Yesterday, Illinois' major statewide candidates discussed
agricultural policy at a forum hosted by the Illinois Farm Bureau. U.S.
Rep. Mark Kirk, whose website boasts
that he "will fight for Illinois farmers and expand opportunities for
our state’s agriculture industry," advocated for several policies that
could end up hurting small farmers in the long-run.
For starters, Kirk reiterated
his support for a budget-busting estate tax repeal, which he said could
lower taxes on some family farms. Like the GOP's gubernatorial
candidate, Kirk is greatly exaggerating the impact of the estate tax on
farmers. The Tax Policy Center found that just .003 percent
of all estates both qualify for the tax and have significant small
business or farm assets. The average farmer in Illinois won't have to
pay more taxes if it's repealed ... except those needed to help pay
down the debt the tax cut will cause.
Kirk also criticized the U.S. House climate bill that he helped pass last year, but has since dismissed as too costly. The legislation as written, however, was extremely forgiving
to farmers. Not only was agriculture exempt from the cap-and-trade
system but farmers were promised subsides to adjust to energy cost
increases. On top of that, the bill would have provided a needed
boost to wind and solar industries from which farmers could benefit
while protecting Illinois crops from the worst effects of climate change.
In his first television ad of the fall campaign, GOP gubernatorial
candidate Bill Brady boldly proclaims (within the first 10 seconds of
the spot) that he "will balance our budget without raising taxes on
families." Watch it:
That's the same candidate, mind you, who told reporters recently that he won't tell voters how he plans to get the state's finances back into the black until after the November election. That undercuts the message of the commercial a bit, doesn't it? (Check out our attempt to game out Brady's budget plan here.)
At his new home with the New York Times, FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver just released his latest U.S. Senate forecast. In
2008, the former baseball statistician correctly predicted all 35
Senate contests, so his algorithm is worth tracking. As of
today, Silver is giving U.S. Senate Democratic nominee Alexi Giannoulias a one-point lead in the tight contest.
But the blogger does write that Illinois is one of the states that "may
determine whether Republicans indeed have a chance of taking over the
Senate." Read the whole piece here.
We recently talked
to some local health care advocates to find out how Springfield
regulators and lawmakers should structure Illinois' forthcoming health
insurance exchange to ensure the federal health reform package works
for state residents. One issue we didn't cover was the danger of
"adverse selection," or the separation of healthier and less-healthy
people into different insurance systems. If too many low-cost people
enroll in plans offered outside the government-regulated clearinghouse,
it will drive up costs for consumers and small businesses who do
purchase coverage through the exchange.
How can Illinois avoid this
problem? Sarah Lueck with the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities outlined some smart protections in a new paper.
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley unleashed a barrage of insults against the financial acumen of unnamed state legislators at a press conference on the North Side yesterday. As noted by the Chicago News Cooperative's Dan Mihalopoulos, the mayor didn't specifically identify State Rep. John Fritchey, the Chicago Democrat who's now running for a seat on the Cook County Board of Commissioners. But Daley's remarks came two days after Fritchey announced that he'd introduce legislation in Springfield calling for non-appropriated funds stationed in the city's TIF districts to be returned to local taxing bodies at the end of each fiscal year. If passed, the bill would send roughly $535 million back to the Chicago Public Schools, which like many government bodies is struggling with deep budget deficits. But in what the News Cooperative characterized as "caustic" remarks, Daley told reporters this in discussing the TIF program and state legislators:
Everybody wants to raid something. I’m not going to listen to state government for financial advice. I’ll tell you one thing: The city of Chicago should not listen to the federal or state government for financial advice. We would be bankrupt today. We [should] not listen to them, your state senators or representatives. No way. Look what they’ve done with the state budget and now they’re telling us what to do with the city budget. No way.
While the top mayoral aides have not specifically ruled out declaring a TIF surplus and sending those dollars back to various city and county-based taxing bodies, Daley's comments yesterday are in line with his recent full-throated defense of how his administration uses and controls TIF dollars, including grants to profitable downtown corporations. With three public hearings about the Daley Administration's 2011 budget scheduled to start next month and a Fritchey aide recently telling Progress Illinois the representative will introduce the TIF surplus legislation within a few days, the issue appears to be coming to a head. But with the TIF program, Daley seems content with the status quo.
This post has been updated to correct how much would be sent back to CPS in TIF funds if Fritchey's bill was signed into law.
The federal stimulus package, much derided by Republicans in Illinois, is doing wonders for the economy. The Congressional Budget Office released a report
yesterday showing that the law created 3.3 million jobs in the second
quarter of 2010 alone and may have prevented a double-dip recession.
One successful program that owes its existence to the recovery bill is
the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Fund,
which has provided private employers subsidies to hire (for
$10-per-hour) folks who are eligible. For Decatur's Ashlee Tate, as well as roughly 30,000 other Illinois residents, the Put Illinois To Work program has been a godsend. The Decatur Herald-Reviewreports:
been three or four months now since I haven't tried looking for a job,"
Tate said. "This really helps out a lot as far as getting experience
and having a reference if I find another job afterward."
Although Democrats on the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee have introduced new legislation that would extend funding for the TANF
program through FY 2011, the threat of a Republican filibuster in the
U.S. Senate means the chances of the bill passing before September 30
are slim. That's a big disappointment for Decatur Township Assessor Tom Greanias,
who has taken on 16 temporary workers using the subsidies. "I wish I
had money to hire them," he said. "I'll be approaching my board based
on the success of some of these people that have really worked out well to ask for an increase in my budget to contract these people."
Michele Saddler is a graduate of Princeton University and the
Northwestern Kellogg Graduate School of Management. For a decade, she
ran the Illinois Metropolitan Investment Fund, a respected investment
pool for municipal governments. She worked as a top aide for Gov. Pat
Quinn when he was state treasurer. And for almost two years, she's successfully
ushered Illinois' Department of Human Services through its most
difficult budget crisis in history. Most public servants can only dream of a resume of this caliber.
Saddler also happens to be a biracial
woman. And State Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale), a chief ally of GOP
gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady, seems to think her gender and
racial make-up is the only reason she was selected to serve as Gov. Quinn's new
chief of staff. "While she, as an African-American, Asian woman, is a
political choice, it remains to be seen if she can govern state
government," he told NBC 5 yesterday. Watch it below, courtesy of the
It's moments like this when it becomes painfully clear why Illinois' Republican Party has had such difficulty attracting the support of people of color.
Tenth Congressional District Democratic nominee Dan Seals was quick to voice his disapproval of a federal judge's ruling to stop the use of government money for embryonic stem cell research. Where does his opponent, GOP candidate Robert Dold, stand on the issue?
Dold hasn't commented on the stem cell ruling (or the issue as a whole), so the best we can do is postulate on where he might fall in the debate based on related topics. When it comes to abortion rights, Dold is telling the media he is pro-choice, although his interaction with Planned Parenthood tells a different story. According to the organization, Dold failed to apply for endorsement consideration until after they named Seals the only pro-choice candidate running in the district. Planned Parenthood even highlighted Dold's endorsement by the right-wing Eagle Forum, which has subsequentially disappeared from that group's website. The anti-choice Illinois Federation for Right to Life is backing the GOP nominee, as well.
Considering his dodgy behavior surrounding the issue of choice, Dold might be keeping mum about the stem cell ruling because he supports it and knows the sentiment wouldn't bode well in the northern suburbs.
Hyatt workers and supporters announced today they will ask patrons
to boycott three Chicago Hyatt locations as contentious negotiations
over a new contract between the firm and UNITE-HERE Local 1 drag on. Some 250 local Jewish leaders, citing the Torah, pledged their support for the boycott call earlier this afternoon. Here's Rabbi Brant Rosen explaining their position:
week, the battle for a new collective bargaining agreement between the
Chicago-based hotel behemoth and Local 1 will reach its one-year
anniversary. Over the past few months, Hyatt workers and their
supporters have sought to escalate pressure steadily on the firm, which
union officials say is trying to take advantage of the economic
downturn to lock-in a contract that would flatten wages and shrink
health care benefits for workers. In May, employees at the Hyatt
Regency conducted a wildcat strike. In June, workers picketed the company's annual shareholder's meeting. Last month, Local 1 members took to the streets outside of the Park Hyatt to stage a massive protest. A strike at the chain's Chicago properties is alreadyauthorized, and could begin if Local 1's Hyatt bargaining committee calls for it.