Wednesday, July 26, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ranking Illinois – Chicago Tribune

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyone care about costs? – Editorial – News-Gazette

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

Federal lunch changes maybe not enough for Illinois school – INN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Property tax freeze opposition is premature – Editorial – QC Online

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Southern Illinois’ wide range of property taxes – Illinois Policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nearly 170 Professors to Strike at U of Illinois-Springfield – A.P.

At issue are reappointment, tenure, and promotions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No certainty on on budget, economic reforms in final few weeks of session – INN

Lawmakers have until the end of the month to pass a balanced, full year’s spending plan with simple majorities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Powerful pols got in on illegal state hiring scheme – News-Gazette.com

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

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

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

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

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

Illinois Equal Pay Act Goes To Senate – Peoria Public Radio

It received support from both sides of the aisle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Budget fury boils over in town hall – IllinoisHomepage

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

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

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

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

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

Suburban Mayors Band Together Against Property Tax Freeze – Associated Press

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

Federal investigation exposes Madigan patronage – Illinois Policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illinois Title 1 reform for schools inches forward – Rockford RegisterStar

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

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

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

Clueless In Springfield – Ignoring Legislative Costs – Wandtv.com

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

Rauner Gives Illinois a Grade A – WTTW

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

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

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

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

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

Illinois governor seeks to oust improperly hired employees – Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illinois universities’ credit descends into junk territory – Illinois Policy

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

Familiar Theme in Work Comp Report – WBGZ

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

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

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

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

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

Illinois trails national average – News-Gazette

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

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

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

Illinois foreclosure rates among worst – JournalCourier

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

Illinois lawmakers return to unresolved issues – JournalStar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Independent grocery store workers seek union decertification – INN

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

Cairo IL searching for its hero – Opinion – The Southern

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

Solar interest shines on Illinois farmland – Iowa Farmer Today

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

Chicago home sales come roaring back in March – Chicago Tribune

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

Warehouse Boom Creates Temp Worker Problems – WNIJ and WNIU

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

Illinois is losing its core income tax base – Illinois Policy

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

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

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

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

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

Illinois’ Financial Grade: F — Audio – Upstream Ideas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comment: Solid advice from Terry Savage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Southern Illinois County Suing Manufacturers Of Opioid Painkillers – WBEZ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Several industries ask state lawmakers for tax carve outs – INN

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

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

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

Scott Stantis Cartoon

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

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

Ever downward – News-Gazette

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transform Illinois Coalition Pushes Ahead on Government Consolidation

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

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

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

15 southern Illinois counties drop in population – Illinois Policy

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

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

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

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

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

Krug: Batting below the Mendoza line – Opinion – INN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House bill would regulate ‘trampoline safety’ – Illinois Policy

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

Several industries ask state lawmakers for tax carve outs – INN

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

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

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

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

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

Failure across the board – Editorial – News-Gazette

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

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

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

Rock Island looks at police, fire pension obligations – QCOnline

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

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

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

Puerto Rico union sues to block pension cuts – ABC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Puerto Rico seen sliding toward bankruptcy as deadline nears – Reuters

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

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

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

Lawmakers use ‘shell’ bills to avoid accountability – INN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Education reform? – News-Gazette

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

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

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

Don’t Mess Around With Government Pensions – Bloomberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The shrinking Metro East – Illinois Policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barely 18 and elected to a Lake County school board – Daily Herald

Comment: A fantastic young guy who is better informed than 95% of people in government, in my opinion as somebody who knows him.

The latest budget proposal for Illinois: A no-tax-hike plan – Illinois Policy | Illinois’ comeback story starts here

State Sens. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, and Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, released a plan April 4 called the “Taxpayer Bargain,” which relies on spending reforms to close the current budget gap. The Taxpayer Bargain calls for a balanced budget and a spending cap with no new taxes or tax increases.

‘First step’ to budgeting, revenue estimate, not coming, finance committee chair says – INN

“It would tie our hands in a way that if we had to do a revenue increase, at some point I think members would say, ‘whoa, whoa, whoa, we just resolved to live by this resolution, what are you doing raising taxes?’,” he said. “So to the extent people have come to grips with the fact that at some point there’s going to be a revenue increase, a revenue resolution at this point doesn’t make a heck of a...

An Illinois city just stepped into the war against big pharma over drug pricing – Business Insider

Rockford, Illinois, is suing Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals over the price of one of the company's blockbuster drugs.

Property tax relief bill described as stunt, not solution – Dupage Policy Journal

“Your bill essentially is protecting only one certain type of property owner to the detriment of all others to the detriment of commercial property owners as well.... When you do this … when you squeeze the bubble on one side, there is no protection for the folks who have to pay up on the other side."

Democrats tout their agenda – News-Gazette

"It's definitely a plan. But it's more than that — a liberal wish list that presupposes unlimited tax revenues to support hugely ambitious social welfare spending."

Lawmakers blame pensions for forcing Illinois school lawsuit – INN

More than a dozen downstate school districts are suing the state of Illinois over late or missing payments. But a handful of lawmakers say don't blame the lack of a state budget, blame Illinois' pension debt.

Want to see how America is changing? Property taxes hold the answer – MarketWatch

Comment: "The wrong side of the Laffer Curve." If you don't know what that means, you should. That's how we've been putting it here for a long time.

Armed Robbery Case Exposes Flaw in Chicago Park District Hiring | Chicago Tonight – WTTW

The findings expose a flaw in the Park District’s hiring practices that has resulted in employees with undisclosed felony convictions – and in at least one case, convictions for violent crimes – working near children, or potentially even with children.

States Warned of ‘Profound Shift’ in Finances, Hurting in Illinois and More – Governing

Some states might soon be facing a come to Jesus moment. That was the sobering message this week from a senior analyst at S&P Global Ratings, who warned that a “profound shift” is occurring in state finances pressured by pension debt, slow revenue growth and demographic changes.

Illinois employers announce more than 2,500 mass layoffs – Illinois Policy

Numbers from the March WARN report show that employers in Illinois across various industries laid off 2,573 workers; 267 of the layoffs were in manufacturing.

Illinois House approves new stopgap budget plan – A.P.

The House voted 64-45 Thursday to authorize spending $817 million that is sitting in special funds during a two-yearlong budget holdup. Comment: Stupid to call this a "budget." It's just a one-time appropriation from cash on hand that's roughly one-thirtieth of what a budget would cover.

Downstate business owners concerned with potential $15-an-hour minimum wage – INN

Communities downstate would see a massive shift in their economy. Les O'Dell, executive Director of the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce, says it would shutter businesses and cost countless jobs since the cost of living is so much lower downstate. "Our business owners simply cannot afford $15 an hour. They would just eliminate positions to make up for the higher cost of the employees that they still have," he said. "People from Chicago don't understand that the cost of living is...

Rockford lawsuit: Pharmaceutical gouged city for drug used to treat babies – Rockford Register Star

City officials today filed a federal lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company they say cornered the market of a specialty drug and then jacked up the prices, forcing the city to pay exorbitant amounts to treat babies suffering from a rare seizure disorder. The drug wound up costing taxpayers an estimated $500,000 to treat two infants. Rockford is suing to recover those “inflated drug payments,” asking a judge to force the pharmaceutical to set a “fair and reasonable price” for the...

Rahm Emanuel gears up for a modern-day Brown v. Board – The Washington Post

Though the problems behind the case were made in Illinois, its implications are national. The defendant is the state government, for allegedly sending a disproportionate share of its annual $10.6 billion in education aid to mostly white school systems outside of Chicago, whose students are 88 percent black, Hispanic or Asian. That’s “separate and unequal,” the lawsuit claims, in violation of state civil rights law. Comment: Chicago will lose on the facts, which are that, even adjusting for the double...

Illinois Threatens to Sue Trump Administration Over Energy Rules – WTTW

Madigan and nine other attorneys general filed a notice that they are prepared to sue within 60 days if the federal government fails to implement updated standards for ceiling fans, air conditioners and other consumer and commercial products.

Illinois House proposes ‘privilege tax’ on investment managers – Illinois Policy

The Chicago Teachers Union now has a lobbying effort going to support this moronic idea, which we wrote about earlier.

Berg: llinois’ employment drought and the oases next door – Opinion – INN

What happens when there’s no opportunity? People pack up and search elsewhere. Multiple different data sources – including the Bureau of Labor Statistics, IRS and Census Bureau – show the parade of Illinoisans leaving to other states is led by working-age adults, not retired snowbirds.

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

Comment: Good article, but you gotta laugh at this as it relates to IL: "States continue to benefit from certain inherent advantages that result in mostly high credit ratings. Among these are self-imposed controls against financial excess, such as balanced-budget requirements and limits on borrowing." We have zero restraint and unbalanced budgets have been stuffed into pensions for many years.

Rauner-AFSCME ‘hot potato’ stuck in limbo – News-Gazette

The Illinois Supreme Court earlier this week declined to get involved with a state management/labor contract dispute, a decision that paves the way for nothing much to happen for nearly two years. "It's in limbo now," said Michael LeRoy, a professor at the University of Illinois Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations.

Why private universities should — like the rest of us — pay property taxes – Opinion – Chicago Tribune

The property tax exemption is so generous that it even covers real estate owned by the Big Ten Conference. Yet the Big Ten is not a university. It is not a school of any kind. It's an organization formed by universities that uses its property to administer intercollegiate sports programs.

Voters take baby steps to shrink Illinois government. Only a few thousand fiefdoms to go – Editorial – Chicago Tribune

Lost in the spend-vs.-save highlights are a handful of referendum questions on government consolidation. No, voters didn't wipe townships off the map or downsize Illinois' 860 or so school districts. But there were baby steps to celebrate.

Democrats start moving stopgap state budget despite clear hurdles – Chicago Tribune

llinois House Democrats on Wednesday advanced a plan to rush more than $815 million to state universities and social service providers, but that money might not arrive anytime soon because Gov. Bruce Rauner criticized the proposal and Senate Democrats still are working on their own plan.

Illinois Senate committee OKs immigrant protections – Associated Press

The plan by Senate President John Cullerton would require federal immigration authorities to have a criminal warrant to enter schools or clinics in search of immigrants in the U.S. illegally. And it would bar local police from cooperating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials unless a valid warrant is involved.

Senators offer up ‘taxpayers bargain’ featuring cuts, reforms and no tax increases – INN

Two Republican Illinois senators said Tuesday that, while it won’t be pretty, it is possible to get state government out of its fiscal mess without raising taxes.

Illinois universities: Administrative costs too complicated to measure – INN

Comment: If a CEO said these kinds of thing on an earnings conference call, he'd be laughed off and his stock would plummet.

Workers’ compensation estimated to cost Illinois taxpayers nearly $1 billion per year – Illinois Policy

Two Republican Illinois senators said Tuesday that, while it won’t be pretty, it is possible to get state government out of its fiscal mess without raising taxes.

Downstate schools sue Gov. Bruce Rauner over funding – Chicago Tribune

A coalition of 17 downstate school districts say they filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Gov. Bruce Rauner and his administration, contending the state has failed to provide enough money to deliver a "high quality" education for students. The suit against Rauner and the Illinois State Board of Education argues that Illinois' reliance on local property taxes to pay for schools creates a disparity in poorer communities where districts have less of a tax base to rely on. That makes it...

State of IL Tax Revenue for March: Modest Gain on Mixed Results – COGFA

But year-to-date revenue is still off badly: "Through the first three-fourths of the fiscal year, base receipts are off $1.315 billion, or 5.9%. Weakness is widespread, and resulted in year-over -year losses in key areas such as income taxes and federal sources."

In Illinois, a Push to Create a Distressed Local Government Authority – The Bond Buyer

Distressed local governments struggling under the weight of pension, healthcare, and other debts could turn to a special authority for fiscal guidance under legislation before Illinois lawmakers. Comment: For Chicago and many of the worst off municipalities, it's far too late for this. Only bankruptcy has the power to cut debt, not this authority.

U.S. Appellate Court in Chicago: Civil Rights law prohibits discrimination of LGBT – Associated Press

A federal appeals court ruled for the first time Tuesday that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects LGBT employees from workplace discrimination, setting up a likely battle before the Supreme Court as gay rights advocates push to broaden the scope of the 53-year-old law.

Lawsuit says bars, restaurants should make more off video gambling – Chicago Sun-Times

A Cicero restaurant brought in more than $845,000 from video gaming machines last year but took home just $295,000 after taxes and handing over 50 percent of profits to video gaming operators — a small business profit former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb is trying to recoup.

Judge: Mentally Ill Inmates’ Care Burdens Illinois Jails A.P.

A McLean County judge says delays in placing mentally ill inmates in state hospitals shift the burden for their care to county jails and deny defendants their right to a timely psychiatric evaluation.

Duckworth, Durbin to oppose Gorsuch Supreme Court nomination – Chicago Sun-Times

In announcing her no vote on Thursday, Duckworth noted that Gorsuch never met with her to discuss his confirmation. Comment: Days of hearings apparently not enough; personal meetings with all 100 senators required.

Alarms Sound About Illinois Ratings – The Bond Buyer

Alarms are rising about Illinois' dismal ratings and a possible fall to junk unless it resolves a nearly two-year-old budget impasse.

Shared fire services in Palatine, Rolling Meadows reduces cost of government – INN

With the state’s deficit spending on autopilot because of the 21-month-long budget standoff in Springfield, Illinois’ backlog of bills is climbing toward $13 billion.

Collateral damage – News-Gazette

When the financial wheels of state government come off, bad things happen.

Farmland prices dip up to 12 percent in Illinois – INN

Commodity prices have been on the decline since 2013, and it’s part of a domino effect that is impacting farmers across the state.

With insulting 2-week vacation coming, lawmakers should do no harm this week – Opinion – INN

When Illinois lawmakers return to session Tuesday, they'll have four days of work to try and get closer to passing a balanced budget. Then it's off for two consecutive weeks for Easter/Passover break.

More Illinois residents streaming into Indiana – Northwest Indiana News

More than 34,220 Illinois resident decamped across the state line to Indiana in 2015, the most recent year for which data was available, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

Why are Illinois Democrats preparing to bail out bankers and cash-strapped local governments? – Illinois Policy

Bailout bills moving in the Illinois General Assembly would attempt to turn Illinois’ massive debt problems into guaranteed profits for banks and bondholders and a lower standard of living for other Illinoisans. Comment: This is a must-read -- not because I'm quoted but because it catalogs some insane pending legislation.

llinois budget feud deals ‘unconscionable’ blow to police, fire widows – Reuters

Illinois owes a group of women whose police officer and firefighter husbands died in the line of duty more than $351,000 apiece for their losses, but the state’s chronic inability to pass a budget has left all of them unpaid like thousands of state vendors.

Responsible Budget Coalition lists human costs of budget inaction

Comment: True enough, but what’s not shown is what nobody ever shows: A balanced budget with a survivable tax increase that will fix these things. There’s not one to be had.

Wisconsin and Indiana hit new all-time highs for number of people working – Illinois Policy

Illinois had 350,000 more people working in the state than in Indiana and Wisconsin combined just 10 years ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But today fewer people are working in Illinois than in Indiana and Wisconsin combined.

A high-tech Illinois? We’ve got some obstacles in Peoria – JournalStar

Can Illinois become the Silicon Valley of the Midwest, as Gov. Bruce Rauner would like to see? Perhaps. If it happens, what does that mean for the Peoria area? Hard to say.  

Gov. Rauner’s ‘superstar’ team runs into political reality – Chicago Tribune

Comment: This article focuses on people long gone, though Rauner indeed has a problem with lousy staff.  

Cullerton at college event: Support for redistricting reform; pension reform hard because unions opposed | State Politics | ilnews.org

Comment: I think this is Cullerton BS. The pension bills will not reduce the unfunded pension liability (benefits already earned, where the union fat cats at the top have most at stake) by one penny. Further, the courts may well strike the whole thing down. Cullerton is pretending to be a pension reformer when he's in act doing the union's work, as he always does.

Let’s Make 80% Pension Fundedness Great Again – Stump

By actuary Mary Pat Campbel.

Debate on Puerto Rico fate heats up—in Springfield – Chicago Sun-Times

"It’s fine to maintain interest in the homeland. But Illinois, not unlike Puerto Rico or Greece, has plenty of financial problems of its own. Precious time in Springfield could be better focused on our severe local woes rather than old-world beefs."

Proposed laws seek sales tax parity for brick-and-mortar merchants – Pantagraph

In Illinois, Amazon and other e-commerce merchants are required to collect and remit the state's 6.25 percent sales tax under the state "e-fairness" law that went into effect in 2015.

What the Unemployment Drug-Testing Bill on Trump’s Desk Means for States – Governing

The president is expected to sign legislation that undoes an Obama-era regulation about who can be drug tested. States will likely get more say over the matter, but not just yet.

Illinois schools overspend on administrative expenses: study – Crain’s

llinois' 850 school districts—only two states have more—collectively spend more than $1 billion a year in administrative expenses, the most in the country by far. That's $518 per student—two times the national average of $210. New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin spend less than $400 per pupil, while California and Florida spend less than $100.

How Utah Keeps the American Dream Alive – Bloomberg View

Comment: If we want to get serious about lowering inequality and fostering upward mobility, Utah is a place to study.

How Chicago’s Largest Pension May Run Out Of Cash In As Little As 4 Years | Zero Hedge

"The risk associated with America's pension ponzi schemes have largely been overlooked by investors to date because so long as they can meet annual benefit payments then plan administrators can just continue to 'kick the can down the road' and pretend that nothing is wrong."

Senator: Illinois debt closer to $66,000 per person – INN

Comment: And he could have added on the unfunded healthcare liability for another $50 billion.

Moody’s warning of an “inflection point” in Illinois signals need for spending reforms – Illinois Policy

Illinois lawmakers should heed Moody’s Investors Service’s warnings about the state’s precarious economic health and dire fiscal situation and enact major structural spending reforms to balance the budget.

More plans than action on budget this week at statehouse – INN

Add a few other plans to the mix of ideas at the state capitol as lawmakers finish up another week without passing a budget.

Population Declines Accelerate in Many Large Urban Areas – Governing

The latest Census estimates show urban counties in the Northern U.S. and Midwest, in particular, are losing residents to the suburbs and Sun Belt.

Chicago Teachers Union seeks more negotiating power, strike authority in HB 1253 | Illinois Policy | Illinois’ comeback story starts here

While states surrounding Illinois are enacting labor reforms that benefit residents, Illinois remains a bastion of labor power. Now the Chicago Teachers Union wants even more power – including the broadened right to go on strike and strand parents and students.

Luxembourg’s ambassador sends letter to Illinois House leaders – Illinois Polic

Luxembourg’s ambassador to the United States has voiced objections to an Illinois House bill that would label Luxembourg a tax haven and subject corporations expatriated there to restrictions on investments and business dealings with the state of Illinois. Comment: With as many lawyers as there are in the General Assembly, you'd think perhaps they'd know that foreign affairs and foreign commerce powers under the U.S. Constitution are exclusively federal and the state has no business messing with this.

Krug: Establishing priorities differentiates ILNews.org – Opinion

"There were more than two dozen other original stories in which ILNews.org brought truth to light for Illinoisans – in real time, without rumor or innuendo – this past week." Comment: He's right. They're a great addition to our media.

Senate votes to kill city auto-IRA rules – Investment News

Five states — California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland and Oregon — have passed laws to set up these plans for private-sector workers. One of the central components of these programs is a mandate for employers of a certain size to offer a workplace retirement plan, either a private-sector option such as a 401(k) or the auto-IRA.

Senate Narrowly Passes Rollback of Obama-Era ‘Auto-I.R.A.’ Rule – The New York Times

The consequences of the Senate’s votes could be significant. The Labor Department rules were designed to give around 13 million people in  five states, including Illinois, access to retirement accounts, out of 55 million nationwide who lack employer-sanctioned retirement programs.

Leftist Illini ‘harass white men’ at College Republican event – Campus Reform

Leftist students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign showed that “punching fascists” was more than social media bluster by attacking a College Republicans event on campus.

One sweet payday for public officials – News-Gazette

After going seven months without a check, legislators represented by Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan's lawyer/consigliere Michael Kasper prevailed upon a Chicago judge to order they be paid, leapfrogging state vendors who are owed $12 billion-plus.

Uncertainty looms for Illinois companies affected by Brexit – Chicago Tribune

Illinois companies are already feeling it, warning stakeholders that negative effects could ripple in their direction.

Rauner to consolidate Human Rights Commission within department – Chicago Sun-Times

Rauner plans to sign an executive order on Friday to consolidate the Human Rights Commission into the state’s Department of Human Rights — a move his administration says will help to expedite discrimination complaints.

Illinois moves to implement internet privacy safeguards – A.P.

Democratic lawmakers in Illinois are considering implementing their own internet safeguards at the state level after Republicans in Washington voted to roll back Obama-era internet privacy protections that were to take effect later this year.

Illinois adds solar jobs despite stormy forecast in Washington – Chicago Tribune

Comment: Could be true, but trust in the green groups like the one claiming this should be zero.

St. Louis Just Hiked Minimum Wage By 43%; Guess What Happens Next – Zero Hedge

Comment: We'd be so much better off if all the effort going into the $15/hour minimum wage movement went instead towards $50,000 and higher careers.

Poll: Plurality say government causes poverty – INN

What started as a poll about Obamacare turned into revealing information about what Illinoisans think causes poverty.

Berg: Don’t be fooled by ‘penny for schools’ tax – Opinion – INN

A Missouri corporation is making a pretty penny helping to hike local sales taxes across Illinois. But in the process, it’s proving how local governments shirk responsibility to keep their spending in check.

Illinois Budget Prospects Weaken Amid Discord – Fidelity Investments

By The Bond Buyer's Yvette Shields.

Illinois comptroller appeals ruling ordering lawmaker pay – Chicago Sun-Times

Mendoza has appealed a Cook County judge’s ruling that state lawmakers must be paid on time despite their failure to pass a budget.

People’s Court: How Judges Are Keeping Illinois (Mostly) Running During the Budget Impasse – WBEZ

Here’s a rundown of some of the big court actions that have kept many state residents from feeling the full effects of the budget impasse and how much they’re costing the cash-strapped state.

Already among the nation’s highest, DuPage property tax rates to increase this year – Illinois Policy

With hundreds of taxing bodies in their county and inaction from Springfield, DuPage homeowners will soon see yet another property tax increase.

Two Years After Rauner’s ‘Turnaround Agenda,’ Democrats Offer ‘Comeback Agenda’ – NPR Illinois

A priceless line from State Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park):  “We wanted to be for something. We wanted to outline a vision of where Illinois could go,” Harmon says." Why, yes, Don, that would be nice if you finally stood for something besides tax increases. Too bad your package has little to do with fostering growth.

In Illinois, no one to take up the slack for federal cuts – Daily Herald

Comment: Federal cuts indeed are going to make our budget problems worse, but Kumbaya editorials like this are worthless. "We strongly urge [Cullerton and Radogno not to give up. And we call on those who would oppose a compromise for political purposes to get out of the way," says this one. Worthless.

‘Evidence-based’ education funding doesn’t work, would cost Illinois taxpayers billions – Illinois Policy

An education-funding plan in the General Assembly is already proven to make unattainable goals at a high cost to taxpayers.

House Republicans Offer Comprehensive Pension Reform Proposal and CPS Relief – Office of the Republican Leader – Jim Durkin

Comment: We'll be writing soon about this pending pension legislation. One thing for sure is that it shouldn't be called "comprehensive." Maybe "comprehensive given court rulings" would be fair.

US judge: prison officials wrong to punish inmate for rude letter to governor – Injustice Watch

Comment: Writing expletive-laden things about Pat Quinn might be punishable? Oh oh.

Prestige Metals to move from Illinois to Wisconsin – Illinois Policy

The small sheet metal fabricator will move from its current facility in Antioch, Ill., to an 8-acre location in Bristol, Wis.

‘Grand bargain’ would cut private sector pay and continue government worker perks – Illinois Policy

Illinois state government works to prioritize special interests over taxpayers – and the budget deal being negotiated in the Senate would continue that.

Mendoza ditched campaign pledge on lawmaker pay – Editorial – QC Times

Like a good Illinois Democrat, state Comptroller Susana Mendoza rolled over. Mendoza had two choices last week after a court ordered her to pay state lawmakers when no budget exists: Appeal or cave. She chose the latter.

Who’s to blame for high property taxes? Look in the mirror – Editorial – Chicago Tribune

"Is it fair, then, to assert that if you can't be bothered to vote in local elections, you don't have grounds to gripe about your property tax bill? Yes, it is. Wake up, taxpayers."

Unbalanced Budget Response Act would allow Rauner to make cuts to balance the budget – Illinois Policy

Illinois House Bill 3868 would give Gov. Bruce Rauner the authority to trim costs and reorder the state’s spending priorities to balance the budget.

Opioid insurance claims soar in Chicago and Illinois – Crain’s

Private insurance claims related to opioid abuse and dependence diagnoses increased 329 percent in Illinois between 2007 and 2014, according to data from Fair Health, a New York-based nonprofit that seeks to increase transparency in health care costs. In Chicago alone, such claims increased 382 percent over the seven-year period.

Legislation would create ‘privilege tax’ on investment managers – INN

Comment: Madness. It's a vindictive shot at private equity and venture capital that some on the left despise. Fixing the "carried interest" issue that allows some of them to escape reasonable taxation has to be done at the federal level, or they will leave.

Manufacturing CEO who left Illinois: ‘I love the state; fix it’ – INN

President and chief executive officer of Hoist Liftruck Manufacturing Inc., Flaska estimated the move to East Chicago, Ind., just across the border from Chicago, has saved the company $3 million to $4 million in operating costs.

Sheet metal fabricator moving from Illinois to Kenosha County – BizTimes Milwaukee

The move is the latest in a long line of Illinois-based companies relocating to Kenosha County, or establishing operations there. On Thursday, the Rosemont, Ill.-based subsidiary of German gummy bear maker Haribo announced plans for a 500,000-square-foot facility in Pleasant Prairie that will bring up to 400 jobs.

New regulations could mean longer waits for medicine – INN

The idea is simple: make sure pharmacists are't overworked and that they have time to talk with patients. The proposed fix isn't as simple. Rob Karr, head of the Illinois Retail Merchants' Association, said some lawmakers are pushing a plan backed by the Teamster's union to limit pharmacists to filling no more than 10 prescriptions per hour. The legislation also mandates pharmacists take an hour-long break each eight-hour shift.

Legislation would eliminate Illinois’ soy-based ink requirement – INN

According to a lawmaker and a local printer, a law still on the books since the late 1990s meant to help local farmers has done nothing but drive up costs and drive down competition.

Illinois has hurt its economy by piling on taxes since the Great Recession – Illinois Policy

State and local tax hikes in Illinois have hurt economic growth, lowered the standard of living, and contributed to out-migration.

Legislative pay an easy target for opinion writers – Opinion – INN

Opinion writers across Illinois had plenty of options when deciding on topics for the weekend.

Construction companies are top donors backing sales-tax increase for schools – Belleville News-Democrat

The 1 percent increases in the sales tax are on the April 4 ballot in St. Clair and Madison counties.

Vacant Illinois Agency Jobs Could Move to Springfield Area – NBC Chicago

Illinois agencies under Gov. Bruce Rauner have been told to decide whether vacant positions can be moved to the Springfield area as part of the process to fill the jobs.

Legalized Weed Would Help Solve Illinois’ Budget Problems, Lawmaker Says – DNAinfo

Two bills now pending in the General Assembly authored by state Sen. Heather Steans (D-Edgewater) would create a system for regulating and taxing marijuana sales in an effort to bring in at least $350 million a year.

Is Illinois headed for the ash heap of history? – Rockford Register Star

All the state trends that should be up are down, and those that should be down are up.

Pot Growers Win Right to Influence Politics in Illinois – Illinois Review

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois struck down an Illinois law that banned licensed marijuana businesses from making contributions to candidates, PACs and other political committees. Judge John Z. Lee ruled that the ban violated businesses’ First Amendment rights.

Illinois’ unpaid medical bills reach $3.5 billion – Crain’s

As the House appropriations committee heard Thursday, Kobe Williams, a 15-month-old who needs an oxygen tank to breathe, is in danger of losing the equipment that keeps him alive. His mother, a state worker, pays his expenses under the state medical plan, which is losing coverage as it fails to pay providers.

State Chamber CEO: Illinois needs fiscal sanity – Herald-Whig

"We need to fix worker's compensation. The huge issue is causation," which would tie injury claims to work, Maisch said. Illinois is one of a few states where workers can get compensated for injuries that occur away from a job. In addition, the chamber would like to see pro-growth tax policies that would help small employers get credit for training costs and allow capital credit deductions to be claimed over a shorter time span.

Illinois needs to end the third-party payer problem for teacher pensions – Illinois Policy

Illinois’ teacher pension system is structured to allow local school boards to agree to generous contracts, knowing taxpayers across the state will foot the bill. This system should change so that local school boards cover their own pension costs. That way, they will bear the full cost of salary increases they decide on, rather than pushing much of that cost onto unaware state taxpayers.

‘Me, me, me! Did I mention me?’ The greed of Illinois’ pay-us-first legislators – Chicago Tribune

"It's maddening but not surprising. In Illinois, clout wins. Politicians win. Rank-and-file citizens are at the back of the line. Yet voters keep sending the same pols back to Springfield."

Rauner Vetoes Chicago Pension Bill – Fidelity Investments

But in anticipation of a possible veto, the new Senate approved Senate Bill 14, identical to the bill Rauner vetoed, in a 38-to-11 vote Jan. 25. It is pending before the House.

State announces job website hacked, personal information accessed – WREX

A hacker was able to steal the sensitive information of 1.4 million people in Illinois, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

Illinois Lawmakers File New Public School Funding Plan – WNIJ and WNIU

Yet another plan to address the state’s lopsided school funding structure has been filed. This measure would freeze funding at current levels for all districts, including Chicago Public Schools.

Illinois has unusually strong jobs growth in February – Illinois Policy

Illinois now sits at an all-time high for total jobs count as a result of gaining 25,600 jobs in February and having an upward revision in its January jobs data.

Pension reform plan for Illinois: Right under its nose – Illinois Policy

Illinois crafted the solution to its pension crisis nearly 20 years ago. The problem is many lawmakers don’t even know that solution exists. Since 1998, more than 20,000 state university workers have opted into a 401(k)-style plan instead of the traditional pension plan. Illinois’ lawmakers can begin to solve the pension crisis by simply expanding the State Universities Retirement System’s 401(k)-style plan to all state workers.

Poll results show only 1/3 of Illinoisans say they’ve been affected by the budget impasse – Illinois Policy

Comment: That's what's key to whether the grand bargain would induce more flight from the state. Fair or not, selfish or not, most Illinoisans will see only the big tax increase in the grand bargain.

Pension Crisis Too Big for Markets to Ignore – Bloomberg

Big salute to Jack Dean, discussed in this article, who saw this coming and has covered it doggedly at PensionTsunami for twelve years.

Rauner calls on lawmakers to approve House pension reform bill – INN

Comment: We need a clear summary of what's in this and explanation of the claimed savings, which nobody has given yet.

Business owner’s life-saving donation inspired by employee – KSDK

“It just goes to show tight knit support group that we have here in Monroe County,” he said. “All the businesses, we’re very fortunate that they’re very supportive of law enforcement. They’re always ready to jump in and support us in times of need.”

No poll required to figure out thoughts on Springfield – Belleville News-Democrat

But those in the Springfield bubble believe whatever is best for the 35,000 state workers in AFSCME, including the 37.5-hour work week, is best for their campaign coffers. They think they should set labor rates rather than the local market. They think schools and state colleges should be able to jack up the final years of teacher and administrator salaries to boost pensions because the state must make the contributions. They think more government is better government in this...

Cook County has largest population loss of any county in the U.S. – Illinois Policy

More details on the numbers from Mike Lucci.

Comptroller must pay lawmakers: judge – Chicago Sun-Times

State Comptroller Susana Mendoza said Thursday she will start issuing paychecks to state lawmakers, after a Cook County judge ruled that the law requires legislators get their paychecks even if there is no state budget.

Illinois to preserve tax exemption for not-for-profit hospitals – Modern Healthcare

Although the ruling allows not-for-profit hospitals in Illinois to breathe a sigh of relief, the law isn't safe yet. The Supreme Court didn't weigh in on the constitutionality of the property tax exemption law.

Each Illinois household on the hook for $56K in government-worker retirement debt – Illinois Policy

In just six years, the total debt Illinois households are on the hook for has jumped to $56,000, or 31 percent. That’s a $13,000 increase for each household. Total unfunded debt for state and local governments in Illinois now totals $267 billion.

Berg: A simple workers’ comp fix could save lives – Opinion – INN

Doctors treating injured workers in Illinois through the workers’ comp system can sell the drugs they prescribe directly out of their office. And that comes with life-threatening consequences.

Illinois Bills Seek to Legalize, Tax Marijuana Sales to Adults – Reuters

Illinois would legalize marijuana for recreational use by adults and tax it to raise at least $350 million a year for the cash-strapped state under legislation introduced on Wednesday.

High-Level Rift Spotlights Fiscal Troubles in Illinois – Fidelity Investments

Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza warned that the state is “coming apart at the seams” and blamed Gov. Bruce Rauner for the budget crisis that threatens the state’s investment-grade ratings.

‘Obama holiday’ bill fails, saving Illinois taxpayers nearly $20M – Illinois Policy

Proposed legislation to commemorate former President Barack Obama’s birthday as a state holiday in Illinois would have cost taxpayers nearly $20 million in state personnel expenses and lost productivity.

Worried about the national debt? It’s even worse for our cities. – The Hill

"Ignorance toward local government issues is a plague that has the power to take down our country.... The reality is, while it may not be as exciting, Americans are more likely to feel the effects of changes made inside city halls than most bills passed by Congress."

Merengo, IL Struggling Under Pension Weigh – Fidelity Investments

Comment: It's happening in towns and cities across Illinois.

Costs Unknown on Wage Bill For State Vendors – Alton Daily News

Senate Democrats are pushing a bill to require vendors doing business with the state to pay nearly double the minimum wage despite having little information on the increased cost to taxpayers.

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.

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."

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.

No one wins in an AFSCME strike – Editorial – State Journal-Register

"The union needs to signal it understands Illinois is beyond broke."

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.