Monday, February 29, 2016

Mission Accomplished in Illinois - Now We Need a Disaster PLan SB2789.

Senator Laura Murphy
The Unbalanced Budget Response Act????

A warning this afternoon from Senator Laura Murphy (Park Ridge) that Republican Leader Senator Christine Radogno (Lemont) has filed SB2789,  which will provide for Governor Rauner to act as full-fledged CEO in determining  who or what may be paid – given the fiscal mess he has created.

A copy of the  Senator’s email of February 29th is below:

Dear Friends,

Despite Illinois’ ongoing budget misery, Governor Rauner has introduced a plan that includes suspending required pension payments – the same kind of pension holiday that saddled the state with enormous unfunded liability to begin with.

The governor’s allies in the legislature have filed the Unbalanced Budget Response Act, which would give the governor sweeping powers to raid state funds, cut crucial programs and skip pension payments.

Illinois is in the mess it’s in largely because past governors and General Assemblies took pension holidays instead of budgeting responsibly. The practice plunged the state into debt and destabilized the public employee pension systems.

Now, Rauner wants the power to reduce or skip pension payments without even consulting you or your elected representatives. The governor is not a CEO – actions this drastic should require a lengthy debate and legislative approval where your voices can be heard.

I cannot support vague “reforms” that affect the working people of our state until I read the fine print.

I’ll be sure to keep you informed during this frustrating process, and I’ll keep fighting for you and your constitutionally guaranteed benefits. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.
Laura Murphy
28th District - Illinois 

Thank you sincerely, Senator Murphy.  I noticed this evening that no pending transactions from Springfield are yet poised for deposit into my accounts.  But it’s early yet.  

On the other hand, your email is another chilling reminder of Rauner’s casuistry on the Republican leadership and his frightening rush administer pain to selected groups of citizens – not govern.

Radogno’s SB2789 is now referred to Assignments.  Synopsis below:

Creates the Unbalanced Budget Response Act. Provides authority and procedures for the Governor to establish contingency reserves of previously appropriated funds, and to transfer balances between special funds in the State treasury and the General Revenue Fund. Describes the agencies and programs subject to this authority. Provides that designated agencies may adopt emergency rules to carry out the purposes of the Act. Defines terms. Provides that the Act is repealed on July 1, 2017. Amends the Illinois Administrative Procedure Act to make conforming changes. Amends the Illinois Public Aid Code. Adds actions taken under the Unbalanced Budget Response Act to a Section relating to applicability. Amends the State Mandates Act to require implementation without reimbursement by the State. Effective immediately.

A phone call to your Senator would be helpful.  Given a lack of any budget, major companies not being paid (let’s take Cigna, for example) will bill the state penalties and interest and await their money eventually.  Smaller businesses and services will not be able to weather the drought, and they will go under.  Providing this Governor with another method to divert monies from services and promises will generate grander deficits and pain for all of us later on – if we all don’t go under first.

It's what he does...

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Rauner Seeks to Victimize Those Seeking Advancement

Rauner: Moving from victimizing the marginalized to those seeking advancement…

Over 125,000 university level students in Illinois – students who have met the criteria for receiving financial assistance as they struggle to advance financially and vocationally – will no longer be provided with the support they so desperately need after Bruce Rauner vetoed the MAP Grant Funding Bill on February 19th, 2016.

You might not be aware what MAP Grants are for the students and many others who qualify under the careful watch of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission and the federally operated Free Application for Student Aid. 

So, what is a Map Grant?

MAP Fund money is Monetary Assistance Program money delivered to individuals meeting federally determined timelines and requirements for state monies to be used for educational purposes in secondary settings – in Illinois, university settings.  The timelines and threshold for meeting these requirements are firm and stringent; and the state program’s total $721 million bill is often utilized quickly.  In fact, the amount of money set aside for this important gateway to further the education of those in demand of assistance has by and large remained sadly static over the last years.  On the other hand, the needs in our grinding economy have increased exponentially. 

By the way, every state has its own version of this program.

In Illinois, the most an expectant recipient can expect to receive is less than $4800 in eventual maximum awards.  As a grant, the money provided is considered an investment on the part of the state for further benefits in return of employments, taxation, etc. It is not a loan.

On the other hand, students seeking MAP grants are likely carrying loan debt as well. Education may be the path into a higher earning position in life, but it does not come cheaply.   

MAP Grants might sound like a free offering that could be easily rigged; however, under the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, worthy and needy students seeking financial assistance in the state are provided tuition money only if they meet certain requirements, such as:  state and federal citizenship, documentable financial need, enrollment in an approved educational system for a minimum of hours, compliance with Social Service System registration, a maintained history of satisfactory academic progress, no default in any other loans (private or public), and having fallen short of the maximum 75 hours of MAP hour credits. 

In Rauner’s State of the Budget speech on February 17th, the Governor promised his audience, ”If we do this (follow his ideological  turnaround agenda)– if we come together to fix our long-term challenges – we will deliver world class education to every child in Illinois – no matter where they live or where they came from.

Sadly, less than three days after this conditional ultimatum to the General Assembly, Rauner vetoed any money to be provided the current MAP Program.

So much for “world class.”

Recall also that Governor Rauner has anointed himself as the protector of the Middle Class and its workers, swearing to correct their inability to recover from a state-specific economic depression due to his Democratic enemies’ refusal to provide for the recovery of workers who seek retooling and an escape from union control. 

However, more than just students are involved in this veto.

A significant portion of the MAP Funding also delivers financial assistance to those dislocated workers in our state seeking just the kind of re-education and learning that the Governor likes to describe as integral to his “turnaround plan.”  Makin' sure our workers are as ready to work as ones in Indiana.

Rauner describes his recent veto of funds to help dislocated workers and needy students as necessary to alleviate some of the pain felt by the current targets of his cutting – the deeply marginalized and those dependent on dwindling sisal services.  

Now he has turned his axe-wielding severity to those who might work to get ahead – and those trying to rejoin or maintain a life in the middle class. 

“I would encourage the students to stay and see if they can be patient and persistent along with us,” Rauner said.  He also vowed if given the authority to make cuts in the budget, he would find the money to pay most of what’s needed for student grants and public universities.” (Chicago Tribune – Feb. 21, 2016)

It was the indigent earlier who became pawns in this brinkmanship between Rauner and the General Assembly.  Now it moves up to those with some hope.  I wonder who’s next?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Marcus Crassus, Bruce Rauner & the Turnaround Agenda

Marcus Licinius Crassus
Illinois State of the Budget: Past as Prologue

Marcus Licinius Crassus (115 – 53 BC) early on recognized his enormous wealth could buy him an army and quite possibly the consulship of ancient Rome.  In fact, his military victories over rivals and enemies allowed the proscription (seizure) of their assets for his own – a swift kind of vulture capitalism with a sword. 

In Robert Harris’ historical narrative Imperium, Cicero recalls how the savvy Crassus lined the pockets of his close friends by sending teams of slaves into burning neighborhoods and offering to buy the owners’ endangered homes for next to nothing.  When the owners agreed and ran away with their belongings, teams of slaves with water pumps would arrive and quench the flames.  The buildings could then be sold to friends at a profit but still cheap enough to provide for their own later fiscal enhancement. 

…Like promising to declare bankruptcy once one takes over the Chicago Public Schools while CPS is desperately seeking bond purchases to pay for much-needed cash.  The resultant jump in interest rates will cost the taxpayers dearly but earn capitally for fellow investors. 

Bruce Vincent Rauner
Ironically, just like 73 BC, in 2016 AD it’s good to have friends in high places; but the repeating of history can also have its darker and quirkier sides.

For while Marcus Crassus hoped to be named singular consul of Rome, the highest political office of the state upon his return from various victories, he was instead forced to share that power with his most-hated rival Pompey (Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus), who upon return to Rome declared his own victories surpassing those of Crassus’. 

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  All we need at this point is a Turnaround Agenda…

But if past is indeed prologue, can we expect much to happen differently when Governor Rauner takes the podium – one week after Obama’s return to Springfield and the President’s call for a cessation of partisan bickering – to give his annual State of the Budget speech to the General Assembly?

Probably not one iota (sorry, it’s a Greek theme – so, blame the Field Museum).

During his campaign to become Governor, it is estimated Rauner personally spent nearly $36 per vote (or nearly $24 million of his own wealth in the last three months of his race for the gubernatorial race).  By the way, according to Rauner that would be less than 5% of his assets.

“Overall, Rauner's campaign spent $65.3 million since it began in March 2013, and the Republican received more than 1.8 million votes in his general election victory compared with nearly 1.7 million votes for Quinn, who was seeking a second elected term. That translates to $35.83 per vote for Rauner…The documents also showed Rauner raising more than $40 million the last three months of 2014, including $22 million from Oct. 1 to Election Day.
Of that $22 million raised, Rauner accounted for nearly $13.5 million out of his own pocket. That amounted to nearly half the $27.6 million in personal funds Rauner contributed.
Since winning election, Rauner has given his campaign fund an additional $10 million in personal funds and two wealthy allies, hedge fund CEO Ken Griffin and businessman Richard Uihlein, combined for another $10 million. The $20 million is aimed at helping promote Rauner's still-unstated agenda as governor and helping buttress Republican state lawmakers to support it.”

More personal money and generous gifts by Sam Zell provided for additional $millions in anti-Madigan commercials during the spring and summer of 2015.  In one of his earliest interviews before the election of 2014, Rauner described in absolutes just what he will do when elected.  “We need to end the current pension structure and protect it…and we should offer them a range of choices so they can choose for themselves what sort of retirement they’d like to have…” 

International Business Times reported in August of 2014 that candidate Rauner had said as early as 2013 that as Governor he “might have to take a strike and shut down the government (in Illinois) for a few weeks and kinda redo everybody’s contract.  That’s a possibility I will do proudly.”  Later on, Rauner rescinded his comments.

By June of 2015, the Sun-Times reported Rauner had changed his mind once again, and he had instead instituted an agenda (or rescinded his earlier rescission)  that would administer pain to many “but the change will be worth it.”

The other afternoon on the radio, Representative Lou Lang of Skokie reviewed Rauner’s wasteland of broken services in Illinois: “He (Rauner) is holding college students hostage; he’s holding universities hostage; kids with epilepsy or autism; people with mental health needs; legal immigrants who need services from the state; senior citizens – in short, he is disrupting the social service community in Illinois to the extent where services are closing.  Folks who provide addiction programs everyday are shutting down, and not only are we not providing these services but we’re losing jobs in Illinois because the Governor who says he’s the ‘Jobs Governor’ is actually purposely shutting down those businesses.”

But if you are a Marcus Crassus – like the commercial suggests – it’s what you do.

On his way to seek what he believed to be his earned right as consul of Rome, businessman Marcus Crassus had the Appian Way adorned with the crucified bodies of slaves who had been bold enough to revolt: exactly one hundred and seventeen paces between each, seventeen crucifixions per mile on either side, six thousand suffering souls along three hundred and fifty miles of roadway.    

Demanding approval from a very nervous and captive young orator named Marcus Cicero for his brutal actions along the highway, Pompey suggested pointedly that his violence would at least prove a deterrent for those who might disagree with him in any way. 

Cicero wisely agreed that no one, not any great general or statesman throughout civilized history, could have come up with such a plan.