WBEZ | Pat Quinn http://www.wbez.org/tags/pat-quinn Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Madigan drops property tax mandate in pension bill http://www.wbez.org/news/madigan-drops-property-tax-mandate-pension-bill-109983 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Pat-Quinn-AP-Seth-Perlman.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is removing a controversial provision from a Chicago pension bill that would have required the City Council to raise property taxes in order ease the city&rsquo;s nearly $20 billion pension crisis.</p><p>The move to strip the property-tax language in the bill came late Monday, just a few hours after Gov. Pat Quinn signalled he would not back a proposed property tax hike that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing in order to bolster the ailing pension funds for Chicago laborers and municipal workers.</p><p>&ldquo;Working with legislative leaders, bill sponsors, the Governor, and our partners in labor, we have addressed their concerns and can now move forward to save the retirements of nearly 60,000 city workers and retirees in Chicago,&rdquo; Emanuel was quoted as saying in an emailed statement late Monday afternoon.</p><p>But the removal of the property tax language doesn&rsquo;t mean Emanuel&rsquo;s tax hike proposal is going away. That plan, which would bring the city $750 million in revenue over the next five years, still seems to be central to the mayor&rsquo;s plan to pump more money into the city&rsquo;s pensions.</p><p>The difference is that state legislators, who must approve changes to Illinois pension law, don&rsquo;t have to worry about being blamed for raising Chicago property taxes during an election year. The bill&rsquo;s original language mandated that the City Council raise property taxes to pay for pensions. The latest version allows the city to use &ldquo;any available funds&rdquo; to make its annual payments.</p><p>Speaking at an event Monday morning, Emanuel said he is not trying to hang a potential property tax hike around legislators&rsquo; necks.</p><p>&ldquo;It was never anybody&rsquo;s intention to have Springfield deal with that,&rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s our responsibility. But I do believe to actually give the 61,000 retirees and workers the certainty they deserve, you need reform and revenue. And we&rsquo;ll deal with our responsibility.&rdquo;</p><p>Emanuel said he will continue to &ldquo;address people&rsquo;s concerns&rdquo; about the pension plan, though he would not speak directly to its fate in the City Council, which would also need to approve any property tax hike.</p><p>To placate public worker unions who had wanted a dedicated revenue stream, Madigan&rsquo;s changes also beef up the penalties if City Hall wriggles out of paying its pension contributions. The bill directs Illinois&rsquo; Comptroller to cut off state funding to the city indefinitely if it doesn&rsquo;t pay its pension tab, and it gives pension funds the right to sue City Hall in order to get their money.</p><p>The new bill would also guarantee that retirees who make $22,000 or less in annual benefits would get a cost-of-living increase of at least 1 percent each year. Prior proposals set the annual increases at the lesser of 3 percent or half the rate of inflation. Right now, city laborers and municipal workers get a guaranteed annual benefit increase of 3 percent, which builds on the previous years&rsquo; increases.</p><p>The changes to the mayor&rsquo;s proposed pension fix came just hours after Gov. Pat Quinn slammed Emanuel&rsquo;s proposed property tax hike.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;ve gotta come up with a much better comprehensive approach to deal with this issue,&rdquo; Quinn said at an unrelated press conference. &ldquo;But if they think they&rsquo;re just gonna gouge property taxpayers, no can do. We&rsquo;re not gonna go that way.&rdquo;</p><p>Quinn, a populist Democrat who is seeking re-election in November, has made property tax relief central to his 2015 state budget proposal. And while he shot down Emanuel&rsquo;s proposed property tax hike, the governor did not offer an alternative source of revenue for Chicago pensions.</p><p>&ldquo;I think they need to be a whole lot more creative than I&rsquo;ve seen so far,&rdquo; Quinn said.</p><p>State legislators could consider the new amendment as soon as Tuesday.</p></p> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 15:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/madigan-drops-property-tax-mandate-pension-bill-109983 Quinn quiet on mayor’s pension plan, questions property tax hikes http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-quiet-mayor%E2%80%99s-pension-plan-questions-property-tax-hikes-109966 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Quinn - AP Seth Perlman.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is raising questions about whether he would support a plan to bolster Chicago&rsquo;s underfunded public pensions by raising property taxes, telling reporters today that property taxes are already &ldquo;overburdening&rdquo; state residents.</p><p>State lawmakers are now debating <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fnews%2Femanuel-pension-deal-would-raise-property-taxes-trim-benefits-109948&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHVMds9AwIwUN5U23ljh0rlrgfAPg">Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s plan</a> to prop up city&rsquo;s pension funds for laborers and municipal workers. Central to that is a proposal to raise property taxes by $50 million each year for five years, which would ultimately net the city $750 million. The mayor also is calling for city workers to chip in more money toward their retirement benefits, and he wants to scale back the rate at which those benefits grow each year.</p><p>But Emanuel&rsquo;s blueprint, which he said would solve about half of Chicago&rsquo;s nearly $20 billion public pension crisis, first needs approval from the state legislature and the governor, because all Illinois pensions are governed by state law.</p><p>Quinn on Thursday would not say whether he would sign the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ilga.gov%2Flegislation%2Fbillstatus.asp%3FDocNum%3D1922%26GAID%3D12%26GA%3D98%26DocTypeID%3DSB%26LegID%3D73354%26SessionID%3D85&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHCEIli0kRUcM8Np1l1LxGkpZmWDg">Chicago pension bill</a> if it landed on his desk.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know what that bill is, frankly,&rdquo; Quinn told reporters in Chicago. &ldquo;I think it has all kinds of different descriptions. They&rsquo;re, I guess, looking at it in Springfield. When they have something put together we&rsquo;ll look at it. But I wanna make it clear: I believe in reducing the burden of property taxes in our state.&rdquo;</p><p>Quinn would not detail any specific concerns he had with Emanuel&rsquo;s pension plan. But he returned repeatedly to the talking points he has been using to push his own 2015 state budget proposal. &ldquo;The bottom line in our state is we have to reduce our reliance on property taxes and we have to invest in education,&rdquo; Quinn said.</p><p>The governor&rsquo;s 2015 budget would make permanent a <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fstory%2Fincome-tax%2Ftemporary-tax-hikes-dont-always-stay-way&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHDXygwYKimhgniQZB0Efijo86f_Q">income tax hike</a> enacted in 2011, while guaranteeing all Illinois homeowners a $500 property tax refund. The governor is hoping that will allow municipalities around the state, boosted by trickle-down state income tax revenue, to lower local property taxes, which Quinn thinks disproportionately favor wealthy areas.</p><p>The mayor&rsquo;s Springfield allies put his plan into legislative form on Tuesday, shortly after he outlined it for reporters. The bill passed a key House pension committee on Wednesday, but is still awaiting a debate before the full House.</p><p>The State Senate, meanwhile, adjourned for the week on Thursday without taking up the plan.</p><p>The blueprint Emanuel outlined earlier this week aims to pump more money into the two pension funds for more than 56,000 city workers -- one for city laborers and the other for municipal workers, including administrators and skilled tradesmen.</p><p>By 2020, Emanuel&rsquo;s plan would finally do away with the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fnews%2Fexperts-say-chicago-has-public-pension-system-set-fail-109329&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGzLcw0b8YPzM-h-NQSYombAlYX5g">archaic math</a> the city has been using for decades to calculate how much money to chip into its workers&rsquo; retirements. Experts say that is a primary reason the pension funds have been shorted for decades, leading to their current dire shape. Instead, the proposal in Springfield would slowly ramp up contributions from the city, before switching over to a self-adjusting funding formula.</p><p>If the city tries to skimp on payments -- or skip them altogether -- <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ilga.gov%2Flegislation%2Ffulltext.asp%3FDocName%3D09800SB1922ham004%26GA%3D98%26SessionId%3D85%26DocTypeId%3DSB%26LegID%3D73354%26DocNum%3D1922%26GAID%3D12%26Session%3D&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEL9MZWqOZTKPul1CQW64R2_sAHpA">the current proposal</a> allows the pension funds to take Chicago to court, or even garnish City Hall&rsquo;s share of state grant money.</p><p>But the stabilization of the pension funds would also come at a cost for taxpayers and city workers.</p><p>The mayor&rsquo;s proposed property tax hike, which would still need approval from the City Council, would cost the owner of a $250,000 home about $58 more in property taxes each year for the next five years, according to the mayor&rsquo;s office.</p><p>Current and retired city workers would also kick more into their pension funds, but get less out of them. Employee contributions would jump from the current 8.5 percent of each paycheck to 11 percent by 2019.</p><p>But the mayor also wants to scale back the rate at which those benefits grow each year. Retirees in the municipal and laborers pension funds currently see their retirement benefits grow at a 3 percent compounded annual rate. The mayor wants to cut that down to a flat 3 percent, or half the rate of inflation, whichever is smaller. And retirees would see no benefit increase in 2017, 2019 or 2025.</p><p>Several of Chicago&rsquo;s most powerful city workers&rsquo; unions quickly came out against the mayor&rsquo;s plan, arguing it violates a part of the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ilga.gov%2Fcommission%2Flrb%2Fcon13.htm&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHYjOR9TNeMJMsYGbhWyAumt2lbbA">Illinois Constitution</a> that says pension benefits &ldquo;shall not be diminished or impaired.&rdquo;</p><p>That includes the unions for police, firefighters and teachers, whose members all have their own woefully underfunded pensions systems that would not be affected by Emanuel&rsquo;s proposal. What&rsquo;s more, the mayor&rsquo;s plan does nothing to stave off a state-mandated spike in the city&rsquo;s contributions to its police and fire pensions next year, which will cost nearly $600 million.</p><p>The jump in required payments was designed to finally bring the city&rsquo;s police and fire pensions into the black, after decades of City Hall shorting the funds. But Emanuel has threatened that such a huge, one-time increase would force drastic budget cuts or steep property tax hikes.</p><p>A spokesman for venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, Quinn&rsquo;s Republican opponent in the November election, said in a statement that Rauner disagreed with the mayor&rsquo;s proposal.</p><p>&ldquo;Bruce has always maintained that true pension reform requires moving towards a defined contribution style system and believes that should also be part of the solution for Chicago,&rdquo; said campaign spokesman Mike Schrimpf.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fusers%2Fakeefe&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHCooL3ruU-DUyQdnHprdBP25WItg">Alex Keefe</a> is political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2FWBEZpolitics&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNE7HeV8c3K0gV2LF_GODmIGo6nkkg">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 15:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-quiet-mayor%E2%80%99s-pension-plan-questions-property-tax-hikes-109966 Tio Hardiman considers write-in campaign for Illinois governor http://www.wbez.org/news/tio-hardiman-considers-write-campaign-illinois-governor-109891 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Tio H from campaign.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Updated 2:02 PM 3/20/2014</strong></p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-fce19a07-dc93-a968-c822-beb681c1e481">Anti-violence activist <a href="http://www.hardimanforillinois.com/">Tio Hardiman</a> says he actually feels pretty good about his loss to incumbent Pat Quinn in Hardiman&rsquo;s first try to become the governor of Illinois.</p><p dir="ltr">Quinn was the expected winner in the primary race Tuesday, but Hardiman says he&rsquo;s proud that he was able to pull in more than 28 percent of the vote.</p><p dir="ltr">But that doesn&rsquo;t mean he was comfortable with the results.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Bottom line - the Democratic machine once again has failed the state,&rdquo; Hardiman said, moments after the results rolled in Tuesday night. &ldquo;And the machine continues to go with failed policies under Governor Quinn.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">And that&rsquo;s why Hardiman is going after a write-in campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">Hardiman says venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, the GOP nominee for governor, is not a good choice for the people of Illinois, and Governor Quinn &ldquo;has too many issues.&rdquo;</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr"><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-rauner-set-clash-illinois-governor-race-109885" target="_blank">Quinn, Rauner set to clash in Illinois governor race</a></strong></p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">So that lead me to ask - how does one become a write-in candidate in Illinois?</p><p dir="ltr">According to Jim Allen, a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, the laws have evolved to make sure people don&rsquo;t waste their votes on silly candidates.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We don&rsquo;t have to count ballots cast for screwball names or made up candidate names,&rdquo; Allen said. &ldquo;And there has to be a declaration of intent by the write-in candidate filed with each jurisdiction where they want their ballots counted.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">So that means Daffy Duck or Derrick Rose wouldn&rsquo;t be counted, unless of course they filed ahead of time. But for those who really want to be a write-in, say, for the governor&rsquo;s race in Illinois, Allen says potential candidates would have to notify 109 election authorities - or however many that the candidate expects to get write-in votes for.</p><p dir="ltr">Turns out, people are willing to put in the time for the big national or statewide races.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;They never want to start at alderman, or ward committeeman, or school board member in the suburbs,&rdquo; Allen said. &ldquo;They seem to like to file for the higher profile offices.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Election lawyer Richard K. Means says the election laws are also meant to keep the ballot a reasonable length. But he says in a case like Tio Hardiman&rsquo;s, there&rsquo;s another regulation to be wary of: the &ldquo;Sore Loser&rdquo; law.</p><p dir="ltr">According to Means, <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=001000050K7-43">Section 7-43</a> of the Illinois Election Code basically says you only get one chance to present yourself to the electorate.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;You can&rsquo;t do what people used to do in Illinois before this law was passed, and that&rsquo;s take a second bite of the apple and run as a member of a third party,&rdquo; Means said.</p><p dir="ltr">Means says that section also means you can&rsquo;t run again as a write-in in the general election after you lost in the primary.</p><p dir="ltr">And turns out, there&#39;s an even more specific <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=001000050K17-16.1">statute</a> that explicitly states write-in candidacy is a no-go for anyone who already ran and lost in a primary. The law states: &quot;A candidate for whom a nomination paper has been filed as a partisan candidate at a primary election, and who is defeated for his or her nomination at the primary election is ineligible to file a declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate for election in that general or consolidated election.&quot;</p><p>When I took this information to Hardiman, he says his people will continue digging into the details. And if a write-in run doesn&rsquo;t work, he says he&rsquo;s got other plans to stay in the game and represent his supporters: Plans like requesting meetings with Rauner and Quinn to talk state policy, and running someone against Rahm Emanuel in the Chicago mayoral election in 2015.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her<a href="http://twitter.com/triciabobeda"> </a><a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a></em></p></p> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 17:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/tio-hardiman-considers-write-campaign-illinois-governor-109891 Quinn, Rauner set to clash in Illinois governor race http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-rauner-set-clash-illinois-governor-race-109885 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/rauner-quinn.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The race for Illinois governor is shaping up as a battle of vastly different visions on how to revive a lagging economy in one of the Midwest&#39;s last Democratic strongholds.</p><p>While the incumbent Democrat has increased taxes and pushed for raising the minimum wage, the multimillionaire Republican facing him this fall wants to curtail government unions and run President Barack Obama&#39;s home state like a business.</p><p>By winning the Republican primary Tuesday night, venture capitalist Bruce Rauner advances to a November matchup with Gov. Pat Quinn, expected to be one of the hardest fought and expensive in the nation. As Republicans attempt to reclaim the state&#39;s top office for the first time in more than a decade, labor unions &mdash; traditionally aligned with Democrats &mdash; are trying to avoid another blow like they&#39;ve felt under GOP governors elsewhere.</p><p>Rauner has labeled as role models Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, both of whom pushed anti-union policies. Those comments prompted organized labor to spend millions trying to derail a Rauner nomination.</p><p>The Winnetka venture capitalist, who sunk more than $6 million of his own money into his campaign to defeat three veteran lawmakers during his first bid for public office, targeted the &quot;career politicians&quot; and government &quot;union bosses&quot; he says have caused Illinois&#39; woeful financial situation.</p><p>Speaking at a victory celebration at a Chicago hotel, Rauner called Quinn a failure and said he wants to &quot;bring back Illinois&quot; by giving working families a chance to increase their income, get a good education and raise their families in prosperity. He has said he&#39;d do that by lowering taxes, cutting spending and making Illinois friendlier to business.</p><p>&quot;The voters are going to face a stark choice in November, a major decision about the future of our state,&quot; Rauner said. &quot;It&#39;s a choice between failure of the past and a new day, a bright future.&quot;</p><p>At a union hall a few blocks away, Quinn wasted no time in framing the race, renewing his call for a higher minimum wage, calling working people &quot;the real everyday heroes&quot; and drawing attention to Rauner&#39;s wealth.</p><p>&quot;I&#39;m here to fight for an economy that works for everyone. Not just the billionaires, but for everyone,&quot; said Quinn, who easily won the Democratic primary against a lesser-known challenger.</p><p>Quinn also launched a campaign ad late Tuesday showing video clips of Rauner saying he wants to cut the minimum wage and is &quot;adamantly, adamantly&quot; against raising it &mdash; a position Rauner flip-flopped on during the primary.</p><p>Quinn has pushed for years to raise the state&#39;s minimum wage to $10 per hour, from $8.25. Rauner now says he doesn&#39;t want to cut the rate, but that it shouldn&#39;t be raised unless the federal rate also increases to be equal to Illinois. He says hiking it will force employers to eliminate jobs.</p><p>Republicans see Quinn as vulnerable because of the state&#39;s budget problems, a 67 percent income tax hike he pushed for and signed, and the Midwest&#39;s highest unemployment. Rauner frequently calls the Chicago Democrat &quot;the worst governor in America.&quot;</p><p>But Quinn, who served as lieutenant governor to Gov. Rod Blagojevich, later convicted of corruption, points to the bleak situation he inherited when he took office five years ago &mdash; when the state was in a recession and had one governor in prison and another on his way.</p><p>He says he&#39;s gotten Illinois back on track, passing a massive capital construction bill he says created hundreds of thousands of jobs and approving legislation to address Illinois&#39; worst-in-the-nation state pension shortfall. He&#39;s also expected to tout the approval of legislation to allow gay marriage.</p><p>&quot;We know in this election campaign it&#39;ll be a tough fight,&quot; Quinn said. &quot;And I&#39;ve been in a lot of tough fights.&quot;</p><p>Illinois&#39; influential labor unions are expected to continue their attacks on Rauner in the general election.</p><p>Their efforts appeared to help make it a tighter-than-expected race Tuesday between Rauner state Sen. Kirk Dillard, who picked up the endorsement of three of the state&#39;s largest public-employee unions. Dillard bested Rauner in several counties that are home to a large numbers of state workers.</p><p>Ed Kline, a farmer from LeRoy, said he was turned off by Rauner&#39;s spending. He cast his ballot Tuesday for Quinn.</p><p>&quot;I think he&#39;s honest and he does the best he can do with what he&#39;s got to work with,&quot; Kline said.</p><p>But other voters responded to Rauner&#39;s outsider status and his push to establish term limits for legislators, a move he says will help root out corruption.</p><p>&quot;I&#39;m all about voting out the old guard,&quot; said Kevin Yessa, 53, of Downers Grove</p></p> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 08:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-rauner-set-clash-illinois-governor-race-109885 DCFS chief resigns after investigation into his past http://www.wbez.org/news/dcfs-chief-resigns-after-investigation-his-past-109780 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/bishop.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The newly appointed director of Illinois&rsquo; child welfare system resigned Wednesday, after one month on the job.</p><p>In his <a href="http://llnw.wbez.org/Bishop_02-26-14.pdf" target="_blank">resignation letter</a>, Arthur Bishop writes that for 20 years, he&rsquo;s been dedicated to the best interest of children who are in the care of the Department of Children and Family Services.</p><p>He goes on to write, &ldquo;I am aware that we are in the midst of a contested election, and that my documented accomplishments, dedication, and almost 20 years of exemplary work are in this environment, simply irrelevant.</p><p>&ldquo;While your political rivals may be willing to attack me in an effort to obtain some modicum of political advantage, I cannot agree to be used as a distraction to the real issues that face the State and the children that remain in State custody.&rdquo;</p><p>Bishop&rsquo;s abrupt resignation comes after recent reports by WBEZ and the <em>Chicago Sun-Times </em>that looked into his past.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/child-abuse-neglect-deaths-illinois-remain-high-dcfs-involved-cases-109545" target="_blank">Child-abuse, neglect deaths in Illinois remain high in DCFS-involved cases</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>The news organizations found public records showing Bishop had <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/new-dcfs-boss-pleaded-guilty-stealing-social-service-agencys-clients-109715" target="_blank">pleaded guilty 20 years ag</a>o to stealing from clients of his former employer, a mental health center on Chicago&rsquo;s West Side. Bishop later said he only pleaded guilty to end the stress the ongoing case was causing his family.</p><p>Reporters also found Bishop had been sued 11 years ago for child support. Bishop&rsquo;s daughter, Erica, is now 27. She <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/daughter-dcfs-chief-says-he-ignored-her-109778" target="_blank">recently told WBEZ and the <em>Sun-Times</em></a> that Bishop had never been involved in her life, and she questioned whether he deserved to be in charge of the department that oversees neglected children.</p><p>Paperwork signed by Quinn and filed with the Secretary of State&rsquo;s office, indicates he&rsquo;s named another DCFS employee, Bobbie Gregg, interim director.</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> Wed, 26 Feb 2014 16:51:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/dcfs-chief-resigns-after-investigation-his-past-109780 Gov. Quinn addresses business in yearly speech http://www.wbez.org/news/gov-quinn-addresses-business-yearly-speech-109598 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP158506660731.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. &mdash; Gov. Pat Quinn has focused part of his State of the State address on Illinois&#39; business climate. The Chicago Democrat says he will create a new position in his office that will focus on advocating for small businesses.The advocate will advise Quinn on issues and help start and grow businesses.</p><p>Quinn also called for reducing a filing fee to create a limited liability company to $39 from its current fee of $500. That&#39;s among the highest in the nation.</p><p>Quinn&#39;s office says he will propose legislation intended to reduce Illinois&#39; fee to the lowest in the nation. The idea is to make it easier for small businesses to get started.</p><p>Quinn&#39;s spoke Wednesday in Springfield. It&#39;s the second time Quinn is giving a State of the State address during an election year. All of the Republican gubernatorial candidates challenging him are listening in person. They are venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, state Treasurer Dan Rutherford and state Sens. Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady.</p><p>Quinn also mentioned the following issues and initiatives in his speech:</p><p><strong>Water program expansion</strong></p><p>Quinn announced a $1 billion extension of a loan program. He says a sound infrastructure is critical to a strong economy. Quinn says the program will create 28,000 jobs.</p><p>The program first started in 2012 under Quinn&#39;s administration. Officials said that the state had one of the largest backlogs of drinking water repairs nationwide. Quinn says the state has received about 91 applications worth more than $1 billion in requests. Cities that have or will receive loans include Bloomington-Normal and Clinton.</p><p><strong>Center for medical start-ups</strong></p><p>Quinn is promoting a new Chicago center that will open later this year to help start medical technology companies. He says the so-called &quot;bio-hub&quot; will drive economic growth.&nbsp;</p><p>Officials with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity say the idea is to help entrepreneurs and prospective investors. The center will be modeled after 1871, a Chicago hub for digital startups that officials say created 800 jobs during its first year. The project also will receive a $1 million loan from either DCEO or the Illinois Finance Authority.</p><p><strong>Early education funding</strong></p><p>Quinn wants to beef up early education in Illinois. He didn&#39;t detail how much money the initiative will cost or how it will be run. He says he wants to increase access to prenatal care, early learning and parental support.</p><p>Quinn says putting more resources into early education will pay off in the future. The Illinois State Board of Education is asking lawmakers for a $25 million increase in early childhood education next year. But funding could be scarce. That&#39;s because a scheduled rollback of the state&#39;s temporary income tax may mean cuts for schools and social services.</p><p><strong>Minimum wage increase</strong></p><p>Quinn says raising Illinois&#39; minimum wage is about dignity and decency. He says he wants to raise the state&#39;s $8.25 rate to at least $10 an hour. He has wanted to increase the rate for years. Trying to do so has also been part of a national Democratic strategy.</p><p>In his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Barack Obama announced plans to raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10 an hour, a jump over the current federal $7.25 rate. Minimum wage also has been a major issue on the 2014 gubernatorial campaign trail for Illinois Republicans. Three of the four GOP candidates oppose an increase.</p><p><strong>Earned income tax credit</strong></p><p>Quinn wants to again double an income tax credit aimed at helping poor Illinois families keep more of the money they earn. He says the tax credit should be increased over five years.</p><p>The state last increased the credit in 2011 as part of an incentive package aimed at keeping big businesses in the state. At the time, the state&#39;s rate for the credit was among the lowest in the nation. The legislation increased it over two years from its original 5 percent to 10 percent by this year. State officials said it would eventually translate to an average of about $100 a year per family.</p></p> Wed, 29 Jan 2014 12:29:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/gov-quinn-addresses-business-yearly-speech-109598 Quinn gives local typhoon volunteers a lift http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-gives-local-typhoon-volunteers-lift-109170 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Typhoon%20relief.JPG" style="height: 300px; width: 400px; float: left;" title="Governor Pat Quinn commended volunteers at the Rizal Center in Chicago for their efforts to send relief supplies to people displaced by Typhoon Haiyan. He said the Illinois Air National Guard has a plane ready to transport the goods, pending federal clearance. (Odette Yousef/WBEZ)" />Governor Pat Quinn delivered welcome news to a weary crowd of volunteers Friday during a visit to the Jose P. Rizal Heritage Center on Chicago&rsquo;s North Side. They have been working around the clock to collect and send relief supplies to the Philippines, ever since Typhoon Haiyan devastated part of that country over the weekend. Until now, volunteers had no way to transport those supplies overseas, but today Gov. Quinn offered a possible solution.</p><p>&ldquo;Our Air National Guard is headquartered in Peoria, Illinois, and we have a C-130 plane that&rsquo;s available to help deliver goods to the Philippines,&rdquo; Quinn told volunteers, &ldquo;but we must receive permission from the United States Department of Defense before we can commission that plane.&rdquo;</p><p>Quinn said his office has asked the Department of Defense for clearance, but had not yet heard back.</p><p>Still, the hope of state aid prompted tears of relief and cheers among the scores of volunteers, some of whom have been working 16-hour days in an ad-hoc operation that has been largely improvised.</p><p>&ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t sleep, because this is what I was wishing for, and I hope I&rsquo;m not dreaming,&rdquo; said Apple Umali, a coordinator of the efforts at the Rizal Center.</p><p>Umali said they have received roughly 200,000 pounds of donated canned food, medicine, and clothing, but the effort hit a snag when a military contractor that had promised to deliver some of the goods fell through. Without a way to get the supplies overseas, she and other organizers have said they are not accepting any more donations until further notice.</p><p>Still, the donations keep coming.</p><p>At one point, three black cars pulled up to the curb and dropped off several cases of Gatorade, courtesy of the Chicago Cubs.</p><p>&ldquo;We had no idea that this would turn out to be like this,&rdquo; said Michael Cruz, a tattoo artist who has volunteered every day this week. &ldquo;I put my home address when we began&hellip; as a drop-off place&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I came home (to) a yard full of boxes.&rdquo;</p><p>Since then, sealed boxes have piled up in the Rizal Center parking lot, some stacks as high as 10 feet. Cruz said he and other volunteers have been getting by on just 4 hours of sleep a night. On Friday morning, someone brought in a few boxes of doughnuts to sustain them.</p><p>Outside, volunteers filled a shipping container with boxes of clothes, bound for a cargo ship that would arrive in the Philippines in 1-2 months. A truck was pulled into the parking lot, to be filled with immediate emergency supplies like food and medicine. Volunteers are hopeful that they will find a plane willing to carry the load to the Philippines much sooner.</p><p>Despite their exhaustion, Governor Quinn&rsquo;s visit sent a wave of new energy through the ranks of volunteers. Immediately, they turned to the matter of nudging federal officials toward securing permission to use the plane to carry supplies to Manila.</p><p>&ldquo;Start faxing, start e-mailing, start calling your local Senator, our two Senators, and our House of Representatives,&rdquo; urged volunteer James Villar. &ldquo;We need their help.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 15 Nov 2013 17:25:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-gives-local-typhoon-volunteers-lift-109170 Vallas says he's OK playing 'second fiddle' http://www.wbez.org/news/vallas-says-hes-ok-playing-second-fiddle-109134 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP93819347138.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Former Chicago schools CEO Paul Vallas says he&#39;ll have no trouble playing &quot;second fiddle&quot; to Gov. Pat Quinn as his 2014 running mate.</p><p>Vallas and Quinn appeared together Tuesday for the first time since the governor announced last week that Vallas was his pick for lieutenant governor.</p><p>Vallas sought the 2002 Democratic nomination for&nbsp;Illinois&nbsp;governor but lost to now-imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.</p><p>He says he was initially surprised when Quinn approached him about the job. But he says the Chicago Democrat &quot;wants to assemble the strongest team possible.&quot;</p><p>Vallas also says he&#39;s OK with playing second fiddle, &quot;or whatever instrument in the orchestra Pat wants me to play&quot; because he believes in Quinn.</p><p>Both men say addressing&nbsp;Illinois&#39; pension crisis will remain the administration&#39;s top priority.</p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Tue, 12 Nov 2013 12:45:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/vallas-says-hes-ok-playing-second-fiddle-109134 Nail salon workers to get access to Asian language licensing exams http://www.wbez.org/news/nail-salon-workers-get-access-asian-language-licensing-exams-109099 <p><p>It&rsquo;s no surprise to walk into a nail salon and find mostly Asian staff. But despite a concentration of Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese professionals in the cosmetology and nail technology industries, Illinois has never offered the licensing exams in Asian languages. Now the state is looking to change that.</p><p>&ldquo;You know why I opened a cosmetology school in Chinatown?&rdquo; said Mora Zheng, owner of the Elle International Beauty Academy in Chinatown. &ldquo;Because I just want to let more Chinese people work legally, have good benefits, have a good salary.&rdquo;</p><p>As a small group of students sat huddled around a table in a nearby room, applying fake nail tips to plastic mannequin hands, Zheng explained that jobs in the beauty industry are popular with Asian immigrants because the schooling only takes a few months. She said that allows them to start earning money quickly. According to the <a href="http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes395092.htm" target="_blank">Bureau of Labor Statistics</a>, average yearly income for manicurists and pedicurists in Illinois is $26,720.</p><p>But Zheng said she&rsquo;s noticed a disturbing trend: lots of students finish school, but don&rsquo;t get licensed to practice.</p><p>&ldquo;Some people, they (are) scared (of the) English written examination,&rdquo; said Zheng, referring to the licensing exam administered by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re scared to fail.&rdquo;</p><p>The <a href="http://www.idfpr.com/profs/info/NailTech.asp" target="_blank">IDFPR</a> offers the cosmetology and nail technician licensing exams in English and Spanish. Zheng said it&rsquo;s time to add Chinese, because otherwise, qualified professionals end up working illegally in nail salons, and they are not paid fair wages.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Nail%20tech%20exam%203.JPG" style="height: 201px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Most of the students at the Botanic School of Nail Technology on Chicago’s North Side are native speakers of Vietnamese, Korean, or Chinese. School owner Rosemary Hyunh has crafted a bilingual curriculum to help them pass the written licensing exam in English. (WBEZ/Jian Chung Lee)" />&ldquo;We shouldn&rsquo;t have to work harder if there&rsquo;s no rational basis for the exams to only be in English,&rdquo; said Anne Shaw, a lawyer and advocate for Chicago&rsquo;s Chinese-American community. Zheng enlisted Shaw&rsquo;s support when she started to cast around for allies to bring the issue to the state&rsquo;s attention. Shaw said the fact that the exam is already offered in Spanish shows that the state does not deem English to be an essential skill for the profession.</p><p>Shaw believes expanding language access to the licensing exams will have far-ranging, positive effects. She argued that not only would it make it easier for immigrants to earn an honest living, but that the overall state economy would benefit by easing the way for small business owners.</p><p>Still, Shaw was surprised to learn from Zheng that the licensing exams weren&rsquo;t already offered in Asian languages.</p><p>&ldquo;You know, I really don&rsquo;t believe there was any intent to discriminate,&rdquo; Shaw said. &ldquo;This is one of the downsides of not having someone that&rsquo;s elected that has an Asian-American background. We have zero state legislators that are Asian-American.&rdquo;</p><p>But Shaw and Zheng found an ally in the office Governor Pat Quinn with his appointment of Theresa Mah. Mah is a longtime activist and organizer in Chicago who serves as Gov. Quinn&rsquo;s chief liaison to the Asian-American community. The IDFPR will soon offer the cosmetology licensing exam in Chinese, and plans to offer translations of the nail technician licensing exam in Korean and Vietnamese. According to <a href="http://files.nailsmag.com/Market-Research/NAILSbb12-13stats.pdf" target="_blank">Nails Magazine</a>, Illinois is among the ten states with the largest number of Vietnamese nail technicians.</p><p>But some argue that translating the licensing exams could harm the industry.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Nail%20tech%20exam%202.JPG" style="float: left; height: 225px; width: 300px;" title="Mora Zheng, owner of the Elle International Beauty Academy in Chinatown, says many educated nail technicians work without licenses because they fear they will fail the English written exam. She is pushing to have the exam translated into Chinese. (WBEZ/Odette Yousef)" />&ldquo;I really think it shouldn&rsquo;t be translated,&rdquo; said Rosemary Hyunh, owner of the Botanic School of Nail Technology on Chicago&rsquo;s North Side. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s just going to be too many nail salons,&rdquo; she explained. Hyunh, a Vietnamese-American raised in Chicago&rsquo;s Argyle Street neighborhood, said her views are shaped by her family&rsquo;s experience in the nail industry.</p><p>Hyunh said some of her relatives immigrated two decades ago to California, where they had successful nail shops. But she said their fortunes changed once California began offering its written manicurist exam in Vietnamese in 1996.</p><p>&ldquo;It got exploded so big over there that the prices started dropping,&rdquo; said Hyunh. &ldquo;So they had to find new states to start this whole new nail industry again.&rdquo; Hyunh said her aunts and uncles fled California to start new businesses in Chicago, a relatively unsaturated market.</p><p>Could something similar happen here? Chicago <a href="http://docs.chicityclerk.com/journal/2009/may13_2009/may13_2009_Zoning.pdf" target="_blank">zoning laws</a> prohibit personal service establishments, including nail salons, to locate within 1000 feet of each other. But Mora Zheng says even if competition heats up, that&rsquo;s no reason not to translate the tests. She tells her students if they do their best, they&rsquo;ll be fine.</p><p>&ldquo;Prepare yourself well, (and) you don&rsquo;t need to worry about others,&rdquo; Zheng declared. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s why I tell my students, &lsquo;in your heart, always sunshine.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Hyunh said even though most of her students don&rsquo;t speak English as a native language, she&rsquo;s crafted a bilingual curriculum that helps them pass the licensing exams in English. She understands that translating the tests could help some immigrants get on their feet faster, but Hyunh said she won&rsquo;t be changing her teaching methods.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud" target="_blank">@WBEZOutLoud</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 06 Nov 2013 17:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/nail-salon-workers-get-access-asian-language-licensing-exams-109099 Illinois Medicaid expansion may leave out mental-health teams http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-medicaid-expansion-may-leave-out-mental-health-teams-108892 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/CountyCareSCALED.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>An Illinois Medicaid expansion enabled by the nation&rsquo;s health-care overhaul might not cover some mental health services designed to keep people from landing in psychiatric hospitals, nursing homes and jails, WBEZ has learned.</p><p>&ldquo;We don&rsquo;t have a final answer,&rdquo; confirmed Mike Claffey, a spokesman for the Illinois <a href="http://www2.illinois.gov/hfs/Pages/default.aspx">Department of Healthcare and Family Services</a>, which manages Medicaid in the state. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not a simple question.&rdquo;</p><p>The services include &ldquo;assertive community treatment&rdquo; and the less intensive &ldquo;community support treatment,&rdquo; both designed for outpatients (often homeless) who have a hard time reaching mental-health clinics and keeping appointments due to severe depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other conditions.</p><p>ACT and CST feature specialist teams with low caseloads and around-the-clock availability. Every team member works with each of the team&rsquo;s &ldquo;participants,&rdquo; as the persons with the illnesses are known. The teams meet the participants wherever necessary to help with all aspects of recovery, from medication and counseling to nutrition, hygiene and money management.</p><p>Team members range from social workers to substance-abuse experts, from occupational therapists to peer counselors. ACT teams, as <a href="http://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=56754">defined</a> by the Illinois Department of Human Services, also include a psychiatrist and registered nurse.</p><p>An Illinois failure to cover ACT and CST in the Medicaid expansion &ldquo;will cost the state in the short and the long run,&rdquo; according to a letter that Gov. Pat Quinn&rsquo;s administration received from leaders of <a href="http://www.thresholds.org/">Thresholds</a>, a Chicago-based nonprofit agency that set up some of the nation&rsquo;s first ACT teams more than three decades ago. &ldquo;Many individuals with a serious mental illness will be unable to get the services they need to stabilize their lives, costing the state millions of dollars in preventable hospitalizations and nursing-home stays.&rdquo;</p><p>Most ACT and CST teams in Illinois are run by nonprofits such as Thresholds, Trilogy Inc. and Community Counseling Centers of Chicago Inc., better known as C4.</p><p>For decades, the funding for ACT and other community mental-health services consisted largely of state grants. In recent years, Illinois has switched to financing the care through Medicaid, a fee-for-service insurance partially bankrolled by the federal government. An Illinois budget crisis, meanwhile, has led to deep cuts in the state grants since 2009, making it difficult for the nonprofit providers to continue serving people who lack Medicaid and can&rsquo;t afford any other insurance.</p><p>&ldquo;These overwhelmingly are the folks that end up in one of the state&rsquo;s seven psychiatric hospitals,&rdquo; said Mark Heyrman, a University of Chicago clinical professor of law who defends the rights of people with mental disabilities.</p><p>Many of these uninsured people also seem to have cycled through the emergency departments of hospitals across the state. Those departments treated almost 220,000 people with a primary diagnosis of mental illness or substance-abuse disorder in 2012, according to unpublished figures from the Illinois Hospital Association. That was 19.1 percent more than the 2009 total. By comparison, according to the association, emergency-department visits during the period overall increased by 6.4 percent.</p><p>As part of the federal Affordable Care Act, Illinois is among 24 states that have chosen to expand their Medicaid programs to more of the uninsured low-income population. The plan, signed into law by Quinn in July and set to take effect in January, will be available to people with income up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level &mdash; $15,415 for an individual this year.</p><p>The state expects 342,000 Illinois residents to sign up for the Medicaid expansion by 2017. The federal government is planning to finance 100 percent of the coverage through 2016 and no less than 90 percent in later years.</p><p>&ldquo;This can be the biggest improvement in mental-health services that the state has seen in decades,&rdquo; Heyrman said, &ldquo;but only if all of the services that are needed by this very sick population are afforded to them.&rdquo;</p><p>The Quinn administration, questioned by WBEZ, said it had yet to determine whether the state&rsquo;s Medicaid expansion would cover the community-based teams.</p><p>&ldquo;State agencies have been working with federal authorities to explore all the options for mental-health coverage, including ACT and CST,&rdquo; Claffey, the spokesman, said in a statement. &ldquo;We are still finalizing the policy and do not know at this time what, if any, rulemaking will be required. As always, in accordance with federal rules, we will formally post the service plan for public comment prior to implementation. We hope to have a better idea of when that will take place in the coming weeks.&rdquo;</p><p>The uncertainty puzzles Jennifer Mathis, deputy legal director of the Washington-based <a href="http://www.bazelon.org/">Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law</a>. &ldquo;States are always cautious about adding services to their Medicaid plans,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;But many of these people with serious mental illnesses are already in their systems. The states are already paying for them as they cycle in and out of hospitals, jails and nursing homes.&rdquo;</p><p>If Illinois chooses not to include ACT and CST in the Medicaid expansion benefits, mental-health advocates say their Plan B is a <a href="http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-07-15/html/2013-16271.htm">federal rule</a> about state-level expansions that allows the &ldquo;medically frail,&rdquo; a group defined as including people with a serious mental illness, to receive all the services of the state&rsquo;s traditional Medicaid.</p><p>&ldquo;So anyone enrolled in the Illinois Medicaid expansion who has a serious mental illness &mdash; which would include anyone eligible for ACT and many people eligible for CST &mdash; must be given the option of receiving the full scope of benefits covered under the state&rsquo;s regular Medicaid plan,&rdquo; Mathis said.</p><p>But winning the right to a service isn&rsquo;t the same as receiving it. In Cook County, where a Medicaid expansion began a year early under a federal waiver, some providers say they have had a hard time getting ACT payments from Evanston-based <a href="http://www.psychealthltd.com/">PsycHealth Ltd.</a>, which has a county contract to manage the expansion&rsquo;s mental-health care.</p><p>&ldquo;Some of the larger nonprofits are turning away clients because they know they won&rsquo;t be reimbursed,&rdquo; said Heyrman, the law professor. &ldquo;The county is not providing services that the state was providing for many years.&rdquo;</p><p>Cook County Health and Hospitals System officials insist that their Medicaid expansion program, dubbed <a href="http://www.cookcountyhhs.org/patient-services/county-care/?">CountyCare</a>, covers ACT and CST. Officials of both the health system and PsycHealth say they have received no formal complaints from providers alleging inappropriate denial of reimbursement for the services.</p><p>&ldquo;The community-based facilities are used to getting whatever they want from the state,&rdquo; said Cathryn Shemroske, the PsycHealth official who manages CountyCare&rsquo;s mental-health provider network. &ldquo;The state is bankrupt for a reason. This is definitely something contributing to that.&rdquo;</p><p>Shemroske also voiced a perspective on ACT effectiveness that conflicts with at least some academic research on the topic. &ldquo;Often I&rsquo;m hearing that the model doesn&rsquo;t necessarily keep members well,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;The treatment outside the hospital isn&rsquo;t always what gets people healthy.&rdquo;</p><p>PsycHealth&rsquo;s lack of enthusiasm for ACT owes partly to its lack of accountability for &ldquo;all of the things that can go badly if they don&rsquo;t provide enough services,&rdquo; Heyrman said. &ldquo;The costs will not be borne by PsycHealth if, for example, [patients] commit a low-level crime and end up in a jail or a state psychiatric hospital.&rdquo;</p><p><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> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 10 Oct 2013 12:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-medicaid-expansion-may-leave-out-mental-health-teams-108892