sales and a 10 percent climb in the median price over the last year in the Chicago area. Comment: The Realtors' numbers are always suspect, but the more meaningful Case-Shiller Index has been strong the last few months, too.

Warehouse Boom Creates Temp Worker Problems – WNIJ and WNIU

Comment: The progs are gearing up to try to regulate the temp industry hard.

Illinois is losing its core income tax base – Illinois Policy

People earning $100,000 or more per year provide more than 60 percent of Illinois’ income tax revenue, for a total of $11 billion out of the state’s roughly $17 billion in total income tax revenue. But IRS data show Illinois lost 7,000 high-income earners, on net, in tax year 2014-2015, with a net loss of between $2 and $3 billion of annual adjusted gross income, or AGI.

Struggling NEIU paid big for years for grad speakers – Chicago Sun-Times

Comment: Paid to a bunch of losers, too, starting with Donna Brazile.

Illinois loses nearly 9,000 jobs on net in March; unemployment rate drops – Illinois Policy

Illinois lost jobs across several industries including construction, manufacturing, and professional and business services. The only employment category to see significant growth was leisure and hospitality.

Illinois’ Financial Grade: F — Audio – Upstream Ideas

Why is Illinois' financial grade an F? Are the bond agencies taking too rosy a view of our finances? How does Illinois have $200 billion in debt with a balanced budget requirement in the Constitution? Sheila Weinberg, Founder & CEO of Truth in Accounting, offers the facts.

Can Bruce Rauner save himself? – John Kass – Chicago Tribune

"Rauner has been battered, but he's not broken. He has to make his case, not with kitsch but with information and passion so taxpayers can see what is at stake."

Illinois’ manufacturers default at greater rate than U.S. average – INN

Illinois had a significantly higher percentage than its neighbors, who were all less than half of Illinois.

IL representative pushes for $15 per hour minimum wage – WSIL

State Representative Will Guzzardi claims his bill "would generate billions of dollars in new revenue and ease the budget crisis." Comment: Meanwhile, a new Harvard Business School study found an increase in minimum wage is causing an increasing number of restaurants to go out of business even before it is fully phased in.

Don’t count on that government pension – Opinion – Chicago Tribune

Comment: Solid advice from Terry Savage.

San Bernardino could end up in bankruptcy again, Moody’s warns – KPCC

"The plan calls for San Bernardino to leave bankruptcy with increased revenues and an improved balance sheet, but the city will retain significant unfunded and rapidly rising pension obligations," the report warns. Comment: A reminder that defined benefit public pensions are vile infections that don't heal. The costs are guesswork and the guesses are usually wrong.

Illinois Partnership to Bolster Talent Pipeline, Grow Smart State Initiatives – Government Technology

Illinois IT officials talk a lot about their plans for cutting-edge technologies like the ever-expanding Internet of Things, and now they're taking action to make sure the talent pool is there for implementation.

Report: Illinois spends $518 per student on administration, second highest in country – INN

The finding suggests to some education reformers that the funds now going to top-heavy school districts would be better directed into the classroom, especially if the administration of the districts could be streamlined through consolidation or reorganization.

Report: Labor unions outspend Soros and Koch brothers in politics – INN

A new report says big labor nationwide spent more money in the 2016 campaign season than George Soros and the Koch brothers combined. In Illinois, that number approached $38 million.According to recent data compiled by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, labor union political action committees, both public and private, made up 12 of the top 20 PACs with a combined total funding of nearly $13.5 million.

Southern Illinois County Suing Manufacturers Of Opioid Painkillers – WBEZ

St. Clair County, which covers East St. Louis, claims it is in the center of an opioid addiction epidemic that has plagued the Midwest, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in state court.

U.S. Farmers, Who Once Fed the World, Are Overtaken by New Powers – WSJ

The data streaming in isn’t from Illinois or even the American Midwest. It is from half a world away in Brazil, where farmers are harvesting what’s expected to be a record soybean crop.

Illinois tax burden on businesses exceeds over Midwest neighbors – IL Homepage

According to a national report done by the Anderson Economic Group, Illinois is ranked 30 for the amount of taxes business pay. The state has gone down two spots since the previous year's study, but experts say, compared to our Midwest neighbors we still have a ways to go.

State support for higher education increased in 2016, not counting Illinois – Inside Higher Ed

Support for public higher education rose in 33 states and declined in 17 in 2016 -- including a massive drop in Illinois.

It’s a hybrid: Surprising DNA results of Illinois-record crappie – Sun-Times

Looks like our earlier story about the monster crappie was crap. (And it's a slow day for news.)

Report: Increased foreign demand for Illinois crops could mean fewer jobs – INN

"This could occur if higher foreign demand for agricultural products led to a strengthening of the dollar, making other Illinois exports less competitive." Comment: Hmm. Interesting. The argument is based on the assumption that agriculture is less labor intensive than other industries that would be impacted by a higher dollar. Seems to me the real driver of the dollar is interest rates, which for the time being are set artificially anyway, so I'm not so sure.

State senators tout ‘Taxpayer Bargain budget plan – Chicago City Wire

"McPlan," it has been called. State Sens. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) and Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods) have a budget plan they say calls for spending reductions, protections for elementary and secondary education, pension reform, restructuring and legislative accountability.

Analysis: school districts suing Rauner, state over money have seen large funding increases, enrollment declines – Sangamon Sun

Comment: All districts complaining about funding need spotlights put on the facts comparing them to other districts around the state.

Lucci: Construction season means high costs for Illinois taxpayers – Opinion – INN

Research from economists Lawrence Katz from Harvard and Daniel Kessler from Stanford shows that prevailing wage laws slash the wages and job opportunities for black construction workers.

Illinois public universities trying to find efficiencies during budget impasse – INN

It’s a mixed bag for Illinois’ public universities, which have gone two years without full appropriations from state taxpayers. Some say they’re managing, while others say they’re crumbling.

Turning point in Puerto Rico’s debt crisis bears close watching for mainland America – Commentary – The Bond Buyer

While many obstacles are ahead on Puerto Rico’s path to financial health, the success of PROMESA and the prioritization of the $17 billion COFINA structure bears close watching for citizens, government officials and investors across the United States. The next chapter for Puerto Rico is likely to establish precedents and processes that guide America’s next wave of municipal restructurings.

Illinois’s Seven Universities Face Downgrades Over Budget Morass – Bloomberg

Another day, another blow to institutions that rely on Illinois. Four of the seven already have junk ratings on their bonds, while two others are within one or two levels of losing their investment-grade status.

Your state is probably facing a new dawn of public finance problems – The Hill

S&P Global Ratings: "We now see a profound shift unfolding in states such as Illinois, Kentucky, and New Jersey, whose pension systems are funded at distressed levels." Comment: You figured that out, S&P? Did you? Better late than never.

State senator wants to bar ZIP code from car insurance equation – Chicago Sun-Times

Comment: To accept the charge that racism is at work here, as Senator Biss has claimed, you'd have to picture insurance people sitting around saying, "Let's not do what's in our financial interest; let's hurt minorities instead."

U.S. Supreme Court Won’t Review Detroit Pensioners’ Benefit Cuts – Law360

Comment: The Court left intact a U.S. appellate court's rejection of the last of the challenges to Detroit's bankruptcy plan. That plan included cuts to pensions notwithstanding a state constitutional prohibition of pension cuts.

In Quad Cities, Rauner praises Senate Democrats – Quad-City Times

Rauner praised Senate Democrats, even more so than last week, and said they want a balanced budget and a deal to end the two-year old budget impasse. "I applaud them for that," he said. "I'm cheering for them." Huh?

Minority Neighborhoods Pay Higher Car Insurance Premiums Than White Areas With the Same Risk – ProPublica

And IL Sen. Dan Biss, candidate for governor, tweeted this story saying, “People say this is about risk. It's about racism, plain and simple," and that he's sponsoring legislation to end this "racist practice." Comment: So, insurance companies aren't motivated by making money but by sticking it to minorities. That's what Biss and the report are claiming.

Low discount rates take toll on largest corporate DB plans – Pensions & Investments

Comment: The average discount rate used by the plans in P&I's universe of private sector plans was 4.39% in both 2015 and 2016, yet they are still over 84% funded. Most public plans use a discount rate over 7%, which means even their horrible publicly reported condition would be far worse under private sector standards.

Who’s ‘elitist’ in NEIU’s $30,000 commencement controversy? – Opinion – INN

Northeastern Illinois University is struggling, but it did have enough money, apparently, to agree to pay Valerie Jarrett, former president Barack Obama's longtime adviser, $30,000 to be its commencement speaker at this year's graduation ceremony. And, according to the university's interim president, Richard Helldobler, it would be "classist" and "elitist" to suggest it's money not well spent. Comment: Few are more detached from reality than academics.

Federal tax bill hits hardest in District of Columbia, Illinois ranked eighty – Chicago Sun-Times

Illinois ranked eighth overall, paying $10,814 per person in federal income, payroll and estate taxes.

Kudos for the Senators’ “McPlan” budget prescription – Illinois Review

There's a state budget plan circulating Springfield circles that is 1. balanced, 2. hides no tax hikes, and 3. actually makes budget cuts.

Opinion: San Diego Ruling Could Be First Step to Real Public Pension Reform – Times of San Diego

Sound judgment, which is too rare in the halls of California officialdom, won a round on Tuesday when the state’s Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled that San Diego’s pension cutbacks for city workers were indeed lawful. Comment: Some other states have a pension obligations as impossible as ours. The question is whether we will be the last to realize it.

Milkweed, bacon and bikes; your Illinois General Assembly at work – Editorial – Rockford Register-Star

State lawmakers assure us that they can walk and chew gum at the same time, which is how they justify passing inconsequential legislation while the state continues to go without a budget.

Illinois: So long, it’s been good to know ya’ – Jim Nowlan – Viewpoints – QCOline

Jim Nowlan is a former Illinois legislator and state agency director. He is a retired senior fellow at the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs.

Rauner pushes budget plan during two-day tour – Sangamon Sun

"The question Illinois residents should be asking is: Why is Rauner campaigning for re-election when he has failed to propose a balanced budget, his most basic responsibility as governor?"Jake Lewis, the group's campaign director, said in a statement. "Instead of campaigning, the governor should drop the political games, propose a balanced budget, and do his job."

Illinois lawmaker targets Jackson Jr.’s workers’ comp – Chicago Sun-Times

The law allowing former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., to collect about $100,000 a year in workers’ compensation, even though he pleaded guilty to looting his campaign fund, is wrong and needs to be changed, Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Competency-based graduation program launches for 2018-19 school year – INN

The new program shifts the focus off of graduating high school in four years and pushes students to master skills necessary for reaching the next phase in their life. Many students are not prepared for college courses when they graduate high school. Forty-nine percent of students take remedial courses when they enroll in community college, according to the board of education.

While devastating some programs, Rauner’s cuts wouldn’t be enough – Chicago Sun-Times

Altogether they represent only $242 million in savings. That's one-half of 1 percent of what Illinois spends in a year. Comment: How about a 15%  across the board pay cut for state and local government? How much would that save? That would be harsh and unfair, but harsh and unfair is what you have to do in emergencies. And that would be just the start of what's needed.

Stuart sponsors legislation to give free hunting and fishing licenses to Illinois state employees – Illinois Policy

A bill sponsored by state Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, would waive fees for obtaining hunting and fishing licenses for retired and current government workers and law enforcement officers. Meanwhile, everyone else has to pay.

Gov. Bruce Rauner, Legislature drain Illinoisans’ patience – Kadner – Chicago Sun-Times

To get anything close to a balanced budget and address the long term deficit, the state is going to need higher income and sales taxes, more cuts to the budget and an amendment to the Illinois constitution that allows the government to make changes in collective bargaining contracts without the approval of government unions. That is not likely to happen. Comment: He should have added growth --economic growth. The numbers don't work without that.

Sister of Mercy answered his cry for help; now ex-offender repays gift of redemption – Chicago Tribune

"That simple act of mercy and kindness with no expectation of payment was enough to make me understand my experience and education is unique," Geiter said. "I know Sister Sue saved my life." Happy Easter.

Several industries ask state lawmakers for tax carve outs – INN

From film production to data centers to historic districts and even video game developers, several sectors of Illinois’ economy are asking for tax credit carve-outs from state lawmakers.

How The Ethanol Mandate Is Killing The American Prairie – Investors’ Business Daily

According to a report by the Organic Consumers Association, 95% of the 240 million acres of prairie land that once blanketed the middle of our country, from Texas to North Dakota, already is gone. Only isolated pockets of prairie tall grass, some 35 million acres set aside for soil and wildlife conservation, remain. And that — largely in the Great Plains — is at risk of being destroyed.

Scott Stantis Cartoon

United Airlines Isn’t the Problem—It’s Good People Doing Nothing – Observer

What the hell were all the people on that flight thinking to allow this to happen? Nobody said, “You know what, I can catch the next flight to Louisville. I’ll volunteer."

Ever downward – News-Gazette

Failing to decide about how to fix our sorry state is deciding to fail. So why do our legislators focus more on social welfare programs, while lacking the necessary revenue to fund them, than attracting job creators who would create taxpayers by putting them to work? Somehow, people hope, it will all work out in the end. But how long will that take? Too many people and employers aren't sticking around to find out. Comment: A particularly fine editorial.  

Trump signs resolution to effectively kill city auto-IRA rule – Investment News

Five states have passed legislation to set up auto-IRAs, and several others are considering doing the same. Observers expect this push will slow if Mr. Trump ultimately nullifies the DOL's state rule as well. Illinois is among those states.

New data show Illinoisans pay more than 2 percent of home’s value in property taxes – INN

ATTOM Data Solutions' latest report on 2016 property taxes shows that Illinoisans averaged $4,845 in yearly property tax payments, more than two percent of the value of their homes. Only New Jersey residents were taxed at a higher ratio.

Stakes are high for workers, businesses as Illinois considers minimum wage hike – Chicago Tribune

"I'd give us five years and we'd be out of here. Whether we sell it to somebody or just be done, I don't know." — Ed Schubert, Dairy Queen owner.

Growth to be part of school grade, not just test scores – INN

Starting in the fall of 2018, Illinois schools will get as much credit for how their students 'grow' in reading, math, and science as they will for how much their students actually know about the subjects.

Senators’ Op-Ed: “Taxpayer Bargain” Budget Puts Taxpayers First – Illinois Review

A no-tax-increase budget proposal by State Sens. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) and Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods).

Transform Illinois Coalition Pushes Ahead on Government Consolidation

Transform Illinois is one group leading the charge for consolidation. Transform Illinois is a collaborative of local elected officials, civic organizations and research institutions dedicated to promoting and supporting local government efficiency efforts in Illinois.

2 Illinois lawmakers among 312 state employees who haven’t filed 2014 tax returns – Chicago Tribune

The lawmakers appear to be the highest-ranking stragglers out of thousands of state workers whom the revenue agency originally identified and contacted after matching W-2 tax forms to payroll records. Because individual tax returns are confidential, the Department of Revenue would not name any of the workers, providing only a numerical breakdown by category of state job.

15 southern Illinois counties drop in population – Illinois Policy

Fifteen counties in the southernmost part of Illinois lost population from July 2015 to July 2016, fueled by significant domestic migration.

Illinois lawmakers want to tax laundry, storage unit services – Illinois Policy

Senate Bill 9 would apply a 6.25 percent sales tax to laundry, dry cleaning, storage units and parking garages, among other services.

Amazon received more than $112 million in EDGE tax credits in 2016 – Illinois Policy

In exchange for more than $112 million in tax breaks, Amazon promised to expand its Illinois operations and hire 7,200 new employees in Aurora, Monee and Joliet.

Krug: Batting below the Mendoza line – Opinion – INN

In states where “plasma donor” is not as popular a livelihood among the citizenry, and where the legislature types don’t operate their state at a purposeful deficit, the comptroller has no actual political value. But in Illinois, the comptroller decides who gets paid.

NEIU’s $30,000 commencement speaker contract sparks bill to ban the practice – INN

Northeastern Illinois University's board was shocked last week to hear that the school had signed a contract to pay former Barack Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett $30,000 to give a commencement speech. Comment: Jarrett has finally had a positive impact on something.

25 Percent Of Illinois School Districts Are Borrowing To Pay Bills – WBEZ

The state pointed to a troubling trend of more districts taking on long-term debt — not to construct schools or pay for other capital costs — but to cover normal operating expenses.

Multibillion-dollar tax hikes will only exacerbate Illinois’ weak economic activity – Illinois Policy

The latest report from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability shows Illinois experienced falling tax collections, indicating trouble in the state economy. Spending reforms – not tax hikes – are what Illinois needs to right its fiscal ship and boost economic growth.

After mass layoffs, a chilling look back at CAT’s plea for reforms – Illinois Policy

In February 2012, Caterpillar’s then-CEO Doug Oberhelman outlined needed reforms to save Illinois manufacturing jobs. State lawmakers have failed to act, and the Land of Lincoln is the only state in the region to lose manufacturing jobs since.

House bill would regulate ‘trampoline safety’ – Illinois Policy

Instead of spending time on economic reforms, politicians crafted a bill that would apply new rules and regulations on trampoline safety that would add thousands of dollars in costs for equipment, travel and overtime for inspections.

Several industries ask state lawmakers for tax carve outs – INN

From film production to data centers to historic districts and even video game developers, several sectors of Illinois’ economy are asking for tax credit carve-outs from state lawmakers.

Berg: Illinois democracy is an empty shell – Opinion – INN

More on the "shell bill" plague in the General Assembly.

Southern Illinois’ Congressman: ‘Balance’ needed in energy economy – INN

Republican Mike Bost is quick to say Illinois has more energy under its soil than Saudi Arabia. But regulations, both state and federal, are keeping Illinois from tapping into that energy potential, he added.

Failure across the board – Editorial – News-Gazette

Is Illinois really one of 50 states in the United States? Or is it some kind of alternative universe of government dysfunction?

Fake property tax relief: 3 reasons HB 156 fails taxpayers – Illinois Policy

Despite being sold as property tax “relief,” new legislation in Springfield would only shift property tax burdens on to certain taxpayers, while complicating an already confusing property tax system.

Rock Island looks at police, fire pension obligations – QCOnline

The pension funds take up more than half of the city's estimated $11.2 million property tax levy. Similar struggles going on in municipalities across Illinois.

Pew: Illinois’ pension funds invested in risky, alternative investments – INN

 The report featured three Illinois funds: Illinois Teachers Retirement System (TRS), Illinois State Employees Retirement System (SERS), and Illinois State University Retirement System (SURS).

Puerto Rico union sues to block pension cuts – ABC News

The suit filed by the United Public Servants union said the plan violates a law protecting the pension system as well as constitutional guarantees involving contracts between the government and retirees. The union represents more than 10,000 government workers and 2,300 retired ones. Comment: The case could eventually set precedent important to Illinois. If Illinois ever amended its constitution to delete the pension protection clause, pension cuts would still be challenged under the Contracts Clause of the U.S. Constitution. That...

Summer jobs tax: SB 9 would tax landscaping and other yard services – Illinois Policy

SB 9 is part of the package of bills that make up the Senate “grand bargain,” which would have hiked taxes by $7 billion.

State Sen. Radogno: Running for Illinois governor? Offer real solutions – Op Ed – Chicago Tribune

Comment: Christine Radogno is the Illinois Senate Minority Leader. Not a big fan of hers, but she's right on all this.

Forum speakers: Illinois’ over-regulations ‘grind down small businesses’ – INN

“From my experience working with low-income entrepreneurs in Chicago every day, I have seen the way over-regulation can grind down small businesses,” Elizabeth Kregor, director of the University of Chicago Law School’s IJ Clinic on Entrepreneurship, said.

We’re getting better at paying the mortgage on time – Crain’s

More Illinois homeowners are caught up on their mortgages than at any time since the dawn of the housing bust, a report shows. In January, just under 5.8 percent of Chicago-area homeowners with a mortgage were 30 days or more behind, according to the report, from property information service CoreLogic. That's down from 7 percent a year earlier.

Puerto Rico seen sliding toward bankruptcy as deadline nears – Reuters

Comment: Just a reminder that fiscal models that can't go on forever don't. Illinois is not Puerto Rico, but the question is how similar we have to get before we act.

Lucci: Making sense of the economics of Illinois – Opinion – INN

Economic opportunity speaks loudly and families and businesses hear its call. That’s the story I intend to tell through this column each Wednesday in the weeks ahead. Illinois didn’t become an economic basket case overnight, and it won’t be fixed in a day either.

Lawmakers use ‘shell’ bills to avoid accountability – INN

One committee of Illinois lawmakers voted for more than 1,400 bills in less than three minutes. And just like that, hundreds of what are commonly called "shell bills" were simultaneously passed from committee last Wednesday. These bills typically don't do anything more serious than send $5 to a random government agency. Once they're in place, they can be changed to do anything and be passed in a matter of hours, with little or no public scrutiny.

Don’t use forfeiture laws to target innocent people – Chicago Sun-Times

Illinois shouldn’t be permitted to seize your property just because someone in authority has a hunch it’s tenuously connected to a crime.

High-speed rail closer to reality in Bloomington-Normal – Editorial – Pantagraph

High-speed rail is expected to shave about an hour off the Chicago-St. Louis run, which now takes about 5½ hours. The entire corridor is tentatively scheduled to be completed by the end of 2017.

Nearly a decade old, state contract for foster care leaves funding gaps – The Southern

On paper, Illinois looks as though it is holding up its end of the bargain in terms of funding childcare. However, local foster care agencies say their level of funding leaves big gaps when it comes to caring for the state’s most vulnerable — abused and neglected children.

With plan to tear down housing, HUD could hollow Cairo – Opinion – The Southern

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has decided on the most extreme option in Cairo.

Education reform? – News-Gazette

Illinois is overflowing with township supervisors, assessors and highway commissioners, all overseen by township trustees, government entities about which most people know little to nothing. Township government in Illinois isn't the only boondoggle. When it comes to bureaucratic bloat, this state offers a target-rich environment. It's way past time for beleaguered taxpayers and their advocates to open fire.

DeKalb County voters take stand with failed property tax increase proposals – Daily Chronicle

There lies the shame in the ever-growing property tax burden Illinois homeowners face: Important causes get the thumbs-down because people are concerned they’ll be taxed out of their homes.

Don’t Mess Around With Government Pensions – Bloomberg

"If the U.S. government has gone down and Illinois is just a name in the history books, the status of the state teachers’ pension fund is probably going to be the least of everyone’s worries. In less extreme scenarios, government finances are ultimately constrained by the much-maligned Laffer Curve. There is some point, however high the percentage, beyond which raising the tax rate not only doesn’t bring in more revenue, but actually lowers government income." Comment: Excellent article that hits...

Illinois builders look to Iowa for lower costs – Rock Island Today

"The total permit package for a $300,000 house is $16,000-$17,000,. Now, transfer yourself over to Iowa: That same $300,000 house sells for between $425,000 and $450,000 with a permit package closer to $2,600."

Poll: Rauner approval rating up, but still near bottom nationwide – Sun-Times

Morning Consult poll finds that Rauner improved his approval rating to 42 percent, compared to the 33 percent he fared in September, prior to the presidential election. His disapproval rating dropped from 56 percent to 49 percent over the same time period.

Jarrett gives up university speaking fee amid Illinois budget feud – Politico

Valerie Jarrett has ended up in the middle of a politicized budget storm in Illinois — unwittingly, she says — following news that she was scheduled to take a $30,000 speaking fee from a cash-strapped university.

California Cities’ Pension Tab Seen Almost Doubling in 5 Years – Bloomberg

Comment: A reminder that California is right up their with Illinois on impossible pension loads, as is New Jersey.

The shrinking Metro East – Illinois Policy

Recently released census data reveal that St. Clair and Madison counties saw combined population losses of more than 1,600 people due to out-migration to other states.

Illinois income tax code leads nation in one category: Confusion – INN

While there is currently a conversation in Washington to simplify the federal tax code, there is a state-level tax that varies so widely across the country that nearly all involved agree it needs to be standardized.

Donor spares struggling NEIU from paying Valerie Jarrett $30K fee – Chicago Sun-Times

Three class days were cancelled to cut costs during the budget impasse, and union leaders are planning a rally to protest the school’s financial straits — but Northeastern Illinois University was planning to pay former White House adviser Valerie Jarrett $30,000 to speak at its commencement ceremony. Comment: A pig at the trough.

Must be fun to be a state lawmaker these days – Opinion – Chicago Tribune

With each passing month, it's becoming clearer that the current crop of elected officials isn't up to the task of fixing our state. They don't need more time; we need new elected officials.

Trump’s policies provide Illinois manufacturers some optimism, but not as much as other states – INN

A nationwide survey of manufacturing executives revealed record-breaking optimism, but those rosy economic sentiments were tempered in Illinois in the wake of fiscal uncertainties and lackluster job growth.

Advocates File Complaint Alleging Illinois Isn’t Fulfilling Disabilities Consent Decree – NBC Chicago

Attorneys have filed a federal complaint alleging that the state of Illinois is not fulfilling its commitment to fund disability services as required by a 2011 consent decree, saying that a refusal to increase reimbursement to providers has caused a dramatic deterioration in the care of those with developmental disabilities.

Still waiting: University funding cloudy as talk turns to FY18 – Pantgraph

The Illinois House approved a “lifeline” measure on Thursday that would bring ISU's state appropriation for this fiscal year to about two-thirds of what it was in fiscal year 2015 — the last year Illinois had a full-year budget.

The cost of California’s public pensions is breaking the bank. Here’s one reason this problem is so hard to fix – Los Angeles Times

The fate of reform measures hangs on ballot language written by the state attorney general, usually a Democrat elected with strong union support.

Illinois schools given a failing grade in administrative costs – Chicago City Wire

Andy Shaw, the author of the BGA article, said what might be worse is that the Illinois School Funding Reform Commission said the state will have to spend an additional $3.5 billion over the next 10 years just to get school districts to "adequate" funding levels.

Bill to stop privatization of DOC medical care headed to Rauner’s desk – INN

The Illinois House has joined the state Senate in approving legislation that would prevent the Department of Corrections from privatizing nursing services.

‘Privilege tax’ bills described as Illinois exit signs – Sangamon Sun

Rather than bring in more money for the state, a pair of bills will probably drive more businesses out of Illinois.

Wind turbines around the Great Lakes? A terrible idea for birds, bats – Opinion – Chicago Tribune

The rush is on to build scores of large, commercial wind energy facilities in and around the Great Lakes, in Canada and the United States. From the perspective of wildlife conservation, the Great Lakes are one of the worst possible places to put wind energy.

Q&A: Why special state funds have money in them – State Journal-Register

Comment: The rest of the story is in this link to our earlier piece, to our ear. There is no sound rationale for sitting permanently on $12 billion, as the Treasurer does.