Archive for the ‘Illinois’ tag
Personally, I don’t think hospitals should be exempt from property tax. What exactly is the standard here, that if a corporation “does good” they don’t have to pay their fair share of tax? Who defines what the good is? Who monitors it?
Lisa Schencker reports:
Illinois not-for-profit hospitals currently are exempt from having to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in property taxes so long as the value of their charitable services is equal to or greater than their estimated tax liabilities.
But some municipalities argue that many not-for-profit hospitals are more like businesses, making handsome profits. They say hospitals should have to contribute their fair share of taxes to their communities, like any other business. A 2009 report by the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability said 47 Chicago-area not-for-profit hospitals had property tax exemptions worth a total of $279 million.
About 156 of Illinois’ more than 200 hospitals are not-for-profit.
In the case before the state Supreme Court, the city of Urbana and others argue that Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana should not be exempt from paying property taxes. They say the 2012 state law allowing hospitals to be exempt if they provide charity equal in value to their property tax liabilities is unconstitutional. The state constitution only allows such exemptions if the property in question is used exclusively for charitable purposes, they say.
Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing said after oral arguments Thursday that regardless of what the court decides — or doesn’t decide — the issue is one the legislature should weigh.
The hospital association might work with lawmakers to craft a new law if the court strikes the current one down. Association President and CEO A.J. Wilhelmi has said the group will “assess all options” once a ruling is made.
“Why should the most profitable companies in the state be shifting their burden onto every other business and homeowner?” Prussing asked.
Last year, a study published in the journal Health Affairs named Carle the 10th most profitable hospital in the country when it came to patient care services, with $163.5 million in profits in fiscal year 2013.
(click here to continue reading Illinois Supreme Court weighs whether hospitals must pay property taxes – Chicago Tribune.)
I don’t believe that churches should be exempt either, unless they can scientifically prove that god exists. Are medical cannabis dispensaries tax exempt? Planned Parenthood clinics? Is Feeding America’s offices on Wacker Drive tax free? What about ACLU headquarters? Union halls? Bars and taverns? Wrigley Field? Seriously, where does it end? Our society would be much better off and more equitable if corporations didn’t get so many freebies from taxpayers. I’ve always liked the idea of a “mandatory minimum” for corporations above a certain size – the idea that Boeing and Archer Daniels Midland and all the rest can’t evade taxes by exploiting shell corporations and loopholes.
Continuing on the theme of the day, Mary Wisniewski writes:
In comic book movies, transportation infrastructure problems are easy to spot.
Bridges fall. Asphalt shatters. And unless Ironman funds the repairs out of his personal fortune, big public debt issues are ahead.
In real life, damage to roads and rails tends to be gradual, though ultimately just as ruinous to regional well-being.
With a new Illinois capital program delayed as the state goes 11 months without a budget, transit leaders have been sounding the alarm in both Washington, D.C., and Springfield about the dangers of waiting too long to invest in infrastructure. Business, labor and transit leaders will ramp up discussion nationwide Monday for the start of the thrillingly named Infrastructure Week.
It’s a tough sell — roads, buses and trains seem to work just fine until they don’t, and politicians don’t like to raise gas taxes or other user fees. Regional Transportation Authority Executive Director Leanne Redden admits that funding for bridges, signals and tunnels is not a sexy topic, but it’s crucial to keep the system going the way it should.
(click here to continue reading The big sell: Making people care about infrastructure repair – Chicago Tribune.)
Infrastructure is ignored until there is a crisis, alternatively, we could invest in the country and its workers before disaster strikes. Or money gets left unspent because Governor Rauner has a different agenda…
For the Chicago Transit Authority, for example, the lack of state capital funding has meant $1 billion in federal money may get left on the table. The passage of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act last year made federal dollars available, but state matches are needed to access them.
“A capital program would be very helpful, or else those funds could be put at risk,” CTA President Dorval Carter Jr. said. He said the money is needed for projects like the Red and Purple Line modernization, and rail and right of way improvements to prevent slow zones.
CTA needs a total of $13 billion in capital spending over the next decade to get the system in a state of good repair, Carter said.
Metra needs $11.7 billion in capital funding over the next 10 years. Because that’s a tall order, the board has made two programs top priorities — positive train control, a federally mandated computerized system to prevent train collisions, and new or rehabbed rolling stock. That would include 367 new railcars. (The agency currently has funding for 10.)
Some of Metra’s railcars are 63 years old. “They’re eligible for Medicare in a couple of years,” joked Metra CEO Don Orseno ruefully.
Besides new cars and locomotives, Orseno said Metra needs a better maintenance schedule for its old ones. Walking around a big, barnlike rail repair facility on 49th Street last week, Orseno and Metra capital projects manager Lexie Walker showed how cars are stripped down and rebuilt — with new floors, seats, toilets, air conditioning, outlets for plugging in laptops and wheelchairs, plus new wheels and brakes.
What about roads, you ask? They are as neglected, with no positive news forthcoming:
[Illinois] cannot afford to keep up the roads it has now. One of the pressing needs for the Illinois Department of Transportation is a rebuild of the aging and congested Eisenhower Expressway, similar to the reconstruction of the Dan Ryan in 2007, said Peter Skosey, executive vice president of the Metropolitan Planning Council, a nonprofit focused on regional growth.
“Money for that project isn’t even on the radar,” Skosey said.
He noted that no system is going to be in perfect shape all the time — it’s like your house, you want to keep it in a state of at least 90 percent repair, with a few projects on a to-do list. But Illinois’ state of repair is currently below 80 percent and could drop below 60 percent in the next five years, Skosey said.
Skosey noted that closed roads and bridges lead to gridlock, which already costs the region $7 billion a year. On an individual level, bad roads cost the average Illinois driver $400 to $800 a year in car repairs.
Have you noticed those newish stop signs at crosswalks? Cars apparently keep running them over…
The stop signs have been installed citywide at 220 locations since mid-2012 to increase compliance with a 2010 state law requiring drivers to stop whenever a pedestrian has entered a crosswalk.
The law amended a previously existing law, which safety officials considered vague, requiring drivers only to yield to pedestrians. It also applies to all intersections across Illinois, sign or no sign.
More than 3,000 accidents and an average of 30 pedestrian deaths a year in the city are caused by vehicles hitting people, according to the Chicago Police Department. This year’s death toll is 29, authorities said Friday.
Chicago police officers issued 1,933 tickets to drivers who violated the must-stop law during 86 enforcement stings this year at intersections where pedestrian crashes have occurred or where the public has complained about drivers failing to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, police said Friday.
In the enforcement operations, a plainclothes officer attempts to cross at a crosswalk. Drivers who fail to stop are pursued by squad cars and issued $120 tickets.
(click here to continue reading Most stop-for-pedestrian signs hit by cars, city data shows – Chicago Tribune.)
To be honest, I missed the fact that this law has changed. And when I’m a pedestrian, I think most Chicago drivers missed that the law changed too…
Seriously, if the police start really enforcing this law, they could easily do nothing but write tickets all day and all night. Many cars speed up if you step foot in a crosswalk, few slow down, fewer stop. I walk the city streets a lot, in many different neighborhoods, in my quest to photograph everything interesting at least once, and I can count the times a car stopped for me in a crosswalk on my left hand. Not many times, in other words.
Illinois Democratic governor Pat Quinn, the incumbent, is not someone to get excited about, but his opponent in the upcoming election is a non-Mormon clone of Mitt Romney, down to the off-shore tax havens. Bruce Rauner won’t release his tax returns either, basically thumbing his nose at the electorate.
Multimillionaire Republican Bruce Rauner has channeled at least part of his fortune into the Cayman Islands, a Caribbean paradise long criticized as a tax haven for American investors, the Chicago Sun-Times has confirmed.
A Rauner spokesman insisted that the former private equity investor has met his legal tax obligations and properly disclosed to the federal government information regarding at least five investments by him or his firm in a country that has no income tax and a financial system cloaked in secrecy.
Rauner’s campaign has refused so far to release a full set of his most recent tax returns to corroborate that and perhaps show the extent and value of those investments in offshore companies. No one has suggested Rauner has done anything illegal. In fact, offshore investments among the wealthy have been a common practice in recent years.
(click here to continue reading Bruce Rauner channeled part of fortune to Cayman Islands | Early & Often.)
Are people really going to vote for this plutocrat who is too good, too powerful, too rich to pay his fair share of taxes to a near bankrupt state? If you planned to run for political office, why would you do this? And worse, once news of Rauner’s lack of patriotism was exposed, he doubled down on it.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner funneled part of his wealth to a Caribbean territory long considered a tax haven, a business practice he defended yesterday, stressing there was no impact on his personal tax rate.
A central part of Gov. Pat Quinn’s re-election bid has been scrutinizing how the multimillionaire Rauner made his money, and the Chicago Democrat’s campaign has alleged Rauner “stashed” money to avoid paying taxes. “I’d think someone who anticipates being in the public eye wouldn’t be in the Cayman Islands because the question to be asked is, ‘Why would you have invested there?'” Richard L. Kaplan, a University of Illinois law professor told the newspaper. “
AT NO POINT HAVE I TRIED TO AVOID TAXES’
Rauner dismissed the notion yesterday after speaking to Asian leaders in Chinatown.
“At no point have I tried to avoid taxes or done these things that they’re trying to spin,” he said…
“GTCR has its own structure for just a couple of investments. When they invest in overseas companies, they set up that particular structure. It doesn’t impact our personal tax rate whatsoever.”
Cayman, a British territory, is considered one of the world’s largest financial centers and a haven for mutual funds and private equity. International companies and ultra-rich investors have long taken advantage of offshore financial centers there, drawn by regulations and legal systems making it easy to move capital internationally.
(click here to continue reading Rauner defends Cayman Islands money move – Government News – Crain’s Chicago Business.)
and as Aaron Cynic of the Chicagost writes, this isn’t trivial amounts of money, but most likely millions of dollars:
While Rauner might be in full legal compliance, the practice itself allows major corporations and other wealthy individuals to skip out on paying taxes in the United States. According to a June report from the group Citizens for Tax Justice, U.S. based multinational corporations booking profits in tax shelters like the Cayman’s has allowed them to skip out on an estimated $90 billion in federal income taxes. For someone trying to save the Illinois economy with a tax plan that targets professional and business services – many of which are smaller businesses – sheltering profits from a company boasting a $10 billion investment portfolio seems somewhat duplicitous, at best.
(click here to continue reading Rauner Defends Dumping Dollars Into Off-Shore Accounts: Chicagoist.)
Santa Anna’s Prosthetic Leg
Good for the Illinois State Military Museum for standing up to self-important Texans. The funny thing is, the leg as an artifact has very little to do with Texas, as it was found by Illinois soldiers, near Veracruz, Mexico, in 1847 after the Battle of Cerro Gordo. I’m not sure why Texas thinks it has more of a right to the leg than Santa Anna’s family1 or a Mexican museum.
Illinois museum officials say their Lone Star State counterparts have no leg to stand on as they seek a prosthesis from Springfield.
The curator of the Illinois State Military Museum plans to keep Mexican Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s wooden leg despite a failed petition that sought to temporarily display the artifact in suburban Houston.
For Texans, it seems to be a bit of a sore point that the artificial limb resides in a glass case 875 miles northeast of the Alamo.
But folks here say the fake leg, a battlefield trophy captured by soldiers from Illinois in 1847 in the Mexican-American War and then carried back to Illinois, is a piece of local military history that’s a big draw at the downstate museum.
“It’s not going anywhere,” said curator Bill Lear. “It’s going to stay.
“This is a centerpiece of the museum and a very important artifact to tell the story of Illinois soldiers and the sacrifice that they have made in service of this country.”
As eager as Texas is to display Santa Anna’s leg, Lear said it’s not clear that the prosthesis has even been in the Lone Star State. Santa Anna had both his legs while leading Mexican forces at the Alamo, more than a decade before Cerro Gordo. Lear said the prosthetic limb was captured in Mexico and apparently taken to Illinois via New Orleans.
(click here to continue reading Museum sticks to its guns over Santa Anna’s leg – chicagotribune.com.)
and yet the San Jacinto Museum of History seems to think the leg should be in their museum. Weird, even if after publicity, the museum claimed it was a light-hearted request…
“I cannot imagine a president from Illinois seriously trying to remove a piece of Illinois history and send it to Texas,” [San Jacinto museum president Larry Spasic] said this week.
Spasic said Texas feels the leg should be lent to the San Jacinto museum because it is part of the deeply shared history with Mexico and its leader.
“It’s all interrelated,” he said. “The history of Mexico and Texas is all one and the same, to a great extent. Does that give us a great latitude of claiming a large part of Mexico’s history as our own? Yes, I say.”
“No one had anything in mind for removing it by force,” he said. “And if the leg goes missing, we’ll just keep it between us.”
(click here to continue reading Illinois museum has Santa Anna’s leg, and Texas site wants it | Dallas Morning News.)
Yeah, sure buddy. The center of the universe is just outside of Houston, everything orbits around Texas.Footnotes:
- if it still exists [↩]
We’ve been following this story for a while, so an update from Phil Rosenthal and Ray Long:
Archer Daniels Midland, unable to secure the special tax incentives it sought from Illinois legislators, nonetheless announced Wednesday that it will go forward with its plan to move its world headquarters to Chicago from Decatur, Ill.
The agriculture giant said it plans to locate 50 to 75 executives in Chicago to a site that has not yet been selected. That’s down from the 100 jobs the company originally cited in its bid to win Springfield approval for special payroll tax incentives worth up to $30 million over 20 years.
“While we considered other global hubs, Chicago emerged as the best location to provide efficient access to global markets while maintaining our close connections with U.S. farmers, customers and operations,” said ADM Chairman and CEO Patricia Woertz said in a statement Wednesday morning. “Chicago also provides an environment where we can attract and retain employees with diverse skills, and where their family members can find ample career opportunities.”
The politicians who opposed a cash-strapped state giving a $1.5 million annual tax break to a company with a market cap of more than $27 billion can claim they held their ground. But absent the incentives package, ADM would not have to make assurances about ongoing staffing levels.
(click here to continue reading ADM to move headquarters to Chicago – chicagotribune.com.)
Like I said before, talented executives want to live in a place that’s interesting, in a city that has culture, restaurants, and so on. If free money is offered, of course corporations are going to take it, but without it? They would still rather live somewhere where nightlife consists of more than just Wednesday night bingo.
It appears that ADM has a robust enough business that they don’t need corporate welfare to stay in business after all, in contrast to the barely above-water Office Depot/OfficeMax corporation, which decided to keep its HQ in Florida.
Office Depot said Tuesday it has chosen Boca Raton, Fla. for its new headquarters over Naperville.
Office Depot completed its merger with Naperville-based OfficeMax last month, but the pair hadn’t yet announced where the combined company would be based.
The companies asked for tax breaks from both states. Illinois lawmakers adjourned last week before making a decision.
(click here to continue reading Office Depot picks Florida over Illinois for new headquarters – Chicago Tribune.)
A cynic might note that Office Depot was the purchaser of OfficeMax, and Office Depot’s HQ was already located in Florida, thus any discussion of moving to Illinois was mostly about leverage to shake down the State of Florida for tax breaks. Also, for what its worth, Florida doesn’t have a state income tax, a fact overpaid executives are probably well aware of.
One last point, ADM might have negotiated a back-room deal with Illinois politicians – the tax incentives might miraculously show up during next year’s legislative session, we’ll have to continue to pay attention.
I’ve long suspected this to be true:
When Motorola Mobility lined up a Silicon Valley candidate a few months ago for a VP-level role, the phone maker was hopeful he’d accept. After all, the company offered the chance to develop products at a subsidiary of Google Inc.
The engineer declined. His reason: the prospect of relocating to Libertyville, Ill., about 35 miles from downtown Chicago, said Scott Sullivan, Motorola’s head of human resources.
Mr. Sullivan expects recruiting to get a lot easier next February when the company moves into a new space in the storied Merchandise Mart building in downtown Chicago.
Motorola will join United Continental Holdings Inc., Hillshire Brands Co. —the successor to Sara Lee Corp.— and other corporate giants abandoning vast suburban campuses for urban offices nearer to the young, educated and hyper-connected workers who will lead their businesses into the digital age. Archer Daniels Midland Co. recently said it would move its headquarters from Decatur, Ill., and in the Bay Area, startups like Pinterest Inc. are departing Silicon Valley for San Francisco.
After decades of big businesses leaving the city for the suburbs, U.S. firms have begun a new era of corporate urbanism. Nearly 200 Fortune 500 companies are currently headquartered in the top 50 cities. Many others are staying put in the suburbs but opening high-profile satellite offices in nearby cities, sometimes aided by tax breaks and a recession that tempered downtown rents. And upstart companies are following suit, according to urban planners. The bottom line: companies are under pressure to establish an urban presence that projects an image of dynamism and innovation.
(click here to continue reading Companies Say Goodbye to the ‘Burbs – WSJ.com.)
which makes it more puzzling why governments (state, city both) dangle tax breaks to encourage corporations to relocate. The truth is the executives much rather would live in vibrant cities, not B.F.E. rural Alabama for the most part. The employees would rather live in a place that is fun to live in, a place with culture, award-winning restaurants, recreation, and even sports teams. As a totally random example, Sinead O’Connor came through Chicago, playing for a few days at the City Winery. Do you think she’s playing in Gulfport, Mississippi? Or Decatur, IL? So why does ADM, for instance, stamp its feet for a tax break from a state that’s already operating at a deficit? Happily, the Illinois House adjourned before granting payola graft to ADM, though the IL Senate passed their version of this travesty, right before cutting pensions for teachers.
Two bills that would grant special tax breaks for three companies have stalled until state lawmakers return here in the spring. The bills, aimed at allowing Archer Daniels Midland, Office Depot, and Univar to retain withholding taxes that would go to the state, passed the Senate during a one-day special session Tuesday. But the House adjourned, stalling the bills.
All three companies have said they are considering proposals from other states.
“We appreciate the support of the senators who voted for the bill, especially the leadership of Sen. (Andy) Manar. Given that the House did not act, we will review our options. We expect to make an announcement soon,” Jackie Anderson, an ADM spokeswoman, said in a statement.
…Office Depot and Univar declined to comment.
Had the bills been approved, the incentives would have cost the state an estimated $88 million.
Unions, which opposed the plan to deal with worker pensions, criticized the incentives bills.
“At a time when Illinois is a chronic deadbeat and critical resources such as education, public safety and healthcare remain woefully under-funded, our elected representatives today voted to sink the state further into red ink by absolving some of its richest corporations from paying their fair share in taxes,” Keith Kelleher, president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Kansas, said in a statement.
Office Depot, chemical distributor Univar and agriculture giant ADM are among at least a half-dozen companies seeking special state legislation to keep their employees’ tax withholdings instead of forwarding them to the state. The companies want the special breaks because they have years in which they have little or no state corporate tax liability and can’t take advantage of state tax breaks awarded to spur economic development.
(click here to continue reading Tax breaks for Office Depot, Univar inch closer to approval – chicagotribune.com.)
Yeah, I’d rather Office Depot and A.D.M. have strong enough businesses that they could survive without resorting to corporate welfare…
We’re pleased to announce that the Amazon Associates program is again open to residents of the State of Illinois. We’re now able to re-open the program because the Illinois State Supreme Court recently struck down legislation that had forced Amazon to close the program to residents of Illinois. Amazon strongly supports federal legislation like the Marketplace Fairness Act that’s now pending before Congress, which is the only constitutional way to resolve interstate sales tax collection issues.
Residents of Illinois who would like to participate in the Amazon Associates program can submit an application here:
Thanks for your past participation in the Amazon Associates program. We hope to see you again soon.
Well that was a big circle around the campfire…
Corporate welfare is an ugly practice. I’ve long been opposed to the sports stadium boondoggle, where the public pays for an expensive stadium, instead of the billionaires who own the team, but at least with those sorts of deals, the area gets to root for laundry with the city name on it. Some form of civic pride, some vague benefit. Corporate vampires like ADM draining the nearly bloodless corpse of the state government is much worse. It is as if Illinois was flush with cash – it isn’t – and a backwards state that no business wants to be located in – it isn’t. Notice too how Greg Webb of ADM won’t even guarantee that ADM will stay until the ink is dry on the bill.
So ADM basically says, “Give us money you don’t have, and maybe you’ll get something in return come election time. Or not”. What a crock.
State lawmakers Wednesday took a step closer to granting special incentives to companies seeking thousands of dollars per job created or retained in Illinois.
Agricultural giant Archer Daniels Midland Co. is seeking $5,000 per job per year, chemical distributor Univar Inc. almost $3,000 and OfficeMax, which became Office Depot after its merger this week, $1,570.
All the companies are seeking to collect their employees’ tax withholdings instead of forwarding them to the state. The reason for the requests is that companies have years in which they have little or no state tax obligation and can’t take advantage of incentives negotiated with the state.
The ADM measure would tie incentives to 300 jobs: moving 100 jobs from Decatur, where it’s based, to the company’s new global headquarters, and creating 100 jobs at the headquarters and 100 jobs in Decatur. The company would also be required to fill 100 positions annually in Decatur for five years, including jobs created because of retirements. The incentive will total about $1.5 million a year for 15 to 20 years, a company spokeswoman said.
Sen. David Luechtefeld, of downstate Okawville, asked during a Senate committee hearing whether ADM would guarantee it would keep its headquarters in the state if the measure is approved.
“I don’t know about the guarantee part,” said Greg Webb, ADM’s vice president of government relations. He later added: “I’m going to tell you that we have a preference for Illinois.”
(click here to continue reading Lawmakers closer to granting special incentives to companies creating or retaining jobs in Illinois – chicagotribune.com.)
The corporate vampires have such a low tax burden, despite their profitability, they cannot “take advantage of incentives negotiated with the state”. Right, here is their great idea. Create even more incentives negotiated with the state, with a half-hearted promise to keep the headquarters in Chicago. There is no language in the bill that even requires ADM to create the jobs the $30,000,000 is allegedly buying. In other words, if the bill passes, and in 2014, ADM decided to move to Mississippi, well then, this was all for nought.
And then there’s these vampires, playing one area against another:
At the same hearing, Office Depot interim co-CEO Ravi Saligram said a new proposal requiring the company to create 200 jobs in the state, in addition to retaining 2,050, would cost Illinois $53 million over 15 years.
Saligram said the newly merged company is also seeking incentives from Florida before deciding where to locate its new corporate headquarters. Office Depot, which merged with Naperville-based OfficeMax, employs 1,700 at its Boca Raton, Fla., headquarters.
Office Depot already has a multimillion-dollar package of incentives with Florida and Palm Beach County based on job creation.
(click here to continue reading Lawmakers closer to granting special incentives to companies creating or retaining jobs in Illinois – chicagotribune.com.)
and these one:
Separately, House lawmakers Wednesday approved a bill that paves the way for chemical distributor Univar Inc. to receive incentives worth $5 million over 10 years. The Redmond, Wash.-based company is considering moving its headquarters to Downers Grove, said Rep. Michael Zalewski, D-Riverside, the sponsor of the bill.
Zalewski said Univar is different from other companies seeking incentives because it’s considering moving its headquarters to Illinois.
(click here to continue reading Lawmakers closer to granting special incentives to companies creating or retaining jobs in Illinois – chicagotribune.com.)
Whoever came up with this system should be exiled to Somalia. There is exactly zero evidence any of these corporate welfare programs help the state government, in any tangible way. None! or as Rep. Jack Franks of Marengo said:
There is no evidence that this is a good deal for the state.
There seems to be some sort of metaphor here. Compare and contrast, Illinois vs. Texas…
Illinois increases highway speeds:
Drivers tooling through the Illinois countryside will be able to nudge the gas pedal a little harder next year after Gov. Pat Quinn overcame safety concerns and approved legislation Monday that will raise the speed limit on rural interstates to 70 mph.
Dodging a possible veto showdown, Quinn signed the measure despite opposition from the Illinois Department of Transportation, state police and leading roadway safety organizations, who feared increased mayhem on the highways, especially between cars and trucks.
“This limited 5 miles-per-hour increase will bring Illinois’ rural interstate speed limits in line with our neighbors’ and the majority of states across America, while preventing an increase in excessive speeding,” Quinn said in a statement.
The six-county Chicago region — home to some of the nation’s busiest interstates — would be allowed to set lower speed limits under the law, as would two Illinois counties near St. Louis. The speed limit would increase on the Illinois Tollway but also could be kept at current limits on some stretches, according to the governor’s office.
The speed limit in Illinois is 55 mph in metropolitan areas and 65 on rural highways. But on Jan. 1, Illinois will become the 37th state to approve limits of 70 mph or higher since the national speed limit was repealed almost two decades ago.
(click here to continue reading Quinn signs 70 mph speed limit law for Illinois – chicagotribune.com.)
Steep Road Ahead
while in some areas of Texas, the conservative mantra of private profit over public services finally yields to reality – the government cannot afford to maintain the roads anymore.
Citing a funding shortfall and the impact of a historic oil drilling boom, Texas Department of Transportation officials on Thursday announced plans to move forward with converting some roads in West and South Texas to gravel.
Approximately 83 miles of asphalt roads will be torn up and converted to “unpaved” roads, TxDOT Deputy Executive Director John Barton said. The speed limits on those roads will probably be reduced to 30 mph.
“We would do these immediately, and I would suspect we would continue to convert other roadway segments as we continue to move forward,” Barton told the Texas Transportation Commission.
All of the affected roads have been so heavily damaged by truck activity related to oil and natural gas exploration that they have become safety hazards, Barton said. The process of converting the roads to gravel can be done quickly but will probably be delayed a few weeks as TxDOT gets permission from the commissioners to lower the speed limits on all of the impacted segments, Barton said.
The impacted roads are in four South Texas counties — Live Oak, Dimmit, LaSalle and Zavala — and two West Texas counties — Reeves and Culberson. The list of impacted roads includes a three-mile stretch of frontage road for Interstate 37 in Live Oak County. Barton said a plant that processes oil and natural gas has dramatically increased the truck traffic on that road.
“Instead of whipping in at 70 miles per hour, they’ll have to move in there at 30 miles per hour,” Barton said.
(click here to continue reading TxDOT Plans to Convert Some Roads to Gravel | The Texas Tribune.)
Illinois is no haven of joy, but at least the IL government isn’t so cowed by corporations they cannot collect enough in taxes to keep roads paved…
The part I cannot understand is why Rick Perry’s friends in the oil industry are allowing this to happen. Won’t slower traffic impact profits?
Steve Benen adds:
The state legislature briefly considered tax increases on energy companies — the companies that have benefited greatly from the energy boom, and which are chiefly responsible for pushing the roads quite literally past the breaking point — but as you might have guessed, those proposals faced stiff political opposition and never gained traction in Austin.
Darlene Meyer, a 77-year-old rancher whose property sits along a state road marked for conversion to gravel, told the Texas Tribune, “Texas used to have the best roads…. I just can’t believe the Department of Transportation is going back to the dark ages.”
…On the one hand, Gov. Rick Perry (R) believes Texas’ economy is amazing, and he’s managed to strike the perfect balance between meeting the public’s needs and keeping the private sector happy. Every other state, the governor assures us, should be following Texas’ lead — after all, thanks to the energy sector, the Lone Star State has plenty of money.
On the other hand, thanks to wear and tear from the oil companies, which have made themselves remarkably rich from Texas’ resources, Texas can no longer afford to pave many of its roads, and will instead transition from pavement to gravel.
(click here to continue reading A different kind of Stone Age – The Maddow Blog.)
Welcome to the 21st century, Illinois…
Though Illinois is drastically restricting what medical conditions and under what conditions a patient can legally have the herb, nonetheless, this is progress from the Bad Old Days when Mayor Richard J. Daley’s thugs beat people with billy clubs for smoking a joint.
But unlike Colorado, which has come under fire for lax marijuana regulations even as the state gets ready to legalize recreational pot use next year, drafters of Illinois’ law say it will be among the toughest in the nation.
Patients here can’t grow their own pot and must have an existing relationship with a prescribing doctor. To qualify, patients must be diagnosed with a serious to chronic illness laid out in the law, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma or HIV. It’s likely that patients would have to pay out of pocket for marijuana, as it is not typically covered by insurance companies.
The Illinois Department of Public Health will be in charge of issuing medical marijuana cards to patients and their caregivers, who could purchase and administer pot on behalf of those who are ill. Patients and caregivers would be fingerprinted, undergo background checks and must promise not to sell or give away marijuana. Workers at grow centers and dispensaries will undergo the same vetting.
The state will license 22 growers, one for each State Police district, as well as up to 60 dispensing centers to be spread across the state. Exactly where those growers and sellers could locate will be up to state regulators. Local communities could enforce strict zoning laws, but they could not prevent a grower or dispensary from setting up shop in town.
Growers and dispensaries will be charged a 7 percent “privilege tax,” which will be used to enforce the medical marijuana law. Patients will be charged a 1 percent tax for purchasing pot, the same rate that applies to pharmaceuticals. Additionally, growers and dispensaries would be banned from donating to political campaigns.
Marijuana use would be banned in public, in vehicles, around minors and near school grounds. Property owners would have the ability to ban marijuana use on their grounds. Employers would maintain their rights to a drug-free work place, meaning someone with a valid medical marijuana card could be fired for using the drug if their employer prohibits it.
Advocates argue that Illinois’ law is drafted tightly enough to prevent intervention from the federal government, which classifies all marijuana use as illegal. But the discrepancy between state and national law is already causing concerns for some military veterans, as federally run veterans hospitals say their doctors won’t issue prescriptions for illegal drugs.
(click here to continue reading Illinois governor to sign medical marijuana bill today – chicagotribune.com.)
and the qualifying medical conditions are currently listed as:
“Debilitating medical condition” means one or more of the following:
- (1) cancer,
- positive status for human
- immunodeficiency virus,
- acquired immune deficiency syndrome,
- hepatitis C,
- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis,
- Crohn’s disease,
- agitation of Alzheimer’s disease,
- cachexia/wasting syndrome,
- muscular dystrophy,
- severe fibromyalgia,
- spinal cord disease, including but not limited to arachnoiditis,
- Tarlov cysts,
- Rheumatoid arthritis,
- fibrous dysplasia,
- spinal cord injury,
- traumatic brain injury and post-concussion syndrome,
- Multiple Sclerosis,
- Arnold-Chiari malformation and Syringomyelia,
- Spinocerebellar Ataxia (SCA),
- Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy,
- RSD (Complex Regional Pain Syndromes Type I),
- CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndromes Type II),
- Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy,
- Sjogren’s syndrome,
- Interstitial Cystitis,
- Myasthenia Gravis,
- nail-patella syndrome,
- or the treatment of these conditions; or
(2) any other debilitating medical condition or its treatment that is added by the Department of Public Health
by rule as provided in Section 45.
(click here to continue reading HB0001ham001 98TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY.)
The Wall Street Journal attempts to smear Democratic governance by using the example of Illinois:
A favorite conceit of Democrats is that the U.S. budget and economy would be A-okay if congressional Republicans weren’t able to obstruct President Obama’s agenda. One counter-argument would be the state of Illinois, where one-party Democratic rule has led to a fiscal crisis that’s culminating in political paralysis.
(click here to continue reading Political Diary: Stand-Off in Springfield – WSJ.com.)
…except California is also governed by the Democratic Party, and they seem to be doing ok:
After years of grueling battles over state budget deficits and spending cuts, California has a new challenge on its hands: too much money. An unexpected surplus is fueling an argument over how the state should respond to its turn of good fortune.
(click here to continue reading California’s New Problem – Too Much Money – NYTimes.com.)
If party is important, what about a little historical perspective?
Bush vs Obama spending
Amusingly, I received a letter from Corporate Records Service such as described by Ms. Madigan earlier today, and the envelope amused me enough to take the above photograph. I laughed, took the photo, and discarded the entire thing into my recycling bin. However, I did retrieve it just now, if anyone wants a copy…
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has filed suit against a company [Corporate Records Service] for allegedly conning businesses into paying unnecessary fees with an official-looking letter.
The bogus letters instructed companies to pay a $125 fee for an “annual minutes records form.” Madigan’s office says the letters were made to look like they were from the Illinois Secretary of State’s office.
Madigan says companies can toss those letters in the garbage. The fee isn’t required by Illinois law.
(click here to continue reading Illinois sues over business letter scam – Springfield, IL – The State Journal-Register.)
via (on Flickr).
I should have taken a clearer photo, but not worth it to take a second.
Welcome to the 21st century, Illinois! Of course, there won’t be a place like Venice Beach anywhere in Chicago, at least for a few years…
Illinois has come within a signature of becoming the 19th state to allow marijuana use for medical purposes.
On Friday, the state Senate voted 35-21 to approve a medical marijuana measure, which now will head for Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk.
Eighteen states and Washington, D.C., have decriminalized marijuana use for medicinal purposes. California did so in 1996, when the state’s voters approved Proposition 215.
(click here to continue reading Illinois Senate approves bill to legalize medical marijuana – chicagotribune.com.)
Keith Richards – Drug Free America
And the details:
Under the proposal, a four-year trial program would be created to allow doctors to prescribe patients no more than 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks. To qualify, patients must have one of 42 serious or chronic conditions listed in the bill — including cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and HIV — and an established relationship with a doctor.
They would undergo fingerprinting and a criminal background check and would be issued a registration ID card. Marijuana use would be banned in public, in vehicles, around minors and near school grounds. Property owners would have the ability to ban marijuana use on their grounds.
Patients could not legally grow marijuana, and would have to buy it from one of 60 dispensing centers across Illinois. The state would license 22 growers, one for every state police district.
If Pat Quinn wants to be re-elected, he should sign this bill quickly.
For the second time in history, federal regulators have accused an American state of securities fraud, finding that Illinois misled investors about the condition of its public pension system from 2005 to 2009. In announcing a settlement with the state on Monday, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused Illinois of claiming that it had been properly funding public workers’ retirement plans when it had not. In particular, it cited the period from 2005 to 2009, when Illinois also issued $2.2 billion in bonds.
S.E.C. Accuses Illinois of Securities Fraud