$670k Doors and $323k Chandeliers part State House Renovations

“These $700k doors were made by  Imperial Woodworking (Palatine, IL). Imperial is owned by Union Labor Committee Trustee Frank Huschitt.” – Allen

Three sets of these doors cost IL taxpayer's $669,608.

Three sets of these doors cost IL taxpayer’s $669,608.

By State Journal-Register

More details about ornate renovations at the state Capitol – including more than $323,000 for four chandeliers – have drawn sharp criticism from lawmakers who say Illinois is not in a position for such pricey upgrades when it’s facing massive financial problems.

The nearly $50 million taxpayer funded renovation in Springfield includes nearly $160,000 for two sculptures of maidens at a staircase and the chandeliers, which resemble gas and lamp fixtures, according to a story in Sunday’s Chicago Sun-Times. Capitol architect J. Richard Alsop III confirmed the details late Friday.

The price tag of another renovation has already drawn heavy scrutiny: nearly $670,000 for copper-plated wooden doors, a cost first revealed in a column by The State Journal-Register’s Dave Bakke.

The Answer Is a Longer Yellow

Red-light cameras have become a lucrative form of taxation.
by HOLMAN W. JENKINS, JR. | Wall Street Journal

In Chicago, voters are familiar with human nature. This may explain why no one believes Mayor Rahm Emanuel when he says concern for children is the motive for his promotion of anti-speeding cameras to milk money from the city’s motorists.

A Chicago Tribune poll finds even those most inclined to support the cameras were cynical about Mayor Rahm’s motives: “Senior citizens and women voters were evenly split on whether they favored or opposed cameras, but they showed broad consensus that they believed Emanuel sought cameras to raise revenue, not save lives.”

When governments are engaged in sleazy new forms of taxation, sleaze happens. In fact, speed cameras were the mayor’s consolation prize—which he hopes will generate $20 million a year in revenue—when Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn nixed his plea for casino gambling in the city.

And sleaze has happened, not unlike the scandals that two decades ago engulfed the private companies that run state lotteries. Last week three executives of Redflex Traffic Systems, an Australia-owned company that operates Chicago’s cameras, were fired over an alleged $2 million graft campaign aimed at the local official who oversaw the city’s camera contract, including gifts of Super Bowl tickets and trips to White Sox spring training.

Track Government Spending With Your Phone

by Adam Andrzejewski | Wall Street Journal

With the United States drowning in runaway spending and debt now nearing $17 trillion, Americans might like to know where Uncle Sam is stashing their cash. Now they can. As long as you have the Web or a smartphone, you can track federal spending down to your own neighborhood. Be prepared, though, because the results aren’t pretty.

I’ve lived in Illinois since I was born, and I’ve watched as politicians from both parties wasted taxpayer money and profited from public largess. In 2010, I even ran for governor in the Republican primary on a platform of “Every dime, online, in real time.” I lost—but I didn’t give up on my goal.

I started a nonprofit focused on government transparency, and this March we released our transparency app, Open the Books. It’s free on Apple and Droid platforms and can be accessed on the Web at www.openthebooks.com. The app gives every taxpayer access to 12 years of federal spending.

Our work was made possible by the 2006 Google GOOG -1.22% Your Government Act, sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) and then-Sen. Barack Obama. Before this legislation, federal government spending was staggeringly difficult to track. The law posted the line-by-line transactions of federal spending since 2000 online at usaspending.gov. We built our app by taking the federal government’s unwieldy text file of 100 million rows, reorganizing it and uploading it to a searchable database that allows citizens to see the ballooning federal spending and debt right in their backyards.

Here are just three tidbits I found out using the new app:

SEC charged Illinois officials with making misleading statements

State and local governments owe $7.3 trillion in promises they’ve made that were never approved by taxpayers.
WSJ.com | Steven Malanga

Earlier this month, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Illinois officials with making misleading statements to bond investors about the state’s pension system. The agency detailed a long list of deceptive practices including failure to tell investors that the system was so underfunded that it risked bankruptcy.

Illinois taxpayers, as well as the holders of its debt, will ultimately bear the burden of the officials’ misdeeds. But there is nothing unique about the Prairie State. For years, elected officials in states and municipalities across the country have been imprudently piling up obligations that are imposing serious strains on budgets, prompting higher taxes and cutbacks in services.

In January, city officials in Sacramento, California’s capital, reported the results of a study they had commissioned on all the debt that the municipality had incurred. At a City Council meeting that the Sacramento Bee reported as “sobering,” the city manager explained that Sacramento had racked up some $2 billion in obligations (mostly pensions and retiree health care). All this for a municipality of 477,000 residents with an annual general fund budget of just $366 million.

How ObamaCare Guts Medicare

By PETER FERRARA
AND LARRY HUNTER

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has attacked Senate Republican candidates for wanting “to end Medicare as we know it.” And in Nevada’s hotly contested Senate race, Majority Leader Harry Reid is attacking Republican Sharron Angle, saying she wants to “gut” Medicare. But Mr. Reid has already gutted it. He and his colleagues did so by passing ObamaCare.

Senior Editorial Writer Joseph Rago explains the increase in insurance premiums. Columnist Mary Anastasia O’Grady critiques the President’s plan.

In his analysis accompanying the recently released Annual Report of the Medicare Board of Trustees, Richard Foster, Medicare’s chief actuary, noted that Medicare payment rates for doctors and hospitals serving seniors will be cut by 30% over the next three years. Under the policies of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, by 2019 Medicare payment rates will be lower than under Medicaid. Mr. Foster notes that by the end of the 75-year projection period in the Annual Medicare Trustees Report, Medicare payment rates will be one-third of what will be paid by private insurance, and only half of what is paid by Medicaid.

Altogether, ObamaCare cuts $818 billion from Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) from 2014-2023, the first 10 years of its full implementation, and $3.2 trillion over the first 20 years, 2014-2033. Adding in ObamaCare cuts for Medicare Part B (physicians fees and other services) brings the total cut to $1.05 trillion over the first 10 years and $4.95 trillion over the first 20 years.

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