… And remember when we told them that it would save $160 Billion? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!
By Ron Brzoska
I was going to blog about how bad a deal the Obama Administration brokered with Iran, but last night news came out of an even worse deal: the Illinois Pension Reform Deal that Illinois lawmakers are being brought back to Springfield to vote on next week.
The point of pension reform is different depending on who you ask. The public employees receiving the pensions want the current pension rules preserved. The public employee unions want that to go one step further and preserve the pension rules for future generations as well. The tax payers want lower taxes. The legislators want to make everyone happy while keeping the state solvent. As you can see, that is the General Assembly’s problem. They can’t accomplish their goal. They can’t keep everyone happy and pay all of the bills. They have to pick a side, and they are caught in a Catch-22 situation. Whatever they pick is going to upset a lot of people… enough people that they fear for their re-elections. With so many competing interests, the goal should be to satisfy only one master: math. Anyone else that is happy is a bonus. If we don’t satisfy the math, then no one is going to be happy. We will have failed everyone.
For that reason, the General Assembly should reject this latest compromise bill. The key points can be found here in this Illinois Review story. http://illinoisreview.typepad.com/illinoisreview/2013/11/pension-reform-details-released.html#more
The math just isn’t there. This reform will not do anything to keep the pension system solvent or keep Illinoisans from seeing significant tax increases. I don’t pretend to be a pension system expert, nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but I do know that 1 +1 = 2. Without getting tied up in the minutiae, here is why the newest plan is destined to fail and take us all down with it.
We have not seen the bill yet, so maybe some of my questions are answered. Common sense however tells you that people only let you see what they want you to see. The lack of details where extra funding for the pensions is to come from, and how exactly all of the math adds up gives new credence to the expression “the devil is in the details.”
By Ron Brzoska
In the last week there has been a lot of talk regarding the spending caps being removed on the Illinois gubernatorial candidates. It started last week with Republican candidate Bruce Rauner pumping $500,000 of his own money into his campaign. Good for him, there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I would refer to this as a non-story because it should never have been a question of would Rauner self-fund his campaign, but when.
Today however, brings us something noteworthy. It was announced that former AllScripts CEO Glen Tullman donated $250,000 to the Rauner campaign. By all accounts, Mr. Tullman is a Democrat. A simple search shows that his history is one of an Obama supporter, Obama-care supporter, frequent visitor to the White House during the Obama administration, health technology advisor to the 2008 Obama campaign, as well as not thought throughout the industry as a person out for himself more than society. Sources are below:
Maybe I’m being hard on the man. Maybe, like many wealthy men (Bruce Rauner included), Tullman gives to both sides of the aisle to hedge his bets. Nope. Tullman’s campaign contribution history in the state of Illinois shows that until Bruce Rauner, all of his donations went to Democrats. http://www.elections.il.gov/campaigndisclosure/ContributionsSearchByAllContributions.aspx?ddlContributionType=All+Types&ddlLastOnlyNameSearchType=Matches&txtLastOnlyName=Tullman&ddlFirstNameSearchType=Matches&txtFirstName=Glen&ddlAddressSearchType=Starts+with&txtAddress=&ddlCitySearchType=Starts+with&txtCity=&ddlState=IL&txtZip=&txtZipThru=&ddlOccupationSearchType=Starts+with&txtOccupation=&ddlEmployerSearchType=Starts+with&txtEmployer=&txtAmount=&txtAmountThru=&txtRcvDate=&txtRcvDateThru=&ddlOrderBy=Last+or+Only+Name+-+A+to+Z&ddlVendorLastOnlyName=Starts+with&txtVendorLastOnlyName=&ddlVendorFirstName=Starts+with&txtVendorFirstName=&ddlVendorAddress=Starts+with&txtVendorAddress=&ddlVendorCity=Starts+with&txtVendorCity=&ddlVendorState=&txtVendorZip=&txtVendorZipThru=&ddlPurpose=Starts+with&txtPurpose=
Tullman’s federal campaign contributions total is $253,156.00. All but $500.00, or 0.2%, went to Democrats. Who was the lucky Republican? Mark Kirk. So if you are like me and recognize the truth that Mark Kirk isn’t really a Republican, then every single dollar that Glen Tullman has spent for political purposes has been for Democrats. http://query.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/qind/
Is it possible that Mr. Tullman has been struck by the light that turned Saul into St. Paul, and he is a born-again conservative? Yes, but doubtful. For those of us that are skeptical of Kirk Dillard’s assertion that accepting donations from unions such as the Illinois Education Association won’t influence his votes and policy initiatives, we need to look at Bruce Rauner’s donors with equal scrutiny. A quarter of a million dollars is not just a token handout for a campaign. That kind of money is an investment. What kind of return is Mr. Glen Tullman expecting?
Can the people give a vote of “No Confidence” in their government? I ask because I’d like to give one for the state of Illinois. The latest episode that has me throwing my hands up in the air is the way in which Governor Pat Quinn, Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, and Senate President John Cullerton are handling the General Assembly’s futility in dealing with the pension issue.
For anyone not familiar (what rock have you been hiding under?) the issue is this: The state of Illinois has over $100 billion in unfunded pension obligations. This has led to numerous credit downgrades that has hampered Illinois’ ability to borrow… which it shouldn’t be doing anyway… to pay its other bills. The General Assembly has not been able to figure out a plan for pension reform. They were called back for a special session to address pension reform and other issues that were unresolved after the regular session, and still didn’t figure it out. In response, Governor Quinn has said that he will not pay the legislature until they get pension reform done. After about a week, Speaker Madigan and President Cullerton joined in a suit against the governor for the paychecks of everyone in the General Assembly.
To show you how ridiculous this all is, let’s put it in perspective. Illinois has unfunded pension obligations of $100 BILLION. Revenues taken in by the state were $36 billion. This means that it would take three years of using all of the tax revenue received to fully fund our pension obligations. All tax revenues need to be used… that means paying for NOTHING else. By the way, Illinois still had a $6.1 billion dollar deficit on its operating budget. Illinois is broke. These politicians are arguing over the crumbs of a moldy loaf of bread.
Want more ridiculousness? How about the fact that no one was immediately sure that Governor Quinn’s action to not pay the General Assembly was constitutional or not. State Comptroller Judy Barr Topinka took two days to figure out if it was constitutional or not. Here’s an idea; read the constitution. This is what the Illinois State constitution says about the compensation paid to legislators.
ARTICLE IV, SECTION 11. COMPENSATION AND ALLOWANCES
A member shall receive a salary and allowances as provided by law, but changes in the salary of a member shall not take effect during the term for which he has been elected.
As you can see, it’s not a lot to analyze. It is ONE freakin’ sentence!
Want even more ridiculousness? Quinn’s move was a line-item veto to an appropriations bill. The General Assembly can override it without suing. Quinn’s grandstanding is being countered with more grandstanding. Seeing politicians arguing like this is like when professional athletes go on strike. For the most part, the public no longer takes sides, they just get turned off.
Yesterday, December 8th, I attended the Illinois Republican Party State Central Committee Meeting in Bolingbrook. I figured that it should be interesting given the results this past election, and I always wanted to see how things worked there. I also was curious to see how the calls for Pat Brady’s resignation would play out. Finally, I wanted to make my own plea to the State Central Committee to ask for Pat Brady’s resignation or outright fire him. I didn’t get a chance to speak as the SCC limited comments so they could go into executive session. I will share what I would have said in a future blog. For this one, I want to share my opinions of the goings on at the SCC meeting.
I entered the room pretty early and looked for a sign in sheet to sign to add my name to the list of speakers during the public comments section of the meeting. There was a table with copies of the previous meeting minutes but no sign in sheet. I asked the young man working the door about it and he had no idea. I talked to a few others and asked about a sign up list and no one was aware of one. One did surface later that was a half used notepad, but it did not seem to be used when public comments were made later anyway. It was good to see that they brought in more chairs to supplement the 25 that the room originally held. Despite this, the event was SRO.
Chairman Pat Brady spoke first. First he thanked a number of people, almost everyone he thanked…ok, everyone he thanked was thanked for their generous financial contributions to the IL GOP. He also thanked a number of the candidates that ran in the past cycle. I made special note of Brady’s praise for Rodney Davis. He called Davis “one of their own” and that he “knows what party politics is about.” Chairman Brady, WE ARE ALL YOUR OWN. Your comments about Rodney Davis are telling about your views of inclusion and what makes a “good Republican.” He then talked to a brief Powerpoint presentation showing the year in review. Like another other year in review presentation, it was made to look as positive as it could be. The presentation showed that while every candidate except Rodney Davis lost their congressional bid (Brady loves him so much that Davis got his own slide) the victory center efforts led to fewer Democratic party votes and more Republican votes in their districts. I’m personally skeptical of these graphics. Based on the percentages shown, I don’t understand how it is mathematically possible that many of these Republicans lost. The charts even showed strong numbers for Judy Biggert’s and Joe Walsh’s losses. More importantly, with the map changes, how could they make accurate comparisons between 2008 and 2012. Even precinct boundaries underwent changes.
Chairman Brady then talked about fundraising. He said that 24 million dollars was raised in Illinois for the Romney presidential campaign. and 3.2 million was raised for state races. It was divided up between large donors, small donors, and donations back from the RNC and NRCC. About 20% of the total came from small donors with the share by the other two groups nearly equal. The RNC has set a goal for Illinois that 75% of their money should come from small donors in 2014. That is a tall order.
Chairman Brady also talked about the election itself. He didn’t have anything new to add to the ongoing post mortem analysis. He then said a few things of note that I wrote down for the comedy it evoked even though he was dead serious.
RNC Secretary and Illinois National Committeewoman Demetra Demonte then spoke. I was very pleased with what she had to say. She seems to get it. She exhibited a sense of urgency when she said that we need to start acting now. She also was the only voice amongst the leadership that sounded like she actually believed it when she said that we cannot compromise our principles. Secretary Demonte said that ”if we compromise our principles, it will lead to a third-party and Republicans will become a permanent minority.” She also said that the Republican Party needs to embrace its grass-roots which is made up of 912 groups and tea parties.
There were other speakers as well. Among them were Dan Proft, Rich Wiliamson, Jack Roeser, Michelle Sherman, and someone representing the Illinois Young Republicans. It was sad that he was bragging about there being 1,000 members nation-wide (I hope he misspoke) and that the YRs were expecting 1,500 to 2,000 for the national convention in Chicago for 2015. Maybe they couldn’t find a bar big enough for a larger group.
As I sat there, I was glad to see faces in the seats that did not look like mine. I was even gladder when I heard them speak. Two African-American candidates for the 2nd Congressional District (Dr. Eric Wallace and Lenny McCallister) made their pitches to the committee and the audience. Time will tell who will get their support.
The time for public comments was the main event. I felt a little bit for the young man who was sent to the gallery. He had a look on his face as someone who knew he was venturing into unwelcome territory. While not all of us who wished to speak got the chance (like me), there were many who did get to speak and air their grievances about the way the IL GOP has handled their responsibilities. Sherri Griffith and Lori Yokoyama, who ran on a slate in Cook County with another minority woman, talked about how the party got them to run, but did not provide financial support or even allow the use of the Victory Centers without paying out of their own pockets for their use. They both told the SCC how they could have put their money where their mouths are by supporting their election runs this last time. They warned the SCC that the IL GOP’s inaction in their cases serves as a discouragement to other non-whites who may have right political leanings. The Republican Party needs to engage in more than lip service. It needs to support all of its candidates.
I was very discouraged and saddened by the events at this portion of the meeting. There was a lot of anger and disappointment coming from the crowd, but instead of listening (like Brady said he was going to do when he talked about focus groups and meeting with other leaders) he kept interrupting and defending himself. Brady’s response to Brad Baber about rigging the convention (sorry Chairman, I was there too, and you did lie and call the vote in your favor when it should have been made a roll call vote) escalated that exchange. Chairman Brady, you had a free focus group, and instead of trying to learn from them you argued with them. That is not leadership.
What I took away from my first State Central Committee meeting… what I learned… is that my instincts were right. I want something better. Starting with the chairman…
by Ron Brzoska
In March of 2011 the state of Illinois passed an internet sales tax. The argument was that people were avoiding sales tax by buying on-line, and as a result, the playing field was not level for the traditional store retailers that had to charge sales tax. In the name of “fairness” this new tax was campaigned for and passed. This tax was also passed retroactively. This meant that Illinoisans were expected to bring their internet purchase receipts to the tax man so they could be in compliance. If you didn’t have receipts, then they had a solution. You just had to pay a higher percentage on your income tax to cover what that tax would likely have been.
After more than a year, the State of Illinois (predictably) believes that it is not collecting the revenues that it believes it should have received. These complaint have been heard loud and clear by Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois). Durbin, who recently said that entitlement reform and other spending cuts are off the table to avoid the fiscal cliff, found an opportunity that he cannot stop salivating over…
We should have a national internet sales tax.
By Ron Brzoska
No. The title does not mean that I believe that Republicans should embrace the Obama “Forward” agenda. Rather, I believe that the Illinois Republican Party needs to make a bold step in order to have any future at all. The Illinois Republican Party must replace its triumvirate of leadership: House Minority Leader Tom Cross, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, and Chairman Pat Brady.
The results on Election Day for Illinois republicans have been termed a “bloodbath.” This true; very true. Like any sports franchise, or any company that has been beaten so badly by its competition that the status quo leaves the organization uncompetitive going forward, a change in management is necessary.
Representative Tom Cross and Senator Christine Radogno have done very little to stop the Madigan/Quinn agenda. Not only do they routinely stay silent until after the votes have taken place, but they seldom offer any type of Republican counter. Cross and agenda have not offered a vision from their caucuses that gives the Illinois voter an alternative to exansion of government and its burdens imposed by the Democrats. There is no battle cry and therefore no battle, only a rout.
Representative Tom Cross and Senator Christine Radogno have seen their caucuses shrink to ineffectual levels. The Democrats have veto-proof majorities in both houses of the General Assembly. This has reduced Illinois Republicans to a relevancy equal to the Libertarian Party or the Green Party. Our Republican legislators now are nothing more than a protest vote. But what has either Cross or Radogno done to increase the number of Republicans in the Illinois General Assembly? There were 20 state senate races with no Republican challenger. There were 39 state representative races without a Republican challenger. How do they or the party expect to reverse the tide if they don’t even try? What have they done to bring candidates in or help the ones that do run? We aren’t seeing it. Since the election the rank-and-file and precinct committeemen like myself have waited for answers. We have waited for something uplifting. We have waited for a plan. We have waited for something … anything, and received nothing.
What I have said goes double for Chairman Pat Brady. Afterall, Representative Cross and Senator Radogno have their jobs as legislators to tend to as well as being party leaders. Chairman Brady’s only job is to be the party leader. Pat Brady has presided over the failed governor’s race. Not only were Republicans unable to defeat the unpopular legacy of scandal-ridden Rod Blagojevich, Pat Quinn, but the loss allowed the Democrats to gerrymander the district maps to favor their party. This was during the 2010 election cycle that was a boon to Republicans across the country. Brady should have been replaced after that debacle. He was not, and we paid for it in 2012. The state convention was a failure. We didn’t attempt to run candidates in 59 state races. We almost ran out of money (Thank you Sandy Stuart for making that an “almost”). We lost five congressman. I can’t name one GOP success story that can be attributed to the management of Pat Brady.
When the rank-and-file consider their leaders to be losers, they tune them out. Think of Ozzie Guillen. Think of Mike Ditka. Think of the bosses that you may have had that you had no confidence in. This is where we are now. These three people must go. This is not about the direction of ideology to the left or right. This is about no longer falling backward and moving forward. Results mandate a change, not more of the same.
By Ron Brzoska
Illinois is a blue state. Blue is an appropriate description since we are choking to death. We did more damage to ourselves by giving the Democrats that gave us a state ranked 48th in economic performance (2010 ALEC-Laffer State Competitiveness Index) a veto-proof majority in both houses of the general assembly to go along with Governor Pat Quinn. Now Democrats don’t need help to have one-party rule.
It’s obvious from the election results is that citizens and Republicans will need to things differently. There will need to be new ideas, strategies, and leaders. I believe these things will come from outside the traditional Republican establishment. When I can, I will showcase organizations with the values that Illinois needs. What I’m doing is nothing different from outright advertising. So what? This is my blog, If you don’t like it, get your own.
The group that I am showcasing today is the Illinois Center Right Coalition. This is a statewide organization, but it’s membership is predominately from Northern Illinois. I can proudly say that I am a former member of the group and can attest to the beliefs and abilities of a number of their members. They had a meeting earlier today, which I asked for them to provide me a recap on.
“Illinois Center Right Coalition November Meeting”
Today at the meeting we heard from several guest speakers.
Terry Gavin, candidate for Elgin City Council spoke about issues facing the City of Elgin. Terry’s Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/#!/terry.gavin.3?fref=ts
Gary Percy, candidate for Dist U-46 School District spoke about his candidacy for U-46, the second largest school district in Illinois. His website is, http://wishbone59.wordpress.com
William Kelly, announced an exploratory committee for Illinois Comptroller, full release here. http://kellytruthsquad.wordpress.com/2012/11/10/kelly-announces-formation-of-exploratory-committee-for-illinois-comptroller
We also discussed several other resolutions that will be discussed by the Steering Committee and will be shared if they are approved.
Frank Napolitano – ICRC Chairman
Illinois voters will be asked to vote on a constitutional amendment this election day. The amendment is in regards to benefits paid to government workers at all levels in the state. In short, if passed House Joint Resolution 49 (link:http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=09700HC0049lv&SessionID=84&GA=97&DocTypeID=HJRCA&DocNum=0049&print=true ) will require a 3/5 majority vote to increase the benefits accorded to public sector employees. Not only would this apply to the state level, but also for our local governing bodies such as county boards and school districts. On the surface this sounds like a good, worthwhile thing, right? AFSCME and the other unions hate it so it must be a step in the right direction. Think again.
At first glance, HJR 49 looks like it would help Illinois’ growing pension and benefit obligations, but a little quick analysis shows that the public sector unions have nothing to worry about. First, the amendment in no way relieves the burden these benefits have on the budget and taxpayers. Reductions are not mentioned at all. Second, the 3/5 majority requirement does next to nothing. If you look back at the votes held in the Illinois General Assembly, you will see that all benefit increases passed with over 60% of the vote. A 3/5 vote does very little at the local level as well. The 3/5 stipulation is not much different from the simple majority. Here are a few examples:
The point is that most local governing bodies number 10 or less, so a simple majority grants benefit increases in the same way they always had. HJR 49 has had no affect at all.
In addition, the very first sentence provides a way for legislators to avoid even a 3/5 majority. “
(a) No bill, except a bill for appropriations, …” What is to stop savvy legislators from burying benefits into an appropriations bill? Nothing.
This amendment is a masquerade for real pension reform. This amendment does nothing more than allow lawmakers to grab some headlines and falsely declare that they are serious about tackling the debt that threatens to bankrupt Illinois. While there are many representatives and senators that recognize that HJR49 isn’t much of anything, there is a genuine reason to believe that other legislators will take the opportunity to say that their mission is accomplished and they will have little incentive to do any substantial reform.
On November 6th, vote NO on Amendment 49. Vote NO for a meaningless promise and vote yes to showing that you are intelligent and won’t be fooled by this sham.
By Ron Brzoska
In the past couple of weeks national attention was once again brought to our educational system through the Chicago Teachers Union strike. I won’t get into the issues and resolution to the strike. That has been discussed ad nauseam, and I have nothing new or enlightening to add to that topic. I won’t be discussing the Lake Forest teachers strike either. That strike was simply about money. There are no pretenses about ideological issues. What I would like to discuss is the more local picture…because a lot is happening right here in my little piece of Illinois. Things that are happening that have nothing to do with public sector unions or collective bargaining. Things that as parents we must wake up to and become active participants in the education of our children.
The first issue to be discussed is a speaker, Jessica Ahlquist, that was brought on a speaking tour of DuPage County area high schools during the past week in celebration of the 225th anniversary of the Constitution. Ms. Ahlquist was sponsored on this tour by the Citizens Advocacy Center. The problem with this speaking tour was that its intentions are a little less than transparent. The controversy is described in this article. http://elmhurst.patch.com/articles/jessica-ahlquist-athiest-york-high-school. The parents received permission slips that did not explain the content of the presentation or the sponsor group, the Citizens Advocacy Center. The parents were expecting a presentation on the Constitution and its importance in our government, but instead their children received a presentation on why prayer in school is wrong. While that is a healthy discussion for debate, and a healthy debate for our young people, it was presented as a one-sided lecture. This lecture was also given under false pretenses as evidenced by the lack of information on the permission slip. The responsibility for this lack of transparency should be laid at the feet of York High School. In addition to the flip/flop and murkiness on the requirements of the permission slip and whether the presentation is curriculum or not, they may guilty of not simply doing their homework. The Citizens Advocacy Center is a progressive activist group. Please take a look at them at www.citizenadvocacycenter.org. This organization was founded by Theresa Amato, who ran Green Party Candidate Ralph Nader’s presidential campaigns…twice. For those that are not in the know, the Green Party is for people that think the Democratic Party is too conservative. A list of the links to other organizations they recommend on their website has many progressive organizations listed.
Progressives believe that the Constitution is an outdated document. They believe that it is open to interpretation and change to address the situations and challenges that they believe the founders could never have thought of. Progressives believe that law is dynamic and relative to the situation. They also believe that as man evolves, we no longer need checks and balances in government. Those get in the way of action. Man is better and smarter now. We don’t need checks and balances. The government can be trusted. Dictators like King George no longer exist. They believe that government can be used as a tool to solve just about any problem. You don’t have to believe me. This is not my assessment. Please feel free to read the works of Woodrow Wilson. I’m only paraphrasing his words. Taking our children out of class on Constitution Day and bringing them to a progressive presentation is equivalent to bringing a group of students to a David Duke lecture on Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. Being a parent, I want to know what is part of the lesson plan. We are entrusting our teachers with our children for up to eight hours a day in some cases. We are owed this transparency.
In Hinsdale High School District 86 there is an issue regarding the showing of certain movies in an elective film class. A parent has raised objections to the showing of Brokeback Mountain and American Beauty in an elective class, Film as Literature. The debate here is the same as the one waged during our generation and our parents’ generation over what books are suitable for students and what values are out schools trying to teach our children. A story from the Patch is linked: http://darien-il.patch.com/articles/highly-controversial-movies-being-shown-in-class-has-d86-parent-concerned. I had made a comment on this story below:
I’m not clear on what the purpose of the class is. I have seen American Beauty, Brokeback Mountain, and two other films on the syllabus, The Graduate, and Old School. The name of the class is Film as Literature, so I suspect movies are to be broken down like when we studied books when I was in high school. Each book and a theme that we were studying. So what is the theme of Old School. Is there really anything to be learned by the movie Old School? Don’t get me wrong; I love the movie and this story will probably get me to dig it out and watch it again, but it’s just a fun time. There is nothing intellectual about it. I think if the lesson plan were more transparent, many parental concerns could be relieved.
As for the commentors that feel the board should not have approval rights over what is in class or the summer reading lists, please remember that movies, music, and summer reading are all a part of the curriculum. You can’t say one media (textbooks) is ok to screen and others are not. This is especially true today with the way many teachers are looking at alternative ways to teach our children as a way to reach and stimulate our children’s’ minds. Textbooks are gradually going by the wayside. We elect our school board members to spend our tax money wisely and make sure our children are prepared for college and their adult lives. The board is supposed to represent us. Teachers should never have cart blanche as to what they teach. What if the class had movies such American History X, Birth of a Nation, or that stupid Innocence of Muslims movie? Wouldn’t parents have a right to be concerned and upset then? Sure they would.