WBEZ | Michael Madigan http://www.wbez.org/tags/michael-madigan Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Legislature to consider Madigan plan to fill state budget gap http://www.wbez.org/news/legislature-consider-madigan-plan-fill-state-budget-gap-111757 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/madigan_sots.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. &mdash; Lawmakers are scheduled to consider a new plan introduced by House Speaker Michael Madigan to end weeks of negotiations over plugging a $1.6 billion gap in this year&#39;s state budget.</p><p>The Legislature faces a fast-approaching deadline to act as money runs out for subsidized childcare programs, prisons and court reporters.</p><p>The Chicago Democrat introduced the plan late Monday. It would authorize Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner to transfer $1.3 billion from other purposes, including parks and conservation. The rest would come from a 2.25 percent across-the-board budget cut.</p><p>Rauner has said for weeks that lawmakers were close to agreeing on a solution.</p><p>Senate Democrats advanced their own plan earlier this month, but it has so far failed to clear the chamber.</p><p>Madigan&#39;s plan will be presented in committee hearings Tuesday morning.</p></p> Tue, 24 Mar 2015 08:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/legislature-consider-madigan-plan-fill-state-budget-gap-111757 Why are we still collecting taxes to prevent white flight in Chicago? http://www.wbez.org/news/why-are-we-still-collecting-taxes-prevent-white-flight-chicago-110325 <p><p>A controversial decades-old program to prevent white flight in Chicago is flush with cash and still collecting taxes from residents of the Southwest and Northwest sides &ndash; despite racial change and housing shifts.&nbsp;</p><p>The programs&rsquo; origins can be traced to the racial panic that gripped many white ethnic communities after voters elected Harold Washington as the city&rsquo;s first black mayor in 1983. Often that fear played out in the housing market with white bungalow belt families worried that blacks would move in and decrease their property values.</p><p>The money collected in the so-called home equity districts was used as a kind of insurance program &ndash; homeowners could file a cash claim if the value dropped upon selling.</p><p>The three little-known taxing districts are the <a href="http://www.nwhomeequity.org/" target="_blank">Northwest Home Equity Assurance Program</a>, the <a href="http://swghe.org/" target="_blank">Southwest Guaranteed Home Equity Program</a> and the <a href="https://www.swhomeequity.com/" target="_blank">Southwest Home Equity Assurance Program</a>.</p><blockquote><p><strong>MAP: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/why-are-we-still-collecting-taxes-prevent-white-flight-chicago-110325#wheredistricts">Where are the home equity districts?</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>In the decades since they were created, most neighborhoods have experienced a racial transition on their own; they are no longer white enclaves. And yet the three home equity programs are still there, still collecting money from thousands of homeowners and not doing much else.</p><p>Collectively, these taxing districts sit on millions of dollars and some activists want that to change.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">Save our neighborhood</span></p><p>The 1980s may seem a little late for <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/147.html" target="_blank">panic peddling and blockbusting</a> by unscrupulous realtors. After all, white flight had already happened decades earlier once blacks could legally buy homes wherever they wanted.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/home%20equity3_140611_nm.jpg" style="height: 349px; width: 620px; float: right;" title="A brochure explaining the home equity program on the Northwest Side. (WBEZ/Natalie Moore)" /></p><p>But segregation never really went away.</p><p>&ldquo;You had these bungalows near the stockyards, which to be blunt about it, wasn&rsquo;t exactly desirable real estate. These folks living in those bungalows &ndash; six rooms, a knotty pine basement, one bathroom and was there any racial acceptance? No!&rdquo; said Paul Green, Director of the Institute for Politics at Roosevelt University.</p><p>Historically, African Americans weren&rsquo;t a strong presence in the bungalow belt. And Green said longtime residents didn&rsquo;t exactly roll out the welcome wagon.</p><p>&ldquo;They were all basically white ethnic neighborhoods. The reality was is that the good people living there were afraid that they were going to lose the value of their homes, the only place they knew.&rdquo;</p><p>That fear gave birth to the white <a href="http://www.lib.niu.edu/1988/ii880524.html" target="_blank">Save Our Neighborhood/Save Our City coalition</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;You literally had racial change taking place mile by mile going west on 55th, 63rd, 71st. And those people didn&rsquo;t have anyplace to go,&rdquo; Green said. &ldquo;At that time there was very little reintegration after you had segregation. In other words, you look at the South Side of Chicago, you did not have neighborhoods that went from white to black to mixed.&rdquo;</p><p>The coalition pushed for an equity program to protect them from falling property values. Mayor Harold Washington, who understood white ethnic fear, got behind it. City Council considered an ordinance to implement the program. But black aldermen found the notion that whites needed home equity insurance racist. Washington publicly withdrew his support.</p><blockquote><p><strong>MAP: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/why-are-we-still-collecting-taxes-prevent-white-flight-chicago-110325#racemap">How the racial makeup of Chicago neighborhoods has changed</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Then in 1988 Southwest Side politician Michael Madigan stepped in. The powerful speaker of the Illinois House helped pass a state law that created three home equity taxing districts &ndash;&nbsp;including two on the southwest side. Another district was created on the northwest side.</p><p>Madigan declined an interview request.</p><p>&ldquo;The premise of the program was I think much more psychological. The psychology was people fear change and when you put into place this institutional mechanism, you create a way of responding to that fear,&rdquo; said Phil Ashton, of the University of Illinois at Chicago, who&rsquo;s studied home equity districts.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">How home equity districts work</span></p><p>All homeowners in a designated district pay a small tax, sometimes as little as a dollar and fifty cents a year. That money goes into a fund and homeowners voluntarily enroll in the equity program. If the appraisal is less than the original purchase price when they decide to sell, homeowners receive a cash claim for the difference.</p><p>It&rsquo;s worth noting that Oak Park started a similar program in the late 1970s to manage racial integration. No claims were ever paid out and the program ceased.</p><p>But liberal Oak Park is much different from blue collar Marquette Park, where angry whites jeered at and stoned Martin Luther King in 1966 when he marched for racially open housing laws.</p><p>A horrified 16 year old Jim Capraro witnessed that incident a block away from his home. And he carried it with him as a young man.</p><p>&ldquo;I remember seeing Stokely Carmichael speak in Chicago, a civil rights leader. When he was done speaking, a white kid kind of raised his hand and said &lsquo;what should white kids do to change this?&rsquo; And Stokely said &lsquo;white kids should go back to where they came from and change it there,&rsquo;&rdquo; Capraro said.</p><p>He returned home to the Southwest Side and led the Greater Southwest Community Development Corporation for decades in Chicago Lawn.</p><p>Capraro served on the board of the Southwest Home Equity Assurance Program until 2010. He wasn&rsquo;t active in getting it started but has thought a lot about its effect.</p><p>&ldquo;Does a program like this support racism or thwart racism? Even the people who aren&rsquo;t racist might end up getting hurt because the very act of a large number of people fleeing puts more supply on the housing market than would normally be,&rdquo; Capraro said.</p><p>Whatever the intent, none of the 20-odd neighborhoods in the three home equity districts experienced white flight. Take Chicago Lawn for example. Decades after the ugly backlash against Dr. King, it experienced a smooth racial transition during the 1990s. Today 63rd Street is a bustling strip with mosques, a Harold&rsquo;s fried chicken, and a Belizean restaurant.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/home%20equity2_140611_nm.jpg" style="height: 349px; width: 620px; float: left;" title="A boarded up building in Chicago Lawn. Neighborhood activists say fixing vacancies should be a priority of the home equity districts. (WBEZ/Natalie Moore)" />Meanwhile, farther west, union signs hang on the front porches of blondish brick homes. Here, in the Clearing neighborhood, the area is still mostly white.</p><p>Many other neighborhoods in the home equity districts are largely Latino now.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">&#39;Why should that money be sitting there?&#39;</span></p><p>At the Northwest Side Housing Center on west Addison Street, Polish signs hang inside the storefront. The office is crowded with people seeking help to keep their homes. The surrounding bungalow communities of Dunning, Portage Park and Irving Park used to house the largest concentration of Polish families in the city. Families like Ernie Luconsik&rsquo;s, a housing volunteer.</p><p>&ldquo;One of the reasons I moved to my area was because it was integrated. I found it fascinating that people got along and didn&rsquo;t look at people as any kind of color,&rdquo; Luconsik said.</p><p>These days there are nearly as many Latinos and Asians living in the neighborhoods.</p><blockquote><p><strong>CHART: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/why-are-we-still-collecting-taxes-prevent-white-flight-chicago-110325#districtchange">How the racial makeup of the home equity districts has changed</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>&ldquo;As a community-based organization and community residents who are supposed to be benefiting, where is the accountability about the funds and how they are being used?&rdquo; said James Rudyk, executive director of the Northwest Side Housing Center.</p><p>The Northwest Home Equity Assurance Program taxes approximately 48,000 homeowners. Fewer than 10 percent of homeowners in the Northwest Side district are enrolled in the program &ndash;&nbsp;even though all of them pay the tax.</p><p>The fund has $9.6 million.</p><p>&ldquo;Why should that money be sitting there? And if it&rsquo;s something that&rsquo;s not going to produce back, then stop it overall. Because it&rsquo;s something that&rsquo;s not being a benefit for the people or the community,&rdquo; community organizer Vanessa Valentin said. She said families could use that money for something other than claims: home repairs, small loans to prevent foreclosure.</p><p>Rudyk said they tried to organize around this issue several years ago, but got nowhere.</p><p>&ldquo;They have not returned our calls either or our request for a meeting. We were told why are we here, why are we questioning? This isn&rsquo;t our business,&rdquo; Rudyk said.</p><p>I know the feeling.</p><p>When I tried to talk to somebody from the three equity programs, no one agreed to a recorded interview. One of the programs wouldn&rsquo;t even give me their financials until the state attorney general got involved.</p><p>Judging the success or failure of the equity programs is hard. Did the psychology of having insurance keep white families from fleeing?</p><p>We may never know. While blacks never did buy many homes in the bungalow belt, today the northwest and southwest sides are no longer exclusive white enclaves.</p><p>UIC&rsquo;s Ashton said immigrants helped stabilize changing communities where the taxing districts exist.</p><p>&ldquo;Absent Latino homebuyers, white homeowners would&rsquo;ve struggled to find replacements for themselves when they were trying to move out through course of the 1990s. And they didn&rsquo;t move out because, I don&rsquo;t think, they encountered more minorities moving in,&rdquo; Ashton said. &ldquo;They moved out because they were getting old and their home was their major source of wealth and they wanted to retire or they were passing away and the family wanted to resolve the estate by selling the home.&rdquo;</p><p>Now those same immigrant families are facing a fresh set of challenges related to the housing downturn.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Residents want money invested in neighborhoods</span></p><p>Veronica Villasenor is a counselor for the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, which serves a low-income and working class Latino area.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m a Hispanic, I&rsquo;m a Latina. I know how my parents think. I know how my parents were victims of getting a mortgage that wasn&rsquo;t sustainable,&rdquo; Villasenor said. &ldquo;Just in general the community is not educated. I think the state should assign money to develop education programs for these families &ndash; financial literacy, for mortgages.</p><p>Where would that money come from? Villasenor has her eye on the $1 million cash reserve in the Southwest Home Equity Assurance Program.</p><p>That&rsquo;s the board Capraro used to sit on the board of that program. He said he can count the number of claims that went out. Usually because of an inaccurate appraisal, not because of a drop in home values.</p><p>Realizing the program was flush with cash, Capraro says the board took action.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We appealed to the legislature and actually got permission to do this: we were lending people money at interest rates that were much less expensive than a normal home improvement loan or home equity line of credit,&rdquo; Capraro said.</p><p>It was a popular program until the housing market crashed. Suddenly, a roof repair wasn&rsquo;t as important as hanging on to one&rsquo;s home.</p><p>Separately, the Southwest Guaranteed Home Equity Program has more than $53 thousand dollars in the bank. Last year it collected $185,000 but it hasn&rsquo;t had any recent payouts.</p><p>The Northwest Home Equity Assurance Program last paid out a claim more than 15 years ago.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Let them explain to community residents what&rsquo;s being done with these funds and how we can work together it&rsquo;s not work against each other it&rsquo;s work together for the benefit of the community,&rdquo; Valentin said.</p><p>In 2011, the <em><a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/watchdogs/8177235-452/taxpayer-money-set-aside-to-curb-white-flight-helped-some-flee-city.html#.U5XsW1fvn_Y" target="_blank">Chicago Sun-Times</a></em> investigated how families were cashing out of the program due to the housing economic slump, which is not what the taxing districts were designed for.</p><p>Put aside, for a moment, the reason these three taxing districts exist and focus just on the dollars.</p><p>Any community area would envy a pot of money that could potentially be reinvested back in the neighborhood &ndash;&nbsp;no matter what race benefits.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">Map: Where are the home equity districts?<a name="wheredistricts"></a></span></p><p><span style="font-size:14px;">(click on the districts for financial info)</span></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="300" scrolling="no" src="https://www.google.com/fusiontables/embedviz?q=select+col2%3E%3E0+from+1OVxIg4ZMZyPSe4FvVqVzWQasXgkF9WbsSNyMnsF4&amp;viz=MAP&amp;h=false&amp;lat=41.87606330248448&amp;lng=-87.73913351843261&amp;t=1&amp;z=10&amp;l=col2%3E%3E0&amp;y=2&amp;tmplt=2&amp;hml=KML" width="620"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">Chart: How the racial makeup of home equity districts has changed<a name="districtchange"></a></span></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/district%20change%20chart.PNG" style="height: 297px; width: 620px;" title="(WBEZ/Chris Hagan)" /></div><p>Chicago&#39;s three home equity districts cover 18 community areas. Those neighborhoods saw major demographic shifts from 1990 to 2010. For example, in Archer Heights White residents made up 90 percent of the population in 1990 but only 21 in 2010, a drop of 69 percentage points. In the same time Latino residents increased from 9 to 76 percent.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">Map: How the racial makeup of Chicago has changed<a name="racemap"></a></span></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/maps.PNG" style="height: 381px; width: 620px;" title="Dot density map showing census numbers. (WBEZ/Chris Hagan)" /></div><blockquote><div>&nbsp;</div></blockquote><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author">Natalie Moore</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side Bureau reporter. <a href="mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a>&nbsp;</em><em>Follow Natalie on <a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me">Google+</a>, &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">Twitter</a></em></p></p> Wed, 11 Jun 2014 14:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/why-are-we-still-collecting-taxes-prevent-white-flight-chicago-110325 State agency overrules CPS for charter funding http://www.wbez.org/news/state-agency-overrules-cps-charter-funding-109433 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RS3523_board of ed-scr_2_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A little-known state agency backed by powerful Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan has overruled Chicago public school officials, ordering them to approve and fund two new charter schools in the city.</p><p>The schools are run by Concept Schools Inc. The Des Plaines-based organization operates 30 publicly financed privately-run schools in the Midwest, a majority of them in Ohio.</p><p>The Chicago Sun-Times <a href="http://bit.ly/1a3KHZF" target="_blank">reports</a> Concept is the first and only charter to benefit from the decision of the Illinois State Charter School Commission, founded in 2011 by Madigan. The two new schools will be located in the McKinley Park and Austin neighborhoods. They are getting 33 percent more funding per student than the city school system gives other charters.</p><p>Democratic state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia wants the state agency eliminated.</p></p> Mon, 23 Dec 2013 12:50:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/state-agency-overrules-cps-charter-funding-109433 Top Illinois Democrat missing from party’s big day at State Fair http://www.wbez.org/news/top-illinois-democrat-missing-party%E2%80%99s-big-day-state-fair-108417 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/madigan_1.JPG" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Illinois Democrats gathered in Springfield Wednesday to rally behind their candidates ahead of next year&rsquo;s election--but they met amidst party infighting, lawsuits and without the state&rsquo;s party chairman.</p><p dir="ltr">Michael Madigan serves as Speaker of the Statehouse and as chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois. Yet Madigan did not appear at the state fair Wednesday, a day designed for political events.</p><p dir="ltr">Many Democratic officials seemed surprised - even unaware - that Madigan would not be attending the day&rsquo;s events.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think the Democratic Party is pretty strong here in Illinois and the Speaker has done a very good job in leading the party, so whether he comes to the State Fair or not is not as important,&rdquo; said Illinois State Senate President John Cullerton.</p><p dir="ltr">Meantime, Gov. Pat Quinn wouldn&rsquo;t say much about Madigan&rsquo;s notable absence.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know why he&rsquo;s not here, but I talked to him this week and I think he&rsquo;s fired up, ready to go for 2014,&rdquo; Quinn said.</p><p dir="ltr">A spokesman for Madigan did not return calls for comment.</p><p dir="ltr">The governor was recently sued by Madigan and Cullerton for withholding lawmakers paychecks. Quinn said the action was a consequence of legislators&rsquo; failure to address the state&rsquo;s unfunded pension liability--Madigan and Cullerton called the maneuver unconstitutional. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Meantime, Quinn&rsquo;s primary opponent, Bill Daley, told a room full of Democrats that Quinn doesn&rsquo;t have what it takes to win another election next year.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We will not win if we do not make change,&rdquo; Daley said in his prepared remarks to the party Wednesday morning.</p><p dir="ltr">For his part, Quinn didn&rsquo;t criticize Daley by name, but hinted at upcoming attacks against Daley for his work in the financial sector at JPMorgan Chase.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We had a recession, the Great Recession,&rdquo; Quinn said. &ldquo;There were a lot of millionaire bankers and big shots that caused great harm to the American economy.&rdquo;</p><p>Republicans are scheduled to have their own day of rallies and attacks on Democrats at the Illinois State Fair on Thursday.</p></p> Wed, 14 Aug 2013 16:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/top-illinois-democrat-missing-party%E2%80%99s-big-day-state-fair-108417 Case over lawmaker pay could be 'landmark' http://www.wbez.org/news/case-over-lawmaker-pay-could-be-landmark-108299 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP917659587334.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>CHICAGO &mdash; Gov. Pat Quinn says a lawsuit over his decision to suspend lawmaker pay for failing to act on the state pension crisis will be a &quot;landmark&quot; case.</p><p>Quinn attended a court hearing Tuesday involving a lawsuit filed by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton to force Quinn and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka to issue paychecks.</p><p>A Cook County Circuit Court judge set oral arguments for Sept. 18.</p><p>Last month, Quinn cut $13.8 million for legislators&#39; pay from the state budget after threatening consequences if they didn&#39;t act on pensions.</p><p>The lawsuit asks the court to decide if Quinn&#39;s line-item veto fully eliminated lawmakers&#39; salaries. If the court upholds Quinn&#39;s amendatory veto, plaintiffs want the court to declare Quinn&#39;s action unconstitutional.</p><p>Quinn says his move is constitutional.<br />&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 06 Aug 2013 11:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/case-over-lawmaker-pay-could-be-landmark-108299 Could Chicago Public Schools’ troubled pensions become the model for the rest of the state? http://www.wbez.org/news/could-chicago-public-schools%E2%80%99-troubled-pensions-become-model-rest-state-108188 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/dave pruneau photo.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Public Schools continues to face severe budget problems. As a result, it&#39;s laying off staff and cutting programs. And part of the reason for those reductions has to do with the district&rsquo;s pension obligations.</p><p>It&rsquo;s raised the question: Why do some Illinois lawmakers look at Chicago Public Schools&rsquo; pension structure as the model for every other school in Illinois?</p><p>In this year alone, Chicago Public Schools says it&rsquo;s $1 billion in debt.</p><p>To give you an idea of what that means for schools, here&rsquo;s how Guadalupe Rivera at Morrill Elementary School on the southwest side of Chicago says her school could be affected.</p><ul><li>They used to have four teaching assistant positions and two special education teaching positions and those had to be cut.</li><li>Programs used to help students who were struggling. They would help differentiate instruction,&rdquo; Rivera said. &ldquo;They helped English language learners as well.&rdquo;</li><li>Students have to pay a $50 fee to join sports. And it&rsquo;s $50 each sport.</li></ul><p>And Rivera said the list goes on.</p><p>Cuts like these are being proposed at schools all around the city. The school system said these cuts are happening for a few reasons. Peter Rogers, the chief financial officer, said the main reason is because the district owes an added $400 million just for its retirement system this year.</p><p>&ldquo;The biggest factor in terms of increase year-over-year, is without a doubt, far and away, the pension fund required increase and it will continue to do so over the next several years,&rdquo; Rogers said earlier this week.</p><p>In May, the district tried to temporarily delay paying the whole $400 million in one budget cycle. But to do that, it needed the ok from Illinois lawmakers in Springfield.</p><p>And that didn&rsquo;t go so well.</p><p>At the time, State Rep. Dennis Reboletti (R-Addison), said he&rsquo;d seen the district ask for similar measures in the past.</p><p>&ldquo;You talk about the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. This pension holiday will probably work better than all the previous pension holidays,&rdquo; he said sarcastically on the House floor.</p><p>The bill failed, meaning Chicago Public Schools has to pay that extra $400 million into its pensions.</p><p>Yet two of the most powerful lawmakers in Springfield continue to push to make Chicago&rsquo;s pension structure the model for every other school in the state. Chicago contributes to its own pensions. But the state pays for suburban and downstate schools.</p><p>And lawmakers like House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), say it&rsquo;s high time those schools pay for their own teachers&rsquo; pensions.</p><p>Madigan even has a phrase he likes to call it: the &ldquo;free lunch.&rdquo; Madigan has said it&rsquo;s bad management to have the state pay for teachers&rsquo; pensions when the school districts can set the retirement benefits. And Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) is on the same page.</p><p>&ldquo;We have to pay, because of some anomaly in the law, for all of the suburban and downstate teachers, all the university employees and all the community college employees,&rdquo; Cullerton recently said in an interview with WBEZ. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s the state&rsquo;s obligation. No other state has that. And the reason why we fell behind in making these payments is because the bill is so high.&rdquo;</p><p>But while Cullerton is pitching that all school districts should pay for their pensions, he&rsquo;s also proposing that the state help Chicago&rsquo;s schools with its pension obligations, that extra $400 million that&rsquo;s being partly blamed for causing all the cuts.</p><p>&ldquo;All these cuts that you&rsquo;re hearing about in these schools, that&rsquo;s directly related to the Chicago teachers&rsquo; pension crisis and we really have to focus on that, even, arguably, even before we do the state pension funds,&rdquo; Cullerton said.</p><p>The situation makes the superintendent of west suburban Elmhurst District 205, Dave Pruneau, look at Chicago&rsquo;s pension difficulties as a cautionary tale for every other school in the state if pension costs eventually get shifted to the districts.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;re going through a lot of - (it&rsquo;s) kind of a precursor of where we might be in a lot of districts in Illinois in the next few years,&rdquo; Pruneau said.</p><p>Pruneau said his school district has seen about $6 million in cuts in the past three years. Those reductions have mostly been administrative, but if the district has to gradually start finding money for its teachers pensions, those cuts could start moving into the classroom.</p><p>Pruneau pitched the idea of capping how much pension costs suburban and downstate schools should have to pick up.&nbsp; But regardless of what is eventually decided, whether Elmhurst starts paying for its teachers pensions or not, Pruneau said he&rsquo;s already seen a consequence of the ongoing debate.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s very tough right now beyond a one or two-year window to plan long-term because you just don&rsquo;t know what&rsquo;s happening on the revenue side with the state,&rdquo; he said.<br />Pruneau said that means some capital projects on his wish list won&rsquo;t be going anywhere any time soon.<br />Something every other school in the state could be seeing.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.</em></p></p> Thu, 25 Jul 2013 12:44:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/could-chicago-public-schools%E2%80%99-troubled-pensions-become-model-rest-state-108188 Madigan asked Metra to give pay raise to associate http://www.wbez.org/news/madigan-asked-metra-give-pay-raise-associate-108032 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/flickr_metra_vxla_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>House Speaker Michael Madigan says his office asked senior staff at Metra to consider a pay raise for an associate of his who was employed at the commuter rail agency in northeastern Illinois.</p><p>Madigan addresses the matter in a one-page statement he prepared for lawmakers investigating a costly severance deal for Metra&#39;s former CEO Alex Clifford. Clifford resigned last month and has alleged he was pushed out for resisting political pressure in decisions about hiring and contracts.</p><p>The link to Madigan, one of Illinois&#39; most powerful politicians, was an unexpected turn in hearings that are unearthing details of the eye-popping severance package for Clifford.</p><p>In Thursday&#39;s statement, Madigan says he withdrew his recommendation for a pay raise after learning that Clifford had expressed discomfort over it.</p></p> Thu, 11 Jul 2013 14:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/madigan-asked-metra-give-pay-raise-associate-108032 Special session expected to form pension committee http://www.wbez.org/news/special-session-expected-form-pension-committee-107772 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RS4474_Springfield-scr_1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. &mdash; Illinois lawmakers have convened a special session in Springfield, where they&#39;re expected to move ahead with plans to form a committee to deal with pensions.</p><p>Moving to committee requires a vote by both the House and Senate.</p><p>Gov. Pat Quinn met separately with Democratic and Republican legislative leaders Wednesday morning.</p><p>Republican House Leader Tom Cross says the governor wants to move ahead quickly so pension reform can be voted on by early July in another special session.</p><p>House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton each would get three appointees to the 10-member committee. Cross and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno each would get two.</p><p>Illinois&#39; $97 billion unfunded pension liability is the worst in the nation.</p></p> Wed, 19 Jun 2013 14:23:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/special-session-expected-form-pension-committee-107772 Democrats to try again on Madigan's pension bill http://www.wbez.org/news/democrats-try-again-madigans-pension-bill-107710 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP429581287377_1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Democratic leaders in the Illinois Legislature said Friday that they would try again to pass a pension-reform plan backed by House Speaker Michael Madigan, rejecting a request from Gov. Pat Quinn to form a bipartisan conference committee to solve the state&#39;s worst-in-the-nation $97 billion crisis.</p><p>Quinn met on Friday with Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, who are locked in a stalemate over how to address the shortfall. Quinn wants an agreement before a special legislative session scheduled for Wednesday.</p><p>The governor&#39;s request would have been a tactic that hasn&#39;t been tried in Illinois in more than a decade. His spokeswoman, Brooke Anderson, said &quot;on a really tricky issue, this is a way for an agreement to be forged.&quot;</p><p>But leaders emerged from the meeting in Chicago to say they wouldn&#39;t form a conference committee and instead would try to give Madigan&#39;s bill another try in the Senate. The measure received 16 &#39;yes&#39; votes during the regular legislative session, but it would need 36 such votes next week.</p><p>Illinois&#39; five public employee retirement systems are $97 billion short of what&#39;s needed to pay benefits that were promised to workers and retirees. The shortfall is due largely to years of the Legislature voting to skip or short the state&#39;s payments.</p><p>Republican leaders, as well as the governor, have blasted Cullerton and Madigan for failing to come to an agreement during the legislative session that ended last month.</p><p>Madigan and Cullerton each had competing pension bills during the regular legislative session. Cullerton said Friday that he&#39;s not optimistic Madigan&#39;s bill would get the needed votes during the special session.</p><p>Earlier this week, Quinn asked Cullerton and Madigan to pass a measure that combines the two approaches. Days later, Madigan filed an amendment that gutted Cullerton&#39;s bill and replaced it with his own.</p><p>Madigan&#39;s plan would unilaterally impose pension changes on state workers and raise the retirement age, by most accounts saving the state the most money of any proposal. Cullerton&#39;s plan would give state workers choices over what benefits to receive in retirement, which he contends would give it a better chance of surviving a court challenge.</p><p>Quinn proposed passing both in a single bill with room for modifications, essentially making Cullerton&#39;s proposal a backup plan in case Madigan&#39;s solution is thrown out in court. But Madigan suggested it was too complicated and called on Quinn to persuade the Senate to approve the House-supported option.</p><p>Republican leader Sen. Christine Radogno said Friday&#39;s meeting was like watching an &quot;awkward family fight.&quot;</p></p> Fri, 14 Jun 2013 13:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/democrats-try-again-madigans-pension-bill-107710 Quinn offers new pension proposal, but fate in legislature uncertain http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-offers-new-pension-proposal-fate-legislature-uncertain-107620 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/cullerton-madigan.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn is asking lawmakers to approve a plan that has previously stalled in the state senate. He has called legislators back to Springfield next week for a special, one-day session to address pension reform after they adjourned for the summer without sending a bill to the governor&rsquo;s desk for approval.</p><p>Quinn met privately for two hours on Monday with Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan, both Chicago Democrats. Quinn&rsquo;s plan is one Cullerton had supported, in which two rival pension reform plans are attached to the same bill. That way, if one plan is found unconstitutional by the courts, then the second plan would be put into effect.</p><p>&ldquo;We put one idea after another before both houses of the legislature,&rdquo; Quinn said. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s a way to accomplish it if the two leaders work together as they have over and over again over the last several years.&rdquo;</p><p>Cullerton said he&rsquo;s willing to try Quinn&rsquo;s idea. Cullerton had pitched the plan of putting both pension reform bills on one single piece of legislation months ago, but the plan stalled earlier this year. On Monday, Cullerton blamed The Civic Committee headed by former Illinois Attorney General Ty Fahner, for taking votes away from the plan.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;re the ones that killed the original Senate Bill 1, so they&rsquo;ve gotta make a decision whether or not they want to support this new proposal that the governor&rsquo;s asked me to try to pass,&rdquo; Cullerton said.</p><p>But Speaker Madigan wouldn&rsquo;t commit to calling the bill for a vote, telling reporters repeatedly that the governor can make the differences between the two pension proposals simple or complex. Madigan said he wants the governor to meet with individual state senators to pass the bill approved by the House, something labor unions oppose. He said that is the simple choice.</p><p>&ldquo;When we passed the House pension bill, we didn&rsquo;t have 60 votes to pass the bill until I had personal conversations with about 20 House members, persuaded them vote for the bill,&rdquo; Madigan said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s what we need the governor to do.&rdquo;</p><p>The bill Madigan passed in the House of Representatives calls for a variety of cuts to retirement benefits for state employees, including raising the retirement age and reducing cost of living increases. Cullerton&rsquo;s plan offers some state employees a choice between health care in retirement or cost of living increases. Many labor organizations favor Cullerton&rsquo;s bill and have said Madigan&rsquo;s plan is unconstitutional.</p><p>After Monday&rsquo;s private meeting, Quinn suggested to reporters that Cullerton and Madigan may not be motivated to pass a pension reform bill.</p><p>&ldquo;John Cullerton and Mike Madigan have known each other for 34 years. They&rsquo;re close friends. They&rsquo;re family friends,&rdquo; Quinn told reporters Monday. &ldquo;And when they want to put a bill on my desk that&rsquo;s one of their priorities, they know how to do it.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/tonyjarnold" target="_blank">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 10 Jun 2013 15:22:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-offers-new-pension-proposal-fate-legislature-uncertain-107620