Thursday, February 26, 2015

BiPartisan Supporters Announce Need to Pass HB-3293, to Apply "Clean Energy" Tax Credits to Nuclear Plants

HB-3293:   Background

ComEd is wanting to have tax credits for clean energy applied to nuclear plants, which now applies to Wind & Solar.  Because Illinois  is the LARGEST user of nuclear power, only 40% of Illinois' electricity production comes from Coal.  This compares with 80% use of coal for electricity in Kentucky.  

This bill would extend the clean energy tax credits to nuclear power, which would save ComEd money and make its nuclear fleet more affordable to operate.   It would apply to electric providers of greater than 100,000 customers, which would therefore apply to just ComEd and Ameren.

ComEd notes that last year at just the Clinton IL plant, it lost $100 million on the operation of the plant.   It says that without such relief as included in HB-3293, it would have to shut down some of its nuclear plants -- at a devastating result to local communities and schools, supported by the plants property taxes, in addition to the high-paying jobs provided at the plants. .  It operates six nuclear facilities in Illinois, including Clinton, Quad-Cities, LaSalle.

But critics point out that ComEd is already profitable and has opposed the tax credits for wind and solar in the past, saying that those energy sources should have to make it in the economy on their own financial merits and
not be subsidized.  NOW, that electric rates are lower and the nuclear plants are not generating as much profits, critics say ComEd is wanting to jump on the very Tax Credits they were critical of in the past.

Some say instead of granting a permanent tax credit for nuclear plants, that it might be provided on an "as need" basis.  Or that the state should have some sort of agreement that Excelon would pay back the tax credits IF electric rates shot up and profits increased.

Excelon, owner of ComEd says this bill has a sunset provision of 5 years, and does have a provision for returning credits if energy costs rise.

This bill, is being backed by both labor groups and some businesses.  But the concerns are that rates will also go up, in part because the Federal EPA is going to begin higher regulation of carbon under segment 111-D, of EPA rules. And to that end, ComEd can argue that Illinois's nuclear plants provide the very carbon free electrical generation that will keep the lights burning, while some coal-fired plants are forced to close down as they become too costly to operate.

ComEd argues the cost of providing the tax credits to nuclear power would be far less costly than if it were forced to close those nuclear plants that are no longer cost-effective to operate.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

TEXT of Governor Rauner's Budget Address

Illinois’ Turnaround Budget
As Prepared for Delivery
Also included: Budget Summary
Good Afternoon.
President Cullerton
Speaker Madigan
Leader Radogno
Leader Durkin
Lieutenant Governor Sanguinetti
Attorney General Madigan
Secretary White
Comptroller Munger
Treasurer Frerichs
Members of the General Assembly,
Thank you for attending today. Thank you for your service to the people of
Over the past week, we’ve commemorated the life of Illinois’ greatest leader, Abraham Lincoln.
In the lead up to his signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, President Lincoln delivered a letter to Congress, writing in part:
“The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion… We must think anew and act anew.”
While the challenges before us are very different than those that faced our 16th President, here, in the Land of Lincoln, we recognize that the road ahead – our road to a more prosperous future – is a difficult one.
And like President Lincoln’s call to Congress, we too must “think anew and act anew.”
We must be willing to take actions we’d rather avoid, and make decisions that may seem unpopular in the short run.
The budget outlined today is the budget Illinois can afford, and that in itself is an example of “thinking anew.”
Because for far too long we have been living beyond our means—spending money that Illinois taxpayers could not afford.
This budget is honest with the people of Illinois, and it presents an honest path forward.
Like a family, we must come together to address the reality we face.
Families know that every member can’t get everything they want.
But we can pay for what we need most.
And we can reform our system so we are able to invest more in the future.
Because the task before us is so large, all our challenges cannot be solved by a single budget.
It will take time to restore Illinois to fiscal health.
Now is the time to start on a responsible path after years of financial recklessness.
Instilling discipline is not easy, saying “no” is not popular - but it is now or never for Illinois.
It is make or break time.
Before we can address next year’s budget, we must first solve the current year’s crisis.
As you know, the current budget was $1.6 billion in the hole when it was signed last year.
And the prior administration directed state agencies NOT to control their costs.
As a result, we are in the middle of a crisis that gets worse every day.
The Child Care Assistance Program is out of money and families are worried about how to care for their children.
Court reporters will start missing payroll next month, threatening to grind our justice system to a halt.
And our state prisons will start missing payroll in early April, making them unable to fulfill their most basic operations.
Everyone in this chamber understands the severity of what is immediately in front of us.
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Leader Radogno and Leader Durkin – thank you for allowing your staffs to meet with our administration these past few weeks to find a responsible solution to our immediate budget crisis.
It appears that we are very close, literally days away, from a resolution. And every day counts.
Members of the General Assembly – now is the time for action.
It is time to solve this crisis.
Let’s continue the Child Care Assistance Program.
Let’s keep our court rooms open.
Let’s keep our corrections officers on duty.
Let’s put the people of Illinois over partisan politics.
Solving this year’s crisis will eliminate $1.6 billion from next year’s deficit.
Let’s get it done.
Even after we solve this fiscal year’s crisis, we will still be left with a budget hole of $6.2 billion for the coming fiscal year.
This huge deficit is the result of years of bad decisions, sleight-of-hand budgeting and giveaways we couldn’t afford.
It is NOT the result of decreasing tax rates.
Some in the General Assembly are eager to discuss new revenue.
But before revenue can be discussed, reform is essential.
Before we ask the people of Illinois to pay more to fund state government, we must ensure taxpayers are getting value for their money.
Asking for more of the taxpayers’ hard-earned money without fundamentally reforming the structure of state government would further erode public confidence and accelerate our decline.
Waste and inefficiency are rampant in the system. Illinois government is currently designed to benefit those inside the system rather than the working families of our state.
We must institute major reforms, or whatever balanced budget we craft this year will be undone in the years ahead by the special interests that make their money from the government and pay politicians to spend more. We must eliminate conflicts of interest in state government and end our broken system.
These reforms won’t be easy. Decades of special interest laws will be difficult to undo. But to be compassionate, we must be competitive. And that means having the political courage to put the people’s interests first and the special interests last.
Our top priority for financial reform must be our pension system. That is true regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision on SB 1.
Even if our pension systems were fully funded, taxpayers would still be on the hook for $2 billion.
But our pension systems are not fully funded. They are $111 billion in the hole—the worst pension crisis in America.
As it stands right now, one out of every four dollars taken from taxpayers by the state goes into a system that is giving more than ELEVEN THOUSAND government retirees tax-free, six-figure pensions worth as much as, in one case, $450,000 per year!
Without the reforms proposed in this budget, nearly 25 cents of every tax dollar will continue going into a broken pension system instead of into our social services safety net, our schools, or back into the pockets of taxpayers and small businesses!
That is unfair and unsustainable – and it changes with this budget.
Government employees deserve fair and competitive benefits, but we cannot continue to raise taxes on all Illinoisans in order to fund the retirement benefits of a small fraction of our residents.
The pension reform plan in this budget will protect every dollar of benefits earned to date.
Let me repeat that: the pension reform plan protects every dollar of benefits earned.
What you’ve earned, you’re going to get.
And if you are retired, you get everything you were promised. That’s fair and it’s right.
But moving forward, all future work will be under the Tier 2 pension plan, except for our police and firefighters.
Those who put their lives on the line in service to our state deserve to be treated differently, and I believe the public will stand with me in this single case of special treatment.
This budget also gives employees hired before 2011 a choice to take a buyout option – a lump sum payment and a defined contribution plan in return for a voluntary reduction in cost-of-living adjustments. It’s time to empower our workforce and address one of the biggest fiscal challenges we face.
These reforms will yield more than $2 billion in savings in the first year alone.
And by bringing health care benefits more in line with those received by the taxpayers who pay for them, we save an additional $700 million.
We recognize that some of these reforms cannot be achieved through legislation alone.
Some must be achieved through good faith bargaining, and I hope that those on the other side of the table are as committed as I am to achieving the types of meaningful reform that are necessary for Illinois’ future.
While the state tightens its belt, so too must local governments and transportation agencies.
The amount of money transferred to local governments has grown 42 percent over the past decade. The state currently transfers $6 billion every year to local governments. Those governments are currently sitting on more than $15 billion in cash reserves.
The reduction in local government sharing in this budget is equal to just 3 percent of their total revenue.
Along with this modest cutback, our turnaround reforms will reduce unfunded mandates, and give local governments and voters the tools to save hundreds of millions of dollars through consolidation, employment flexibility and compensation restructuring.
Similarly, waste and inefficiency can be cut from the complex web that comprises our public transportation structure.
Statewide, our public transportation agencies spend billions of taxpayer dollars.
Our budget reductions for the state’s largest transit agency amount to less than 5 percent of its overall budget, and here, too, the proposals in our turnaround agenda give our transportation entities the tools to save hundreds of millions of dollars.
Reining in these costs allows us to minimize reductions in other areas of the budget.
For Medicaid, our budget reduces costs significantly while maintaining eligibility levels for most lower-income Illinoisans.
We plan to re-implement many of the Medicaid reform measures that were enacted just a few years ago but have already been undone.
By re-instituting the SMART Act and prioritizing our re-determination efforts, we will save hundreds of millions of dollars.
Our budget will also reduce costs by fixing our broken criminal justice system.
Far too many offenders return to prison within three years of leaving – a vicious and costly cycle.
Our prisons are overcrowded.
Our corrections officers are overworked.
By reforming our criminal justice system we can make our prisons safer, rehabilitate ex-offenders so they become productive members of society, and save many tens of millions of dollars.
Taken together, our turnaround reforms, along with the difficult but necessary choices in this budget, will enable us to invest in our future.
Making these tough choices is a small price to pay for the promise of a better tomorrow for our children and grandchildren.
In the gallery today, we are joined by students from Lincoln Community High School in Lincoln, and Lanphier High School and Lincoln Magnate School in Springfield.
This budget allows us to invest in them.
For years, state support for education has been cut, even when it didn’t have to be.
It’s time to make education our top priority again – and that’s what this budget does.
We start by increasing high-quality early childhood education options for our most vulnerable children.
Every dollar invested today in early childhood education saves us more than $7 in the future.
Increasing funding for our youngest is the smart AND the compassionate thing to do.
This budget also increases K-12 education funding by $300 million, helping school districts in our state that most need our support.
We have much more work to do to make our schools among the best in the nation, but we’re proud of the commitment we are making in this budget.
What we proposed today is a turnaround budget.
It improves public safety, provides care for our most vulnerable, boosts funding for education, and restructures the core costs of state government that are holding us back.
However, while this budget begins to fix our financial problems, the only real answer to our challenges is to become pro-growth again.
We need a booming economy – more small businesses and entrepreneurs starting here, and more people and businesses moving here.
If we don’t take action now to expand the economic pie, the people of Illinois will forever be left to fight over smaller and smaller slices.
Our citizens deserve a path to economic growth and empowerment – and that means putting people first and special interests last.
To grow our economy, we must enact meaningful workers compensation reform, unemployment insurance reform, lawsuit reform, pension reform and tax reform.
We’ve got to freeze property taxes, cut the red tape inside state and local government, and let people control their own economic destinies.
We need to end the corrupt bargains and the conflicts of interest. And we need to finally let the people have their say on a “Term Limits Amendment” to the state constitution.
If we make these reforms, we will be laying a solid foundation for economic growth and prosperity.
With reform, we will be able to:
Invest more in education and give our kids world class schools;
Invest more in our social safety net to help our most vulnerable residents;
And invest more in our infrastructure.
This turnaround plan reflects President Lincoln’s call to “think anew and act anew.”
In it, we end the irresponsible and reckless practices of the past, and make sure they will never happen again.
We make difficult choices that no one wants to make.
It is what this occasion requires.
And it’s what we were elected to do - make choices based on what’s best for the next generation, not the next election.
This is our last, best chance to get our house in order.
Let’s get it done.
Thank you. And God bless you.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Dangers of Expanding Sales of Fireworks

Pension Panel


From the City Club of Chicago: Senators Dan Biss (D) and Matt Murphy (R), join journalist Amanda Vinicky and Lawrence Msall of the Civic Federation, to discuss the on-going challenge of fixing Illinois' public pension systems, which are grossly underfunded to meet the promised benefits.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Evidence Based Funding for Education.

The Dangers of Expanding Sales of Fireworks

Gov. Rauner establishes Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandate Task Force

[file photo]

ELMHURST, Feb 13, 2015 – Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner today signed Executive Order 15-15 creating the Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandate Task force.

Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti will chair the task force, which is charged with finding efficiencies and encouraging streamlining of local government functions.

“Illinois leads the nation with nearly 7,000 units of local government,” Rauner said. “Many of these unnecessary layers of government are why hardworking families end up paying some of the highest property taxes in the nation.”

Task force members will be appointed by the Governor, and include representatives of units of local government, school districts, and the General Assembly from throughout Illinois.

The task force is required to submit its findings to the Governor and General Assembly by December 31, 2015, upon which time it will be dissolved.

Governor Rauner was joined today by DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin, whose ACT Initiative is saving DuPage County millions of dollars throughout the next 20 years.

“We need to lessen the burden of unfunded mandates imposed by the state on local governments while also encouraging streamlining of local government functions in order to save taxpayers money,” Rauner added.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Gov Rauner Issues Executive Order to Form Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform

SPRINGFIELD – Governor Bruce Rauner signed Executive Order 15-14 today, which establishes the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform.

The commission will examine the current criminal justice system and sentencing structure to develop comprehensive and evidence-based strategies to improve public safety. It will analyze all aspects of the current system from the initial arrest to re-entry into the community. Some areas the commission will specifically examine are ensuring there is uniformity in sentencing structure, sentencing practices, community supervision and the use of alternatives to prison.

“Illinois is in desperate need of criminal justice reform. Our prisons are overcapacity and too many offenders are returning to prison,” Gov. Rauner said. “We need to take a comprehensive, holistic approach to our justice system.”

The Department of Corrections (DOC) is operating at more than 150 percent of the inmates it was designed to house, which threatens the safety of inmates and staff. It also undermines the DOC’s ability to rehabilitate. Many of those inmates often return to prison; the recidivism rate in Illinois hovers around 50 percent.  

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Full Statement from NBC News Regarding Brian Williams Suspension for Six Months Without Pay

We have decided today to suspend Brian Williams as Managing Editor and Anchor of NBC Nightly News for six months. The suspension will be without pay and is effective immediately.  We let Brian know of our decision earlier today. Lester Holt will continue to substitute Anchor the NBC Nightly News.

Our review, which is being led by Richard Esposito working closely with NBCUniversal General Counsel Kim Harris, is ongoing, but I think it is important to take you through our thought process in coming to this decision.
 While on Nightly News on Friday, January 30, 2015, Brian misrepresented events which occurred while he was covering the Iraq War in 2003. It then became clear that on other occasions Brian had done the same while telling that story in other venues. This was wrong and completely inappropriate for someone in Brian’s position.
 In addition, we have concerns about comments that occurred outside NBC News while Brian was talking about his experiences in the field.

As Managing Editor and Anchor of Nightly News, Brian has a responsibility to be truthful and to uphold the high standards of the news division at all times.
 Steve Burke, Pat Fili and I came to this decision together. We felt it would have been wrong to disregard the good work Brian has done and the special relationship he has forged with our viewers over 22 years.  Millions of Americans have turned to him every day, and he has been an important and well-respected part of our organization.
 As I’m sure you understand, this was a very hard decision. Certainly there will be those who disagree.  But we believe this suspension is the appropriate and proportionate action.
 This has been a difficult time. But NBC News is bigger than this moment. You work so hard and dedicate yourselves each and every day to the important work of bringing trusted, credible news to our audience. Because of you, your loyalty, your dedication, NBC News is an organization we can – and should – all be proud of. We will get through this together.
 Steve Burke asked me to share the following message.
 “This has been a painful period for all concerned and we appreciate your patience while we gathered the available facts. By his actions, Brian has jeopardized the trust millions of Americans place in NBC News.  His actions are inexcusable and this suspension is severe and appropriate.  Brian’s life’s work is delivering the news. I know Brian loves his country, NBC News and his colleagues. He deserves a second chance and we are rooting for him.  Brian has shared his deep remorse with me and he is committed to winning back everyone’s trust.”

Monday, February 9, 2015

AFSCME responds to Rauner executive order on fair-share fees -

 Feb. 9, AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch released the following statement in response to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s executive order forbidding state agencies from collecting fair-share payments from state employees:

“Child protection workers, caregivers for veterans and the disabled, correctional officers and everyone else employed by state government has a right to a voice at work and in the democratic process through their union.

“Bruce Rauner’s scheme to strip the rights of state workers and weaken their unions by executive order is a blatantly illegal abuse of power.

“Perhaps as a private equity CEO Rauner was accustomed to ignoring legal and ethical standards, but Illinois is still a democracy and its laws have meaning.

“It is crystal clear by this action that the governor’s supposed concern for balancing the state budget is a paper-thin excuse that can’t hide his real agenda: Silencing working people and their unions who stand up for the middle class.

“Our union and all organized labor will stand together with those who believe in democracy to overturn Bruce Rauner’s illegal action and restore the integrity of the rule of law.” 

Gov Rauner Issues Executive Order Against "Forced" Union Dues

SPRINGFIELD - Governor Bruce Rauner today signed Executive Order 15-13 eliminating unfair share dues for state employees who do not wish to fund government union activities and positions with which they may disagree.

The governor’s actions come after an extensive legal review of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year inHarris v. Quinn. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act violated the First Amendment by forcing certain state employees to involuntarily pay fees to a labor union.

In light of that decision, the Rauner administration has concluded that the so-called “fair share” provisions of the current collective bargaining agreements, that are similar to those invalidated by the Supreme Court inHarris v. Quinn, are also unconstitutional.

“Forced union dues are a critical cog in the corrupt bargain that is crushing taxpayers. Government union bargaining and government union political activity are inexorably linked,” Governor Rauner said. “An employee who is forced to pay unfair share dues is being forced to fund political activity with which they disagree. That is a clear violation of First Amendment rights – and something that, as governor, I am duty-bound to correct.”

The executive order allows state employees who wish not to support government unions’ activities to stop paying the forced fees. It has no impact on those employees who wish to remain paying members of the union and fund union activities out of their paychecks.

Additional Background:

·         The federal government prohibited the forced collection of union dues in 1978 as part of the Civil Service Reform Act signed by President Jimmy Carter. That law passed the U.S. Senate 87-1 and the U.S. House of Representatives 365-8. Illinois Senator Charles Percy was one of the co-sponsors.

·         29 other states have laws that prohibit government entities from forcing public workers join or financially support labor organizations that they do not support.

·         While Harris v. Quinn only decided the constitutional issue as it relates to a subset of Illinois state employees (home care workers), the Supreme Court’s majority opinion found that much of the landmark case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education was ”questionable on several grounds.”

·         Notably, the Supreme Court said in Harris v. Quinn:

o   “Abood failed to appreciate the conceptual difficulty of distinguishing in public-sector cases between union expenditures that are made for collective-bargaining purposes and those that are made to achieve political ends. In the private sector, the line is easier to see. Collective bargaining concerns the union's dealings with the employer; political advocacy and lobbying are directed at the government. But in the public sector, both collective-bargaining and political advocacy and lobbying are directed at the government.”

o   “Abood failed to appreciate the difference between the core union speech involuntarily subsidized by dissenting public-sector employees and the core union speech involuntarily funded by their counterparts in the private sector. In the public sector, core issues such as wages, pensions, and benefits are important political issues, but that is generally not so in the private sector. In the years since Abood, as state and local expenditures on employee wages and benefits have mushroomed, the importance of the difference between bargaining in the public and private sectors has been driven home.”

§  “Recent experience has borne out this concern. See DiSalvo, The Trouble with Public Sector Unions, National Affairs No. 5, p. 15 (2010) ( ‘In Illinois, for example, public-sector unions have helped create a situation in which the state's pension funds report a liability of more than $100 billion, at least 50% of it unfunded’).”

o   “A union's status as exclusive bargaining agent and the right to collect an agency fee from non-members are not inextricably linked.For example, employees in some federal agencies may choose a union to serve as the exclusive bargaining agent for the unit, but no employee is required to join the union or to pay any union fee. Under federal law, in agencies in which unionization is permitted, 'each employee shall have the right to form, join, or assist any labor organization, or to refrain from any such activity, freely and without fear of penalty or reprisal, and each employee shall be protected in the exercise of such right.’”



AG Madigan: Drew Peterson Charged with Solicitation of Murder for Hire

Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Randolph County State’s Attorney Jeremy R. Walker today filed a two-count criminal information against Drew Peterson, 61, an inmate at the Menard Correctional Center, charging him with one count of solicitation of murder for hire and one count of solicitation of murder, both Class X felonies. The charges allege that between September 2013 and December 2014, the defendant solicited an individual to carry out a murder-for-hire plot against Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow. The defendant made an initial appearance on the charges today at the Randolph County Courthouse. A preliminary hearing is set for March 3 at 10 a.m. The case will be jointly prosecuted by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office and the Randolph County State’s Attorney’s Office.