WBEZ | Economy http://www.wbez.org/news/economy Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Heinz buying Northfield-based Kraft and building a $28 billion food giant http://www.wbez.org/news/heinz-buying-northfield-based-kraft-and-building-28-billion-food-giant-111765 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/kraftsign.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>NEW YORK &mdash; Some of the most familiar names in ketchup, pickles, cheese and hot dogs are set to come under the same roof after H.J. Heinz Co. announced plans Wednesday to buy Kraft and create one of the world&#39;s largest food and beverage companies.</p><p>The deal would bring together an array of longtime staples in American kitchens, including Oscar Mayer lunchmeats, Jell-O desserts, Miracle Whip spreads, Ore-Ida potatoes and Smart Ones diet foods.</p><p>The combination of the two companies &mdash; each more than a century old &mdash; was engineered by Warren Buffett&#39;s Berkshire Hathaway and Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital, which teamed up just two years ago to buy Heinz. While shoppers are not expected to see any major changes, the creation of The Kraft Heinz Co. reflects the pressures facing some of the biggest packaged food makers in the U.S.</p><p>As consumers increasingly migrate away from popular packaged foods in favor of options they consider less processed, companies including Campbell Soup, General Mills and Kellogg have been slashing costs or striking deals to update their products offerings. The Heinz-Kraft deal is in many ways just the latest example of that, although Buffett noted that the two companies still have a strong base of customers.</p><p>&quot;I think the tastes Kraft and Heinz appeal to are pretty enduring,&quot; he said in a telephone call to the business news channel CNBC.</p><p>Still, the early plans outlined by Kraft and Heinz executives in a conference call Wednesday focused largely on the savings that would be achieved through the deal, rather than the potential for sales growth in North America. They said they expect to save $1.5 billion through moves such as combining manufacturing and distribution networks.</p><p>James Angel, an associate professor of finance at Georgetown University&#39;s McDonough School of Business, said that will probably result in job losses.</p><p>&quot;Even though it is painful for the people involved, those resources will be freed up for other, potentially more productive, uses,&quot; he said.</p><p>The boards of both companies unanimously approved the deal, which still needs a nod from federal regulators and shareholders of Kraft Foods Group Inc. The companies say they expect the deal to close in the second half of the year.</p><p>If the agreement goes through, Kraft is expected to undergo cost-cutting under the management of 3G Capital, which is known for running tight ships.</p><p>The president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which says it represents 3,250 Kraft and Heinz workers in North America, said the union will work with the companies to make sure they &quot;do what is right and responsible&quot; and don&#39;t let cost-cutting measures hurt workers.</p><p>John Cahill, who took over as CEO of Kraft late last year, noted that the new management would drive a &quot;much leaner organization,&quot; as was the case when 3G took over Heinz. He said 3G can &quot;make this happen deeper and faster.&quot;</p><p>&quot;What we have not been thrilled about is some of our execution,&quot; Cahill said.</p><p>The two companies also see potential in pushing their products more aggressively overseas. Since splitting from Mondelez in 2012, Kraft&#39;s business has been primarily concentrated in North America. But executives noted that Kraft&#39;s brands are well known in major markets around the world, including the United Kingdom, Mexico, China and Brazil.</p><p>Already, Heinz gets 61 percent of sales from outside North America, said Bernardo Hees, the CEO of Heinz and a partner at 3G Capital who will become head of the newly created company.</p><p>The deal came together rapidly, Buffett said, having been in the works for only about four weeks. The new company will be co-headquartered in Pittsburgh, where Heinz is based, and the Chicago area, home of Kraft, and will have annual revenue of about $28 billion.</p><p>Eight of its brands have annual sales of $1 billion or more and five others log sales between $500 million and $1 billon every year.</p><p>Shares of Kraft jumped 36 percent Wednesday to close at $83.17.</p><p>The total value of the deal is difficult to gauge because Heinz is privately held. But Kraft shareholders will receive stock in the combined company and a special cash dividend of approximately $10 billion, or $16.50 per share. Each share of Kraft will be converted into one share of Kraft Heinz.</p><p>Current Heinz shareholders will own 51 percent of the combined company, with Kraft shareholders owning a 49 percent stake.</p><p>The Kraft Heinz board will include six directors from the current Heinz board. Those six directors will include three members from Berkshire Hathaway and three members from 3G Capital. The current Kraft board will appoint five directors to the combined company&#39;s board.</p><p>Kraft Heinz plans to keep Kraft&#39;s current dividend once the transaction closes. Kraft has no plans to change its dividend before the deal is complete.</p></p> Wed, 25 Mar 2015 08:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/heinz-buying-northfield-based-kraft-and-building-28-billion-food-giant-111765 Blackstone buying Willis Tower http://www.wbez.org/sections/architecture/blackstone-buying-willis-tower-111704 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/sears-tower-crop.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>NEW YORK &mdash; Blackstone is buying Chicago&#39;s Willis Tower, once called the Sears Tower, from 233 South Wacker LLC.</p><p>While the price has not been announced, <a href="http://www.marketwatch.com/story/blackstone-strikes-deal-for-chicagos-willis-tower-2015-03-15">MarketWatch reported the sale at $1.3 billion</a>.</p><p>The Willis Tower is 110-stories and the second-tallest office building in the U.S. It is the fifth-tallest office building in the world.</p><p>The Willis Tower&#39;s Skydeck, located on the 103rd floor, is a popular tourist attraction. It provides 1.6 million visitors a year with views of Chicago and the surrounding area including from the &quot;Ledge,&quot; glass cubes which extend from the building.</p><p>Jacob Werner, a managing director in Blackstone&#39;s real estate group, said in a statement on Monday that Blackstone sees &quot;great potential in further improving both the building&#39;s retail operations and the tourist experience for one of the most popular destinations for visitors to Chicago.&quot;</p><p>Construction efforts for the tower started in 1970 and it was completed in 1973, according to the tower&#39;s website. The Skydeck officially opened to the public in 1974 and underwent a multi-million dollar renovation in 2000. The tower was officially renamed the Willis Tower in 2009.</p></p> Mon, 16 Mar 2015 08:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/architecture/blackstone-buying-willis-tower-111704 Emanuel counts surprising projects as neighborhood development http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-counts-surprising-projects-neighborhood-development-111685 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Marriott at McCormick Place.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Critics of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel contend he focuses too much on what is good for downtown and not enough on neighborhoods.</p><p>In campaign speeches the mayor vigorously rebutts that. One of his regular sounding points is the $4 billion spent on seven neighborhoods through a program called Neighborhoods Now.</p><p>The mayor reaches that $4 billion number by bundling together a hodgepodge of investments: federal dollars, city dollars, and lots of private cash spent on private ventures.</p><p>Some of the projects are exactly what one would expect from neighborhood development: a grocery store in Englewood, train line updates in Rogers Park, and a wellness center in Little Village.</p><p>But some of the projects WBEZ found in the full list might not be what an average Chicagoan expects when you hear Emanuel describe a program guided by the belief that Chicago&rsquo;s success is measured by &ldquo;whether our families can raise their children in our neighborhoods.&rdquo;</p><p>For example, the full Neighborhoods Now list counts the $44 million in private money SOHO House brought to the West Loop. Soho House is a hip membership club. It requires a headshot, application, and approval from a board to join.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">A quarter of public dollars in one area</span></p><p>Not all the projects on Emanuel&rsquo;s Neighborhoods Now list are privately financed like the Soho house. Nearly a half-billion dollars, ($457,815,397 to be exact) came from the city budget.</p><p>Almost one quarter of those dollars went to an area right around the McCormick Place convention center in the South Loop. It includes two hotels and a new green line L stop. There is also a big stadium where DePaul athletes can play basketball games.</p><p>All that&rsquo;s included as Neighborhood Now, listed under the Bronzeville Neighborhood, just to the south.</p><p>Pat Dowell is the alderman there for the 3rd Ward. Her office said it expects the hotels to bring more people into the the Bronzeville neighborhood.</p><p>But Harold Lucas with the Black Metropolis Convention &amp; Tourism Council isn&rsquo;t so ready to praise the move. He&rsquo;s been a big advocate for bringing attention to Bronzeville. Does the development around McCormick Place sound like neighborhood investment to him?</p><p>&ldquo;It does not, &ldquo; Lucas said. &ldquo;And it tells us we need to be civically engaged ... In making sure that we benefit.&rdquo;</p><p>Lucas said real neighborhood development would have brought bigger investments in community-owned businesses and projects committed to preserving Bronzeville&#39;s rich African-American history.</p><p>There is a bit of a warning in what Lucas is saying. Chicagoans have to pay close attention to what is being touted as community development&mdash;maybe especially around election time.</p><p>They should scrutinize broad initiatives and big money numbers and find out, in concrete terms, what they mean block to block.</p><p>Cook County Commissioner Jesus &ldquo;Chuy&rdquo; Garcia&rsquo;s office didn&rsquo;t respond to repeated requests to describe his specific plans for neighborhoods.</p><p>Emanuel has said if he is re-elected he would double Neighborhoods Now.</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her</em><a href="https://twitter.com/shannon_h"><em> @shannon_h</em></a></p></p> Wed, 11 Mar 2015 09:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-counts-surprising-projects-neighborhood-development-111685 Illinois Supreme Court to hear arguments on pension law http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-supreme-court-hear-arguments-pension-law-111681 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Illinois_Supreme_Court.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The Illinois Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments Wednesday on the constitutionality of a new state law that would reduce retirement benefits for state employees. At stake is Illinois&rsquo; unpaid pension obligations, which have risen to above $100 billion, in addition to the pension benefits that individual state employees&rsquo; say that they&rsquo;ve been promised through their years of work.</p><p>The lawsuits that were filed against the state come from labor unions representing a range of their members, from suburban and downstate teachers and employees of universities, to cashiers for the Secretary of State&rsquo;s office and state prison correctional officers.</p><p>They say they&rsquo;re protected by the state constitution from the cuts that were approved by a bipartisan mix of lawmakers and that was signed by then-Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. Arguments at Wednesday&rsquo;s Supreme Court hearing are likely to be a high level of legal discourse.</p><p>Here is a short breakdown of the issues presented so far.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The stakes</span></p><p>The State of Illinois owes more than $100 billion in pension debt. Money from an increase in the statewide income tax rate had been used to make some pension payments, but that tax rate dropped in January with the election of Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has said the state&rsquo;s taxes are too high.</p><p>Many other local governments within Illinois are closely watching how the Supreme Court rules on the statewide pension question. State lawmakers granted the City of Chicago the ability to change retirement benefits for workers and laborers for the city. The city has stalled, changing the benefits to other pension funds.</p><p>Many of Chicago&rsquo;s suburbs are also watching the Supreme Court&rsquo;s ruling as they also look toward restructuring retirement benefits for their police officers, firefighters and other municipal employees.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The argument <em>for</em> the pension law</span></p><p>The Illinois Attorney General&rsquo;s office has been defending the pension law in court. Attorneys there have argued that although the state pensions have been underfunded for years, the debt is now so large that it puts the government funding of schools, public healthcare and road construction at risk.</p><p>They argue fundamental functions of state government could not be funded without changes to pension benefits for state employees.</p><p>The Attorney General has also said that the pension costs are continuing to increase. For example, they say in court documents that in 1999, the pension fund for suburban and downstate teachers had nearly $11 billion in unfunded liabilities. By 2013, that debt had increased to $55.7 billion.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The argument <em>against</em> the pension law</span></p><p>Labor unions say the constitution is on their side because it says pension benefits &ldquo;shall not be diminished or impaired.&rdquo;</p><p>According to court filings, attorneys for the unions say the politicians running Illinois state government chose not to fully fund the pensions for decades, and now &ldquo;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>Individual employees affected by these pension changes, from teachers to child protection investigators, listed their expected annual pension upon retirement, and have calculated an estimated amount of retirement income they&rsquo;d lose if the law stands. Among some state employees, that number reaches the hundreds of thousands of dollars.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Previous court ruling on the pension law</span></p><p>The unions won round one in court. Sangamon County Judge John Belz said in a written opinion:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;The State of Illinois made a constitutionally protected promise to its employees concerning their pension benefits. Under established and uncontroverted Illinois law, the State of Illinois cannot break this promise.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>Attorneys were able to expedite the case to the state Supreme Court.</p><p><em><a href="http://twitter.com/tonyjarnold" target="_blank">Tony Arnold</a> is WBEZ&#39;s state politics reporter. </em></p></p> Tue, 10 Mar 2015 16:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-supreme-court-hear-arguments-pension-law-111681 Chicago campaign finance tracker http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-campaign-finance-tracker-111618 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/money_flickr_401k 2012.PNG" alt="" /><p><p><a href="http://wbez.org/campaigncash">Explore the cash spent on Chicago&#39;s municipal campaigns.</a></p></p> Tue, 24 Feb 2015 18:03:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-campaign-finance-tracker-111618 Obama visits Chicago to designate Pullman monument, boost mayor http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-visits-chicago-designate-pullman-monument-boost-mayor-111589 <p><div class="sc-type-small"><div><p><strong>▲ LISTEN </strong><em>Chicago cultural historian Tim Samuelson joined WBEZ&#39;s </em>Morning Edition<em> anchor Lisa Labuz to talk about Pullman&#39;s history and what Obama designating it a national monument means.</em></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/pull%20ap%20file.PNG" style="height: 228px; width: 620px;" title="The Pullman Works administration building along with its 12-story clock tower, at left, is highlighted at sunset in Chicago. (AP/File)" /></div></div></div><p>WASHINGTON &mdash; President Barack Obama is turning a historic South Side neighborhood in Chicago into a national monument Thursday, in a visit that also could provide a political lift to the city&#39;s mayor.</p><p>Obama will formally designate the neighborhood where African-American railroad workers won a significant labor agreement in the 1930s as the Pullman National Monument. In the process, the president&#39;s trip to his hometown could help boost turnout for his former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who is up for re-election on Tuesday.</p><p>A <em>Chicago Tribune </em>columnist called the president&#39;s announcement &mdash; commemorating African-Americans who served as porters, waiters and maids on the iconic Pullman sleeper cars &mdash; &quot;a big fat presidential bro-hug&quot; to Emanuel, the president&#39;s &quot;little buddy.&quot;</p><p>The White House says Obama is focused on the historical designation, which honors the neighborhood built by industrialist George Pullman in the 19th century for workers to manufacture luxurious railroad sleeping cars.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Curious City: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/will-pullman-ever-be-revitalized-107758">What would it take to revitalize Pullman?</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>The 203-acre Pullman site includes factories and buildings associated with the Pullman Palace Car Company, which was founded in 1867 and employed thousands of workers to construct and provide service on railroad cars. While the company employed a mostly white workforce to manufacture railroad passenger cars, it also hired former slaves to serve as porters, waiters and maids on its iconic sleeping cars.</p><p>The railroad industry &mdash; Pullman in particular &mdash; was one of the largest employers of African-Americans in the United States by the early 1900s. Pullman workers played a major role in the rise of the black middle class and, through a labor agreement won by the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, they helped launch the civil rights movement of the 20th century, the White House said.</p><p>Emanuel doesn&#39;t have big-name challengers in his push for a second term, but he faces the possibility of a runoff election if he doesn&#39;t get more than 50 percent of the vote Tuesday. A Tribune poll found he&#39;s close to achieving that mark.</p><p>Before leaving Washington, Obama signed a proclamation in the Oval Office designating the Browns Canyon National Monument in Colorado, a 21,000-acre site along the Arkansas River popular for whitewater rafting. In Chicago, he was also expected to announce designation of the Honouliuli National Monument in Hawaii, the site of an internment camp where Japanese-American citizens and prisoners of war were held during World War II.</p><p>In his appearance before students at a South Side magnet school, Obama also will launch the &quot;Every Kid in a Park&quot; initiative to provide all fourth-grade students across the country and their families with free admission to national parks and other federal lands and waters for a year, the White House said. The program begins with the 2015-2016 school year, marking the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service next year.</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/AP469626824839.jpg" style="height: 424px; width: 620px;" title="Federal troops escort a train through jeering, fist-shaking workmen on August 20, 1958 in Chicago in this drawing of an incident during the Pullman strike of 1894. (AP/File)" /></div><p>The White House said the three new monuments &quot;help tell the story of significant events in American history and protect unique natural resources for the benefit of all Americans.&quot;</p><p>The new monuments will bring to 16 the number of national monuments Obama has created under the 1906 Antiquities Act, which grants presidents broad authority to protect historic or ecologically significant sites without congressional approval.</p><p>Some Republicans have complained that Obama has abused his authority, and they renewed their complaints over the new designations, especially the Colorado site, the largest in size by far among the three new monuments.</p><p>Obama should &quot;cut it out,&quot; said Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo. &quot;He is not king. No more acting like King Barack.&quot;</p><p>Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., said he was outraged by what he called &quot;a top-down, big-government land grab by the president that disenfranchises the concerned citizens in the Browns Canyon region&quot; in central Colorado, about 140 miles southwest of Denver.</p><p>Illinois&#39; two senators, Democrat Richard Durbin and Republican Mark Kirk, hailed the Pullman designation.</p><p>&quot;As Chicago&#39;s first national park, Pullman&#39;s 135 years of civil rights and industrial history will be protected and enjoyed for generations to come,&quot; Kirk said in a statement. &quot;This new national park will breathe new economic life into this community, bringing up to 30,000 visitors and more than $40 million each year.&quot;</p><p>Outdoors and wildlife groups hailed the Browns Canyon designation, which they said would allow future generations to enjoy its spectacular landscapes, world-class whitewater rafting, hunting and fishing.</p><p><em>&mdash; Matthew Daly of The Associated Press contributed to this report.</em></p></p> Thu, 19 Feb 2015 13:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-visits-chicago-designate-pullman-monument-boost-mayor-111589 Expedia buying Chicago-based Orbitz for about $1.33 billion http://www.wbez.org/news/expedia-buying-chicago-based-orbitz-about-133-billion-111545 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP203572548074.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>BELLEVUE, Wash. &mdash; Expedia is buying Chicago-based rival online travel siteonline travel rival&nbsp;Orbitz for approximately $1.33 billion to extend its reach in the travel-booking industry.</p><p>It&#39;s Expedia&#39;s second major deal in the past month as the industry consolidates. Expedia announced the $280 million acquisition of another rival, Travelocity, in late January.</p><p>Orbitz based in Chicago, owns CheapTickets, HotelClub. Expedia owns Hotels.com and Hotwire.</p><p>Expedia, based in Bellevue, Washington, will pay $12 per share, a 25 percent premium to the Orbitz&#39; closing price of $9.62 Wednesday.</p><p>The boards of both companies have approved the deal, but it still requires a nod from Orbitz shareholders.</p><p>Orbitz had said in January that it was considering selling itself.</p><p>Shares of Orbitz Worldwide Inc. are up more than 23 percent in premarket trading and Expedia is up 5 percent.</p><p>The other big travel booking company is the Priceline Group, which owns sites like Priceline, Booking.com, Kayak and OpenTable. Priceline&#39;s stock rose 1.8 percent to $1,078.89 in premarket trading.</p><p>While those companies dominate the travel market &mdash; and are taking advantage of quickly-growing markets in developing countries &mdash; they are facing new pressures at home from more-innovative sites like airfare search Hipmunk and last-minute deal site HotelTonight.</p></p> Thu, 12 Feb 2015 08:54:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/expedia-buying-chicago-based-orbitz-about-133-billion-111545 Fallout over College of DuPage spending could hurt students http://www.wbez.org/news/fallout-over-college-dupage-spending-could-hurt-students-111514 <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/Open%20mic%201%20CROP.jpg" style="height: 194px; width: 620px;" title="Between classes at the school’s Glen Ellyn campus this week, students enjoy an open-mic session. The college’s 28,000 enrollees, mostly working-class, could be hurt beyond the price of a controversial $760,000 severance package. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" /></div><p>The other day in a College of DuPage cafeteria, student Rachel Fatigato told me she is not getting help from her parents to pay her tuition.<br /><br />&ldquo;They can&rsquo;t afford it,&rdquo; said Fatigato, 20, who grew up a few miles north of the Glen Ellyn campus. &ldquo;I pay for school myself so I don&rsquo;t currently have any money and I&rsquo;m running low on funds for school.&rdquo;<br /><br />Fatigato, a television production major, is struggling to become the first member of her family to earn a college degree. So it bothers her, she said, to see how the college is spending its money.</p><p>&ldquo;The PE building and the MAC building are very nice,&rdquo; she said, referring to renovations of the college&rsquo;s Physical Education Center and McAninch Arts Center. &ldquo;But I feel like they overdid it in a lot of ways. Some of the statues, we don&rsquo;t need. And the fountain &mdash; it&rsquo;s got a giant glass mural-type thing.&rdquo;</p><p>Then Fatigato told me about a fear she shares with many students. It&rsquo;s a fear that is getting drowned out by a public furor over a $760,000 severance package for the school&rsquo;s president.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;re going to raise tuition and then people like me who pay for school by myself will not be able to afford it,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Big tuition hikes may seem far-fetched for a community college that brags about operating reserves exceeding $177 million last year. But the backlash against the College of DuPage&rsquo;s spending habits is very real. The critics once consisted mostly of faculty union leaders and local Tea Party activists. Now their ranks have spread to business leaders, newspaper editorial boards and west-suburban state lawmakers from both parties.</p><p>They&rsquo;re upset about the severance package, which will send off President Robert Breuder three years before his contract would have been up. They&rsquo;re mad about his satellite phones and booze tab. They wonder whether he built the college&rsquo;s French restaurant and boutique hotel to provide perks to administrators instead of training opportunities for culinary and hospitality students.<br /><br />To find out how the uproar could affect the school&rsquo;s future, I asked to speak with Breuder, his spokesman and the chairwoman of the board of trustees. They all declined. At a board meeting last week, another trustee insisted that the severance package was the best deal the school could get.</p><p>When the dust settles &mdash; when those administrators and trustees are gone &mdash; there could still be a steep price for today&rsquo;s turmoil. It&rsquo;s a price that would be paid largely by the college&rsquo;s 28,000 students and by working-class families, such as Fatigato&rsquo;s, who are counting on the College of DuPage for a leg up.<br /><br />That&rsquo;s if the public kept the impression that their taxes bankroll golden parachutes and lavish amenities instead of instructional programs. See, it&rsquo;s the public that is paying most College of DuPage expenses. Aside from tuition and student fees ($66 million in fiscal 2014), the largest sources of operating revenue are real-estate taxes ($108 million) and state appropriations ($55 million). Both of those spigots can open and close in response to political pressures, including taxpayer revolts like the one brewing in DuPage County.<br /><br />Then there are the bond sales that finance the college&rsquo;s major construction projects. The authority for those sales requires approval from local voters &mdash; mainly the same taxpayers. The most recent College of DuPage bond referendum, a 2010 measure, passed by a slim margin.<br /><br />&ldquo;The next time that the college needs to go out and ask for money for something legitimate, [voters] will remember the expensive French restaurant,&rdquo; warned David Goldberg, a political science professor at the college. &ldquo;They will remember the three-quarters-of-a-million-dollar payout that the president has received. And they will rightfully be concerned about where their tax dollars are going to go.&rdquo;<br /><br />And if they decide to put fewer of those dollars into the College of DuPage, Goldberg said, it could eventually lead to program cuts and tuition hikes. The primary victims, in other words, will be students.</p><p><em>To hear an extended version of this story, including more voices, click on the audio player above.&nbsp;</em><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a>, <a href="https://plus.google.com/111079509307132701769" rel="me">Google+</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 06 Feb 2015 14:14:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/fallout-over-college-dupage-spending-could-hurt-students-111514 When will Chicago get its next supertall skyscraper? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/when-will-chicago-get-its-next-supertall-skyscraper-108531 <p><div><p>In 2013 Curious City took on a high-minded question from Minneapolis resident Andrew Wambach.</p><p>Wambach, now 30, had just moved to Minnesota and already missed the Chicago skyline. He wanted to know:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>When will Chicago get its next supertall skyscraper?</em></p><p>The last supertall skyscraper in Chicago was the Trump Tower, built in 2009. Before that the city hadn&rsquo;t reached such heights since 1990&rsquo;s Two Prudential Plaza, 16 years after the Willis (Sears) Tower became the world&rsquo;s tallest building. While the U.S. may be the birthplace of the form, for a while skyscraper construction had slowed at home &mdash; and soared abroad.</p><p>But that may be changing. In December 2014 Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel touted plans for a new tower in the Lakeshore East neighborhood that &mdash; if all goes according to plan &mdash; could reach 1,150 feet into the air by 2018. In 2013, New York City&rsquo;s One World Trade Center became the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, at 1,776 feet. Even Wambach&rsquo;s Minneapolis had been considering a proposal to construct an 80-story skyscraper. That project, <a href="http://www.startribune.com/local/minneapolis/289597641.html#" target="_blank">rejected by the city</a>, would have been the state&#39;s tallest building, but would have been just shy of meeting supertall status.</p><p>Wherever they are, massive developments are difficult to design and build. But when they do happen, it&rsquo;s generally because two important factors came together to make building up pay off: egos and economics.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">But first, just how tall is that?</span></p><p>Andrew didn&rsquo;t know this when he asked the question, but &ldquo;supertall&rdquo; is an objective term. Chicago&rsquo;s own Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat is the authority on such matters. They deem any building over 300 meters, or 984 feet, &ldquo;supertall.&rdquo; (<a href="http://www.ctbuh.org/HighRiseInfo/TallestDatabase/Criteria/HeightCalculator/tabid/1007/language/en-GB/Default.aspx" target="_blank">For a rough measurement</a>, that&rsquo;s about 75 stories.) Six buildings in Chicago qualify: The Trump Tower, Willis Tower, Aon Center, John Hancock Center, AT&amp;T Corporate Center, and Two Prudential Plaza.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/CTBUH_Tallest20in2020_Poster.jpg" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FutureTallest20-2.jpg" style="height: 417px; width: 620px;" title="For context, here's a diagram of the predicted world's 20 tallest buildings in the year 2014. Click to enlarge. (Courtesy of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat)" /></a></div><p>Walk into any major architectural office and you&rsquo;ll see plenty of renderings pinned to the wall, showing buildings reaching great heights. It&rsquo;s just that they&rsquo;re in Jeddah, Seoul, Abu Dhabi, Beijing &mdash; not Chicago.</p><p>In 2011 CTBUH even had to add a new category of tall building to reflect the explosive growth of tall buildings in recent years; so-called &ldquo;megatall&rdquo; buildings stand at least 600 meters (1,968 feet) tall. There are only two complete megatall buildings: the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and the Royal Hotel Clock Tower in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. When the Shanghai Tower opens in April of 2015, it will be the third, at 632 meters (2,074 feet) tall.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Chicago&rsquo;s latest contender</span></p><p>&ldquo;If there was a great location, a great site, a developer that really had the willpower to pull something off, it certainly could happen,&rdquo; said Rafael Carreira, a principal with <a href="http://tjbc.com/" target="_blank">The John Buck Company</a>. &ldquo;But the larger a project gets, the harder it is to finance, the harder it is to pre-sell or premarket ... and those are factors that make these supertalls hard to do.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/wanda%20courtesy%20city%20of%20chicago.jpg" style="float: right;" title="A rendering of the proposed Wanda Vista development. (Courtesy City of Chicago)" />Supertalls can be risky investments. (<a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/skyscrapers-that-predicted-financial-crises-2014-4#!GoEAm" target="_blank">Some economists even think bombastic skyscraper booms are an omen of economic collapse</a>.) But as one developer put it, the profession attracts risk-takers.</p><p>&ldquo;Where a normal person might be apprehensive,&rdquo; said Sean Linnane, &nbsp;a senior vice president for Magellan Development Group, &ldquo;developers are excited.&rdquo;</p><p>At the moment the most likely candidate for Chicago&rsquo;s next supertall is an 88-story, $900 million development proposed for<a href="https://www.google.com/maps/place/375+E+Upper+Wacker+Dr,+Chicago,+IL+60601/@41.8878616,-87.6209235,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x880e2ca900a2e77d:0x32e4f52fba2475d3" target="_blank"> 375 E. Wacker Dr., in the city&rsquo;s Lakeshore East neighborhood</a>. It would be 1,150 feet (350 meters) tall, and its developers &mdash; Beijing-based Dalian Wanda Group and local firm Magellan &mdash; hope to have it open in 2018. They&rsquo;ve hired two local design firms to sculpt the structure, which would become the city&rsquo;s third tallest building: Studio Gang Architects and bKL Architecture.</p><p>Lead designer Jeanne Gang&rsquo;s other <a href="http://www.studiogang.net/work/2004/aqua-tower" target="_blank">notable projects include the Aqua Tower</a> &mdash; a high-rise with undulating balconies that mimic wave patterns when viewed from an angle &mdash; and the lyrical WMS Boathouses at Clark Park. bKL designed the first tower in the Wolf Point development and a 45-story tower at 200 N. Michigan Ave., both of which are currently under construction.</p><p>Their preliminary designs for what&rsquo;s being called Wanda Vista show a cluster of three towers stepping down in height as they go east, each terminating in a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/green-roofs-check-101677">green roof</a>. The glassy high-rises, which are expected to house a five-star hotel, for-sale residential units and retail space, look like stacks of frustums, or cut-off pyramid shapes. The middle tower would meet the ground with a soaring glass atrium looking north over the Chicago River, while the structure itself would straddle North Field Boulevard running to the south.</p><p>So what are its prospect? Although Mayor Rahm Emanuel says there won&rsquo;t be any public funding involved, the project still needs city approval because its proposed height would exceed the maximum allowed in in the area&rsquo;s master plan.</p><p>Arguably more important is the economic challenge. Downtown Chicago is in the middle of a residential and hotel boom that signals high demand, but could mean the market is nearing saturation. Still, Sean Linnane of Magellan Development Group is confident they&rsquo;ll deliver on this supertall order.</p><p>&ldquo;The timing is right for this project. We&rsquo;re coming out of the doldrums we&#39;ve been in since arguably 2007,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&#39;s not like our Chinese partners said, &lsquo;Let&#39;s come to the U.S. and do a supertall.&rsquo; They were just trying to find a great investment opportunity to make their splash in the United States. And it&#39;s a credit to Chicago that they chose our development.&rdquo;</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s market is warming up, but China&rsquo;s is burning across its borders. Wanda is owned by Wang Jianlin, the richest man in mainland China. Like many Chinese developers, he&rsquo;s looking for new markets overseas.</p><p>&ldquo;It&#39;s crazy what&#39;s going on in China right now. There&#39;s just been explosive growth,&rdquo; Linnane says. &ldquo;They&#39;re looking all over the place, not just the U.S. It&#39;s a way to sustain their growth. They look at the U.S. as a very mature market.&rdquo;</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="377" mozallowfullscreen="true" src="https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1zOBXrWDC28PlZhqn_-F8bid5QLCQrKVDN2cKc47P9lw/embed?start=false&amp;loop=false&amp;delayms=3000" webkitallowfullscreen="true" width="620"></iframe></p><p><em><span style="font-size:10px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Above: Renderings of the proposed Wanda Vista development. (Courtesy City of Chicago)</span></span></em></p><p>That explosive growth has gone on for a long time, but lately <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/24/china-property-prices-idUSL3N0SJ1DE20141024" target="_blank">Chinese home prices have slipped</a>. Tom Kerwin, principal of bKL Architecture, says the U.S. real estate market is a relatively stable place for global developers to invest.</p><p>&ldquo;I think there&#39;s a shift because, for one, the Chinese property market is down significantly. So these companies that develop as their core business are looking for other places to export their expertise in addition to their capital. You&#39;re seeing many Chinese developers coming to the U.S., and the biggest of the biggest are coming,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Not just Wanda.&rdquo;</p><p>Other major Chinese developers such as Greenland Group and ECADI have made their first U.S. moves in New York City and Los Angeles, but Wanda&rsquo;s debut is in Chicago. That&rsquo;s a vote of confidence in the city&rsquo;s real estate market, and it mirrors a larger trend: <a href="http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/January-2015/The-New-China-Pipeline/" target="_blank">Between March 2013 and March 2014, the Chinese purchased $22 billion of U.S. residential property &mdash; the highest volume for any non-domestic group</a>.</p><p>Wanda&rsquo;s not the only Chinese developer interested in Chicago. In 2014 Beijing&rsquo;s Cinda International Holdings Limited <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelcole/2014/03/16/chinese-investors-discover-chicago-real-estate/" target="_blank">teamed up with Chicago-based Zeller Realty Group to buy the 65-story tower at 311 S. Wacker Dr. for $304 million</a>. That&rsquo;s the seventh tallest building in Chicago to date, a mere seven meters (23 feet) short of supertall status.</p><p>If it comes to fruition, the Wanda project could signal a new era of tall building investment in Chicago, says CTBUH Executive Director Antony Wood.</p><p>&ldquo;Whilst New York is awash with foreign investment, especially from China, this is one of the first major skyscraper investments from overseas we have seen in Chicago during the current wave, which is sweeping the world,&rdquo; Wood said. &ldquo;Chicago will likely never accommodate the World&rsquo;s tallest building again, but it is a proud skyscraper city, as well as a major economic hub, and it is likely that we will see other supertall buildings proposed and built in the coming years &ndash; especially residential supertalls.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">What about other recent contenders to be Chicago&rsquo;s next supertall?</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/old%20post%20office%20wikimedia%20commons%20brianbobcat.jpg" title="The Old Main Post Office in downtown Chicago has been in redevelopment limbo since it closed in 1996. Previous plans included the construction of a 120-story building in its place. (Wikimedia Commons/Brianbobcat)" /></p><p>In 2013 Chicago City Council approved the first part of an audacious redevelopment plan for the massive Old Main Post Office downtown, which has loomed vacant over the Eisenhower Expressway since 1996. The plans came from British developer Bill Davies&rsquo; International Property Developers and local architects Antunovich Associates. They called first for a rehab of the existing 2.7 million square foot post office and the construction of a 1,000-foot tower, to be followed in a later phase by a 2,000-foot tower that would be the tallest in the Western Hemisphere.</p><p>The first phase would take eight to 10 years, Joe Antunovich said, while the rest might take 20 years. But first they need to secure financing. The entire project could cost $3.5 billion. It would be an impressive feat, to be sure. But in that amount of time, Shanghai&rsquo;s Pudong district<a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6600367" target="_blank"> went from mainly farmland to a part of a metropolis with more skyscrapers than New York City</a>.</p><p>In 2014, however, the project&rsquo;s developers <a href="http://www.chicagobusiness.com/realestate/20141008/CRED03/141009835/old-post-office-owner-plots-next-move-after-breakup-with-sterling-bay" target="_blank">announced they were exploring alternative plans for the property</a>, possibly nixing the 120-story tower.</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/spire%20hole%20flickr%20Marcin%20Wichary.jpg" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="The ill-fated Chicago Spire was supposed to be the tallest building in the western hemisphere. (Flickr/Marcin Wichary)" /></div><p>If you want to see evidence of the recession&rsquo;s impact on skyscraper construction, you don&rsquo;t need to pore over spreadsheets or the architectural billings index: You just need to go to 400 N. Lake Shore Dr., where you&rsquo;ll find a pit about 100 ft. wide and 80 ft. deep. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2012-08/what-might-have-been-ill-fated-chicago-spire-101922" target="_blank">The ill-fated Chicago Spire</a> was supposed to be the tallest building in the western hemisphere. But the twisting 2,000-foot tower failed to attract enough financing and was hit with foreclosure lawsuits. Now it&rsquo;s the most-watched hole in the ground in Chicago real estate.</p><p>In 2013 real estate developer<a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/moneybeat/2013/06/24/related-in-deal-to-buy-distressed-debt-on-stalled-chicago-spire-project/" target="_blank"> Related Cos. of New York reportedly entered talks to buy the Spire&#39;s discounted debt</a>, but in November 2014 a U.S. Bankruptcy Court forced the project&rsquo;s original developer, Garrett Kelleher, to hand the 2.2-acre site over. Related <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-spire-1105-biz-20141104-story.html">now controls the real estate</a> and has not yet announced plans for development.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Why the action has been outside Chicago</span></p><p>There are a few factors behind Asia&rsquo;s building boom that don&rsquo;t quite apply to Chicago. For one thing, said Wood, Chicago just doesn&rsquo;t need to make a statement with its skyline like Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia did when its Petronas Towers unseated Willis Tower as the world&rsquo;s tallest in 1998.</p><p>&ldquo;What&rsquo;s driving these tall buildings around the world is attention in a global market and population growth,&rdquo; Wood said. &ldquo;And, on the face of it, we&rsquo;re not seeing any of that in Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/EXTABOUTUS/0,,contentMDK:23272497~pagePK:51123644~piPK:329829~theSitePK:29708,00.html?argument=value" target="_blank">The world gains more than 5 million city dwellers every month</a>, and the U.S. accounts for very little of that urbanization. It&rsquo;s happening in places like China, where<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/16/world/asia/chinas-great-uprooting-moving-250-million-into-cities.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=0" target="_blank"> a government plan to move 250 million people into cities by 2025</a> helps generate huge demand for high-density, supertall buildings.</p><p>But even if Chicago isn&rsquo;t home to many new supertalls, it&rsquo;s still a nerve center of sorts for tall building architecture and engineering.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s not many really significant tall buildings that are not happening with some Chicago expertise anywhere in the world &mdash; architectural, engineering, geotechnical, façade &mdash; but some Chicago input,&rdquo; Wood said. &ldquo;However it is fair to say that there has been a major shift in almost all aspects of tall buildings.&rdquo;</p><p>If they pull it off, the Wanda Tower will change the Chicago skyline. But in China huge developments happen all the time. One of the tower&rsquo;s architects, bKL Principal Tom Kerwin, says China&rsquo;s economic and demographic booms have made massive projects part of the new urban culture.</p><p>&ldquo;Supertall buildings or large mixed-use complexes are kind of the norm in China,&rdquo; said Kerwin, who has worked on dozens of projects in the U.S. and Asia. &ldquo;The Chinese are very accustomed to these large-scale, multi-use buildings. So for them, it sounds kind of silly to say, but it&#39;s almost commonplace.&rdquo;</p><p>In addition to moving to Asia, supertall towers have changed since Chicago&rsquo;s skyline rose decades ago. Tall towers today tend to have more retail and residential space than their counterparts from previous generations. They are often mixed-use &mdash; combining hotel, retail, office and/or residential space in one building &mdash; and use different structural systems, like concrete-steel composites as opposed to just steel. And rather than bearing corporate names such as Chrysler, Sears and Petronas, they&rsquo;re increasingly named to inspire civic pride: say, the Russia Tower or Chicago Spire. Burj Khalifa was originally called Burj Dubai.</p><p>Brian Lee, a design partner at Skidmore, Owings &amp; Merrill &mdash; the architectural offices behind thousands of skyscrapers around the world, including four of Chicago&rsquo;s six supertalls &mdash; has seen the effect of these projects first-hand.</p><p>&ldquo;We think that the tall building is not the only kind of building type that should be built, obviously. It has limitations,&rdquo; Lee said, &ldquo;but there&rsquo;s something exhilarating about a tall structure that makes a mark for a city and a region.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">A supertall with a Chicago character?</span></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/riverpoint-courtesy-hines-and-pickard-chilton.jpg" style="height: 470px; width: 620px;" title="A park plan for the base of the River Point building, connects the property to the Chicago Riverwalk. (Courtesy of Hines and Pickard Chilton)" /></div><p>Our Curious Citizen, Andrew Wambach, raised another interesting question: If skyscrapers are a statement of their city&rsquo;s character, what should influence the design of Chicago&rsquo;s next supertall if it actually comes to be?</p><p>New skyscrapers at Wolf Point, River Point and 150 N. Riverside &mdash; three sites abutting the Chicago River at its confluence downtown &mdash; feature riverwalk connections and landscaped parks at their bases. Two of them actually have broader shoulders, as it were, than footprints. Landscape architect Ted Wolff said the Wolf Point project was the first where he&rsquo;d actually heard an architect tell him to expand his landscaping so far it would hem in the lobby.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/andrew wambach photo.jpeg" style="float: right; height: 303px; width: 200px;" title="Our question-asker, Andrew Wambach, is from Minneapolis but moved to Chicago for work between 2011-2013." />They may not be supertalls by the Council on Tall Buildings&rsquo; definition, but projects like these suggest Chicago&rsquo;s architectural legacy may be as much about Millennium Park as it is about Willis Tower.</p><p>Wanda&rsquo;s plans for a new supertall in Chicago are still preliminary, but its designers and developers have hinted at connections to neighborhood parks and the Chicago Riverwalk.</p><p>&ldquo;It&#39;s no secret that the project site is on an important axis for connectivity to the river, the lake, the Lakeshore East park and other internal features of our development,&rdquo; said Magellan&rsquo;s Sean Linnane. &ldquo;Because of its location, by its nature it will have to address those.&rdquo;</p><p>After all, says architect Tom Kerwin, that&rsquo;s the critical challenge a design team faces with any new project &mdash; no matter its size or location.</p><p>&ldquo;In cities around the world, how do you create a prototype where something&#39;s so technically driven and make it of its place, make it part of the city where you&#39;re building it?&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It definitely is a challenge. You want buildings to respond to their context, not just in a functional way but in an inspirational or an aesthetic way.&rdquo;</p><p>In other words, to bring the skyscraper down to earth.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley is a writer with WBEZ and Midwest Editor for <a href="http://archpaper.com/" target="_blank">The Architect&rsquo;s Newspaper</a>. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@cementley</a>.</em></p></div><p><em>Correction: This story misstated the reporting year used for the&nbsp;CTBUH graphic that compares supertalls. The graphic represents data gathered up to November 2014.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 18:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/when-will-chicago-get-its-next-supertall-skyscraper-108531 Obama administration won't seek to end 529 college tax break http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-administration-wont-seek-end-529-college-tax-break-111466 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/flickr bradley gorden backpacks.PNG" alt="" /><p><div class="storytext storylocation linkLocation" id="storytext"><p>Reversing what had been an unpopular approach, the White House says it is dropping the idea of ending a tax break for 529 college savings plans. Critics had called the proposal a tax hike. All 50 states and the District of Columbia sponsor 529 plans.</p><p>Money in 529 accounts is meant to grow along with future college students, and then be distributed to pay for education expenses without being taxed.</p><p>As <a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/01/27/381783199/obama-takes-heat-for-proposing-to-end-college-savings-break">NPR&#39;s Tamara Keith reported</a> this morning, &quot;It&#39;s a pretty good deal, and one that&#39;s been around since 2001. But the White House says fewer than 3 percent of families use these accounts &mdash; and 70 percent of the money in them comes from families earning more than $200,000 a year.&quot;</p><p>Obama&#39;s plan had been to end the tax benefit for future contributions, replacing it with other education and tax proposals. But the idea drew bipartisan criticism, and the White House said today that it will now ask Congress to focus on &quot;a larger package of education tax relief that has bipartisan support,&quot; along with proposals the president mentioned in his State of the Union speech.</p><p>NPR&#39;s Keith confirmed the reversal Tuesday. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/28/us/politics/obama-will-drop-proposal-to-end-529-college-savings-plans.html">The New York Times</a> reported the news today, saying that the president was &quot;facing angry reprisals from parents and from lawmakers of both parties.&quot;</p><p>The move comes a day after Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., <a href="http://lynnjenkins.house.gov/press-releases/reps-jenkins-kind-introduce-legislation-to-expand-strengthen-529-college-savings-plans1/">introduced a bill</a> that would expand college savings plans instead of limiting them.</p><p>Today, Jenkins said her bill would &quot;further promote college access and eliminate barriers for middle class families to save and plan ahead. It would also modernize the program by allowing students to purchase a computer using their 529 funds.&quot;</p><p>House Speaker John Boehner, who had urged Obama to keep the 529 plans intact, says he&#39;s glad the president &quot;listened to the American people and withdrew his proposed tax hike on college savings.&quot; He added, &quot;This tax would have hurt middle-class families already struggling to get ahead.&quot;</p><p>Aides familiar with the conversations tell NPR&#39;s Keith that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi urged preserving the 529 provisions today, as she traveled with the president on Air Force One from India to Saudi Arabia.</p><p>You can read about 529 plans at the <a href="http://www.sec.gov/investor/pubs/intro529.htm">SEC website</a>, as well as at the <a href="http://www.irs.gov/uac/529-Plans:-Questions-and-Answers">IRS site</a>.</p><p>&mdash; <em><a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/01/27/381967958/obama-administration-won-t-seek-to-end-529-college-tax-break" target="_blank">via NPR</a></em></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 18:40:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-administration-wont-seek-end-529-college-tax-break-111466