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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
“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 bagboys get a raise and moved into the produce area after a few months? Well, it ain't gonna happen to you."
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.
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.
"The [court-approved] 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
"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 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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
"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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 issue could be addressed in this case.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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 many of the topics we address here regularly. The headline isn't really descriptive of what it's about.
"The total permit package for a $300,000 house [in Illinois] 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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
State Sens. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, and Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, released a plan April 4 called the “Taxpayer Bargain,” which relies on spending reforms to close the current budget gap. The Taxpayer Bargain calls for a balanced budget and a spending cap with no new taxes or tax increases.
“It would tie our hands in a way that if we had to do a revenue increase, at some point I think members would say, ‘whoa, whoa, whoa, we just resolved to live by this resolution, what are you doing raising taxes?’,” he said. “So to the extent people have come to grips with the fact that at some point there’s going to be a revenue increase, a revenue resolution at this point doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense.”
“Your bill essentially is protecting only one certain type of property owner to the detriment of all others [and] to the detriment of commercial property owners as well.... When you do this … when you squeeze the bubble on one side, there is no protection for the folks who have to pay up on the other side."
More than a dozen downstate school districts are suing the state of Illinois over late or missing payments. But a handful of lawmakers say don't blame the lack of a state budget, blame Illinois' pension debt.
The findings expose a flaw in the Park District’s hiring practices that has resulted in employees with undisclosed felony convictions – and in at least one case, convictions for violent crimes – working near children, or potentially even with children.
Some states might soon be facing a come to Jesus moment. That was the sobering message this week from a senior analyst at S&P Global Ratings, who warned that a “profound shift” is occurring in state finances pressured by pension debt, slow revenue growth and demographic changes.
Communities downstate would see a massive shift in their economy. Les O'Dell, executive Director of the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce, says it would shutter businesses and cost countless jobs since the cost of living is so much lower downstate.
"People from Chicago don't understand that the cost of living is so much lower in Southern Illinois that our local economy cannot afford entry-level workers at $15 an hour."
Federal wage data from 2014 shows that more than half of the workers in Carbondale make less than $15 an hour.
City officials today filed a federal lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company they say cornered the market of a specialty drug and then jacked up the prices, forcing the city to pay exorbitant amounts to treat babies suffering from a rare seizure disorder.
The drug wound up costing taxpayers an estimated $500,000 to treat two infants. Rockford is suing to recover those “inflated drug payments,” asking a judge to force the pharmaceutical to set a “fair and reasonable price” for the drug and to provide compensation for Rockford and other insurers.
Madigan and nine other attorneys general filed a notice that they are prepared to sue within 60 days if the federal government fails to implement updated standards for ceiling fans, air conditioners and other consumer and commercial products.
What happens when there’s no opportunity? People pack up and search elsewhere. Multiple different data sources – including the Bureau of Labor Statistics, IRS and Census Bureau – show the parade of Illinoisans leaving to other states is led by working-age adults, not retired snowbirds.
Comment: Good article, but you gotta laugh at this as it relates to IL: "States continue to benefit from certain inherent advantages that result in mostly high credit ratings. Among these are self-imposed controls against financial excess, such as balanced-budget requirements and limits on borrowing." We have zero restraint and unbalanced budgets have been stuffed into pensions for many years.
The Illinois Supreme Court earlier this week declined to get involved with a state management/labor contract dispute, a decision that paves the way for nothing much to happen for nearly two years. "It's in limbo now," said Michael LeRoy, a professor at the University of Illinois Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations.
The property tax exemption is so generous that it even covers real estate owned by the Big Ten Conference. Yet the Big Ten is not a university. It is not a school of any kind. It's an organization formed by universities that uses its property to administer intercollegiate sports programs.
Lost in the spend-vs.-save highlights are a handful of referendum questions on government consolidation. No, voters didn't wipe townships off the map or downsize Illinois' 860 or so school districts. But there were baby steps to celebrate.
llinois House Democrats on Wednesday advanced a plan to rush more than $815 million to state universities and social service providers, but that money might not arrive anytime soon because Gov. Bruce Rauner criticized the proposal and Senate Democrats still are working on their own plan.
The plan by Senate President John Cullerton would require federal immigration authorities to have a criminal warrant to enter schools or clinics in search of immigrants in the U.S. illegally. And it would bar local police from cooperating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials unless a valid warrant is involved.
A coalition of 17 downstate school districts say they filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Gov. Bruce Rauner and his administration, contending the state has failed to provide enough money to deliver a "high quality" education for students.
The suit against Rauner and the Illinois State Board of Education argues that Illinois' reliance on local property taxes to pay for schools creates a disparity in poorer communities where districts have less of a tax base to rely on. That makes it harder for students to meet educational standards adopted by the state as class sizes increase and programs are cut.
But year-to-date revenue is still off badly: "Through the first three-fourths of the fiscal year, base receipts are off $1.315 billion, or 5.9%. Weakness is widespread, and resulted in year-over -year losses in key areas such as income taxes and federal sources."
A federal appeals court ruled for the first time Tuesday that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects LGBT employees from workplace discrimination, setting up a likely battle before the Supreme Court as gay rights advocates push to broaden the scope of the 53-year-old law.
A Cicero restaurant brought in more than $845,000 from video gaming machines last year but took home just $295,000 after taxes and handing over 50 percent of profits to video gaming operators — a small business profit former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb is trying to recoup.
More than 34,220 Illinois resident decamped across the state line to Indiana in 2015, the most recent year for which data was available, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.
Bailout bills moving in the Illinois General Assembly would attempt to turn Illinois’ massive debt problems into guaranteed profits for banks and bondholders and a lower standard of living for other Illinoisans.
Comment: This is a must-read -- not because I'm quoted but because it catalogs some insane pending legislation.
Illinois owes a group of women whose police officer and firefighter husbands died in the line of duty more than $351,000 apiece for their losses, but the state’s chronic inability to pass a budget has left all of them unpaid like thousands of state vendors.
Illinois had 350,000 more people working in the state than in Indiana and Wisconsin combined just 10 years ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But today fewer people are working in Illinois than in Indiana and Wisconsin combined.
Comment: I think this is Cullerton BS. The pension bills will not reduce the unfunded pension liability (benefits already earned, where the union fat cats at the top have most at stake) by one penny. Further, the courts may well strike the whole thing down. Cullerton is pretending to be a pension reformer when he's in act doing the union's work, as he always does.
"It’s fine to maintain interest in the homeland. But Illinois, not unlike Puerto Rico or Greece, has plenty of financial problems of its own. Precious time in Springfield could be better focused on our severe local woes rather than old-world beefs."
llinois' 850 school districts—only two states have more—collectively spend more than $1 billion a year in administrative expenses, the most in the country by far. That's $518 per student—two times the national average of $210. New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin spend less than $400 per pupil, while California and Florida spend less than $100.
"The risk associated with America's pension ponzi schemes have largely been overlooked by investors to date because so long as they can meet annual benefit payments then plan administrators can just continue to 'kick the can down the road' and pretend that nothing is wrong."
Illinois lawmakers should heed Moody’s Investors Service’s warnings about the state’s precarious economic health and dire fiscal situation and enact major structural spending reforms to balance the budget.
While states surrounding Illinois are enacting labor reforms that benefit residents, Illinois remains a bastion of labor power. Now the Chicago Teachers Union wants even more power – including the broadened right to go on strike and strand parents and students.
Luxembourg’s ambassador to the United States has voiced objections to an Illinois House bill that would label Luxembourg a tax haven and subject corporations expatriated there to restrictions on investments and business dealings with the state of Illinois.
Comment: With as many lawyers as there are in the General Assembly, you'd think perhaps they'd know that foreign affairs and foreign commerce powers under the U.S. Constitution are exclusively federal and the state has no business messing with this.
Five states — California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland and Oregon — have passed laws to set up these plans for private-sector workers. One of the central components of these programs is a mandate for employers of a certain size to offer a workplace retirement plan, either a private-sector option such as a 401(k) or the auto-IRA.
The consequences of the Senate’s votes could be significant. The Labor Department rules were designed to give around 13 million people in five states, including Illinois, access to retirement accounts, out of 55 million nationwide who lack employer-sanctioned retirement programs.
After going seven months without a check, legislators represented by Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan's lawyer/consigliere Michael Kasper prevailed upon a Chicago judge to order they be paid, leapfrogging state vendors who are owed $12 billion-plus.
Rauner plans to sign an executive order on Friday to consolidate the Human Rights Commission into the state’s Department of Human Rights — a move his administration says will help to expedite discrimination complaints.
Democratic lawmakers in Illinois are considering implementing their own internet safeguards at the state level after Republicans in Washington voted to roll back Obama-era internet privacy protections that were to take effect later this year.
A Missouri corporation is making a pretty penny helping to hike local sales taxes across Illinois. But in the process, it’s proving how local governments shirk responsibility to keep their spending in check.
A priceless line from State Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park): “We wanted to be for something. We wanted to outline a vision of where Illinois could go,” Harmon says." Why, yes, Don, that would be nice if you finally stood for something besides tax increases. Too bad your package has little to do with fostering growth.
Comment: Federal cuts indeed are going to make our budget problems worse, but Kumbaya editorials like this are worthless. "We strongly urge [Cullerton and Radogno not to give up. And we call on those who would oppose a compromise for political purposes to get out of the way," says this one. Worthless.
Like a good Illinois Democrat, state Comptroller Susana Mendoza rolled over. Mendoza had two choices last week after a court ordered her to pay state lawmakers when no budget exists: Appeal or cave. She chose the latter.
Private insurance claims related to opioid abuse and dependence diagnoses increased 329 percent in Illinois between 2007 and 2014, according to data from Fair Health, a New York-based nonprofit that seeks to increase transparency in health care costs.
In Chicago alone, such claims increased 382 percent over the seven-year period.
Comment: Madness. It's a vindictive shot at private equity and venture capital that some on the left despise. Fixing the "carried interest" issue that allows some of them to escape reasonable taxation has to be done at the federal level, or they will leave.
President and chief executive officer of Hoist Liftruck Manufacturing Inc., Flaska estimated the move to East Chicago, Ind., just across the border from Chicago, has saved the company $3 million to $4 million in operating costs.
The move is the latest in a long line of Illinois-based companies relocating to Kenosha County, or establishing operations there. On Thursday, the Rosemont, Ill.-based subsidiary of German gummy bear maker Haribo announced plans for a 500,000-square-foot facility in Pleasant Prairie that will bring up to 400 jobs.
The idea is simple: make sure pharmacists are't overworked and that they have time to talk with patients.
The proposed fix isn't as simple. Rob Karr, head of the Illinois Retail Merchants' Association, said some lawmakers are pushing a plan backed by the Teamster's union to limit pharmacists to filling no more than 10 prescriptions per hour. The legislation also mandates pharmacists take an hour-long break each eight-hour shift.
Two bills now pending in the General Assembly authored by state Sen. Heather Steans (D-Edgewater) would create a system for regulating and taxing marijuana sales in an effort to bring in at least $350 million a year.
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois struck down an Illinois law that banned licensed marijuana businesses from making contributions to candidates, PACs and other political committees. Judge John Z. Lee ruled that the ban violated businesses’ First Amendment rights.
As the House appropriations committee heard Thursday, Kobe Williams, a 15-month-old who needs an oxygen tank to breathe, is in danger of losing the equipment that keeps him alive. His mother, a state worker, pays his expenses under the state medical plan, which is losing coverage as it fails to pay providers.
"We need to fix worker's compensation. The huge issue is causation," which would tie injury claims to work, Maisch said.
Illinois is one of a few states where workers can get compensated for injuries that occur away from a job.
In addition, the chamber would like to see pro-growth tax policies that would help small employers get credit for training costs and allow capital credit deductions to be claimed over a shorter time span.
Illinois’ teacher pension system is structured to allow local school boards to agree to generous contracts, knowing taxpayers across the state will foot the bill. This system should change so that local school boards cover their own pension costs. That way, they will bear the full cost of salary increases they decide on, rather than pushing much of that cost onto unaware state taxpayers.
Illinois crafted the solution to its pension crisis nearly 20 years ago. The problem is many lawmakers don’t even know that solution exists. Since 1998, more than 20,000 state university workers have opted into a 401(k)-style plan instead of the traditional pension plan. Illinois’ lawmakers can begin to solve the pension crisis by simply expanding the State Universities Retirement System’s 401(k)-style plan to all state workers.
“It just goes to show [the] tight knit support group that we have here in Monroe County,” he said. “All the businesses, we’re very fortunate that they’re very supportive of law enforcement. They’re always ready to jump in and support us in times of need.”
But those in the Springfield bubble believe whatever is best for the 35,000 state workers in AFSCME, including the 37.5-hour work week, is best for their campaign coffers. They think they should set labor rates rather than the local market. They think schools and state colleges should be able to jack up the final years of teacher and administrator salaries to boost pensions because the state must make the contributions. They think more government is better government in this land of 6,968 taxing bodies.
State Comptroller Susana Mendoza said Thursday she will start issuing paychecks to state lawmakers, after a Cook County judge ruled that the law requires legislators get their paychecks even if there is no state budget.
Although the ruling allows not-for-profit hospitals in Illinois to breathe a sigh of relief, the law isn't safe yet. The Supreme Court didn't weigh in on the constitutionality of the property tax exemption law.
In just six years, the total debt Illinois households are on the hook for has jumped to $56,000, or 31 percent. That’s a $13,000 increase for each household. Total unfunded debt for state and local governments in Illinois now totals $267 billion.
Proposed legislation to commemorate former President Barack Obama’s birthday as a state holiday in Illinois would have cost taxpayers nearly $20 million in state personnel expenses and lost productivity.
"Ignorance toward local government issues is a plague that has the power to take down our country.... The reality is, while it may not be as exciting, Americans are more likely to feel the effects of changes made inside city halls than most bills passed by Congress."
During the long run-up to passage of the ratepayer-financed subsidies that will keep two money-losing Illinois nuclear plants open, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan was one of the most vocal critics of the legislation.
Now her office is defending the law in federal court.
The plan would pool $900 million in existing state agency spending. It would also require $250 million to connect agency systems. Rauner says a cost-cutting pension overhaul could be one source of funding.
It's $530,000 behind in payments from state coffers for services, from adult protective services and senior services to aid to adults living with a disability who have been abused to domestic violence programs and preventative education programs.
The bill that advanced to the Senate floor would require vendors doing business with the state to pay their employees $16.36 an hour. Democrat sponsor Daniel Biss, who just announced he’s running for governor, said it’s a living wage act.
Comment: Looks like Sen. Biss will be playing for the far left progressives in his bid for governor.
Negotiations between government-worker unions and governing bodies are conducted behind closed doors, away from public scrutiny. And yet taxpayers are required to pay for whatever extravagant benefits the unions obtain. Recently a bill in the General Assembly would have brought more transparency – and accountability – to the process, but it failed to make it out of committee.
Two state of Illinois employees who do not want to pay dues to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union plan to take their case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Tuesday dismissed the lawsuit brought by Mark Janus and Brian Trygg, who argue that their First Amendment rights are being violated by being forced to pay dues to a union they don't want to be join.
While much of the US is working to piece together a patchwork of blockchain regulations, Illinois unveiled a sweeping plan yesterday that would see the state implement blockchain solutions across multiple government agencies.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's personal email accounts have served as a private avenue of influence where executives and investors sought favorable action from City Hall, raising questions about whether some of the messages crossed the line into lobbying and violated the city's ethics law, the Chicago Tribune has found.
A longstanding rule requiring AT&T to provide landline service to everyone in Illinois could be going away, but watchdogs say the proposal needs more safeguards to protect rural and low-income customers.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than half of the jobs in some areas of downstate and central Illinois pay wages less than $15 an hour. One instance is the Carbondale-Marion area, where the median hourly wage is $13.85. That would require businesses to pay more in salaries to more than half of the 52,000 workers in those cities.
The 12 disparate measures comprising the grand bargain were cobbled together in an attempt to recharge stalled negotiations over a two-year budget stalemate that has fueled a multibillion-dollar budget deficit. An Associated Press analysis of Senate records shows nearly 4,700 witnesses wanting a say in at least one of the individual measures. Less than a fifth recorded support.
Through collective bargaining agreements with the state, government-worker unions require access to workers’ social security numbers – even if those workers are not members of the union. A bill protecting worker privacy recently failed to get enough votes to pass out of committee.
Rauner said Friday that his office has asked the high court to uphold a labor board ruling in his favor. That ruling last fall allowed Rauner to impose his preferred contract conditions on 38,000 members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31.
Comment: We're doing the opposite of what should be done. It should be repealed at the state level but kept in place at the federal level, subject to a large exemption and protections to avoid forced sales of family businesses.
One temporary employment firm owner says part of the problem with lawmakers in Springfield is that they don’t understand the real world. Case in point: new legislation aimed at protecting day laborers.
The Illinois Economic Development for a Growing Economy tax credit, or EDGE credit, is a tool that the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity uses to incentivize businesses to locate or stay in Illinois. Lawmakers Thursday heard the DCEO’s proposal for a replacement that they say would be better for small businesses and more responsible with taxpayer dollars.
Despite Illinois’ billions in deficit spending and skyrocketing debt, the Illinois House of Representatives passed House Bill 278, which would transfer an additional $300 million per year of state income tax funds to local governments, continuing to prop up local overspending that fuels high property taxes.
Relaxing trade barriers between the U.S. and Cuba could unlock millions of dollars in exports for Illinois agriculture producers, estimates show, and industry advocates are optimistic such a change is coming.
As Illinois Democrats sound alarms, Republicans insist reform is needed because the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, isn't working. The Republican measure that advances Thursday to the House Budget Committee has come under fire from the political left and right.
The pension crisis in California is no longer just visible in actuarial projections; it is starting to show up in government workers’ reduced benefit checks, which the state pension fund can no longer afford to pay in full.
Comment: Yet in Illinois, where the numbers are worse, full payouts continue and grow absurdly thanks to automatic 3% annual "COLAs."
Beth Purvis said Wednesday the plan would provide $215 million for retirement accounts administered by Chicago schools. Purvis wants support for proposals by Republican senators Jil Tracy of Quincy and Michael Connelly of Lisle (LYL'). She says lawmakers could approve them quickly and Rauner would sign them.
Taxpayers are at risk of losing the progress made to improve the state government’s dated bookkeeping infrastructure, according to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office. Comptroller Susana Mendoza announced suspension of funding for the governor’s overhaul of the state’s Enterprise Resource Program across dozens of state agencies and departments.
Comment: Mendoza is a saboteur and she has the checkbook now, intent on wrecking the administrative branch of the state.
Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza is suspending funding for a technology initiative Gov. Bruce Rauner has said would save taxpayer money and promote efficiency, data security and transparency in state government.
Comment: Professor Skeel is among those advocating for changes in the federal Bankruptcy Code to allow states to file bankruptcy, which Illinois should be asking for, too. Too bad this forum is not being held in Illinois.
The lawsuit, filed in February in St. Clair County, accuses Northstar Lottery Group of manipulating the number of winning tickets available for purchase and discontinuing scratch-off games before large payouts, depriving customers from jackpots.
The House panel, which met for the first time Tuesday, aims to pick up where members say a previous commission convened by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner left off. That commission made funding recommendations last month but produced no legislation.
As the state's budget deficit, bill backlog, and unfunded pension obligations climb to record levels, some market participants and politicians are questioning how long Illinois can preserve investment-grade status.
"Entrepreneur and investor J.B. Pritzker moved a step closer to running for Illinois governor on Tuesday, with the announcement that he has started an exploratory committee with $200,000 in seed money."
Comment: Don't you love how his title is "entrepreneur and investor"? For Rauner, it was always "private equity billionaire" or the like.
“If you have a certain amount of capital investment you can make every year, you’re going to make it where you can get the best return on investment, and for a number of reasons Illinois is not that investment attractor right now.”
The move by Democratic Comptroller Susana Mendoza targets one of the governor's priorities and comes as Illinois faces a record $12.3 billion backlog of unpaid bills that has more than tripled in the 21 months the state has gone without a full operating budget.
Comment: Expect Mendoza to do all she can to sabotage the administrative branch.
Adding official injury to 21 months of insult, Moody’s issued a report on Illinois universities and community colleges. “Illinois will fare worse than its regional and national peers with decreasing numbers of high school students over the next 15 years. … Illinois is already a net exporter of high school graduates with net out migration of nearly 17,000 students in fall 2014, the second highest of any state in the country,” a release said.
Illinois once enjoyed an annual population boost from Michigan. But in Illinois’ downward economic spiral, migration between Illinois and Michigan has tipped to favor the faster-growing Wolverine State.
For a small but probably growing number of California’s government workers, the worst-case scenario is here: The failure to adequately fund public pensions is leading to devastating reductions in their promised retirement benefits. If the pension problem were a cloud of carbon monoxide, there would be no more need to wait for a canary to keel over.
Comment: And a top marginal tax rate over 13% hasn't avoided that.
A new bill to raise the Illinois minimum wage to $15 an hour is expected to be introduced in the state House this week as Democratic representatives revive a push they had largely abandoned over the past several years.
Excel is growing at a healthy clip. Rising demand for craft soda in the St. Louis market means they’ve run out of space and are gearing up to build a new distribution center. But it won’t be in the Land of Lincoln. Not if Illinois lawmakers pass the sugary drinks tax.
If you get your nails done at a salon or have your lawn mulched next spring, the service could be taxed under a plan Illinois lawmakers are considering to help fill a multibillion-dollar hole in the state budget.
Great article by Jim Nowlan: "The overriding, really complex challenge for the future is how to provide support for the increasing numbers among us for whom there will be little work because of the lightning-speed advances taking place in artificial intelligence. And at the same time, work with these folks to develop a sense of purpose for their lives."
The S&P report, issued Wednesday, looks at pension pressures facing the nation’s 15 largest cities. In addition to Indianapolis, those cities are Austin, Texas; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; Houston; Jacksonville, Florida; Los Angeles; New York; Philadelphia; Phoenix; San Antonio; San Diego; San Francisco; and San Jose, California.
The Illinois Department of Transportation said it will submit a “request for information” next week, asking for a company to come in and build the long-stalled South Suburban Airport with private money.
Lawmakers wrapped up the week without acting on the so-called grand bargain in the state Senate. Leading Democrats say they’re waiting on Republicans to line up votes and accused the governor of meddling in the deal.
Rauner said earlier this week he didn’t peel anyone off. He said he told senators to get a reasonable compromise.
United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions has asked for the immediate resignation of 46 remaining U.S. attorneys that were appointed under the previous presidential administration.
That directive includes Zachary Fardon, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, who was sworn in under the Obama administration in 2013 after being nominated by Illinois Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk.
An Illinois appellate court ruled in favor of AFSCME March 1, but that isn’t the end of the court battle between the state and its largest government-worker union. The court’s order to prevent the governor from implementing his contract offer is temporary, and there is much more to come.
Illinois has not had a budget since June 2015, and court-ordered spending had the state government spending $8 billion more than it took in last year. In spite of that, the House passed a bill this week, in a party-line vote, that would pull another $300 million out of the state’s coffers annually, with little discussion on how to pay for it.
The threatened benefit cuts, which could impact 1.5 million retirees and workers, stem from deep financial problems affecting some multiemployer pension plans - traditional defined benefit plans jointly funded by groups of employers - typically in industries like construction, trucking, mining and food retailing.
More than 10 million U.S. workers and retirees are covered by 1,400 of these plans - many of them in Trump-supporting U.S. Rust Belt states like Ohio and Michigan.
"Basically if this bill passes, then a resident of Illinois could have his or her firearms confiscated if a family member alleges that the person in question is an immediate threat to himself or others. All they have to do is file a petition and report that allegation to the government. I say allegation, because under this bill, no real proof is required to take away someone’s firearms."
What state officials described as a "troubling" loss of 16,700 jobs in December turns out not to have been so bad after all.
In fact, Illinois gained 2,000 jobs in December, according to revised figures released Thursday with the state's January unemployment report. The state added another 1,700 jobs in January.
"We acknowledge it's a big revision, but the revisions don't change the fact that Illinois continues to lag behind many other states and is still playing catch up to jobs numbers from 17 years ago," said Bob Gough, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Employment Security.
On March 9, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the Service Employees International Union in its dispute with a group of home-based providers of personal care for those with disabilities and child care providers, saying the union can serve as the state-recognized representative of those caregivers, against the care providers’ wishes.
The Senate’s “grand bargain” contains a one-year spending “cap” that won’t improve fiscal responsibility. A real cap must come with structural spending reforms to return spending to a level that taxpayers can afford.
Comment: This gets right to the point, and represents how I think most Illinoisans will react to the grand bargain: "Why should any taxpayer expect the General Assembly to get it right this time? Based on the out-migration rate of this state, the taxpayers understand this already and are leaving Illinois for surrounding states with lower tax burdens and cost of living."
Only in Illinois, the line makes a trick turn and shifts a large chunk of federal funds meant for poor children to pay down the state's pension debt in the teachers' retirement system — a loss of at least $59 million for school districts outside of Chicago.
Calling a one-year, $37.9 billion limit a “cap” on spending – especially when the Senate deal calls for a nearly $7 billion tax hike – is disingenuous. After just one year, lawmakers will be free to spend under the same old rules and policies that allowed them to create the budget crisis in the first place.
Comment: It has become entirely clear that the "grand bargain" is little more than a collection of gimmicks concocted to dress up a tax increase.
Rauner's comments came one day after his administration lost a court challenge to Comptroller Susana Mendoza over which state fund should be used to pay about 600 employees. The same day, Attorney General Lisa Madigan asked the Illinois Supreme Court to stop workers' paychecks in the absence of a state budget. A judge in southwestern Illinois ruled against Madigan in that case last month.
Barring a block from the feds, the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program, a state-mandated IRA, is set for full implementation in June. It follows similar plans from equally frugal stewards of the people’s purse in other locales, most notably California. Apparently the introduction of state-run IRAs and 401ks like these, overseen by the same people, is the answer to our retirement woes.
In a state ranked at or near the bottom in most measures of school-funding inequality, federal funding can also be distributed inequitably — to pay down unfunded pension liability rather than to help children achieve academic success.
The Illinois balance sheet is based upon amounts at three different times. Most of the amounts are as of June 30, 2016, but the state’s largest liabilities, the unfunded pensions, are based upon June 30, 2015 valuations. The 2016 unfunded liabilities are at least $20 billion more than what was reported on the balance sheet. The unfunded retiree health care liability is based upon a June 30, 2014 valuation. I couldn’t find a new valuation on the web.
Without accurate and TIMELY financial data, how can Illinois citizens be active participants in their government’s financial decisions?
Comment: See our article linked here on the same subject.
Illinois could be $657 million short on revenue for the current fiscal year due to falling tax collections, according to a revised forecast released on Tuesday by a legislative commission.
The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) reported that revenue from personal and corporate income taxes and sales taxes was down 5 percent in the first eight months of fiscal 2017, compared with the same period in fiscal 2016.
Comment: The extreme problems caused by a freeze may be true, but the fact remains that rates are already suicidal in large parts of Illinois, threatening to make property "roach motels," as we wrote earlier.
Proft said if the budget passes the Senate and House, it leaves the governor with two hard choices: If he signs the budget, he betrays his campaign promises to provide tax relief to Illinois' long-suffering taxpayers. Signing the bill might even destroy his chances at re-election.
Comment: As one of our commenters pointed out, these numbers are not accurate for Illinois because they do not account for "pick-ups" -- local subsidies most teachers get to cover their portion of pension contributions. Thanks for being on the ball, Mike.
Dentists across the state, and around the country, who do work on patients with Illinois state employee insurance are forced to treat patients with minimal reimbursement for completed work – and they’re looking for a way out.
Site Selection magazine ranks Illinois as the third best state for new or expanding businesses, with 434 major projects coming to the state in 2017. Chicagoland is the best region in the country, with 424 of those projects.
That’s great news for the city and suburbs, but it’s terrible news for the rest of Illinois, southern Illinois lawmakers said.
Last week, House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, did what he does best lately, he slammed the brakes on a genuine opportunity to attack one of the things holding our broken state back: An Illinois school funding structure that relies on wealth and geography to determine student success.
Comment: Yes, a very big threat. If the unions don't lose the "fair share" case pending in our Seventh Circuit US appellate court, they will probably lose in the US Supreme Court with a soon-to-be conservative majority.
A reckoning looms. an astonishing 1 in 4 Illinois residents — 3.14 million people — is now on this federal/state health program. Right now, Illinois picks up only a small percentage of the $3-billion-plus cost of this expansion. The feds pick up 95 percent of the tab this year. But soon the state could face a much ... much ... much bigger price tag.
AFSCME Executive Director Roberta Lynch announced Feb. 23 that union members voted to authorize a state worker strike. But state workers have another option. By becoming a fair share payer, state workers can report to work during a strike without facing union punishment. Here’s what state workers need to know about fair share status.
The federal government's extraordinary decision to seek and execute search warrants at the Caterpillar Inc. global headquarters this week indicates company officials have not been as forthcoming as previously claimed.
A state appeals court in Springfield has affirmed cities and other local governments have the right to modify workers’ employment and compensation agreements to prevent “pension spiking” without running afoul of the state constitution’s public worker pension protections.
Chase Bank’s annual Business Leader’s Outlook shows that executives for midsized businesses are more optimistic than they have been in the last seven years about how their businesses will fare in the coming year. Illinois’ business executives also think they’re going to do better. However, they think they’ll do it in spite of the state’s business climate. Forty-three percent are worried about Illinois’ red tape, far more than the rest of the nation.
Philadelphia's 1.5 cent beverage tax is already impacting jobs with both consumers and businesses suffering the consequences. Beverage sales have dropped 30 to 50 percent as consumers leave the City of Philadelphia to do their shopping.
Madigan sent letters to Indeed, Beyond.com, Ladders, Monster Worldwide and Vault as well as CareerBuilder requesting information about functions that appear to keep older people from building accurate resumes or profiles, according to a news release from her office.
Illinois had the highest black unemployment rate of any state at the end of 2016, holding that distinction for six consecutive quarters, according to analysis by the Economic Policy Institute. The Land of Lincoln also has the largest gap between its white and black unemployment rates.
The Illinois Senate has adjourned without pushing its stalled budget compromise further.
But a Senate Democrat filed legislation Thursday spelling out services that could be subject to the state sales tax to battle a budget deficit. Olympia Fields Democratic Sen. Toi Hutchinson's legislation would extend the 6.25 percent sales tax to rented storage space, landscaping, pest control, body piercing and more.
Federal law enforcement officials searched three facilities of heavy machinery manufacturer Caterpillar Inc on Thursday, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney Office for the Central District of Illinois said, prompting a sharp selloff in the company's stock.
The same scenarios are being played out along the state's borders with Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Iowa. Instead, Illinois touts a few hundred Fortune 500 headquarter jobs settling in Chicago as economic development.
If the battle plan in Pleasant Prairie, WI is any indication, we're not only losing the economic development battle, we're being massacred.
The Senate voted 35-22 to approve the package, which would give $215 million to the pension fund in the current fiscal year ending June 30, and $221 million to the pension fund in fiscal year 2018.
Comment: This just might be the most odious element of the 'grand bargain.' All Illinois taxpayers would be forced to fund the pensions of the Chicago Teachers Union, a radically left organization that despises the economic system that it's supposed to be teaching kids to function in.
Key issues will face a roll call today after the Senate convenes. They include increasing the income tax from 3.75 percent to 4.99 percent and establishing a local property tax freeze. The property tax freeze is one issue Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has demanded as part of a budget deal during a two-year stalemate over an annual spending plan.
The legislation, aimed at cutting the state's pension costs by about $1 billion a year, is tied to several other bills, including appropriations for the remainder of the current fiscal year, that were negotiated by Cullerton and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno in an effort to end Illinois' 20-month budget stalemate. All of the bills are tied to each other, so that if one were to fail to pass the entire package would go down.
Auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Senior Strategic Advisor and former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker says Illinois is ranked 48th out of 50 in their State Financial Position Index and Competitiveness Posture Report because of its massive pension liabilities and the high number of people leaving.
“People are voting with their feet,” Walker said. “If you look into the numbers, the first people to leave are the people of wealth and influence, who contribute disproportionately to revenues and disproportionately to charitable organizations.”
New Jersey will suffer financial collapse when its pension funds are depleted, beginning in 2021. The Court will decide whether hundreds of thousands of retired judges, teachers, and State employees lose their pensions and are impoverished or whether some $8 billion, one fourth of the State budget, will be taken from other, already underfunded purposes. As was true 20 years ago, most items have been covered in the press, but the frightening totality is still being ignored.
The Illinois Department of Revenue notes that, had the state grown at the national average from 2000 to 2015, it would not have had to increase taxes and would still have $19 billion more in revenues.
The biggest cause of Illinois’s budget woes is its personnel costs. Since 2000, pension and health insurance costs have more than tripled. In 2015, they alone soaked up more than a quarter (26.2 percent) of the entire budget. And it will get worse.
In Illinois, Lincoln's essential premise of "government of the people, by the people, and for the people" has been corrupted into "government of the casinos, by the casinos, and for the casinos" — as exemplified by the new casino legislation in Senate Bill 7.
Teachers, students, public employees and the public should be outraged at the diversion of taxpayer funds away from the Illinois Treasury to benefit gambling interests.
“I think a 40-hour work week is reasonable, not a 37 1/2 one that currently is in place, I think it’s reasonable to allow volunteers to help out in our state parks, I think it’s reasonable to pay people in state government based upon productivity and merit, not just seniority. These are reasonable proposals so rather than pushing for a strike, I hope that together we’ll collaborate and implement our proposed contract,” he said.
Gov. Bruce Rauner is planning a rare visit to Washington, D.C., this weekend for a gathering of Republican governors, but Rauner refuses to say whether he is ready to do something even more rare — meet with, or even acknowledge, President Donald Trump.
"I’m joking about “ILexit,” but less than you might think."
"Let’s face it, Illinois currently has only two things going for it: The Cubs, and the possibility that global warming has made the winters bearable. Beyond that, decades of dysfunctional government, public apathy, and lack of accountability have trapped the state in a death spiral."
The trial bar’s claim of profiteering is misdirection from the real issues. But if the trial bar wants more regulation of profit rates, it should begin with regulation of the profit rates of law firms that make their business on workers’ compensation cases.
Buried in the House rules lawmakers passed in January are a dozen new committees, bringing the total number of standing committees in the House to 45. Committee chairs receive a $10,326 stipend annually.
The Springfield economy has performed better than most in Illinois since the Great Recession, but the capital city is among areas with the most to lose from a budget deadlock dragging toward the end of its 20th month.
Southern Illinois and the surrounding area would take tens of billions of dollars in damage were an earthquake similar to what hit the area 205 years ago this month happen again. That’s the warning from the state’s emergency management agency.
Records from former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s divorce case show how he has been able to collect hefty benefit checks from the federal government after serving time in prison for looting hundreds of thousands of dollars from his campaign fund.
Illinois lawmakers need a new approach to budget-making – one that takes into account the state’s financial mess, shows respect for taxpayers, and prioritizes spending to meet the needs of the poorest and most disadvantaged residents.
Comment: One problem not mentioned here is that new teachers aren't offered anything close to reasonable retirement benefits. They are forced to pay in more than what's required to fund their own meager Tier 2 pensions for the purpose of subsidizing Tier 1s. And there's not nearly enough money in the system to pay those Tier 1s.
"This game, a degradation of democracy, could be disrupted by laws requiring more realistic expectations about returns on pension fund investments, or even by congressional hearings to highlight the problem. But too much of the political class has skin in the game."
The money in question comes from taxes on gasoline, phone bills, and gambling. It's collected by the state and passed along to local governments — that is, unless the powers that be never agree on a budget. One solution would be a continuing appropriation.
Comment: The problem is that most of that money will be mortgaged to bondholders in an ever-tightening noose. See our recent article on that linked here.
NBC5 Investigates found piles of cash unclaimed by the governments of Chicago, Cook County, even the state itself – much of it sitting around for decades.
Comment: Hmm. Is this part of the $13 billion sitting unused at Treasurer Frerichs' office, that nobody can properly explain? Hard to tell because nobody is competent enough to get on top of it. Frerichs' office sure didn't have the answer when we asked. See our earlier article linked here.
Executives with mid-sized businesses in Illinois are far more optimistic about their prospects in 2017, but they lag well behind similarly sized companies around the country in how they view their local economies.
A new survey of bosses of mid-sized businesses released today by JPMorgan Chase carries hopes for the economy in 2017. But it reflects the relatively sour mood prevalent among business owners about Illinois' economic environment.
With Illinois facing a "death spiral," noted economist Brian Wesbury cannot understand why Gov. Bruce Rauner hasn’t spoken out against recent talk of an added tax hike, which he believes would exacerbate the issue.
Illinois is among the five states at the bottom. The rankings are based on financial information contained in the audited financial statements for each state for Fiscal 2015 as summarized by the Institute for Truth in Accounting, and a composite ranking of each state’s competitive posture in 2016 based on independent assessments by CEO Magazine, CNBC and Forbes. The report also includes disclosure of whether each state had a net positive or negative migration for the period July 1, 2015-June 30, 2016 according to the US Census Bureau.
At issue are the programs approved by five states—California, Oregon, Illinois, Maryland and Connecticut—that require employers to automatically deduct as much as $5,500 a year from employees’ paychecks for deposit into an individual retirement account.
Large manufacturing companies no longer require general prosperity in the domestic market to succeed, a reality that is exacerbating Illinois' already dire economic situation, a Manhattan Institute senior fellow said during a recent radio talk show in Chicago.
Parties to lawsuits in Illinois are unwittingly subsidizing the legal representation of illegal aliens, including criminal aliens in deportation cases.
Through funds known as Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts, or IOLTAs, the interest on client money in some attorney escrow accounts is not paid to the client; instead, it goes to a fund controlled by members of the Illinois Bar Association and is used to fund legal assistance organizations of its choosing.
Attacking foul-mouthed tenured radicals who try to turn their classrooms into indoctrination shops is politically popular, but comprehensively reforming public higher education systems so they do a better job for more students is more important.
State Rep. Thaddeus Jones, R-Calumet City, wants to bring them back. He has introduced a bill that would allow every legislator to give out four one-year scholarships and two four-year scholarships every year. The state’s universities, already reeling from vanishing funding, would eat the cost.
Two months since Illinois lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner signed off on a bailout bill they said was needed to ensure the viability of two Exelon nuclear electricity plants, two lawsuits filed in federal court have challenged the constitutionality of the legislation, alleging the law effectively rigs in Exelon’s favor wholesale electricity generation and supply markets, resulting in a windfall estimated to be worth at least hundreds of millions of dollar for Exelon over the next 10 years, paid for by Illinois businesses and households.
"Illinois should modernize its tax code to adapt to the changing economy. Illinois began charging a sales tax in the early 20th century when most of the economy was in the goods sector, not services. That's changed. Today, most sales are of services."
Lawmakers also have a constitutional obligation to pass a balanced budget, something that the Democrat-controlled legislature has not done since well before Rauner became governor. In 2015, they passed a spending plan that was $4 billion out of balance, and they did not pass a budget at all in 2016.
"Illinois senators have put off a planned vote on the state’s nearly two-year budget stalemate until later this month at the earliest, but in the minds of concerned citizens opposed to the idea of any new taxes, the verdict on the so-called 'opportunity tax' has already been decided."
The state budget impasse didn’t stop newly elected Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza from purchasing a $32,000 used SUV as part of her department’s fleet — paid in full by public dollars to a central Illinois dealership.
All of Illinois’ neighboring states have at least ten times the rate of growth of single-family home construction than the Land of Lincoln. A home builder says property taxes and over-regulation are to blame.
Calling passage of a compromise budget plan a matter of "political will," Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner offered his support for an income tax increase and expanded sales tax as long as the deal permanently freezes local property taxes, caps spending, and overhauls worker's compensation.
Defined-benefit plans in most states actually operate as a financial penalty for the bulk of teachers, who need to contribute more than they will ever take out. The system primarily exists to benefit the minority of teachers who have spent their entire career in the same profession and the same state.
Comment: True in Illinois, too, as we've regularly documented.
An attorney who argued to the state’s high court that legislation must address one issue at a time said from what he’s gathered from the ‘grand bargain’ package working through the state Senate, it could violate the state Constitution’s single subject rule.
The budget process has been deeply flawed in Illinois for years, and one thing that doesn’t help this year is that the budget proposal deadline is once again arriving without a CAFR, an audited annual financial report, for the immediately preceding fiscal year.
Illinois is once again flying while blind. The latest year for which state leaders have an audited set of financials on which to plan upon ended June 30, 2015 – a year that ended 595 days ago. And it’s the Comptroller’s job to present a CAFR.
Comment: We've been linking to all major editorials on the budget, which have been all over the place, but they have one common denominator. They offer no specifics on how to genuinely balance the budget. That's because there is no solution to be had.
Comment: If misery loves company, be happy. And doesn't this sound familiar? Gov. Malloy is asking municipalities to help subsidize the state budget in return for fewer mandates on local government, including a modification of prevailing wage laws.
The question of whether to continue paying government workers during Illinois' budget stalemate will surface again this week as a court takes up the state attorney general's motion to halt payments and lawmakers consider a threat by Gov. Bruce Rauner to veto one of two proposals to keep them going.
Asked if he would support legislation to make it harder for federal authorities to access information about immigrants living in Illinois, Rauner didn't say yes or no, just that he is "very pro comprehensive immigration reform" and wants the state "to continue to be welcoming and diverse."
Comment: Taxpayers would put up $6 for every $1 dollar privately contributed!. Dan Biss (D-Evanston) knows exactly what he is doing. It will never get passed, but he knows the dopey progs in his district with think he's a hero.
Teachers in Illinois can roll two years worth of sick days into their total tenure of service to the state. This additional two years of service tacked on to the end of their career allows them to retire with an even bigger pension.
More than 73,000 teachers have taken advantage of this sick-leave perk as of 2015. That will cost taxpayers $3.39 billion throughout the next 30 years.
"Hundreds of billions of dollars have been poured into wildly expensive hedge funds with little understanding and abysmal results. That has proved to be a colossal mistake -- one that some states have been trying to rectify in the last few years."
Author Marc Levine is chairman of the Illinois State Board of Investment. He was co-founder of Chicago Asset Funding LLC.
"The financial crisis now facing Illinois citizens has been decades in the making. So let’s take a look back – specifically, at the retirement plans for Illinois state legislators and judges -- the government folks responsible for the law(s) that got us here today."
Secure Choice, which IL Treasurer Frerichs' office is in the process of launching, is supposed to be available to small-business employees in 2018. It would require small companies that employ more than 25 workers and don't offer 401(k)s or pension plans to make available individual retirement accounts that would be run by the state. Frerichs says pending federal regulatory changes jeopardize the program.
The long parade of state legislators who have accepted the heavily subsidized trips from the Gulen movement includes some influential figures. The man known as Illinois’ most powerful state politician, Democratic Speaker of the House Mike Madigan, traveled four times to Turkey on trips that nonprofit groups associated with Gulen’s Hizmet — or “service” — movement had sponsored.
"We aren't here to argue that Illinois should be the 29th right-to-work state. We're here instead to warn that while Illinois lawmakers deadlock on policy reforms that would attract more jobs here, including reforms struggling to get support in the Senate, the six surrounding states have positioned themselves to attract more jobs."
Despite the fact that the average AFSCME worker makes over $100,000 a year in total compensation, the union has made health care, salary and benefit demands that are out of line with what Illinois taxpayers can afford and would aggravate the state’s financial crisis.
A new report from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability shows Illinois has experienced falling tax collections, which may indicate trouble in the state economy; spending reforms – not tax hikes – are what Illinois needs to right its fiscal ship and boost economic growth.
As speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, Michael Madigan has outlasted five governors and is now on his sixth. This year, the Chicago Democrat will become longest-serving state or federal House speaker in the United States since at least the early 1800s.
Cullerton's warning came in a speech to the Chicago City Club Monday during which the Chicago Democrat laid out the case for the 13-bill legislative package known as the "Grand Bargain."
Comment: Cullerton, of course, has been assuring us for years that everything is fine in Illinois. That's been a standard talking point for him, and he's the one who made national headlines for saying there's "no crisis" with Illinois pensions.
Senate President John Cullerton said Monday that his Democratic lawmakers would be briefed Tuesday on the schools plan as part of the broader, 12-bill package that Cullerton and Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno have been pushing as a way out of the state's 19-month budget impasse.
As the Illinois Senate prepares to possibly vote on parts of its "grand bargain" this week, Gov. Bruce Rauner Monday again insisted he is staying out of the debate on the bills aimed at ending the state's budget stalemate.
Challenging his foes to devise something better, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton today strongly defended the huge "grand budget deal" he and Senate GOP Leader Christine Radogno have put together in a bid to finally end two years of deepening Springfield budget warfare.
Failure to embrace pending legislation in the Illinois Senate to address the state's longstanding budget problems would represent a "significant missed opportunity" and risk a credit rating downgrade and hurt economic growth prospects, S&P Global Ratings said on Monday.
Taxpayers need relief. They can’t pay more. But our human service providers do, in fact, need more.
It’s a dilemma with no solution in sight because Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and his cronies refuse to admit it’s their failed leadership and kowtowing to unions that got the state in the mess it’s currently in.
And Illinois’ most vulnerable citizens suffer as a result.
Illinois legislators are proposing to boost immigrant protections statewide in response to President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration, a move advocates say would essentially give the state “sanctuary” status.
The editorial represents the collective opinion of editorial boards of the following papers owned by Lee Enterprises: The Pantagraph; Herald & Review, Decatur; The Southern Illinoisan, Carbondale; Quad-City Times; and Journal-Gazette & Times-Courier, Mattoon.
“Right now, in Illinois, everybody is saying, ‘We gotta have a budget, we need a balanced budget.’ It is simple math. If economic growth is slower than government spending growth, we don’t have balanced budgets,” he said.
Comment: The math on that is clear. The only deniers seem to be in the General Asssembly.
The framework would create funding targets for districts based on the needs of a student population, rather than the current system in which every district receives the same base level of per-student funding.
The group estimated it would cost an additional $3.5 billion to $6 billion to ensure each district has adequate funding.
Taking the cowardly way out, a commission tasked by Gov. Bruce Rauner with revising the state’s school funding formula decided not to recommend any specific legislation.
Instead, the 25-member bi-partisan panel reached the conclusion that school districts with the poorest students need more funding, a fact that has been almost universally acknowledged by education experts throughout the country over the past 30 years.
The University of Illinois Flash Index rose to 104.4 in January, the second straight increase after three months of declines. Author and U of I Economist Fred Giertz says he’s surprised, given Illinois’ ongoing budget impasse, and a change in the country’s leadership.
Worse in and around Chicago. Chicagoans, who pay the highest combined sales tax rate of any major U.S. city, just saw a tax on plastic bags go into effect Feb. 1, which will make shopping even more expensive. Residents of Cook County, including Chicagoans, will also pay a new tax on soda and other sweetened beverages starting in July, which disproportionately will harm lower-income people.
Property owners in Illinois are the hardest hit in the nation when it comes to taxes. And the property tax burden coupled with falling home values is crippling homeowners and leading many Illinois families to deduce that buying a home in Illinois just isn’t worth it.
Illinois is now the nation’s largest net exporter of freshmen to other states’ public colleges. Rising tuition in the University of Illinois system, uncertainty about financial aid, and aggressive recruiting from nearby states—it’s all contributing to the exodus.
"Structural change" is how Rauner has described his agenda, which includes changes to the state workers' compensation system, union collective bargaining rights and public worker pensions — issues affecting Democratic allies such as civil attorneys and unions. Rauner also is seeking a property-tax freeze, term limits for elected officials and a plan to remove much of the politics out of the every-decade redrawing of legislative district boundaries.
Sneed hears powerful Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (D-6th) has told some of his closest Senate colleagues he is so frustrated with the budget logjam, he is thinking about not running for re-election when his term is up in two years, according to two sources.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers and other officials reached agreement Wednesday on a plan to bring more equity to the way Illinois funds its schools, although enacting the blueprint could be tricky amid the state's budget stalemate.
Fitch Ratings on Wednesday downgraded Illinois ratings by one notch to BBB and said it remains on negative watch, meaning it could downgrade the state's debt rating again in the near term. The BBB rating is just two notches above speculative, or "junk," status.
Last year, a split between the steel giant and prominent Chicago developer Dan McCaffery killed a similarly ambitious plan to build a “new city” on the long-vacant lakefront site roughly between 83rd and 92nd streets and Lake Shore Drive and the lake.
Everybody, including state Rep. Scott Drury, D-Highwood, knows members of the Democratic caucus of the Illinois House don't mess with Speaker Michael Madigan. But, in a display of principle-driven courage, Drury did it anyway. He "got clocked."
Among the Senate plan's many faults: It doesn't end Illinois' broken defined-benefit pension system. It brings no relief to local governments from expensive state mandates. It bails out Chicago Public Schools without requiring any reforms from the district. It makes no reforms to the state's largest and most expensive welfare program, Medicaid. And it includes a watered-down, two-year property tax freeze that does little to protect communities from higher tax burdens.
The vote -- which will continue for at least the next three weeks -- does not mean a strike will occur, but if it is approved, it would authorize the union's bargaining committee to call a strike in the future.
State Senator Chuck Weaver, R-Peoria, said the plan includes a spending cap of $38.5 billion. That’s almost four billion more than Illinois’ Comptroller said the state spent last year. Some of that new spending would go toward Illinois’ unpaid bills, but over a billion dollars in new spending in the bargain is unaccounted for.
Jim Schultz will be stepping down as chairman and CEO of Intersect Illinois, the year-old private development corporation that Rauner formed to try to jumpstart weak Illinois job creation. The departure—Schultz will remain as non-executive chairman—officially will take place as soon as the group finds and selects a successor in what it says will be a nationwide search.
As part of its compromise budget package, the Illinois Senate has proposed to borrow $7 billion to pay off a large portion of the existing backlog. "Given the enormity of the task of rebalancing the budget itself, the idea of borrowing to repay the accumulated backlog merits a reevaluation."
“We call it the job tax,” the Illinois Chamber of Commerce’s Todd Maisch explained. “For a state that lost 17-thousand jobs last month to come up with a response that says ‘Let’s put more taxes on jobs,’ is really problematic.”
"The Washington Post just reported that an ironworkers union in Ohio is doing the unthinkable: reducing benefits to its current pensioners, some by as much as 60%.... It's a good bet that Chicago will be the first major Democrat stronghold to default on its public-service union retirement commitments."
Comment: You'd think the press would wake up to the reality that the Illinois Treasurer is still sitting on on $13 billion in cash. This reporter, like so many others, got snowed by Treasurer Frerich's claim about lost interest. See our earlier story on that linked here.
That's why it will be fascinating to watch the 2018 gubernatorial election to see how the Democrats, who seethed over Gov. Bruce Rauner's wealth, will handle J.B. Pritzker as one of their candidates and a potential gubernatorial front-runner or nominee.
On Monday, state Treasurer Michael Frerichs will announce a new program. Illinois is forming a coalition with 13 other states to allow people with a disability or blindness and their families to open tax-deferred investment accounts to save money.
Comment: The State Journal-Register's hallmark is sucking up to state workers who comprise much of its readership in Springfield. That means they're usually siding with the Dems, but not when paychecks are on the line.
State law requires payments into the pension funds for teachers, university employees, state workers, lawmakers and judges regardless of whether there’s a budget.
The state paid $7.6 billion into the five systems last fiscal year and is expected to pay $7.9 billion for the current fiscal year that ends June 30.
Comment: Yet there's barely a word about pensions in the budget package aside from the trivial, fake policy "consideration" gimmick. Pensions are the lion's share of the budget crisis. Why isn't a constitutional amendment deleting the pension protection clause part of the Grand Bargain?
The state is now spending more money on retirement costs than on university operations. A decade ago, retirement costs made up only 20 percent of the state’s total higher education spending. Today, that percentage has ballooned to 53 percent. As spending on retirements rose from 2006 to 2015, state spending on higher education operations fell by over $150 million.
It appears that trust in government runs significantly higher, not lower, in “Right to Work” states. It runs lower, not higher, in states with a high share of the workforce covered by collective bargaining agreements.
Comment: Think of this as another example of the fictional narrative dominant in the press. Her "aggressive economic reforms" would do nothing to promote economic growth and are the conventional list for Illinois Dems. Burke's a nice woman, by the way, who I know. (She's Southside Irish so she has to be nice). Just doesn't get the economy, however.
Rauner on Friday emailed state workers vowing to use “all available legal options” to continue employee pay — a day after Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a motion seeking to halt paychecks if no budget deal is reached by the end of February.
"I intend to kill it all -- the entire package... I am 100 percent certain that if we raise taxes to the extent that they want to and without any major reform we are going to lose more businesses and the people who depend on those businesses for jobs."
Archer Daniels Midland finds itself in an unfamiliar position as Donald Trump's presidency begins. Accustomed to a close—and lucrative—relationship with national policymakers, the giant agricultural processor now faces a president who may not believe that what's good for ADM is always good for America. ADM stock tumbled 13 percent after Election Day on worries about potential conflicts with the Trump agenda on issues critical to its business.
The pressure from some labor groups was enough for the leaders to remove one of the 13 bills, a minimum wage bill which would have raised the Illinois minimum wage to $9 an hour beginning on July 1. it would increase by 50 cents until 2021 when it would reach $11. Some labor groups wanted the hike to reach $15, which halted the bill.
Comment: It's an utterly stupid tax on small business assessed irrespective of ability to pay. Since it's based on payroll, it would more properly be called an "employer fine." Our article on it is linked here.
Instead of giving Illinois residents the power to initiate referendums on local government consolidation, Senate Bill 3 vests this power in government officials, who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.
The Illinois bill, called the Responsible Job Creation Act, would require that temp workers receive the same wages and benefits as employees hired directly by a company — a policy that’s common in most of the developed world, but unheard of in the United States.
Comment: ProPublica is a new publication that is coming to Illinois to focus on government here. We're hoping it will be balanced and without the progressive bias it's reputed to have. This is not a good start. This bill that they like looks like a dog that would stick a big regulatory burden on temp agencies.
Comment: The central point of this story happens to be true, which is that blacks are the ones most left behind. But the two primary sources in this story, Martire and Bruno, are quacks who politicize their research.
Comment: No need to read it because there is little of substance in it, except for this: endorsement by Rauner of the negotiation efforts for a budget deal going on in the Illinois Senate. One thing for sure is Rauner should fire his speechwriter and the rest of his messaging and communications team. They are dismal.
A plan to increase the income tax was adjusted upward slightly and a tax on services such as car repair and laundry surfaced Tuesday even as other parts of a monstrous Illinois Senate plan to end the nation's longest budget standoff ran into stiff opposition and skepticism grew about its success in a floor vote.