CRISIS, WHAT CRISIS? Senate President John
Cullerton told Chicago Tribune political writer Rick Pearson over the weekend
that he thinks the term "pension crisis" is a fabrication of those
who want to stick it to public employees so their income taxes will go down in
2015. I take issue with this in my blog today. Whether our pension trouble
rises to "crisis" level is no longer our call to make. It's been
decided long ago by ratings agencies and others. Also, I have yet to see any
detailed explanation from anyone how -- short of devastating cuts to education
and social services -- Illinois would weather the roughly $5 billion it would
lose if the income tax rate drops as scheduled. Any state that spends more than
20 percent of its budget on pensions has serious problems. Read more here.
ETHICS Cullerton also makes
an appearance in this week's column by Better Government Association President
Andy Shaw. Cullerton, House Speaker Michael Madigan and powerful Chicago Ald.
Ed Burke all have law firms that specialize in helping their clients win tax appeals.
Shaw wonders "if those legislator-lawyers get better deals for their
clients than we get on our tax appeals because the officials making the
decisions are their political friends and allies, not ours." His
conclusion is blunt: "Burke, Madigan, Cullerton and the other
lawyer/legislators shouldn’t be handling clients and cases that involve tax
dollars. Simple as that." This is a must-read if you're concerned about
the tricky world of ethics in the legislative branch, where many members'
outside businesses can invite these kinds of questions. Read it here.
TOP 10: COST OF PRIVATE COLLEGES Last week we tallied
the total cost of attending one of Illinois' 12 public colleges. Today we do it
for some of the most highly regarded private colleges large and small
throughout the state. As you view these eye-popping figures, keep in mind that
the crowding out of resources by the pension crisis (yes, it's a crisis) has
made state assistance harder to come by. Find today's Top 10 here.
SHOW US THE MONEY Some candidates are
raking in the campaign cash, some are spending like crazy, some are doing both.
And at least one isn't raising enough to be competitive in the March 2014
primary. Capitol Fax publisher Rich Miller drills down into the Illinois State
Board of Elections database to find out who's got what among the 2014
candidates. Click here.
HELLO... INDIANA? HELP! Why does this kid look so scared? He's running a small business in Chicago Tribune cartoonist Scott Stantis' vision of Illinois. See the whole cartoon here.
AROUND THE STATE A new week brings a new batch of Illinois news. Here's the best:
- 5. Illinois’ new speed limit
law is hitting a few bumps in the road. (Chicago Tribune)
4. The Illinois State Board of Education is warning schools of the probability of cuts in school budgets in 2014. (Associated Press)
3. The two-week long veto session coming up in Springfield could be a dynamo – or a dud. (State Journal Register)
2. With the veto session looming, a pension deal remains elusive. (Chicago Tribune)
1. A December deadline to file for a run for office might prevent lawmakers from voting on a number of issues during the veto session. (Associated Press)