Tag: Illinois General Assembly

Illinois needs an income tax increase

Yesterday, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner stood inside the Illinois State Capitol and falsely accused Democrats in the Illinois General Assembly of holding public education hostage for being unable to pass a state budget against Rauner’s veto threats.

The truth of the matter is that Rauner is the one holding Illinois hostage.

Bruce Rauner has repeatedly refused to support raising Illinois’s income tax in order to pay for essential and important state government services, such as transportation and public education. Instead, Rauner has repeatedly demanded so-called “reforms” designed to drive down the wages of working Illinoisans in exchange for a state budget. That is hostage politics.

The truth of the matter is that Illinois needs an income tax increase, as well as eliminating corporate tax breaks and loopholes, plus cuts in wasteful spending like corporate welfare, to put the state back on a path to fiscal responsibility. Bruce Rauner just doesn’t get it.

No surrender

No surrender

I haven’t written much about Illinois state politics in recent months, largely because there’s not much going on due to the ongoing state government shutdown.

However, the website of The New York Times has published this report on how a handful of wealthy individuals, some of which aren’t Illinois residents, are holding the state of Illinois hostage by way of big-money politics:

In the months since, Mr. (Kenneth C.) Griffin and a small group of rich supporters — not just from Chicago, but also from New York City and Los Angeles, southern Florida and Texas — have poured tens of millions of dollars into the state, a concentration of political money without precedent in Illinois history.

Their wealth has forcefully shifted the state’s balance of power. Last year, the families helped elect as governor Bruce Rauner, a Griffin friend and former private equity executive from the Chicago suburbs, who estimates his own fortune at more than $500 million. Now they are rallying behind Mr. Rauner’s agenda: to cut spending and overhaul the state’s pension system, impose term limits and weaken public employee unions.

[…]

Many of those giving, like Mr. Griffin, come from the world of finance, an industry that has yielded more of the new political wealth than any other. The Florida-based leveraged-buyout pioneer John Childs, the private equity investor Sam Zell and Paul Singer, a prominent New York hedge fund manager, all helped elect Mr. Rauner, as did Richard Uihlein, a conservative businessman from the Chicago suburbs.

In short, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, who spent tens of millions of dollars of his own money on his gubernatorial campaign last year, also spent millions upon millions of dollars of money from a handful of wealthy individuals, and now Rauner is holding Illinois hostage by demanding a Scott Walker-style far-right economic agenda that would hurt Illinois’s economy in return for a functional state government.

To the Democrats in the Illinois General Assembly and the people of Illinois, I have two words for ya’ll: No surrender! Illinois cannot afford busting unions, driving down wages, making it harder for working Illinoisans who are injured on the job to get workers’ compensation benefits, cuts to pension benefits, and every other item of right-wing economic policy that would hurt Illinois’s economy by taking away disposable income from Illinois consumers. Illinois cannot afford surrendering to Bruce Rauner and his big-money cronies from the finance industry.

Time for the Illinois General Assembly to put an end to Bruce Rauner’s cavalier attitude toward collective bargaining

At the end of June of this year, AFSCME Local Council 31’s contract with the State of Illinois expired, leaving workers represented by the largest public employee union in Illinois without a contract. Since then, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has only made nominal efforts at negotiating with AFSCME, refusing to concede much of anything to AFSCME and not acting serious at all about collective bargaining.

However, Democrats in the Illinois General Assembly have an opportunity to end Rauner’s cavalier attitude toward the public employees in Illinois and collective bargaining, once and for all…they can override Rauner’s veto of Senate Bill 1229 (SB1229), legislation that would authorize an arbitrator to decide the contract that would go to AFSCME Local Council 31-represented state employees to be voted on.

As it turns out, Democrats may have enough votes to override Rauner’s veto, especially in the state senate:

Senate President JOHN CULLERTON, D-Chicago, has already said the Senate will vote this week on an override. Presumably, the chamber could succeed. The Senate voted 38-17 to approve the bill. It would take 36 votes to override.

The House is a different story. The vote there was 67-25 in May. It takes 71 votes in the House to override.

But 17 House members, all but two of them Republicans, took a walk. They didn’t vote on the bill. That includes most of the Republicans from the Springfield area, who represent large numbers of state workers. They can always take another walk on an override, but in the meantime, they’ll probably get pressure from constituents to support an override — just as they’re likely to get pressure from Republican leadership to support their governor and vote against it.

Looks like the fight on whether or not to put an end to Rauner’s cavalier attitude toward the largest public employee union is in the state house. If you live in Illinois, this is a great opportunity to contact your state legislators and tell them to vote YES to override Rauner’s veto of SB1229. This bill does not violate the Illinois Constitution, nor does it undermine democracy. What it would do is put a mechanism in place to prevent strikes by, and lockouts of, public employees by allowing an arbitrator to decide on a contract if the governor and a public employee union can’t agree on one, in this case, due to the governor refusing to seriously negotiate with the largest public employee union in Illinois.

Bruce Rauner tries to buy votes from his own party’s legislators, some Republicans won’t take his money

In May of this year, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner sent out campaign donations, totaling $400,000, to every single Republican member of the Illinois General Assembly. Since there are a total of 67 Republicans in the General Assembly (47 in the state house, 20 in the state senate), that means that the average donation from Rauner to legislative Republicans is, rounded to the nearest cent, $5,970.15; the donations range anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000.

According to a (Decatur) Herald & Review report, several state legislators have refused to cash their checks from Rauner: 22 of the 67 Republicans (16 of 47 in the state house, 6 of 20 in the state senate) have not yet cashed their checks from Rauner. Given that the checks were doled out by Rauner in May, not long before the end of the spring General Assembly session and in the midst of a political stalemate over Rauner’s hostage politics over the state budget that is still ongoing, the Republicans who are claiming that Rauner is trying to buy their votes have every right to make that claim, since it’s 100% clear to this stubborn-headed progressive Democrat that Rauner is trying to buy off members of his own party.

To me, this says two things about Rauner. First, Rauner is a weak politician, since he’s not really trying to work with the Democrats who hold the supermajorities in the General Assembly. Second, Rauner is trying to buy support for his anti-worker, anti-middle class agenda from members of his own party, who are in the minority in both houses of the General Assembly.

The Bruce Rauner shutdown begins in Illinois

Starting today, Illinois state government employees won’t get their paychecks that they earned because Republican Governor Bruce Rauner shut down our state’s government and is holding the people of Illinois as political hostages because he wants a series of non-fiscal political policy proposals, which don’t belong in the state budget, to be rammed into law as part of the state budget.

The political ransom that Rauner is demanding includes:

  • Changes to rules pertaining to liability lawsuits and workers’ compensation designed to make it harder for Illinoisans to receive compensation from those who legally wronged them and to pay for medical expenses related to on-the-job injuries.
  • Enacting term limits for high-ranking Illinois politicians, which, depending on the specific language of the legislation on that subject, I may or may not support as a separate measure to put a proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution on the ballot, but not as part of the state budget.
  • Enacting a more impartial and/or more independent method for congressional and/or state legislative redistricting, which is something that I would support as a separate measure to put a proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution on the ballot, but not as part of the state budget.

None of these items that Rauner is demanding have very little, if anything at all, to do with the state’s budget or the state’s finances, and policy proposals, regardless of my opinion on the policy proposals themselves, should be dealt with as separate legislation from the state budget.

Sadly, Rauner has repeatedly advocated for shutting our state’s government down as part of his hostage politics scheme. Rauner needs to realize that the State of Illinois is not his plantation, and that he can’t buy and bully his way to enacting a right-wing, anti-worker political agenda.

The Metro-East doesn’t like Bruce Rauner’s destructive political agenda

The people of Belleville, Illinois, located in the heart of St. Clair County in the Metro-East region of Illinois (the Illinois portion of the St. Louis metropolitan area), are certainly no fans of Republican Governor Bruce Rauner’s destructive political agenda.

Rauner held a campaign event made an appearance in Belleville to promote his agenda of screwing hard-working Illinoisans over by, among other things, repealing our state’s prevailing wage law, making it harder for people to sue businesses that wronged them, and cutting funding to government services that many Illinoisans rely on. This drew many hard-working Illinoisans to Rauner’s event in Belleville, where they protested him and his destructive agenda.

Rauner has made it clear that he is willing to hold our state’s budget hostage and buy off politicians to get his way. Democrats in the Illinois General Assembly need to hold firm against Rauner’s agenda by not caving to Rauner’s demands. Illinoisans from every corner of this state are waking up and realizing how terrible the Rauner agenda would be for themselves and their fellow Illinoisans.

Illinois State Representatives should vote NO on wage theft bill

On Thursday, the Democratic-controlled Illinois House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on whether or not Illinois should become a right-to-work state, or what I like to call a wage theft state. In a wage theft state, non-union workers at unionized workplaces would be legally allowed to steal wages and other benefits negotiated by the union without paying union dues or some other form of payment. Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has publicly called for legislation allowing for local governments to enact local wage theft ordinances, which Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan believes would violate federal labor laws.

I strongly encourage members of the Illinois General Assembly to vote NO on the Bruce Rauner-Mike Madigan wage theft scheme.

While Madigan, the Democratic state house speaker, hasn’t advocated for the passage of the legislation, the fact that he’s scheduled a vote on wage theft is downright alarming. Wage theft legislation would do absolutely nothing to improve our state’s economy or fix our state’s fiscal problems. Instead, it would drive down wages, make workplaces less safe, create an even bigger burden on taxpayers, cost our state thousands of jobs, and severely hurt our state’s economy. That’s because when wages are driven down, workers have less to spend on groceries, gasoline, and other goods and services, resulting in both the state and the private sector making less revenue.

Bruce Rauner wants to put Illinois in the same league as third-world countries like Vietnam and Bangladesh, from an economic standpoint. Illinoisans simply can not afford Rauner’s corporate agenda of driving down wages, busting unions, and destroying what little of our state’s middle class remains.

Illinois Supreme Court UNANIMOUSLY throws out pension theft scheme

This is a couple of days old, but I have great news to share:

The Illinois Supreme Court on Friday unanimously ruled unconstitutional a landmark state pension law that aimed to scale back government worker benefits to erase a massive $105 billion retirement system debt, sending lawmakers and the new governor back to the negotiating table to try to solve the pressing financial issue.

The ruling also reverberated at (Chicago) City Hall, imperiling a similar law (Chicago) Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushed through to shore up two of the four city worker retirement funds and making it more difficult for him to find fixes for police, fire and teacher pension funds that are short billions of dollars.

At issue was a December 2013 state law signed by then-Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn that stopped automatic, compounded yearly cost-of-living increases for retirees, extended retirement ages for current state workers and limited the amount of salary used to calculate pension benefits.

The Illinois Supreme Court unanimously struck down the pension theft scheme despite Democratic Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan basically arguing that politicians don’t have to abide by the Illinois Constitution, which contains provisions protecting the pension benefits that our state’s public employees pay into one of several public employee pension systems, if there’s a significant pension shortfall. The Illinois Supreme Court, which has four Democrats and three Republicans, ruled unanimously that the provisions of Illinois Constitution pertaining to public employee pensions do, in fact, apply to politicians who try to screw over retirees.

Make no mistake about it, the fight against the Quinn-Rahm-Ranuer pension theft scheme is far from over.

Bruce Rauner wants to amend the Illinois Constitution in order to steal pension benefits

With the possibility that the Illinois Supreme Court may strike down at least part of former Democratic Governor Pat Quinn’s pension theft legislation looming, incumbent Republican Governor Bruce Rauner is already pushing for an amendment to the Illinois Constitution that, if ratified, would steal pension benefits from our state’s public employees. While a formal amendment has not been proposed yet, the amendment would, if ratified, force at least current public employees to choose between reduced pension benefits or a 401k-type plan.

Make no mistake about it, the Rauner pension theft amendment would be disastrous for Illinoisans.

First off, the amendment would effectively force our state’s public employees to make a lesser-of-two-evils decision: either take lower pension payments once they retire, or take payments from 401k-type plan once they retire. Lower pension payments would mean less money for retirees to spend on goods and services, resulting in many of them becoming impoverished and dependent on social safety net programs in order to survive. On the other hand, 401k-type plans provide no lifetime guarantee of payments, meaning that it’s possible for a beneficiary of a 401k-type plan to outlive their benefits.

If the Rauner pension theft amendment were to be ratified by voters, it would likely result in the loss of thousands of Illinois private-sector jobs. That’s because many Illinois businesses, even businesses located hundreds of miles from Springfield and/or Chicago, are dependent on retired public employees spending money on goods and services in order to survive. While our state’s pension system is badly underfunded, pension theft would leave our state even worse off than it currently is.

60% of all members of both houses of the Illinois General Assembly, which is controlled by supermajorities of Democrats, would need to approve of the Rauner pension theft amendment in order for it to appear on the Illinois ballot. If that happens, Illinois voters will be able to vote yes or no on the Rauner pension theft amendment in a ratification referendum. Either 60% of those voting on the referendum or 50%+1 of all votes in the election in which the referendum is held for the “yes” option would ratify the amendment. If the Rauner pension theft amendment appears on an Illinois ballot at any time in the future, I strongly encourage a “no” vote on the amendment.

The Progressive Response to the State of the State of Illinois Address

Earlier today, Bruce Rauner, the Republican governor of our state that we instinctively know as Illinois, outlined his plan to drive down wages, infringe on the rights of Illinois workers, and destroy an already weak Illinois economy.

Prior to giving his State of the State address, Rauner went around the state using PowerPoint slides to publicly bash our state’s public employees, whine about public employees being, in his view, overpaid, spread lies about worker’s rights and public employee pay, and blame public employees for our state’s fiscal problems. Additionally, it was reported yesterday that Rauner strongly hinted that he wants to eliminate collective bargaining rights for our state’s public employees. Given that Rauner has given his top administration officials pay raises and appointed a $100,000/year chief of staff to his wife despite the fact that his wife has no official duties whatsoever, for Rauner to give his cronies pay raises while wanting to drive down public employee salaries is blatantly hypocritical.

In his State of the State address, Rauner called for gutting our state’s workers’ compensation system, lowering property taxes while our state and local governments have billions of dollars in unpaid bills, allowing local governments and/or voters to bust unions at the local level, prohibiting project labor agreements, eliminating prevailing wage laws, and privatizing public education to benefit his political cronies. Rauner did have a few good ideas that he talked about in his address to the people of Illinois, such as banning trial lawyer donations to judicial campaigns, merging the offices of state comptroller and state treasurer, and increasing funding for early childhood education.

While there is no disputing the fact that our state is in a fiscal mess for a large number of reasons, the primary reason why our state is in such a fiscal mess is because the wealthiest Illinoisans, such as Rauner himself, don’t pay enough state income taxes thanks to an ridiculous provision in the Illinois Constitution that prohibits the General Assembly from passing legislation to tax the incomes of wealthier Illinoisans at a higher rate than the incomes of poorer Illinoisans. The flat tax requirement in the Illinois Constitution prohibits our state from raising the revenues that would be needed to pay off our state’s unpaid bills and put our state on solid financial footing. I would strongly support a proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution to allow the General Assembly to levy a progressive state income tax in order to raise income taxes on the wealthiest Illinoisans, cut income taxes for the poorest Illinoisans, and put our state’s finances back on track. Additionally, I would strongly support eliminating all tax breaks for businesses, such as the ridiculous tax break that Sears and CME Group received a few years ago, as this would also bring in more revenue to the state that can be used to pay off unpaid bills.

Regarding public employee pensions, another reason why our state is in a fiscal mess, I would strongly support a pension reform proposal that would phase out the current public employee pension systems in our state, but still allow public employees who have paid into the current pension systems to still receive the benefits they’ve earned once they retire, and require all new state and local elected officials, appointed officials, and hired public employees who receive a full-time salary but had not previously paid anything into the current public employee pension systems in our state to pay into a newly-created public employee pension system that is designed to be fully-funded and provide our state’s future elected officials, political appointees, and public employees with a steady retirement income once they retire. Make no mistake about it, I will strongly oppose any pension reform proposal that cuts benefits for those who have currently paid into the pension systems, creates a 401(k) system for public employees, and/or turns an existing pension system into a 401(k) system.

Regarding cutting spending, I would support an audit of the entire state government and every single county, township, city, town, village, and other type of local government entity in our state in order to find actual wasteful spending and propose common-sense solutions to cut actual wasteful spending and help save the state money in both the short term and the long term. Make no mistake about it, I will strongly oppose cuts to public education, social services, and other government services that reduce the quality of service by our state and local government agencies.

Regarding strengthening our state’s economy, I strongly support raising the state minimum wage here in Illinois to $15/hour and indexing automatic, annual minimum wage increases to productivity. Additionally, I strongly support creating a North Dakota-style economic development bank here in Illinois to issue and/our guarantee loans to factories, farms, small businesses, and other types of businesses that have to be repaid in full with interest. These two proposals would lift thousands of Illinoisans out of poverty, establish a minimum wage that values work, and help entrepreneurs start up new businesses and create jobs without pocketing government benefits to simply pad profits. Busting unions and driving down wages is something I strongly oppose because those policies would do absolutely nothing to strengthen our state’s economy or empower Illinoisans.

Regarding campaign finance, ethics, and government reform, while a federal constitutional amendment to repeal the Citizens United v. FEC U.S. Supreme Court decision that helped Rauner and his cronies buy the last gubernatorial election would be required to allow Illinois to enact meaningful campaign finance reform, I strongly support eliminating the conflicts of interest that are currently allowed by our state’s campaign finance system, such as a couple of conflicts of interest that Rauner mentioned, prohibiting unions from donating to candidates for public office that they’d have to collectively bargain with if said candidates are elected and prohibiting trial lawyers from donating to judicial candidates, and one that Rauner did not mention because he’s effectively opposed to it, prohibiting business owners and managers from donating to candidates for public office that could use the public office in question to directly benefit said business owners and managers if elected. Additionally, I would support setting the maximum campaign contribution for a statewide office here in Illinois at $250 and enacting even lower limits for state legislative and local offices. Additionally, I strongly support implementing a pair of public campaign finance systems, one for judicial elections and one for other non-federal elections. The judicial public campaign finance system would prohibit judicial candidates from receiving campaign contributions from other people and/or funding their own campaigns, require that all judicial candidates receive a set amount of campaign funds from the state, and require that judicial candidates receive the same amount of campaign funds from the state that their opponents receive. The public campaign finance system for other offices would allow candidates for those offices to receive $4 of state funding for every $1 they receive in contributions and/or self-fund their campaigns with. Additionally, I would support enacting what I like to call the Bruce Rauner Rule, which would outright prohibit candidates for statewide office here in Illinois from donating or loaning more than $100,000 of their own wealth to their campaign, and set even lower self-funding limits for other offices. On term limits, I would support limiting the offices of governor and lieutenant governor to one elected term, limiting the other state executive offices to two elected terms, limiting state senators to five elected terms, and limiting state representatives to eight elected terms, and anything stricter than that would receive my opposition. Some other government reform ideas I support include allowing Illinois voters to recall all non-federal elected officials, converting the Illinois General Assembly into an unicameral legislature with at least 177 members via a state constitutional amendment, and amending the Illinois Constitution to establish a truly non-partisan redistricting process for congressional and state legislative districts.

Regarding reforming the criminal justice system, I strongly support legalizing, taxing, and regulating recreational marijuana, which would reduce the incarceration rate in our state and provide our state with much-needed tax revenue. Additionally, I’m open to various ideas to reform the criminal justice system in order to make our prison system more about rehabilitating convicted criminals instead of simply punishing them and make our criminal justice system more fair. For example, one idea that I strongly support would be requiring independent investigations of deaths that occur in the hands of state and local police here in Illinois.

Regarding education, I strongly oppose implementing school voucher programs here in Illinois, expanding charter schools, or any other school privatization scheme. I strongly support repealing Common Core State Standards and replacing them well-rounded, developmentally appropriate K-12 academic standards developed by the state and are held accountable by measures other than assessments and standardized tests. Additionally, I strongly support getting rid of the emphasis on career preparation in K-12 education, since I believe that career preparation should be the responsibility of higher education institutions, not the K-12 system. Also, I strongly support increasing funding for public schools in our state and making our state’s K-12 school funding system fairer to poorer school districts.

Illinoisans are worth more than speeches, political buzzwords, and PowerPoint presentations about driving down wages, busting unions, and making our state’s economy even weaker than it currently is, and Illinoisans are certainly worth more than Bruce Rauner’s far-right policies to drive down wages, bust unions, and destroy our state’s economy. It’s time for Illinoisans to push for progressive policies to protect workers’ rights, strengthen our state’s economy, put more money into the pockets of poor and working-class Illinoisans, provide a world-class education system for our state’s K-12 and college students, and provide for a more perfect Illinois.