Sunday, June 12, 2016

My View: Blame game won't break budget stalemate






By Steve Stadelman

Posted Jun. 11, 2016 at 4:06 PM

As legendary radio commentator Paul Harvey always said, here’s the rest of the story.
Gov. Bruce Rauner recently stopped in Rockford as part of a statewide tour to blast Democrats and twist arms to support a six-month stopgap budget.
He could have saved the state some gas money.
I’m sure many Democrats would support a temporary solution to the ongoing stalemate that has left Illinois dysfunctional and less attractive to businesses.
In fact, Senate Democrats suggested the idea first, but the governor and Republican leaders rejected it. Suddenly, two days later, on the last day of session, the governor held a news conference to pitch the stopgap measure. He demanded the General Assembly approve a spending plan that same day, even though the bills that were introduced needed at least three days to pass both chambers.
But, hey, that’s politics.
Having covered politicians for many years as a news reporter and now holding elected office myself, I realize trying to shape public perception is part of the process.
Here’s what else the governor didn’t mention:
— Senate Democrats, myself included, voted against House Speaker Michael Madigan’s budget, which the governor says was unbalanced.
— Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and House unanimously passed a stopgap bill to provide an immediate lifeline to struggling businesses that are owed money for providing needed social services to seniors, the disabled and those coping with mental illness. That bill sits on the governor’s desk a month later.
No matter your political viewpoint, the reality is Democrats need to work with the governor to end this impasse.
There are parts of his so-called “turnaround agenda” I can support: property tax relief, government consolidation, redistricting reform and continued efforts to lower workers’ compensation costs for businesses.
I have philosophical differences with the governor in how the state can best promote economic development. I believe a strong education system and qualified workers are key to keeping and attracting businesses. I don’t believe taking away employees’ collective bargaining rights and policies that lower wages lead to economic growth.
But we live in a time of divided government. That means the only way out of this mess is to compromise and find middle ground. Both sides aren’t going to get everything they want and will have to accept some things they don’t want. Divided government can be healthy by forcing moderation.

The governor likes to pin the state’s financial problems over the past 30 years on Democrats. But Illinois has had Republican governors for 18 of those years, and it was a Republican-controlled Senate and House that approved a pension payment plan that’s squeezing our budget today. The bottom line is: Both parties are clearly accountable.

So let’s stop the name-calling and finger-pointing. Attacking those on the other side of the bargaining table generally doesn’t make it easier to reach a deal. Instead of focusing on the November election, we need to work on getting a budget now.
State Sen. Steve Stadelman, D-Rockford, represents the 34th district.

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My View: War on Drugs claims another victim




By Kim MacCloskey

Posted Jun. 11, 2016 at 4:08 PM

A recent article reported that a 38-year-old man was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his part in a conspiracy to grow marijuana in an old factory building on 11th Street. It sounds like it was a sophisticated operation, capable of growing more than 1,000 plants.
For all intents and purposes, this person’s productive life is over. After 10 years in the federal penitentiary, what kind of job will he be able to get? When he gets out, depending on where he lives, he may not be able to vote ever again. Assuming he had a wife and family, what’s going to happen to them?
Apparently he couldn’t find a job good enough to make the marijuana operation not worth the risk. Would this be true if our Congress had passed a jobs bill to repair our crumbling infrastructure, which would have created millions of $20 and $30 per hour jobs?
And isn’t a 10-year sentence a bit harsh for growing a plant that several states have completely legalized? Whatever happened to letting the punishment fit the crime?
Our whole “War on Drugs” was the brainchild of President Richard Nixon, who in 1968 decided that he needed a way to deal with his “political enemies," the anti-war protesters (epitomized by the hippies) and African-Americans.
One of his chief advisors, John Ehrlichman, admitted in 1994 that “we knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
Yet the War on Drugs continues, and another person’s life has now been effectively ruined.
The United States accounts for 5 percent of the world’s population, yet has 25 percent of the world’s prison population. We have more people in prison than Russia, China, Iran or North Korea. Our per capita rate of people incarcerated is also the highest in the world, and nearly seven times as high as China, according to the BBC.
In the last 40 years, our country has spent a trillion dollars on its War on Drugs, and all we have to show for it is more incarcerated people than anywhere else, this in the “land of the free." We are currently having an epidemic of heroin and accidental overdoses on other opioids. Clearly our war has been an epic failure.

It is time our country tries a new approach. Many countries around the world have other ways of dealing with drugs, including outright legalization (which allows addicts to get medical help for their addiction) to decriminalization and others. We should look to these other countries to see what they are doing. Arrogantly claiming we are the best country in the world and refusing to learn from others is just ignorant.

- How many more people’s lives are going to be sacrificed for Dick Nixon’s political dirty trick?
Kim MacCloskey is a Durand resident.

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Bernard Schoenburg: Rauner cash a big factor in November election




  • Posted Jun. 11, 2016 at 8:10 PM
    Updated at 8:47 PM

    It’s not new that politicians are keeping an eye toward the next election as they battle each other over policy.
    Of course, the fact that Illinois hasn’t had a full state budget in nearly a year creates great pressure — or at least it should — for agreement soon to keep not only government and schools, but social service agencies operating.
    But in addition to saying he wants elements of his pro-business, union-weakening "turnaround agenda" passed by a Democratic legislature before he will agree to more state revenue, Gov. BRUCE RAUNER has also changed the political landscape with his wallet.
    As an example, on May 4, Citizens for Rauner, the governor’s political fund, donated $5 million to the Illinois Republican Party.
    Six days later, the state GOP donated $2 million to the House Republican Organization, which helps GOP House incumbents and candidates.
    Because he poured $27 million of his own money into what turned out to be his $65 million campaign for governor in 2014, we might be getting immune to big numbers.
    But it has not been typical in pre-Rauner years for any state committee to so easily get multiple millions. The former venture capitalist is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and his family income in 2014 was $57.5 million, his tax return showed.
    KENT REDFIELD, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois Springfield, has long watched campaign finance issues in the state.
    Big transfers to party committees, perhaps from funds run by legislative leaders, in the past might reach $1 million or $1.5 million, he said. But Rauner alone can generate “a much bigger number.”
    “He really does dominate the money on the Republican side, and we assume there’s more where that came from,” Redfield said.
    Redfield said targeted House and Senate races in 2014 involved spending of perhaps $25 million.
    This fall, Redfield said, “We’re probably going to have about the same number of targeted races, and the spending could double.”
    He said spending in a couple of primaries in March in which the governor had an interest broke records from earlier general elections. The spending in those races included independent expenditures, like the more than $3 million spent by Liberty Principles PAC in an attempt to have Illinois State Police Trooper BRYCE BENTON of Springfield defeat state Sen. SAM McCANN, R-Plainview, who voted counter to the governor on a union arbitration bill the governor opposed. McCann won in a race with total spending of about $4 million.
    A Democratic state representative, KEN DUNKIN, D-Chicago, sided with Rauner on some issues and was defeated by JULIANA STRATTON in a primary that Redfield said involved $6 million in spending.
    • Of course, Democrats are also raising money. The Democratic Party of Illinois had $2.4 million in the bank as of March 31. Since then, several donations have been reported, including $25,000 from the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters.
      House Speaker MICHAEL MADIGAN, D-Chicago, chairs the state Democratic Party. And his Friends of Michael J. Madigan committee had nearly $1.4 million in the bank as of the end of March.
      But Citizens for Rauner had more than $20 million on hand at that time.
      At the end of 2014, after Rauner defeated former Democratic Gov. PAT QUINN, Rauner put $10 million in his own campaign fund; Chicago billionaire KEN GRIFFIN, CEO of the hedge fund Citadel put in $8 million; and RICHARD UIHLEIN, CEO of Uline Corp., added $2 million.
      NICK KLITZING, executive director of the Illinois Republican Party, said about the Rauner money: “Mike Madigan drew the legislative maps and has a seemingly endless supply of special interest money, so we hope to raise the resources to stay on a level playing field with Madigan’s Chicago machine.”
      STEVE BROWN, spokesman for Madigan, said later that the map was not drawn by Madigan alone but by the legislature in compliance with the Voting Rights Act.
      And about campaign money, Brown said, “Democrats expect to be outspent by Rauner and the 1 percenters.”
      As he has seesawed in recent weeks from asking Democrats for cooperation to get at least a short-term budget and attacking their plans as a Chicago bailout, Rauner hasn’t talked much in public about the political side.
      But at the state GOP convention in Peoria in late May, Rauner told delegates that government is “not working for you, the people of Illinois. It’s working for special interests, lobbyists, cronies, patronage workers, folks who make money from the government” and “take your hard-earned tax dollars.”
      “We’re gonna bring in the resources and put together the biggest ground game that’s ever been done for legislative races in Illinois history, and we are gonna pick up seats against the corrupt Chicago machine and Madigan’s Democrats.” He said he wants to bring back government that “works for people not special interests.”
      He often refers to government unions as special interests.
      Brown said he doesn’t like to make election predictions, but said, “We’re hopeful that the message of what we’re trying to do — to protect working families, to not take the state back into the early '80s as it relates to worker rights — will be a good message. Time will tell.”


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