WBEZ | Governor Pat Quinn http://www.wbez.org/tags/governor-pat-quinn Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Quinn searching nationwide for new DCFS chief http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-searching-nationwide-new-dcfs-chief-109790 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Arthur Bishop from Sun-Times.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Gov. Pat Quinn is doing a national search for the next chief of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services in the wake of the current director resigning after only a month on the job, the governor&rsquo;s office said Thursday.</p><p>Arthur Bishop, 61, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/dcfs-chief-resigns-after-investigation-his-past-109780">submitted his resignation letter Wednesday</a> following Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ reports that revealed <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/new-dcfs-boss-pleaded-guilty-stealing-social-service-agencys-clients-109715">Bishop had a theft conviction and paternity case in his past</a>. The resignation was announced shortly after the news organizations had posted a story in which a daughter, Erica Bishop, 27, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/daughter-dcfs-chief-says-he-ignored-her-109778">questioned how Bishop could lead DCFS given that he&rsquo;d shunned her for her entire life</a> &mdash; even after DNA testing proved she was his daughter nearly 11 years ago, she said.</p><p>Quinn had picked Arthur Bishop, who formerly headed the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, to bring stability to an agency beset by financial scandal in 2011 and, more recently, furor over the abuse-and-neglect deaths of dozens of children who&rsquo;d had contact with the agency before they died.</p><p>DCFS has had four different chiefs since the start of November. Richard Calica, appointed in the wake of the 2011 contracting mess, resigned that month as he battled cancer. He died in December.</p><p>Denise Gonzales, Calica&rsquo;s chief of staff, was interim director before Bishop&rsquo;s appointment last month.</p><p>The new acting director is attorney and social worker Bobbie M. Gregg, who has worked at DCFS for about a year. Gregg, 57, is now deputy director of the agency&rsquo;s Bureau of Operations. Her appointment as interim director is to expire within 60 days.</p><p>Two key lawmakers called on Quinn to do a national search Thursday. Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said such a search had already been launched.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve had a rotating door, unfortunately, in the last several months in this department. So it&rsquo;s been hard for any leadership to gain traction,&rdquo; said state Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield, chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Issues Relating to DCFS. &ldquo;I would encourage the governor to look within the state and outside the state for a director who brings some innovation along with the experience&rdquo; to run the agency.</p><p>State Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, who chairs the House Appropriations-Human Resources Committee, said it&rsquo;s important that Quinn&rsquo;s next pick for DCFS boss be given a chance to run the agency long-term &mdash; regardless of whether Quinn loses the November election to a Republican.<br />&ldquo;The right person would be the right person &mdash; whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, a Whig or a Tory,&rdquo; Harris said.</p><p>The next director, Harris said, also should be prepared to run the agency on a tighter budget, given an anticipated drop in state revenues next year.<br />&ldquo;The safety net for these kids is going to become immensely frayed,&rdquo; he said, noting DCFS needs &ldquo;somebody who can steady the ship immediately.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Chris Fusco and Frank Main are Chicago Sun-Times staff reporters. Tony Arnold is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 28 Feb 2014 10:47:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-searching-nationwide-new-dcfs-chief-109790 Teachers union president vows to fight cuts to pensions http://www.wbez.org/news/teachers-union-president-vows-fight-cuts-pensions-109618 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/karenlewis.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-4f4111df-eab0-88bc-9e92-a95991dd6897">The head of the Chicago Teachers Union on Friday said she will not accept cuts to retired teachers&rsquo; benefits as a way to ease the district&rsquo;s pension crisis; though she did detail some ideas for easing a funding shortfall of at least $8 billion.</p><p>CTU President Karen Lewis said she was &ldquo;horrified&rdquo; by the controversial overhaul of state worker pensions that became law in December. That law, which scales back benefits for retirees and increases retirement ages for younger workers, has been discussed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration as a possible template for the ailing Chicago Teachers&rsquo; Pension Fund.</p><p>&ldquo;All right, you can cut pensions,&rdquo; Lewis said. &ldquo;Then what happens to those people? So this is not just about a spreadsheet piece, it&rsquo;s [about] what actually happens to the people.&rdquo;</p><p>Chicago is facing two big challenges with its teachers&rsquo; pension fund: a state-mandated $400-million spike in contributions next year and a system that is critically underfunded. The underfunding is due, in large part, to a decade-long contribution holiday - when Chicago Public Schools paid nothing toward its teachers&rsquo; pensions - that was followed by a few years of reduced payments.</p><p>In an interview with WBEZ on Friday, Lewis said simply delaying the payments is no longer an option. She suggested that CPS needs to reprioritize its budget in order to meet its required $600 million pension contribution next year, pointing to a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-approves-seven-new-charter-schools-109558" target="_blank">recent decision</a> by CPS&rsquo; board to approve several new charter schools.</p><p>&ldquo;You do have the money,&rdquo; Lewis said of the district. &ldquo;You have to choose to use it. It&rsquo;s a difference between not having the money, [and] having it and not wanting to do it.&rdquo;</p><p>Lewis declined to offer a specific plan for righting the Chicago Teachers&rsquo; Pension Fund, which currently has <a href="http://www.ctpf.org/AnnualReports/cafr2012.pdf" target="_blank">less than half</a> the money it needs to fulfill its long-term obligations. But she did hint at some things she wants to see in a final proposal, which would need approval from state lawmakers.</p><p>Lewis called for a restoration of the designated property tax line item that would exclusively fund Chicago teacher pensions. That&rsquo;s how the system was funded before 1995, when former Mayor Richard M. Daley gained authority over the public schools and that property tax stream was diverted into the district&rsquo;s main bank account.</p><p>And while she said she opposed any changes in benefits for current retirees, Lewis did not rule out changing the benefits of teachers who are still on the job.</p><p>&ldquo;We could have conversations about that,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;We could have significant conversations about that. But there are ways to not have to do that.&rdquo;</p><p>But currently, there aren&rsquo;t any conversations between the union and the Emanuel administration, according to Lewis.</p><p>&ldquo;We haven&rsquo;t been in negotiations for a while because the person who actually is in charge doesn&rsquo;t wanna be in negotiations,&rdquo; she said, referring to the mayor. &ldquo;He wants a bill.&rdquo;</p><p>The district&rsquo;s most recent offer included eliminating cost-of-living increases for retirees&rsquo; benefits and cutting the amount of money contributed to each teacher&rsquo;s pension by about a third, according to the union.</p><p>A CPS spokesman declined to talk specifics about the district&rsquo;s proposals.</p><p>&quot;For the last two years, the District has been working to reach an agreement with CTU on meaningful pension reform that protects the retirement security of our teachers while avoiding dramatic cuts to the classroom,&rdquo; said CPS spokesman Joel Hood. &ldquo;We have always been willing to sit down for discussions with the CTU.&rdquo;</p><p>Meanwhile, Emanuel budget spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said in an email Friday that the mayor meets regularly with state legislative leaders to discuss the city&rsquo;s agenda in Springfield, including pensions.</p><p>Emanuel and his allies in the state legislature have been emphasizing the need to fix Chicago&rsquo;s municipal pension crisis, now that state lawmakers finally passed a law addressing the state&rsquo;s massively underfunded pension systems. On top of the problem with its teachers pensions, City Hall also faces a crisis with its retirement funds for police, firefighters, laborers and municipal workers, which together, face their own nearly $19.5 billion funding shortfall.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe" target="_blank">Alex Keefe</a> is a political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>. Reporters <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">Becky Vevea</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">Tony Arnold</a> contributed to this report.</em></p></p> Fri, 31 Jan 2014 17:42:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/teachers-union-president-vows-fight-cuts-pensions-109618 Unions file lawsuit over pension changes http://www.wbez.org/news/politics/unions-file-lawsuit-over-pension-changes-109588 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP92397679629.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">A dozen of Illinois&#39; most powerful public employees&rsquo; unions filed a lawsuit Tuesday, challenging the constitutionality of the controversial new state pension overhaul signed into law in December.</p><p dir="ltr">The plaintiff in the long-expected suit is the We Are One Illinois Coalition, which includes the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Service Employees International Union, and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, among others.</p><p dir="ltr">In all, the organized labor groups say they represent 621,000 members.</p><p dir="ltr">At issue is the pension law passed by the General Assembly and signed by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn last month. It aims to ease the financial impact of Illinois&rsquo; massive public pension shortfall by scaling back yearly benefit increases and raising retirement ages for younger workers.</p><p dir="ltr">In return, workers would pay slightly less toward their pensions, and advocates say their retirement plans will be more financially secure, even though the pension funds had been shorted by Springfield policy-makers for years.</p><p dir="ltr">But Tuesday&rsquo;s civil complaint argues the new law violates a part of the Illinois Constitution that says pension benefits &ldquo;shall not be diminished or impaired.&rdquo; It also contends that a state employee&rsquo;s pension is a contract, and that the legislation violates the state constitution&rsquo;s Contracts Clause that states no law &ldquo;impairing the obligation of contracts or making an irrevocable grant of special privileges or immunities, shall be passed.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The lawsuit goes on to blame current and previous lawmakers for the current state of finances facing Illinois.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The State chose to forgo funding its pension systems in amounts the State now claims were needed to fully meet the State&rsquo;s annuity obligations,&rdquo; the lawsuit reads. &ldquo;Now, the State expects the members of those systems to carry on their backs the burden of curing the State&rsquo;s longstanding misconduct.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Quinn&#39;s administration quickly defended the law on Tuesday.</p><p dir="ltr">&quot;The lawsuits come as no surprise,&quot; said Quinn&#39;s assistant budget director, Abdon Pallasch. &quot;We believe that pension reform is contstitutional and we will defend the interest of taxpayers.&quot;</p><p dir="ltr">Tuesday&rsquo;s lawsuit comes on the heels of other similar lawsuits that the Illinois Attorney General&rsquo;s office has asked be consolidated into one case to be heard in Cook County. But the We Are One Illinois coalition filed its case in Sangamon County, home to Springfield, the state Capitol, and thousands of public workers.</p><p dir="ltr">The difference in location could prove significant in the outcome of the case. House Speaker Michael Madigan takes credit for negotiating the compromise and putting the needed votes on the bill for approval. Critics of the law express concerns about whether the suit could come before a Cook County judge who has connections to Madigan, who also serves as the chairman of the state&rsquo;s Democratic Party.</p><p dir="ltr">The case is expected to eventually be argued in front of the Illinois State Supreme Court.</p><p dir="ltr">Recent studies have shown the legislation may not save the state as much money as originally projected. Supporters have said the pension overhaul will save $160 billion over the next 30 years. That number may have been exaggerated, and a report from the University of Illinois projected Illinois will still have a $13 billion deficit 10 years from now even if the pension law takes full effect.</p></p> Tue, 28 Jan 2014 13:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/politics/unions-file-lawsuit-over-pension-changes-109588 Arthur Bishop named new head of Illinois DCFS http://www.wbez.org/news/arthur-bishop-named-new-head-illinois-dcfs-109572 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/bishop.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois&rsquo; child welfare department has a new director.</p><p>Arthur Bishop has been in charge of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, the agency that oversees the state&rsquo;s prisons for young people.</p><p>Now he&rsquo;ll run the Department of Children and Family Services, which is tasked with protecting children who are wards of the state and working with families who need help with their children.</p><p>In a statement, Gov. Pat Quinn touts Bishop&rsquo;s long career working with families.</p><p>&ldquo;I am confident that he will carry out the mission of the department by making the safety and well-being of children across the state priority number one,&rdquo; Quinn said.</p><p>Bishop worked for DCFS beginning in the 1990s before he became the director of the juvenile prisons in 2010. Quinn said that during Bishop&rsquo;s time at DJJ, the population of the youth prisons has dropped to below 900. In the years just prior, the youth prison population had been closer to 1,500.</p><p>Bishop succeeds Richard Calica, who had resigned from DCFS shortly before he died from an illness in December. Calica&rsquo;s chief-of-staff, Denise Gonzales, has been the acting director since Calica resigned.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Fri, 24 Jan 2014 16:41:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/arthur-bishop-named-new-head-illinois-dcfs-109572 Study: Pension savings 'barely dent' Illinois fiscal woes http://www.wbez.org/news/study-pension-savings-barely-dent-illinois-fiscal-woes-109547 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/jimmywayne.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>If you think Illinois&rsquo; new pension law will fix the state&rsquo;s money troubles, think again.</p><p>Savings from the controversial pension overhaul will &ldquo;barely dent&rdquo; Illinois&rsquo; budget shortfalls over the next decade, according to a new study released Tuesday by researchers at the University of Illinois.</p><p>Even with the new law, Illinois&rsquo; budget shortfall is still on course to grow to $13 billion by 2025, according to estimates produced by U of I&rsquo;s Institute of Government and Public Affairs.</p><p>Chalk it up to state government&rsquo;s propensity to spend more money than it takes in, said Richard F. Dye, who co-authored the study.</p><p>&ldquo;It just doesn&rsquo;t add up,&rdquo; said Dye, an economics professor assigned to the institute. &ldquo;We like government services. We don&rsquo;t like paying taxes. We like politicians that tell us it&rsquo;s gonna be fine. But it ain&rsquo;t fine.&rdquo;</p><p>Backers say the pension law, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/legislature-passes-historic-pension-vote-109287">passed by lawmakers</a> and quickly signed by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in December, will save the state $160 billion over the next 30 years. Much of those savings comes from scaling back annual benefit increases for state workers, a provision organized labor groups say violates the <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/commission/lrb/con13.htm">state constitution&rsquo;s guarantee</a> that benefits &ldquo;shall not be diminished or impaired.&rdquo;</p><p>But the law&rsquo;s savings are backloaded and will not be fully felt for years, Dye said, even if the law survives legal challenges.</p><p>Illinois would save between $1 billion and $1.5 billion each year for the next decade, according to his analysis. Even with those savings, the state would face a roughly $3 billion hole in 2015, which would swell to $13 billion in 2025.</p><p>Darkening the forecast is the scheduled 2015 expiration of the income tax hike -- aimed at closing the state&rsquo;s budget gaps -- that was <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/news/quinn-holds-income-tax-increase">championed by Quinn</a> and enacted in <a href="http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/story/illinois-legislature-approves-major-tax-increases">2011</a>. That will mean less money to the state starting next year, unless that law is extended.</p><p>But even if lawmakers do continue the increased tax rate beyond 2015, things do not get much sunnier, Dye said. That would still leave Illinois on track to have its deficit grow to $5.5 billion in 2025.</p><p>&ldquo;We are spending beyond our means,&rdquo; Dye said. &ldquo;And, you know, greater cuts in education or social services are on the way. It&rsquo;s just not sustainable.&rdquo;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe">Alex Keefe</a> is a political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 21 Jan 2014 00:39:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/study-pension-savings-barely-dent-illinois-fiscal-woes-109547 Illinois Senate Democrats push minimum wage hike http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-senate-democrats-push-minimum-wage-hike-109494 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP620579142727.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><p">Some Democratic state senators are pushing a new increase in the state&rsquo;s minimum wage&mdash;and they like their odds of passing a bill this year.</p"></p><p>Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has made a minimum wage hike a centerpiece of his re-election campaign, favoring a boost to $10 an hour from the current rate of $8.25 an hour.</p><p>The topic also has been at the center of a heated debate among the GOP candidates running for governor that has included businessman Bruce Rauner&rsquo;s since-retracted statement that Illinois should lower its minimum wage.</p><p>State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Westchester, has been pushing for years to raise the minimum wage. Her past few attempts did not get much traction in Springfield, and her bill last year calling for an increase to $10 an hour did not even get a vote.</p><p>In 2012, Lightford&rsquo;s bill was approved by a Senate committee, but was not called up for a vote in the full Senate. But Lightford hopes the current minimum wage discussion in the governor&rsquo;s race will help the bill pass in Springfield.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m hoping that now that there&rsquo;s much discussion about it, we&rsquo;re at a point where some members who were perhaps &lsquo;maybes,&rsquo; they weren&rsquo;t quite sure, maybe we can get them to become &lsquo;yes&rsquo; votes now,&rdquo; Lightford said Thursday.</p><p>The last two times Illinois raised its minimum wage were in or around election years.</p><p>Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed a law increasing Illinois&rsquo; minimum wage in 2003, shortly after he was elected governor, and again in 2006, <a href="http://ilga.gov/legislation/billstatus.asp?DocNum=1268&amp;GAID=8&amp;GA=94&amp;DocTypeID=SB&amp;LegID=18336&amp;SessionID=50" target="_blank">just after he was re-elected</a>.</p><p>Whether the minimum wage should be raised, lowered or even with the national rate has been attracting dramatic attention from the Republicans seeking their party&rsquo;s nomination for governor in the March 18 primary. Those candidates include Rauner, a wealthy Chicago venture capitalist; State Senators Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, and Kirk Dillard, R-Westmont; and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford.</p><p>Rauner&rsquo;s comments have caused a recent stir by saying last month that he advocates moving the Illinois minimum wage back to the national rate.That would mean reducing Illinois&rsquo; current rate of $8.25 an hour to the national rate of $7.25.</p><p>Rauner has since taken back those comments, and in a <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-minimum-wage-bruce-rauner-perspec-0109-20140109,0,6500044.story" target="_blank">written column published in the Chicago Tribune</a>, said he favors the federal government raising the national minimum wage so it is even with Illinois&rsquo; rate.</p><p>That is similar to the position taken by Brady, who released a statement Wednesday saying he does not want Illinois to raise its minimum wage until the national rate matched $8.25.</p><p>During his 2010 bid for governor, Brady got caught up in a controversy similar to Rauner&rsquo;s. <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2010-06-25/news/ct-met-illinois-governor-race-minimum20100625_1_minimum-wage-governor-candidate-bill-brady-illinois" target="_blank">The <em>Chicago Tribune</em> reported</a> Brady initially suggested that the Illinois rate should be rolled back to the federal level, then later said the rate should be frozen until the federal rate catches up. Brady won the Republican nomination that year but narrowly lost to Quinn in the general election.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 10 Jan 2014 10:50:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-senate-democrats-push-minimum-wage-hike-109494 The politics behind the pension vote http://www.wbez.org/news/politics-behind-pension-vote-109301 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/dan montgomery.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois lawmakers have approved a long-awaited plan to restructure retirement benefits for state employees and Gov. Pat Quinn says he&rsquo;ll sign the bill into law.</p><p>But labor groups are vowing to sue, saying the measure unlawfully cuts the pensions of their members.</p><p>And even though the dialogue around changing the pension benefits of state employees started years ago, the proposal sets up a big fight for next year&rsquo;s election.</p><p>Legislative leaders gave themselves a week - a holiday week, at that - to sell the bill to their own members. Senate President John Cullerton spent Tuesday morning meeting privately with his senators to get them on board.</p><p>Republican House Leader Jim Durkin says the short timeframe made for a busy home stretch.</p><p>&ldquo;I had people running in and running out over the last 24 hours,&rdquo; he said in an interview after Tuesday&rsquo;s vote. &ldquo;Talking to every member, every question.&rdquo;</p><p>Except, Durkin said, there may have been an ulterior motive behind some of the questions he was getting from his own fellow Republicans.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ll say some questions weren&rsquo;t exactly sincere. So that&rsquo;s politics. That&rsquo;s what we live in,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;But there was a lot of - to say that it got a little tense is an understatement.&rdquo;</p><p>Durkin said some Republicans had legitimate concerns. For instance, he says some downstate GOP representatives have a lot of state employees in their districts, especially those with prisons. Meantime, others want to move state pension funds into 401K style plans -- and nothing else would do.</p><p>&ldquo;Some people I will just say that their reasoning is not reasonable and I question it because of the dynamics of what&rsquo;s going on in the State of Illinois over this next year,&rdquo; Durkin said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a political season and some people believe that we shouldn&rsquo;t deliver a win to the Democrats.&rdquo;</p><p>The logic goes: If Republicans blocked yesterday&rsquo;s pensions vote, Democrats - and Governor Pat Quinn - would look bad for not getting the job done come Election Day. That&rsquo;s a claim reiterated by Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, who&rsquo;s also chair of the Illinois Democratic Party.</p><p>&ldquo;I find Bruce Rauner to be particularly disingenuous with his approach to this,&rdquo; Madigan said.</p><p>Rauner is a venture capitalist running for governor who opposes the pension deal.</p><p>&ldquo;My view is that (Rauner) would like to blow it up so that he would maintain a campaign issue,&rdquo; Madigan said. &ldquo;So with the passage of the bill and the anticipated signature by the governor, why, Rauner has lost one of his campaign issues.&rdquo;</p><p>In response to Madigan&rsquo;s claim, a Rauner spokesman said the Republican thinks the plan is a bad one. After the vote, Rauner released a statement saying the pension bill doesn&rsquo;t go far enough.</p><p>When asked if Rauner and his allies made the pension vote more complicated for Republican senators, Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno said, &ldquo;Absolutely it made it more complicated.&rdquo;</p><p>She said if the vote had taken place at another time - and not three months before the primary - the votes might have been different. When asked why Rauner, who&rsquo;s never held political office, could influence lawmakers so much, Radogno said it&rsquo;s not just about Rauner&rsquo;s political influence, but also his money.</p><p>And Rauner has a lot of it.</p><p>&ldquo;I mean, people think about campaign funding. They think about what support they&rsquo;ll get when they&rsquo;re running. They think about their own political futures. They think about the people that are around Bruce Rauner and how they relate to them and their campaigns,&rdquo; Radogno said.</p><p>There are three other Republicans in the primary for governor.</p><p>State Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington, was the only candidate to support the pension bill.</p><p>Twenty percent of the current budget&rsquo;s revenue goes toward pensions. Brady says that number will only get worse - and the remaining money isn&rsquo;t enough to pay for education and other government services.</p><p>State Sen. Kirk Dillard of Westmont, wanted more time to review the legislation - and voted no. But his pick for Lieutenant Governor in next year&rsquo;s campaign, State Representative Jil Tracy of Quincy, voted yes.</p><p>Treasurer Dan Rutherford said he thinks it&rsquo;s unconstitutional.</p><p>On the Democratic side, incumbent Pat Quinn, who&rsquo;s running for re-election, could face some opposition from a group who previously supported him: labor unions.</p><p>&ldquo;I do think, as I said, this is the triumph of politics over the rule of law in this state, so I would imagine there are political consequences all around,&rdquo; said Dan Montgomery, the head of the Illinois Federation of Teachers.</p><p>When asked what those consequences will be, Montgomery replied, &ldquo;Well, that&rsquo;s yet to be seen.&rdquo;</p><p>But with a lawsuit from the unions imminent, the issue isn&rsquo;t likely to disappear before next year&rsquo;s election.</p><p>Already, Chicago and Cook County officials are wondering how the vote will affect their own pension systems.</p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a statement shortly after the legislature approved the pension bill.</p><p>&ldquo;The pension crisis is not truly solved until relief is brought to Chicago and all of the other local governments across our state that are standing on the brink of a fiscal cliff because of our pension liabilities,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p>State lawmakers agree.</p><p>State Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Buffalo Grove, said that while some of the state&rsquo;s pension systems are poorly funded, Chicago&rsquo;s teachers&rsquo; retirement plans are perhaps even worse.</p><p>&ldquo;Our work on pensions is by no means done, but this will let a lot of air back in the room to start addressing the other systems,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said county employees&rsquo; retirement system&rsquo;s unfunded liability grew by $1 billion last year, and also needs state intervention.</p><p>Meantime, House Republican Leader Durkin said he&rsquo;ll work with Mayor Emanuel, even though he&rsquo;s with the opposing political party.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.&nbsp;</em><em>Illinois Public Radio&rsquo;s Amanda Vinicky contributed to this report. Follow her&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/AmandaVinicky">@amandavinicky</a>.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Wed, 04 Dec 2013 13:53:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/politics-behind-pension-vote-109301 Legislature passes 'historic' pension vote http://www.wbez.org/news/legislature-passes-historic-pension-vote-109287 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 11.23.37 PM.png" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois lawmakers Tuesday passed a deal on pension reform proposal that&rsquo;s been developing for about three years.</p><p>The House voted 62-53 in favor of the plan, sending it to Gov. Pat Quinn, who has said he will sign it. The Senate approved the measure 30-24 just minutes earlier.</p><p>&quot;There will be changes here, much-needed changes, but this bill is a well thought out, well-balanced bill that deserves the support of this body, the state Senate and the approval of Gov. Quinn,&quot; House Speaker Michael Madigan said at the start of the House debate. &quot;Something&#39;s got to be done. We can&#39;t go on dedicating so much of our resources to this one sector of pensions.&quot;</p><p>Public employee unions, who oppose the bill, vowed to quickly take legal action. They say the legislation is unfair to workers and retirees who for years made faithful contributions to retirement systems but now will see benefits cut because of government mismanagement. They also argue parts of the measure are unconstitutional.</p><p>&quot;This is no victory for Illinois, but a dark day for its citizens and public servants,&quot; the We Are One Illinois union coalition said in a statement soon after the votes. &quot;Teachers, caregivers, police and others stand to lose huge portions of their life savings because politicians chose to threaten their retirement security, rather than pass a much fairer, legal, negotiated solution ...&quot;</p><p>It comes after the leaders of the state Democratic and Republican parties in the legislature said last week they had reached a long-awaited agreement on how to structure the state pension funds for the next 30 years.</p><p>The announcement also prompted a call to arms by organized labor groups, who immediately started fiercely mobilizing against the measure under one umbrella organization. These opponents say the plan punishes workers for the state&rsquo;s financial problems.</p><p>Illinois Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn on Monday said lawmakers&rsquo; scheduled action on the packaged pension deal will be one for the ages at the Capitol.</p><p>&ldquo;This is a historic vote,&rdquo; Quinn told reporters during an appearance in Chicago. &ldquo;Probably the most important fiscal vote a member of the legislature will ever take in their lifetime in the legislature.&rdquo;</p><p>Quinn made addressing the problems of state&rsquo;s pension system his top legislative priority during his current term as governor. The four retirement funds in question, which cover legislators, university employees, suburban and downstate teachers, and other state workers are all underfunded. Those pushing for changing the benefit structures often say Illinois&rsquo; retirement funds are the worst-funded systems in the country.</p><p>In that time, Quinn has said he&rsquo;d start a grass-roots campaign around the theme of pension reform. He unveiled a series of videos (including one featuring a pensions mascot and a explainer video produced by the Khan Academy educational website). And, for several weeks earlier this year, he suspended the paychecks of lawmakers and himself to pressure them to pass a plan he supported. A Cook County judge eventually allowed legislators to collect their checks, but Quinn has still rejected his own until he signs a pension measure into law.</p><p>But negotiations have been slow, and all of Quinn&rsquo;s campaigning behind the issue alienated a group of big potential Democratic campaign supporters ahead of his bid for re-election next year. Labor groups rallied at various lawmakers&rsquo; district offices Monday to encourage them to vote no on Tuesday.</p><p>&ldquo;We feel that cutting our pensions that we paid into is wrong,&rdquo; said Jennifer Edwards, a retiree from the University of Illinois-Chicago who rallied with a small group outside the office of State Rep. Christian Mitchell, D-Chicago. &ldquo;They need to figure out some other way to handle it. We paid in and we want our money.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think this bill&rsquo;s going to pass,&rdquo; Henry Bayer, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said Monday on WBEZ&rsquo;s The Morning Shift. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re doing everything we can to stop it. But if it should pass, it&rsquo;s gonna be challenged in court and if it gets overturned in court, it will not save the taxpayers of Illinois one dime. We&rsquo;ll be right in the same predicament we&rsquo;re in today.&rdquo;</p><p>Meantime, the political reality behind Tuesday&rsquo;s pension vote is also present on the Republican side of the aisle.</p><p>&ldquo;You hear folks on the Republican side saying, &lsquo;Well this is not enough. Vote no. Let chaos reign. And then let a new governor come in,&rsquo;&rdquo; said state Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno. &ldquo; I think that is manipulating it for political purposes as well.&rdquo;</p><p>Of the four Republicans challenging Quinn for governor, only state Sen. Bill Brady has said he supports the proposal. State Treasurer Dan Rutherford said he does not think the plan is constitutional. State Sen. Kirk Dillard said he wants hearings into the proposal. And venture capitalist Bruce Rauner sent an email to supporters Sunday saying the bill does not save enough money.</p><p>The legislative leaders who support the bill say it will save the state $160 billion over 30 years. It does that in large part by adjusting the increases retirees get to keep up with cost of living. The proposal would tie annual increases to inflation, rather than keep it at a set percentage rate.</p><p>The bill also requires employees to pay less into their own retirement system as a consideration for cuts to other parts of their benefits. It calls for increasing the retirement age for younger workers and establishes a funding schedule for the next 30 years.</p><p>The bill would also remove many pension matters from the collective bargaining process with labor groups, and it allows a limited number of certain employees to enter into a retirement plan that looks more like a 401(k). It also calls for a so-called funding guarantee, which says a pension system can utilize the courts to make the state pay into the fund.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.</em></p></p> Mon, 02 Dec 2013 23:17:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/legislature-passes-historic-pension-vote-109287 Illinois gay marriage becomes law as it prompts hope, concern http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-gay-marriage-becomes-law-it-prompts-hope-concern-109201 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/gay marriage passes - AP Seth Perlman.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois became the 16th state to legalize gay marriage when Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn signed a long-awaited&mdash;and hotly debated&mdash;bill into law on Wednesday.</p><p>The bill passed the General Assembly on Nov. 5, after months of lobbying by gay rights activists and opponents of the measure.</p><p>The new reality of gay marriage is prompting both hope and concern for the future among Illinoisans.</p><h2><strong>&lsquo;It&rsquo;s right to love each other&rsquo;</strong></h2><p>&nbsp;</p><p>When Bill Kelley first moved here from Missouri as a teenager in 1959, Illinois was a very different place for gay men such as him. Gay sex then was illegal, though Illinois three years later would become the first state to repeal its sodomy laws.</p><p>Kelley says the Sexual Revolution and the civil rights movement of that era also let gays and lesbians feel freer. He went on to become an established gay rights activist in the years that followed.</p><p>But looking back, the 71-year-old says those changes took root over decades. So Kelley is not expecting any additional major cultural shifts as gay marriage becomes Illinois law.</p><p>&quot;The change in law seldom marks any abrupt change in society,&rdquo; Kelley said. &ldquo;Usually changes in laws follow changes in society as much as they provoke them.&quot;</p><p>Chen Ooi, Kelley&rsquo;s partner of 34 years, was more emotional in describing his reaction to the breakthrough on gay marriage. The 61-year-old choked back tears when he recalled how he felt when he learned the bill was approved by the legislature earlier this month, after many fits and starts.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s [a] civil right,&rdquo; Ooi said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s right to love each other. And yet, it took so long to fight for it.&rdquo;</p><p>Kelley and Ooi don&rsquo;t have a civil union under the law, enacted in 2011, that guaranteed same-sex couples some partnership rights short of marriage. And they say they aren&rsquo;t sure about getting married even though it will now be legal for them to do so.</p><p>That&rsquo;s because they&rsquo;ve organized their entire lives&mdash;finances, estates, health care decisions&mdash;all based on the idea that marriage was impossible, Ooi said.</p><p>Whatever they decide, Kelley says legalizing gay marriage is an important step in changing how people will think about same-sex couples.</p><p>Kelley compared the change to the stance many people took on the federal &ldquo;Don&rsquo;t Ask, Don&rsquo;t Tell&rdquo; &nbsp;policy that, from 1993 to 2011, allowed gays to serve in the military but required them to remain closeted. This was replaced by the current law that allows gay people to serve in the military openly.</p><p>&quot;People who didn&rsquo;t want to join the Army were in favor of repealing &lsquo;Don&rsquo;t Ask, Don&rsquo;t Tell,&rsquo;&rdquo; Kelley said. &ldquo;So it has an impact broader than just the impact that it has on couples like us.&rdquo;</p><h2><strong>&lsquo;Freedom of religion is gone&rsquo;</strong></h2><p>&nbsp;</p><p>That broader impact is exactly what worries some who oppose the legalizaton of gay marriage.</p><p>&quot;Freedom of speech is gone, freedom of religion is gone. And truly, that is what is being eroded,&quot; said Pastor Pat McManus, who heads the non-denominational Kingdom Impact Center in suburban Aurora.</p><p>McManus is in the process of changing his church&rsquo;s bylaws to make it clear he will not perform gay marriages. He says he does not trust the provision in Illinois&rsquo; same-sex marriage measure that already says churches can&rsquo;t be forced to marry gay couples.</p><p>&ldquo;[I] don&rsquo;t believe what they say. ... I believe that&rsquo;ll change down the road. Because once everything begins to start, it&rsquo;s gonna begin to erode all the way down,&rdquo; McManus said.</p><p>McManus says laws have been changing so quickly that he worries one day he will not be allowed to preach his belief that homosexuality is a sin.</p><p>Despite the bill&rsquo;s language, McManus says he&rsquo;s talked to a few other pastors who are also changing their bylaws, just in case they ever get sued for refusing to officiate a gay wedding.</p><p>It&rsquo;s difficult to know exactly how many Illinois churches are taking that step.</p><p>But attorney Rich Baker, who works at a socially conservative Chicago law firm, says he has helped a handful make similar changes, because the bill&rsquo;s religious protections are not strong enough.</p><p>&quot;I think the effect of that really is to say that we will give you freedom of worship within your four walls, but the Gospel outside of the four walls is not welcome,&quot; Baker said.</p><p>Baker points out that the bill&rsquo;s religious protection <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=09800SB0010sam002&amp;GA=98&amp;SessionId=85&amp;DocTypeId=SB&amp;LegID=68375&amp;DocNum=10&amp;GAID=12&amp;Session=">clause does not apply</a> to &ldquo;businesses, health care facilities, educational facilities, or social service agencies,&rdquo; and thus could leave them open to lawsuits.</p><p>He points to a recent <a href="http://www.nmcompcomm.us/nmcases/nmsc/slips/SC33,687.pdf">case in New Mexico</a>, where the state Supreme Court ruled against a photographer who refused to take pictures of a same-sex wedding, based on her Christian faith.</p><p>In April, Bob Ferguson, the Democratic attorney general in the state of Washington, <a href="http://www.atg.wa.gov/pressrelease.aspx?&amp;id=31148#.UozZJsSkrPE">sued a florist</a> who refused to sell flowers for a gay couple&rsquo;s wedding.</p><p>Baker contended that gay rights activists in Illinois have been moving the goalposts since civil unions became legal.</p><p>&quot;We were told at that time, that&rsquo;s all that was wanted, that&rsquo;s all that was needed. That was only two years ago,&rdquo; Baker said. &ldquo;And now we&rsquo;re told that, you know, it must be marriage. What will it be next?&quot;</p><p>Exactly what&rsquo;s next in the parallel fights for religious rights and gay rights could become clearer after June 1, when Illinois counties can begin issuing their first marriage licenses to gay couples.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe">Alex Keefe</a> is political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics">Twitter</a>&nbsp;and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 20 Nov 2013 11:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-gay-marriage-becomes-law-it-prompts-hope-concern-109201 After nearly 5 years in office Gov. Quinn has no long-term plan for Illinois prisons http://www.wbez.org/news/after-nearly-5-years-office-gov-quinn-has-no-long-term-plan-illinois-prisons-108598 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Quinn cropped.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois taxpayers sink $1.3 billion into prisons every single year, but in an hour-long interview on <a href="https://soundcloud.com/afternoonshiftwbez/governor-pat-quinn-speaks" target="_blank">WBEZ&rsquo;s <em>Afternoon Shift</em> last week</a>, Gov. Pat&nbsp; Quinn said he did not have a five-year plan of any sort for the prison system.</p><p>&ldquo;No, I think we probably have to have a one-year plan,&rdquo; said Quinn. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s what the budget is every year, and the state of the state address.&rdquo;</p><p>Several of the candidates looking to replace Quinn also seem to lack plans for the Department of Corrections. For weeks WBEZ has been asking the campaigns of Bill Daley, Bruce Rauner and Sen. Bill Brady for their ideas on prisons. Daley, Rauner and Brady failed to provide any information.</p><p>Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford has previously talked about the state needing a five-year plan for corrections just like the state has for roads or infrastructure. Sen. Kirk Dillard says Quinn has exacerbated overcrowding in Illinois prisons by closing facilities while the number of people locked up is at record highs.</p><p>On the <em>Afternoon Shift,&nbsp;</em>Quinn said he couldn&rsquo;t remember the last time he was in an Illinois prison but nonetheless insisted the facilities are not overcrowded despite complaints of overcrowding from inmates, correctional officers and the non-partisan prison watchdog John Howard Association.</p></p> Tue, 03 Sep 2013 16:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/after-nearly-5-years-office-gov-quinn-has-no-long-term-plan-illinois-prisons-108598