Feud between Rauner, Chicago mayor reaches new, fishy level

By Sara Burnett | The Associated Press

The public spat between Gov. Bruce Rauner and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel reached a new level Friday, as the mayor said the Republican should stop name-calling and “do your job” and Rauner responded with plans to send the Democrat a “dead fish.”

The two lawmakers — who have previously worked and vacationed together and describe themselves as friends — have been in a back-and-forth over a months-long state budget impasse, city finances and Rauner’s push to curb public-employee union influence.

Rauner’s office on Thursday criticized Emanuel for pushing through a record property tax increase and asking Springfield for financial help while being unwilling to back Rauner’s legislative agenda, including letting local governments opt out of collective bargaining with public-employee unions.

On Friday, Emanuel fired back.

“I would just say this to the governor and the governor’s office: You’re 120 days behind budget, $6 billion and counting in not paying bills,” Emanuel said. “Stop name-calling and just do your job.”

Hours later Rauner walked into a local meat market in Chicago for a press event and – after picking up some pork chops and a beef tenderloin – asked the owner if he also sold fish. The governor bought a $4.87 frozen tuna steak, which he proudly displayed to reporters, saying he planned to send it to Emanuel.

Kane and McHenry Among Illinois Counties Subsidizing Union Organizing

Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen agreed it is a bad practice…

“This is something (release time) that predates me and I’ve been here since 1984,” he said. “If they are doing taxpayer work, the taxpayers should pay the tab,” he said. “But if they are doing union work, the union should pay the tab.”

by Scott Reeder | Illinois News Network

County workers are doing union business on the taxpayer’s dime in at least 40 Illinois counties but almost no one has bothered to keep track of how much this is costing local governments.

The practice known as “release time” allows government workers to continue to participate in union business, such as collective bargaining and disciplinary hearings, while being paid by the taxpayers rather than the union.
This year, the practice was found to be unconstitutional in Arizona, which has a provision in the state constitution prohibiting gifts to private organizations or individuals.

Illinois has a similar provision in its constitution that has yet to be litigated.

Just how prevalent the practice is in Illinois remains a bit of an open question.

Illinois News Network filed Freedom of Information Act requests with all Illinois’ 102 counties to try to discern how pervasive the practice is.

Forty of the responding counties said they allow for release time but of these only one, Peoria, attempts to track it. And 34 of the responding counties say they do not allow for release time. The remaining 28 counties did not comply with Illinois law and provide the requested information to INN despite being contacted multiple times.

“This concerns me. These are taxpayer dollars that there is no accountability to the public for,” said Jon Riches, the Arizona lawyer who argued the release time lawsuit. “Employers have very little control – or idea – how these hours are being spent.“

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.

Illinois Medicaid Fraud Robs Resources from the Truly Needy

by Kristina Ribali | The Foundation for Government Accountability

Jacob Chalkey needs a life saving seizure medication to survive, but the cost of Medicaid fraud in Illinois led the state to cutting off payment for his medication.

In just one year, audits that were authorized with bi-partisan approval found over 350,000 ineligible enrollees in their Medicaid system – costing taxpayers over $350 million. In the second year the audit found an additional 250,000 ineligible enrollees, and in those two years the investigation found over 8,000 deceased on the rolls as well. All totaled, those 600,000 enrollees who didn’t meet eligibility requirements cost taxpayers over $600,000 million. These are necessary funds needed for people like Jacob Chalkey.
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Only in Illinois (10-30-2015 )

by Matt Dietrich and Madeleine Doubek | Reboot Illinois

This week Illinois saw some examples of technology moving faster than government’s ability to define and regulate it.

In Chicago, the city budget added fees to ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft amid protests from traditional cab drivers, who say ride-share drivers are unfairly being allowed to put them out of business.

Also, two state lawmakers introduced a bill to define and regulate daily fantasy sports operations like DraftKings and FanDuel. If not for smartphones, neither of these industries would exist.
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Algonquin Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District Board Prepares to Raise Levy

from the First Electric News

The Algonquin Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District Board Wednesday approved a planned $9.4 million levy for 2015 taxes due next year. The figure would mark a 4.99 percent increase over this year’s $9 million tax take including a .8 percent increase for inflation and a 3 percent boost in the value of all the property in the District, only a little due to new construction.

Accountant James Howard told trustees the new levy would would out to a $9 tax increase for an average $250,000 home. “[Property value] increases will result in the decrease in the aggregate tax rate as well as individual tax rates,” said Howard who warned that’s going to make for a tight year for the District. “Even though the fiscal year 2016 budget is balanced, no additional reserves are being added for future liabilities.”

Open The Books Finds Billions In Wasteful Government Spending

by Ulysses Arn | Illinois Review

Open the Books.com Founder Adam Andrzejewski spoke Tuesday night in Ottawa to the Lasalle county Tea Party about the multiple examples of government waste that he and his small team of government watchdogs have found over the last 5 years.

From the myriad of scandals at the College of DuPage, to the EPA spending millions on military equipment and public relations, to the VA giving out millions in bonuses to the very same people responsible for the lack of care and access to our nations veterans, which cost some of them their lives, to farm subsides going to people living on the island of Manhattan or in downtown Chicago, the waste, fraud, and abuse of our money is everywhere.

District 300 Plans Website Revamp

from First Electric Newspaper

The D300 Board of Education Tuesday gave informal assent for plans that might cost as much as $100,000 to revamp the District’s website and the ones for each of its 27 schools.  “This is probably the thing we get the most [complaints] about from the public,” commented Board Member Steve Fiorentino.

The District postponed a $93,000 website plan five years ago but administrators said it’s needed even more important now because there’s more information to post, 17,000 pages worth, and because cybersecurity is deteriorating.  Superintendent Fred Heid said that a recent breach resulted in “‘pharmaceuticals’ being offered on some of our website.”

Kane County Set to Freeze Property Tax Levy for Fifth Straight Year

from Kane County Connects

Kane County is set to freeze its property-tax levy for the fifth straight year.

Before we go into some of the details on where and how to look at Kane County’s proposed 2016 budget, let’s stop a minute and consider what that frozen tax levy means.

Generally speaking, it means Kane County is planning to spend the same amount of money it levied back in 2011 — something very few units of government, whether local, state or national, have been able to do.

It also means the tax rate for the Kane County government portion of your property tax bill isn’t just staying flat — it’s decreasing. The logic works like this: (a) Kane County is still spending the same $53.9 million, and (b) new construction is adding to the tax base, so (c) the portion you’re paying for county services per $100 assessed property value is going down.