Thursday, June 22, 2017

Lisa Madigan will defend Exelon nuclear bailout in federal court – Crain’s

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.

Illinois governor announces $1 billion cybersecurity plan – A.P.

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.

State budget woes take a toll on Center for Prevention of Abuse – JouralStar

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.

Asbestos plaintiffs seek friendly results in Madison County – INN

A county in downstate Illinois has almost three times as many asbestos-related lawsuits as any other county in the nation. Reform advocates say it's costing Illinois' businesses.

Bill would require state contractors to pay staff nearly twice minimum wage – INN

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.

Taxpayers deserve say in the teachers’ union contracts they pay for – Illinois Policy

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.

Illinois Supreme Court won’t hear state employee pay case – Illinois Policy

The Illinois Supreme Court refused to hear Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s request to stop state employees from getting paid until a budget is passed.

Forced union dues lawsuit on to U.S. Supreme Court – Illinois News Network

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...

Analysis: University of Illinois budget grew 13 times faster than enrollment – Chambana Sun

The University of Illinois System today has 258 percent more employees and its annual budget is 389 percent higher than it was 45 years ago, in inflation-adjusted dollars. But its enrollment has only grown 28 percent over the same period, according to analysis by Local Government Information Services (LGIS), which publishes the Chambana Sun.

Illinois Joins R3, Unveils Expansive Blockchain Support Plan – CoinDesk

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.

Emails to Emanuel raise questions about dozens of possible lobbying violations – Chicago Tribune

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.

AT&T wants out of Illinois-wide mandate to run landline phones – Chicago Tribune

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.

University of Illinois wants dedicated funding to support in-state students – WJBC

The Invest in Illinoisan’s fund or the Triple-I fund would give $170 million each year to in-state college undergrads.

Lawmakers and special interests propose revamped EDGE tax credit program – Illinois Policy

As state debts mount and budget plans remain in limbo, Illinois lawmakers move to expand EDGE tax credits.

$15 minimum wage could hit downstate Illinois’ businesses hard – Illinois News Network

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.

Illinois voters register objections to parts of budget deal – Associated Press

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.

Illiberal arts colleges: Pay more, get less (free speech) – Brookings Institution

Comment: They're not mentioned specifically here, but the University of Chicago is clearly the outlier in this data. As for Northwestern, well....

Illinois Universities Feel the Brunt of State’s Fiscal Woes – WSJ

“We are in a crisis situation,” said Beth Purvis, the state’s education secretary. “The next set of cuts will affect outcomes for our postsecondary students.”

Video Gambling Jackpot For Pols And Pals – Better Government Association

The growth of video gambling in Illinois and the riches that go with it has opened new vistas for clout. Some politicians and their friends have cashed in.

Illinois lawmakers vote against bill to protect state workers from having their Social Security number shared with unions – Illinois Policy

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.

Illinois universities charge high price for perverse priorities – Illinois Policy

More than 50 percent of the state’s $4.1 billion budget for public universities is spent on retirement costs alone.

Rauner takes union fight to Illinois Supreme Court – The Souther

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.

Illinois’ Unpaid Bill Pile Hits a Record $12.8 Billion – Reuters

That's $1,000 per person. Multiply that by ten for the unfunded pension debt.

Repeal of federal estate tax could make Illinois’ a net negative – Illinois News Network

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.

Report: Illinois’ Poor More Often Victims of Violent Crime – A.P.

The rural poor, too. They experience violent crime at a rate 192 percent higher than those with higher incomes in the same areas, according to the report. Comment: Surprise, surprise. The cost of crime is regressive.

Temp agency boss: Lawmakers don’t understand workplace – Illinois News Network

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.

Lawmakers hashing out details on state-granted tax breaks – Illinois News Network

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.

Plugging away on prisons – News-Gazette

State officials are taking a series of baby steps aimed at ensuring that only those people who need to be in prison are in prison.

Gov. Rauner Talks Pension Reform Via Facebook – WICS

Gov. Bruce Rauner took to social media to push for a part of the senate's grand bargain to move forward.

Illinois politicians vote to divert $300M from state coffers to fuel local spending – Illinois Policy

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.

Berg: Illinois universities charge high price for perverse priorities – Illinois News Network

“You have to be in the upper class or in poverty to be able to afford a good four-year college in Illinois... The middle gets weeded out.” Meanwhile, nearly 100 ISU administrators take home more than $100,000 annually, according to the most recent data from the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

Illinois Eyes Expanded Trade With Cuba – WTTW

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.

State Congress members weigh ACA repeal, feedback – Chicago Tribune

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.

Really big brown trout in Indiana from shore: Fish of the Week – Sun-Times

Our Hoosier readers will no doubt be bragging about this now, too.

Are Collapsing Pensions “About To Bring Hell To America”? – Zero Hedge

"Something massive has been swept up just under the carpet." (Not if you've been a Wirepoints reader.)

California’s Pension Crisis Has Arrived – The American Interest

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."

Rauner aide seeks Chicago schools’ support for pension plan – A.P.

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. The Tracy-Connelly plan is described in this link.

Road Closed: Snakes Crossing – NPR Illinois

There’s a 2 ½ mile stretch of road in southern Illinois that is off limits to vehicle traffic for the next couple of months. It has nothing to do with potholes or repairs. It’s all about snakes.

Poll: Voters dislike Rauner and Madigan equally – Sun-Times

Three out of five voters had a negative opinion of each politician’s job performance. Comment: Not surprisingly, the Crain's headline on the same poll is "Rauner approval ratings hit record low."

School funding reform proposal called ‘central planning on steroids’ – Illinois News Network

“They can tell superintendents how many janitors they need per square foot. Now, if that’s not central planning on steroids, I don’t know what is,” Rep. Ives said.

Comptroller threatens to withdraw funding for decades-old tech upgrades – Illinois News Network

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.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair: ‘Grand Bargain’ is dead – Illinois News Network

The chairwoman of the Illinois Senate Appropriations Committee said during a hearing Wednesday morning that the “Grand Bargain” is dead, and it’s time to starting talking about a “Plan B.” Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, made the claim during questioning of Mike Hoffman, director of the state’s Central Management Services department.

House translation bill fails after GOP lawmakers introduce free option – Illinois News Network

The Illinois House nearly passed a bill that would have spent up to $1.5 million to do what Google Translate already does for free. Kudos to Reps. Wheeler and Batnick.

Comptroller halts funding for state IT modernization program – Illinois Policy

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.

Bankruptcy for troubled cities, states topic of Stranahan National Issues Forum

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.

New study finds Illinois has highest overall tax burden in the nation – Illinois Policy

A new report from WalletHub finds Illinois’ combined state and local tax burden is higher than that of every other state and the District of Columbia.

Lottery lawsuit moves from St Clair County IL court to federal court – Belleville News-Democrat

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.

Yet Another Illinois Legislative Panel Works on School Funding Reform – A.P.

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.

How Long Can Illinois Hold Onto Investment Grade Ratings? – The Bond Buyer

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.

Pritzker Moves Closer To Illinois Gubernatorial Bid – CBS Chicago

"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.

Hedge fund exodus for IL? – Video – CNBC

Marc Levine, Illinois State Board of Investment chairman, discusses why he decided to pull money from hedge funds, in the wake of Bill Ackman exiting out of Valeant.

First bill in Senate’s ‘grand bargain’ still not done – Illinois News Network

While Democrats blamed the governor and Republicans for the “Grand Bargain” going off the rails over the past couple of weeks, one Democrat Senator acknowledged the package isn’t even done yet.

National retailers may avoid investing in ‘expensive’ Illinois – Illinois News Network

“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.”

Illinois’ health care worries show downside of Medicaid expansion – Illinois News Network

The Republican plan to move past Obamacare could see the biggest change to Medicaid in 50 years. And that’s precisely what scares leaders at the Illinois capitol.

Reeder: Voters deserve to know where Gov. Bruce Rauner stands – The Telegraph

"The recent Budget Address could be best summarized as: Um, I dunno."

Public Finance: Illinois wants to tax ALL THE THINGS! – Stump

By actuary Mary Pat Campbell.

Illinois comptroller stops payments for governor’s computer modernization – Reuters

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.

Illinois higher education is on path to permanent damage – Sun-Times

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.

Michigan has reversed the flow of interstate migration with Illinois – Illinois Policy

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.

Illinois Medicaid expansion costs are already double initial projections – Illinois Policy

Between 2014 and 2016, Illinois’ Medicaid expansion cost $4.6 billion more than its supporters had forecasted, crowding out services for Illinois’ most vulnerable residents.

Big Companies Offload Pension Plans – The American Interest

Corporate behemoths are trying to shed the last vestiges of their pension plans even for current retirees—yet another manifestation of a blue model system in its death throes.

Federal reform could lead to lower fed taxes, higher state taxes – Illinois News Network

Tax experts say that a number of Illinoisans could be paying more to the state due to the Trump-GOP tax reforms.

January jobs growth weak, Illinois labor force in 10-year decline – Illinois Policy

Newly released Illinois jobs report points to anemic jobs growth and a contracting labor force.

Cruel cuts signal CA pension crisis – San Francisco Chronicle

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.

New bill for $15 minimum wage in Illinois reopens wage fight – Chicago Tribune

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.

Sugary drink tax would be a bitter pill to swallow – Editorial – mywebtimes

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.

Is There Any Reason To Stay In IL? Michael Lucci Answers That Question — Video – Upstream Ideas

Comment: This is a must-watch hour interview for everybody seriously interested in the crises facing Illinois and Chicago -- Mike Lucci of the Illinois Policy Institute.

Illinois considers applying sales taxes to more services – Sun-Times

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.

Jim Nowlan: Things are sure different now. Why? – DailyJournal

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."

Indianapolis sitting pretty with light pension burden, report says – Indianapolis Business Journal

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. Chicago is worst.

State Makes Last-Gasp Pitch To Build 3rd Chicago Area Airport – CBS Chicago

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.

Rauner Says Companies Would Flee State If Income Tax Structure Changes – WNIJ and WNIU

Some Democratic candidates for governor are starting to campaign on changing to a graduated income tax rate - so wealthy people pay more. Rauner says that proposal would result in business owners leaving Illinois.

Rauner signs bill to rehabilitate prisoners, expand probation – Sun-Times

A wider range of crimes will be eligible for probation, rather than prison terms, and “trauma centers” might be built within state prisons under legislation that Gov. Bruce Rauner signed Friday.

Senators back next week to work on ‘grand bargain’ – Illinois News Network

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.

US Attorney Zachary Fardon Asked to Resign – WTTW

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.

AFSCME’s battle with Rauner is far from over – Illinois Policy

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.

Lawmakers looking to divert scarce state funds to cities and counties – Illinois News Network

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.

Threatened private pension cuts will test Trump ties to U.S. Rust Belt voters – Reuters

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.

Unpaid sick leave will cost taxpayers $3.4 billion over the next three decades – Illinois Policy

Top school district superintendents have used the sick-leave perk to boost their pensions by $350,000 or more over the course of their retirements.

Illinois State Senator Pushes Bill Allowing Government To Confiscate Guns Without Due Process – Zero Hedge

"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."

Rep. LaHood ‘skeptical’ of new health care plan – Illinois News Network

Illinois Republicans in Congress are split on whether the plan to move past Obamacare care is on the right path.

State: Did we say 16,700 jobs lost? We meant 2,000 gained – Chicago Tribune

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...

Illinois can choose SEIU to represent all home caregivers in negotiations: Appeals court – Cook County Record

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.

Illinois Senate’s spending “cap” doesn’t protect taxpayers, core services – Illinois Policy

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.

Illinois taxpayers can’t trust their legislators – Letter – Chicago Tribune

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."

Jim Dey: Change-agent Rauner still stuck in batter’s box – News-Gazette

He may be governor, and the Illinois Constitution may give extraordinary powers to its governor, but other people and organizations have a big say in whatever changes, if any, are made.

A failing state – News-Gazette

"The public's instincts are right on the money about the state of the state."

Lawmakers try to consolidate local governments – Illinois Times

The grand bargain bill on government consolidation is only permissive and only for townships that share a border.

A New Reports Paint Illinois Finances in Red Ink – Fidelity Investments

The Bond Buyer's Yvette Schields on Illinois' recently released financial statements for FY 2016.

Schools using federal funds to offset state pension costs – JournalStar

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.

Illinois Senate’s spending “cap” doesn’t protect taxpayers, core services – Illinois Policy

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...

Rivian Automotive gets $49.5 million in state tax credits for 1,000 jobs over 10 years – Illinois Policy

The car manufacturer is going to bring more than 1,000 jobs to Normal, Ill., after being offered $49.5 million in state tax credits and more in local tax credits and abatements.

Comptroller Mendoza is no independent voice – Chicago Tribune

"She is a mouthpiece for the Democrats, and an acerbic one at that."

Let’s do the time warp, again – Comptroller Mendoza’s financial statements – Truth in Accounting

Truthful financial reporting includes timely financial reporting. But truthful financial reporting also includes truthful assertions about the timing of financial reporting. Who gets this stuff first? Why? Should the SEC be looking into this?

Rauner: Democrats leading a ‘coordinated activity’ to ‘create a crisis’ in Illinois – Chicago Tribune

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.

Proposed ‘Grand Bargain’ spending cap to be enforced by state official under federal investigation – Illinois News Network

Current Auditor General Frank Mautino would be tasked with overseeing the proposed cap. He's under federal and state investigations around questions of campaign spending from his time as a lawmaker.

Braindead Dems Strike 401k Fear: Opinion – The 401(k) Specialist

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.

Rep. Roskam: Illinois shouldn’t expect a bailout from feds – Illinois News Network

Comment: True, but that doesn't mean Congress couldn't improve the Bankruptcy Code to make it a more effective alternative for our towns and cities, and for the state itself.

How teachers’ sick leave pension perk might save you money – Daily Herald

Comment: Doubtful. The assumption is that teachers will retire early if they can spike using sick leave.

Calpers Board to Vote on Slashing Pension Benefits by 63% – Bloomberg

Comment: Just a reminder that, yes, pensions do get cut and they get cut bigly if there's no money. The longer real reform is delayed the harsher those cuts will be.

School districts forced to use federal dollars to offset state’s pension costs – JournalStar

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.

Illinois’ deficit grows to $9.6 billion in fiscal 2016: audit – Business Insider

Comment: "It's Rauner's fault," says Comptroller Mendoza, who was a legislator who helped do this to the state.

Better late than never for IL financial statements – Truth in Accounting

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...

Illinois companies announce nearly 1,000 mass layoffs in February, including almost 250 manufacturing jobs – Illinois Policy

February saw the worst WARN report in seven months, with nearly 250 of the jobs lost coming from the manufacturing sector.

Illinois’ FY 2017 tax revenue forecast cut by $657 million – Reuters

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.

Gov. Rauner pushes Medicaid reboot at huge savings to taxpayers – Sangamon Sun

Gov. Bruce Rauner is aggressively pushing a plan that could mean major changes to the way most of Illinois' poorest residents receive their health care.

Illinois Losses Mount on ‘Build America Bonds’ – Fidelity Investments

From The Bond Buyer's Yvette Shields: Illinois governments could lose up to $400 million in federal interest rate subsidies for Build America Bonds under prolonged federal budget sequestration.

Illinois Issues: The Real Chilling Effect Of A Property Tax Freeze – Peoria Public Radio

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: Grand Bargain “neither grand nor is it a bargain” – Sangamon Sun

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.

Illinois Is Prepared—for Zombies – Wall Street Journal

"But what about the state’s fiscal apocalypse, which is not only happening right now but has pl"unged Illinois into a bona fide financial disaster"

It’s do-over duty in Springfield: Rauner and the GOP must repair or replace the broken compromise – Editorial – Chicago Tribune

Comment: Rich Miller of Capitolfax had a good question about this: "Who are you and what have you done with the Tribune editorial board?

Illinois Shows How to Cut Regulatory Red Tape – US News

An effort underway in Illinois may provide a roadmap to eliminating the dangerous phenomenon that occurs when a regulatory code becomes so complex that it undermines good regulations.

The State of State Teachers’ Pension Plans – The New York Times

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 want out from fronting Illinois state employees’ dental costs – Illinois News Network

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.

Are reporters informing the public well enough amidst state’s financial crisis? – Madison – St. Clair Record

Now, that's a story that needn't be headlined with a question.

Interest on Illinois’ pension debt is $9.1B per year – Illinois Policy

A golden rule of finance is this: Debt that can’t be paid won’t be paid.

New ranking shows Illinois’ economic split – Illinois News Network

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.

Time to hold faux education reformers accountable – Editorial QCOnline

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.

Illinois gambling proposal would add casinos in 6 places – Sun-Times

According to one critic, for every $1 gambling brings the state, taxpayers dole out $3 to address the accompanying uptick in addiction, crime and bankruptcy.

‘Fair share’ case poses threat to public-employee unions – News-Gazette

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.

Medicaid math and Illinois: How lawmakers’ money grab primed taxpayers for a reckoning – Chicago Tribune

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.

Why I opted out of AFSCME, and why other state workers should do the same – Guest Editorial – The Southern

"I don’t want to strike. Illinois is in a terrible financial mess. AFSCME doesn't seem to care, though, and the union’s arrogance could end up costing its members dearly."

Indiana state government rated most effective in country – NWITimes

U.S. News and World Report last week issued its first Best States ratings using the vast databases of the McKinsey and Co. Leading States Index to evaluate the 50 states across 68 different metrics. Illinois ranked 47th.

Illinois pitches sales tax for Netflix, Spotify, other streaming services – Illinois Policy

A new proposal from state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Chicago Heights, would tax internet streaming services in Illinois, much like the potentially illegal internet streaming tax implemented in Chicago.

Opting out of AFSCME membership: FAQs on fair share payers – Illinois Policy

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.

Chance the Rapper to Rauner: ‘Take our kids off the table’ – Sun-Times

Music impresario Chance the Rapper’s summit Friday with Gov. Bruce Rauner apparently did not go well. Comment: State Rep. Jeanne Ives summed it up well with this Tweet: "If Gov. Rauner is going to let foul mouthed Rapper help make state education decisions, we are all doomed."  

Investigation of Caterpillar may go beyond tax issue – JournalStar

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.

Economics Shouldn’t Be an Elective – WSJ

Comment: The article doesn't mention Illinois, but financial illiteracy has everything to do with Illinois.

Appeals court: Cities can cut vacation time buybacks, other programs, to end pension spiking – Cook County Record

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.

Republican lawmakers say they’re skipping town halls for ‘safety reasons’ – WLS

Congressman Randy Hultgren announced Friday afternoon that one of his staff members quit this week because she was worried about her safety at the office.

Could Trump seek undocumented immigrants’ driver’s licenses here? – Sun-Times

Secretary of State Jesse White knows where 235,000 undocumented immigrants live in Illinois — and he doesn’t want to tell Donald Trump.

Stakes high in Illinois as Congress rethinks Medicaid – Chicago Tribune

Under the Affordable Care Act, about 650,000 Illinois residents who didn't previously qualify for Medicaid, a health insurance program for the poor and disabled, gained coverage.

Trump brings business optimism, but Illinois leaders still nervous about local taxes, red tape – Illinois News Network

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.

Cook County can expect more job losses, thanks to new beverage tax – Illinois Review

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.

Illinois attorney general warns CareerBuilder, other job-search firms about age bias – Chicago Tribune

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 ended 2016 with highest black unemployment rate of any state – Illinois Policy

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.

IL Senate spells out proposed services for sales tax – A.P.

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.

Easing student debt focus of bipartisan plan from Illinois, California congressmen – St. Louis Today

With student-loan debt now approaching $1.3 trillion, Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, is pushing a bipartisan solution he says could ease the burden and help the economy.

The truth about your property tax bill – Opinion – Illinois News Network

"Look in your backyard and you’re bound to find unfair spending."

Day after ‘grand bargain’ hopes dashed, some lawmakers think it can still be salvaged – State Journal-Register

Comment: Serious effort will indeed be made to rekindle the horrible package with a vote possible next week, our sources say.

U.S. law enforcement searches Caterpillar’s Illinois facilities – Reuters

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.

Illinois education funding fight not about kids: Illinois Policy Institute – Crain’s

By Ted Dabrowsky from Illinois Policy Inst.

April ballot to be full of tax questions – Illinois News Network

Voters across Illinois finalized April’s mayoral races this week. But there’s a lot more than a few city hall races on the ballot next month. The April election will be chock full of tax questions.

Would You Fill A State Job? – Alton Daily News

State Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, said Rauner is right to find options to keep the government running if there’s a strike. McCarter hopes there isn't a strike, but if there is he said workers in his area are capable of filling positions vacated by striking workers.

Cheeseheads winning the war as Illinois fiddles – Lake County News-Sun

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.

Illinois Senate cancels budget votes; leader blames Rauner – Associated Press

Comment: Never mind that the Dems control the Senate. Just blame Rauner.

Medicaid Shake-Up In Illinois? – Associated Press

Rauner announced Monday that his office is overhauling the state's Medicaid managed care program.

Illinois Senate passes contribution bill for Chicago teachers pension plan – Pensions & Investments

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...

Normal: Metro Zone decision makes Bloomington “untrustworthy partner” – Pantagraph

Comment: An interesting story about towns trying to poach businesses off one another. It's obviously a zero sum game, just as are interstate efforts to do the same.

Illinois Senate faces tough votes today on taxes, school funding – A.P.

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.

Phil Kadner: Madigan is no champion of schoolchildren – Sun-Times

Just weeks after the governor’s own bipartisan school funding reform commission released its recommendations, the Illinois House speaker said he needs a new study.

Illinois Senate rejects key bill in budget deal again – Reuters

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.

‘Grand bargain’ bill puts banks before vital local services – Illinois News Network

“This is like going to your bank and saying ‘Give me a bigger home loan at a lower rate, and I will give you ownership of all my future income,'” Glennon said.

Where Do Video Gaming Funds From Illinois Communities Go? – NPR Illinois

More than $55 million went back to Illinois municipalities from video gaming in 2016. But how do those communities use those funds?

Flow of Illinoisans into Indiana is becoming a flood – Illinois Policy

Nearly 20,000 Illinoisans on net moved to the Hoosier State in 2015.

Former US Comptroller General: Higher taxes won’t solve Illinois’ problems – Illinois News Network

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...

Frightening Totality of NJ Pension Crisis – Burypensions

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. Comment: We're not...

Fiscal follies continue as Illinois suffers – Jim Nowlan

"The increases will, I fear, not be enough to resolve our huge fiscal problems, so we will limp along into the future." Comment: The tax increases won't come remotely close to resolving anything.

Overly generous compensation drives Illinois’ budget woes – Opinion – Alton Telegraph

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.

Proposed casino legislation dictates more bankruptcy, education losses for Illinois – Opinion – Rockford Register-Star

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.

Time for HUD to deliver for Cairo – The Southern

Rats. Mold. Roaches. No heat. Toilet water. Bedbugs.

Governor Rauner Says Negotiations Are Over After Union Threatens Strike – CBS Chicago

“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.

Who’s watching the watcher? How local governments fall prey to big thefts – Chicago Tribune

The list of embezzlement cases involving public officials is long, but nearly every case involves three culprits: Too little oversight. Too concentrated control. Too much trust.

Rauner eager to talk policy at D.C. meeting — Trump still a taboo – Sun-Times

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.

ILexit: Time to Pull the Plug on a Failed State – RealClearPolitics

"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."

Illinois trial bar peddles myths about workers’ compensation – Illinois Policy

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.

Useless committees provide political pay raises for state lawmakers – Illinois Policy

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.

Economic stakes high for Springfield in labor showdown – State Journal-Register

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.

State: 1812 earthquake would devastate if it occurred today – Illinois News Network

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.

Ralph Martire: More ambiguity than Illinois can afford – State Journal-Register

This is essentially the public unions' message on the budget -- Ralph Martire's CTBA.

How Jesse Jackson Jr. collects $138,400 a year from the federal government – Chicago Tribune

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.

AFSCME’s sweetheart deal – Illinois Policy

Public-sector unions enjoy perks and privileges that are foreign to union and nonunion workers in the private sector.

5 questions, 5 guiding principles for an Illinois ‘grand bargain’ budget framework – Illinois Policy

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.

Illinois Tax Heist – Wall Street Journal

"Democrats bet they can break Rauner or elect a tax raiser in 2018."

Business group still opposes state-facilitated, private-sector retirement plans – Illinois News Network

A small business advocacy group says employers are weary of state government facilitating retirement savings for the private sector when it hasn’t done a great job with other programs. Illinois’ Secure Choice Savings Plan, approved in 2015, requires private sector employers to deduct employee pay to go into a savings account, once the program is set up.

In Quad Cities, Illinois shrinks while Iowa grows – Illinois Policy

The communities in the Quad Cities are nearly identical, but Illinoisans are fleeing to Iowa’s side from the Land of Lincoln’s side, showing just how severe Illinois’ out-migration crisis is.

Low Pay and Time Away Drive Some Lawmakers to Call It Quits – Governing

Sometimes, when a politician says he’s leaving office to spend more time with his family, he really means it. Matt Murphy, a deputy Republican leader in the Illinois Senate and a key ally of Gov. Bruce Rauner, stepped down in September, citing “family obligations.”

Rossell Says Oversight Board s Austerity Risks Breaking the Law – The Bond Buyer

The complaints mark an escalation of tensions between the island government and the federal board appointed last year to oversee fiscal and economic policies. Comment: Expect disputes like this to come eventually to Chicago and other Illinois municipalities, and perhaps the state itself.

Bill would increase warning time for pension hikes – Herald-Dispatch

House Bill 2549, introduced Monday, aims to change how municipalities deal with increases to their pension contributions for police officers and firefighters. In the event of an increase, the bill states that cities shall be notified no later than Jan. 1 and the increase would not go into effect until the following fiscal year begins on July 1.

As AFSCME strike votes are tallied, Southern Illinois state workers pray for resolution to budget crisis – The Southern

A group of state workers are planning to gather on Saturday for a prayer rally as the budget impasse drags on, wreaking havoc across Southern Illinois.

Teacher shortage is statewide problem – llinoisHomepage

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.

George Will: America’s pension crisis is really coming

"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."

Cities To Illinois: Put Our Money On Autopilot – NPR Illinois

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.

Where is Gov. Bruce Rauner? – NBC Chicago

Gov. Bruce Rauner has not had a public schedule since delivering his budget address last Wednesday. Traditionally, after the budget address, the governor travels to promote his budget agenda. But not this year.

Billions in Unclaimed Cash Due to Citizens, Businesses and Governments in Illinois – NBC Chicago

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.

Local governments pushing for cost-controlling reforms – Illinois News Network

More cities across Illinois are using most, if not all, of their share of property taxes to pay for public safety pensions and the Illinois Municipal League says state mandated sweeteners don’t help.

JPMorgan Chase survey: Illinois execs bullish on 2017, not local economy – Crain’s

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.

Economist presses Rauner to speak out against tax hike proposals – South Cook News

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.

State Financial Position Index (SFPI) and competitiveness posture report – PwC

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,...

Former Illinois resident tells others how to bail out of Prairie State – North Cook News

Jeff Kirsch and his wife, Angela, run the website GetOutOfIllinois.com, which helps people who are fed up with what Jeff Kirsch describes as high taxes, bleak winters and drawn-out state budget drama.

States Move Ahead With Retirement Savings Plans, Despite Congressional Pushback – Wall Street Journal

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.

Chicago, other elite cities attracting companies away from downstate, economic columnist says – Sangamon Sun

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.

AFSCME Voting Whether To Authorize Strike – WRSP

Sunday was the last day for members to vote. The vote doesn't guarantee a strike, but will indicate whether union members want to give their bargaining committee power to walk off the job.

Illinois officials monitor use of synthetic opioid – A.P.

Officials say U-47700 is eight times stronger than heroin. It can be purchased online from Chinese manufacturers at a low cost.

Lawyers’ escrow accounts fund illegal alien defense – Illinois Business Daily

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.

GOP Goes After Tenure – The American Interest

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. Comment: Illinois is a target rich environment.

Bring back legislative scholarships? You’re kidding – Editorial – Sun-Times

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.

Lawsuits: IL ‘zero emissions credit’ system unconstitutionally rigs electricity market for Exelon – Cook County Record

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...

This is what’s meant by balanced? [Fiction] – State Journal-Register – Springfield, IL

Comment: Another fictional story on the "budget." The true deficit is more like $13-15 billion.

Why not tax retiree pension income? – Belleville News-Democrat

Comment: Because, um, let me think. They'll just leave.

State budget impasse still hurting schools – State Journal-Register

The backlog of bills for the Springfield School District has reached $8 million, it's $1.3 million in Chatham, while in smaller districts, like Auburn, the figure has eclipsed $476,000. The bills are known as categorical payments, which the state is supposed to reimburse districts for to cover costs that include transportation, state lunch requirements and special education.

Laws are moving targets in Illinois –  Illinois Leaks

"All indications are pointing to a serious degradation of the rule of law in Illinois."

Berg: State senators stave off spending reform, test tax hikes instead – Daily Southtown

"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."

Democrats, who haven’t passed balanced budget in years, accuse Rauner of unbalanced budget plan – Illinois News Network

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.

New Deadline For Grand Bargain – A.P.

Minority Leader Christine Radogno told a Chicago radio station Thursday, that she wants to vote on the Senate's grand bargain by the end of the month. The Senate isn't in session next week, and the next time they're back is February 28.

Poll: Illinoisans Generally Unhappy – IL Radio Network

Illinois ranked in the bottom third for happiness, according to the latest Gallup poll that measured overall well-being in the country.

CCC tweets opposition to ‘opportunity tax’ proposal – Chicago City Wire

"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."

Mendoza finds money for $32,000 used car for her office – Sun-Times

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.

Illinois single-family home construction ten times lower than neighbors – Illinois News Network

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.

Illinois needs a ‘People’s Agenda’ – Opinion – State Journal-Register

"We need a People's Agenda.... Investing in our people means raising revenue so that communities have the resources needed to thrive." Comment: Problem is, there will be no people left.

Budget numbers show deficit of up to $7 billion – Associated Press

Comment: Just a reminder that these "budget" numbers are fiction. The real deficit is far worse, as explained here.

Democrats accuse Rauner of unbalanced budget plan, ignore their own duties – Illinois News Network

Is Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget balanced? Democrats have said “no” for the past two years and now are repeating the same charge, but Rauner defends his plans.

Little new ground in the Governor’s budget address – CTBA

The CTBA is union-backed research and advocacy organization.

Judge denies request to halt state workers’ paychecks – Chicago Sun-Times

State workers will still get paid, despite Gov. Rauner and state legislators failing to reach a budget for nearly two years, unless the ruling is overturned.

Rauner Lays Down His Cards in Illinois – The Bond Buyer

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.

Time to come around for Illinois, Mike – Editorial – Sun-Times

Comment: The chorus of kumbayas is growing for the grand bargain, which will accomplish very little as it stands.

Will Missouri’s Right-to-Work Put Pressure on Illinois? – CBS St. Louis

Missouri’s recent adoption of Right-to-Work legislation leaves Illinois sitting alone, surrounded by Right-to-Work states on all sides.

Study Illuminates Workings of Teacher Pension Ponzi Scheme – The American Interest

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.

Forgotten Illinois: Newton and the reality of America’s heartland – Illinois Policy

Residents of Newton – working together, helping each other out and bonding, whether at Rotary Club meetings at Parklanes, MVP Happy Holler or anywhere else – see the reality in front of them.

Exelon rivals sue to stop nuke bailout – Crain’s

When Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation bailing out two money-losing nuclear power plants, operators of Illinois coal- and natural gas-fired facilities promised to take the state to court. Done. A group of competitors of Chicago-based nuclear giant Exelon filed a lawsuit in federal court in Chicago today to stop the ratepayer-funded bailout from going forward.

Illinois has higher property taxes than every state with no income tax – Illinois Policy

Despite taxing both sales and income, Illinois has higher property taxes than every single state that does not charge an income tax.

“Grand Bargain” interconnected bills could be unconstitutional – Illinois News Network

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.

How Education Secretary DeVos Poses A Mortal Threat To The Democratic Party – Dick Morris Video

Comment: Particularly true in Illinois because of the importance of their alliance with teachers' unions.

Deciding who writes plan is latest school funding stumbling block – Illinois News Network

Who will take the lead? That’s the latest stumbling block for Illinois’ proposal on how to better pay for the state schools, now that Governor Bruce Rauner’s task force is done with its work.

It’s Comptroller’s job to present a CAFR – Truth in Accounting

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....

Illinois Municipal League’s Statehouse Briefing

Good summary of the status of the "grand bargain."

Rauner right to hold firm on state budget – Editorial – Herald-Review

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.

Indiana personal income has grown twice as fast as Illinois’ over recession era – Illinois Policy

Hoosier homeowners keep more of their wages as a result of a statewide property tax cap and income tax cuts.

Why Peoria-based Caterpillar stays in Illinois – Crain’s

Caterpillar has a "massive" investment in Illinois in both its trained workforce and the facilities needed to build these huge ​ machines, says Harry Moser, president of the Kildeer-based Reshoring Initiative. "It would cost you billions for buildings and equipment to replace it," he says. "It would cost you 10 to 20 years to train the workforce somewhere else. To me, it's unthinkable."

What Illinois college students should know before meeting with Rauner, lawmakers – Illinois Policy

What’s making college unaffordable for Illinois students isn’t budget gridlock, it’s soaring administrative costs in higher education.

Wake up, Bruce Rauner. Bring back Illinois. – Opinion – Chicago Tribune

Author Diana Sroka Rickert is a writer with the Illinois Policy Institute. The opinions in this essay are her own.

Report: Illinoisans experiencing second-worst income growth in the nation – Illinois News Network

Since 2007, the average Illinoisan hasn’t even seen a full percentage point of personal income growth.

Rockford school employees prepare for strike – Register-Star

Bus drivers, paraprofessionals and food service workers for Rockford Public Schools — about 900 employees in all — are "as close as they could be" to striking, union officials said Friday.

Did Connecticut’s Governor Just Admit His State Is Bankrupt? – The Daily Caller

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.

Civic Federation proposal hits Illinois taxpayers with $51 billion in tax hikes – Illinois Policy

The Civic Federation’s budget plan repeats old mistakes with multibillion-dollar tax hikes and no serious, structural reform.

Illinois Worker Pay Battle to Resurface in Court, Legislature – NBC Chicago

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.

Illinois to offer online donations to state-operated historic sites – State Journal-Register

The box that accepts suggested donations at free-admission state historic sites in Illinois is getting a technological boost.

States find new ways to troll Trump – Politico

Comment: You'd think Illinois' Dan Biss would see more pressing issues in his own state to attend to.

Rauner dodges on sanctuary state issue, Emanuel hosts Mexican mayors – Chicago Tribune

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."

Budget impasse threatens a baby’s life – KMOV

One mother says her son's facing death, all because the government isn't paying its bills.

Proposed Illinois Senate Bill Would Have Government Match Small Donations In State Elections – WNIJ and WNIU

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.

Sick pay perk piles on more pension debt – Editorial – Daily Journal

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.

Watch What Indexing Does for Public Pensions – Bloomberg View

"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 law? That’s just for the little people – Truth in Accounting

"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."

Rosen talks about Detroit’s Grand Bargain, the city’s future and Kwame Kilpatrick – Crain’s Detroit Business

Comment: Read our recent story linked here about how this relates to what we are doing in Illinois -- "cannibalizing our future."

Why a fair, balanced budget takes political courage – Illinois Policy

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle grow more and more powerful as the size of state and local government increases.

Illinois plan for retirement accounts at small employers is in jeopardy – Chicago Tribune

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.

Turkish opposition subsidizes scores of state lawmakers’ trips – USA Today

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.

GOP senators stand against ‘unripe’ package – Illinois News Network

The fight over how to end the state’s budget stalemate seems to be heating up at the statehouse with some Republican state Senators standing strong against marginal reforms with big tax increases.

Illinois House speaker makes his money lowering property taxes – Reuters

Feb 8 As Illinois House speaker for more than three decades, Michael Madigan has often worked to raise people's taxes. As a private attorney, he works to lower them.

Low Pay and Time Away Drive Some Lawmakers to Call It Quits – Governing

Several state legislators recently resigned, saying they want to spend more time with their families -- and they seem to mean it.

Chris Kennedy comes out swinging, calls Gov. Rauner ‘heartless’ – Sun-Times

Comment: Here are the solutions Kennedy offered for Illinois: ______.

Wake up, Illinois. You’re surrounded. – Chicago Tribune

"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."

AFSCME’s contract demands: A close look at the $3B hit to taxpayers – Illinois Policy

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.

Illinois budget deal in doubt after key pension bill fails – Reuters

Comment:  Senate Minority Leader Radogno says Senate President Cullerton duped her. Surprise, surprise. And remember that this pension bill is fake policy and a waste of time. See our earlier article on that linked here.

Illinois politicians’ remedy for state flirting with recession? Multibillion-dollar tax hikes – Illinois Policy

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.

California Teachers’ Pension System Lowers Projection, Potentially Tripling What Taxpayers Will Owe – Hit & Run

Comment: Same would happen in Illinois if we used a correct discount rate, as we've been saying for years.

Special report: The man behind the fiscal fiasco in Illinois – Reuters

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.

A New Borrowing Route May Open for Illinois Governments – Fidelity Investments

By The Bond Buyer's Yvette Shields. This article is discussed in our own piece yesterday linked here. It's a mixed blessing -- lower borrowing costs but more borrowing and more liens on government property to secure bondholders.

It’s time for the tough votes on ‘grand bargain’ budget – State Journal-Register

Comment: Another worthless editorial saying little more than "it's time to do what's difficult."

Illinois Faces Further Downgrades If Budget Deal Not Reached – Bloomberg

Even if latest plan passes, S&P sees no upgrade for two years. Locked in gridlock, Illinois is the lowest rated U.S. state.

Illinois lost 20 people per day to Missouri over past decade – Illinois Policy

Politicians’ refusal to make serious spending reforms is pushing more taxpayers out of Illinois, with Missouri being an attractive landing spot.

Illinois last in jobs growth, first in manufacturing losses in 2016 – Illinois Policy

Illinois continues to have the worst jobs growth in the region, and tax hikes will only make matters worse.

City Hall’s CPS blame game: Why isn’t Claypool pounding on his fellow Democrats to fix their fiasco? – Chicago Tribune

Painting Rauner as the villain who forced CPS cuts ignores reality on a Trumpian scale. When you build a budget on illusions, your daydreams die.

Why a Leading Illinois Lawmaker Fears Downgrade to Junk – The Bond Buyer

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.

Illinois lawmakers to weigh schools change during budget debate – Chicago Tribune

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.

Gov. Rauner still staying out of ‘grand bargain’ discussions – State Journal-Register

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.

Cullerton defends state budget plan he, Radogno devised – Crain’s

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.

Illinois’ low credit rating at risk without budget action : S&P – Reuters

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.

Illinois has largest loss of union membership in region, Indiana and Missouri have largest gains – Illinois Policy

Illinois’ declining union membership is but one more reminder that the state’s anti-jobs business environment hurts the broad population of job-seekers, whether they are union or non-union.

Illinois Governor warns EU against BDS moves on ‘settlements’ –

Illinois Governor warns EU that applying anti-Israel resolution to boycott Jewish communities in Yesha would violate Illinois law.

Human service providers need help – Editorial – Northwest Herald

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.  

Jim Dey: Illinois is a nice state that’s heading the wrong way – News-Gazette

"One contention is beyond dispute — Illinois is failing fast."

Lawmakers consider expanding Illinois immigrant protections – Sun-Times

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.

Lisa Madigan Op-Ed: Consequences of budget inaction have already been catastrophic – State Journal-Register

Comment: Her rationale is almost entirely based on her view of the economic consequences of not having a budget. Isn't it supposed to be based solely on what the law is?

Joint Editorial: Shutdown is what Illinois needs right now

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.

Sticker shock felt with Illinois school funding plan – Beloit Daily News

The report estimates it would cost an additional $3.5 billion to $6 billion to ensure each school district was properly funded.

COGFA warns of revenue falling short of already ‘grim’ estimates – Illinois News Network

A new government report on tax revenue shows Illinois’ businesses are struggling, potentially exacerbating Illinois’ debt spiral as tax revenues fall well short of already low estimates.

A solution to the property tax problem – Illinois Policy

Illinois has by far the most units of government in the nation, at nearly 7,000.

The “State” of Illinois: Comptroller Mendoza Discusses The Costs Of Gridlock – WICS

Comment: Bitching about the problems but no solutions offered.

Rauner: Raising taxes not enough to fix state’s economic problems – Illinois News Network

“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.

Group recommends Illinois school funding fix; future unclear – Associated Press

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.

Kadner: School funding panel lacks guts – Sun-Times

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.

Illinois Economy: Credit Rating Down, Flash Index Up – WSIU

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.

Illinois has highest combined sales tax burden in Midwest, seventh-highest in U.S. – Illinois Policy

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.

High property taxes a multilayered problem in Illinois – McHenry Times

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’s High School Grads Are Fleeing the State at Record Speed – Chicago Magazine

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.

Bill Proposed For Official State Pet Of Illinois – WRSP

Ostrich. Should be an ostrich.

New bill aims to stop discrimination and exploitation in the temp industry – Chicago Reporter

Comment: A massive new layer of regulation for the temp industry.

Rauner says final budget package must have sufficient ‘structural change’ to gain his support – Chicago Tribune

"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.

Jim Dey: A tale of two economies – News-Gazette

Cat's shift from central Illinois to Chicago demonstrates once again the state's different economic trajectories.

Manufacturers group CEO: Illinois ‘needs to step up its game’

Greg Baise, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association shared his view of the key numbers.

Rep. McSweeney: It’s time to cut Illinois property taxes by 10 percent – Northwest Herald

The relief Illinois residents need is an immediate reduction in property taxes. Only with reduced property taxes can we begin to stop people from leaving Illinois.

Frustrated Senate president might not run again – Sun-Times

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.

School funding task force recommends fix; future unclear – Associated Press

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 downgrades Illinois rating by one notch to BBB and says it may downgrade again – MarketWatch

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.

Proposed laws aim to reform Illinois group homes – State Journal-Register

llinois lawmakers are proposing six new laws that would strengthen licensing requirements and oversight for thousands of group homes for adults with disabilities.

Is It Really Possible to Balance the State Budget Without a Tax Hike? – WTTW

The conservative Illinois Policy Institute unveiled a plan Tuesday that promises to fill Illinois’ $7.1 billion budget hole, without any increase in taxes.

Senate tax hike is a raw deal for Illinoisans – Opinion – Chicago Tribune

State Rep. Jeanne Ives on the Illinois Policy Institute's budget plan.

Lisa Madigan still trying to stiff state workers – Madison – St. Clair Record

“Why has she stood silently by each year in office as General Assembly passed unconstitutional budgets for 12 years?”

Illinois Native Now Serving As Acting U.S. Attorney General – NPR Illinois

Dana J. Boente is a Carlinville native.

IL Supreme Court denies Erin Andrews’ request to continue lawsuit vs hotel booking firm over stalking – Cook County Record

http://cookcountyrecord.com/stories/511078489-il-supreme-court-denies-erin-andrews-request-to-continue-stalking-lawsuit-vs-hotel-booking-firm

Libertarians offer no-tax-hike state budget – Crain’s

Greg Hinz's reaction to Illinois Policy Institute's proposal.

12,000 modular homes and plant could rise on South Works site – Sun-Times

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.

Navy SEAL who died in Yemen raid was from Peoria – JournalStar

Comment: There's something especially sad about seeing this story on the same day Caterpillar announces its decision to move its HQ out of Peoria.

Budget Solutions 2018 Saving Illinois: Balancing the state budget without tax hikes – Illinois Policy Institute

Comment: Much more reporting and commentary will come on this detailed proposal released today by the Illinois Policy Inst.

Midwest business conditions soften in early 2017, Chicago PMI shows – MarketWatch

Business in the Midwest grew in January at the slowest pace since last spring, largely because of a decline in orders, according to the Chicago business barometer. The Chicago PMI fell 3.6 points to 50.3 from a revised 53.9 in December, well below Wall Street expectations. A few months ago, the index had hit a two-year high.

Benefit Seen in Illinois Proposal for Borrowing to Pay its Bills – The Bond Buyer

Comment: One credit card to another but with a better interest rate and different payment schedule.

Paying the price for questioning Madigan – News-Gazette

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."

Senate tax hike is a raw deal for Illinoisans – Opinion – Chicago Tribune

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.

AFSCME starts vote on authorizing state employee strike – State Journal-Register

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.

Rauner lawyer urges Mendoza to fight state worker pay filing – Sun-Times

Comment: Meanwhile, Mendoza is spending here time writing releases about the immigration order and tweeting about a "Nazi" in the administration.

Illinois’ ‘grand bargain’ gives lawmakers $38.5-billion spending cap – Illinois News Network

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.

Rauner’s economic development chief departs – Crain’s

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.

Should Illinois Borrow to Pay Off the Bill Backlog? – The Civic Federation

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."

Illinois Chamber says ‘opportunity tax’ on businesses sends wrong message – Illinois News Network

“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.”

Illinois’ Madigan joins fellow attorney generals condemning refugee ban

Comment: Never mind that the law is absolutely clear that immigration is the exclusive domain of the federal government. And chalk up another one to the the politicization of state attorneys general.

A leak in the pension dam – American Thinker

"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."

Interest payments on Illinois’ unpaid bills add to vast cost of budget impasse – Chicago Tribune

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.

The type of candidate Democrats love to hate – Chicago Tribune

The disgust. The furor. The loathing. 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.

Illinois treasurer to launch tax-free savings accounts for people with disabilities – Chicago Tribune

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.

Filing by attorney general to block state worker pay uncalled for – Editorial – State Journal-Register

"Unnecessary. That is the only way to describe Attorney General Lisa Madigan's action...." 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’s pension liabilities grow even as payments made – Herald-Review

Comment: Better late than never, I guess, to see the press reporting this. They've let countless politicians get away for years with claims that they are making all required pension payments.

State of the Standoff: Money keeps flowing into pensions – Pantagraph

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...

Obama administration spent billions to fix failing schools, and it didn’t work – The Washington Post

Comment: $7 billion in School Improvement Grants; zero results. Pay attention, Illinois.

Jim Nowlan: Can Illinois put the bounce back in our step? Daily Jornal

Author Jim Nowlan is a former Illinois legislator and aide to three unindicted governors.

Instead of tax hikes, reform higher education to prioritize students over administrators – Illinois Policy

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.

Some wake-up calls for public stewardship in recent days -Truth in Accounting

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. Illinois and Indiana are illustrations.

Brown: Lisa Madigan’s move could bring an end to budget standoff – Sun-Times

Comments: Opinions on the left, like this one, are split on Lisa's move. On the right, they seem mostly opposed.

Illinois Parole System To See Sweeping Changes – WBEZ

"The settlement...will bring relief to tens of thousands of parolees who’ve been going through a process and having their rights violated every single day,” said attorney Sheila Bedi.

Rep. Burke Calls for Aggressive Reforms to Improve Illinois’s Economic Climate – Patch

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.

Debated tax hike bill also proposes doubling Illinois’ gambling casino licenses – Illinois Review

Comment: Look for revenue to be disappointing. So many of them already that they are cannibalizing each other's business.

White House Throws Weight Behind Cutting Feds’ Retirement, Health Benefits – Government Executive

Trump this week threw his support behind dramatic changes to federal employees’ retirement and health benefits, calling the current system “unsustainable.”

Lisa Madigan moves to shut down state government – Illinois Polic

Attempts to cut off state worker pay need not end in a tax hike.

Rauner vows all legal options to continue state worker pay – Sun-Times

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.

IL Rep. Jeanne Ives: Economic outcome of reforms in proposed budget plan ‘not going to move the needle one bit’ – Dupage Policy Journal

"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."

A. G. Lisa Madigan Moves to Dismiss State Employee Pay Order – Capitol Fax

Comment: This basically would halt payroll for state employees if she is successful. Daddy must have decided to shake things up.

Illinois Lawmaker Pushes For Free Tuition At State Universities – Northern Public Radio

Representative Will Guzzardi, from Chicago, acknowledges it’s not a short-term goal. “But, I want that to be the guide star. I want that to be the objective that we work toward,” he said. It's not like we're short of money or something.

ADM is likely to lose influence on global trade under President Trump – Crain’s

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.

Minimum wage shelved as Senate leader warns members of ‘pressure’ – Sun-Times

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.

Businesses worry about proposed “opportunity tax” – WSIL

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.

Illinois Senate budget proposal weak on consolidation – Illinois Policy

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.

New Bill in Illinois Would Increase Temp Worker Protections – ProPublica

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...

Instead of tax hikes, try consolidating school districts – Illinois Policy

Consolidating Illinois’ 859 school districts will lead to greater efficiency and help stem rising property taxes.

Illinois Democrats Delay Planned Senate Vote on Budget Fix Until Early Next Month – ABC News

Radogno had promised a floor vote by the end of January. But Cullerton told members that when the Senate returns Feb. 7 they should be "prepared to vote."

For many Illinoisans, the next recession has arrived – Opinion – Illinois News Network

Moody’s named Bloomington, Carbondale, Peoria and the Quad Cities as the four Illinois metro areas in a recession Four more Illinois metros – Elgin, Danville, Decatur and Kankakee – are at risk of undoing their recoveries from the Great Recession, according to Moody’s.

Economist says U.S., Illinois heading in opposite directions – Northwest Herald

Brian Westbury, a chief economist at First Trust Advisors LP, predicted that Donald Trump’s presidency will be good for the markets, job growth and the economy in general. Illinois, on the other hand, “is in a death spiral. You can’t raise taxes enough to balance the budget,” he said.

Jim Nowlan: Can Illinois put the bounce back in our step? – Editorial – MyWebTimes

Nowlan is a former Illinois legislator, agency director and aide to three governors.

Service, employer taxes added to stalled Senate ‘grand bargain’ – Sun-Times

It's now a $6.5 billion package of new taxes.

Who has been hurt the most by shifts in the Illinois economy? – NPR Illinois

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.

Illinois not among coal states suing to keep mines open – Illinois News Network

Comment: Whatever your position is on coal, this is an example of the politicization of work by state attorneys general.

The Economy’s Expanding. So Why Aren’t Tax Revenues? – Governing

Comment: Illinois revenues have actually been shrinking. Here are a few reasons beyond the other obvious problems particular to Illinois.

Democratic Leaders Criticize Rauner’s State of the State Address – NBC Chicago

Like the speech, nothing of substance in these comments.

House Speaker Michael Madigan issues response to State of the State

Comment: Like the speech, nothing there.

Full text: Gov. Bruce Rauner’s 2017 State of the State Address

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.

Wheels come off Senate budget plan, illustrating the state of state government – Chicago Tribune

Comment: A pretty crummy article, actually. It's a rambling hodgepodge of anecdote, fact and opinion.

Innovation could be key to creating manufacturing jobs – Illinois News Network

Comment: But some of the unemployed have to get off their butts and take the good manufacturing jobs already going unfilled, as we wrote here.

Rauner optimistic about state—Rahm says ‘rudderless under Rauner’ – Sun-Times

Gov. Bruce Rauner plans to voice optimism about “recent bipartisan agreement” with Democratic leaders in his State of the State address on Wednesday. Comment: Huge mistake by Rauner if this story is accurate.

Critics of Senate budget plan multiply; skepticism grows – Associated Press

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.

Illinois extends failed corporate tax credit program – Illinois Policy

Comment: Respectfully disagree with Illinois Policy Inst. on this one, provided Rauner runs the program honestly. A far better solution would be a pact among states to refrain from these incentive programs, though that's unlikely.

Sugar Tax similar to proposed Illinois law giving Philly residents sticker shock – Illinois News Network

Like Illinois, Philadelphia also has an issue with the smuggling of high-tax items like cigarettes from other states. Like Illinois, Pennsylvania already imposes a sales tax on groceries.

Blue states are in for a world of pain – The Washington Post

Specifically, fiscal pain. There are at least three major reasons why. Two of them are driven by that newly unified Republican front in Washington; the third is their own fault. Comment: So is the Washington Post, but they got this one right.

Rauner rolls out plan to protect pharmacy customers from drug interactions – Chicago Tribune

Responding to a Tribune investigation that found drugstores frequently failed to warn customers about potentially dangerous drug interactions, Rauner is unveiling a major plan designed to improve public safety at pharmacies throughout the state. The administration's proposal would require pharmacists to counsel patients about risky drug combinations and other significant issues when buying a medication for the first time or when a prescription changes.

State chamber member discusses Illinois budget, changes under Trump – Kane County Chronicle

“We are very happy that the Senate is negotiating this,” said Benjamin Brockschmidt, executive director of the Infrastructure Council and vice president of policy for the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. “There is no doubt that we need a budget. … But the package is not without its shortcomings.”

Video: Happy Puppies Carried to Ambulance After Italy Avalanche Resort Rescue

Just thought we needed some nice news for a change.

Illinois to Congress: Be cautious on repeal of health care law – Sun-Times

A letter sent by the Rauner administration to GOP Congressional leaders states Illinois leaders have significant concerns about the state’s ability to run a sustainable Medicaid program under proposed changes.

Cullerton, Radogno say budget will be balanced – State Journal-Register

Comment: It's utterly scandalous that major leaders in Illinois can be making this claim and that the press lets them get away with it. The true deficit is two to three times what they are claiming.

January 23, 2017 7:00 PM About that Illinois budget: Something? Anything? Thanks for nothing? – Belleville News-Democrat

"Something may be better than nothing, but not at any cost. Make a balanced deal."

Illinois needs a vision, not just a budget – Illinois Policy

The Illinois Senate budget proposal merely puts off the state’s day of reckoning through more of the same: tax hikes, borrowing and spending, without the necessary reforms to put the state on a path to fiscal and economic health.

Obamacare repeal and replace should be done carefully, Rauner administration urges – Crain’s

In a highly unusual, carefully worded letter obtained by Crain's, Rauner's insurance chief told House leaders that the state and Congress "must work together" on "reforms" to the Affordable Care Act.

Illinois faces uncertain future in light of Obamacare repeal – Illinois News Network

State Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, said Illinois doesn’t have $2 billion more for Medicaid. “If the federal government cuts the amount that they’re paying for Medicaid to the states, that’d be a much bigger disaster to states like Illinois because we have such a large Medicaid population,” Syverson said.

Big week at Capitol with Rauner speech, Senate budget votes – Chicago Tribune

A busy week awaits a fresh group of lawmakers in Springfield, where Illinois Senate leaders could try to push forward a massive budget package the same day Gov. Bruce Rauner gives his State of the State address. They're scheduled to start trying Tuesday with committee hearings on the tax hikes, gambling expansion, state worker pension changes and other ideas that make up their effort to break Springfield's historically long budget gridlock. How those hearings go could suggest their fate before...

Some hope Illinois can get on track – Opinion – Pantagraph

Comment: "They’re spending 13 percent more than what the state is receiving in revenue." More like 33%%. The fiction is endless in Illinois' press.

Pro-Business Groups Resist Big Tax Hikes – Alton Daily News

Parts of a potential budget agreement in Springfield includes a number of pro-business incentives, but business advocates say they're no consolation for massive tax hikes.

Reject plan for huge tax hikes – Editorial – Daily Chronicle

We’ve got to hand it to Senate leaders; they don’t discriminate. Their proposal is equally bad for middle-class wage earners and business owners.

Illinois Families Champion School Choice at 874 Events – Yahoo Finance

National School Choice Week begins today in Illinois and across the country. There are 874 events planned in the Prairie State to raise awareness about K-12 school choice, and 21,392 events nationwide.

Springfield not alone in seeing revenue shortfall – State Journal-Register

Sales tax revenue is flat or declining in many places in Illinois Bloomington's finance director, Patty-Lynn Silva, told the council that the city expected to collect $1.5 million less in the fiscal year, even after it raised its sales tax rate by 1 percentage point to 8.75 percent last January. Comment: Got that? Higher tax rates resulting in less tax revenue collected. Past the top of the curve as we've been warning, which progs have consistently ridiculed.

Lead testing joins long list of unfunded mandates imposed on Illinois schools – Herald-Whig

Comment: Excellent piece on the primary underlying driver of excessive school costs -- dozens of unfunded mandates imposed over many years, which include pensions.

Illinois Farmers cautiously optimistic about new presidential administration – Illinois News Network

Farmers in Illinois are hoping that the new presidential administration will bring an economic boost to the agricultural industry and are speaking out on why the Trump administration makes them more optimistic about their future.

Reject plan for huge tax hikes – Editorial – Northwest Herald

"We’ve got to hand it to Senate leaders; they don’t discriminate. Their proposal is equally bad for middle class wage earners and business owners."

Cong. Luis Gutierrez: Trump has to earn my respect – CNN

"Donald Trump has to earn my respect, has to earn my being reciprocal," the Illinois lawmaker told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "When he spoke yesterday and said 'America First,' did he include me? Did he include my grandsons?"

Editorial: Courage, yes, but also tax, gambling increases in ‘grand bargain’ plan – Daily Herald

"We appreciate the political courage Cullerton and Radogno are displaying in putting the state's interests above their own, risking the political fallout from special interests and partisans." Comment: "Courage" my ass. They are responding to the political pressure to "do something." There's no courage in responding to that with a plan that solves little, and in fact would speed the exodus from the state.

Report: Illinois should allow cities to declare bankruptcy – Illinois News Network

Should Illinois give its cash-strapped cities permission to go bankrupt? One policy group says yes, but only if local politicians are taken out of the process.

Illinois Teachers’ Pension Chief Talks About its Problems – Belleville News-Democrat

Comment: Note in particular the Tier 2 problems described towards the end. Same issue applies to almost all other state and local pensions in Illinois. The Tier 2 mess alone is sufficient to tank the system eventually. It forces Tier 2 employees to subsidize the higher benefits for Tier 1, it doesn't provide for adequate retirement security for Tier 2s and it's at high risk of eventually running afoul of Social Security exemption rules. The problem is being ignored. Memo...

Governor extends tax incentive program – State Journal-Register

Rauner has signed a temporary extension of a corporate tax incentive program that has been criticized as expensive and too favorable to large businesses. The Republican's action on Friday extends through April the EDGE program - for Economic Development for a Growing Economy.

Illinois loses 16,700 jobs in face of new tax hike proposals – Illinois Policy

The state’s jobs crisis is spiraling out of control. The IDES report shows Illinois shed thousands of jobs across almost all sectors, with the largest losses coming in education and health services (-5,400); professional and business services (-3,600); and construction (-3,200). Manufacturing also continued a downward spiral in its labor force, dropping another 1,100 jobs on the month. And the Tale of Two States continues.

Grand bargain: Illinois citizens deserve better – Opinion – SaukValley.com

"It’s a stinker. It is no compromise. It’s an acquiescent deal that would leave fiscal conservatives groveling at the feet of the big spenders who got us in this mess in the first place."

The Illinois state senators who pledged not to raise taxes – Illinois Policy

As pressure mounts on state senators and representatives to vote in favor of multibillion-dollar tax hikes, lawmakers should remember the promises they’ve made to taxpayers.

Cullerton, Radogno want to make sure tax hike is ‘adequate’ – Daily Herald

Comment: The grapevine says they are actually looking to raise the personal income tax to 5.25%, contrary to their stated positions.

Analyst: Proposed Senate deal full of poison pills, could lead to further outbound migration – Illinois News Network

“Where in the business community or among taxpayers are you seeing any enthusiasm for this? It’s only Democrats and the media, which have been asleep at the switch on this crisis for year, who are cheering on this proposal.”

Editorial: Listen to Illinois Senate leaders and say uncle – Chicago Sun-Times

Comment: The Sun-Times doesn't have a shred of balance in its editorial and opinion pieces. And there's absolutely no way they know what all is in the extremely complex set of thirteen bills recently proposed by Cullerton and Radogno. Nobody does yet, except Cullerton.

Schakowsky: Trump’s hateful rhetoric will now live in White House – Illinois Review

Comment: Schakowsky and the rest of the Committee to Reelect Trump are already hard at work.

Illinois senators propose heavy income tax hike in the face of massive out-migration and wealth flight – Illinois Policy

The Illinois Senate’s proposed budget plan would raise the personal income tax rate to at least 4.95 percent with no real reforms to address the state’s skyrocketing debt and unsustainable spending. This proposal comes despite Illinois’ loss of $14 billion in annual income and hundreds of thousands of people in the wake of the 2011 income tax hike.

‘This is the greatest guy’: Trump and the former security guard from rural Illinois – The Washington Post

The former security guard from rural Illinois walked into a tent behind the Lincoln Memorial and gave a bear hug to the man who would soon become the most powerful leader in the world. “Hey, Donald Trump,” said Shane Bouvet, with all the casualness of a 24-year-old. The president-elect beamed back: “This is the greatest guy.”

Open the books on federal pensions – The Hill

What has a three-quarter billion-dollar unfunded liability, is manually calculated on paper inside a Pennsylvania mountain, and costs taxpayers more money annually than the entire state budget of Florida? Answer: Federal employee pensions. Even Illinois – where the state’s #1 manufactured product is corruption – has the courtesy to show taxpayers all of the gory details about pensions. The books are open on all 700,000 public retirees at every level of government.

Illinois taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to bail out politicians’ failures – Illinois Policy

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, and Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, have teamed up to bring back “compromise” to Illinois politics.

Nippon Sharyo announces 100 layoffs, despite $10 million in state subsidies and tax credits – Illinois Policy

Nippon Sharyo points to prototype difficulties and unspecified business concerns as the main reasons behind the layoffs.

Investors “Stunned” To Learn Hedge Funds Expense Bar Tabs, Private Jets, Trader Bonuses – Zero Hedge

"It's stunning to me to think you would pay more than 2 percent," said Marc Levine, chairman of the Illinois State Board of Investment, which has reduced its use of hedge funds. "That creates a huge hurdle to have the right alignment of interests." Comment: ISBI under Levine has done great work getting expenses under control for the money it manages.

Lisa Madigan alleges fraud at biggest student loan company – Associated Press

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office is suing the nation’s largest student loan company, alleging unfair and deceptive practices with lending and debt collection. The lawsuit filed Wednesday in Cook County seeks restitution and penalties. It names Navient Corp. and subsidiaries, including Sallie Mae Bank.

Much at risk for state union members – News-Gazette

AFSCME members will vote between Jan. 30 and Feb. 19 on the strike-authorization question. If a majority votes "yes," AFSCME's bargaining committee will have the option of calling for a walkout that could cripple state government functions across Illinois' 102 counties.

Illinois’ bailout bill for two Exelon power plants unique, unprecedented, needed more review, attorney says – Cook County Record

A Chicago lawyer who has advised industrial businesses and governments on energy-related issues for more than two decades said the 503-page bailout bill, which rewrote major provisions of both the Illinois Public Utilities Act and the Illinois Power Agency Act, should have received a more thorough review before becoming law.

Senate budget’s ‘work in progress’ includes filling $4.3B hole – Sun-Times

Comment: Across the board incompetence in how the media are reporting the deficit. The public is reading a fictional debate.

If it could, Illinois should declare bankruptcy – Madison – St. Clair Record

"Anyone got any better ideas?" And to be clear, put up or shut up. Be specific.

University of Illinois plans major enrollment growth, tuition freeze – Chicago Tribune

University of Illinois is rolling out an ambitious effort to boost enrollment by 15 percent over the next five years, growing the three campuses to more than 93,600 students. School leaders are aiming to add around 12,150 students by 2021, pinpointing increases in undergraduate programs at the Chicago campus, and graduate and online programs in Urbana-Champaign.

Illinois Crowdfunding Starting Strong in 2017 – Crowdfund Insider

Comment: If you're thinking about it, be careful. Most investors will never see their money again.

Illinois GOP congressmen ready to repeal “death tax” – Illinois News Network

I respectfully disagree on this. Fix it by raising the exemptions so small businesses and farmers aren't hurt, but keep it for ultrawealthy. A permanent aristocracy of unearned wealth is not what America is about.

Candidate Rauner And Governor Rauner Differ Over Union Strike – WRSP

When Governor Bruce Rauner was a candidate he said he might have to deal with a strike and shut down the government in order to get change. Now that he's in charge, the Governor says he hopes AFSCME doesn't go on strike.

How Illinois Violates Voting RIghts – American Thinker

Rule 4 has stolen the authority of the state governor to veto bills since the bills are vetoed by the speaker. The governor can only sign or pass bills passed, not by the two chambers of the state legislature, but only those that the Speaker of the House allows to appear for a vote.

Here’s why Moody’s is warning of an Illinois death spiral – Illinois Policy

Moody’s warns that Illinois’ weak economic growth and population loss are credit negative and that the state may be entering a financial death spiral.

Illinois edges toward recession, politicians propose multibillion-dollar tax hike – Illinois Policy

Despite declining tax revenues and warning signs of a possible recession, Illinois lawmakers in Springfield are mulling tax hikes.

The Dallas Pension Fiasco Is Just The Beginning – Zero Hedge

For cities, Chicago is likely to be the next Detroit with the city and its school system both showing signs of financial distress. Chicago is trying to stem the bleeding with a grab bag of tax and other revenue increases but in the long term this makes the overall position worse.

Policy group: Dick Durbin has cost consumers billions every year – Illinois News Network

According to a 2014 Federal Reserve Paper, large financial institutions lost an average of $14 billion every year due to the Durbin Amendment. Meanwhile, a paper by George Mason University estimates that, as a direct result of the Durbin Amendment “there will be a transfer of $1 billion to $3 billion annually from low-income households to large retailers and their shareholders.”

Reeder: Illinois lawmakers prepare to hike taxes on income and soda pop – Illinois Review

It’s a stinker. It is no compromise. It’s an acquiesce that would leave fiscal conservatives groveling at the feet of the big spenders who got us in this mess in the first place.

Rauner says sweeping Senate budget plan not fully baked – Chicago Tribune

"Well, it's frankly too early to do that on the Senate plan because it's not really baked," Rauner said during an appearance at Chicago State University. "They're negotiating, they're working, its fluid, and it's changing. … This is not done yet." Comment: This deal stinks. It was negotiated by Christine Radogno, who has no idea what she is doing and gets eaten alive by John Cullerton. Most of Rauner's base will be furious if he accepts anything like this deal.

Corporate income tax hike would give Illinois the fourth highest rate in the country – Illinois News Network

As part of a compromise to get pro-growth reforms and a balanced budget, state senators filed legislation that would increase the corporate rate from 5.25 percent to 7 percent.

Couple makes “get out of Illinois” website to help people looking to flee state – Illinois News Network

They’re not preaching to a small choir either. According to a recent poll by the Paul Simon Institute for Public Policy at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, almost half of the thousand Illinoisans they asked would leave Illinois if they could.

Rockford Mayor Op-Ed: State reforms critical to fixing city budgets – Rockford Register Star

"If you are upset about your property tax bill, then support the governor's efforts to reform the collective bargaining and pension systems that drive our expenses. Contrary to the propaganda promoted by the opposition, the governor's reforms are about protecting working families who pay our taxes."

Illinois residents could face sticker shock over beverage tax proposal – Madison – St. Clair Record

If approved by the Illinois General Assembly and signed into law, Senate Bill 9 would sharply raise the price consumers pay for packaged sodas, syrup-based coffee drinks and tea. “This is certainly taxes on top of taxes. With more than five existing state and local taxes, a new state penny-per-ounce tax would impose 68 cents in new taxes on a typical 99-cent two-liter bottle – a 68 percent tax rate. Then state and local sales taxes must be added. In...

‘Grand bargain’ on Illinois budget could be key to school funding reform, lawmakers say – The Southern

A plan hasn’t been unveiled yet because a commission that Gov. Bruce Rauner convened this summer is still working out specifics."

Rockford Mayor’s View: Few options to balance city’s budget – Rockford Register Star

Comment: Towns and cities across Illinois are dealing with the same bad options. And most don't have a mayor as superb as Larry Morrissey.

The spiraling of Illinois’ fisheries division: Beyond a challenge – Sun-Times

Comment: Note how the author blames even this on Rauner. Everything associated with Illinois' insolvency is his fault to these goofballs at the Sun-Times.

Illinois Democrats denounce GOP plan to repeal Obamacare – Sun-Times

Comment: Pass a law that all sides agree is fundamentally broken, offer no solution, then bitch about those trying to find a solution.

Muni bonds aren’t risk-free anymore – MarketWatch

The Dallas debacle follows a series of disturbing credit problems plaguing U.S. municipalities.... And now there are mounting concerns over Chicago’s finances and Illinois’s debt burden.

The #1 Trend For Planning – Demographics – And Why People Are Fleeing Illinois – Forbes

"Growth is sublime, decline is disastrous." Great article on why it's essential we stop the hemorrhaging.

Support for ‘block granting’ food stamps continues to grow – Sangamon Sun

Under President Barack Obama, food stamp usage expanded by 60 percent nationally and especially in Illinois. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, over 1 million Illinois households -- more than one in five -- now receive food stamps, which amount to $357 per month for a family of two, or $649 per month for a family of four. GOP leaders in Congress would prefer "block granting" funding for the program to states, whose leaders could then design their own...

Kentucky’s right-to-work legislation could take toll on Southern Illinois economy – Dupage Policy Journal

With such legislation already law in neighboring states including Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin, and set to pass in Missouri under a new Republican governor -- some are wondering what impact the latest prospective changes in Kentucky could have economically on the Southern Illinois region that borders the Bluegrass State.

University of Illinois to review diversity plan for vendors – Illinois

The changes would bring the targets in line with recent changes in Illinois' Business Enterprise for Minorities, Females and Persons with Disabilities Act. The new guidelines increased goals for businesses owned by minorities and women from 10 percent to 20 percent of total spending for construction projects, matching the 20 percent goal for non-construction contracts.

Illinois Senate vows swift action on ambitious budget plan – Sun-Times

Comment: This is looking more like a wish list for public unions and Democrats. The state would pick up the obligation for Chicago teachers' pension? And this is another sloppy article from the Associated Press. The pension debt number they cite is outdated, and they are using the phony budget deficit we described in our article linked here.

Cities, counties can’t enact right-to-work laws, trial judge says; Lincolnshire ordinance tossed – Cook County Record

Comment: But a successful appeal is likely. If our 7th Circuit appeals court agrees with this trial judge, it would be in conflict with a recent ruling from the 6th Circuit. That means the case is likely to go to the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve the difference. With a new Trump appointee in place by then, tipping the balance of the Court conservatively, this trial court ruling probably won't survive.

Another thing Amazon delivers: jobs – Crain’s

In the past two years, the company has opened five fulfillment centers in Joliet, Romeoville and downstate Edwardsville, and announced four more under construction: two in Aurora, one in Waukegan and another in Monee, 35 miles south of Chicago. Once they're complete later this year, Amazon says, the sites will employ 7,000 full-timers. That doesn't count hundreds of employees at two smaller warehouses within the city—one on Goose Island on the North Side and the other in the South...

Jim Nowlan: ‘Rome is burning’ while lawmakers fiddle – JournalDaily

"Even if all the above, excruciating cuts are made, I don't see the total adding up to anything close to the $8 billion or so needed (a $13 billion gap at present between spending and revenue, minus say $5 billion in new revenues) to stabilize the fiscal situation." Comment: Our view is that even those numbers are a bit optimistic. The real hole to fill is probably a couple billion more.

Illinois to receive $19.5 million in Moody’s ratings settlement – Sun-Times

Illinois will receive $19.5 million from Moody’s Investors Service to resolve a federal investigation into its ratings of mortgage securities leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. The credit rating firm agreed to pay $864 million to settle with the U.S. Justice Department and 21 states that accused the company of inflating ratings on risky mortgage securities and contributing to the economic collapse.

Rail union rejects agreement on Second Chance jobs program for felons – Chicago Tribune

The union representing CTA rail workers voted against an extension of a jobs program for felons, which could result in the loss of jobs for 63 people, CTA officials said Friday.

Illinois Tax Dollars Used Against Illinois Taxpayers – CBS Chicago

Taxpayers were billed to lobby against a bill affecting school children in districts with consistently bad academic records. It would allow the state Board of Education to replace the school board members. But taxpayers were also paying for lobbyists from the Illinois Association of School Boards to oppose the same bill. In effect, they were paying twice for the same service. The bill was introduced by state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago.  

Lawmaker proposes statewide ‘zombie preparedness month’ – Illinois Policy

"The language in this bill demonstrates insensitivity and a lack of seriousness on the part of lawmakers."

Justice Department and State Partners Secure Nearly $864 Million Settlement With Moody’s Arising From Conduct in the Lead up to the Financial Crisis – Department of Justice

Comment: This is the other part of the bind rating agencies are in. On one hand you have fear of this, which encourages conservatism, but on the other hand you have Rahm and many others like him bullying for rosier ratings.

State of Illinois Economic Forecast – Moody’s Analytics and COGFA

A comprehensive look at the state's economy by Moody's and Illinois' Commission on Governmental Forecasting and Accountability.

AFSCME union members to vote on strike authorization in Illinois – Associated Press

The largest public-employee union in Illinois will ask its members this month whether they’d support a strike in a contract dispute with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration.

Rauner on 2-Year Anniversary: ‘I Will Never Give Up’ – WTTW

Comment: Like him or not, either Rauner somehow succeeds or Illinois fails with him. Nothing is clearer.

Kankakee Valley Park District’s desparate bond offering – Daily-Journal

Comment: 9% interest rate. Borrowing to cover payroll is desperation.

Insurers Object to Workers’ Comp Reform Proposal in Illinois – Insurance Journal

Insurance industry lobbying groups are speaking out against a proposed amendment to an Illinois statute that would give insurance regulators in that state more control over workers’ compensation rates.

$4.25M deal ends litigation vs Northern Trust over ‘hundreds of millions’ in losses for public pensions – Cook County Record

The settlement would draw to a close a class action lawsuit brought against Chicago-based Northern Trust on behalf of retirement plans across the country who participated in a so-called “securities lending program” administered by Northern Trust.

When Cities Are at the Financial Brink: The Case for “Intervention Bankruptcy” – Manhattan Institute

Recent experience of some bankrupt cities, as well as much legal scholarship, casts doubt on the effectiveness of municipal bankruptcy. To strengthen government’s ability to address municipal insolvency, this report argues that federal bankruptcy and state intervention, which are often posed as alternative approaches, should be combined. We call this approach “intervention bankruptcy.

Ralph Martire: Freezing property taxes won’t solve Illinois’ education funding problems – State Journal-Register

The author is from the CTBA. Comment: A property tax freeze is not intended to solve the school funding problem (insofar as there is one). It's purposes are to head off a collapse and contain what has become an immoral seizure of many hundreds of thousands of Illinoisan's life savings, as we recently wrote. Actually, come to think of it, maybe letting property taxes continue to rise would solve the school funding issue. Nobody will be here to go to...

WirePoints Illinois News founder calls for change that would allow state to file bankruptcy – Madison – St. Clair Record

If that sounds too drastic, remember that it was also said by William Isaac, former head of the FDIC, a Democrat and a leading national expert on insolvency.

Editorial: Big guns coming out against unfair gerrymandering – Sun-Times

A major new effort is being launched on a national level to end gerrymandering, which is the practice of state legislatures drawing voting district boundaries to guarantee election results in their favor. But the national effort seems somewhat focused on the evils of gerrymandering by Republicans.

Madigan’s economic agenda is not aggressive and it’s not reform – Illinois Policy

The newly re-elected House speaker is pushing a new tax on businesses, an increase to the minimum wage and more spending, while doing nothing to address salient problems such as workers’ compensation and pension debt. Comment: Madigan is the master of passing fake policy that the press and voters fall for. We'll have to see how his proposals really develop.

Same as ever: Madigan re-elected House speaker with only one holdout – Editorial – Chicago Tribune

"A vote for him as speaker is a vote for his authoritarian rule book. Democrats said yes to that, again."

Illinois’ 2015-2016 out-migration problem is much more dire than in other Midwestern states – Illinois Policy

Half of Midwest out-migration losses are coming from Illinois, making it the only shrinking state in the region.

UI tuition freeze welcome – Opinion – News-Gazette

It wasn't all that long ago that the University of Illinois was raising tuition every year. But times have changed.

Property tax freeze faces opposition – Illinois News Network

Lawmakers in Springfield are looking at a property tax freeze in the lame duck legislative session, but there’s plenty of opposition. A number of state lawmakers, not to mention local governments across the state, don’t want to see a cap on automatic property tax increases.

Venture Capital Investment in Illinois in 2016 – Chicago Inno

Venture capitalists invested $1.04 billion across 128 deals in Illinois in 2016, the third straight year the state has recorded over a billion in VC, according to the recent MoneyTree Report from PwC and CB Insights. However, total investment dollars were down year-over-year, behind 2015's $1.11 billion and 2014's $1.34 billion.

The unsung heroes of Illinois – Washington Times

Perhaps the most long-lasting effect of the investigative work done by John Kraft and Kirk Allen with Edgar County Watchdogs isn’t the more than 200 officials they’ve chased out of office, but the viral impact they’ve had. Others in Illinois have formed their own groups in Illinois to combat waste, fraud and abuse by public officials, including a coalition in Morgan County that has managed to bust several bureaucrats there.

Madigan re-elected speaker for 17th time, lays out Democratic economic agenda – Chicago Tribune

Democratic Speaker Michael Madigan won a record 17th term as the leader of the Illinois House on Wednesday. Every House Democrat voted for him. Every House Democrat voted for him. Another day of infamy for these miserable cockroaches who destroyed the state.

Springfield remembers Obama as ‘a Chicago guy … an Illinois guy’ – Sun-Times

Comment: These glowing comments aren't in accord with five or so people I know who worked with Obama when he was in Springfield. Summarized, they say he was a nice guy but a do-nothing. An over-rated empty suit who gave nice speeches but accomplished nothing. And he was clearly a cog in The Machine, which he never took on, so the headline on this story has some ironic truth.

No-budget Illinois General Assembly ends 2-year run – Gatehouse

The 99th edition of the Illinois General Assembly came to an end Tuesday without lawmakers ever approving a permanent budget during its two-year run, a first in the state's history. The two-day lame-duck session came to a conclusion with the legislature passing a few bills to Gov. Bruce Rauner, but with no action on any of the contentious issues that have resulted in the gridlock that has gripped the state.

Illinois Senate budget plan includes $5 billion in tax hikes, $7 billion in borrowing, Chicago casinos – Illinois Policy

The new budget plan coming out of the Illinois Senate does little to nothing to reform the state’s reckless spending and financial mismanagement, but does plenty to hurt state taxpayers.

Supporters of property-tax freeze see House passage as a good sign – Northwest Herald

Needs a close look to see if it's full of holes.

Controversial tax credit elicits mixed responses from Illinois leadership, businesses – Illinois News Network

The controversial Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) tax credit for select Illinois businesses could be extended beyond its expiration if the governor signs on, but opponents say there’s no way to determine the program’s success.

The process and challenges of filling 4,000 positions for a new president

What does this have to do with Illinois? Nothing. Just shameless promotion of a piece by my brother that I think is interesting and educational.

Massive tax hike in “grand compromise” would be a disaster, IL state rep says – Illinois Review

Not all lawmakers agree with the "grand bargain," including State Rep. David McSweeney (R-Barrington) who remains solidly opposed to any income tax hike. "I'm totally opposed to raising taxes," McSweeney told Illinois Review Monday. "Raising the income tax rate by 32 percent would kill jobs and hurt families. We need to cut spending, not raise taxes."

Illinois Senate Tries to Break Budget Logjam – The Bond Buyer

Comment: Great summary of the facts by Yvette Shields.  As far as the merits, it's not "grand" and it's not a "bargain."

Shimkus to chair committee set to rein in EPA and anti-coal regs – Illinois Review

Illinois Congressman John Shimkus (R-15) announced Monday that he will be leading the House's Environment Subcommittee for another six-year term. The subcommittee - a part of the House Energy and Commerce Committee - oversees the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and will now have jurisdiction over the Clean Air Act in addition.

Illinois Senate introduces budget deal

This story is being updated regularly.

Only Organized Labor Can Save Illinois from Crisis – In These Times

Comment: Remember as you read this that you're helping pay this guy's salary and pension -- a philosophy professor at a public university promoting a financial transactions tax and sharing other economic wisdom.

The ‘Pension Palace’ For Illinois Lawmakers 2016 – Forbes

Illinois lawmakers have one of the sweetest retirement deals on planet earth. It’s supposed to be a ‘part-time’ job in the general assembly, but now taxpayer funded legislator pension costs exceed most base salaries. Last year, taxpayers paid a whopping $71,818 per legislator ($15.8 million in FY2015) to fund their ‘golden parachute’ retirement plans.

State Senate looks ahead with minimum wage, tax and casino plan – Sun-Times

Both the House and Senate are in session this week for the-lame duck session, with the odds of either side coming together to approve a budget looking slim. Even if the Senate adopts a budget plan — something that looked possible Monday — there’s no time to push it to the House and on to Gov. Bruce Rauner for his signature.

Key numbers in the Illinois budget stalemate [not] – Associated Press

Comment: The $5.3 billion deficit number cited here and many other stories is pure crap. The true deficit is roughly three times that. We'll be writing more about this shortly.

Kentucky legislature votes to become nation’s 27th Right-to-Work state – Illinois Policy

Right-to-Work will now be guaranteed by law across every Illinois border except Missouri’s. In recent years Indiana (2012), Michigan (2013), Wisconsin (2015) and now Kentucky have passed Right-to-Work laws. And the Show Me State likely will soon follow suit and enact its own Right-to-Work legislation.

Why Does IL Attorney General Lisa Madigan Refuse To Prosecute Public Corruption? – Forbes

She’s allowed felons to serve in municipal office; out-of-towners to serve as city alderman; many politicians to hold multiple – and conflicting – offices; a junior college to award more than $4 million in compensation to its president without a lawful board vote; and much more. "Why"? Lemme guess.

Illinois lawmakers reconvene Monday to finish term marked by – A.P.

Lawmakers return to Springfield on Monday for a two-day lame-duck session. That’s traditionally a time when outgoing legislators can help push through controversial measures, such as a temporary income tax increase that was approved in 2011 and has since partially rolled back.

Seeking a coup d’etat against the King of Illinois – Editorial – Belleville News-Democrat

Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan’s control of legislation is unparallelled in the nation. On Wednesday lawmakers will decide whether to continue his reign. Even if they pick someone else, reducing the concentration of power will take longer.

Valerie Jarrett Interested in running for governor or Chicago mayor – The Daily Line

Is there no end to the punishment Illinois has to endure? She'd probably make Tehran a sister city of Chicago. If she got elected, people wouldn't just leave, they'd enlist for battle against us.

State cuts blamed for Springfield hotel occupancy rates at four-year low – State Journal-Register

Workshops and training seminars have been eliminated and, when the state does book local hotel rooms, bills go unpaid for months. At least one hotel project that was announced last fall has been put on hold until the market improves.

Senate budget deal brewing ahead of lame duck session – Sun-Times

Comment: It's being negotiated primarily by Democrat John Cullerton and Republican Christine Radogno. Cullerton has been running circles around Radogno for years. Among other problems, she simply doesn't understand the pension system.

In California, Luxurious Pensions Fuel Inequality – The American Interest

Comment: Easy to substitute "Illinois" for "California."

2 House Democrats boycott inauguration over Trump comments – Associated Press

"I could not look at my wife, my daughters or my grandson in the eye if I sat there and attended as if everything that candidate Donald Trump had said about women, Latinos, African-Americans, Muslims ... is OK or erased from my memory," Luis Gutierrez said in a statement Thursday. Memo to Mr. Gutierrez: Don't insult the guy who you'll be asking for money from.

Should Illinois hospitals have to pay property taxes? Court will weigh question – Chicago Tribune

A case set to go before the state Supreme Court on Thursday is challenging the law that allows Illinois' not-for-profit hospitals to skip paying property taxes. Those challenging the law say many not-for-profit hospitals enjoy hefty profits and should have to contribute to their communities, just like any other business. Hospitals, however, argue they provide valuable charitable care and use the exemptions to fulfill their communities' health care needs. Hundreds of millions of dollars — for hospitals, communities and taxpayers —...

Rauner implored to take tougher stance in battle with AFSCME – Lake County Gazette

“If he’s just playing the traditional game in the same way (as) less reform-minded, less transformational-inclined Republican governors in the past, like George Ryan, Jim Edgar and Jim Thompson…that doesn’t end well,” Proft said. Comment: Lots of Rauner supporters are concerned that his staff isn't up to the challenge, particularly on communication and messaging.

‘Elevator speech’ remains sore spot with Kennedy – McHenry Times

How about, "Ask not if I have the slightest idea what I am doing."

2 million Illinoisans struggle to put food on their tables – Illinois Policy

Recent data from the Illinois Department of Human Services show nearly 2 million Illinois residents need government assistance to put food on the table this holiday season, as the state continues to hemorrhage manufacturing jobs and other blue-collar opportunities. Each year’s end is a time for reflection.

Illinois EDGE jobs program could see new life – Chicago Tribune

Illinois' premier jobs program could see new life under an amendment filed Friday by an Illinois House Democrat. The amendment seeks to extend the EDGE program, short for Economic Development for a Growing Economy, through the end of April. The program, which provides tax breaks for companies that promise to create jobs in Illinois, expired Dec. 31.

How Illinois Senator Dick Durbin Costs Consumers Billions – Zero Hedge

"With all signs pointing to Dodd-Frank changes on the horizon, eliminating the Durbin Amendment should be a top priority. Fewer things would be a bigger win for the blue collar workers."  

‘Grand bargain’ to end state budget impasse in works – State Journal-Register

Comment: It doesn't look grand and it doesn't look like a bargain to us.

Rauner says he’s hopeful rumored budget deal will change broken system – Illinois News Network

Comment: The deal is rumored to include an increase in the personal income tax rate from the current 3.75% to 4.9%.

New law aimed at reducing Illinois’ teacher shortage – A.P.

Rauner signed a measure Friday that will make it easier for teachers who move to Illinois to transfer a teaching license, provided the state they move from has comparable licensing requirements.

Portents Of Bankruptcy — Pension Obligation Bonds – Burypensions

It is no coincidence that the worst funded public pension systems (NJ, IL, CT, PR) all tried the POB gambit not because it made any fiscal sense but because they chose not to look at immediately unpleasant alternatives (i.e. cutting benefits or affording honest contribution amounts).

Government pension reform since the financial crisis of 2007-2009 – Truth in Accounting

"The work I’ve done so far suggests, if anything, that risk exposures in public pension plans have risen, not diminished, since 2007."

Bringing back the bacon: Southern Illinois’ congressmen push for return of earmarks – The Southern

Decades ago, before pork-barrel spending became a pejorative term in American politics, earmarks helped build Southern Illinois. Today, this region's congressional representatives are advocating for their controversial return to the budgeting process in Washington.

Moody’s Says Illinois Population Losses a Drag on Credit Profile – Fidelity Investments

"A self-reinforcing cycle of population loss and economic stagnation could greatly complicate Illinois' efforts to stabilize its finances," Moody's warned. Translation: Death spiral.

GOP seeks uniformity on illegal immigrant student policies – Dupage Policy Journal

An Illinois legislator wants to see the state adopt a uniform, transparent and fiscally sound policy on the question of illegal immigrant students attending state universities.

Strong American dollar could affect Illinois farmers – Illinois News Network

Illinois Department of Agriculture numbers indicate that the state’s grain markets export more than $8 billion to other countries every year. Approximately 44 percent of the grain produced in Illinois is sold for export.

Illinois lost 150,000 university students from 2000-2014 – Illinois Policy

The state has also been unpopular with students since at least the start of the 21st century. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, Illinois likely lost more than 150,000 students, on net, to other states from 2000 to 2014.

Moving company study: Illinois No. 2 for most out-of-state moves – State Journal-Register

Of the state-to-state moves involving Illinois handled by suburban St. Louis-based United Van Lines in 2016, 62.9 percent of the moves were out of the state, while 37.1 percent were for moves into Illinois. The company said it handled 8,782 moves in Illinois last year, and 5,521 of them were for customers moving out of state. "Not as bad as New Jersey," as our friend Mary Pat Campbell likes to say.

Opinion: Why a budget won’t fix Illinois – Illinois News Network

“Just pass a budget already,” is a common refrain. But Illinoisans must first think about the state’s priorities. Comment: Exactly right. We said the same thing earlier in different words: "Kumbaya won't fix Illinois."

Madigan’s rules: How Illinois gives its House speaker power to manipulate and control the legislative process – Illinois Policy

Democrats control both houses of the Illinois General Assembly. Though this majority will not be veto-proof in the 100th General Assembly, whose members will assume office in January 2017, it still allows Democratic politicians to easily pass their party’s legislation through the House and Senate – and to block any spending or economic reform Gov. Bruce Rauner proposes.

Costs for Illinois’ beef industry outpace returns – Illinois News Network

The outlook appears to be trending downward for Illinois’ cattle-producing economy, as farmers wrap up what will be likely their second straight year with costs outpacing revenues.

Cloudy Outlook For Springfield Economy Without State Budget – WRSP

State and city officials are saying Illinois’ budget crisis had a clear impact on Springfield’s economy.

Jim Dey: Budget standoff rages on – News-Gazette

Comment: A nice summary of the the standoff status.

Mandate appetite keeps growing – News-Gazette

"It's the hairdressers today. Who will it be tomorrow?"

A Detroit Recovery Still Shaky Two Years After Bankruptcy Exit – Fidelity Investments

Because, even with revised numbers used in the bankruptcy and with cuts made, defined benefit pension costs were underestimated.

20 local governments raise sales tax in Illinois – Illinois Policy

Effective Jan. 1, 20 Illinois cities and local governments increased local sales taxes, according to the Illinois Department of Revenue.

Most public pensions have made reforms since financial crisis – Center for Retirement Research

Nearly three-quarters of state plans and over half of local plans have made some kind of pension reform since 2009. Moreover, nearly one-quarter of plans have made changes that impact current employees. The most common change is to increase employee contributions, but reductions in COLAs and pushing out the age and tenure eligibility for retirement have been used as well. Comment: But not you-know-who.

The Rise of a Bipartisan Tax Break for the Working Poor – Governing

Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia offer a percentage match to federal earned income tax credit program. They include Illinois, which offers a 10% match.

Incoming Missouri governor, an Illinois native, prepares for pro-growth reforms – Illinois News Network

For Illinoisans not willing to wait for reforms, Christofanelli has a message: “We’ve built a couple of beautiful bridges from Illinois to Missouri. You can just pack up your stuff.... We’ve got a lot of very nice houses, safe communities and good schools. I encourage everyone to just come on out.”

Illinoisans need to change voting habits to get off Judicial Hellholes list, spokesman says – Cook County Record

Illinois citizens - and particularly those living in Cook, Madison and St. Clair counties - need to change their voting habits to reduce the problems that landed them near the top of American Tort Reform Association's most recent "Judicial Hellholes" list, an ATRA spokesman said.

State Report Says Illinois Spending Could Exceed Tax Revenue By $13 Billion – WNIJ and WNIU

Comment: Catastrophic. We'll be writing more on this shortly.

Presidential seal on partisan maps – Editorial – News-Gazette

President Barack Obama has sounded high-minded when he has talked about reforming how state legislatures draw political maps. But he's working for Madigan-like maps across the country.

New jobs program available for SNAP recipients – Illinois News Network

A pilot program the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) and Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) is meant to provide job training for people who receive government food assistance, in order to help them become more self-sufficient and less reliant food stamps.

Illinois loses political clout as population declines – Herald-Whig

The loss of an estimated 37,508 people between July 1, 2015, and July 1, 2016, is a big concern in its own right. It will be an even bigger deal when the state loses one seat in Congress during the next national reapportionment. One political analyst thinks the state might even lose two seats.

Illinois enters 2017 with no state budget – State Journal-Register

Some questions and answers regarding the state of the state's struggling finances.

Illinois held ‘auction’ of residents while closing facility – A.P.

Home operators were required to pledge in writing not to talk about what the state was doing or they'd get no patient referrals. Read the entire Tribune piece about this if you can access it.

Illinois pig numbers rise – AgriNews

More details in pension database linked here.