Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sen Bill Brady Offers Plan to Fix Broken Medical Disciplinary Fund

SPRINGFIELD – State Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) will soon file legislation to partially fill a $9.6 million shortfall in the Illinois State Medical Disciplinary fund by redirecting money from the Governor’s scandal-ridden Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.

The Illinois State Medical Disciplinary Fund through the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation is responsible for supporting investigatory and disciplinary action within the medical community as well as licensure. The money in the fund comes from licensing fees for doctors and contains no taxpayer money. However, as a direct result of $9.6 million in fund sweeps over the last ten years, the fund has been left with a $9.6 million shortfall.

Due to the shortfall, the Department has already been forced to layoff investigators and staff (taking their headcount from 26 to 8) placing severe constraints on their ability to prosecute physicians that may pose a risk to the health and safety of Illinois’ citizens. Additionally, the Department states layoffs in licensing staff will cause delays of six months to a year in processing medical licenses. In that time physician’s licenses could expire and since it is illegal to provide medical services without holding a valid license, they would be unable to work until relicensed.

The Quinn administration bears the burden for its lack of action to correct this situation before it became dire. Senator Brady’s bill would transfer the remaining balance (currently $6.6 million) from the Governor’s Neighborhood Recovery Initiative into the Medical Disciplinary Fund to correct this wrong.

The Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, has made headlines in recent months after questions were raised about improper use of funds. Quinn announced the initiative to “take on the root causes of violence” by creating part time and permanent employment for roughly 3,000 young people.

A recent investigation by CNN found that the program has been used to employ people to do complete tasks like handing out fliers, attending yoga classes, and visiting museums. Perhaps most questionably, participants have also been paid to carry out political activities like walking in parades for Governor Quinn.
“The Neighborhood Recovery Initiative has produced no measurable outcomes. In fact, the murder rate in Chicago has increased by 20 percent,” said Brady. “These funds have been misused and misappropriated. We need to correct this immediately and redirect this money to fill the shortfall created by fund sweeps in the Medical Disciplinary Fund. We have an opportunity here to right two wrongs with one bill.”


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Reps Tom Cross and Rep Ron Sandack Propose to Aggregate Taxing Info in New Transparency Portal

Rep Tom Cross and Ron Sandack -- the former mayor of Downers Grove -- today announce plans to increase transparency of the dollars and taxes coming in and being spent by local units of government.

Leader Cross noted that Illinois has more local units of government than virtually any other state.  Among the reforms they would propose would be to have a 9 member board of review, that would look to increase efficiency on how taxes are spent, how the functions of what is being done with tax dollars could be done better -- and to have the dollars being spent published on a "Transparency Portal" for public review.

They would also require -- via HB 1556 -- to have a financial impact note attached to all tax and levy legislation.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Gov Quinn Announces Illinois Clean Water Initiative Will Invest $250 Million to Update Wastewater Treatment, Reduce Flooding and Clean Up Chicago Area Waterways

CHICAGO – February 11, 2013. Governor Pat Quinn today awarded a $250 million low-interest loan to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) to move forward with crucial projects to update the region’s water infrastructure, clean up area rivers and improve public health. Financed through the governor’s Illinois Clean Water Initiative (ICWI), the projects will create 2,000 construction-related jobs and support an additional 8,000 jobs in local communities.

In October 2012, Governor Quinn launched the $1 billion Clean Water Initiative to help local governments overhaul aging drinking water and wastewater treatment plants and pipelines. The Illinois Clean Water Initiative, which does not use any new state tax dollars, will create an estimated 28,500 jobs across Illinois.

“Today we are taking a big step forward to clean up Chicago area waterways and create thousands of good jobs,” Governor Quinn said. “We are committed to making Illinois a national leader in clean water, which will lay the foundation for a stronger economy for generations to come.”

Governor Quinn was joined for today’s announcement at the MWRD’s Calumet pumping station by MWRD Board President Kathleen Therese Meany, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) Director John Kim, Illinois Finance Authority (IFA) Executive Director Chris Meister, and local labor leaders.

Among the first projects to be financed through the ICWI is a major upgrade to an MWRD pumping station that is part of the multi-billion dollar Tunnel and Reservoir Plan (TARP). The ICWI will finance disinfection equipment to treat out-flowing water at the MWRD’s Calumet facility and O’Brien Water Reclamation Plant in Skokie. The ICWI will provide financing for other projects to prevent flooding and reduce pollution using sustainable management technology to capture phosphorus and nitrogen.

“The nutrient removal projects are aimed at resource recovery with a return on investment for our taxpayers,” MWRD Board President Kathleen Therese Meany said. “These processes are on the cutting edge of treatment technology and will transform the wastewater industry into a resource recovery enterprise.”

The Calumet MWRD facility was constructed in 1985 as part of TARP to pump combined sewer overflows captured in the deep tunnel system into a main for transfer and treatment. About $35 million in low-interest ICWI financing will be used to reconstruct two pump rooms, each with a capacity of 150 million gallons per day, using state-of-the-art pumping equipment to divert storm water and combined sewer overflows for treatment rather than allow it to go directly into waterways.

“Illinois EPA has had a long working relationship with the MWRD, including previously administering $465 million in low-interest loans for TARP,” IEPA Director John Kim said. “Governor Quinn’s Clean Water Initiative will accelerate these continued MWRD improvements that will result in great returns for the environment and economy of Northeast Illinois.”

“We’re putting thousands of unionized building trades workers back to work, cutting the cost to local governments of financing clean water projects and ensuring safe drinking water for consumers, IFA Executive Director Chris Meister said. “It’s win-win-win.”

MWRD projects will put to work thousands of tradesmen, including Carpenters, Cement Masons, Electricians, Iron Workers, Laborers, Machinists, Material Testers, plumbers, Pipefitters, Operating Engineers, Painters and Truck Drivers.

“The jobs created by the Clean Water Initiative are good-paying jobs, since a prevailing wage requirement is part of each project,” James F. Coyne, business manager of Plumbers Local 130 said. “For our region to thrive we need a modern, well-built water infrastructure, and this partnership will help MWRD achieve that.”

The MWRD operates one of the world’s largest wastewater collection and treatment systems, handling sewage for more than 5.25 million residents, thousands of businesses and industries in Chicago and 125 suburban communities spread across 883 square miles. The MWRD has 554 miles of intercepting sewers and force mains and more than 10,000 local sewer system connections, as well as seven treatment plants and 23 pumping stations able to treat more than two billion gallons per day.

Governor Quinn proposed the ICWI in his 2012 State of the State Address, and directed the IEPA and IFA to expand the State Revolving Fund from $300 million to $1 billion annually. The Initiative is funded with annual federal grants, funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and additional principal and interest from loan repayments. No new state tax dollars are used. Needed equity is provided by the existing loan portfolio and future federal capitalization dollars.

Governor Quinn has already awarded $4.8 million to Pekin, Illinois to upgrade its wastewater treatment facility and $15 million to Chicago to replace seven miles of drinking water pipes, some of which are a century old. Since 1989, IEPA has lent $4.3 billion to 472 communities; there has never been a single defaulted loan during the program’s history.