Chicago Tribune endorses Allen Skillicorn for State Representative

I’m honored to receive the endorsement of the Chicago Tribune. Proves that the people of Illinois have the will to reform our state! #IL66

“66th District: Republican Allen Skillicorn has an important characteristic that makes him Springfield-ready: He led a movement to freeze the tax levy in East Dundee, where he is a trustee. He understands the urgency to enact policy changes that make Illinois friendlier for businesses and residents. He faces Nancy Zettler, D-Algonquin, an attorney who says she’s running to represent the middle class and end “corporate welfare.” Maybe she doesn’t realize most of the corporate giveaways during the last decade in this state were handed out by Democrats, not by Gov. Bruce Rauner. Skillicorn is endorsed.”

Ethics questions nag Illinois Auditor General Mautino

Editorial by the Daily Herald

For days, newly appointed Auditor General Frank J. Mautino of north central Spring Valley has been getting hammered by government watchdog groups and some downstate newspapers for his spending habits while he was a Democratic member of the Illinois General Assembly.

Some pretty significant questions. For instance:

How could his campaign have racked up $55 a day in gas and auto repairs over the past decade? Could he explain why so much campaign money was spent for meals at his wife’s family’s restaurant in Spring Valley? Why did another family business, Mautino Distributing Company, once owned by his father and now owned by his cousin, receive a large bump in state business after he became assistant majority leader to House Speaker Michael Madigan in 2009?

You don’t have to be an ideologue to ask these questions.

Gov. Rauner, ignore the Surrender Illinois Caucus

For far too long my fellow Republicans have waived the flag of surrender on the issues that matter to IL families. That changes now!
-Allen Skillicorn

by the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board

Insurrections disrespect the established order and agitate its protectors. So it’s logical that, as the war for the future of Illinois gets tough, some formerly friendly voices would go wobbly on Gov. Bruce Rauner and his revolutionary vision of a solvent, prosperous, jobs-friendly state:

First, former Gov. Jim Edgar told The State Journal-Register of Springfield that Rauner shouldn’t “hold the budget hostage” by pushing for term limits and policy reforms that could stop other states from stealing Illinois jobs. Former Gov. Jim Thompson then fretted to the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, “This is the worst position the state of Illinois has ever been in.” Crain’s Chicago Business editorialized, “Rauner, even your allies are losing patience” — although the only “ally” cited was the backsliding Edgar.

To which a more resolute Rauner ally, Illinois Chamber of Commerce CEO Todd Maisch, retorted: “The chamber recognizes that the current budget stalemate is causing real pain across our state. … Four months is a long time to go without a budget. But it pales in comparison to a 12-year wait for state government to return to fiscal sanity, basic competency and a partnership with business that allows both to prosper. Those things are more than important. They are vital. They are also hard and worth the wait. Hang in there, Governor.”

Why Redistricting Matters

Ohio wants a fair map. Sound familiar, Illinois?
by the Editorial Board | Chicago Tribune

Tired of talking about how Democrats in Illinois rigged the legislative maps to elect more Democrats? Let’s talk about how Republicans in Ohio rigged the legislative maps to elect more Republicans. And about how Ohio voters are trying to fix it.

In the 2012 election — the first using new maps based on the 2010 U.S. Census numbers — Republican candidates for the Ohio House of Representatives got 49 percent of the vote and won 60 percent of the seats. Republicans running for Senate got 68 percent of the vote and won 83 percent of the seats.

Those maps weren’t drawn to ensure that voters had their say. They were drawn to benefit the politicians who controlled the redistricting process. Using sophisticated software and voter history data, Republicans drew grossly misshapen districts, surrounding their allies with friendly voters and busting up communities to disadvantage their enemies.

It worked. Based on a “partisan index” that measures how strongly a district is stacked in favor of one party, the League of Women Voters of Ohio determined that the results of the 2012 election were dictated by mapmakers in 97 of 99 House races and in all 18 Senate races.

Does that sound familiar? It should. It’s exactly what goes on in Illinois. Actually, it goes on in every state that allows politicians to draw their own districts. The only thing that varies is which party has the upper hand.

Trib: Getting around Salaries Cap and Pension Spiking Law

By Chicago Tribune Editorial Board

Turns out that boosting public employee pensions isn’t only about the laws awarding those guaranteed, 3 percent annual cost of living increases. It’s also about timing.

In some communities where workers pay into the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, soon-to-be retirees have been relying on a little trick to increase their retirement income. They cash out for severance, unused vacation or sick days, or recoeive bonuses — yes, bonuses — in the months leading up to their retirements. That way, their overall salary for that final year is bigger, and that’s a key factor in calculating the pensions they’ll receive for the rest of their lives.

These public servants avoid laws that aim to stop so-called pension spiking by timing those payments just right — near their retirement date but not in the last three months leading up to it. That way, they can get around laws that cap salaries in the final three months of employment — the laws that were designed to stop pension spiking.

What’s the saying, that rules are made to be broken? That’s glib — if often disastrous for others. This is a case study. And the others in question are, yes, taxpayers.

Illinois has so many taxing districts they lost one, and nobody knew…

Illinois has nearly 7,000 local governments, more than any other state by far. Near Joliet, they lost one, and nobody knew for years.

by Chuck Sweeny | Rockford Register Star

How screwed up is Illinois’ systemless form of government, which has far more taxing districts than any other state? Well, we’re so screwed up that one of our nearly 7,000 governments went missing. And for years no one realized it.

Yes, I’m serious. Let us consider the hapless folks who live in the little Greenfield Sanitary District near Joliet. One day in June, the residents of the 100 or so homes that make up the district got bills from the city of Joliet, for nearly $2,000 each, for sewage treatment.

The bills were a mystery to the residents. Turns out the Greenfield Sanitary District used to have a board that sent out sewage treatment bills. The receipts were sent to Joliet to reimburse the city for sewage treatment.

Now, though, the Greenfield Sanitary District exists in name only, the Joliet Herald Dispatch reported Sunday. The last known member of the board died a decade ago.

Daily Herald Endorses Skillicorn for East Dundee Trustee

from the Daily Herald Editorial Board

The home to 3,200 people is seeing a spark of redevelopment as a result of its economic redevelopment efforts . The cramped downtown fire station has been closed and a new station was built on Route 25. The tiny police station is being combined with the old fire station space and being retooled. The attached village hall will get a makeover.

The village now sponsors a variety of events to draw residents — and hopefully business people and developers — downtown. Meanwhile, the problematic Walmart store will close soon, taking sales taxes with it.

Incumbent trustees Allen Skillicorn, an avowed tax watchdog, and Jeff Lynam are seeking re-election. Neither is overly concerned about Walmart’s departure, saying the corner on which it sits will be redeveloped with something more tax rich. Both favor the outreach the village has been doing, saying it will pay off in strong redevelopment. Skillicorn and Lynam are endorsed.

Suburban Democrats who hobble the state of IL

Editorial | Chicago Tribune

By all accounts, and especially if you read his literature, Democratic state Sen. Dan Kotowski of Park Ridge is a fiscal hawk.

“Budgeting for results,” designed to make every program prove its worth, is his baby.

He’s chairman of one Senate appropriations committee and vice chairman of the other. In other words, he packs a lot of influence on spending.

State Sen. Dan Kotowski, D-Park Ridge, voted against the two most significant pension reform bills to come before the Senate this year. (E. Jason Wambsgans, Chicago Tribune / May 29, 2013)

Which makes it all the more alarming that on pension reform — the albatross that’s forcing Illinois to cut spending on education and other needs — he has been an obstructionist. He voted against the two most significant pension reform bills to come before the Senate this year, including one passed by the House and sponsored by Speaker Michael Madigan.

No more secret negotiations

Chicago Tribune Editorial

Quinn-AFSCME deal still under wraps

When Gov. Pat Quinn and the state’s largest public employee union struck an agreement on a new contract, both sides lauded the deal.

“This agreement is fair to both hardworking state employees and all taxpayers of Illinois,” Quinn said in a statement.

“AFSCME is very pleased that we were able to reach an agreement that protects our members’ standard of living, and is fair to them and all Illinois citizens, even in these very challenging economic times,” said Henry Bayer, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31.

What neither side said: “Here’s a copy of the contract.”

We’ve been asking for a copy since Feb. 28, the day the two sides announced the agreement. Quinn’s office said we had to wait until union members ratified the contract. That happened on March 19.

Since then, we’ve been told the lawyers needed time to tidy up the paperwork.

A full month of tidying? Sorry, but we’re out of patience. Taxpayers are picking up the tab for this contract. They deserve to know how much Quinn and the employee union ordered up in pay and benefits. In fact, taxpayers should have the opportunity to weigh in before the contract gets finalized with Quinn’s signature.

The AFSCME contract is important because it determines the state’s personnel and health care costs until June 2015, when the contract is set to expire. The contract represents one of the state’s largest expenses, not to mention determining employee work rules: attendance policy, vacation time, sick leave.

Unchain the charter schools

Crossposted at ChicagoTribune.com

Here’s a haunting statistic that we cannot repeat too often: Of all the school districts in the U.S., Chicago Public Schools has one of the longest waiting lists for admission to a charter school. There are 19,000 students on the list this year. That number has been rising since 2008, when 13,500 Chicago students languished on the wait list.

Next year, there will be some 23,000 children waiting, Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, tells us.

Take a moment to absorb that number: 23,000 students hoping for a better education than their neighborhood schools can deliver. That’s 23,000 students — and their parents — eager for the same opportunity now given to 51,000 children in Chicago, and to tens of thousands of others across the country. All these kids want is the chance for a better education.

Wherever you live: How would you feel, and how forcefully would you demand better, if one of those 23,000 trapped students was your child?