Categories
government health

Illinois Senate approves bill to legalize medical marijuana

Venice Beach Physicians
Venice Beach Physicians

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
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.

Categories
Links

S.E.C. Accuses Illinois of Securities Fraud

Groves Tasteless Chill Tonic
Groves Tasteless Chill Tonic – Makes Children and Adults As Fat As Pigs.

Earlier today…

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.

Via:
S.E.C. Accuses Illinois of Securities Fraud
[automated]

Categories
Food and Drink government

Zion IL sounds like Hell On Earth

Whisky versus Whiskey
Whisky versus Whiskey

Zion Illinois, a Christian theocracy, sounds like hell on earth, at least to me. Why would anyone want to live there? Maybe there’s more to Zion than just the repression and hypocrisy, but I’d never want to find out.

As in other Chicago suburbs, Zion leaders struggle to provide services with less money, dealing with shrinking budgets, employee layoffs and declining tax revenue. But officials also remain beholden in some ways to the city’s colorful, religion-centric past.

Called “Mayberry-esque” by one business investor, Zion is home to residents who can still recall praying twice daily when a bell tolled. They live on streets named after biblical figures and landmarks, such as Gabriel, Hebron and Ezekiel avenues.

And in trying to balance a community’s history with modern economic development, perhaps no issue is more fraught with controversy than alcohol sales. In Zion, liquor has been sold under strict parameters since voters ended the local prohibition in 2004.

Zion was among the last suburban holdouts as a dry community. Even Wheaton — college alma mater of evangelist Billy Graham — overturned its prohibition on alcohol in 1985 after much controversy.…

Yet ever since the 1998 closing of Zion’s nuclear power plant — once dubbed the “golden goose” by Harrison — officials have tried to replace the millions in lost revenue. They have enjoyed mixed success, aided by the addition of alcohol sales that opened the door to chain restaurants and a hotel that caters to Zion’s largest employer, the Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Midwestern Regional Medical Center.

(click here to continue reading Zion officials struggle with brewery proposal – chicagotribune.com.)

Jesus Hoards
Jesus Hoards

a small bit of history:

JOHN ALEXANDER DOWIE was born in Edinboro’ Scotland on May 25, 1847 and received his religious conviction — while singing a hymn from a street pulpit in that city — at age seven. His family emigrated to Australia when he was thirteen; there he attended seminary and held a number of pastoral positions in the Congregational Church before resigning the last to become a full-time non-denominational evangelist in 1878.

As a young man he experienced a healing from chronic indigestion which he attributed to divine intervention; this led to his growing activity as a faith healer and ultimately to the foundation of his International Divine Healing Association. He left for the United States in 1888, and after two years on the Pacific coast moved to Evanston, Illinois. During the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 he led healing services in a large tabernacle across the way from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

 …Following a decade of legal wrangling with the Chicago authorities, between 1899 and 1901 Dowie secretly bought ten square miles of lakefront land 40 miles to the north and founded a true American theocracy: Zion, Illinois. Here people could — and would — live sinless lives in conditions approximating (as nearly as possible) those obtaining after the Millennium. Whether the New Jerusalem’s citizens will, in fact, be summoned to worship by steam whistle remains to be seen; but they were in Zion.

…Dowie owned everything personally, although settlers were offered 1,100-year leases (i.e., 100 years to usher in the Kingdom and 1,000 for Christ’s millennial reign — after that, seemingly, you were on your own). The leases specifically forbade gambling, dancing, swearing, spitting, theaters, circuses, the manufacture and sale of alcohol or tobacco, pork, oysters, doctors, politicians — and tan-colored shoes. The city police carried a billy club on one hip and a Bible on the other; their helmets were adorned with a dove and the word “PATIENCE.” At the height of his power and influence, Dowie was worth several million dollars and claimed 50,000 followers, 6,000 of whom lived in Zion City.

  In 1901 Dowie proclaimed himself “Elijah the Restorer” and began to wear High-Priestly robes. This caused many disciples to fall away; the subsequent decrease in income combined with the expenses of building Zion marked the beginning of Dowie’s slide into bankruptcy. It was at this time that rumors of his polygamous teaching and activities, use of alcohol, and extravagant lifestyle began to gain currency, not only in the world, but also within the Church

(click here to continue reading John Alexander Dowie | Evangelist – Biography | Zion City, Illinois.)

Valpolicella Classico 2007 finito
Valpolicella Classico 2007 finito

…and since business decisions are secondary to interpretations of Christian doctrine, Zion is not a home of the free…

Finally, the businessmen were referred to the Planning and Zoning Board, which would review their original request to rent space within the former lace factory. The 385,000-square-foot brick building was one of the first businesses Dowie opened in Zion, which was incorporated in 1902.

Dowie’s early designs for the city are woven throughout Zion’s fabric, and they have continued to court controversy over the years.

“He would roll over in his grave because of the liquor. Other than that, I think he’d be fairly impressed,” said Commissioner Jim Taylor, citing the city’s attempts to preserve buildings such as Dowie’s original home, the Shiloh House.

By 1903, Dowie had attracted newcomers to his Christian utopia from Southern states and elsewhere around the world, with many hoping that he could heal them of disease. He had gained notoriety for his faith healing during Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and found an international audience with a publication, “Leaves of Healing.”

He opened a wood-frame hotel where new residents lived until their houses were built. The hotel is long gone, but a gold dome was salvaged and is about to be repainted by a local business, Coral Chemical Co.

In 1990, city leaders were forced to drop the Zion corporate seal, which included a cross, a dove and a crown, after a federal court found it to be an unconstitutional endorsement of Christianity.

Well-known atheist Rob Sherman took the city back to court over the seal last fall, after city Commissioner Shantal Taylor resurrected it in an ad for a community event.

Taylor promised Judge James Zagel she wouldn’t use the seal again. She continues, though, to frame her personal vision for Zion within a Christian context.

“I really believe that great things are going to happen in Zion again,” said Taylor, opposed to the brewery. “If we go by a saying, ‘History repeats itself,’ then Zion is in for one heck of a repeat because this city was created to bring the God of gods glory.”

(click here to continue reading Zion officials struggle with brewery proposal – chicagotribune.com.)

Categories
politics

Mitt Romney could’ve avoided epic Illinois battle

I'm With Stupid
Stupidity On the Right

Speaking of the Illinois primary, Mitt Romney’s vaunted organization made a major error:

the Illinois GOP awards all of its 54 delegates by congressional district—three delegates to the winner of each of the 18 CDs in the state.

Delegates for Santorum in January filed the minimum legal number of petition signatures to appear on the ballot in just four of Illinois’ 18 available congressional districts, a review of petition signatures found. In 10 others, delegates who filed signatures came far short of the 600 required to appear on the ballot, a review of the signatures found. They didn’t file any delegates in four districts. “They were woefully short,” state treasurer and Romney Illinois campaign Chairman Dan Rutherford said.

The petitions of Santorum delegates were initially challenged in January, but those challenges were withdrawn shortly after they were filed, said Illinois Board of Elections Director Rupert Borgsmiller.

So, had the Romney campaign challenged the Santorum petitions where warranted, Santorum would only be eligible to win 12 of the state’s 54 delegates. It would’ve been a default Romney victory with minimum 42 delegates (or 3.7 percent of the total he needs to clinch the nomination) and he could focus instead on upcoming states, or at least save that $3.4 million (and counting) to use against Obama. So why didn’t the Romney campaign aggressively move to deny Santorum those possible delegates, the way they forced Santorum off the ballot in Virginia? Because that aforementioned Dan Rutherford, Romney’s campaign chair in the Land of Lincoln, also happens to be gearing up for a 2014 gubernatorial challenge. And if you hope to win a contested primary, the worst thing he could do is go to the mat for Mitt Romney by denying Rick Santorum his delegates.

(click here to continue reading Daily Kos: Mitt Romney could’ve avoided epic Illinois battle.)

Oops…

Categories
politics

Illinois Primary and GOP Hopefuls

Flag Waving
Flag Waving1

For the first time since I moved to Chicago, the Illinois GOP primary might actually be contested…

Since Super Tuesday, I’ve been reading a lot of coverage that ignores the challenges that the delegate count poses to Rick Santorum. Here’s one quick test to see if you have a good sense for this stuff. Is Illinois a must-win state for Mr. Santorum?

The answer is basically yes.

No one state is technically a must-win, and for that matter, winning the statewide vote in Illinois has no direct bearing on the delegate count (all of its delegates are awarded by Congressional district).

But Mr. Santorum will have to win in most places like Illinois to have a decent chance at preventing Mr. Romney from securing the nomination. And he’ll have to win in states much more challenging than Illinois — possibly as challenging as California — to overtake Mr. Romney in the delegate count and have the stronger case that he should be the nominee.

Although some awareness of the delegate math is almost assuredly better than none, you really need a detail-oriented approach to come to proper conclusions about this kind of question. For instance, you need to know that Texas’s delegate allocation is quite proportional, while New Jersey’s is strictly winner-take-all based on the statewide vote, while California is mostly winner-take-all by Congressional district. And most states have some kind of twist in their rules — proportional states can become winner-take-all if candidates meet (or their opponents fail to achieve) certain vote thresholds.

 

(click here to continue reading FiveThirtyEight: Why Illinois May be a ‘Must Win’ for Santorum – NYTimes.com.)

Footnotes:
  1. actually the Chicago flag, not Illinois flag, which I don’t seem to have taken a photo of []
Categories
Business government

Taking Back Wasted Tax Breaks

Illinois Department of Revenue
Illinois Department of Revenue

Speaking of corporate welfare, who will be the first state to start demanding corporate welfare recipients pass drug tests? Or at least do what the taxpayer funded subsidy was supposed to accomplish?

For example: Many states compete for new jobs by offering taxpayer-funded subsidies to companies to entice them to open in their state. In many ways, these states are just like consumers: those willing to pay the most (in this case, offer the most generous subsidy) ultimately get the product they demand (the jobs a company promises to provide in exchange).

So if these companies ultimately fail to produce the jobs they promised, shouldn’t the taxpayers get their money back? Seems right, but according to a new report from Good Jobs First, this is hardly ever the case. Their analysis of  “clawback” efforts for 238 different state-based business subsidies reveals just how tough it is to demand fairness and accountability when it comes to public handouts to private companies.

At first glance, many of these subsidies do appear to have return policies in place: fully 90 percent of these programs actually require companies to deliver regular reports to state agencies estimating how many jobs they have successfully created thanks to public subsidies; furthermore, 75 percent of the programs they studied contain some type of penalty measure in the event that job creation fails to meet the agreed upon standards.

But here’s the bad news: 31 percent of the programs that require proof of job creation do not require any independent third-party reviewer to ensure that the data these companies submit is actually accurate. And those penalty provisions? Forty-seven percent of them are only enforced voluntarily, meaning that they are basically never enforced at all — in fact, only 21 of the 178 programs with penalty provisions actually publish any documentation of enforcement efforts.

 

(click here to continue reading No Subsidies For You: Taking Back Wasted Tax Breaks – The Demos Blog – PolicyShop.)

Flag Waving
Flag Waving

What about your state? What is its ranking on this list of Clawbacks and Other Enforcement Safeguards in State Economic Development Subsidy Programs? Illinois scored 52/100 on the Monitoring, Enforcement & Penalty Score, covering 5 projects totaling nearly $150,000,000 of state budget.

Illinois’ worst score was for IDOT Economic Development Program ‐ a funding stream for road infrastructure built primarily to benefit specific companies, primarily big‐box retailers, for these reasons:

  • Agency awarding subsidy does not verify performance outcomes reported by recipient
  • No penalty
  • No recalibration of award
  • No online publication of statistics regarding award
  • No online publication of names of companies penalized and dollar amounts
And yet our state is in dire financial straits, and our leaders cannot seem to figure out why…
Categories
government

Illinois’ eavesdropping law under attack

Continuous Video Recording in Progress
Continuous Video Recording in Progress

I’ve been following the Chris Drew travesty fairly closely. Why should police be treated differently than other citizens? If Illinois law was on the books in California, for instance, would Scott Olsen be a household name? Or other Occupy incidents, like the various pepper spraying videos? If police are doing their job, they shouldn’t be worried about a spectator videoing their actions, and if they are doing something questionable, citizens should be able to collect evidence of police wrongdoing.

Anyway, there are rumblings that the law could be thrown out as vague, or unconstitutional.

When a Cook County jury in August acquitted a woman of violating Illinois’ strict eavesdropping law, an unassuming man with wire-rimmed glasses and wispy white hair sat in the gallery, quietly taking notes.

Chris Drew had good reason to keep an eye on the case — he’s facing trial on the same felony charge of eavesdropping on a public official, which carries up to 15 years in prison.

An artist whose ’60s upbringing instilled a deep respect for questioning authority, Drew, 61, is accused of making an illegal audio recording of Chicago police during a 2009 arrest for selling art on a downtown street without a permit.

Drew intended the incident to be a test of the city’s permit laws. But now his case has wound up at the forefront of a much bigger effort to challenge the constitutionality of Illinois’ eavesdropping law, which makes it illegal to audio-record police without their consent, even when they’re performing their public duties.

“He’s become the accidental eavesdropping activist,” Drew’s lawyer, Joshua Kutnick, joked in a recent interview.

Illinois is one of a handful of states in which it is illegal to record audio of public conversations without the permission of everyone involved and has one of the strictest eavesdropping laws in the country.

Opposition to Illinois’ law has been gaining traction for months as several cases have been tossed out of court.

In August, while Drew watched, Tiawanda Moore, 21, was acquitted of illegally recording two Chicago police internal affairs investigators whom she believed were trying to dissuade her from filing a sexual harassment complaint against a patrol officer. One juror later told the Tribune that he and his fellow panelists considered the case “a waste of time.”

The next month, a Crawford County judge ruled the law unconstitutional and dismissed eavesdropping charges against a man accused of recording police and court officials without their consent.

 

(click here to continue reading Illinois’ eavesdropping law under attack – chicagotribune.com.)

Officer with Blackberry
Officer with Blackberry

For instance, Ralph Braseth, a Loyola University journalism professor had a run-in with the Chicago Police while filming a documentary. The officers arrested him, and erased his footage.

Braseth has since filed a complaint with the Independent Police Review Authority, which forwarded the case to Chicago police internal affairs investigators.

While Braseth said he understands why some police officers don’t like to be recorded, he said Illinois’ eavesdropping law “should have been done away with a long time ago.”
“The citizens of Chicago employ the police officers, and they are acting as agents for our government,” Braseth said. “I don’t necessarily think it’s my job to police the police, but I think it’s a good idea for them to know that that can happen at any time. It’s one of the checks and balances that we have. It’s so fundamental.”

Even the Faux Walls have eyes
Even the Faux Walls have eyes

Meanwhile, the court has ruled it is ok for corporations to spy on you:

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court has ruled as constitutional a law giving telecommunications companies legal immunity for helping the government with its email and telephone eavesdropping program.

Thursday’s unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court decision regarding the 2008 law.

The appeal concerned a case that consolidated 33 different lawsuits filed against various telecom companies, including AT&T, Sprint Nextel, Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. on behalf of these companies’ customers.

The court noted comments made by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence regarding the legal immunity’s role in helping the government gather intelligence.

“It emphasized that electronic intelligence gathering depends in great part on cooperation from private companies … and that if litigation were allowed to proceed against persons allegedly assisting in such activities, ‘the private sector might be unwilling to cooperate with lawful government requests in the future,'” Judge M. Margaret McKeown said.

The plaintiffs, represented by lawyers including the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union, accuse the companies of violating the law and the privacy of its customers through collaboration with National Security Agency on intelligence gathering.

(click here to continue reading Court OKs immunity for telecoms in wiretap case – CBS News.)

Categories
Business Chicago-esque government

Hoffman Estates Battle Over a Tax Break For Sears

A Matter of Degree
A Matter of Degree

Of course, corporate welfare for the 1% trumps education, schools, kids every single time. I’d hoped the outcome was different since Hoffman Estates is not a poor district, and thus has a little clout, but I was wrong.

When Ms.  1 Crates met with Hoffman Estates officials in March, she learned the money might not be coming after all because the tax break might not expire.

“I cried,” Ms. Crates said. “The school district has cut for the last two years. We’ve had no wage increases, and we were planning on that revenue to bring down our class sizes. We have one algebra class with 47 students. It was devastating.”

Ms. Crates and her school district had suddenly found themselves at the epicenter of Illinois’s latest political and financial crisis, described by one lawmaker as round-robin blackmail among Midwestern states. Unless Illinois agreed to extend the tax break, Sears threatened to leave. The state of Ohio, for one, dangled $400 million in tax incentives as a lure.

But when lawmakers agree to corporate demands for property tax relief, they induce strain on the financial stability of schools, local governments, libraries and parks that rely on those taxes as their most stable form of revenue. The State of Illinois, with $3 billion in unpaid bills, has already disrupted local governments’ revenue streams, often delivering payments to schools at least four months behind schedule.

So when Ms. Crates and her colleagues learned in March that Sears might win an extension of its tax break, they followed the lead of many corporations with well-connected lobbyists. They began a fierce campaign.

At first, the district wasn’t even involved in discussions about the bill. The village of Hoffman Estates oversees the distribution of the Sears property tax revenue. Village officials did not mention that they had helped write and introduce legislation to extend the tax break until months after they did so, according to Ms. Crates. “I was dumbfounded that a public agency like ourselves, right next door, didn’t bother to tell us and tried in the middle of the night to pass legislation without telling us,” Ms. Crates said.

(click here to continue reading Town and School District Battle Over a Tax Break – NYTimes.com.)

and I’m with Representative Currie: some state needs to have the gumption to stand firm, and see if moving a giant corporation’s HQ is as simple as renting a moving truck.

The House Democratic leader, Barbara Flynn Currie, questioned whether the state should keep bending to satisfy threats from businesses entertaining other offers.
“Do we respond or do we just say goodbye? Or do we even call their bluff?” she asked. “I mean, sometimes I think we should start calling the occasional bluff and say: ‘Wait a minute. Is this for real?’ Because the costs of moving are certainly significant.”

Footnotes:
  1. Chief Financial Officer Cheryl Crates []
Categories
Chicago-esque politics

Democrats Happy to be in Illinois

IBEW Local 134 - polling location

Tourism and culinary adventurism aren’t the only reasons to come to Illinois, having to flee reactionary Rethuglicans in your home state is a good excuse too.

As battles over limits to public-sector unions and collective-bargaining rights erupted in capitals in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio, Illinois suddenly found itself as the refuge of choice for outnumbered Democrats fleeing their states to block the passage of such bills. By Wednesday evening, most of Indiana’s 40 Democratic state representatives were living in rooms (“plain but all we need,” in the words of one) at the Comfort Suites in Urbana, Ill., about 100 miles west of the state Capitol in Indianapolis. Wisconsin’s Senate Democrats were preparing to mark their first full week, on Thursday, somewhere in northern Illinois.

Republican leaders left behind in the various Capitols fumed, but Gov. Patrick J. Quinn of Illinois seemed to delight in the new arrivals, some of whom said Mr. Quinn, a Democrat, had telephoned them to offer his personal welcome. “We believe in hospitality and tourism and being friendly,” Mr. Quinn said on Wednesday, quickly adding, “I also believe in unions.”

The main reason Illinois was suddenly a magnet for vanishing lawmakers was a matter of geography. From both Wisconsin and Indiana, getting over the Illinois line before state law enforcement authorities might be able to find them and haul them back to their stately chambers was a matter of a few hours by car. Still, the state seemed a fitting getaway. As Republicans seized control in a number of Midwestern capitals in November, Illinois was one of the few where Democrats held on to theirs.

“It seems like very friendly territory,” said State Representative Win Moses, 68, one of the Indiana Democrats

(click here to continue reading Life on the Run for Democrats in Union Fights – NYTimes.com.)

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night

Alive as you or me.


Paul Robeson sings, “Joe Hill”


Pete Seeger sings, “Which Side Are You On?”


bonus, Billy Bragg, circa 1985, singing, “Which Side Are You On?”

Categories
Business government

Teabagger Governor of Wisconsin Has Trouble With Math

El Mole Rachmim

We already ridiculed Scott Walker for his fundamental misunderstanding of complex mathematical concepts like percentages, and addition/subtraction, but James Warren of the New York Times adds:

As with family feuds, this ruckus has a history. It includes Mr. Quinn’s urging a Milwaukee train manufacturer to move to Illinois if Mr. Walker fulfills his promise to spurn $800 million in federal stimulus money and ditch a high-speed rail line linking Madison and Milwaukee.

The Illinois Senate president, John J. Cullerton, quickly obliged my request for relevant data. Even with the huge, “temporary” increases in Illinois, individuals and corporations are better off here than in Wisconsin — and in decent shape compared with Indiana, Missouri, Minnesota and Michigan, too.

According to the Tax Foundation, the Illinois personal rate of 5 percent compared with a sliding scale of 4.6 percent to 7.75 percent in Wisconsin, with anybody there earning $10,000 or above taxed at a minimum of 5 percent. The new Illinois corporate rate of 7 percent compares with Wisconsin’s 7.9 percent.

Mr. Walker doesn’t deny this but says he’ll get his rates down by 2015. Perhaps. But his rabble-rousing remains short on nuance.

As Chicago’s Metropolitan Planning Council underscored, taxes are important, but keeping an area competitive also involves quality of life, overall fiscal health, specific business incentives and intangibles like leadership. Quality of life includes the culture, restaurants and recreation that lure bright young people to Chicago.

(click to continue reading Wisconsin Sounds Off, but Misses the Point – NYTimes.com.)

 

Categories
government

Hey Republicans From Illinois – Go To Wisconsin

Exit - Door County

If you are dumb enough to get your news solely from Fox News, and believe that impending tax increases in Illinois necessitate your move to Wisconsin, please, be my guest. And leave quickly so that the IL state’s IQ levels can increase at the same time that WI’s IQ levels decrease.

Wisconsin’s new Republican Governor Scott Walker has rushed to make hay out of the Illinois Assembly’s decision to raise individual and corporate tax rates, urging Illinois residents and businesses to move to Wisconsin. But, ironically, Illinois residents who move to Wisconsin should bank on paying higher taxes.

Conservatives like Walker have insisted on using the figure that Illinois is increasing taxes by a whopping 66 percent. While this is factually accurate, it’s misleading as it makes the tax increase seem much bigger than it actually is. Illinois tax rates will only go from 3 to 5 percent (hence 66 percent increase), representing a total increase in tax rates of just 2 percent. This will allow Illinois to solve a massive $15 billion budget deficit without gutting state programs. But even with this increase, tax rates for individuals will still be lower than in Wisconsin. Wisconsin has different tax brackets; the lowest income rate if you make over $11,000 is 6.15 percent. The highest rate is 7.75 percent.

Bloomberg noted this yesterday: Absent from Walker’s sales pitch was the fact that Wisconsin’s top income tax rates remain higher than Illinois even under the increase … Walker hasn’t yet proposed lowering the state’s income or corporate tax rates. But this didn’t stop Fox New host Neil Cavuto yesterday from insisting that Illinois is experiencing a “tax storm.”

(click to continue reading ThinkProgress » Blog Archive » After Their Tax Increase, WI Gov. Begs Illinoisans To ‘Escape To Wisconsin’ Where Taxes Are Actually Higher.)

Categories
Chicago-esque government

Illinois tax Increase

Flag Waving

Illinois is in financial trouble, so there are two realistic options, not mutually exclusive1 – drastically cut spending, or raise taxes. I’m hoping the Illinois legislature is not planning to only raise taxes.

That said, despite all talk about percentage increases and so on, the actual dollar increase is not that jaw dropping, is it? I can’t say I’m angry about it, nor am I planning on moving my business to Indiana or Missouri, or somewhere without state income tax. I like it here.

The morning-after reality was this: The state portion of your personal income tax bill is likely to grow by about two-thirds after Gov. Pat Quinn follows through with his vow to sign legislation enacting big tax hikes.

If state taxes would have cost you $2,000 annually under the old rate structure, it’s likely your bill will now jump to about $3,300.

In Quinn’s first year as governor in 2009, he reported adjusted gross income of $157,122 and shelled out $4,468 in state income tax. If the new, higher rate had been in force, his personal tab would have approached $7,500.

(click to continue reading Illinois taxpayers wake up to new reality: 67 percent hike – chicagotribune.com.)

Digest that for a second, the Chicago Tribune is trying to get worked up over what is probably a few hundred dollars a year.2 What percentage of Illinois residents even make $150,000 a year? If you did, your tax went up a couple thousand dollars. I’m not sobbing. Illinois is still middle-of-the-road as far as state tax levels. Ranked 23rd (South Dakota is 1st, Alaska is 2nd, Wyoming is 3rd, and California is 49th, New York 50th, in a study of fiscal year 2011 tax rates by The Tax Foundation) and is probably going to be lowered, but still respectable.

I mean we all want free cheese, but sometimes it isn’t an option. Plus, if I’m not mistaken, if you submit an itemized federal tax return, you can deduct the tax you paid to the state.

I’m sure there is a bunch of waste in the state budget that I would cut out if I was in control of such things, but I don’t want state mental hospitals to close, don’t want bridges to collapse, CTA trains to be reduced, potholes to remain unfilled, etc.

–update, don’t forget that the Illinois legislature has also tried to bridge the budget gap with the short-sighted Amazon tax bill, as previously discussed.

Footnotes:
  1. and not counting the third option, do nothing and ignore the problem. Illinois does not want to follow the Texas model []
  2. You can check specifically what the increase will mean to you in this handy-dandy tax hike calculator []
Categories
Chicago-esque government

Illinois Seeks Sweet Sweet Wall Street Cash

Flag Waving

I knew Illinois budgets were out of whack, but didn’t quite realize how bad the deficits are, and how far behind Illinois is on meeting its financial obligations. Yikes. Illinois has been operating at a deficit since 2001, and each year getting deeper and deeper in the hole.

Times have gotten so tough for the Illinois state government that it has begun turning to Wall Street trading houses and hedge funds to help pay its bills.

The state owes more than $4.5 billion to vendors large and small, ranging from prison-cleaning crews to schools for the disabled. Tax shortfalls and pension obligations continue to leave the state light on cash.

Quietly, the state has begun reaching out to Wall Street and other investors with a novel plan to plug this shortfall. Instead of further tapping the public debt markets, Illinois is trying to tap private sources for short-term cash to repay vendors.

Such efforts reflect the pressure many U.S. states face and raise questions about the lengths some governments should go to in funding their operations. And they put Illinois, which has endured budget strains for a decade, in the uncomfortable position of pitching its fiscal problems as someone else’s profit opportunity.

The Illinois approach works like this: Investors take over the delinquent bills owed by the state to its vendors. Those vendors are due a 1% penalty each month after the state falls behind by 60 days. The financial investors make the vendors whole and are entitled to 1% monthly penalties until the state pays the investors back.

(click to continue reading Illinois Seeks Wall Street Cash – WSJ.com.)

Even though Illinois is constitutionally obligated to pay its debts, eventually, this seems like a bit of a risky investment. What if the state government can’t reign in spending, or agree to raise taxes? Illinois could just default on the bonds. One unnamed hedge fund declined for exactly this reason:

At least one prominent New York hedge fund passed on the opportunity, fearing that profiting from a cash-strapped state’s taxpayers and small vendors would appear unseemly. Another of its worries: The state mightn’t ultimately make good on its promises.

Categories
Chicago-esque humor

Blago – Mister Ethics

Blago Jogging on May Street

Oh, that’s rich. And how much is tuition at Northwestern? Something like six figures, I think. It’s fucking golden…

Even if Northwestern University has used the title for a literature course, “The Death of Irony” must be revived for next week’s campus appearance by the former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich.

Mr. Blagojevich is scheduled to speak at a gathering called “Ethics in Politics: An Evening with Former Governor R. Blagojevich.”

Many people gagged for all the obvious reasons. His alleged misdeeds, cavalier ways, narcissism, favor-swapping pragmatism and seeming belief that he’ll be just fine if he corrals the news media to his side make him an atypical choice for presumably idealistic souls spending a king’s ransom for four years in Evanston.

“But the problem goes deeper,” said Rushworth Kidder, president of the Institute of Global Ethics. “In a sense, he’s the logical and inevitable outcome of a society that has refused to educate the next generation about values, ethics and character. As such, he’s the perfect outcome of our ethical indifference and a role model for the next generation.”

[Click to continue reading Chicago News Cooperative – Now at Northwestern, Ethics 101, Taught by, Well, Go Figure – NYTimes.com]

Blagojevich Country

But there was a contrarian view from Larry Miller, a comic who occasionally writes about politics.

“There are so many shatteringly immoral thieves and cutthroats in government today, yesterday and tomorrow, so many in Chicago and Illinois and New York and Texas and Montana, so many galloping egomaniacs who just haven’t been caught yet, so many roaches zipping around the kitchen floor before someone turns out the light, why not Blagojevich,” said Mr. Miller, who recently appeared in Las Vegas with his chum Jerry Seinfeld.

“You and I don’t want to live like this, but it’s not too cynical to say, ‘They are all like this.’ In theory, O.K., there’s one guy here, and one woman there, who are actually trustworthy. But isn’t it axiomatic that as soon as one of these horrible egomaniacs first decides to run for something, anything, that it’s irrefutable proof-positive the guy’s a complete lunatic and thug?”

His grand finale: “Why not Blagojevich speaking on ethics? At least that has humor. Is it not far worse and creepy to have Hugo Chávez or Ahmadinejad welcome at the United Nations? These are seriously bad people, and we all stand and applaud and nod as if we were about to listen to U Thant,” the former U.N. secretary general.

Categories
Chicago-esque government

Looking to Taxes as Solution to a Crisis

More on the Illinois budget woes we mentioned earlier.

So are Illinois residents taxed at a higher rate than other states would tax? Always a bit hard to measure, because there are so many kinds of taxes, and some apply to residents and some to businesses. And more importantly, would companies move away from Illinois if the taxes increased?

Interstate

Illinois could raise about $6 billion, covering roughly half the expected 2011 budget deficit, by increasing the Illinois income tax rate on individuals to 5 percent, from the current 3 percent, and raising the corporate tax rate to 6.4 percent, from 4.8 percent, the Civic Federation’s said.

But higher taxes also affect how employers view the state’s business climate, a calculation that factors in state and local taxes on retail sales and business income, too. The Tax Foundation, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization that measures federal and state taxes, said Illinois’s business climate suffers because low income tax rates are offset by the high rates on retail sales and property transactions.

As of September 2009, Illinois’s combined state and local sales taxes averaged 8.4 percent, making the state the sixth-biggest taxer, just ahead of New York, said Justin Higgenbottom, a Tax Foundation analyst. Illinois’s high taxes on property earn it sixth place in that category.

In addition to the corporate rate of 4.8 percent, other taxes bring the effective Illinois corporate rate to 7.3 percent, Mr. Higgenbottom said. That means the Civic Federation proposal would in effect take the state’s top corporate rate in Illinois to 8.9 percent.

Once the analysts add it all up, the Tax Foundation said Illinois’s state and local taxes in the 2008 fiscal year represented 9.3 percent of the state’s income. That ranks Illinois below the national average of 9.7 percent and roughly the same as surrounding states except Wisconsin, which is higher.

[Click to continue reading Chicago News Cooperative – Looking to Taxes as Solution to a Crisis – NYTimes.com]

Don't Even Bother

Will facts be compelling enough to convince Illinois legislators to push tax increases? Depends if fear of being labelled a tax-and-spender in the next election cycle trumps being fiscally responsible. I’d be surprised mightily, if the corporate tax rate went up, and moderately surprised if the income tax rate went up.