Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Connecting the dots between our economy, government and people —

Top Illinois Stories

Does Governor Pritzker Truly Want To Solve The Illinois Pension Crisis? – Forbes

Elizabeth Bauer, pension actuary: "Pritzker cannot reasonably pat himself on the back for a buyout and a consolidation of unrelated pensions, while simultaneously shrugging off true pension reform as too hard. Not, that is, unless he just doesn’t care."

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker rules out constitutional change to address Illinois’ $134 billion in unfunded pension liabilities – Center Square

Comment: Pure bunk from Pritzker, for the reasons described herein.

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Pritzker rejects tying pension, income-tax amendments together – Crain’s

In an appearance at an Economic Club luncheon, Pritzker said he understands why some factions are pushing a "shared sacrifice" approach in which voters next year would vote on two amendments to the Illinois Constitution, one allowing his so-called "fair tax" and the other revamping a clause which locks in current payments for government workers. But that won't fly, either fiscally or politically, the Democratic governor asserted.

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Illinois pension costs skyrocketed by 500%, crowding out government services – IL Policy

Since fiscal year 2000, after adjusting for inflation, state spending on education has grown by 21%. State spending on everything from child protection, state police, college aid for low-income students and more has fallen by nearly one-third during that time. But state spending on pensions for government workers, meanwhile, grew by a whopping 501% – on top of a 127% increase in spending on health care costs for state workers.

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Cullerton’s complicated exit: disgruntled aide muzzled after money went missing – WCIA

WCIA's examination of financial documents, interviews with top lieutenants and staff, and an investigation of his private business dealings reveals that behind the scenes, his caucus was devolving into a tailspin and his campaign operation was already in tatters. Whichever of the 39 other Democratic senators should replace him in January will inherit a thorny tangle of ethical and legal headaches, as at least three sitting members of the caucus are either facing federal indictment, under investigation, or wiring up for the FBI.

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More Highlighted Illinois Stories

The Federal Government Collects Data on How Often Schools Seclude Children. The Numbers Don’t Add Up. – ProPublica

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Maywood’s Kimberly Lightford bids to be president of Illinois State Senate – Fox Chicago

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Thousands moving to Alabama from Illinois every year – AL.Com

Nearly 30,000 people moved to Alabama from Illinois since 2010, reversing the flow of the Great Migration and marking the largest surge from the Rust Belt to the Yellowhammer State in recent years.

Meanwhile, only half as many went the opposite direction.

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John Kass: Former Chicago FBI chief questions whether local prosecutors have ‘the will’ to take on Illinois corruption – Chicago Tribune

Rob Grant, former special agent in charge of the Chicago FBI: “I always wondered why, when I was here, why the attorney general of the state of Illinois and other prosecuting officials never tackled the corruption that was so endemic in this area,” Grant said. “I never got a straight answer,” Grant said. "...But there’s a very low level of desire, it appears to me, in the state of Illinois and in Cook County, to actually take on this particular crime problem in this city and this state and it’s left to the feds to do that job. Part of it is tools, part of it is will and determination. And I have yet to see it, quite frankly in the state of Illinois and in Cook County.”

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50,000 food stamp recipients in Cook County may have to find jobs starting Jan. 1 — or risk losing their benefits – Chicago Tribune

The change is the result of Cook County’s falling unemployment rate. Illinois, like other states, received waivers for the entire state for many years.
Now Cook County’s unemployment rate is also too low to qualify for the waiver. Last month the Illinois Department of Human Services submitted a waiver request for every county in the state except Cook and DuPage

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Amazon Web Services targeted in latest Illinois biometrics class action for storing fingerprint scans uploaded by others – Cook County Record

Comment: The law is a gift that keeps giving to Illinois plaintiffs' lawyers.

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Former Illinois employee seeking refund of forced union dues asks entire appeals court to hear his case – Center Square

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Illinois lawmakers tee up first legislative clash with Gov. J.B. Pritzker over tax exemption on plane maintenance – Center Square

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Report: Illinois doctors prescribe workers hurt on the job more expensive remedies, costs climb higher – Center Square

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Justice Department Announces Strike Force to Combat Crimes in Government Procurement, Grant and Program Funding

Comment: Note the apparently prominent role of the US Attorney for Northern District of Illinois.

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In ethics reform bill, Steans moves to increase lobbying transparency – Chicago City Wire

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Federal funding for Quad Cities to Chicago Amtrak project gets big extension – WQAD

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How local ‘fake news’ websites spread ‘conservative propaganda’ in the US – The Guardian

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Letter: Another Illinois Exodus story: Death by a thousand cuts – Chicago Tribune

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Post-Janus union legislation heads to Gov. J.B. Pritzker – Center Square

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Record low unemployment continues in Illinois – Center Square

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Mandated sick pay could come for vote when Illinois lawmakers return in January – Center Square

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Bipartisan support for ‘fair maps’ in wake of corruption probes at Illinois statehouse – Center Square

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Post-Janus union legislation heads to Gov. J.B. Pritzker – Center Square

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Column: There’s finally aggressive action against corruption in Illinois — and you can thank President Trump – Chicago Tribune

Democrats were not going to clean up corruption. The Illinois Republican Party was not equipped to do it. Voters definitely were not going to do it.
Drumroll: It is a Trump-Sessions appointee rescuing numb Illinois voters from a government on the take.

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Rep. Chris Miller: Governor’s police and fire pension ‘reform’ not the solution Illinois needs – IL Review

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32,000 Illinoisans save $8.5 million in first year of new program – Capitol News IL

Comment: And Treasurer Frerichs has a press conference to announce what he sees as a great success?

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Rich Miller: Illinois Senate President John Cullerton’s Looming Retirement Creates a Vacuum into Which State Senators are Diving

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Red-light camera companies can hire public officials as sales agents without disclosing it. That’s under federal scrutiny, and critics say the loophole should be closed. – Chicago Tribune

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Cullerton: Is my work done here? – Eric Allie Cartoon

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2 groups push to get more minority business owners involved in Illinois’ recreational marijuana industry – ABC Chicago

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Illinois, Chicago foreclosure rates among highest; Peoria and Rockford worst in nation – Attom Data Solutions

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In East St. Louis, residents fight to bring pre-K to child care deserts – NBC News

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot says she was ‘quite close’ to getting her Springfield wish list, but she’s now batting .000 in the General Assembly – Chicago Tribune

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Foster Parents, ACLU Resist Illinois Medicaid Plan Change – NBC Chicago

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Top Chicago Stories

Finance Committee approves Lightfoot’s $104.2 million package of taxes and fees – Chicago Sun-Times

Mayoral allies beat back efforts to kill a $40 million congestion fee and a first-ever trash-collection fee for non-profits; the Finance Committee also approved a $1.5 billion debt refinancing package.

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Lightfoot agrees to raise aldermanic expense allowance – Chicago Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot agreed Monday to raise the annual aldermanic expense — from $97,000 to $122,000 — to appease aldermen demanding more staff for their ward offices and build support for her 2020 budget.

Instead of budgeting $4.85 million for the annual aldermanic expense allowance, the city will spend $6.1 million — about a 26% increase. The additional $1.25 million will come from unspecified spending cuts and revenue increases, officials said, as the City Council’s Budget Committee approved the mayor’s $11.65 billion spending plan.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot says she’s not expecting additional Chicago property tax hike for 2020; budget plan advances – Chicago Tribune

There’s no guarantee property taxes can be held down in the future, she said, especially if she can’t get state lawmakers next spring to make changes she wants to the proposed Chicago casino taxing structure.

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More Highlighted Chicago Stories

Jussie Smollett files counterclaim against Chicago for malicious prosecution – WGN

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Chicago Housing Department Launches Affordability Task Force – WTTW

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Chicago Tribune’s New Investor Is Hedge Fund Known for Layoffs – Bloomberg

Michael Ferro, the largest shareholder in Tribune Publishing Co., sold his 25% stake in the newspaper company for about $118 million to Alden Global Capital LLC, a hedge fund known for making deep cuts to newsrooms.

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Muni Refinancing Boom May Get $1.5 Billion Bump From Chicago – Bloomberg

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Some Chicago red light camera intersections have shorter green lights, rack up millions in fines – ABC Chicago

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Kim Foxx announces re-election bid — while admitting she didn’t handle Jussie Smollett case ‘well’ – Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. Foxx had others to blame: “Every day my office is under attack, from a president who uses our city as a punching bag. The NRA, hell bent on letting guns flood our streets. And the FOP, clinging to old ways. They’ll do anything to undercut progress, including attacking me personally over the Jussie Smollett case,” Foxx says.

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Northwestern’s bungling student journalists were just copying the professionals – NY Post

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Watchdog Calls For More Transparency From Cook County’s Inspector General – WTTW

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Lightfoot’s minimum wage compromise advances, to cheers from restaurant owners – Chicago Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s plan to raise Chicago’s minimum wage to $15-an-hour by 2021, but maintain a “sub-minimum wage” for tipped workers, cleared a key legislative hurdle on Monday to cheers from restaurant owners.

That’s not good enough to satisfy Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th). He argued again Monday that eliminating the “sub-minimum wage” and phasing in a $15-an-hour wage for all workers was imperative to “reduce workplace sexual harassment” and eradicate a two-tiered system that “leaves black and Latino women in the service industry behind.”

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CTU President Sharkey Op-Ed: Chicago teachers went on strike to do right by kids, but we’re not done fighting yet – Chicago Sun-Times

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Ken Fisher Loses $67 Million as Chicago Police Fund Pulls – Bloomberg

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Lightfoot is killing Emanuel’s Infrastructure Trust – Crain’s

The trust, launched with a flourish at the start of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration, has been criticized for accomplishing little at a snail's pace and depending on public financing, even though it was created with a goal of freeing taxpayers from the cost and risk of funding big infrastructure projects.

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Robbery crews launch at least 8 attacks in 3 hours across North Side – CWB Chicago

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Business group: Chicago work scheduling rules unconstitutional, should be blocked – Cook County Record

The Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago has sued City Hall to try to stop the city from enforcing its Fair Workweek Ordinance, which regulates employers’ scheduling processes, and asking the courts to strike the ordinance down as unconstitutional for targeting only specific kinds of employers.

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A Baby Whale At The Shedd Needs A Name — And Your Vote Could Decide What It’ll Be – Block Club Chicago

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Downtown rents have companies taking a second look at the burbs – Crain’s

Tenant rep brokers say that widening gap isn't enough to reverse or stop a suburban-to-urban trend alone, as real estate expenses pale in comparison to labor costs. But with the suburban millennial population expected to grow during the next decade and the rise of telecommuting and co-working allowing more workplace flexibility, the calculus companies are using to decide where they want to call home is changing.

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Chicago-pedia – a collection of ‘Chicago-speak’: Chicago Sun-Times

Comment: There's a misspelling in here. It's samich not sandwich.

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Inside the world’s biggest Starbucks on Michigan Avenue – Eater Chicago

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Here’s How To Get Your Chicago City Sticker Ticket Debt Erased – Block Club Chicago

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Editorial: Who will bear the burden of CTU’s generous new contract? Take a guess – Chicago Tribune

Chicago Teachers Union officials earlier this year said the costs of a new contract would come from “rich people,” casino gambling, legalized marijuana and sports betting. Nope. Those revenues won’t cover the 16% pay raises and other promises. Money expected to be generated, eventually, from gambling and cannabis legalization would flow to the city budget, not the schools.
The burden will be borne by rank-and-file middle-class taxpayers and property owners. Same as it ever was in Illinois.

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How Open Is Chicago Area Government? One-Third of Local Agencies Get Failing Grade for Transparency – City Bureau

Dozens of Chicago and Cook County agencies fall short on Open Meetings Act and other open government standards, according to a City Bureau analysis.

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Report: Chicago police miss deadlines, but make progress on reforms – WGN

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Chicago Is Using a 20th-Century Tax System – Chicago Magazine

Tax retirement income and expand the sales tax.

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Chicago Recycling Rate Gets Even Worse At 8.8%. New Laws, More Composting Could Change That, Report Says – Block Club Chicago

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Property Tax Shell Game – Chicago Sun-Times

Suburban businessmen linked to Ald. Carrie Austin and a federal investigation didn’t pay taxes on properties for years, then bought up $861,000 of their own tax debts — for $26,000.

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Don’t pop the cork over that pension win just yet – Crain’s

Pritzker & Co. won a victory worth celebrating when they pushed through a deal to consolidate hundreds of police and fire retirement funds. But don't think for a second the state's problem is solved.

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See Inside ‘Griswold’s,’ Chicago’s ‘Christmas Vacation’-Themed Pop-Up Bar – NBC Chicago

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Tax revenue should go to affordable housing, not megadevelopments, aldermen say – Curbed Chicago

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Commentary: Fritz Kaegi: Benefits of property tax assessment reform are showing in Cook County – Chicago Tribune

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Sometimes the mayor undercuts her own cause—and ours – Crain’s

Discerning the difference between refreshing straight talk and intemperate broadsides should be on the mayor's to-do list.

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Wirepoints Commentary and Research

Governor of Illinois, home of nation’s worst fiscal crisis, slams door on pension reform

The argument that “nothing is going to happen in Illinois until things blow up” got a major boost this week. Pritzker once again rejected calls to put a pension amendment on the ballot in 2020.

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Our monthly Crain’s article: Illinois’ dystopia on full display in sick-day deal for Chicago teachers

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“The consolidation bill went bad when politicians added changes that increase the cost of pensions” – Ted on the Illinois Channel

In concept, the asset consolidation bill is a good idea. But the legislation went from good to bad when lawmakers added unrelated benefit changes into the law. They stuffed piecemeal changes to Tier 2 into the bill and voted to pass it without any public analysis and little debate.

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How Illinois’ police and fire pension consolidation bill went from good to bad

Politicians are once again doing pension reform on the cheap – stuffing piecemeal changes in an unrelated bill with no numbers and no debate. If Tier 2 is changed, it should be part of a dedicated pension reform bill that fixes all the funds at once, not snuck in as part of unrelated legislation.

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US stock markets up 200%, yet Illinois pension hole deepens 75%

Despite a tripling in the value of the S&P 500 index since July 2009, Illinois’ pension shortfall has worsened by 75 percent during the same period. The warning this trend provides is stark: if pension debts in Illinois continue to grow during a period of remarkable stock market returns, imagine how those funds will fare when the next recession inevitably hits.

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Chicago Public Schools offers CTU record contract even as enrollment shrinks by another 6,000 students

CPS says enrollment fell by another 6,000 students in 2019. How can Mayor Lightfoot and CPS grant the CTU what the mayor calls the “most generous contract” in the union’s history when the school district continues to shrink? 

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More Wirepoints Original Stories

New 2019 pension reports: Illinois’ shortfall worsens to record $137 billion, pension costs exceed $10 billion for the first time

Preliminary reports from Illinois’ state actuaries show the state’s pension shortfall worsened to a record $137 billion in 2019. The data also shows the state’s total pension costs in 2019 exceeded $10 billion, the first time in state history.

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How Chicago Stiffed The Rest Of Illinois For Cost Of Its New Teacher Pension Giveaways

Illinoisans outside Chicago may be laughing at the city’s reckless new contract with its teachers, but the real joke is on them.

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If Wirepoints’ mission aligns with yours, consider supporting us. We’re tax exempt now.

After self-funding our efforts for years, we’re ready to expand by increasing our media reach, covering more governments and exposing more of the issues plaguing Illinois. We’re fighting to help make this state work for Illinoisans once again.

Chicago teachers contract costs a record $1.5 billion, and that doesn’t even include pension costs

Now that the strike is over, the cost of the contract is finally being tallied and it totals at least $1.5 billion over five years – money the junk-rated CPS simply doesn’t have. It’s the most costly teachers contract in CTU history.

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“This contract will accelerate Chicago’s slide towards insolvency and its Chicagoans who will have to pay.” – Ted on with NBC 5’s Mary Ann Ahern

Ted was on NBC 5 talking to Mary Ann Ahern about the consequences of the teachers strike. He warned Chicagoans that the contract that Mayor Lightfoot and the CTU agreed to will only accelerate Chicago's decline towards insolvency.

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The Dumbest Case Yet For Illinois’ ‘Fair Tax’ Is By A Nobel Economist

If you can't follow this economist's reasoning, it's not you.

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Wirepoints’ speech to the City Club of Chicago: “By focusing on Chicago’s one-year budget, it’s like we’re treating an intensive care patient with an aspirin.”

We're here to talk about the city’s 2020 budget, but I’d argue that’s the wrong way to look at this crisis. By focusing on-one year budgets, it’s like we’re treating an intensive care patient with aspirin. Chicago’s problems are far larger than a one-year deficit. Its problems are multi-year, multi-government and structural. 

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We’re a 501(c)(3) now!

Wirepoints Original Stories

Governor of Illinois, home of nation’s worst fiscal crisis, slams door on pension reform

The argument that “nothing is going to happen in Illinois until things blow up” got a major boost this week. Pritzker once again rejected calls to put a pension amendment on the ballot in 2020.

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Our monthly Crain’s article: Illinois’ dystopia on full display in sick-day deal for Chicago teachers

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“The consolidation bill went bad when politicians added changes that increase the cost of pensions” – Ted on the Illinois Channel

In concept, the asset consolidation bill is a good idea. But the legislation went from good to bad when lawmakers added unrelated benefit changes into the law. They stuffed piecemeal changes to Tier 2 into the bill and voted to pass it without any public analysis and little debate.

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Top Illinois Stories

Does Governor Pritzker Truly Want To Solve The Illinois Pension Crisis? – Forbes

Elizabeth Bauer, pension actuary: "Pritzker cannot reasonably pat himself on the back for a buyout and a consolidation of unrelated pensions, while simultaneously shrugging off true pension reform as too hard. Not, that is, unless he just doesn’t care."

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker rules out constitutional change to address Illinois’ $134 billion in unfunded pension liabilities – Center Square

Comment: Pure bunk from Pritzker, for the reasons described herein.

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Pritzker rejects tying pension, income-tax amendments together – Crain’s

In an appearance at an Economic Club luncheon, Pritzker said he understands why some factions are pushing a "shared sacrifice" approach in which voters next year would vote on two amendments to the Illinois Constitution, one allowing his so-called "fair tax" and the other revamping a clause which locks in current payments for government workers. But that won't fly, either fiscally or politically, the Democratic governor asserted.

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Illinois pension costs skyrocketed by 500%, crowding out government services – IL Policy

Since fiscal year 2000, after adjusting for inflation, state spending on education has grown by 21%. State spending on everything from child protection, state police, college aid for low-income students and more has fallen by nearly one-third during that time. But state spending on pensions for government workers, meanwhile, grew by a whopping 501% – on top of a 127% increase in spending on health care costs for state workers.

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Cullerton’s complicated exit: disgruntled aide muzzled after money went missing – WCIA

WCIA's examination of financial documents, interviews with top lieutenants and staff, and an investigation of his private business dealings reveals that behind the scenes, his caucus was devolving into a tailspin and his campaign operation was already in tatters. Whichever of the 39 other Democratic senators should replace him in January will inherit a thorny tangle of ethical and legal headaches, as at least three sitting members of the caucus are either facing federal indictment, under investigation, or wiring up for the FBI.

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Other Illinois News

The Federal Government Collects Data on How Often Schools Seclude Children. The Numbers Don’t Add Up. – ProPublica

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Maywood’s Kimberly Lightford bids to be president of Illinois State Senate – Fox Chicago

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Thousands moving to Alabama from Illinois every year – AL.Com

Nearly 30,000 people moved to Alabama from Illinois since 2010, reversing the flow of the Great Migration and marking the largest surge from the Rust Belt to the Yellowhammer State in recent years.

Meanwhile, only half as many went the opposite direction.

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John Kass: Former Chicago FBI chief questions whether local prosecutors have ‘the will’ to take on Illinois corruption – Chicago Tribune

Rob Grant, former special agent in charge of the Chicago FBI: “I always wondered why, when I was here, why the attorney general of the state of Illinois and other prosecuting officials never tackled the corruption that was so endemic in this area,” Grant said. “I never got a straight answer,” Grant said. "...But there’s a very low level of desire, it appears to me, in the state of Illinois and in Cook County, to actually take on this particular crime problem in this city and this state and it’s left to the feds to do that job. Part of it is tools, part of it is will and determination. And I have yet to see it, quite frankly in the state of Illinois and in Cook County.”

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50,000 food stamp recipients in Cook County may have to find jobs starting Jan. 1 — or risk losing their benefits – Chicago Tribune

The change is the result of Cook County’s falling unemployment rate. Illinois, like other states, received waivers for the entire state for many years.
Now Cook County’s unemployment rate is also too low to qualify for the waiver. Last month the Illinois Department of Human Services submitted a waiver request for every county in the state except Cook and DuPage

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Top Chicago Stories

Finance Committee approves Lightfoot’s $104.2 million package of taxes and fees – Chicago Sun-Times

Mayoral allies beat back efforts to kill a $40 million congestion fee and a first-ever trash-collection fee for non-profits; the Finance Committee also approved a $1.5 billion debt refinancing package.

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Lightfoot agrees to raise aldermanic expense allowance – Chicago Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot agreed Monday to raise the annual aldermanic expense — from $97,000 to $122,000 — to appease aldermen demanding more staff for their ward offices and build support for her 2020 budget.

Instead of budgeting $4.85 million for the annual aldermanic expense allowance, the city will spend $6.1 million — about a 26% increase. The additional $1.25 million will come from unspecified spending cuts and revenue increases, officials said, as the City Council’s Budget Committee approved the mayor’s $11.65 billion spending plan.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot says she’s not expecting additional Chicago property tax hike for 2020; budget plan advances – Chicago Tribune

There’s no guarantee property taxes can be held down in the future, she said, especially if she can’t get state lawmakers next spring to make changes she wants to the proposed Chicago casino taxing structure.

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Other Chicago News

Jussie Smollett files counterclaim against Chicago for malicious prosecution – WGN

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Chicago Housing Department Launches Affordability Task Force – WTTW

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Chicago Tribune’s New Investor Is Hedge Fund Known for Layoffs – Bloomberg

Michael Ferro, the largest shareholder in Tribune Publishing Co., sold his 25% stake in the newspaper company for about $118 million to Alden Global Capital LLC, a hedge fund known for making deep cuts to newsrooms.

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Muni Refinancing Boom May Get $1.5 Billion Bump From Chicago – Bloomberg

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Some Chicago red light camera intersections have shorter green lights, rack up millions in fines – ABC Chicago

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