Thursday, April 30, 2009
Chrysler to File for Bankruptcy Today After Talks Break Down
Chrysler, one of the three pillars of the American auto industry, will file for bankruptcy today after last-minute negotiations between the government and the automaker’s creditors broke down last night, an Obama administration official said. U.S. officials had offered Chrysler’s secured lenders $2.25 billion in cash if they would agree to writedown the $6.9 in secured debt that the company owed. But a small group of hedge funds refused the 11th-hour deal, forcing an imminent bankruptcy .
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
US Senate Passes $3.5 TRILLION Budget, on Obama's 100th Day in Office
Senate Passes $3.5 Trillion Budget Plan Following House vote, Senate approves $3.5 trillion budget outline that lays the groundwork for President Obama's ambitious initiatives on health care and education. The major legislative victory for Obama comes on the president's 100th day in office.
Doug Whitley Ends His Quest to Be GOP Nominee for Governor
After dedicating four months to a campaign for the Republican nomination for Governor of Illinois in 2010, I have concluded it is unrealistic to continue this effort.
I am exceedingly grateful for the encouragement and support from many individuals throughout Illinois. I am appreciative of everyone who demonstrated interest, welcomed me into communities and helped me along the way.
I have engaged in extensive travel, scores of public appearances and numerous conversations about the future of Illinois government, business, societal issues and the status of the Republican Party. Because these issues are critical to the health of Illinois, my regimen of engagement and civic involvement will continue. I will rejoin the Illinois Chamber of Commerce as President and CEO effective May 1. I look forward to hearing from you at email@example.com or at 312-983-7103.
The Doug4gov.com website will remain operational until the campaign committee is officially closed with the State Board of Elections in the coming weeks.
I will continue to respond to e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments, inquiries and feedback regarding this announcement are welcome at that e-mail address.
A Review of the Campaign
I’d like to share with you some of my thoughts and insights about the campaign and the decision to abandon the effort at this time.
I am especially grateful to have been well received everywhere I went. I believe my reputation, career experiences and messages have consistently resonated with attentive audiences. Countless people have expressed interest and volunteers have emerged. Donors have offered to host events to raise funds. Local party people warmed to the idea of a newcomer, non-professional politician who talks about ideas, action and solutions. People responded well to my passion for the role of Governor.
Even so, a reality check was necessary.
Money: I have been unable to overcome the financial hurdle required to launch a full-fledged campaign. The short-term prospects of having sufficient funds in the next 30 days to hire a campaign manager, communications director, field director for the busy summer season of festivals, fairs and parades, and a fundraising operation are minimal.
Economic Crisis: The destabilized economy, collapse of personal finances, job loss and fear of job losses, and threats to business have made the last several months an exceptionally difficult environment for fundraising.
Campaign Finance Reform: In the wake of Governor Blagojevich’s scandalous and unlawful campaign fundraising techniques, a new Illinois campaign finance law and executive order (recently rescinded) have effectively excluded thousands of potential donors and frozen others because of uncertainty surrounding the rules. The new law does not affect traditional large Democrat donors such as labor unions and trial lawyers. But the barriers placed upon traditional Republican donors – such as business owners – are chilling.
Voter Fatigue: Less than a month after last fall’s hugely engaging Presidential election our state watched the sitting Governor be arrested, impeached and removed from office. The appointment of a new U.S. Senator was equally controversial and provided wild political theater. A new Governor assumed office. The state’s debt is huge, revenues have tanked, the budget is in shambles and the General Assembly is in session. The former Governor finally was indicted while continuing to play ringmaster in the media circus. Meanwhile, local elections in April for thousands of offices across the state drew very low numbers of voters. The general public is not thinking about statewide candidates in 2010.
Party Leadership: I am an outsider. I have not run for office before, and I am not a proven vote-getter. I have not demonstrated an ability to raise funds for myself as a candidate. As a result, some party leaders were not ready to pledge support or funding to my campaign.
The Herd: The number of candidates and would-be candidates vying for the office of Governor is likely to grow in the coming weeks. The Republican Party still must sort through many GOP candidates and identify the best ones for the many available offices on the statewide ticket. It is not in the best interest of the party or the candidates to repeat the 2006 primary experience when a four-way race resulted in a weakened and under-funded standard-bearer to challenge well-funded, entrenched, incumbent Democrat office holders. I see little value in being a part of a repeat performance, when the obvious focus should be building a consensus strategy for candidates who can win in November.
Timing: If I were already an officeholder with campaign infrastructure and fundraising tools in place, I would not have begun the effort in January. But, I needed to get out early to present myself to new audiences and party leaders, and gain experience that a novice requires. I needed to present a legitimate and viable alternative to the traditional thinking that candidates should emerge from existing officeholders or be capable of substantially self-funding the campaign apparatus. I think the existing uncertainty of identifying, weeding out and selecting GOP candidates for 2010 may well extend until candidates begin passing petitions in August.
I have made a heartfelt and sincere effort. The people with whom I have engaged understand Illinois is at a critical crossroads. We are challenged on many fronts and there is much to be accomplished. All Illinoisans are in this together. I continue to possess the ambition to help lead us out of this political quagmire, just from a different position. I look forward to returning to the Illinois Chamber. From that leadership position, I plan to turn my energy and passion to solving the state’s problems and restoring Illinois to greatness.
Thank you for your continued interest and help.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Durbin Comments on Specter Party Switch
From the Office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) today made the following remarks after receiving news that Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) intends to change his party affiliation and align himself with Senate Democrats. Durbin has served with Specter on both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“For some time now, many of us in the Senate have approached Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and asked him to consider joining the Democratic caucus. He has always been an independent – a moderate Republican – and we know that on many key issues he has shown extraordinary leadership.
“His key vote in favor of President Obama’s Recovery Act showed a lot of political courage, and made him a target of much criticism from many in the Republican Party. Senator Specter and I have worked together on many issues over the years – most recently, he’s been my cosponsor on an important campaign financing reform bill that we hope will help bring a higher ethical standard to Washington.
“Senator Specter couldn’t have chosen a more important time to join us. President Obama is working with our caucus and all of the Congress to try to pass critically important and historic legislation to reform our health care system, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, address global warming and provide our children with a 21st Century education. Arlen Specter’s vote is going to be essential for us to achieve this agenda. We welcome him to the Democratic caucus, and look forward to working with him.”
Greens to Oppose HB 723 at Senate Hearing Today
From the Illinois Green Party
SPRINGFIELD - The state's Senate Elections Committee will hold a hearing today on House Bill 723, which if enacted would protect Illinois' incumbents by effectively ending the practice of slating, which will almost certainly decrease the number of competitive elections in Illinois.
"Legislators in Illinois have an aversion to having someone run against them," said Dan Kairis, of Elgin, who himself was slated in 2008 to run for State Representative, 55th district. "Rather than accept competitive elections as a necessary function of a democratic system, here we have legislators who want to avoid facing any competition in the future."
Kairis and other Illinois Green Party members will be attending the hearing to voice opposition to the bill. The ILGP is urging its members and anyone else interested in bringing democratic reforms to Illinois to call their state senators and tell them to vote NO on HB 723.
To slate a candidate under current law, leaders of an established party meet and choose a candidate, based on a weighted vote. Slating can occur after the primary election if no candidate was nominated in the primary, or if the nominated candidate drops out or passes away.
Currently, the three established parties in Illinois who can slate candidates are the Greens, Democrats and Republicans.
If HB 723 passes, the process to fill vacancies in nomination would be become much more difficult, complicated and resource intensive. Candidates would not only have to seek the approval of party leaders, but they would also have to collect a massive amount of signatures in a short timeframe. The additional requirements would also create more paperwork, which leaves candidates even more vulnerable to filing challenges that could keep them off the ballot. In fact, HB 723 would make running as an independent or creating a new party a much simpler an alternative for a candidate than running on an established party ticket.
Despite the availability of the current slating option, in the November 2008 general election, 59 of 118 Illinois House seats and 20 of 40 Illinois Senate seats went unopposed in the general election.
"Even though half of all legislative seats go uncontested anyway, HB 723 will ensure there are many more uncontested races," said Steve Alesch, co-chair of the DuPage County Green Party, which slated a number of candidates in 2008, including an opponent to Rep. Mike Fortner (R-95th), the bill's chief sponsor in the House. "This will have a chilling effect on democracy."
"With the scandals of Govs. Ryan and Blagojevich not far behind us, the citizens of Illinois are demanding reforms that would reduce the unchecked power of our elected officials," said Tom Abram, of Urbana, member of the Illinois Green Party coordinating committee. "This bill is the exact opposite of reform, and it would only further erode the public's trust and confidence in our electoral system."
The bill passed the House earlier in April with a 112-4 vote. The Senate Elections Committee will hold its hearing today at 1 p.m. in Room 400 of The Capitol.
Governor Quinn Proclaims Equal Pay Day in Illinois
CHICAGO –Governor Pat Quinn pledged to continue the fight against gender based wage discrimination in the workplace and designated today as Equal Pay Day in Illinois. Equal Pay Day, originated by the National Committee on Pay Equity, is observed nationwide on a Tuesday in April to emphasize how far into the current year a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man earned the previous year.
“Equal pay for equal work strengthens the security of families today and eases future retirement costs, while enhancing Illinois’ economy,” the Governor’s proclamation states.
“I am proud of our successes under the Illinois Equal Pay Act. Seeing the effort and progress being made at both the state and federal levels gives me great hope for the future. The Department will continue its outreach and enforcement activities aimed at eliminating the wage gap, making sure employees and employers are aware of and abide by the law,” said Catherine Shannon, Director of the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL).
This year has been a landmark year for equal pay reform. On January 29, 2009, President Barack Obama made the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act the first bill he signed into law. The law will fight pay inequity and fosters equal pay by easing restrictions on the time period for filing equal pay lawsuits in federal court. In Illinois, legislation (HB 3634) that would extend filing deadlines with IDOL and the statute of limitations for pursuing legal action in state court has passed the House and awaits approval by the Senate.
Illinois’ Equal Pay Act was enacted in 2003 to help eliminate the wage differential between men and women. The Act is enforced by the IDOL, which has been successful in recovering hundreds of thousands of dollars in back wages for women who were paid less than their male co-workers for doing the same work, in violation of the law.
Illinois’ Equal Pay Act expanded the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963 by protecting thousands more workers from pay discrimination, providing better enforcement mechanisms and increasing public awareness. The Act also enhances the Department’s enforcement of the statute by requiring employers to post a notice in their workplace summarizing workers’ rights under the Act and provides for stiffer penalties for those who violate the law.
The Department provides in-depth trainings to individuals representing public and private employers, civic and community organizations, attorneys, human resource professionals, payroll associations and employee organizations. These training seminars remind employees and employers of the law to help eliminate the wage differential between men and women and create pay equity in the workplace.
Illinois’ Equal Pay Act prohibits employers with four or more employees from paying unequal wages to men and women doing the same or substantially similar work, requiring equal skill, effort, responsibility and under similar working conditions. There are exceptions, such as if the wage difference is based upon a seniority system, merit system, or a system measuring earnings by quantity or quality of production or if they use factors other than gender to determine the pay differential. The law protects both men and women from pay disparity and any individual who files an equal pay complaint is protected under the Act from harassment or retaliation. If an employer is found guilty of pay discrimination, they will be required to make up the wage difference to the employee and may be subject to pay legal costs and civil fines of up to $2,500 per violation.
For more information on Illinois’ Equal Pay Act or to file a complaint, call the Illinois Department of Labor’s Equal Pay hotline at 1-866-EPA-IDOL. Complaint forms are also available to download on the Department’s website: www.state.il.us/agency/idol.
In addition to the Governor’s proclamation, the Illinois House and Senate have also filed joint resolutions (HJR 47, SJR 61) recognizing today as Pay Equity Day.
Monday, April 27, 2009
ICCB Increasing Effort to Reach High School Dropouts
SPRINGFIELD — The number of adults in Illinois with less than a ninth-grade education is growing, and costing the state billions of dollars, the Illinois Community College Board warns.
“The number of adults with less than a ninth-grade education has increased by seven percent since 2004,” said Guy Alongi, chairman of the Illinois Community College Board, citing figures from the 2008 U.S. Census. “This is an incredible jump, and a tremendous expense to the Illinois taxpayers.”
But Alongi says there is also a solution: Through the general education development (GED) program offered through Illinois community colleges, there is a way for these adults to earn the equivalency of a high school diploma.
“The Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) is making a concerted effort to promote the GED program and reach out to individuals who do not have a high school diploma,” Alongi announced.
In all, more than 1.8 million of Illinois’ 10 million adults have less than 12 grades of formal education. Included in this number are close to 731,000 people with less than nine grades.
The ICCB’s announcement follows a recent study that outlined the fiscal burden Illinois taxpayers bear for those with less than a high school diploma. According to the study, released by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Boston’s Northeastern University, each high school dropout costs Illinois $221,000 over the course of their lifetime.
“This is a cost that is increasing, not declining,” said Dr. Karen Hunter Anderson, vice-president for adult education and instructional support at the ICCB. “Illinois taxpayers should find this alarming.”
Anderson proudly reported that 15,734 individuals in Illinois earned a GED in 2008, giving these individuals the opportunity to further employment, training, and post-secondary education. But, Anderson noted, in comparison to the problem, there is still much to do.
For instance, the Shawnee Community College District alone, made up of Union, Pulaski, Alexander, Massac, and a portion of Jackson and Johnson counties, has 15,751 adults 16 years of age and older who are not currently enrolled in high school and listed as earning less than those with a high school diploma.
“I agree with the ICCB, it is evident that we must do more to reach out to those who do not have a high school diploma, and encourage those who are in school to finish,” said James Darden, the college’s dean of adult education.
Shawnee Community College is moving to expand GED programming from two nights per week to four nights, and making the alternative high school program an option for at-risk students.
Anderson said that given the knowledge and skills necessary to compete in today’s society, adult education services are needed now more than ever. Besides the number of individuals in Illinois who have not earned a high school diploma or GED, Anderson outlined other issues proving that there is a critical need for adult education in Illinois:
- Approximately 2.34 million Illinois residents speak a language other than English as the primary language in their home. English literacy skills for entry and advancement in the labor force are needed by many of these residents.
- Almost 644,000 immigrants are currently residing in Illinois. Many of these individuals need English literacy and civics education to participate more fully in education and the workforce and to obtain citizenship.
- Said Anderson, “If something isn’t done now to curb these problems the cost to Illinois taxpayers is only going to escalate. We can’t reach everyone overnight, but should work at a pace that allows for these numbers to decrease instead of increase.”
For more information, contact Anderson at the ICCB by phoning 217-785-0086.
Durbin Announces Bipartisan Screening Committees for Federal Judges, U.S. Attorneys, and U.S. Marshals
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin today announced the formation of three bipartisan screening committees to assist in selecting Federal District Court Judges, U.S. Attorneys, and U.S. Marshals for the State of Illinois. The committees will be based in the Northern, Central, and Southern Districts of Illinois.
The screening committees will be comprised of 22 distinguished Illinoisans drawn from various aspects of the legal profession and include former judges, prominent litigators, law professors, bar association leaders, former prosecutors and defenders. Former federal judge and Illinois Congressman Abner Mikva will chair the Northern District Screening Panel; Sheila Simon, SIU law professor and daughter of the late Sen. Paul Simon, will chair the Southern District Screening Panel and prominent Springfield attorney James Potter will serve as chairman of the Central District Screening Panel. (A complete list and short bios of all panel members is included below.)
“Making recommendations to the White House on U.S. Attorneys, federal marshals and judicial nominees is one of the most important jobs I have as a U.S. Senator, and I am particularly pleased that these outstanding Illinoisans have agreed to advise me in selecting the best possible candidates to recommend to President Obama,” said Durbin.
Durbin, who was first elected to the Senate in 1996, is the senior senator from Illinois. The senior senator from the President’s political party has traditionally had the lead role in making recommendations to the President for the positions of Federal District Court Judge, U.S. Attorney, and U.S. Marshal in the senator’s home state. Similar screening panels were used during the Clinton Presidency.
The immediate task of the screening committees is to review applications and make recommendations to Senator Durbin for three Federal District Court Judge positions in the Northern District; the U.S. Attorney positions in the Central District and Southern District; and the U.S. Marshal positions in all three Districts.
Applications for these positions are available on Senator Durbin’s website (http://durbin.senate.gov/issues/crime.cfm). The application questionnaires (one for judicial applicants and one for executive branch applicants such as U.S. Marshals and U.S. Attorneys) are nearly identical to those used by the Senate Judiciary Committee and will help provide insight into potential nominees’ backgrounds and qualifications. The deadline for submission of completed applications is May 11, 2009.
The screening committees will review the applications, interview applicants and references, and make recommendations to Senator Durbin as quickly as possible. The screening committees will recommend the names of several individuals to Senator Durbin for each vacancy.
Durbin will review the screening committees’ recommendations, conduct interviews of finalists, and – in consultation with the junior senator from Illinois and the Republican delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives – submit his recommendations to the President, who will make the final decisions on nominees.
Once the President submits a nomination to the U.S. Senate, the nominee will be reviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Senator Durbin is a member and will ultimately receive a vote in the committee. If a nomination is approved by the Judiciary Committee, the nominee will receive a vote by the full Senate.
The average length of time between date of nomination and date of confirmation for Federal District Court Judge nominees is approximately six months. U.S. Attorney and U.S. Marshal nominees are typically confirmed more quickly because they do not require a formal confirmation hearing.
Biographical descriptions of members of the screening panels named by Senator Durbin include:
Northern District Committee Members
Abner Mikva (chair). Judge Mikva has served as White House Counsel to the President, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and an Illinois state legislator. He recently served as the director of the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School. He has received the Thurgood Marshall Award from the American Bar Association and the Paul H. Douglas Ethics in Government Award from the University of Illinois.
Demetrius Carney. Mr. Carney is a partner at the law firm of Perkins Coie. He is the president of the Chicago Police Board and a former commissioner for the City of Chicago's Plan Commission. He has been listed in the Best Lawyers in America publication.
Paul Cicero. Mr. Cicero is a partner at the law firm of Cicero & France in Rockford, where he has practiced law for 35 years. He is a former president and director of the Winnebago County Bar Association, former assemblyman of the Illinois State Bar Association, and a fellow of the Illinois Bar Foundation. He has also served as a Trustee of the University of Illinois.
Fay Clayton. Ms. Clayton is a founding partner at the law firm of Robinson Curley & Clayton. She is the past president of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and served on the executive committee of the national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. She argued and won a unanimous ruling at the U.S. Supreme Court in a RICO case, and she was named one of “Chicago’s Thirty Toughest Lawyers” by Chicago Magazine.
Philip Corboy, Jr. Mr. Corboy is a partner at the law firm of Corboy & Demetrio. He is president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, president of the board of directors of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, former board member of the Chicago Bar Association, and member of the dean’s council of DePaul University law school. He has been listed in the Best Lawyers in America and Illinois Super Lawyers publications.
Kevin Forde. Mr. Forde has his own law practice in Chicago. He is a past president of the Chicago Bar Association, board chair of the Federal Defender Program in the Northern District of Illinois, counsel to the Federal Judges Association, and chair of the Illinois Compensation Review Board. He served as a law clerk to Judge William Campbell in the Northern District of Illinois. He has been listed in the Best Lawyers in America and Illinois Super Lawyers publications.
Patricia Holmes. Ms. Holmes is a partner at the law firm of Schiff Hardin, where she heads the white collar crime group. She previously served as a former state trial judge, an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, an Assistant State’s Attorney for Cook County, and Chief Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of Chicago. She served as president of the Black Women Lawyers Association of Greater Chicago and on the Chicago Bar Association board of managers. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the “Top 50 Women Lawyers” by Illinois Super Lawyers.
Betty Jang. Ms. Jang is legal counsel and director at CVS Caremark in Northbrook. Previously she served as senior counsel at the McDonald’s Corporation, a litigator at Hinshaw & Culbertson, an attorney with the Cook County Public Defender, and an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois law school. She was listed in “20 Women Who Make a Difference” in the Minorities & Women in Business Magazine and in “Best Lawyers Under 40” by the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, and received the Young Lawyer of the Year award from the Illinois State Bar Association.
Michele Ruiz. Ms. Ruiz is a partner at the law firm of Sidley Austin, and she was named one of “40 Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch” by the publisher of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin and Chicago Lawyer magazine. She was selected as a Leadership Greater Chicago fellow, and she received the 10th annual Latino Community Donor Award by Latinos in Development and Chicago Latinos in Philanthropy. She has served as co-chair of the Alliance of Latinos and Jews.
Diana White. Ms. White is the executive director of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, where she received the Equal Justice Award. Previously she was a partner at Jenner & Block and a law clerk to Judge Walter Cummings on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.
Southern District Committee Members
Sheila Simon (chair). Ms. Simon has been a law professor at Southern Illinois University since 2000. She previously worked as an Assistant State’s Attorney in Jackson County, an attorney at the law firm of O’Neill and Colvin, a staff attorney at the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, and a member of the Carbondale City Council. She serves on the Illinois Reform Commission and the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, and she chairs the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute Board of Counselors.
Frederick Hess. Mr. Hess is a litigator at the law firm of Lewis, Rice & Fingersh in Belleville. He served as the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of Illinois from 1982-1993, and he is the director and past president of the National Association of Former United States Attorneys. He has also served as a judge on the Illinois Court of Claims, director of the St. Clair County Bar Association, Belleville city attorney, member of the Shiloh Police Commission, and secretary of the Southwestern Illinois Development Authority.
Thomas Keefe, Jr. Mr. Keefe is a prominent personal injury attorney in southern Illinois, where he has practiced law for over 30 years. He recently received the Chief Judge Richard Hudlin Memorial Award from the St. Clair County Bar Association for his legal accomplishments and contributions, and he was named “2008 Person of the Year” by the Madison St. Clair Record. He has served on the Illinois Bar Foundation board of directors and the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association board of managers.
Emily Kirk. Ms. Kirk is an attorney at the law firm of SimmonsCooper, where she helped establish the business litigation department. She previously served as Counsel for Sen. Dick Durbin in Washington where she worked on civil service, homeland security, and food safety issues. She serves on the boards of the Illinois YMCA Youth & Government Program and the Discovery School in O’Fallon.
Dianne Meeks. Ms. Meeks is the co-founder of One Village, an organization that provides arts and literature workshops for children. She is also the Assistant Coordinator of the Career Preparation Program at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, where she serves on the SIUC Foundation’s board of directors and president’s council.
Alexis Otis Lewis. Ms. Lewis served as an Associate Judge for the State of Illinois in the 20th Judicial Circuit for nearly 17 years, retiring in December 2008. Earlier in her career, she served as a prosecutor in the St. Clair State’s Attorney’s Office and as the first pro se law clerk for the Southern District of Illinois federal court in East St. Louis.
Central District Committee Members
James Potter (chair). Mr. Potter is a partner at the law firm of Londrigan, Potter & Randle and is past president of the Springfield chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. He is on the board of trustees of Knox College and the Springfield YMCA, and he serves on the board of directors of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Illinois Capital Region, Prairie State Bank & Trust, and Farmers State Bank & Trust of Fulton County.
Clarence Darrow. Mr. Darrow has his own law practice in Rock Island. He previously served as a Circuit Court Judge for the State of Illinois in the 14th Judicial Circuit and was chief judge of the domestic relations division. Prior to his judicial service, he was elected to the Illinois State Senate and Illinois House of Representatives.
Robert Eggers. Mr. Eggers served as a Circuit Court Judge and Associate Judge for the State of Illinois in the 7th Judicial Circuit for over 17 years. He previously served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Central District of Illinois, a prosecutor in the Sangamon County State’s Attorney’s office, and president of the Sangamon County Bar Association.
Donald Jackson. Mr. Jackson has his own law practice in Peoria. He previously worked as an attorney for the National Labor Relations Board and the Peoria County Public Defender, and he has been an instructor at Bradley University. Mr. Jackson serves as president of the Peoria branch of the NAACP and president of the NAACP Illinois State Conference.
Stacey Lynch. Ms. Lynch is an attorney at the Dorris Law Firm in Bloomington, where she specializes in personal injury and medical malpractice. She is active in numerous bar associations and is a First Lieutenant in the United States Air Force.
Lucinda Awerkamp McClain. Ms. McClain is a partner at the Quincy law firm of Awerkamp & McClain, where she has worked for over 30 years. She has served as director of the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation and director of the Large District Council of the Illinois Association of School Boards. She has served as board president or member of many community organizations including Quincy University, the Community Foundation of the Quincy Area, Quincy Public Library, and the Quincy Area Chamber of Commerce.
Earth Day in the Parks Promotes Natural Resources Stewardship for Students
SPRINGFIELD – More than 1,500 students will visit Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) state parks in April for the third annual Earth Day in the Parks event. Earth Day in the Parks is an initiative of the IDNR to introduce students to environmental stewardship.
“Students participating in Earth Day in the Parks will have an opportunity to perform meaningful natural resources stewardship activities, including planting trees, planting native wildflowers, removing exotic invasive plant species, building and installing bird boxes and a number of other activities,” said IDNR Director Marc Miller.
Sponsored by the IDNR Office of Public Services, Office of Land Management and the Illinois Conservation Foundation (ICF), Earth Day in the Parks offers students the opportunity to get outdoors and work in nature. Their hands-on experiences will lead them to develop a sense of ownership of the natural resources in our state while also increasing available wildlife habitat. Students and teachers are encouraged to return to the park to study the effects of their work.
“We believe that participating schools realize that this is more than just a field trip. This is an investment in the future generation of conservationists,” said Director Miller. “We hope that these students will continue to visit the parks, not only to check on the success of their projects, but perhaps to volunteer and develop a personal connection to a natural place.”
Earth Day in the Parks continues to grow each year. In fact, the number of participating parks has doubled from last year. 50 state parks are hosting events this year, which means twice the number of schools will be able to participate. School groups were selected by random drawings from an application process held earlier this year.
A grant for the program was provided by the Illinois Conservation Foundation.
Illinois EPA Promotes Air Quality Awareness Week with New Air Quality Alert System for the Public
Springfield -With the start of Air Quality Awareness Week, which runs from April 27 through May 1, 2009, and the approaching hot, dry weather of summer, the Illinois EPA wants to let residents know that air pollution levels often increase between early May and late September. Air pollutants, specifically ozone and particulate matter, can affect a person’s respiratory and pulmonary system. To better inform the public about ozone, particulate matter and other air quality matters, the Illinois EPA and the Partners for Clean Air Coalition are announcing the Illinois EnviroFlash system.
EnviroFlash (www.illinois.enviroflash.info) is an e-mail alert system that delivers air quality information straight to an individual’s inbox. Once subscribers sign up by filling-in their basic information like e-mail address and ZIP code, they will receive alerts with the Air Quality Index (AQI) forecasts for the closest forecasting city. They can also receive alerts when ozone or particulate matter pollution is expected to be unhealthy. The Enviroflash system is replacing the Agency’s Air Pollution Action Day Notification System and will be for areas throughout the state.
“Because air pollution can have such a serious impact on the public, we urge everyone to take advantage of the free EnviroFlash system,” said Illinois EPA Director Doug Scott. “It’s a simple way to stay informed and take appropriate steps to protect your health.”
By registering on the EnviroFlash system, individuals can select the level of information they receive. Notices can be sent daily, on days when air quality reached moderate (yellow) or any higher level. In addition, there are three format types individuals can choose from, HTML, text only, or short messages for hand held devices. Each day, the Illinois EPA submits air quality forecasted for five regions of the state, Chicago, Rockford, Peoria, Springfield and Metro-East. Subscribers will be matched to the closest city with an air quality forecast. Those forecasts will identify the pollutant of greatest concern by region for the following day.
EnviroFlash alerts can help people stay better informed of the risks associated with unhealthy air pollution levels. Groups most susceptible to the risks include children, older adults, people with respiratory or heart diseases and people who are active outdoors. However, when air pollution levels are very high, it is a concern for everyone.
Some ways to modify activities include planning activities with higher exertion during cooler times of the day, moderating exertion or reducing the time of exposure. In addition, individuals are encouraged to follow the following time to reduce their contribution to air pollution. Those include:
þ Limit Driving. Rideshare (www.sharethedrive.org), walk or bike.
þ Take public transportation.
þ Avoid excessive idling and abrupt starts.
þ If you must drive, use your most fuel efficient vehicle.
þ Use a charcoal chimney or electric starter instead of lighter fluid when grilling.
þ Limit use of household products that cause fumes.
þ Conserve energy at home to reduce energy demands on power plants.
þ Do not burn leaves and other yard waste.
þ Avoid using fire pits/fireplaces on Air Pollution Action Days.
þ Avoid using lawnmowers and other gasoline-powered equipment on Action Days.
“The key is to be smart, flexible and informed,” said Director Scott. “Sign up for EnviroFlash at www.illinois.enviroflash.info to get air quality alerts, take any necessary precautions and modify your activity.”
Ground level ozone forms when pollutants from vehicles and industrial sources react in the presence of sunlight and warm temperatures. High concentrations of ozone can cause health problems for individuals, especially those with heart or respiratory ailments. Residents should keep cool and limit physical activity when air pollution levels are high.
Particulate matter consists of tiny airborne particles that are often less than one-hundredth the width of a human hair. Like ground-level ozone (smog), particle pollution can aggravate respiratory and heart conditions. Exposure to particle pollution has also been linked to premature deaths. Unlike summertime ozone smog, unhealthful levels of particle pollution can occur in cooler months of the year.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Statement from State Veterans' Affairs' Director Dan Grant
CHICAGO – “On behalf of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, I’d like to extend my sincerest congratulations to Tammy Duckworth for being confirmed as the Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
As the former Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Tammy was a tremendous advocate and leader for Illinois’ Veterans and their families. We all know first-hand how committed Tammy is to making sure that this country lives up to its promise to care for our Veterans and we couldn’t be more proud of her.
I look forward to working with Tammy in her new position as we strive to meet the needs of the Veteran population and continue to work hard to fight for all of Illinois’ Veterans.”
Governor Quinn, Army Corps Officials Announce Major Riverfront Development Project in Peoria
PEORIA – April 24, 2009. Governor Pat Quinn kicked off a major riverfront restoration project in Peoria that will relocate sediment built up in Peoria Lake, part of the Illinois River, to construct an island for use as a wildlife habitat. Dredging up the sediment will enhance recreation and improve shipping lanes on Peoria Lake.
Governor Quinn joined officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Rock Island District and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to announce the effort nearly two decades in the making.
“It is fitting that on this Earth-week, we celebrate the beginning of what could be considered the ‘ultimate recycling project’,” said Governor Quinn. “We are taking sediment that has built up and debilitated the Illinois River for years and redeploying it to create a natural habitat. It will also enhance recreational opportunities along the riverfront and improve shipping lanes for business and industry that depend on the Illinois River for transportation.”
Scheduled to begin in June, this project to construct a 21-acre island just north of the McClugage Bridge and excavate sediment from Peoria Lake will be the first project in the Illinois River Basin Restoration Program. Once complete, the project will restore the deep-water fisheries habitat that has been lost in Lower Peoria Lake due to sedimentation buildup.
“Secretary LaHood, Governor Quinn, the City of Peoria and area conservationists have worked hard to make this riverfront a place to be proud of. This project will extend that pride in the months ahead,” said IDNR Director Marc Miller. “IDNR is grateful to work with great partners like the Corps and the Peoria River Basin Alliance on such a worthwhile project with so many benefits.”
As chairman of the Illinois River Coordinating Council (IRCC), then Lt. Governor Quinn worked with river enthusiasts and the Corps to keep the project alive over a number of years and secure funding for the construction.
Governor Quinn and U.S. Green Council Urge Illinois Schools to Go Green
CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today joined with U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) National Board Chair Gail Vittori and Rep. Karen May (D-Highland Park) to urge Illinois schools to implement sustainable building practices as a way to save money and reduce energy use and pollution.
“It is important for schools and school districts to make sustainability a guiding principle for building operations, maintenance, grounds and classroom activities,” said Governor Quinn at the Tarkington School of Excellence. “I want to thank the U.S. Green Building Council for making a commitment here in Illinois to help green our state.”
USGBC, in partnership with local community groups, has announced a project to retrofit three Illinois schools: one in Chicago, one in the suburbs, and one downstate. The schools will achieve certification under the USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards for sustainable building.
Green schools represent a potential $32 billion in energy savings over the next 10 years nationwide. On average, green schools save $100,000 per year, which could pay for two new teachers, buy 200 new computers or purchase 5,000 new textbooks.
“Moving from conventional schools to green schools is one of the best investments we can make,” said Gail Vittori, USGBC Board Chair. “Green schools can help improve student learning and health, and they have the potential to save taxpayers and schools billions of dollars in energy costs.”
Buildings in the United States are responsible for 39% of CO2 emissions, 40% of energy consumption and 15% of GDP, making green building a source of significant economic and environmental opportunity. Greater building efficiency can meet 85% of future U.S. demand for energy, and a national commitment to green building has the potential to generate 2.5 million American jobs.
Tarkington School of Excellence has signed the Governor’s Sustainable Schools Compact. The compact challenges Illinois K-12 schools to pursue a number of sustainable best practices by December 2010. Since the launch of the compact in January 2008, more than 175 schools throughout the state have signed on to participate in the program.
Durbin Announces $1.2 Million in Recovery Act Funding for NIH Research in Illinois
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced that Illinois will receive $1,275,385 in funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for National Institutes of Health research programs. The following programs in Illinois will receive funding:
- University of Illinois at Chicago: $196,250 in funding for research that may lead to the development of a novel therapy that could reduce the risk of post-operative cognitive deficits from cardiopulmonary bypass surgeries.
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: $397,080 in funding for research to understand catalysis, effector binding, drug design. Pulsed Electron Paramagnetic Resonance is an ideal approach for investigation of the protein environment.
- University of Chicago: $230,250 in funding to study an herb mixture that actually increases a type of oxidant stress in the heart that may help condition it and protect against future heart attack injury.
- University of Chicago: $195,000 in funding for research that will explore an approach to treating oral mucositis, a common side effect of radiation therapy and chemotherapy in cancer patients.
- University of Chicago: $74,930 in funding for a study to trace the connection between pain and depression, including stress hormone effects, in girls entering adolescence.
- Southern Illinois University Carbondale: $181,875 in funding for research that will provide the first translational step towards providing evidence-based information regarding the use of ginseng and its constituent-enriched extracts in complementary breast cancer therapy.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Governor Quinn Announces Reopening of State Historic Sites
SPRINGFIELD – April 23, 2009. Governor Pat Quinn today announced that 11 of the state historic sites closed late last year are reopened to the public. At the Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Governor Quinn welcomed the first visitors to the site in more than four months.
“As our children prepare for the future, it is important to teach them about the past.” said Governor Quinn. “By visiting our historic sites, families can learn about the Land of Lincoln’s rich history and support our local economies.”
Earlier this month, the General Assembly passed a $1.6 million supplemental appropriations bill to support the re-hiring of all 33 Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA) employees who were laid off when the historic sites closed. The bill also merged IHPA and the Department of Natural Resources, effective July 1.
Governor Quinn praised the organizations and communities that supported reopening of the historic sites after the decision had been made to close them. They include: the City of Bloomington, the David Davis Mansion Foundation, the City of Vandalia, the Vandalia Old Capitol Foundation, and the Illinois Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.
The following historic sites will reopen today and most will resume a five day per week schedule:
Apple River Fort, Elizabeth
Hauberg Indian Museum at Black Hawk State Historic Site in Rock Island
Cahokia Courthouse, Cahokia
Carl Sandburg, Galesburg
Dana-Thomas House, Springfield
Fort de Chartres, Prairie du Rocher
Fort Kaskaskia, Ellis Grove
Pierre Menard Home, Ellis Grove
Jubilee College, Brimfield
Lincoln Log Cabin, near Charleston
Governor Quinn was joined by Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin; Jan Grimes, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency Director; Marc Miller, Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director; and Jeff Bigelow, AFSCME Council 31 Regional Director.
Senate Confirms Duckworth for VA Position
April 22, 2009
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced the Senate approval of Tammy Duckworth to be Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“President Obama and America’s veterans now have Tammy Duckworth as their advocate and champion,” said Durbin. “I know Tammy will bring the same level of commitment to the VA that she has shown in fighting for her country and representing Illinois veterans.”
Duckworth was injured when the Blackhawk helicopter she was piloting over Iraq was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade. In the attack, she lost her left leg and her right leg has since been amputated. She spent months recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, facing multiple surgeries, extensive rehab and continuous upgrades of her prostheses. Duckworth was presented with a Purple Heart and awarded an Air Medal and Army Commendation Medal.
Durbin invited Duckworth as his guest to the State of the Union in 2005. In 2006, she was appointed the Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs. As assistant secretary, Duckworth will direct VA’s public affairs, internal communications and intergovernmental relations. She also will oversee programs for homeless Veterans, consumer affairs and special rehabilitative events.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Governor Quinn Presents Green Youth Awards for Excellence in Environmental Achievements
SPRINGFIELD – April 22, 2009. On Earth Day, Governor Pat Quinn presented the 2009 Governor’s Green Youth Awards to recognize Illinois’ schoolchildren for their outstanding work on environmental and conservation projects.
“In order to protect our environment, we must help the next generation understand the importance greening our earth,” said Governor Quinn. “These students are taking learning one step further by teaching their communities about conserving resources, recycling, and energy efficiency.”
The winners of the Governor’s Green Youth Awards were students who worked on environmental projects either individually or as part of a group, and K-12 schools recognized for their achievements in waste reduction, energy efficiency, and sustainability.
“These projects demonstrate the innovative ways young people throughout the state are working to protect Illinois’ environment,” said Doug Scott, Director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. “Through these awards, we hope to teach other young people about the importance of environmental protection.”
Governor Quinn also presented a proclamation to Tayler McGillis, a four-time Green Youth Award winner. Tayler, a 14-year-old home-schooled 9th grader from Toluca, has recycled nearly 23,000 pounds of aluminum and his efforts have generated more than $18,000 for local charities, including Habitat for Humanity and a local animal shelter.
The 2009 award ceremony marks the seventh anniversary of the awards, which encourage young people to undertake environmental projects that will make a difference in their community.
IDOT Participates in State's Earth Day Activities
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is taking part in numerous Earth Day events this year. In honor of Earth Day, the Department has scheduled tree planting events throughout its nine district offices. In cooperation with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, IDOT has acquired a number of trees free of charge which are being sent to each district office and the Central Office as part of annual landscape material deliveries.
In addition to the tree plantings, IDOT participated in the Governor’s Green Expo in Chicago this week.
Governor Quinn Kicks Off Earth Day by Implementing Green Practices at the Executive Mansion
SPRINGFIELD – April 22, 2009. On Earth Day, Governor Pat Quinn announced a new effort to make the Illinois Executive Mansion a greener place on the inside and the outside – by installing light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs and using rain barrels. Governor Quinn also signed an executive order to reduce the environmental impact of state government operations.
“It is important to make the Land of Lincoln green for future generations,” said Governor Quinn. “The effort to make the people’s house more energy efficient sets an example for everyone to follow.”
LED bulbs are replacing incandescent light bulbs at the Executive Mansion to cut down on energy use. More than 350 LED bulbs are being donated to the mansion by The LED Way of Skokie and Polybrite International. So far, 122 LED bulbs have been installed. Each LED bulb can last up to 50,000 hours and uses 90% less electricity than a regular light bulb. According to an energy savings calculation by The LED Way, placing just 122 LED bulbs in the mansion will save more than $4,500 per year and nearly $60,000 over the lifetime of these bulbs.
Our state has especially close ties to the LED bulb, as it was created by an Illinoisan. Nick Holonyak, of Zeigler, Illinois, invented the energy saving bulb back in 1962. Holonyak is a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Six rain barrels are being placed around the grounds of the mansion to capture rain water that will be used to water the gardens. Not only will using rain barrels help reduce the water bill at the mansion – the rain water is also better for plants than chlorinated water. One inch of rainfall on a typical residential roof can produce 625 gallons of water, which is enough to fill 11 rain barrels.
The rain barrels are green for a few other reasons: Illinois Correctional Industries is making them out of plastic barrels that were previously used for recycling, and they are delivering the rain barrels to the mansion in a biodiesel truck. Governor Quinn has long been an advocate for rain barrels and would like to make Illinois the rain barrel capital of the world.
Governor Quinn also signed an executive order to reduce the environmental impact of Illinois state government operations. The executive order directs state agencies to lead by example in waste prevention, energy efficiency and conservation, procurement, and water quality and conservation. By implementing these sustainability practices, agencies will not only benefit the quality of our air, land and water; they will also save Illinois taxpayers' money by reducing utility bills, waste disposal fees, and other operating costs.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Governor Quinn Recognizes I-GO Car Sharing and ComEd for Partnering to Green Illinois
From the Office of Governor Pat Quinn
CHICAGO – April 21, 2009. Governor Pat Quinn recognized I-GO Car Sharing and ComEd for their commitment to greening Illinois, during the Governor’s Green Expo in the James R. Thompson Center. Thanks to a donation from Commonwealth Edison, I-GO Car Sharing, a Chicago-based non-profit car sharing service, was able to purchase two plug-in hybrid electric vehicles for their fleet.
“As we celebrate Earth Week in Illinois, I want to salute I-GO Car Sharing and ComEd for recognizing the importance of making our state more green and sustainable” said Governor Quinn.
The converted 2009 Toyota Priuses can achieve a fuel economy in excess of 100 MPG through the 30- to 40-mile range of their fully charged plug-in batteries. Beyond this range, they achieve the fuel economy of a regular Prius. Overall, these plug-in hybrid electric vehicles reduce CO2 emissions by up to two-thirds in comparison to a regular Prius.
The I-GO Car Sharing service has cars at locations in more than 30 communities across Chicago, Evanston, and Oak Park. I-GO members have around-the-clock, smart-card access to low-emission, energy-efficient vehicles and do not have to pay for gas or insurance.
The event took place in conjunction with the Governor’s Green Expo, which hosted booths from numerous state agencies highlighting their environmentally friendly practices. The event seeks to inform the public about green practices in the state government and to provide ideas on how Illinois citizens can be more environmentally friendly in their own lives.
I-GO was established in 2002 by the Center for Neighborhood Technology, a non-profit organization whose mission is to invent and implement new strategies that make urban communities more livable and environmentally sustainable.
Governor Quinn was joined by Sharon Feigon, Chief Executive Officer of I-GO Car Sharing, and Fidel Marquez, Vice President, External Affairs, ComEd.
For more information on I-GO Car Sharing, please visit igocars.org.
Illinois State Museum Receives Highest National Recognition
Springfield, Illinois ─ The Illinois State Museum has received its fourth accreditation by the American Association of Museums (AAM), the highest national recognition afforded the nation’s museums. Ford Bell, AAM President, presented Museum Director Bonnie Styles, Board Chairman R-Lou Barker, and Museum Society Board Chairman Mary Jo Potter with the accreditation certificate at a special legislative reception for Illinois Museum Day at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield on March 24. Accreditation signifies excellence to the museum community, to governments, funders, outside agencies, and to the museum-going public. The rigorous accreditation process examines all aspects of a museum’s operations and includes an intensive, year-long self study, a site visit by a team of peer reviewers, and a final review by the AAM Accreditation Commission. All museums must undergo a reaccreditation review at least every 10 years to maintain accredited status. Accreditation is an elite status for museums. Only 24 of the over 1,000 Illinois museums are accredited, and only about 775 of the approximately 17,500 museums across the country are accredited.
The Illinois State Museum was accredited as a museum system in recognition of its outstanding public museum facilities across the State. The Illinois State Museum has six facilities including the Illinois State Museum and Research and Collections Center in Springfield, Dickson Mounds Museum in Lewistown, the ISM Chicago Gallery and Illinois Artisans Shop in Chicago, the Lockport Gallery in Lockport, and the Southern Illinois Art and Artisans Center in Whittington.
Through its exhibitions, programs, and other educational resources, including a content-rich Web site (www.museum.state.il.us), the Illinois State Museum facilitates exploration of the land, life, people, and art of Illinois.
In a recent letter to Dr. Styles, Ford Bell commented “Through your participation in the accreditation process, you demonstrate that you, your staff, and Trustees are publicly committed to upholding and sustaining the highest standards and practices in the museum community. You are a leader in the field in providing the best possible museum services and experiences, reminding both your peers and the public how much museums really matter to communities.”
Founded on May 25, 1877, the Illinois State Museum is a dynamic and stellar institution that has long played a leadership role in the state and the nation. The American Association of Museums first accredited the Illinois State Museum in 1971, making it one of the first museums in the country to hold this status. The Visiting Committee report for the current accreditation concluded that “The Illinois State Museum is a well-run institution that is clearly meeting its mission: The Illinois State Museum promotes discovery, lifelong learning, and stewardship of the natural and cultural heritage of Illinois. The Museum integrates its original research to advance knowledge and create thought-provoking exhibitions, programs, and resources. These offerings engage people of all ages in their own discovery and lifelong learning about the natural and cultural heritage of Illinois and its place within the world.”
Opportunities for Interviews:Dr. Bonnie Styles, Director of the Illinois State Museum (see contact information above), and Ford Bell, AAM President, are available for interview. To arrange an interview with Ford Bell, please contact Dewey Blanton, Media Relations, American Association of Museums, Tel: 202-218-7704, E-mail: email@example.com.
Dr. Quentin Young Withdraws as Chairman of the Health Facilities Planning Board
CHICAGO – April 21, 2009. Governor Pat Quinn has accepted the withdrawal of Dr. Quentin Young as chairman of the Health Facilities Planning Board. Dr. Young voluntarily withdrew his appointment upon discovering that his former practice had partial ownership in a property that leases space to a health care provider. This business relationship could potentially conflict with his duties on the board.
“When Dr. Young learned of this possible conflict, he immediately withdrew his name,” said Governor Quinn. “That is a testament to his integrity and his dedication to being an honest public servant and patient advocate.”
On April 17, Governor Quinn announced Dr. Young would head the Health Facilities Planning Board.
After that announcement, Dr. Young indentified that he retains a minority interest in a doctors’ office that’s held in a partnership and owns a property being leased to Advocate Health Care. Dr. Young had recently retired from that practice and the leasing deal was made six months after he retired from that practice.
Upon learning of the lease, Dr. Young immediately contacted the governor’s staff and withdrew his name.
Under state law, no one on the Health Facilities Planning Board can have a business relationship with any health care institution licensed under the Hospital Licensing Act.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Illinois to Receive More Than $100 Million in Recovery Act Funds for Unemployment Insurance Modernization
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced Illinois will receive $100,383,562 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for unemployment insurance modernization. The funds will allow the Illinois Department of Employment Security to pay unemployment benefits and to deliver employment services.
“Recent job loss numbers underscore how urgently unemployment benefits are needed,” Durbin said. “Putting money in the hands of unemployed families means they will be able to pay their rent and utility bills, buy groceries and clothe their children. Extending unemployment benefits is the not only right thing to do to aid struggling families, but it will also breathe some life into our struggling economy.”
One of six states certified by the U.S. Department of Labor to share in the $7 billion made available for UI modernization by this year’s Recovery Act, Illinois qualified for incentive funds because it allows workers to use their more recent earnings to qualify for benefits.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn lauded the announcement, calling the funding “vital support to the people of Illinois as they cope with these difficult economic times.” Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said Illinois recognizes the importance of providing an economic safety net for workers who have entered the workforce recently and lost their jobs through no fault of their own. “It is the right thing to do for workers and is good for the state’s economic recovery,” Solis said.
U.S. Dept. of Education Approves $1.4 Billion in Recovery Funding for Illinois
CHICAGO – April 20, 2009. Governor Pat Quinn announced today that Illinois’ application for the first $1.4 billion in State Fiscal Stabilization Funding (SFSF) under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 has been approved by the U.S. Department of Education. Some of those dollars will begin flowing to schools within days.
“With help from the General Assembly, the State of Illinois is acting quickly to take advantage of every federal Recovery dollar available to us,” said Governor Quinn. “In addition, my proposed 2010 budget uses additional Recovery dollars to increase funding for education, and to continue work on education reforms that will ensure greater accountability to our students.”
Earlier this month, the General Assembly acted quickly to pass House Bill 210, sponsored by House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) and Senator Donne Trotter (D-Chicago), which gave the state the ability to access and start spending federal Recovery dollars.
Illinois is expected to receive over $2 billion in State Fiscal Stabilization Funding over the next two years. Today the U.S. Department of Education approved the first $1.4 billion of those dollars. Illinois plans to use over $1 billion of that in Fiscal Year 2009 to pay general education expenses and avoid state funding cuts for schools. In Fiscal Year 2010, Illinois will use the remaining $400 million plus an expected $700 million.
SFSF dollars will be used to ensure Illinois does not need to cut education in the current economic climate. In addition, the Governor’s Fiscal Year 2010 budget uses SFSF funding to increase the state’s investment in preschool through high school education by $174 million and higher education by $40 million.
In addition to SFSF, Illinois schools will receive $1 billion in additional Recovery funding for programs. The distribution of these funds is based on existing federal education formulas for programs that serve low income and special education students.
In order to access the SFSF, Governor Quinn is moving Illinois towards education reform in several areas, including: progressing toward rigorous standards and high-quality tests, establishing a data system that will track student progress from preschool through college and careers, increasing teacher effectiveness and focusing more intense support for failing schools.
Illinois Fire Marshal & Finance Authority Issue $12 Million in Interest Free Loans to Purchase Emergency Vehicles
SPRINGFIELD – Illinois State Fire Marshal David B. Foreman and Illinois Finance Authority (IFA) Executive Director John B. Filan today issued nearly $12 million in no interest loans to emergency responders across the state. The loans were made available through the Fire Truck Revolving Loan Program and the Ambulance Revolving Loan Program.
“Local fire departments need the right equipment to protect the communities they serve,” Foreman said. “Previously, more than $11 million has been loaned out to help nearly 100 departments purchase fire trucks so that they can provide critical public safety services.”
The Fire Truck Revolving Loan Program, administered by the Office of the State Fire Marshal and the IFA, provides no interest, 20-year loans to local fire departments and fire protection districts for the purchase of fire trucks. The maximum loan award is $250,000.
The Ambulance Revolving Loan Program is designed to assist emergency personnel purchase vehicles they otherwise couldn’t afford. Under the program, zero interest loans are provided to fire departments, fire protection districts or non-profit ambulance services for the purchase of ambulances. The loans are available for amounts up to $100,000 and can be repaid over a 10-year period.
“With money so tight for everyone from homeowners to local governments throughout our country, we are delighted to release $12 million of interest free loans to our Illinois communities for critical ambulance and fire services,” Filan added.
Governor Quinn Makes 2008 Income Tax Returns Available for Public Inspection
CHICAGO – April 20, 2009. Governor Pat Quinn today announced he is making his 2008 income tax returns available for public inspection.
Governor Quinn’s 2008 returns cover his salary while Lieutenant Governor, prior to his becoming governor on January 29, 2009.
In addition to his $120,226.61 salary as Lieutenant Governor in 2008, Governor Quinn reported interest income of $2,207.22 and a taxable refund of $770.15.
Governor Quinn paid $28,353.71 in federal income tax and $4,151.48 in state income tax in 2008. Governor Quinn also paid $2,834.02 in property taxes on his home on the West Side of Chicago.
Public appointments to view Governor Quinn’s income tax returns in Chicago should be made with Simone McNeil, Director of Operations in the Governor’s office at 312-814-2121. Appointments in Springfield can be made with Libby White, Press Secretary in the Governor’s office at 217-782-7355.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Reader Says Sen Durbin Wrong on Recent Consumer Product Safety Act
by Catherine Jaime
Mom, Teacher, Small Businesswoman
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) has beenfighting lead poisoning in children for almost 20 years now. And doing a very good job of it, from what I can determine.
For one thing, they seem to be attacking the problem logically and scientifically. One of their first paragraphs on the topic clearly states:
“CDC’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program is committed to the Healthy People’s goal of eliminating elevated blood-lead levels in children by 2010. CDC continues to assist state and local childhood lead poisoning prevention programs, to provide a scientific basis for policy decisions, and to ensure that health issues are addressed in decisions about housing and the environment.”
Since its inception in 1990, the CDC childhood lead poisoning prevention effort has:
* Funded nearly 60 childhood lead poisoning prevention programs to develop, implement, and evaluate lead poisoning prevention activities;
* Provided technical assistance to support the development of stateand local lead screening plans;
* Fostered agreements between state and local health departments and state Medicaid agencies to link surveillance and Medicaid data;
* Provided training to public health professionals through CDC’sLead Poisoning Prevention Training Center;
* Developed the Childhood Blood Lead Surveillance System through which 46 states currently report data to CDC;
* Expanded public health laboratory capacity in states to analyze blood and environmental samples and to ensure quality, timely, and accurate analysis of results; and
* Published targeted screening and case management guidelines which provide health departments and health care providers with standards to identify and manage children with elevated blood lead levels.
The CDC has a lengthy document on their website, http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/about/fedstrategy2000.pdf) about theFederal Strategy in 2000 to almost completely eliminate lead poisoningin children by 2010.
Guess what, they didn't need CPSIA to do it!
Since the CDC began its work in 1990, they have almost completely eliminated childhood lead poisoning! Their tips to prevent lead poisoning, which again, not surprisingly to most us, don't include removing their old books, clothes, bikes, etc:
"Lead poisoning is entirely preventable. The key is stopping children from coming into contact with lead and treating children who have been poisoned by lead. The goal is to prevent lead exposure to children before they are harmed. There are many ways parents can reduce a child’s exposure to lead. The key is stopping children from coming into contact with lead. Lead hazards in a child’s environment must be identified and controlled or removed safely. Lead-based paint is the major source of exposure for lead in U.S.children. All houses built before 1978 are likely to contain some lead-based paint. However, it is the deterioration of this paint that causes a problem."
In fact under their FAQ’s, they have a very short list of "Other sources of lead poisoning are related to:
* hobbies (making stained-glass windows)
* work (recycling or making automobile batteries)
* drinking water (lead pipes, solder, brass fixtures, valves can allleach lead)
* home health remedies (azarcon and greta, which are used for upsetstomach or indigestion; pay-loo-ah, which is used for rash or fever).
"What is most amazing to me is that NOTHING on their list of concerns for lead poisoning is being dealt with by CPSIA -- and NOTHING that is being dealt a death blow by CPSIA was ever a lead concern for theCDC!!!
Again, for those of us who are dealing with a law that wants to impedethe selling and purchasing of products intended for children up to age12, the CDC, has a much more reasonable view of who is at risk: * "Children under the age of 6 years because they are growing sorapidly and because they tend to put their hands or other objects intotheir mouths."
And what should we do to prevent lead poisoning in our children.Besides keeping them away from peeling and cracking paint in oldhomes, this was part of the CDC's advice: "Regularly wash children’shands and toys. Hands and toys can become contaminated from householddust or exterior soil. Both are known lead sources."
Again, it is not their books, clothes, bikes, or other items that areexposing them to lead risks. It is the old paint, and the dust andsoil that have been contaminated by old lead paint!Should we be concerned about lead poisoning in this country? Yes. Should we be overreacting and banning items that have never caused lead problems?
The CDC deals with the question of prevention: *"How your child may be exposed: Lead is invisible to the naked eyeand has no smell. Children may be exposed to it from consumer products through normal hand-to-mouth activity, which is part of their normal development. They often place toys, fingers, and other objects intheir mouth, exposing themselves to lead paint or dust."
So, again, the ingested lead is a problem for children six and under-- if and only if they eat the lead-laden product (possible with anitem such as a small piece of jewelry, but not likely with the handle bars on their bicycle!)
The CDC also points out: "Just wearing toy jewelry will not cause your child to have a high level of lead in his/her blood. However, small children often put things in their mouth. If you have a small child in your household you should make sure the child does not have access to jewelry or other items that may contain lead."
In the federal strategy paper mentioned above, the CDC clearly explains who is at risk (and again, the list does not include 12 year olds!):
"Lead is most hazardous to the nation’s roughly 24 million children under the age of 6. Their still-developing nervous systems are particularly vulnerable to lead, and their normal play activities expose them to lead paint hazards and lead-contaminated dust and soil. Children between ages one and three are at greatest risk because of normal hand-to-mouth activity and the increase in mobility during their second and third years which make lead hazards more accessible to them.
"If Senator Durbin and the others in Congress are concerned about lead poisoning in our children, they should be working with the CDC to help eliminate the small remaining problems, not putting countless businesses out of business because of their overly restrictive, unscientifically based CPSIA law.
VP Biden Outlines $4 Billion for Smart Grid Initiatives
Washington, DC – Vice President Joe Biden, on a visit to Jefferson City, Missouri, today with Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, detailed plans by the Department of Energy to develop a smart, strong and secure electrical grid, which will create new jobs and help deliver reliable power more effectively with less impact on the environment to customers across the nation. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Vice President outlined plans to distribute more than $3.3 billion in smart grid technology development grants and an additional $615 million for smart grid storage, monitoring and technology viability.
“We need an upgraded electrical grid to take full advantage of the vast renewable resources in this country – to take the wind from the Midwest and the sun from the Southwest and power areas across the country,” said Vice President Biden. “By investing in updating the grid now, we will lower utility bills for American families and businesses, lessen our dependence on foreign oil and create good jobs that will drive our economic recovery – a strong return on our investment.”
On the visit to Jefferson City today, Secretary Locke also announced plans for a Smart Grid meeting in Washington, D.C. that he will chair with Energy Secretary Steven Chu. The event, which will take place in early May, will bring together leaders from key stakeholders’ organizations, largely from private industry, to begin a critical discussion about developing industry-wide standards that will enable the Smart Grid to become a reality. Additionally, industry leaders at the meeting will be expected to pledge to harmonize industry standards critical to developing the smart grid, commit to a timetable to reach a standards agreement and abide by the standards devised.
The meeting will provide a forum for industry leaders to move toward an industry standards agreement critical to developing the Smart Grid. Additional meetings of industry staff on May 19-20 are planned to make further progress on a standards agreement.
"A smart electricity grid will revolutionize the way we use energy, but we need standards in place to ensure that all this new technology is compatible and operating at the highest cybersecurity standards to protect the smart grid from hackers and natural disasters," Locke said. "The Recovery Act will fund the development of those standards so the exciting technology can finally take off."
Under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is responsible for assisting with the development of a framework for standards associated with Smart Grid systems and devices.
As part of Vice President Biden's announcement, the Department of Energy released a Notice of Intent (NOI) for the DOE Smart Grid Investment Grant Program, as well as a draft Funding Opportunity Announcement from the Department for a smart grid regional demonstration initiative. Together these efforts will help implement technologies aimed at transforming how electricity providers operate their systems, offer options for increased energy storage and accelerate the integration of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power with the electrical grid.
“A modernized electrical grid will provide the necessary tools for system operators to analyze and resolve problems quickly,” Chu said. ”It will also expedite how we deliver renewable power to consumers, thus reducing the environmental impacts of generating electricity.”
These investments will help implement the necessary digital upgrades in the home and on the electric grid, enabling it to be more efficient, resilient, and secure. They will also help make the grid capable to effectively integrate renewable supplies, plug in electric and hybrid vehicles, and energy management technologies, ultimately reducing energy infrastructure requirements and our dependence on foreign oil.
$3.375 billion for Smart Grid Investment Grant Program
DOE’s Smart Grid Investment Grant Program will provide grants ranging from $500,000 to $20 million for smart grid technology deployments. It will also provide grants of $100,000 to $5 million for the deployment of grid monitoring devices. This program provides matching grants of up to 50 percent for investments planned by electric utilities and other entities to deploy smart grid technologies. The program will use a competitive, merit-based process to select qualified projects to receive funding.
Eligible applicants include, but are not limited to, electric utilities, companies that distribute or sell electricity, organizations that coordinate or control grid operations, appliance and equipment manufacturers, and firms that wish to install smart grid technology. There will be a 20-day public comment period on the Notice of Intent; the Department will use feedback to finalize the grant program structure and subsequent solicitation.
$615 million for Smart Grid Demonstration Projects
The draft Funding Opportunity Announcement is for smart grid demonstrations in three areas:
• Smart Grid Regional Demonstrations will quantify smart grid costs and benefits, verify technology viability, and examine new business models.
• Utility-Scale Energy Storage Demonstrations can include technologies such as advanced battery systems, ultra-capacitors, flywheels, and compressed air energy systems, and applications such as wind and photovoltaic integration and grid congestion relief.
• Grid Monitoring Demonstrations will support the installation and networking of multiple high-resolution, time-synchronized grid monitoring devices, called phasor measurement units, that allow transmission system operators to see, and therefore influence, electric flows in real-time.
Each demonstration project must be carried out in collaboration with the electric utility that owns the grid facilities. An integrated team approach that includes, for example, products and services suppliers, end users, and state and municipal governments, is encouraged. The projects require a cost share of at least 50 percent of non-federal funds.
The draft announcement will be open for comment for 20 days.
Governor Quinn Announces Extended Unemployment Benefits
CHICAGO – April 16, 2009. Governor Pat Quinn today announced that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) will fund an additional 13 weeks of unemployment insurance for Illinois unemployed workers who otherwise would have exhausted their benefits. The news comes after the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) announced that the Illinois unemployment rate was 9.1 percent last month.
“The proud workers of Illinois deserve this additional help to weather the storm of this deep national recession,” said Governor Quinn. “We need to do more than just extend unemployment benefits – we need to pass legislation to put the people of Illinois back to work. Two weeks ago I signed the Jump Start Capital Plan to start projects that put people to work; now I am working with the General Assembly to pass the rest of the Illinois Jobs Now! plan which will support 340,000 jobs.”
The Extended Benefits Program provides up to 13 additional weeks of unemployment insurance to workers who have exhausted their 26 weeks of benefits through the state and the additional 33 weeks provided through federal emergency extensions approved by Congress. Without the Extended Benefits Program, Illinois workers who exhausted their regular and emergency benefits would no longer receive unemployment benefits through IDES.
The Extended Benefits Program was activated April 5. The extended benefits automatically will become payable for weeks beginning on or after April 12.
With extended benefits come additional federal requirements. In order to qualify for extended benefits, claimants must document their job search, which must generally include at least five personal contacts with prospective employers each week and three work applications each week. Those eligible for extended benefits will receive more detail in the mail and do not need to contact the department. Details are also available at www.Ides.State.il.us.
“To assist working families with the more stringent documentation rules, the Department has set up a centralized customer service center and will provide individual notices to claimants along with required forms necessary to receive the benefit payment,” IDES Director Maureen O’Donnell said.
March Unemployment Rate Tops Nine Percent
CHICAGO – The Illinois seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for March is 9.1 percent, the highest level since November 1985, according to data released today by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES). The March rate is +0.5 percent higher than February and the sixth consecutive month to record an increase.
Total non-farm payroll declined by –39,300 jobs in March 2009, the second largest over-the-month decrease on record (back to 1990). In March, the number of unemployed people in Illinois increased to 596,000 (+27,400), the highest level reported since September 1983.
“As the recession continues, so do our efforts to improve customer service and to inform people about programs that assess an individual’s work skills so they can better prepare themselves when the economy turns around,” IDES Director Maureen O’Donnell said. “We encourage workers to take advantage of this time by learning new skills and positioning themselves for better opportunities as this economy improves.”
Nationally, the total number of unemployed grew to 13.2 million in March. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 8.5 percent, its highest level in 25 years. National payroll employment declined for the 15th consecutive month, dropping by -663,000 jobs and bringing total national job losses to -5.1 million since the recession began in December 2007.
In Illinois, the Manufacturing sector lost -14,200 jobs in March, its third largest over-the-month reduction since January 1992. In the last year, this sector has dropped by -60,800 jobs, more than 9 percent of its total workforce. The Professional and Business Services sector reported -13,200 fewer workers, the second largest decrease on record and its third decline in excess of -10,000 in the last five months.
The IDES administers federally funded employment services and unemployment insurance programs through its nearly 60 offices, including the Illinois workNet Centers. IDES also receives federal grants to provide and analyze labor market statistics and information.
Governor Pat Quinn Backs Government Watchdogs
CHICAGO – April 15, 2009. Governor Pat Quinn is urging government employees and taxpayers to demand integrity and honesty in state government by blowing the whistle on corruption. To advance this effort, Governor Quinn is launching Whistleblower.Illinois.gov, an interactive website that allows watchdogs to easily report suspected government corruption.
“Today is the deadline for filing U.S. tax returns that support and pay for our government. So it’s especially fitting that we demand our elected officials always operate in the taxpayers’ interest,” said Governor Quinn. “When an official betrays the public’s trust, it’s often a whistleblower that helps bring that injustice out in the open.”
Governor Quinn added that those who blow the whistle on waste and fraud in government are protected from official retribution by the Illinois Whistleblower Reward and Protection Act. In 1991, then-State Treasurer Quinn spearheaded passage of the Illinois whistleblower law.
In 2008, the Illinois Whistleblower Act was expanded to include all levels of government in the state. Since the act was strengthened, the state can collect up to three times the amount lost to fraud, along with fines up to $10,000. A whistleblower can get up to 30% of the amount recovered as a reward for upon completion of a successful whistleblower suit.
The new website, Whistleblower.Illinois.gov, provides concerned citizens details on the Illinois Whistleblower Act and advice on how to report corruption.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Text of President Obama's Remarks on the Economy
Remarks of President Barack Obama
A New Foundation
Tuesday, April 14th, 2009
As Prepared for Delivery
It has now been twelve weeks since my administration began. And I think even our critics would agree that at the very least, we’ve been busy. In just under three months, we have responded to an extraordinary set of economic challenges with extraordinary action – action that has been unprecedented in both its scale and its speed.
I know that some have accused us of taking on too much at once. Others believe we haven’t done enough. And many Americans are simply wondering how all of our different programs and policies fit together in a single, overarching strategy that will move this economy from recession to recovery and ultimately to prosperity.
So today, I want to step back for a moment and explain our strategy as clearly as I can. I want to talk about what we’ve done, why we’ve done it, and what we have left to do. I want to update you on the progress we’ve made, and be honest about the pitfalls that may lie ahead.
And most of all, I want every American to know that each action we take and each policy we pursue is driven by a larger vision of America’s future – a future where sustained economic growth creates good jobs and rising incomes; a future where prosperity is fueled not by excessive debt, reckless speculation, and fleeing profit, but is instead built by skilled, productive workers; by sound investments that will spread opportunity at home and allow this nation to lead the world in the technologies, innovations, and discoveries that will shape the 21st century. That is the America I see. That is the future I know we can have.
To understand how we get there, we first need to understand how we got here.
Recessions are not uncommon. Markets and economies naturally ebb and flow, as we have seen many times in our history. But this recession is different. This recession was not caused by a normal downturn in the business cycle. It was caused by a perfect storm of irresponsibility and poor decision-making that stretched from Wall Street to Washington to Main Street.
As has been widely reported, it started in the housing market. During the course of the decade, the formula for buying a house changed: instead of saving their pennies to buy their dream house, many Americans found they could take out loans that by traditional standards their incomes just could not support. Others were tricked into signing these subprime loans by lenders who were trying to make a quick profit. And the reason these loans were so readily available was that Wall Street saw big profits to be made. Investment banks would buy and package together these questionable mortgages into securities, arguing that by pooling the mortgages, the risks had been reduced. And credit agencies that are supposed to help investors determine the soundness of various investments stamped the securities with their safest rating when they should have been labeled “Buyer Beware.”
No one really knew what the actual value of these securities were, but since the housing market was booming and prices were rising, banks and investors kept buying and selling them, always passing off the risk to someone else for a greater profit without having to take any of the responsibility. Banks took on more debt than they could handle. The government-chartered companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose traditional mandate was to help support traditional mortgages, decided to get in on the action by buying and holding billions of dollars of these securities. AIG, the biggest insurer in the world, decided to make profits by selling billions of dollars of complicated financial instruments that supposedly insured these securities. Everybody was making record profits – except the wealth created was real only on paper. And as the bubble grew, there was almost no accountability or oversight from anyone in Washington.
Then the housing bubble burst. Home prices fell. People began defaulting on their subprime mortgages. The value of all those loans and securities plummeted. Banks and investors couldn’t find anyone to buy them. Greed gave way to fear. Investors pulled their money out of the market. Large financial institutions that didn’t have enough money on hand to pay off all their obligations collapsed. Other banks held on tight to the money they did have and simply stopped lending.
This is when the crisis spread from Wall Street to Main Street. After all, the ability to get a loan is how you finance the purchase of everything from a home to a car to a college education. It’s how stores stock their shelves, farms buy equipment, and businesses make payroll. So when banks stopped lending money, businesses started laying off workers. When laid off workers had less money to spend, businesses were forced to lay off even more workers. When people couldn’t get car loans, a bad situation at the auto companies became even worse. When people couldn’t get home loans, the crisis in the housing market only deepened. Because the infected securities were being traded worldwide and other nations also had weak regulations, this recession soon became global. And when other nations can’t afford to buy our goods, it slows our economy even further.
This is the situation we confronted on the day we took office. And so our most urgent task has been to clear away the wreckage, repair the immediate damage to the economy, and do everything we can to prevent a larger collapse. And since the problems we face are all working off each other to feed a vicious economic downturn, we’ve had no choice but to attack all fronts of our economic crisis at once.
The first step was to fight a severe shortage of demand in the economy. The Federal Reserve did this by dramatically lowering interest rates last year in order to boost investment. And my administration and Congress boosted demand by passing the largest recovery plan in our nation’s history. It’s a plan that is already in the process of saving or creating 3.5 million jobs over the next two years. It is putting money directly in people’s pockets with a tax cut for 95% of working families that is now showing up in paychecks across America. And to cushion the blow of this recession, we also provided extended unemployment benefits and continued health care coverage to Americans who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own.
Now, some have argued that this recovery plan is a case of irresponsible government spending; that it is somehow to blame for our long-term deficit projections, and that the federal government should be cutting instead of increasing spending right now. So let me tackle this argument head on.
To begin with, economists on both the left and right agree that the last thing a government should do in the middle of a recession is to cut back on spending. You see, when this recession began, many families sat around their kitchen table and tried to figure out where they could cut back. So do many businesses. That is a completely responsible and understandable reaction. But if every family in America cuts back, then no one is spending any money, which means there are more layoffs, and the economy gets even worse. That’s why the government has to step in and temporarily boost spending in order to stimulate demand. And that’s exactly what we’re doing right now.
Second of all, I absolutely agree that our long-term deficit is a major problem that we have to fix. But the fact is that this recovery plan represents only a tiny fraction of that long-term deficit. As I will discuss in a moment, the key to dealing with our deficit and debt is to get a handle on out-of-control health care costs – not to stand idly by as the economy goes into free fall.
So the recovery plan has been the first step in confronting this economic crisis. The second step has been to heal our financial system so that credit is once again flowing to the businesses and families who rely on it.
The heart of this financial crisis is that too many banks and other financial institutions simply stopped lending money. In a climate of fear, banks were unable to replace their losses by raising new capital on their own, and they were unwilling to lend the money they did have because they were afraid that no one would pay it back. It is for this reason that the last administration used the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, to provide these banks with temporary financial assistance in order to get them lending again.
Now, I don’t agree with some of the ways the TARP program was managed, but I do agree with the broader rationale that we must provide banks with the capital and the confidence necessary to start lending again. That is the purpose of the stress tests that will soon tell us how much additional capital will be needed to support lending at our largest banks. Ideally, these needs will be met by private investors. But where this is not possible, and banks require substantial additional resources from the government, we will hold accountable those responsible, force the necessary adjustments, provide the support to clean up their balance sheets, and assure the continuity of a strong, viable institution that can serve our people and our economy.
Of course, there are some who argue that the government should stand back and simply let these banks fail – especially since in many cases it was their bad decisions that helped create the crisis in the first place. But whether we like it or not, history has repeatedly shown that when nations do not take early and aggressive action to get credit flowing again, they have crises that last years and years instead of months and months – years of low growth, low job creation, and low investment that cost those nations far more than a course of bold, upfront action. And although there are a lot of Americans who understandably think that government money would be better spent going directly to families and businesses instead of banks – “where’s our bailout?,” they ask – the truth is that a dollar of capital in a bank can actually result in eight or ten dollars of loans to families and businesses, a multiplier effect that can ultimately lead to a faster pace of economic growth.
On the other hand, there have been some who don’t dispute that we need to shore up the banking system, but suggest that we have been too timid in how we go about it. They say that the federal government should have already preemptively stepped in and taken over major financial institutions the way that the FDIC currently intervenes in smaller banks, and that our failure to do so is yet another example of Washington coddling Wall Street. So let me be clear – the reason we have not taken this step has nothing to do with any ideological or political judgment we’ve made about government involvement in banks, and it’s certainly not because of any concern we have for the management and shareholders whose actions have helped cause this mess.
Rather, it is because we believe that preemptive government takeovers are likely to end up costing taxpayers even more in the end, and because it is more likely to undermine than to create confidence. Governments should practice the same principle as doctors: first do no harm. So rest assured – we will do whatever is necessary to get credit flowing again, but we will do so in ways that minimize risks to taxpayers and to the broader economy. To that end, in addition to the program to provide capital to the banks, we have launched a plan that will pair government resources with private investment in order to clear away the old loans and securities – the so-called toxic assets – that are also preventing our banks from lending money.
Now, what we’ve also learned during this crisis is that our banks aren’t the only institutions affected by these toxic assets that are clogging the financial system. A.I.G., for example, is not a bank. And yet because it chose to insure trillions of dollars worth of risky assets, its failure could threaten the entire financial system and freeze lending even further. This is why, as frustrating as it is – and I promise you, nobody is more frustrated than me – we’ve had to provide support for A.I.G. It’s also why we need new legal authority so that we have the power to intervene in such financial institutions, just like a bankruptcy court does with businesses that hit hard times, so that we can restructure these businesses in an orderly way that does not induce panic – and can restructure inappropriate bonus contracts without creating a perception that government can just change compensation rules on a whim.
This is also why we’re moving aggressively to unfreeze markets and jumpstart lending outside the banking system, where more than half of all lending in America actually takes place. To do this, we’ve started a program that will increase guarantees for small business loans and unlock the market for auto loans and student loans. And to stabilize the housing market, we’ve launched a plan that will save up to four million responsible homeowners from foreclosure and help many millions more re-finance.
In a few weeks, we will also reassess the state of Chrysler and General Motors, two companies with an important place in our history and a large footprint in our economy – but two companies that have also fallen on hard times.
Late last year, the companies were given transitional loans by the previous administration to tide them over as they worked to develop viable business plans. But the plans they developed fell short, and so we have given them some additional time to work these complex issues through. We owed that, not to the executives whose bad bets contributed to the weakening of their companies, but to the hundreds of thousands of workers whose livelihoods hang in the balance.
It is our fervent hope that in the coming weeks, Chrysler will find a viable business partner and that GM will develop a business plan that will put it on a path to profitability without endless support from the American taxpayer. In the meantime, we are taking steps to spur demand for American cars and provide relief to autoworkers and their communities. And we will continue to reaffirm this nation’s commitment to a 21st century American auto industry that creates new jobs and builds the fuel-efficient cars and trucks that will carry us toward a clean energy future.
Finally, to coordinate a global response to this global recession, I went to the meeting of the G20 nations in London the other week. Each nation has undertaken significant stimulus to spur demand. All agreed to pursue tougher regulatory reforms. We also agreed to triple the lending capacity of the International Monetary Fund, an international financial institution supported by all the major economies, and provide direct assistance to developing nations and vulnerable populations – because America’s success depends on whether other nations have the ability to buy what we sell. We pledged to avoid the trade barriers and protectionism that hurts us all in the end. And we decided to meet again in the fall to gauge our progress and take additional steps if necessary.
So all of these actions – the Recovery Act, the bank capitalization program, the housing plan, the strengthening of the non-bank credit market, the auto plan, and our work at the G20 – have been necessary pieces of the recovery puzzle. They have been designed to increase aggregate demand, get credit flowing again to families and businesses, and help them ride out the storm. And taken together, these actions are starting to generate signs of economic progress. Because of our recovery plan, schools and police departments have cancelled planned layoffs. Clean energy companies and construction companies are re-hiring workers to build everything from energy efficient windows to new roads and highways. Our housing plan has helped lead to a spike in the number of homeowners who are taking advantage of historically-low mortgage rates by refinancing, which is like putting a $2,000 tax cut in your in pocket. Our program to support the market for auto loans and student loans has started to unfreeze this market and securitize more of this lending in the last few weeks. And small businesses are seeing a jump in loan activity for the first time in months.
This is all welcome and encouraging news, but it does not mean that hard times are over. 2009 will continue to be a difficult year for America’s economy. The severity of this recession will cause more job loss, more foreclosures, and more pain before it ends. The market will continue to rise and fall. Credit is still not flowing nearly as easily as it should. The process for restructuring AIG and the auto companies will involve difficult and sometimes unpopular choices. All of this means that there is much more work to be done. And all of this means that you can continue to expect an unrelenting, unyielding, day-by-day effort from this administration to fight for economic recovery on all fronts.
But even as we continue to clear away the wreckage and address the immediate crisis, it is my firm belief that our next task is to make sure such a crisis never happens again. Even as we clean up balance sheets and get credit flowing; even as people start spending and business start hiring – we have to realize that we cannot go back to the bubble and bust economy that led us to this point.
It is simply not sustainable to have a 21st century financial system that is governed by 20th century rules and regulations that allowed the recklessness of a few to threaten the entire economy. It is not sustainable to have an economy where in one year, 40% of our corporate profits came from a financial sector that was based too much on inflated home prices, maxed out credit cards, overleveraged banks and overvalued assets; or an economy where the incomes of the top 1% have skyrocketed while the typical working household has seen their income decline by nearly $2,000.
For even as too many were chasing ever-bigger bonuses and short-term profits over the last decade, we continued to neglect the long-term threats to our prosperity: the crushing burden that the rising cost of health care is placing on families and businesses; the failure of our education system to prepare our workers for a new age; the progress that other nations are making on clean energy industries and technologies while we remain addicted to foreign oil; the growing debt that we’re passing on to our children. And even after we emerge from the current recession, these challenges will still represent major obstacles that stand in the way of our success in the 21st century.
There is a parable at the end of the Sermon on the Mount that tells the story of two men. The first built his house on a pile of sand, and it was destroyed as soon as the storm hit. But the second is known as the wise man, for when “…the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house…it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.”
We cannot rebuild this economy on the same pile of sand. We must build our house upon a rock. We must lay a new foundation for growth and prosperity – a foundation that will move us from an era of borrow and spend to one where we save and invest; where we consume less at home and send more exports abroad.
It’s a foundation built upon five pillars that will grow our economy and make this new century another American century: new rules for Wall Street that will reward drive and innovation; new investments in education that will make our workforce more skilled and competitive; new investments in renewable energy and technology that will create new jobs and industries; new investments in health care that will cut costs for families and businesses; and new savings in our federal budget that will bring down the debt for future generations. That is the new foundation we must build. That must be our future – and my Administration’s policies are designed to achieve that future.
The first step we will take to build this foundation is to reform the outdated rules and regulations that allowed this crisis to happen in the first place. It is time to lay down tough new rules of the road for Wall Street to ensure that we never find ourselves here again. Rules that punish short-cuts and abuse. Rules that tie someone’s pay to their actual job performance. Rules that protect typical American families when they buy a home, get a credit card or invest in a 401k. We have already begun to work with Congress to shape this new regulatory framework – and I expect a bill to arrive on my desk for signature before the year is out.
The second pillar of this new foundation is an education system that finally prepares our workers for a 21st century economy. In the 20th century, the GI Bill sent a generation to college, and for decades, we led the world in education and economic growth. But in this new economy, we trail the world’s leaders in graduation rates and achievement. That is why we have set a goal that will greatly enhance our ability to compete for the high-wage, high-tech jobs of the 21st century: by 2020, America will once more have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.
To meet that goal, we have already dramatically expanded early childhood education. We are investing in innovative programs that have proven to help schools meet high standards and close achievement gaps. We are creating new rewards tied to teacher performance and new pathways for advancement. I have asked every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training, and we have provided tax credits to make a college education more affordable for every American.
The third pillar of this new foundation is to harness the renewable energy that can create millions of new jobs and new industries. We all know that the country that harnesses this energy will lead the 21st century. Yet we have allowed other countries to outpace us on this race to the future.
Well, I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders. It is time for America to lead again.
The investments we made in the Recovery Act will double this nation’s supply of renewable energy in the next three years. And we are putting Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions on our energy bills and grow our economy at the same time.
But the only way to truly spark this transformation is through a gradual, market-based cap on carbon pollution, so that clean energy is the profitable kind of energy. Some have argued that we shouldn’t attempt such a transition until the economy recovers, and they are right that we have to take the costs of transition into account. But we can no longer delay putting a framework for a clean energy economy in place. If businesses and entrepreneurs know today that we are closing this carbon pollution loophole, they will start investing in clean energy now. And pretty soon, we’ll see more companies constructing solar panels, and workers building wind turbines, and car companies manufacturing fuel-efficient cars. Investors will put some money into a new energy technology, and a small business will open to start selling it. That’s how we can grow this economy, enhance our security, and protect our planet at the same time.
The fourth pillar of the new foundation is a 21st century health care system where families, businesses, and government budgets aren’t dragged down by skyrocketing insurance premiums.
One and a half million Americans could lose their homes this year just because of a medical crisis. Major American corporations are struggling to compete with their foreign counterparts, and small businesses are closing their doors. We cannot allow the cost of health care to strangle our economy any longer.
That’s why our Recovery Act will invest in electronic health records with strict privacy standards that will save money and lives. We’ve also made the largest investment ever in preventive care, because that is one of the best ways to keep costs under control. And included in the budgets that just passed Congress is an historic commitment to reform that will finally make quality health care affordable for every American. So I look forward to working with both parties in Congress to make this reform a reality in the coming months.
Fixing our health care system will certainly require resources, but in my budget, we’ve made a commitment to fully pay for reform without increasing the deficit, and we’ve identified specific savings that will make the health care system more efficient and reduce costs for us all.
In fact, we have undertaken an unprecedented effort to find this kind of savings in every corner of the budget, because the final pillar in building our new foundation is restoring fiscal discipline once this economy recovers. Already, we have identified two trillion dollars in deficit-reductions over the next decade. We have announced procurement reform that will greatly reduce no-bid contracts and save the government $40 billion. Secretary Gates recently announced a courageous set of reforms that go right at the hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and cost overruns that have bloated our defense budget without making America safer. We will end education programs that don’t work, and root out waste, fraud, and abuse in our Medicare program.
Altogether, this budget will reduce discretionary spending for domestic programs as share of the economy by more than 10% over the next decade to the lowest level since we began keeping records nearly half a century ago. And as we continue to go through the federal budget line by line, we will be announcing additional savings, secured by eliminating and consolidating programs we don’t need so that we can make room for the things we do need.
Now, I realize that for some, this isn’t enough. I know there is a criticism out there that my administration has somehow been spending with reckless abandon, pushing a liberal social agenda while mortgaging our children’s future.
Well let me make three points.
First, as I said earlier, the worst thing that we could do in a recession this severe is to try to cut government spending at the same time as families and businesses around the world are cutting back on their spending. So as serious as our deficit and debt problems are – and they are very serious – major efforts to deal with them have to focus on the medium and long-term budget picture.
Second, in tackling the deficit issue, we simply cannot sacrifice the long-term investments that we so desperately need to generate long-term prosperity. Just as a cash-strapped family may cut back on luxuries but will insist on spending money to get their children through college, so we as a country have to make current choices with an eye on the future. If we don’t invest now in renewable energy or a skilled workforce or a more affordable health care system, this economy simply won’t grow at the pace it needs to in two or five or ten years down the road. If we don’t lay this new foundation, it won’t be long before we are right back where we are today. And I can assure you that chronically slow growth will not help our long-term budget situation.
Third, the problem with our deficit and debt is not new. It has been building dramatically over the past eight years, largely because big tax cuts combined with increased spending on two wars and the increased costs of government health care programs. This structural gap in our budget, between the amount of money coming in and the amount going out, will only get worse as Baby Boomers age, and will in fact lead us down an unsustainable path. But let’s not kid ourselves and suggest that we can do it by trimming a few earmarks or cutting the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts. Along with defense and interest on the national debt, the biggest costs in our budget are entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security that get more and more expensive every year. So if we want to get serious about fiscal discipline – and I do – then we are going to not only have to trim waste out of our discretionary budget, a process we have already begun – but we will also have to get serious about entitlement reform.
Nothing will be more important to this goal than passing health care reform that brings down costs across the system, including in Medicare and Medicaid. Make no mistake: health care reform is entitlement reform. That’s not just my opinion – that was the conclusion of a wide range of participants at the Fiscal Responsibility Summit we held at the White House in February, and that’s one of the reasons why I firmly believe we need to get health care reform done this year.
Once we tackle rising health care costs, we must also work to put Social Security on firmer footing. It is time for both parties to come together and find a way to keep the promise of a sound retirement for future generations. And we should restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by shutting down corporate loopholes and ensuring that everyone pays what they owe.
All of these efforts will require tough choices and compromises. But the difficulties can’t serve as an excuse for inaction. Not anymore.
This brings up one final point I’d like to make today. I’ve talked a lot about the fundamental weakness in our economy that led us to this day of reckoning. But we also arrived here because of a fundamental weakness in our political system.
For too long, too many in Washington put off hard decisions for some other time on some other day. There’s been a tendency to score political points instead of rolling up sleeves to solve real problems. There is also an impatience that characterizes this town – an attention span that has only grown shorter with the twenty-four hour news cycle, and insists on instant gratification in the form of immediate results or higher poll numbers. When a crisis hits, there’s all too often a lurch from shock to trance, with everyone responding to the tempest of the moment until the furor has died away and the media coverage has moved on, instead of confronting the major challenges that will shape our future in a sustained and focused way.
This can’t be one of those times. The challenges are too great. The stakes are too high. I know how difficult it is for Members of Congress in both parties to grapple with some of the big decisions we face right now. It’s more than most congresses and most presidents have to deal with in a lifetime.
But we have been called to govern in extraordinary times. And that requires an extraordinary sense of responsibility – to ourselves, to the men and women who sent us here, and to the many generations whose lives will be affected for good or for ill because of what we do here.
There is no doubt that times are still tough. By no means are we out of the woods just yet. But from where we stand, for the very first time, we are beginning to see glimmers of hope. And beyond that, way off in the distance, we can see a vision of an America’s future that is far different than our troubled economic past. It’s an America teeming with new industry and commerce; humming with new energy and discoveries that light the world once more. A place where anyone from anywhere with a good idea or the will to work can live the dream they’ve heard so much about.
It is that house upon the rock. Proud, sturdy, and unwavering in the face of the greatest storm. We will not finish it in one year or even many, but if we use this moment to lay that new foundation; if we come together and begin the hard work of rebuilding; if we persist and persevere against the disappointments and setbacks that will surely lie ahead, then I have no doubt that this house will stand and the dream of our founders will live on in our time. Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.