Thursday, July 30, 2009

Durbin: Senate Approves More Than $111 Million for Illinois Projects

From the Office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced that late last night the U.S. Senate has approved $111,037,000 for energy- and water-related projects in Illinois.

The Fiscal Year 2010 Energy and Water Appropriations bill includes funding for the following projects:

Army Corps of Engineers:
  • Carlyle Lake, Carlyle. $5,171,000 in funding for operations and maintenance at Carlyle Lake, the largest man-made lake in Illinois, with over 26,000 acres of water and 11,000 acres of public land. Funding is needed to provide flood control, water quality control, and water supply to nearby communities; recreation; fish and wildlife conservation; and is authorized to augment navigation flows downstream on the Kaskaskia River. This project is situated in Clinton, Fayette, Bond, and Marion Counties.
  • Chain of Rocks, Madison County. $6,500,000 in funding for a deficiency correction includes the installation of relief wells, construction of levee berms, a pump station, relocations, and mitigation. The levee protects a major urban area and is located in Madison County.
  • Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal Aquatic Nuisance Species Barrier System, Chicago. $5,000,000 in funding to continue operation of a system to eliminate potential bypasses of non-indigenous aquatic nuisance species such as the Asian Carp and continue construction of permanent barriers.
  • Chicago Shoreline, Chicago. $3,500,000 in funding to complete the reconstruction of the crumbling Chicago Lake Michigan Shoreline consistent with a Project Cooperation Agreement.
  • Des Plaines River Flood Damage Reduction Phase I, Statewide. $6,800,000 in funding to continue construction work on Levee 37 and complete construction of Palatine Road. Funding is also needed to address flooding issues in other affected municipalities, including Big Bend Lake.
  • Des Plaines River Flood Damage Reduction Study Phase II, Statewide. $500,000 in funding for hydrology, hydraulic studies, and formulation for the remaining tributaries and the main stem Des Plaines River. The study is being conducted to determine how to further reduce main stem flooding, reduce tributary flooding, and restore degraded ecosystems within the Des Plaines River basin.
  • East St. Louis, Statewide. $2,000,000 in funding for the replacement/rehabilitation a flood control project that provides flood protection to 200,000 residents and over $1 billion in economic value. The project is located in St. Clair and Madison Counties along the bank of the Mississippi River.
  • East St. Louis and Vicinity, Statewide. $540,000 in funding to restore bottom land forest habitat; flood plain prairie habitat; marsh and shrub swamp habitat; lake habitat; and upland riparian forest. The project is located in Madison and St. Clair Counties.
  • Emiquon Preserve, Fulton County. Special language directing the Army Corps of Engineers to give priority funding consideration to restore aquatic ecosystems in Fulton County’s Emiquon Preserve.
  • Inter-Basin Control of Great Lakes-Mississippi River Aquatic Nuisance Species, Chicago. $300,000 in funding to continue a study, including consultations with appropriate Federal, State, local and non-governmental agencies on the range of options and technologies to prevent the inter-basin transfer of aquatic nuisance species, including Asian Carp.
  • Lake County Wetlands Restoration Study, Lake County. $200,000 in funding to initiate a county-wide study of wetland preservation and restoration as a means to increase flood control. The loss of wetlands and the increase in population has the potential to exacerbate flooding issues, degrade water quality, and negatively impact wetland resources.
  • Lake Shelbyville, Shelbyville. $5,454,000 in funding to provide flood control, water supply, recreation, conservation of fish and wildlife, and water quality control and augments navigation flows downstream on the Kaskaskia River.
  • McCook and Thornton Reservoirs, Chicago. $25,000,000 in funding for continued construction of the McCook Reservoir in the Chicago Underflow Plan. This project benefits the City of Chicago and 36 suburban communities by reducing untreated sewage back flow into Lake Michigan and reducing basement flooding by protecting nearly 150,000 structures.
  • Mississippi River Dredging, Western Illinois. $900,000 in funding to allow the Rock Island District of the Corps of Engineers to dredge the Mississippi River in various communities along the River.
  • Nutwood Drainage and Levee District, Greene / Jersey Counties. $300,000 in funding for construction activities related to levee improvements and expansion.
  • Peoria River Front Development, Peoria. $50,000 in funding to allow for the start of design efforts on lower islands.
  • Prairie du Pont Sanitary District and Fish Lake Drainage and Levee District. $464,000 in funding to assess the potential for reconstruction of deteriorated features at a levee plagued with underseepage problems. The study area is located on the east bank of the Mississippi River in St. Clair and Monroe Counties.
  • Rend Lake, Rend Lake. $5,386,000 in funding to provide flood control, water supply, recreation, conservation of fish and wildlife, and area redevelopment. This project is located near Benton, Illinois, in Franklin and Jefferson Counties.
  • South Fork of the South Branch of the Chicago River (Bubbly Creek), Chicago. $100,000 in funding to continue a study that will determine how to restore natural flow conditions, reduce impacts of combined sewer overflows, reduce degradation caused by sediments, restore natural fish and related habitat function, restore diverse native aquatic and plant species and manage public access through the project area.
  • Upper Mississippi River Comprehensive Plan, Western Illinois. $640,000 in funding to expand an ongoing ecosystem study of the Upper Mississippi River to include the impact of tributaries on the River. The study will determine federal interest in greater flood risk management for transportation infrastructure, flood reconstruction, and system-wide flood risk management, ecosystem restoration, nutrient management, recreation, and watershed management.
  • Upper Mississippi River Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program, Western Illinois. $9,000,000 in funding for continued preconstruction engineering and design work. This work is a necessary precursor for the construction of a new lock and dam system on the Upper Mississippi River.
  • Upper Mississippi River Restoration, Western Illinois. $18,000,000 in funding for continued ecosystem restoration along the Upper Mississippi River, including construction work around Batchtown and Swan Lake, Illinois, and design work for Wilkinson Island and Rip Rap Landing, Illinois.
  • Wood River Levee, Wood River. $1,170,000 in funding for the reconstruction and replacement of various components of 26 closure structures, 38 gravity drains, and 7 pump stations. These actions are required to maintain the system’s authorized level of protection. The project is located in the Mississippi River flood plain of Madison County, upstream of the city of East St. Louis.
  • Operations and Maintenance, Statewide: The following projects were also included in the bill under U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Operations and Maintenance: Calumet Harbor and River ($3,120,000); Chicago Harbor ($3,889,000); Chicago River ($493,000); Farm Creek Reservoirs ($352,000); Kaskaskia River Navigation ($2,148,000); Lake Michigan Diversion ($683,000); Surveillance of Northern Boundary Waters ($685,000); Waukegan Harbor ($492,000).
  • General Investigations, Statewide: The following project was also included in the bill under U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, General Investigations: Illinois River Basin Restoration ($400,000).
  • Construction, Statewide: The following project was also included in the bill under U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Construction, and General: Alton to Gale Levee District ($300,000).

Department of Energy:

  • City of Monmouth, Illinois. $500,000 in funding for a renewable energy co-generation project that will use industrial waste to power homes and reduce the amount of greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere.
  • Illinois Environmental Council, Springfield. $500,000 in funding for research, evaluation and public education programs to support efforts to make large buildings, such as commercial buildings, energy-efficient and LEED-certified. A model building project will serve as a national demonstration of the process to move large buildings toward energy-efficiency.
  • Loyola University, Chicago. $500,000 in funding to expand Loyola’s efforts to measure air and water quality with sensors in the Chicago area. The project will build on existing programs by increasing the number of key sites where measurements will be taken and analyze new threats including volatile organic compounds and particulate metals in the air, and hormones, pesticides and pharmaceuticals in water.
  • Riverside Medical Center, Kankakee. $500,000 in funding to support the installation, operation and demonstration of wind turbines at Riverside Medical Center. These turbines will reduce energy costs, minimize the environmental impact of the hospital, and demonstrate cutting-edge technology with implications for the use of wind energy across the country.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

U of I Trustee Lawrence Eppley Offers Resignation -- Gov Quinn Accepts

Chicago – July 28, 2009.

The Governor has received a letter of resignation from Lawrence C. Eppley, University of Illinois Trustee.

The Governor issued the following statement:

“I appreciate the letter from Trustee Lawrence C. Eppley. I accept his resignation. I thank him for his years of service and wish him well. The search for his successor will begin immediately.”
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CAMPAIGN 2010: State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D), Candidate for U.S. Senate (Part 1 of 3)

From the Abraham Lincoln Hotel and Conference Center in Springfield: State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias announces his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for United States Senate. Following his announcement, he takes questions from reporters.

CAMPAIGN 2010: State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D), Candidate for U.S. Senate (Part 2 of 3)

From the Abraham Lincoln Hotel and Conference Center in Springfield: State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias announces his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for United States Senate. Following his announcement, he takes questions from reporters.

CAMPAIGN 2010: State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D), Candidate for U.S. Senate (Part 3 of 3)

From the Abraham Lincoln Hotel and Conference Center in Springfield: State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias announces his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for United States Senate. Following his announcement, he takes questions from reporters.

Statement from Illinois Republican Party Spokesman Lance Trover Regarding Comments Made by Democrat Alexi Giannoulias

From the Illinois Republican Party

July 27, 2009 - "It is laughable that a Blagojevich Democrat like Alexi Giannoulias wants to lecture us on ethics after he endorsed Rod Blagojevich and ran the lending division of his family bank responsible for loans to convicted felons with mob ties.

"Alexi Giannoulias gambled away over $85 million in the Bright Start Illinois college savings fund and has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from corporate PACs, unions and other special interest groups.

"Illinois is in desperate need of reform, not more of the same Blagojevich-style corruption Alexi Giannoulias and his pals have brought upon our state throughout the last six years."

Background

1) Since 2006, IL election records show Alexi Giannoulias accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from corporate PACs, unions and special interest groups. (See Citizens for Giannoulias semi-annual campaign finance reports)

2) According to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, Alexi's exploratory committee for Senate has already taken PAC money from "Labor," "Business" and "Ideological" special interest groups. http://link.sc.states.gop.com/?42-2439-7382-227458-40296

New $31 Billion Capital Construction Plan Will Mean More Than 439,000 Jobs

From the Office of Governor Pat Quinn

July 27, 2009 - Governor Pat Quinn has signed into law bills that create the $31 billion Illinois Jobs Now! plan, which will revive the state’s ailing economy by creating and retaining more than 439,000 jobs over the next six years. At a bill signing ceremony, Governor Quinn stressed this is the first statewide capital construction effort to become law in more than a decade.

“This is a crucial economic recovery initiative that will generate what’s needed most in Illinois: jobs, jobs, jobs,” said Governor Quinn. “Illinois Jobs Now! provides many long-awaited improvements to our bridges and roads, transportation networks, schools and communities.”

The road and bridge construction projects will be overseen by the Illinois Department of Transportation, while the state facility, university and school construction programs will be administered by the state’s Capital Development Board (CDB).

“We will prioritize projects based on three factors: Those that are ready for bidding right away, so construction jobs can be created immediately; the most pressing repair and maintenance projects that will help protect state property; and the grants to school districts who have waited for nearly eight years for promised state funds,” said CDB Executive Director Jim Riemer.

Governor Quinn added that Illinois Jobs Now! will create many new “green” weatherization jobs, protect and improve the state’s fresh water supplies, and advance high-speed rail from Chicago to St. Louis, which will cut down on auto traffic and emissions.

“With Illinois Jobs Now!, our state rises to the challenge of building a viable green economy for the 21st Century that serves our people and strengthens our businesses,” said Governor Quinn.

Illinois Jobs Now! will invest $31 billion in the Illinois economy over six years; access more than $3.7 billion in American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds; and support more than 439,000 Illinois jobs. It features $14.3 billion for roads and bridges, including $9.8 billion for the multiyear road program, $4 billion for new projects, and $500 million for local projects.

The plan’s $7 billion for developing a 21st century transportation network includes $2.7 billion to Chicago-area public transit and $300 million to downstate transit districts, leveraging up to $2.7 billion in additional federal funds; $400 million for high-speed rail, which could access up to $2 billion in ARRA funds; $380 million for airport improvements and $110.5 million for the third Chicago airport project; $322 million for the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program (CREATE); $150 million for conventional intercity rail transit (AMTRAK); and $10 million for an electrification transportation alternative fuel car-sharing program.

The capital program also features $3.6 billion for preschool through 12th grade education, including $3 billion for the school construction program; $200 million for the school maintenance program; $196 million for charter schools; $100 million for a new school energy efficiency retrofit program; $75 million for vocational education at Chicago Public Schools; $45 million for a new early childhood facilities program; and $10 million for student laptop computers.

The plan’s $1.5 billion for higher education features $788 million for public universities, $400 million for community colleges, and $300 million for private universities.

The $830 million available for community development includes $300 million for parks and recreational facilities; $150 million for health care facilities; $130 million for affordable housing, including projects for veterans and persons with disabilities; $100 million for museums; $100 million for public libraries; and $50 million for community health center construction.

A total of $2.5 billion has been allocated for economic development projects, including $715 million for state facilities; $425 million for weatherization and energy efficiency programs; $50 million for broadband deployment; $38 million for River’s Edge and Brownfield projects to clean up contaminated sites; $25 million for the Prime Sites program to develop local infrastructure and create jobs; $15 million for the creation or retention of jobs in economically depressed areas; and $10 million for a fresh food program to bring grocery stores and other fresh food retailers into communities that need them.

Environmental projects are funded to the tune of $1.3 billion, including $516 million for drinking water and wastewater revolving loans; $250 million for projects such as levees, flood walls and drainage structures; $225 million for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program; $128 million for Army Corps restoration programs; $75 million for the leaking underground storage tank program; $41 million for dam removal and repair; $25 million for the Open Land Trust Program; $10 million for dam safety programs; and $8 million for the “Mud to Parks” parkland restoration program.

Funding for the $31 billion Illinois Jobs Now! plan will be provided by a combination of state debt and federal and local matching funds. The 20-year bonds issued to provide funding for the State’s $13 billion share of this six-year capital program will be supported from fee and tax increases. Existing monies deposited into the Road Fund will provide up to $150 million per year for the repayment of the debt. Debt repayment will also come from fee increases. Motor Vehicle Certificate of Title fees will increase from $65 to $105; transfer of registration fees will increase from $15 to $30; passenger and “B” truck registration fees will increase from $79 to $99; and drivers’ license fees will double. Additional sales taxes on candy, sweetened tea, coffee, grooming and hygiene products, wine, spirits and certain beer products will also help retire the debt, and video gaming terminals should raise about $300 million annually.

A complete list of specific projects can be found at http://www.jobsnow.illinois.gov/.

Durbin Announces More Than $6 Million in FEMA Grants for Chicago Transit

From the Office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin

July 27, 2009 - [WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced today that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has made $6,539,988 in grants available for Chicago area transit security.

“The funding announced today will help increase passenger safety along Chicago area transit lines that provide nearly two million rides each week day,” said Durbin. “As more and more people are choosing to leave their cars at home for their daily commute, we must ensure that public transit is not only an affordable, reliable, environmentally friendly alternative but also a safe one.”

Today’s funding is part of a $77.8 million announcement for transit security projects nationwide that employ visible, unpredictable deterrence measures including canine teams, mobile explosives detection screening teams, and Anti-Terrorism teams. Both CTA and Metra have a number of these types of security projects underway and in the planning stages. The following agencies will receive funding under today’s announcement:
  • Chicago Transit Authority: $4,869,000
  • Northeast Illinois Commuter Railroad Corporation (Metra): $1,670,988

CAMPAIGN 2010: Robert Zadek (R), Candidate for U.S. Senate (Part 1 of 2)

CAMPAIGN 2010: Robert Zadek (R), Candidate for U.S. Senate (Part 2 of 2)

CAMPAIGN 2010: Rich Whitney (G), Candidate for Governor (Part 1 of 2)

CAMPAIGN 2010: Rich Whitney (G), Candidate for Governor (Part 2 of 2)

CAMPAIGN 2010: Bob Schillerstrom (R), Candidate for Governor (Part 1 of 2)

CAMPAIGN 2010: Bob Schillerstrom (R), Candidate for Governor (Part 2 of 2)

CAMPAIGN 2010: Sen. Dan Rutherford (R), Candidate for State Treasurer (Part 1 of 2)

CAMPAIGN 2010: Sen. Dan Rutherford (R), Candidate for State Treasurer (Part 2 of 2)

CAMPAIGN 2010: U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R), Candidate for U.S. Senate (Part 1 of 3)

CAMPAIGN 2010: U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R), Candidate for U.S. Senate (Part 2 of 3)

CAMPAIGN 2010: U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R), Candidate for U.S. Senate (Part 3 of 3)

CAMPAIGN 2010: Sen. Bill Brady (R), Candidate for Governor (Part 1 of 3)

CAMPAIGN 2010: Sen. Bill Brady (R), Candidate for Governor (Part 2 of 3)

CAMPAIGN 2010: Sen. Bill Brady (R), Candidate for Governor (Part 3 of 3)

CAMPAIGN 2010: Adam Andrzejewski (R), Candidate for Governor (Part 1 of 4)

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CAMPAIGN 2010: Adam Andrzejewski (R), Candidate for Governor (Part 2 of 4)

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Current Univ. of Illinois President B. Joseph White

July 27, 2009 - Current University of Illinois President B. Joseph White testifies before the Illinois Admissions Review Commission about the influence of political connections on admissions at the University.

Former Univ. of Illinois President James Stukel

July 27, 2009 - Former University of Illinois President James Stukel testifies before the Illinois Admissions Review Commission about the influence of political connections on admissions at the University.

State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D), Candidate for U.S. Senate

July 26, 2009 - From the Abraham Lincoln Hotel & Conference Center in Springfield, State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias formally announces his candidacy for the U.S. Senate in 2010.

CAMPAIGN 2010: Adam Andrzejewski (R), Candidate for Governor (Part 3 of 4)

video

CAMPAIGN 2010: Adam Andrzejewski (R), Candidate for Governor (Part 4 of 4)

video

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Text of President Obama's Remarks at Ohio Healthcare Reform Townhall

from the White House

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT HEALTH CARE REFORM TOWN HALL

Shaker Heights High School
Shaker Heights, Ohio

July 23, 2009

2:31 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. Thank you. Thank you. Thank, please, everybody have a seat. Thank you. Hello! (Applause.) Hello, Shaker Heights! Hello, Ohio! It is great to be here. There are a couple of quick acknowledgments I want to make. First of all, please give Rick a big round of applause for his introduction. (Applause.)

Some special guests that we've got. First of all, the governor of the great state of Ohio, Ted Strickland, is in the house. (Applause.) There he is right there. Your State Treasurer Kevin Boyce is here. (Applause.) Your Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner is here. (Applause.) The mayor of the great city of Cleveland, Frank Jackson, is here. (Applause.) Shaker Heights Mayor Earl Leiken is here. (Applause.) The Shaker Heights school superintendent Mark Freeman is here. (Applause.)

Not here, but a couple of my favorite people: Congresswoman Marcia Fudge and Sherrod Brown couldn't be here today. They've got work to do in Washington. (Applause.)

It is good to be back in the great state of Ohio. (Applause.) Now, I know there are those who like to report on the back-and-forth in Washington. But my only concern is the people who sent us to Washington -- the families feeling the pain of this recession; the folks I've met across this country who have lost jobs and savings and health insurance but haven't lost hope; the citizens who defied the cynics and the skeptics -- who went to the polls to demand real and lasting change. Change was the cause of my campaign; it is the cause of my presidency.

And when my administration came into office, we were facing the worst economy since the Great Depression. We were losing an average of 700,000 jobs per month. Hundreds of thousands of Ohioans have felt that pain firsthand. Our financial system was on the verge of collapse, meaning families and small businesses couldn't get the credit they need. And experts were warning that there was a serious chance that our economy could slip into a depression. But because of the action we took in those first weeks, we've been able to pull our economy back from the brink.

Now that the most immediate danger has passed, there are some who question those steps. So let me report to you exactly what we've done.

We passed a two-year Recovery Act that meant an immediate tax cut for 95 percent of Americans and small businesses -- 95 percent. (Applause.) It extended unemployment insurance and health coverage for those who lost their jobs in this recession. (Applause.) It provided emergency assistance to states like Ohio to prevent even deeper layoffs of police officers and firefighters and teachers and other essential personnel. (Applause.) At the same time, we took needed steps to keep the banking system from collapsing, to get credit flowing again, and to help responsible homeowners -- hurt by falling home prices -- to stay in their homes.

In the second phase, we're now investing in projects to repair and upgrade roads and bridges, ports and water systems -- and in schools and clean energy initiatives throughout Ohio and all across the country. These are projects that are creating good jobs and bring lasting improvements to our communities and our country.

There's no doubt that the steps we've taken have helped stave off a much deeper disaster and even greater job loss. They've saved and helped create jobs and have begun to put the brakes on this devastating recession. But I know that for the millions of Americans who are looking for work, and for those who are struggling in this economy, full recovery can't come soon enough.

I hear from you at town hall meetings like this. I read your letters. The stories I hear are the first thing that I think about in the morning; they're the last thing I think about at night. They're the focus of my attention every waking minute of every day. The simple truth is that it took years to get into this mess, and it will take more than a few months to dig our way out of it. (Applause.) But I want to promise you this, Ohio, we will get there -- (applause) -- and we are doing everything in our power to get our people back to work. (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you, Barack!

THE PRESIDENT: I love you back. (Laughter and applause.)

We also have to do more than just rescue this economy from recession; we need to address the fundamental problems that allowed this crisis to happen in the first place. Otherwise, we'd be guilty of the same short-term thinking that got us into this mess. That's what Washington has done for decades. We put things off. And that's what we have to change.

Now is the time to rebuild this economy stronger than before. Strong enough to compete in the 21st century. Strong enough to avoid the waves of boom and bust that have time and time again unleashed a torrent of misfortune on middle-class families across the country. That's why we're building a new energy economy that will unleash the innovative potential of America's entrepreneurs -- and create millions of new jobs -- helping to end our dependence on foreign oil. (Applause.) We are -- we're transforming our education system, from cradle to college, so that this nation once again has the best-educated workforce on the planet. (Applause.) We are pursuing health insurance reform so that every American has access to quality, affordable health coverage. (Applause.)

I want to talk about health care just for a second. I want to be clear: Reform isn't just about the nearly 46 million Americans without health insurance. I realize that with all the charges and the criticism being thrown out there in Washington, many Americans may be wondering, "Well, how does my family, or my business, stand to benefit from health insurance reform? What's in this for me?" Folks are asking that, so I want to answer those questions briefly.

If you have health insurance, the reform we're proposing will give you more security. You just heard Rick's story. Reform will keep the government out of your health care decisions, giving you the option to keep your coverage if you're happy with it. So don't let folks say that somehow we're going to be forcing government-run health care. It's just not true. And it will keep the insurance companies out of your health care decisions, too -- (applause) -- by stopping insurers from cherry-picking who they cover, and holding insurers to a higher standard for what they cover. (Applause.)

You won't have to worry about receiving a surprise bill in the mail, because we'll limit the amount your insurance company can force you to pay out of your own pocket. (Applause.)

You won't have to worry about preexisting conditions, because -- (applause) -- never again will anyone in America be denied coverage because of a previous illness or injury. (Applause.)

You won't have to worry about losing coverage if you lose or leave your job, because every American who needs insurance will have access to affordable plans through a health insurance exchange -- a marketplace where insurance companies will compete to cover you, not to deny you coverage. (Applause.)

And if you run a small business and you're looking to provide insurance for your employees, you'll be able to choose a plan through this exchange, as well. I've heard from small business owners across America trying to do the right thing, but year after year premiums rise higher and choices grow more limited. And that's certainly true right here in Ohio.

Now, if you're a taxpayer concerned about deficits, I want you to understand I'm concerned about deficits, too. Because in the eight years before we came into office, Washington enacted two large tax cuts, primarily for the wealthiest Americans, added a prescription drug benefit to Medicare, funded two wars -- all without paying for it -- (laughter and applause) -- didn't pay for it. The national debt doubled. We were handed a $1.3 trillion deficit when we walked in the door -- one we necessarily had to add to in the short term to deal with this financial crisis.

Now, I have to tell you, I have to say, that folks have a lot of nerve who helped get us into this fiscal hole and then start going around trying to talk about fiscal responsibility. (Applause.) I'm always a little surprised that people don't have a little more shame -- (laughter) -- about having created a mess and then try to point fingers, but that's another topic. (Laughter.)

Because the truth is, is that I am now President and I am -- (applause) -- and I am responsible, and together we have to restore a sense of responsibility in Washington. (Applause.) We have to do what businesses and families do -- we've got to cut out the things we don't need to pay for the things we do.

And that's why I pledged that I will not sign health insurance reform -- as badly as I think it's necessary, I won't sign it if that reform adds even one dime to our deficit over the next decade -- and I mean what I say. (Applause.)

Now, we have estimated that two-thirds of the cost of reform to bring health care security to every American can actually be paid for by reallocating money that's already in the system but is being wasted in federal health care programs. So let me repeat what I just said: About two-thirds of health care reform can be paid for not with new revenues, not with tax hikes, just with taking money that's not being spent wisely and moving it into things that will actually make people healthy.

And that includes, by the way -- right now we spend more than $100 billion in unwarranted subsidies that go to insurance companies as part of Medicare -- subsidies that do nothing to improve care for our seniors. We ought to take that money and use it to actually treat people and cover people, not to line pockets of insurers. (Applause.) And I'm pleased that Congress has already embraced these proposals. And while they're currently working through proposals to finance the remaining costs, I continue to insist that health care reform not be paid for on the backs of middle-class families. (Applause.)

Now, in addition to making sure that this plan doesn't add to the deficit in the short term, the bill I sign must also slow the growth of health care costs, while improving care, in the long run.
I just came from the Cleveland Clinic where I toured the cardiac surgery unit, met some of the doctors who are achieving incredible results for their patients. There's important work being done there as well as at the University Hospitals and MetroHealth. (Applause.) And Cleveland Clinic has one of the best health information technology systems in the country. And that means they can track patients and their progress. It means that they can see what treatments work and what treatments are unnecessary. It means they can provide better care for patients. They don't have to duplicate test after test because it's all online. They can help patients manage chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure and asthma and emphysema by coordinating with doctors and nurses both in the hospital and in the community.

And here's the remarkable thing: They actually have some of the lowest costs for the best care. That's the interesting thing about our health care system. (Applause.) Often, better care produces lower, not higher, expenses, because better care leads to fewer errors that cost money and lives. You, or your doctor, don't have to fill out the same form a dozen times. Medical professionals are free to treat people -- not just illnesses. And patients are provided preventive care earlier -- like mammograms and physicals -- to avert more expensive and invasive treatment later.

That's why our proposals include a variety of reforms that would save both money and improve care -- and why the nation's largest organizations representing doctors and nurses have embraced our plan. Our proposals would change incentives so that doctors and nurses finally are free to give patients the best care, not just the most expensive care. And we also want to create an independent group of doctors and medical experts who are empowered to eliminate waste and inefficiency in Medicare -- a proposal that could save even more money.

So overall, our proposals will improve the quality of care for our seniors, save them thousands of dollars on prescription drugs, and that, by the way, is why AARP has endorsed our reform efforts, as well. (Applause.)

So the fact is, lowering costs is essential for families and businesses here in Ohio and all across the country. Let's take the Ohio example -- over the past few years premiums have risen nearly nine times faster than wages. That's something that Rick and his wife understand very well. As we meet today, we're seeing double-digit rate increases on insurance premiums all over America. There are reports of insurers raising rates by 28 percent in California; seeking a 23 percent increase in Connecticut; proposing as much as a 56 percent increase in Michigan. If we don't act, these premium hikes will just be a preview of coming attractions. And that's a future you can't afford. That is a future that America can't afford.

We spend one of every six of our dollars on health care in America, and that's on track to double in the next three decades. The biggest driving force behind our federal deficit is the skyrocketing cost of Medicare and Medicaid. Small businesses struggle to cover workers while competing with large businesses. Large businesses struggle to cover workers while competing in the global economy. And we'll never know the full cost of the dreams put on hold, the entrepreneurial ideas that are allowed to languish, the small businesses never founded -- because of the fear of being without insurance, or having to pay for a policy on your own.

So, Ohio, that's why we seek reform. And in pursuit of this reform we've forged a consensus that has never before been reached in the history of this country. Senators and representatives in five committees are working on legislation; three have already produced a bill. Health care providers have agreed to do their part to reduce the rate of growth in health care spending. Hospitals have agreed to bring down costs. The drug companies have agreed to make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors. The American Nurses Association, the American Medical Association, representing millions of nurses and doctors who know our health care system best, they've announced their support for reform. (Applause.)

So we have never been closer -- we have never been closer to achieving quality, affordable health care for all Americans. But at the same time, there are those who would seek to delay and defeat reform -- is that the air-conditioning? (Laughter.) That's good. It's a little warm. (Applause.) You can still hear me, though.

You know, we had one Republican strategist who told his party that even though they may want to compromise, it's better politics to "go for the kill." Another Republican senator said that defeating health reform is about "breaking" me -- when it's really the American people who are being broken by rising health care costs and declining coverage. (Applause.) You know, the Republican -- the Republican Party chair, seeking to stall our efforts, recently went so far as to say that health insurance reform was happening "too soon."

Well, first of all, let me just be clear. If there's not a deadline in Washington, nothing happens. (Laughter.) Nothing ever happens. And, you know, we just heard today that, well, we may not be able to get the bill out of the Senate by the end of August -- or the beginning of August. That's okay. I just want people to keep on working. Just keep working. (Applause.) I want the bill to get out of the committees; and then I want that bill to go to the floor; and then I want that bill to be reconciled between the House and the Senate; and then I want to sign a bill. And I want it done by the end of this year. (Applause.) I want it done by the fall. (Applause.)

Whenever I hear people say that it's happening too soon, I think that's a little odd. We've been talking about health care reform since the days of Harry Truman. (Laughter.) How could it be too soon? I don't think it's too soon for the families who've seen their premiums rise faster than wages year after year. It's not too soon for the businesses forced to drop coverage or shed workers because of mounting health care expenses. It's not too soon for taxpayers asked to close widening deficits that stem from rising health care costs -- costs that threaten to leave our children with a mountain of debt.

Reform may be coming too soon for some in Washington, but it's not soon enough for the American people. (Applause.) We can get this done. We don't shirk from a challenge. (Applause.)

We can get this done. People keep on saying, wow, this is really hard, why are you taking it on? You know, America doesn't shirk from a challenge. We were reminded of that earlier this week, when Americans and people all over the world marked the 40th anniversary of the moment that the astronauts of the Apollo 11 walked on the surface of the moon. It was the realization of a goal President Kennedy had set nearly a decade earlier. Ten years earlier he'd said we're going to the moon. And there were times where people said, oh, this is foolish, this is impossible. But President Kennedy understood and the American people set about proving what this nation is capable of doing when we set our minds to doing it.

There are those now who are seeing our failure to address stubborn problems as a sign that our best days are behind us; that somehow we've lost our sense of purpose, and toughness, and capacity to lead; that we can't do big things anymore. Well, I believe that this generation, like generations past, stand ready to defy the skeptics and the naysayers, that we can once again summon this American spirit. We can rescue our economy. We can rebuild it stronger than before. We can achieve quality, affordable health care for every single American. That's what we're called upon to do. That's what we will do with your help, Ohio. (Applause.) With your help. (Applause.)

All right, thank you.

All right. All right, this is the fun part where we get to ask questions. I'm going to -- I'm going to take off my jacket, guys, so if you want to do the same thing -- it's a little hot. (Applause.) All right. Now, here's how this is going to work. There are really no rules. We haven't asked -- you know, there's no preprogrammed questions. All you have to do is -- first of all, everybody should sit down. (Laughter.)

The second thing is, I'm just going to call on as many people as we can during the time that we have, and I'm going to -- just to make sure it's fair, I'm going to call on girl, boy, girl, boy. (Laughter.)

So just raise your hand if you've got a question. Try to keep the question relatively brief; I'll try to keep my answer relatively brief, and we'll try to get through as many as we can. And introduce yourself, if you don't mind. There are people in the audience with mics and so if you can wait for the microphone so you can introduce yourself and then ask the question so that everybody can hear you. Okay?

All right. This young lady right there in the colorful blouse right there -- that's you. Colorful dress.

Q Hello?

THE PRESIDENT: Hello.

Q Good afternoon, Mr. President. Thank you for taking my question. My name is Norma Goodman. My question regarding health care is twofold. It appears that your plan has the health care industry funding your health care reform, and I think you just alluded to that a little. It poses a concern for me -- I'm the owner of a Medicare-certified home care agency. And by the way, my agency wanted to invite you to come on a home visit with us. (Laughter.)

But your proposed budget includes drastic cuts to reimbursement. I feel that that threatens the -- you're shaking your head no?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't think so. I should point out, if I'm not mistaken, that the home care industry has actually endorsed this reform effort and are moving forward, but go ahead and finish your question.

Q Well, that is my concern, that your budget proposal has lined up, from MedPAC's recommendations, cuts for the next several years that will amount to, I don't know, $13 billion or something like that over the next few years.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay, well, let me just respond. The MedPAC idea is to have health care experts and doctors sit down and figure out how can we improve Medicare, how can we make it more cost-efficient. It is not an exercise in just cutting reimbursement rates. In fact, in some cases, we may need higher reimbursement rates for certain aspects. I actually think home care ends up being cost-efficient in many cases rather than institutional care -- and it helps keep people in their homes. (Applause.)

In rural communities, in rural communities, there are certain areas where doctors aren't reimbursed at an adequate level, and so you're seeing too many doctors leave those communities.

So what we do want to make sure of, though, is that we are, in our reimbursement systems, we're incentivizing smart things. So, for example, right now if a hospital is reimbursed for the number of tests that it does, then that may not give them much of an incentive to make their system more efficient so that once you take that first test and you've gone in the hospital, then you end up having that test sent around to everybody so you don't have to take five more tests. But right now the way the reimbursement system is set up, you don't have that incentive to just have the one test and then use information technology to distribute it throughout the system.

So those are the kinds of changes that we want to make. We think that the more that we're encouraging efficient, smart care, that's going to be good for providers, that's going to be good for patients, that'd actually freeze up more money so that we, in some cases, can provide higher reimbursements for folks who right now are not getting sufficient reimbursement. It's a matter of using the dollars that we're spending more wisely than we're spending them right now. Okay, all right.

Q Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.

Gentleman in the red right there.

Q Well, first, Mr. President, welcome to Shaker Heights.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.

Q The city that makes things work. (Laughter and applause.) My question and maybe my request is this: Are you willing to urge Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi to stay in Washington and get this job done?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I tell you what, I think Senator Reid said today that he thought that we can get this bill out of the Senate Finance Committee by the time of recess, and that in early fall they will come back and actually vote on the bill. Now, I haven't talked to him today.

My attitude is I want to get it right, but I also want to get it done promptly. And so as long as I see folks working diligently and consistently, then I am comfortable with moving a process forward that builds as much consensus as possible. What I don't want is what I referred to in my speech, delay for the sake of delay -- delay because people are worried about making tough decisions or casting tough votes. That's what I don't want to see.

So if people are legitimately working out tough problems -- and some of these problems are tough. I mean, this is a big system and it's complicated. So I have no problem if I think people are really working through these difficult issues and making sure that we get it right. But I don't want to delay just because of politics. And I have to tell you, sometimes delays in Washington occur because people just don't want to do anything that they think might be controversial.

And you know what? That's now how America has made progress in the past. Medicare was controversial. Social Security was controversial. People accused Franklin Delano Roosevelt of being a socialist because he wanted to set up a system to make seniors a little more secure. Going to the moon was controversial. But at some point, if we're going to move this country forward, we can't be afraid to change, especially a system that we know is broken. We've got to get it done and we've got to get it done soon. (Applause.)

All right. This young -- that lady right there, who's waving at me. (Laughter.)

Q Thank you very much. My name is Semanthie Brooks and I'm the director of Community Advocacy for the Benjamin Rose Institute in Cleveland.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay. (Applause.)

Q I also represent a group called Senior Voice and we, by the way, sent over 4,000 signatures to our congressional members asking their support of Medicare. And so my question is about Medicare and the doughnut hole in particular. We know that about 3.4 million seniors will fall into the doughnut hole on an annual basis. This represents about one in four seniors that will participate in the Part D program. When seniors fall into the doughnut hole, they then have to make choices about whether or not they take their medications; they break their pills in half; they make a decision about buying medication or purchasing food. My question to you, Mr. President, is that, will you support legislation that is currently being introduced in the House to close the doughnut hole over the next several years? (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm going to do more than that for you. In our health care reform proposal we have already extracted concessions from the pharmaceutical industry that we know will right away close half of that doughnut hole. They've already put $80 billion on the table. That's part of the reason AARP endorsed the bill.

Now, by the way, for those of you who don't know what the doughnut hole is, the way the Medicare prescription drug plan works is that it helps you pay for your prescription drugs until you hit a certain ceiling, a certain level of several thousand dollars, and then suddenly, the subsidies, the help from the federal government just go away. And you've got to pay out-of-pocket expenses of several more thousands of dollars until you get to the point where help kicks in again. So that's why they call it the doughnut hole, because there's a hole right in the middle where you don't get any help. And it costs seniors thousands of dollars.

One of the things that we can do through reform is to make sure that we are moving to close that doughnut hole. That's a commitment that will be contained in this health care reform bill that we get passed. (Applause.)

All right. This young man right here. We'll get a young guy in here.

Q Hi, Mr. President. My name is Brooks Boran (ph). I am going to be a junior in high school. My question is, for a student, how can we help get this reform passed? (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I appreciate that, I like that. Well, first of all, I very much appreciate that as a junior in high school you're still thinking about -- you're already thinking about this, because usually young people, they think they're indestructible so they don't need health care. (Laughter.) And in fact, a high proportion of the uninsured are actually young people, particularly right after they graduate from college, they haven't gotten a job yet that provides health care, and they are very vulnerable if, heaven forbid, something happens to them.

There have been a couple of ideas that we've talked about -- for example, extending the insurance of parents, making insurance companies provide -- keep kids on their insurance until they're 25. That would help a lot. (Applause.)

But the question you asked was how can you help get it done. Number one, make sure you're persuading your parents if they're not already convinced. But Mom is right there, so she's already on board. (Laughter.)

I think that activism right now, in calling your congress people, calling your senators, making sure they know this is important -- that's something that everybody here needs to do because, frankly, they are hearing from the other side. All those folks who are out there saying we can't afford this, this is socialism, this will lead to government-run health care; all the folks who are getting ginned up on talk radio and some of these cable news shows -- I have to say that they have an effect on members of Congress. It makes members of Congress nervous. So they need to hear from folks who are saying in a very common-sense way, this is something we can do.

It's going to be paid for. It is not going to add to the deficit. It will, in fact, control the deficit over the long term. And young people should particularly be concerned about that, because if health care inflation keeps going up at the rate that it is, you won't -- when your generation is running things -- won't be able to afford anything else in the federal budget. Medicare and Medicaid will consume all our health care dollars -- or all our federal dollars. That's a huge problem.

But the last thing I just want to emphasize to people, when you contact your senators, when you contact your members of Congress, make sure to make this a personal testimony. Tell your story about why you're concerned. Because sometimes these debates get so abstract, and I have to remind people -- you know, I get a story about a woman who contracts cancer, and suddenly not only is she worrying about her cancer, but she's also worrying about the $100,000 worth of unpaid medical bills that she's having to deal with and her family can't afford.

I hear from people who say, "I've always worked hard, I've always done well, I've got a good job. I left my job to start my business. Suddenly I find out I can't get health insurance because of a preexisting condition. And so I'm going to have to close up my business and I'm going to have to go back to doing something where I can get health insurance."

I mean, those stories, everybody knows them. And one of the things that I emphasized yesterday that people I think don't maybe think about enough is, if all that money is being eaten up in premiums, even if your employer is paying for them, guess what. That means that employer has got less money to give you a raise. So you wonder why, for the last 10 years, wages and incomes have been flat. If you look, on average, people haven't gotten a raise. Why is that? Well, part of it is because it's all been taken up in increased health care costs, even if the companies are profitable.

And, you know, the group that actually understands this best is folks who are members of unions because -- and the reason is, what happens? You guys go into negotiations, and your employer, even if they're well-meaning, even if they want to cooperate with the union, they say, "Look, guys, I can't afford to give you a raise -- I can't afford to raise the hourly wage because look at what's happened to my health care rates." And your whole negotiation ends up being how much more of a health care burden are you going to have to carry when you thought those benefits were already locked in.

So that's why health care reform is so important even if you've got health insurance, because it is taking money out of your pocket and it's leaving a lot of people in very dire straits. So, all right? (Applause.) Okay.

This young lady right here. There's a gentleman who is coming with a microphone.

Q Hello, Mr. President. I'm Dr. Diana Lee Macron (ph). And I have a question. The Republicans and some Democrats want to tax health care benefits. Using one of the local Council of Smaller Enterprise plans, an individual male would pay $1,500 at the age of 24; $5,200 at age 50; and almost $10,000 at age 60 for the same plan. For a female employee, it would cost $3,300 at age 24, and $6,400 at age 50. Family plans are more.

A tax credit can only benefit those who make enough money to use a tax credit. Most people don't need a tax credit. How would you make the taxing of benefits equitable to older and female workers?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me -- just to make sure I understand your question -- or I'll try to answer what I think your question was. First of all, in terms of taxing benefits, I said I oppose the taxing of health care benefits that people are already receiving, so that's not a proposal that I'm supportive of. (Applause.)

There is being discussed in the Senate Finance Committee the fact that some folks have Cadillac plans, meaning -- let's -- just to give you an example, the average member of Congress's plan, I think, is somewhere -- it's either $13,000 or $17,000 or $14,000; it's somewhere in that range. So that's a pretty good plan. That's what members of Congress get.

Now, what the Senate Finance Committee has been saying is maybe when you get to a $25,000 plan -- so one that's a lot more expensive and a lot fancier than the one that even members of Congress get -- maybe at that point what you should do is you should sort of cap the exclusion, the tax deduction, that is available so that we're discouraging these really fancy plans that end up driving up costs. That's the debate that's been taking place, and I think that is at least -- I haven't signed on to that approach, but I think it's a legitimate debate to have.

But what I said and I've taken off the table would be the idea that you just described, which would be that you would actually provide -- you would eliminate the tax deduction that employers get for providing you with health insurance, because, frankly, a lot of employers then would stop providing health care, and we'd probably see more people lose their health insurance than currently have it. And that's not obviously our objective in reform. Okay?

All right, let's see, this young man right here. He's got a bowtie on, he looks very sharp. (Applause.) Here, you can use my mic.

Q Hi, I'm Brandon Patterson and I'm Shaker Heights senior class president. And I want to say, on behalf of the entire -- (applause.) (Inaudible) -- but my question is -- she kind of touched on it earlier, and you kind of said that you're going to, with the health care, extend the age where we can go on our parents' health care. But we see that many states have passed reforms where they extended the age to 26 and 30 (inaudible) that we, at 19 -- or 29 -- that we still are the main -- the largest percent of people who do not have health insurance. So my question to you is actually, how can we be guaranteed?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, keep in mind that one way of dealing with this is having health insurance reform so that young people are covered under their parents' plan while they're in that transition period from college to a job.

But anybody under the plan that we proposed and actually we're seeing consensus in Congress about, anybody would be eligible to go ahead and get health insurance through what we're calling this exchange with subsidies with help from the federal government if you can't afford it, so that you'd still be able to get health insurance even if you're 20 or 21 or 22 as long as you are eligible financially. I mean, if you're LeBron James -- I love LeBron, but he doesn't need a subsidy from the federal government for health insurance. (Laughter.)

But assuming you're -- you qualify in terms of income, where you're a working person who's not making a lot of money, doesn't get health insurance on the job, regardless of age, you would then be eligible to go ahead and buy health insurance through this exchange. That's the whole idea, is that we're creating a system where anybody who doesn't have health insurance is able to go and look up and see these choices.

By the way, this exchange has a lot of private plan options in it, if that's what you prefer. And you could choose the plan that you think works best for you and we would then help you be able to purchase that insurance. And any insurer who was in the exchange would have to abide by certain rules, like you can't exclude people for preexisting conditions; like they can't just drop you if they decide that you get too sick; you can't lose your insurance just because you change jobs. Right? So we would be reforming the insurance industry and you would be able to get access for insurance that you could count on over the long term.

All right? Okay. It's a young lady's turn. Let's see -- I've sort of neglected I think way up there. All right, that young lady standing up right there -- no, no, no, I'm sorry, I know you're excited, but I was pointing at her right there. (Laughter.) But I love you too, though. (Laughter.) Okay, right there -- yes. No, right there -- yes.

Q Me?

THE PRESIDENT: You, yes.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. My name is Aimee Vance. I'm an RN that works for the Cleveland Clinic and Community Outreach. We serve the uninsured and are doing some great things there. This is Connie Robinson; she's a counselor also that works with me. (Laughter.) My question is, in the health care reform bill that you are putting together, are there going to be provisions for insurance companies to get paid for providing health education and health promotion type of things for their people as well as more help with mental health services, because it's a huge deficit. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I've long been a supporter of mental health services as part of a package and I think that's important, but I really want to focus on, in addition, what you just mentioned, which is issues of prevention and wellness. This can make such a huge difference and, you know, I was meeting with some of the officers here at the Cleveland Clinic -- they're all sitting up front here; very serious guys, they do outstanding work.

One of the things that's exciting, though, in addition to the big fancy hospital with all the fancy equipment, they've also -- are linked up with all these family clinics all throughout the area. And one of the things that a clinic and a family physician can do is to focus on preventable diseases, making sure that you are helping somebody with a nutritionist to keep their weight down before they get diabetes as opposed to, you know, paying for a surgery for a foot amputation. (Applause.) If they already have diabetes, then having a counselor who's working with them monthly to make sure that they are maintaining the regimens to keep their diabetes under control -- that is cost-efficient.

But the problem is, right now, that a lot of the health system doesn't reimburse and incentivize that kind of preventive work and that wellness work. And so what we want to do is absolutely in this reform package, there will be reimbursements for and incentives for prevention and wellness, and we're going to make sure that those are the things that don't require out-of-pocket costs for the patient so that they're not being discouraged from using it, but rather they're being encouraged from using it -- that will make all the difference in the world. (Applause.)

All right. How much time we have? Okay, I've got time -- I'm sorry, guys -- I only have time for one more question. One more question. And I've got to say, I apologize, guys, but I'm going to go with -- I'm going to go with another young person here -- this young man right there, who's got a jacket on, so he's looking very sharp. (Laughter and applause.) Thanks for dressing up, guys -- you got the bowtie, you got the jacket. I didn't dress that good when I was their age. (Laughter.)

Q Thank you, Mr. President. My name is Parker Smith. I'm 14 years old; I'm going to be a freshman here.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay, Parker.

Q All right. How can you reassure many Americans around the country that your health care proposal isn't too much, too fast?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that's a great question. That's a great question. (Applause.) First of all, I do think that sometimes people get the idea -- you know, I had said, let's get this done by August. Now, what I was referring to is, let's get bills voted out of the House and the Senate by August. That still means that we'd have to come back in the fall; we'd have to reconcile the differences between the Senate bill and the House bill; have a new bill; it would go back to the Senate and the House again to be voted on; then finally come to my desk. Our target date is to get this done by the fall. That's the bottom line. But keep in mind that even if we got it done in the fall, most of these changes would be phased in over several years. So it's not as if you're going to wake up tomorrow and suddenly the health care system is all changed completely. We are going to phase this in, in an intelligent, deliberate way.

But there are some changes that I think have to take effect pretty quick; for example, making sure that we're reducing prescription drugs for seniors. We shouldn't have to wait a long time to get that done. (Applause.) We shouldn't have to wait a long time to make sure that people don't lose their insurance because of a preexisting condition. There are some things that I think that we can start implementing where there's a pretty broad consensus it needs to get done.

Now, is it too much? I don't think it's too much. It's only too much by the standards of Washington politics today, which is basically that anything just becomes this big tangle of who's up and who's down, and who's advantaged and who's not, and the special interests and the lobbyists are all scurrying around. By that standard -- I know I'm working people pretty hard up on Capitol Hill -- but you know what, this is not too much.

What we're talking about is not completely scrapping the existing health care system. All we're saying is if you've got health insurance, you can keep it. If you don't have health insurance, you can now afford to buy it with some help. If you have health insurance, we're going to reform the insurance industry so that it can still make a profit, it can still offer good services to its patients -- or to its customers; it just can't engage in some of these rules that basically have them collecting a lot of premiums but not wanting to pay out when people really need it and when people get sick. (Applause.)

So -- and what we want to do -- now, here's what is complicated, is changing the delivery systems so that we actually start getting more quality for less money. That's going to take some time. It's not going to happen overnight.

The reason I visited the Cleveland Clinic is because along with the Mayo Clinic, they have been able to drive down costs more than any other health care system out there, while maintaining some of the highest quality.

Now, when I asked how did you go about doing it, well, they started this thing -- when was it started, Cleveland Clinic? 1921. And they -- what they've done is -- for example, doctors who are part of the Cleveland Clinic get paid a salary instead of being paid fee-for-service. So that makes it easier for them to make some of these changes, because people don't feel like maybe they're losing some money out of pocket; they just know that they're getting a salary.

Now, that's not maybe the thing that every doctor is going to want to do. But there are other ways that we can take that same approach where they start thinking in terms of what's needed for the patient, and making sure that they're getting reimbursed for what's good for the patient, and they don't then have to worry about what's the government saying, or what's the insurance company saying; am I going to get reimbursed for this, am I not going to get reimbursed for this, do I have to fill out 15,000 forms.

I've said before, most people who are doctors or nurses, they didn't get into it to fill out forms; they got into it to make people feel better, to heal the sick, and that's what we want to free them up to do, but it will take a little time to get there. (Applause.)

So, all right, everybody, stay on your members of Congress. Keep up the heat. We've got to get this done. Thank you. Love you. Bye. (Applause.)

END 3:25 P.M. EDT

Durbin Introduces Legislation to Ease Nationwide Nursing Shortage

From the Office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) today introduced legislation to ease our nation’s nursing shortage which is expected to exceed one million by 2020. The Nurse Training and Retention Act would build on the current healthcare workforce by creating incentives for healthcare worker to become nurses and for current nurses to become nurse faculty.

“Everyone depends on nurses for quality patient care, yet the healthcare system in America lacks an adequate supply of nurses and the problem is getting worse,” said Durbin. “By 2020, the shortage in Illinois alone could exceed 21,000. Today’s legislation proposes a new, innovative program that builds on our existing healthcare workforce – an important, but currently untapped resource. The debate in Congress over healthcare reform must include solutions that address this growing problem.”

As the need for nurses grows, our ability to train more nurses is not keeping up. In Illinois, the number of qualified applicants being denied admission to nursing schools is growing. From 2002 through 2003, there were 502 qualified students rejected from Illinois nursing schools. Last year, there were 2,523 students turned away because of lack of faculty and resources. The number represents a more than 50% increase from 2007 when just 1,657 qualified applicants were turned away.

“Part of fixing Americans broken healthcare system means ensuring patients receive better quality of care through investments in training for the next generation of nurses to fill the nursing shortage." said Cathy Glasson, RN, President of Nurse Alliance of SEIU, “This legislation puts incumbent healthcare workers on track to become nurses—and no one is better prepared to become nurses than those already working in healthcare.”

Nurses who advance from other healthcare positions are familiar with the demands of the bedside and are generally more aware of the work environment and ready to meet its unique challenges. Healthcare organizations that provide these training opportunities for their workforce find that these workers require less time in orientation than new workers and represent a diverse population more representative of the patients being served.

Today’s legislation proposes building on the current healthcare workforce through a new grant program at the Department of Labor which would:

  • Provide education and training to incumbent healthcare workers to earn a nursing certificate or degree (including college preparation, tuition assistance, tutoring, counseling, orientation, mentorship, and assistance); and
  • Assist current nurses in obtaining specialty training or advanced degrees to serve as nurse faculty, increasing the capacity of nursing schools to train more nurses.

Durbin has continually offered legislation to address the nationwide nursing shortage. Along with Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), Durbin introduced the Nurse Education, Expansion, and Development (NEED) on February 6, 2009 to address one of the major causes of the shortage – an insufficient number of nurse educators – by providing grants to colleges to improve their ability to educate nursing students.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Durbin Announces Nearly $7 Million in Recovery Act Funding for Illinois Environmental Programs

From the Office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin

July 21, 2009 - [WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and EPA Region 5 have awarded $6,962,635 in funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to three environmental programs in Illinois.

“Today’s funding will improve the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink while creating jobs across Illinois,” said Durbin. “It is not only good for our bodily health, but also the health of our state’s economy.”

The following Illinois communities and agencies will receive funding:
  • City of Chicago: $1,000,000 in funding for projects to cut emissions and fuel usage from the city’s diesel fleet. These clean diesel projects will create or retain roughly 23 jobs while protecting Chicago’s air quality by reducing harmful diesel emissions by 313 tons per year.
  • Illinois Environmental Protection Agency: $4,172,335 in funding to clean up diesel vehicles and equipment in the state. These clean diesel projects will create 123 jobs while protecting Illinois’ air quality by involving 675 eligible diesel vehicles or engines.
  • Illinois Environmental Protection Agency: $1,790,300 in funding for water quality management planning to determine the nature, extent, and causes of water pollution problems, and to develop plans to solve those problems.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Congressman Mark Kirk (R-10) Announces U.S. Senate Campaign

July 21, 2009 - Congressman Mark Kirk (R-10) announces his candidacy for U.S. Senate in Springfield.

House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R) at Congressman Mark Kirk's U.S. Senate Campaign Announcement

July 21, 2009 - House Minority Leader Tom Cross speaks at Congressman Mark Kirk's U.S. Senate Campaign Announcement in Springfield.

Monday, July 20, 2009

ISBE to Cut Education Programs Tuesday

By Jim Broadway, Publisher of State School News Service

As we reported late last week, the Illinois State Board of Education must now hold a special meeting to stretch $511 million to cover "discretionary" programs that were funded at a total of more than $900 million in FY 2009. They must make more than $400 million in funding cuts to such programs as:

Early Childhood Education; Career and Technical Education; ADA Block Grants; Gifted Education; Homeless Education; Truants Alternative/Optional Education; Regional Office of Education Services; Bilingual Education; National Board Certification; Principal Mentoring - and the list goes on to include more than 40 established education initiatives of proven effectiveness.

That funding-reduction meeting will begin Tuesday at 10 a.m. in Springfield.

We have posted a notice of the meeting at www.stateschoolnews.com. A period of "public participation" will be a part of the meeting, as is the case for all open SBE meetings. We will be on hand to cover the event and will post updates on our home page as the day progresses.

While the testimony is sure to be compelling, the meager amount of funds available will not change Tuesday. The General Assembly's failure to generate the revenue to avert disaster in education, human services and other areas of state responsibility made the damaging funding reductions necessary.

Most of you will be represented at the meeting by leaders of constituencies of which you are members. We will report what is said and, of course, the details of final actions taken. Check back at the SSNS home page, www.stateschoolnews.com, periodically on Tuesday for the latest information available.

If you have specific questions or comments, use the "Contact SSNS" button on our home page for that. Due to the changing situation (and some transitional distractions that we are experiencing at SSNS as well) we may be slower than usual to respond, but we will do our best.

Thank you,
Jim

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March 27, 2009 - From the Peoria Civic Center: alumni and staff from Ronald Reagan's alma mater, Eureka College, hear a speech by former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. He talks of his relationship with President Reagan and how Reagan's leadership came to break new ground in U.S. - Soviet relations.

CAMPAIGN 2010: Sen. Dan Rutherford (R), Candidate for State Treasurer

July 13, 2009 - From the Press Briefing Room at the State Capitol: State Senator Dan Rutherford announces his campaign to seek the Republican nomination for State Treasurer.

Reforming State Spending

July 15, 2009 - From the State Capitol in Springfield: on the day lawmakers passed a new state budget, we hear from Tom Johnson, who chaired a commission on state government cost-cutting. He tells us how reforms could save billions of dollars annually. Mr. Johnson, who is a former director of the Illinois Department of Revenue, also shares his insights on whether the state needs to overhaul its current tax code to generate additional revenue.

Illinois' Debt Level and Cost of Borrowing

July 14, 2009 - From the Stratton Office Building in Springfield: we speak with Dan Long, Executive Director of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. As lawmakers authorized new borrowing to fund state programs, we hear what the cost of this new borrowing will be in the years ahead.

Details of the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Deal

July 15, 2009 - From the State Capitol in Springfield: as the Illinois legislature and Governor Quinn finally came to terms on a new state budget, we hear details of the budget deal from House Republican Press Secretary Sara Wojcicki, who tells us how new borrowing replaced new taxes as a revenue source.

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Federal Appeals Court Removes Injunction Against Illinois' Parental Abortion Notifcation Law

from Illinois Federation of Right to Life, July 17, 2009


On July 14, 2009 the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit dissolved the federal injunction against the Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act of 1995. As a result Illinois parents will be entitled to notification before their minor daughters have an abortion.

The Parental Notice Act was locked in legal limbo for more than ten years but as a result of the combined efforts of pro-life/pro-family groups, and the support of the pro-life grassroots we finally have victory! Legislative HistoryIn 1995, the Illinois Federation for Right to Life was determined to pass a parental involvement law and indeed, the Illinois legislature passed and Governor Jim Edgar signed the Parental Notification Act.

The Act required that the Illinois Supreme Court promulgate the rules for the judicial bypass, a provision to allow notice to be waived if necessary to protect the minor. The Supreme Court refused to do its job until September of 2006! As the litigation continued in the Illinois court, an attempt was made to repeal the parental notification law by Rep. Fritchey who introduced HB5840 (the Adolescent Health Care Safety Act) in 2006. It did not pass out of the Rules Committee. In 2007 Rep. Fritchey introduced HB317 again hoping to repeal the 1995 law.

The ‘Adolescent Healthcare Safety Act’ (HB317), introduced on January 18th, 2007 did not have the votes to pass. Determined to stop notification for Illinois parents Rep. Fritchey introduced an amendment to HB317 that did not repeal the 1995 act, but rendered it useless. That bill was heard in the House on April 26, 2007 and lost. The vote was 55 “yes” and 62 “no’s”. This difficult battle for the right of parents to be notified was won because of the faithful support of grassroots pro-lifers who stood by and assisted the Illinois Federation for Right to Life.

In the spring of 2005 a representative of the Illinois Federation for Right to Life and representatives of other pro-life/ pro-family organizations met with DuPage County State's Attorney Joseph Birkett to ask him to petition the Illinois Supreme Court to promulgate the rules required by the 1995 Act. Birkett agreed and filed his petition in June 2006. On September 7, 2006, the Thomas More Society, joined by many organizations, filed a supplemental petition. Less than two weeks later, the Illinois Supreme Court, under the leadership of Chief Justice Bob Thomas, unanimously adopted Supreme Court Rule 303A.

In March 2007 the attorney general’s office petitioned Judge David Coar to lift the permanent injunction. Initially Judge Coar refused to lift the injunction ruling that the law required a consent provision. The Thomas More Society appealed that decision citing that the law was a notification law not a consent law. The judge reversed his decision. Judge David Coar lifted the federal injunction against the Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act and now for the first time since Roe v. Wade, parents in Illinois have won the right to be notified if their underage daughter seeks an abortion.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Governor Quinn Names Cemetery Oversight Task Force

From the Office of Governor Pat Quinn

CHICAGO – July 16, 2009. Governor Pat Quinn signed an Executive Order forming the Cemetery Oversight Task Force, which will examine the management of for-profit cemeteries with the intent of bolstering industry regulations and proposing needed consumer protection laws.

“The Burr Oak Cemetery scandal is an outrage. I believe in providing a proper and respectful burial,” said Governor Quinn. “This task force will ensure that our loved ones are always treated with reverence and dignity.”

In addition to forming the task force, Governor Quinn is directing Brent Adams, Acting Secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), which regulates funeral directors, to order state licensees to produce books and records reflecting business transactions or communications with Burr Oak over the past five years.

Attorney and former prosecutor Patricia Brown Holmes, a partner with law firm Schiff Hardin LLP, will act as chairperson of the nine-person Cemetery Oversight Task Force. Holmes served as an associate judge at the Circuit Court of Cook County, a Chief Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of Chicago, an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and as an Assistant State’s Attorney for Cook County.

Other Illinois citizens serving on the task force are: Dr. Damon Arnold, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health; Brent Adams, IDFPR; Dr. Byron Brazier, Pastor of Apostolic Church of God; Lester Coney, Executive Vice-president of Mesirow Financial; William McNary, Co-executive Director of Citizen Action; Dalitso Sulamoyo, President and CEO of Illinois Association of Community Action Agencies; Michael Kotzin, Executive Vice President of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago; and Andrea Zopp, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Exelon Corporation.

Governor Quinn’s Executive Order calls for the task force to conduct a comprehensive review of “the circumstances surrounding the recent tragic events at Burr Oak Cemetery” and to “provide detailed recommendations on what policies, laws, rules and regulations should be implemented.”