Tuesday, June 13, 2017

WTTW Removed My Comment This Morning

Illinois House Members on State Budget Impasse
Alexandra Silets | June 12, 2017 6:02 pm

Illinois’ new fiscal year begins July 1 and lawmakers are set to reconvene in Springfield next week. The state is creeping up on it’s [sic] third year without a budget. But lawmakers did pass about 500 bills during the spring legislative session. The Illinois Senate passed a budget, but the House wouldn’t even bring it to a vote before adjourning May 31. The state owes nearly $15 billion in unpaid bills—and if a budget isn’t passed, the backlog could swell to $24 billion.

The Illinois Senate passed a budget, but the House didn’t even call a budget bill before adjourning. Why? And who is to blame for the impasse?

McSweeney (R):  It rests with all of us. We’re destroying the state. We’re below investment grade, gutting social services and universities are losing people. Now in a situation that we’re spending more money than we ever planned or dreamed of. We all share the blame and need to stop pointing fingers and do something.

Martwick (D): Who’s to blame? Simple. The budget has been hijacked by the governor’s office since day one. We offered further cuts and to reinstate the expired taxes. And the governor said not until I get my political agenda. I don’t know how you can pass blame on anybody else. The Senate got the work done. We did procurement reform just like he wanted, he got government consolidation, he wanted to sell the Thompson Center. He got victory after victory after victory. I don’t know how you blame it on anybody else.

Morrison (R):  Who’s to blame? Rauner assumed too much when he took office that majority party would be willing to work with him. The Democratic leadership underestimated how committed Rauner was to reforms. So both sides are pretty solidly entrenched.

Sente (D):  The campaigning hasn’t stopped. It’s a new world. Everyone is considering what do you say aloud? It’s affecting the ability for us to get together.

What should happen?

McSweeney: The governor needs to call a special session. Stop gap budgets are going to make things worse. We need a real budget.

Martwick: I made the argument to my caucus, I said “let’s vote on it and show the courage to do it.” But there were not enough members to pass a budget. We need 60 votes but the governor already said he’s going to veto the Senate budget. Why vote on it when he says he’s going to veto it? Why keep doing this exercise in futility?

Morrison:  If we could go back in time, we should have shut down the government back in 2015. It would have force folks to the table sooner. Lawmaker paychecks should’ve been cutoff in 2015. The schools opened on time because the k-12 budget passed. State employees continued to work and get paid. Generally speaking most IL residents didn’t feel it. Then stop gap spending plan in 2016 passed to provide legal authority to pay bills as moneys came in. We need either massive taxes or an austerity budget. I’m on side of austerity budget. That would mean significant cuts to the k-12 budget, to higher ed, everything state spends money on would have to be cut. Most can’t take the heat of spending cuts. As a result, we go deeper and deeper in debt. Some constituents are willing to pay a little more tax increase if there is pension reform, streamlining government, etc. Almost no one is willing to pay double income taxes which is what we’d have to do to pay the bills.

Sente:  I’m in a budget group and we’re looking at spending caps, what is level of responsible cuts, how to pay down unpaid bills. We’re looking at Midwestern neighbors for revenue ideas, and a budget that’s passable with bipartisan support. Gov. Rauner said he needs three things: procurement reform, local government consolidation, criminal justice reform. Those have passed with a good amount of bipartisan support. But then the governor said it wasn’t enough. It is enough for our group. We’re also looking at what else is important to our constituents? So out budget group is looking at six reforms—which would be amazing.

The Senate passed $5.4 billion revenue in the form of tax hikes. But Governor Rauner said he’d veto the Senate’s budget bill. Does the state have to raise taxes to help solve the budget crisis?

McSweeney: That is the Rauner plan. I oppose it. We have done nothing to restore confidence of our government. Current spending is higher than it was under Pat Quinn and we have done nothing to reform pensions. Senate passed pension reform. We need to rework Medicaid. Not just eliminate waste and fraud. The administrative costs are also increasing without a budget. It’s a scandal that universities are being held hostage. K-12 budget increased last year. We don’t have the money. My view is that we live within existing revenue forecast. I can’t support additional review.

Martwick: That is the most unfortunate side of the impasse. There are people who have the courage to tell citizens what’s coming. Everyone knows there’s no way to cut waste and balance budget without a tax increase. Every budget Rauner’s proposed have cuts that do more harm than good and that have hidden tax increases. The truth is the governor has no ability to cut without raising taxes.

Morrison: For sake of state, I hope there is a budget soon. The longer we go, the deeper in debt we get. We are pushing for the cuts and reforms necessary. But it looks like tax increase is inevitable. When it happens, then we will hopefully have the maximum amount of cuts and structural reform to actually move forward as a state. If all we do is massively raise taxes without reform, we will see even more people leave the state. If another 100,000 people leave state, that doesn’t shrink our pension obligations. It just shrinks the number of people who shoulder the burden.

Sente: We owe it to people to pay that $14.8 billion backlog of bills then get the bills paid within a cycle of 30 days, or 14 days or 60 days – whatever we decide. These are real people and businesses and they are going under and being hurt. We cannot pay the backlog and for the current year without revenue. Borrowing is not the way to go or taking it away from local governments.

Some people are saying there won’t be a budget until 2018. Your reaction?

McSweeney:  Unacceptable. I don’t want to think about it. We will have $23 billion of unpaid bills by next June 30th. We can’t go on like this. Anybody who does accept that is doing a disservice to state.

Martwick: That would be atrocious. I can’t even imagine. We as a government have for years pushed off our fiscal responsibilities. This accumulation of debts is fiscally irresponsible. We are making it worse for tomorrow. How anybody is willing to do that, I’ll never know.

Morrison:  I hope they’re wrong. I don’t have difficulty saying no to cuts and going in front of public employees and saying we have to dramatically change pension plans. I do have colleagues who are queasy saying things like that...

WTTW Removed the Following Comment This Morning:

"I don’t have difficulty saying no to cuts and going in front of public employees and saying we have to dramatically change pension plans. I do have colleagues who are queasy saying things like that” - Rep. Morrison
Politicians, who lack moral sensibility and legal understanding, have no qualms about stealing money from the public pension funds and ignoring the Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling against any form of unconstitutional public pension theft. To repeal the “Pension Protection Clause” is to attack public employees’ and retirees’ rights to a constitutionally-guaranteed compensation. This can never be legally or morally justified, especially when Illinois politicians have stolen money that was supposed to be paid into the public pension plans for decades to avoid raising taxes and for special interests.
The “Pension Protection Clause” is a binding legal commitment and requirement of justice, and that justice demands we keep our covenants with one another: for when legislators swear an oath to uphold the State and U.S. Constitutions, then citizens of Illinois have also acquired the right to expect that they will uphold that pledge. This is a matter of important legal and moral concern for all citizens of Illinois, for all legal claims are validated by a moral framework since the concept of justice is grounded in ethics and morality.
According to Eric M. Madiar, former Parliamentarian to Illinois Senate President John Cullerton in 2015, “…Public Act 98­0599 [the senate bill that attempted to diminish and impair Article XIII, Section 5 in December 2013] was not a response to an unknown or unforeseeable problem, but rather a response to ‘a crisis for which the General Assembly is largely responsible.’ The Illinois Supreme Court further found that the Act was not the least restrictive means the State could have used to address the problem, but ‘an expedient to break a political stalemate.’
“In addition, the court indicated that the Act was tantamount to a taking of private property because the Act failed to distribute the burdens of pension funding evenly among Illinoisans let alone the State’s contract partners. The court explained that the U.S. Constitution ‘bar[s] Government from forcing some people alone to bear public burdens which, in all fairness and justice, should be borne by the public as a whole.’
“Whether under a Contract Clause or Takings theory, the same arguments that prevailed in the Pension Reform decision against Public Act 98­0599 would equally apply to the… proposed amendment. As a result, the proposal amendment does not offer a plausible path to unilaterally reduce the fiscal burden of State and local pension obligations…”
Amending the Article XIII, Section 5 of the Illinois Constitution would not reduce the state systems’ current $130+ billion unfunded liability; it would not address the real fiscal issue caused by the state’s pension debt: how to amortize the $130+ billion debt owed to the five state-sponsored retirement systems in a feasible way. It would also take three-fifths of the members elected to each house of the General Assembly.
It is shameful that a few policymakers are willing to renege on a guaranteed constitutional contract when they are the debtors. It is legally and morally wrong to modify public employees’ contractual rights and benefits prospectively and retroactively when there are legal and ethical ways to address the pension debt problem, such as through pension debt reform and revenue restructuring. Legal and moral sense dictates that all members of the Illinois General Assembly must align with the U.S. and State Constitutions and sanction the vested rights of its middle-class public employees.
Read the State and U.S. Constitutions: Article 1, Section 16 of the Illinois Constitution: “No ex post facto law or law impairing the obligation of contracts… shall be passed”; read Article 1, Section 10 of the United States Constitution: “No State shall… pass any… ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts…” To also ignore the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and change laws that protect one group of people is to ignore due process and equal protection of the laws that guarantee contractual agreements.

– Glen Brown


  1. Of course WTTW removed your comment. You are pointing out past Supreme Court cases and decisions, as well as the general amnesia regarding the Il Supreme Court's scolding unanimous decision finding the last attempt at pension theft unconstitutional.

    Legislators have their heads in the sand, they remain unable to make any decision, and instead have sought survival positions during the impasse with the current ersatz governor.

    WTTW plays into that continuation of impasse and concentration on the same issues. No really tough questions are asked as follow-up. No discussion of the untenable position the state has backed into given this governor and loggerheads. Chicago Tonight holds no one's feet to the fire; instead, they've become an ambulance chaser, satisfied with a single question to four in row, and then again, and then again.

    Equal time has replaced serious journalism.

    Sorry, my friend.

    1. Morrison is a regular on WTTW. He is also a minion of the Illinois Policy Institute. How much money do you think IPI contributes to WTTW?

    2. “…Gov. Bruce Rauner’s family foundation gave the Illinois Policy Institute at least $625,000 from 2009 to 2013 – before he was governor...” (Illinois News Network Buying Illinois Radio Network by Bernard Schoenburg).

    3. "IPI is an anti-union, anti-public education lobbying group dedicated to the privatization of public schools and the elimination of public employee pensions. The Illinois Policy Institute is funded by conservative activists like the Koch brothers" (The Illinois Education Association).

  2. PBS and NPR education news is "brought to you by a generous gift from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation." That means that they actually have complete control of any and all news regarding teachers, public education, teacher pensions, teacher unions, etc. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is nearly tax-free and allowed by law to invest its funds in order to "grow" (profit) the foundation; the Grow money is also tax-free. It is heavily invested in non-union charter schools and supports anti-union organizations as well as supporting various PACs that are anti-union. Union employees have traditionally had pensions as part of their contracts.
    The octopus of big money gives token efforts at "both" sides of an argument. It does not tolerate truth that could in any way actually harm their subversive activities and "grow" investments.
    WTTW is no exception.

    1. Moreover, and all that money behind Free-Market Policies for Media Control, Pension Reform Bills, Privatization, Charter Schools…? Just Follow the Donors Trust Money Trail:

      Donors Trust has injected nearly $400 million into free-market causes, thanks in large part to contributions by dozens of private foundations run by wealthy executives or their families. These foundations have often sought anonymity by passing their grants through Donors Trust, but a Center for Public Integrity review of IRS records reveals some of the largest backers of Donors Trust in recent years:

      Charles G. Koch Foundation, Empower Texans Foundation, Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, Farmer Family Foundation, Donald and Paula Smith Foundation, Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, John M. Olin Foundation, Randolph Foundation, The GFC Foundation, Jaquelin Hume Foundation, William E. Simon Foundation, Ruth and Lovett Peters Foundation, William Donner Foundation, Castle Rock / Adolph Coors Foundation, Rose Marie and Jack R. Anderson Foundation, Earhart Foundation, Joe and Mary Moeller Foundation, John William Pope Foundation, Anschutz Foundation, Paul Singer Family Foundation…

      How Does Money Flow Out from Think Tanks?

      Donors Trust has given grants to three national organizations that coordinate free-market policy and media efforts in the states: the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the State Policy Network (SPN), and the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity (FCGPI). In addition to these umbrella organizations, Donors Trust has directly funded at least 51 state-based think tanks in nearly every state since 2007:

      Illinois Policy Institute, Heartland Institute, Manhattan Institute, Knowledge and Progress Fund, Lucy Burns Institute, Independence Institute, Cascade Policy Institute, Searle Freedom Trust, Mackinac Center, South Carolina Policy Council, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, JM Kaplan Fund, Philanthropy Roundtable… This information is from Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states.

  3. And so goes public television...not so public anymore, & about to be even less so very soon.
    Came home, turned it on expecting to see Frontline or P.O.V. But, noooo...pledge night...some nice, apolitical music.

  4. We can no longer call WTTW/PBS public media. They don't serve the public. They are beholden to the same corporate donors as the politicians and they will censor what they don't like. They're programming is pure pap with an occasional good show as long as it doesn't berate their financial supporters and ideologues.

    On the issue of funding: God forbid our so-called Blue state should have an amendment for a progressive income tax so that everyone pays into the system, including the corporations, 73% of whom currently don't pay into the State of Illinois coffers. From the local levels on up, I go to meetings and the same buzz words are used: "they'll leave if we tax them; they'll leave if they have to pay a bare minimum wage or a few days of sick pay." These are all ALEC/Chamber of Commerce lies. So WTTW and all the shadow organizations mentioned in Glen's rejected letter, just repeat and repeat the lies. What I really find laughable is the great concern that companies will leave the village or state if we tax them--wake up people; you're being duped because these same corporations are sending jobs and factories overseas for greater profit no matter what happens here; they're leaving no matter what we do and they're certainly not willing to pay their fair share of taxes while they're here. Many of us know that all they care about is bankrupting our social programs, getting rid of teachers' unions--all unions--bringing in charter schools, and selling off the commons to their millionaire and billionaire friends. All they care about is privatizing everything. If you go to enough government meetings, from the library boards, to school boards, to village boards, to Springfield, and nationwide, you hear the same exact message in code words--all they mean is--don't tax the rich--put the burden on those other people by imposing regressive sales tax or higher real estate taxes, the ones who can least afford to pay them.

    So, we have a pattern of censorship in the media from corporate Dems to right-wing ideologues and billionaires. they don't want the message to reflect any other thinking but theirs. Fear, fear, fear. And free markets, meaning nothing trickles down to help workers and society as a whole.

    1. And what are Free Market principles & theory?

      Free market principles are supported by neo-conservatism or neo-liberalism and perpetuated by a “corporatists’ crusade”; they are aligned with the policies of the “Chicago School” ideologues, the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund. These doctrines perpetrate a blitzkrieg deconstruction of the middle class, privatization of public ownership and industry (downsizing and parceling out public companies and services to private interests), government deregulation and cuts to spending (thus, stimulating deep economic recessions) and cutbacks or the elimination of the public sphere and all social funding – hence, turning the working class into the “disposable poor” – to loosen control of the flow of money and to produce “freer trade” in the global market marked by an intransigent belief that “it should be left to correct itself.” Global free market theory has surfed “the waves of fear and disorientation” while advancing an ideology of “unfettered capitalism,” leaving inequality and degradation in its wake (Naomi Klein, award-winning journalist, fellow at the London School of Economics, author and filmmaker).

      The free market theory caters to self-interested desires and profit to the detriment of other peoples’ lives, all the while promising “freedom and prosperity.” Free market principles advocate that the rich and poor should be taxed at the same flat rate, despite creating a vast inequity; that, for example, education, health care, retirement pensions, national parks (and most any function intrinsic to essential governing) become privatized; that publicly-owned companies, services and their assets be auctioned off to private investors; and that besides allocating vast amounts of wealth and resources from public to private ownership, that in the free market the transfer of private debts to the public sector while public ownership is systematically dismantled ironically continue.