WBEZ | il state government http://www.wbez.org/tags/il-state-government Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Gov Quinn signs making 'revenge porn' a felony http://www.wbez.org/news/gov-quinn-signs-making-revenge-porn-felony-111308 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/springfield flickr matt howry.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Distributing private images online without a person&#39;s consent will be a felony under a law signed by Gov. Pat Quinn.</p><p>The measure addresses so-called &quot;revenge porn&quot; in which a former romantic partner posts private pictures or videos in retaliation.</p><p>Democratic state Sen. Michael Hastings is a sponsor.</p><p>He says it&#39;s &quot;psychological abuse to the highest degree.&quot;</p><p>His office says it&#39;s already illegal to put identifying or graphic information without consent on pornographic websites.</p><p>But state law didn&#39;t previously address privately-shared images.</p><p>Quinn said Monday that cyberbullying can have lasting and devastating effects.</p><p>He says the law cracks down on perpetrators and will prevent more people from becoming victims, most of whom are women.</p><p>Critics had expressed free speech concerns.</p><p>The law takes effect in June 2015.</p></p> Tue, 30 Dec 2014 09:51:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/gov-quinn-signs-making-revenge-porn-felony-111308 Unions sue to stop Chicago pension overhaul http://www.wbez.org/news/unions-sue-stop-chicago-pension-overhaul-111239 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/city hall chicago flickr daniel x o nell.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Current and retired city workers and their labor unions have filed a lawsuit arguing a law overhauling Chicago&#39;s pension systems is unconstitutional.</p><p>The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court also asks a judge to stop the law from taking effect Jan. 1.</p><p>Chicago has the worst-funded pension system of any major U.S. city.</p><p>Legislation approved last year seeks to eliminate a $9.4 billion unfunded liability in two pension systems by increasing contributions and cutting benefits. It would affect about 57,000 laborers and municipal employees.</p><p>The plaintiffs are 12 current and former workers and four unions, including AFSCME Council 31 and the Illinois Nurses Association.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the law is constitutional. He says the changes are needed to ensure pension funds remain solvent and retirees receive benefits.</p></p> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 13:04:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/unions-sue-stop-chicago-pension-overhaul-111239 Minimum wage hike to test 2014 governor candidates http://www.wbez.org/news/minimum-wage-hike-test-2014-governor-candidates-109509 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP275293127269.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The long-percolating issue of Illinois&#39; minimum wage rate could take center stage throughout the 2014 election campaign as Gov. Pat Quinn pushes to raise it by year&#39;s end while his Republican challengers fine-tune arguments that it could backfire on workers who want to keep their jobs.</p><p>Quinn wants Illinois to hike its minimum wage from $8.25 per hour to at least $10, an effort that coincides with a national Democratic strategy to make the economy and income differences a prominent theme in this year&#39;s elections.</p><p>On the other side, a coalition of business groups is ready to oppose those efforts, saying a wage hike pushes employers to cut jobs. One Quinn challenger, Winnetka businessman Bruce Rauner, already has been criticized for reversing his position on the issue, while all four Republican gubernatorial candidates are set to attend a Feb. 4 Illinois Manufacturers&#39; Association forum, where organizers say the minimum wage will be a main topic.</p><p>Roughly 1.1 million people in Illinois make the state minimum wage, meaning a full-time minimum wage worker makes roughly $17,000 annually. Illinois last raised its minimum wage in 2010 through a four-step increase, and the state&#39;s rate is the highest among Midwestern states, $1 more than in neighboring Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin.</p><p>Experts say the issue will be a tough one for GOP candidates, especially leading up to the March 18 primary. The idea of raising the rate is something the party typically opposes as bad for business, but it&#39;s popular with voters.</p><p>&quot;Republican candidates ... have to finesse this issue in the primary where they don&#39;t alienate primary voters and, at the same time ... leave themselves to appeal to the (general) electorate,&quot; said David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.</p><p>The candidates detailed their views on the issue in an Associated Press campaign questionnaire. State Sens. Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford all say they are against an increase. Rauner said he&#39;d support an increase if the national rate of $7.25 per hour is raised or Illinois makes other business reforms first &mdash; a shift from previous statements in which he&#39;d advocated cutting the state&#39;s rate to the national minimum wage and said he was &quot;adamantly&quot; against raising it.</p><p>His reversal made headlines last week, but it&#39;s not the first time an Illinois candidate has struggled with the issue.</p><p>In 2010, when Brady was the Republican nominee against Quinn, he said he wanted to equal or adopt the federal minimum wage &mdash; which was interpreted to imply he wanted to cut Illinois&#39; rate. His staff quickly said that was untrue, but Quinn would often accuse Brady of wanting to cut the rate while on the campaign trail.</p><p>Brady wrote in the 2014 AP questionnaire that he wants a moratorium on increases until the federal rate catches up. He called raising the rate &quot;counterproductive.&quot;</p><p>&quot;Business considers many factors when deciding to expand or add staff, and the cost of labor is certainly one of those prime considerations,&quot; he wrote.</p><p>Dillard in 2006 voted for raising the state&#39;s minimum wage but now says he&#39;s against it, noting Illinois&#39; rate is among the highest in the country.</p><p>&quot;Last decade, economic times were better and Illinois hadn&#39;t raised its minimum wage up to the fourth highest in the country,&quot; he told The Associated Press Sunday.</p><p>&quot;I believe the upper echelons of the minimum wage and the different cost-of-living adjustments need to be set by the marketplace.&quot;</p><p>Dillard said increasing the rate is risky considering Illinois&#39; high unemployment and fiscal problems. &quot;Small businesses will be impacted the most and these are the very businesses that employ the bulk of Illinois residents,&quot; he wrote in his questionnaire.</p><p>Rutherford doesn&#39;t want any increases. &quot;I believe every American should be able to make as much money as possible, legally and ethically. State government should not put an artificial cost of doing business increase on a business, church or local unit of government,&quot; he wrote in his questionnaire.</p><p>Echoing the revised stance he laid out in media interviews last week, Rauner told the AP that he&#39;d favor an increase if the state adopts &quot;creative solutions to avoid further damage to our state&#39;s already shattered business climate,&quot; like incentives for small businesses.</p><p>Democrats, who maintain supermajorities in both chambers of the Illinois Legislature, could try to push the issue through this year on their own.</p><p>Quinn, a Chicago Democrat, has characterized the differences over the minimum wage as part of a &quot;clash of values&quot; with the other candidates.</p><p>&quot;The question is, people are making $8.25 an hour in Illinois. That&#39;s not enough in my book,&quot; he told The Associated Press in a year-end interview in December. &quot;To have a Republican candidate running around saying it&#39;s too much for tough jobs, I think they really ought to examine their conscience.&quot;</p><p>His Democratic primary challenger, Tio Hardiman, the former head of an anti-violence group in Chicago, told the AP he&#39;d like to see the hourly rate as high as $12 an hour but only if the state would simultaneously reduce or eliminate a tax on corporations.</p><p>Studies on the impact of raising the minimum wage have been mixed.</p><p>Traditionally, economists say significantly raising it can lead to job loss as companies struggling to make payroll respond by cutting workers or hours. However, smaller increases, especially when times are good, typically have little effect.</p><p>Geography also is a factor. Raising the rate in the Chicago area, where both wages and the demand for workers are greater, won&#39;t be felt as much as in downstate Illinois, according to Fred Giertz, an economist at the University of Illinois&#39; Institute of Government and Public Affairs.</p><p>Business groups don&#39;t see any upside. The Illinois Retail Merchants Association, which represents 20,000 Illinois businesses and is part of a coalition fighting any proposed increase, says raising the rate would kill jobs.</p><p>But unions aren&#39;t persuaded.</p><p>&quot;People desperately need to have their wages raised,&quot; said Roberta Lynch, the deputy director of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31. &quot;We think the Illinois economy will improve if more people have more money to spend.&quot;</p></p> Mon, 13 Jan 2014 13:32:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/minimum-wage-hike-test-2014-governor-candidates-109509 Quinn tries to halt lawmaker pay over pensions http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-tries-halt-lawmaker-pay-over-pensions-108013 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP806697463506_1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Gov. Pat Quinn moved to halt&nbsp;Illinois&nbsp;lawmakers&#39; pay Wednesday, following through on his warning of consequences if they failed to come up with a solution to the state&#39;s nearly $100 billion pension crisis, the worst of any state nationwide.</p><p>The Chicago Democrat said he would use his line-item veto power in a budget bill that&#39;s on his desk, also vowing to not accept a salary himself until a deal has been reached. Lawmakers would have to vote to reject his changes if they want to get paid.</p><p>Quinn, who has made pension reform his main focus for nearly two years, said he wanted to spur lawmakers into action.</p><p>&quot;They must have that alarm bell ringing in their ears and the best way to do that is to hit them in the wallet,&quot; he said at a news conference in downtown Chicago.</p><p>Illinois&nbsp;has nearly $100 billion in unfunded pension liability because lawmakers either skipped or shorted payments to the state&#39;s five retirement systems for decades. Inaction on solving the problem has led to repeated credit rating downgrades while governors from other states have used it as a basis to poach jobs from&nbsp;Illinois.</p><p>The budget bill on Quinn&#39;s desk gives the&nbsp;Illinois&nbsp;comptroller the ability to issue paychecks to state employees.</p><p>Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka released a statement saying the governor&rsquo;s action raises legal questions and she has requested a legal review be done to see if it&rsquo;s constitutional. She said there&rsquo;s a clause in the state constitution stating, &lsquo;that &#39;changes in the salary of a member shall not take effect during the term for which he has been elected.&#39;</p><p>Lawmakers in the General Assembly make nearly $68,000 a year with some getting additional money for leadership positions. Quinn earns $177,500 a year.</p><p>The governor set numerous hard deadlines, including two special sessions, for lawmakers to resolve the crisis, but none have produced any results. Members of a bipartisan panel charged with finding a compromise blew past another deadline Tuesday. Quinn had warned there would be consequences for lawmakers although he had not outlined what he planned to do.</p><p>&quot;I&#39;ve tried everything in the book to get their attention,&quot; he said. &quot;But it&#39;s time now for the legislature to legislate.&quot;</p><p>The lawmakers&#39; next pay checks are due at the end of July, so if they don&#39;t act by then they won&#39;t get paid.</p><p>Quinn said&nbsp;Illinois&nbsp;taxpayers have paid for legislators&#39; lack of action on the pension crisis. Taxpayers had to pay at least $130 million extra in interest payments for a bond sale last month because of the lowered credit ratings.</p><p>&quot;I think the taxpayers are on my side here,&quot; Quinn said.</p><p>Illinois&nbsp;House Speaker Michael Madigan says he understands Gov. Pat Quinn&#39;s frustration in cutting lawmakers salaries for lack of action on pension reform.</p><p>The powerful Chicago Democrat released a statement Wednesday saying he is &quot;hopeful&quot; Quinn&#39;s strategy works.</p><p>Madigan says he warned his House Democrats during the spring session that &quot;doing nothing or passing only a half-measure&quot; was not an answer. He and Senate President John Cullerton passed separate pension plans out of their chambers which didn&#39;t get approval from the opposite house.</p><p>But Senate President John Cullerton criticized Quinn&rsquo;s decision, saying in a statement, &quot;responsible leaders know that unworkable demands will only delay progress.&quot;</p><p><em>WBEZ&#39;s Tony Arnold contributed to this report. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a></em></p></p> Wed, 10 Jul 2013 12:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-tries-halt-lawmaker-pay-over-pensions-108013 Illinois lawmakers override Quinn, enact concealed carry law http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-lawmakers-override-quinn-enact-concealed-carry-law-107994 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP301765859799_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois became the last state in the nation to allow public possession of concealed guns as lawmakers rushed Tuesday to finalize a proposal ahead of a federal court&#39;s deadline.</p><p>Both chambers of the Legislature voted to override changes Gov. Pat Quinn made to the bill they approved more than a month ago. Even some critics of the law argued it was better to approve something rather than risk the courts allowing virtually unregulated concealed weapons in Chicago, which has endured severe gun violence in recent months.</p><p>The Senate voted 41-17 in favor of the override Tuesday afternoon after the House voted 77-31, margins that met the three-fifths threshold needed to set aside the amendatory veto. Quinn had used his veto authority to suggest changes such as prohibiting guns in restaurants that serve alcohol and limiting gun-toting citizens to one firearm at a time.</p><p>Quinn had predicted a &quot;showdown in Springfield&quot; after a week of Chicago appearances to drum up support for the changes he made in the amendatory veto. The Chicago Democrat faces a tough re-election fight next year and has already drawn a primary challenge from former White House chief of state Bill Daley, who has criticized the governor&#39;s handling of the debate over guns and other issues.</p><p>Rep. Brandon Phelps, a Democrat from southern Illinois, predicted a history-making day in which lawmakers would dismiss Quinn&#39;s changes as politically motivated.</p><p>&quot;He&#39;s trying to cater to, pander to Cook County,&quot; Phelps said, referring to the nation&#39;s second most-populous county, which encompasses Chicago. &quot;And I don&#39;t blame him ... because that&#39;s where his votes are.&quot;</p><p>The law as approved by the Legislature permits anyone with a Firearm Owner&#39;s Identification card who has passed a background check and undergone gun-safety training of 16 hours &mdash; longest of any state &mdash; to obtain a concealed-carry permit for $150.</p><p>The Illinois State Police would have six months to set up a system to start accepting applications. Spokeswoman Monique Bond said police expect 300,000 applications in the first year.</p><p>The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in December that it&#39;s unconstitutional for Illinois to ban concealed carry. The court gave state officials until June 9 to rectify the shortfall, and later extended that by a month.</p><p>Opinions varied about what would have happened had a law not taken effect. Gun supporters said it would have meant with no law governing gun possession, any type of firearm could be carried anywhere, at any time. Those supporting stricter gun control said local communities would have been able to set up tough restrictions.</p><p>With the negotiated law, gun-rights advocates got the permissive law they wanted, instead of a New York-style plan that gives law enforcement authorities wide discretion over who gets permits. In exchange, Chicago Democrats repulsed by gun violence got a long list of places deemed off limits to guns, including schools, libraries, parks and mass transit buses and trains.</p><p>But one part of the compromise had to do with establishments that serve alcohol. The law will allow diners to carry weapons into restaurants and other establishments where liquor comprises no more than 50 percent of gross sales. One of the main provisions of Quinn&#39;s amendatory veto was to nix guns in businesses that serve any alcohol.</p><p>He also wants to limit citizens to carrying one gun at a time, a gun that is completely concealed, not &quot;mostly concealed&quot; as the initiative decrees. He prefers banning guns from private property unless an owner puts up a sign allowing guns &mdash; the reverse of what&#39;s in the proposal &mdash; and would give employers more power to prohibit guns at work.</p><p>Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, gave a nod to Quinn&#39;s wishes by putting before his caucus new legislation that incorporated the changes Quinn prefers. But Democrats had not said by early Tuesday whether they would vote on the bill. Phelps said he didn&#39;t know whether the House would consider it, although House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, kept the chamber in session in case a new bill arrived from the Senate.</p><p>Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont said it&#39;s clear the issue would be addressed again in the future but the Senate should focus Tuesday on meeting the court deadline.</p><p>&quot;For today, we should stick with the agreement that was in place,&quot; Radogno said. &quot;It&#39;s important to follow through.&quot;</p></p> Tue, 09 Jul 2013 09:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-lawmakers-override-quinn-enact-concealed-carry-law-107994 Illinois pension panel to meet in Springfield http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-pension-panel-meet-springfield-107966 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/springfield_flickr_jason_dunnivant.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A bipartisan panel tasked with finding a solution to Illinois&#39; massive pension problem is set to meet in the afternoon.</p><p>Monday marks their third meeting. The 10-member panel formed last month out of a special session on pensions. Lawmakers adjourned without agreeing on a solution to the nearly $100 billion crisis.</p><p>Both chambers had been divided on dueling pension plans. Committee members say they&#39;re taking those into account but have other ideas too.</p><p>Gov. Pat Quinn gave the committee a Tuesday deadline. However, lawmakers have said they won&#39;t meet it. They&#39;ve asked for actuarial analysis, which will take several days to complete.</p><p>Quinn has declined the committee&#39;s invitation to testify Monday in Springfield. He says committee members know where he stands and his budget office will speak on his behalf.</p></p> Mon, 08 Jul 2013 07:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-pension-panel-meet-springfield-107966 Illinois pension panel won't meet Quinn's deadline http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-pension-panel-wont-meet-quinns-deadline-107939 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP806697463506_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The chairman of a legislative committee working to forge a compromise on Illinois&#39; $97 billion pension crisis says the group won&#39;t meet a July 9 deadline set by Gov. Pat Quinn.</p><p>The 10-member bipartisan panel is holding its second public hearing Wednesday in Chicago.</p><p>Sen. Kwame Raoul is committee chairman. He says members will meet later Wednesday to decide which proposals to have analyzed to determine cost savings. He says that analysis will take about two weeks.</p><p>Illinois has the nation&#39;s worst state pension shortfall. Lawmakers voted last month to form the committee after it became clear the House and Senate couldn&#39;t agree on how to address it.</p><p>Representatives from colleges and universities presented their proposal Wednesday.</p><p>A third public hearing is scheduled for Monday in Springfield.</p></p> Wed, 03 Jul 2013 10:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-pension-panel-wont-meet-quinns-deadline-107939 Quinn makes changes to Illinois concealed carry legislation http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-makes-changes-illinois-concealed-carry-legislation-107929 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP806697463506.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>After months of hardline negotiations among lawmakers, Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn on Tuesday signed a bill allowing residents to carry concealed weapons, but only after making several significant changes&nbsp; that he says will make Illinois residents safer.</p><p>Illinois was the only state in the country to outright ban concealed carry until a federal court in Chicago mandated the lawmakers to allow the practice.</p><p>&ldquo;I felt that ruling was wrong then, I still feel it&rsquo;s wrong,&rdquo; Quinn said at Tuesday&rsquo;s press conference. &ldquo;It has not been appealed. We therefore have to take action to protect the public safety of the people of Illinois.&rdquo;</p><p>The Chicago Democrat used his amendatory veto powers to impose further restrictions on where and how people would be allowed to carry concealed guns in Illinois.</p><p>The governor banned the carrying of concealed weapons at any establishment that sells alcohol, and also gave employers the power to ban concealed carry in their workplaces.</p><p>Quinn also crossed out a provision in the bill that would have prevented local governments from writing their own regulations on assault weapons.</p><p>Other changes he made include restricting concealed carry permit holders to carrying only one gun and one ammunition clip with them at a time, and a requirement that the firearm be completely concealed.</p><p>Quinn also slammed state lawmakers for passing the legislation &ldquo;in a hurried way,&rdquo; suggesting that they did so under pressure from National Rifle Association lobbyists.</p><p>&ldquo;Today he kicked off his re-election campaign,&rdquo; said Todd Vandermyde, a lobbyist for the NRA in Springfield.</p><p>Vandermyde accused Quinn of using his amendatory veto to score political points with residents of Chicago and the north suburbs, where gun regulations are embraced by local governments. Vandermyde said he does not think Quinn&rsquo;s changes will get the needed support from the legislature.</p><p>&ldquo;I think that what he just did is tell downstate, &lsquo;You&rsquo;re irrelevant.&rsquo; I think he just told the collar counties, &lsquo;You&rsquo;re irrelevant.&rsquo; He&rsquo;s gonna play to a very narrow liberal, North Shore constituency,&rdquo; Vandermyde said.</p><p>A spokeswoman for Gov. Quinn said lawmakers are expected to take up his changes to the legislation next week.</p><p>Meanwhile, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel addressed gun regulations Tuesday at a separate news conference. Last week, Emanuel proposed a measure that would ban the sale, import, transfer and possession of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines within city limits.</p><p>&ldquo;We are gonna do what we can in the city council with the assault weapon ban,&rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;But we also need Springfield to step up.&rdquo;</p><p>Emanuel has been pushing for the state to impose mandatory minimum 3-year sentences for gun-related crimes.</p></p> Tue, 02 Jul 2013 11:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-makes-changes-illinois-concealed-carry-legislation-107929 Illinois' bad credit costing taxpayers millions http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-bad-credit-costing-taxpayers-millions-107831 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP641715479818(2).jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Like your cousin who doesn&#39;t pay his bills on time and squanders money he doesn&#39;t have, Illinois is paying the price &mdash; in both cash and reputation &mdash; for years of ignored warnings about its pension crisis, the worst in the nation.</p><p>Largely because of its unfunded retirement plans, Illinois has replaced longtime bottom-dweller California as having the lowest credit rating of any state. So when Illinois tries to borrow money, it faces the same problem as the spendthrift cousin: far higher interest rates.</p><p>The state&#39;s financial failings are so well-known, they have inspired a name on Wall Street &mdash; the &quot;Illinois effect,&quot; a reference to the fact that cities, universities and other bond-issuing entities here must pay more in interest, even if they are responsible spenders.</p><p>&quot;There are investors who won&#39;t buy Illinois or bonds with Illinois labels at any price. They just see it as toxic,&quot; said Brian Battle, director at Performance Trust Capital Partners, a Chicago-based investment firm. That means the state pays &quot;the biggest penalty by a long, long shot.&quot;</p><p>Battle compared the Illinois situation to someone who has a good job and plenty of revenue. But &quot;we just spend like crazy, don&#39;t pay our credit cards and haven&#39;t saved for retirement,&quot; he said.</p><p>Take the $1.3 billion in bonds Illinois is expected to sell this week to improve highways, rebuild a 40-year-old elevated train line in Chicago and buy land for an airport. Battle estimates the state will pay more than $18 million in extra interest each year than states such as Virginia or Maryland, which have high credit ratings.</p><p>That&#39;s an additional $450 million over the 25-year life of a bond issue. In personal terms, it&#39;s $36 taken directly from the pockets of each of Illinois&#39; nearly 13 million residents. And that&#39;s for just one bond sale.</p><p>For decades, legislators skipped or shorted payments to state retirement funds, creating a $97 billion pension shortfall and making investors nervous year after year. Yet lawmakers in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly adjourned the spring legislative session last month without a deal. It was the fifth time in 12 months that they left town without solving the crisis.</p><p>Within days, two major credit-rating agencies downgraded the state to an all-time low for Illinois. Gov. Pat Quinn called lawmakers back for a special session last week, but they could agree only to form a bipartisan committee to keep working on the problem.</p><p>Contributing to the inaction are the state&#39;s strong constitutional protections for pension benefits and a powerful union lobby that has opposed across-the-board cuts.</p><p>Still, the seeming lack of urgency dumbfounds some onlookers. Among them is Bill Daley, a former White House chief of staff and U.S. commerce secretary from the famous Chicago mayoral clan. He has focused on the pension debacle as he explores a challenge to Quinn in next year&#39;s Democratic primary.</p><p>&quot;You can&#39;t have 13 downgrades in four years ... and think people are going to come here and create jobs,&quot; Daley said, questioning the need for repeated legislative sessions that yield no progress. &quot;This is Groundhog Day.&quot;</p><p>State leaders insist they are trying to deal with the crisis. But in a place known for backroom deals, compromise can be hard to find, even after years of trying.</p><p>House Speaker Michael Madigan, who has overseen a Democratic majority in the Illinois House for 28 of the last 30 years, acknowledges that fixing the pension mess is &quot;extremely important for the future of the state.&quot;</p><p>&quot;This is the time to step up and help the state of Illinois,&quot; he said. But the speaker has urged the governor to support Madigan&#39;s own solution, which would save the most money, rather than a rival proposal in the Senate that could stand a better chance of surviving a legal challenge.</p><p>In the past 50 years, just three states &mdash; California, Louisiana and Massachusetts &mdash; have had investment ratings as low as Illinois, but all have taken steps to correct it. Quinn&#39;s office has begged lawmakers do the same, even as the governor endures criticism that he hasn&#39;t done enough to broker a deal.</p><p>Abdon Pallasch, Quinn&#39;s assistant budget director, said the additional dollars spent to cover interest and the annual pension payment &mdash; $6 billion this year, or almost 20 percent of the state&#39;s general-fund budget &mdash; represent money that could be spent to achieve smaller class sizes, hire more police or ease prison overcrowding.</p><p>&quot;No more alibis. No more excuses. No more delay. (Lawmakers have) had plenty of time,&quot; the governor said Monday. &quot;Running in place is not a way to go when it comes to the pension crisis.&quot;</p><p>Illinois&#39; interest rates are the result of simple supply and demand: Because fewer investors want to take the risk of buying the state&#39;s bonds, the ones who are willing to do so are able to charge more.</p><p>Several factors are behind the reluctance. Some investment funds and trusts have rules that prevent them from buying bonds that are approaching &quot;junk&quot; bond status, as Illinois is, Battle said. Many investors don&#39;t want any names in their portfolio that have made headlines for negative reasons, like Illinois.</p><p>The state has a constitutional provision that guarantees it will make its debt payments, but investors also see cities like Detroit reneging on debts or considering filing for bankruptcy and get jittery, said Richard Ciccarone, managing director and chief research officer at McDonnell Investment Management in Oak Brook, Ill.</p><p>Illinois&#39; reputation also hits taxpayers on the local level, even in communities with sound budgets.</p><p>Suburban Chicago&#39;s DuPage County, a wealthy, conservative-leaning area, is among the 1 percent of counties nationwide with the highest-possible credit rating from all three major ratings agencies. But officials there estimate taxpayers will pay $4 million more in interest over the life of a recent $67 million bond issue than if Illinois had its financial house in order.</p><p>In March, Moody&#39;s downgraded credit ratings for four public universities, noting that the schools rely heavily on state money for operating expenses. The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, which constructs and renovates sports stadiums such as Chicago&#39;s Soldier Field and U.S. Cellular Field &mdash; home of the Chicago White Sox &mdash; has been downgraded twice since January. Chicago also has seen its rating on million in bonds lowered.</p><p>Last year, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel travelled to the state Capitol to testify in favor of reform, only to see his efforts &mdash; like all the others &mdash; fall flat.</p><p>Kathleen Strand, a spokeswoman for Emanuel, said he continues to stress the urgency of the problem, in hopes a solution can be found.</p><p>&quot;The truth is,&quot; she said, &quot;we have run out of time.&quot;</p></p> Tue, 25 Jun 2013 09:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-bad-credit-costing-taxpayers-millions-107831 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