Cook County has long been ridiculed for allowing dead people cast votes, but the state may have just garnered a new distinction.

It paid $12 million in health care for people who were already dead — including in one case, for a person who had died in 1989.

A new financial audit released by Auditor General Bill Holland’s office on Thursday found that the Illinois Department of Health and Family Services had 8,232 people still on Medicaid rolls qualifying for benefits, even though they were dead.

The state paid monthly premiums totaling almost $7 million for 561 people who had already been dead for an average of nearly two years before they were enrolled in a state managed care program. Read the entire Chicago SunTimes story.
Sign the Petition
Members of the General Assembly left Springfield this evening and are not scheduled to return until the fall veto session.  But Illinoisans shouldn’t be lulled into believing they’re safe from tax increases or other shenanigans. Like a hungry shark circling just off the shore, Illinois Democrats’ insatiable appetite for more tax revenue just keeps coming back, again and again.

The 2015 Democrat-passed budget spends $8,000,000 more than the revenue estimates unanimously agreed upon by the House earlier this year. Moments after the budget plan passed in the House, Senate President John Cullerton confirmed in an interview with The Associated Press that Democrats would be pushing their tax increase proposals anew after the November election.

The ploy is reminiscent of the January 2011 lame duck session where votes by outgoing legislators were the deciding factor in passing a 67% tax increase.  Incidentally, after voting for the tax hike seven lame duck lawmakers ended up getting high-paying government jobs.

If you’ve had enough, join with us in the fight for accountable, transparent and responsive government by signing our petition to keep the temporary tax, temporary.

More on the effects of high taxes:
What’s the Matter with Illinois?
In most state capitals, “happy days” have come again, not in Illinois
House Dems blow-up agreed revenue caps

As they put together the state budget for the fiscal year that starts in five weeks, Democratic leaders in Springfield were forced to drop plans to make their temporary income tax hikes permanent. Too much pressure from their caucus members — and from Illinois citizens who think temporary means temporary — forced them to back off.

So strike up the band! Pop the Champagne! Fling the confetti!  But understand that this income tax fight isn't even close to finished.

Read the Chicago Tribune editorial in its entirety.
Leader Jim Durkin speaks in favor of scaled down capital bill that will fix roads, create jobs but does not contain discretionary spending.

State Representative Tom Cross blasts the Democrat-crafted budget as unbalanced and unconstitutional.

On Thursday morning, five Illinois students competed in the semifinals of the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. Christine Alex of Chicago, Meghana Kaminei of Lockport, Alia Abiad of Western Springs, Lucas Urbanski of Crystal Lake and Yasir Hasnain of Forsyth all correctly spelled their first round words. Alia Abiad made it to the finals Thursday night.

As words in the National Spelling Bee can sometimes be obscure, members of the House Republican Caucus demonstrate the everyday use of the terms the Illinois spellers successfully tackled in Thursday's opening semifinal round. Congratulations to all five students on their success!
A bill filed by State Representative Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) to halt pay raises for lawmakers is stuck in the Rules Committee.

House Bill 6235 would continue furlough days and reject the automatic cost of living adjustment to legislative salaries. Kay says Democrats are trying to sneak pay raises through the General Assembly during what is supposed to be the last week of the spring session.

Doug Jenkins with WBGZ has the story.
The measure would require Illinois to better define the flood risk associated with levee construction 

An Illinois House panel has recommended approval of a plan dealing with flood levees. The resolution was sponsored by Rep. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy). It was endorsed Tuesday by the Illinois House Agriculture and Conservation Committee.

The measure would require Illinois to better define the flood risk associated with levee construction, create uniform regulatory policies and demand a timely response to applications.

Brent Engel of the Quincy Journal has the rest of the story.
Gov. Pat Quinn’s $55 million anti-violence program is the focus of a Capitol hearing today by a panel of lawmakers discussing a highly critical audit.

So far, it’s mostly been a rehash of a report issued in late February by Auditor General William Holland, one that was far from flattering for the Democratic governor as he seeks re-election this fall.

Quinn launched the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative in Democratic areas of the city and south suburbs as he sought re-election in fall 2010. Holland told members of the Legislative Audit Commission today that grant money was distributed without enough checks and balances to ensure it was properly spent.

The Quinn administration offered lax guidance, failed to make sure adequate records were kept to track spending and didn’t visit the program sites to see how taxpayer money was being spent.  Monique Garcia & Ray Long have the story in the Chicago Tribune.

More on the the issue.
A Rockford area representative plans to introduce a bill that would affect state leaders who run into trouble with the law. It's created in light of recent charges against former lawmaker Keith Farnham.

Farnham stepped down last month. Federal prosecutors have charged him with possession of videos depicting sex acts with minors. 68th District representative John Cabello says Tuesday he'll introduce a bill which would cut-off giving money to lawmakers accused of serious offenses like the chares Farnham faces.

Cabello says Farnham is still receiving his pension and he will unless he's found guilty. Cabello believes taxpayers shouldn't have to foot that pension bill if someone's accused of a serious crime.  Kelsie Passolt from WREX has the story.

Read more about this issue from Rep. Cabello.
State Rep. Barbara Wheeler represents the 64th Legislative District in the Illinois House of Representatives.

Rep. Wheeler has spent her entire adult life in public service, starting as volunteer for the United States Peace Corps. She later served as a school teacher at Wauconda Middle School and was elected to the McHenry County Board in 2002. As a Board Member, Barbara’s top priorities were conservation and fiscal responsibility. She was awarded the Theta Award from the McHenry County Environmental Defenders for her conservation agenda. Additionally, the County Board improved the bond rating to Aaa during her tenure.
If you need a case study on how government inertia can crush job development, look no further than the frustrated attempt to put people to work extracting energy supplies in southern Illinois.

On May 31, 2013, the Illinois legislature passed a carefully negotiated bill to permit and regulate horizontal hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking. Gov. Pat Quinn signed it into law on June 17.

A year later, fracking hasn't started here because the state's Department of Natural Resources hasn't completed the rules to regulate it under the law.

No drilling, which means no jobs. Don't expect either to come soon. Read the Chicago Tribune editorial.

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Final Days of 2014 Spring Session
As third week of May ends, only six session days remain for vital work. Left undetermined as of Friday, May 23 were key decisions affecting the future of all Illinoisans, including the FY15 State budget.

The key twelve-month spending plan will govern State spending and operations starting in only one month, July 1, 2014. A $3 billion gap between expected State tax revenues and Democrat-led spending requests will create significant challenges for lawmakers.

Substantive, non-budget issues will also require action, and positions and legislative language could change over this period from moment to moment. Stay tuned to The Caucus Blog for continuously updated information on these key questions.

Sign the petition
Illinois House Democrats have both shied away from keeping the state's income tax hike and rejected the spending cuts they say would be needed if taxes drop, raising big questions about what happens next with a week to go before their budget deadline.

Suburban lawmakers of both parties today were united in soundly rejecting the spending cuts proposal by a 5-107 vote. One of the rare supporters was state Rep. Fred Crespo, a Hoffman Estates Democrat, whose budget committee had previously prepared a more austere spending plan. Mike Riopell has the story in the Daily Herald.
Under legislation which passed the Illinois House recently, fire departments statewide will be able to apply for larger loans to afford the increased cost of modern fire trucks.

According to House sponsor State Rep. Don Moffitt (R-Gilson), the legislation takes aim at ensuring Illinois' fire departments are better equipped should an emergency arise.

"Improving public safety and the safety of our first responders is something that I advocate for," said Moffitt. "By increasing the amount our fire districts may borrow from the interest-free Fire Truck Revolving Loan Program, we help them to be able to access modern fire trucks that are often out of reach due to financial constraints.  When emergencies arise, our first responders and the citizens they serve deserve to have the best equipment available." The Star Courier has the story.

State Representative Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst) joined Bill Moller on CLTV’s Politics Tonight on Tuesday, May 20th to talk about newly proposed legislation that would ask voters whether or not the five percent ‘temporary’ income tax increase should become permanent.

Rep. Reboletti also discussed legislation he is sponsoring with State Representative Michael McAuliffe (R-Chicago) that calls for a new study of the environmental and human health impacts caused by runways and air traffic around O’Hare. Watch the video.
A bill addressing concerns of the recent propane shortage is now gaining traction in the Illinois General Assembly.

The bill is sponsored by State Representative C.D. Davidsmeyer (R-Jacksonville). It would allow for quicker distribution of propane in rural areas and calls for a lift on weight limits for trucks hauling propane on rural roads.

This comes after the Midwest was hit with a propane shortage earlier this year due to record cold weather.  Kaylee Pfeiferling with WGEM has the rest of the story.

Legislation to prohibit the use of ticket quotas by police departments in Illinois won final approval in the Illinois House of Representatives on Wednesday by a vote of 106-9 with one member voting present. The bill’s Chief Co-Sponsor, Rep. John D. Anthony (R-Morris), a former Kendall County Sheriff’s deputy, led efforts to educate members of the House on the importance of prioritizing public safety in the administration of local law enforcement.

Senate Bill 3411 would prevent ticket quotas at any state, county and municipal police departments. It also states that departments would not be allowed to evaluate an officer's performance based on the number of citations they issue. The bill earlier passed in the Illinois Senate on April 10 in a 57-1 vote.
Read more about this legislation.
A group of House and Senate Republicans today introduced legislation that would put on the November ballot a statewide advisory referendum asking voters whether or not the five percent ‘temporary’ income tax increase should become permanent.

“A number of issues are expected to be placed on the ballot in November as a way to gauge public sentiment.  The proposal we are introducing today would ask the voters to decide whether or not the five percent ‘temporary’ income tax increase should be made permanent,” said State Rep. Dennis Reboletti (R-Addison).  “Extending the income tax increase hits residents and small employers directly in the pocketbook.  They deserve the opportunity to weigh in on the decision.” Read more.

In the month of May, the Indiana Territory is approved, a bomb explodes at Haymarket, Century of Progress opens, single atom is discovered, child labor laws are passed, AA flight 191 crashes, Lincoln is nominated for President, Illinois State Historical Society is created, Columbian Exposition opens, Gwendolyn Brooks wins Pulitzer, Land of Lincoln slogan becomes law, Sears Tower is the tallest, State of Illinois building gets new name.
Rep. Mike Bost is the Illinois House Republican Caucus Chair and currently serves on the following committees: Appropriations-Higher Education; Higher Education; Public Utilities (Republican Spokesperson); and Biotechnology Committee.

He represents the 115th District which encompasses all or parts of the following counties: Jackson, Jefferson, Perry, Union, and Washington.  Including but not limited to the communities of Anna, Ashley, Carbondale, Cobden, De Soto, Du Quoin, Mt. Vernon, Murphysboro, Pinckneyville, and Vergennes.

Representative Bost’s election to the State Legislature followed 4 years in the United States Marine Corps, as well as 13 years in his family trucking business.  Read more about Rep. Bost.
House Democrats pass unbalanced budget, blowing up agreed revenue cap. Abandoning their pledge to adhere to projected FY15 general funds revenues of $34.5 billion, the House Democrats passed a series of appropriations bills on Thursday, May 15 that anticipate spending approximately $37.4 billion. Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) begins on July 1, 2014 and continues until June 30, 2015. The Democrats’ spending plan is $2.9 billion more than agreed to by the General Assembly in its previous FY15 revenue estimate.
Republicans say that passing the bills as proposed amounts to making the Governor's tax increase a permanent reality.

"Doesn't your appropiation bill assume the tax increase is permanent, not temporary," said Representative Ron Sandack . 
'How is it we're gonna pay for it then, Sir?"
"My job is just to get this bill outta the floor and pass it. I'm not gonna tell you how we're gonna pay for it just yet."

Rep. Bill Mitchell talks to reporters after his floor comments
about the state flying prairie chickens from Kansas.
Illinois is paying to fly birds in from Kansas.

Our cash-strapped state government has found a new use for its fleet of aircraft – flying birds into Illinois.

I kid you not.

State aircraft are flying to Kansas and transporting prairie chickens back to the Land of Lincoln.

And at a time state lawmakers are looking at raising the state income tax, Illinois state employees have been hiking across Kansas trapping these chickens.

Talk about fowl fiscal deeds.

State pilots have flown between Illinois and Kansas not once, not twice but 14 times this year taking prairie chickens to downstate Jasper and Marion counties. Scott Reeder has the rest of the story on Reboot Illinois.
$37.4 billion in budget bills passed out of the House tonight and will be considered by the Senate in the coming week. The amount was nearly $3 billion more than the revenue numbers agreed upon in a bipartisan resolution passed by the House and Senate. The increase in spending prompted House Republicans to withhold their votes because of constitutional questions and the need for a tax hike to pay for it.

Here's what our members are saying:

Leader Jim Durkin:  The budget passed by Democrats today ignores the constitution, and ignores the taxpayers.  It’s what is wrong with state government.
Click here or the image below to view our LIVE budget tracker.

In January 2011, the Illinois General Assembly passed a “temporary” increase in the personal income tax rate from 3 percent to 5 percent and in the corporate rate from 4.8 percent to 7 percent.

Gov. Pat Quinn -- with help solely from fellow Democrats -- pushed it through post-election and with the help of a legislator or two who’d previously been opposed. Suddenly, votes that had been unavailable were available. And a lame duck legislator or two headed for well-paid state government jobs.

And the vote hadn’t been taken from the tally board before skeptics began to nudge and wink. Given the Legislature's spending record and previous broken promises, did anyone believe “temporary”?
Fast forward to the this spring, and various state agencies under the same governor -- from the people that teach the little ones to those that jail felons -- are again on-script. Read the rest of the opinion piece at The Southern Illinoisan.
Rep. Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) has filed legislation in response to efforts by House Democrats to sneak through what amounts to a legislative pay raise among the dozens of state budget bills being hurried through committee this week. The legislation, HB 6235, sponsored by Kay and other Republican representatives specifically calls for a continuation of furlough days and rejection of the automatic cost of living adjustment (COLA) to legislative salaries.

“First, Democrats broke their promise by going back on their pledge to let the income tax hike expire,” Rep. Kay said. “As if that wasn’t enough, they’re rushing through budget bills to spend more than the bipartisan revenue number we agreed to earlier this spring – to the tune of $2.7 Billion and climbing. Now, on top of that, they’re using an unprecedented series of politically-motivated budget maneuvers to slip in a pay raise for themselves before they go home for the summer. As usual, their priorities are in the wrong place. It’s beyond reckless and irresponsible. ” Read the rest of the story.

As noise complaints have continued to fly in after O'Hare International Airport opened a new runway in 2013, two state lawmakers want to look into it.

Republican state Reps. Dennis Reboletti of Elmhurst and Michael McAuliffe of Chicago will file legislation to study the environmental and health impacts brought on by the new runway.

Reboletti said he has received complaints from all over his district about problems other than noise.

"(People have complained about) not only new noise pollution but also environmental pollution. Fuel from airplanes, and dust and silt, and people are extremely concerned about their health and well-being," he said.  Zachary White at the Daily Herald has the rest of the story.

Sign the Petition to Let the Temp Tax Hike Expire
Many states are seeing state revenue surpluses and are putting them to good use, paying down debt, mitigating cuts in services and reducing taxes. But not in Illinois, where the Democrat-controlled legislature and governor's office are looking to raise taxes. 

From Reid Wilson's  recent Washington Post article:

Florida lawmakers will consider a plan this week to reduce license plate fees by up to $30 for every car. Wisconsin legislators are expected to cut half a billion dollars in property and income taxes, while Iowa has already passed billions in tax cuts.

State Representative Joe Sosnowski represents the 69th Legislative District which includes areas of Boone and Winnebago Counties.

Currently, Rep. Sosnowski serves on the following committees: Cities & Villages, Executive, Revenue & Finance, Business Growth & Incentives, Appropriations-Elementary Education, and Appropriations-Higher Education.  Read more about Rep. Sosnowski.
Chicago – Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI)
Governor claims ignorance, scandal grows. Claiming that he had been “reading the paper” and had just learned about the involvement of a key Chicago politician with his $55 million Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, Gov. Quinn admitted this week that questions about the Chicago-based program were “troublesome.”

The beleaguered governor spoke to the press as new questions swirled concerning the involvement of Cook County Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown and her husband, Benton Cook III. At the time NRI was in full operation, Cook was a supervisory employee of the Chicago Area Project, a nonprofit social-work organization active in Chicago’s troubled West Garfield Park neighborhood.

Senate Bill 2721 sponsored by Representative Mike Bost and Senator Dave Luechtefeld will authorize Jackson County to generate revenue to repair the Grand Tower Levee by issuing bonds. In 1994, voters in Jackson County approved a referendum for the issuance of bonds needed to repair the Grand Tower Levee. Unfortunately, not enough bonds were sold and the timeline to sell the bonds expired – which led to Bost and Luechtefeld’s legislation to help repair the Grand Tower Levee.
The Illinois General Assembly passed House Resolution 922 on Friday calling on Congress to update the federal disaster declaration process, following FEMA’s recent denial of assistance to local governments in communities hard hit by the November 17 tornadoes.  The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Mike Unes (R-East Peoria) and Rep. Keith Sommer (R-Morton).

The disaster declaration process relies on a population-based formula to calculate what a state’s threshold is for federal assistance. Because Illinois is the fifth-largest state in the nation, it has a much higher threshold than other states. But because the tornado outbreak affected primarily small, rural communities the damage did not reach the federal requirement, leaving devastated towns and villages to fend for themselves when it came to meeting the costs of the cleanup.
In response to newly revised revenue estimates released this week that anticipate an additional $1.215 billion revenue for the current Fiscal Year, State Representative Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford) is co-sponsoring a measure to urge the surplus money be used to pay Illinois’ $7 billion backlog of unpaid bills.

“We need to do a better job in Springfield of paying back our bills and cutting wasteful spending,” said Sosnowski. “Using this $1.215 billion to pay down Illinois several billions of dollars in unpaid bills would put the State in a substantially better position to balance its budget and relieve the burden we are placing on taxpayers.” Read more.
Frustrated with the failure of Governor Pat Quinn to implement the broad Medicaid reforms set forth in the 2011 law and the 2012 SMART Act—even as he advocates for an extension of the Democrats’ 67 percent tax increase, State Senator Dale Righter (R, Mattoon) and State Representative Patti Bellock (R, Downers Grove) rolled out a new initiative placing a moratorium on all Medicaid expansions, including benefit increases, until a 2011 managed care requirement is achieved.

“Gov. Pat Quinn and the Democrat leaders are trying to sell the notion that they have done such a good job of cutting, driving efficiencies into and refining the Medicaid program that we can’t possibly move forward in this state without making the tax increase permanent. However, the facts show that simply is not true,” said Righter. Read more.

1. Political slush funds
Funds slated for anti-violence program are handed out to Chicago alderman and others right before an election.

2. Clouted families cashing-in 
Politically connected family members were paid through state contracts

Photos of members in Springfield with visitors, at fire fighters memorial, in committee and at press conferences.

The bipartisan, bicameral Legislative Audit Commission voted 10-1 to grant itself subpoena powers so that it can investigate Governor Quinn's scandal-ridden anti-violence program.

In March, State Rep. David Reis called for a federal probe after a report issued by the Audit General found "pervasive deficiencies" in planning, implementation and management of the Neighborhood Recover Initiative.

A recent Chicago Tribune editorial explains why Illinois job creation is lagging:

... In a recent study, BMO Capital Markets examined why Illinois is being outperformed by neighboring states. The bank's economists predicted that the Illinois economy will continue to recover over the next two years, but the unemployment rate here will continue to lag behind Wisconsin and Indiana by a striking 2 percentage points.

Illinois has suffered a more severe real estate bust than its Midwest rivals, BMO found. In addition, the Illinois labor force is weighed down by long-term unemployed workers who lack the skills that employers are seeking.

Other problems BMO identified are self-inflicted: The state's fiscal woes and unfunded pension liabilities have hurt the business climate. Chicago, the state's most important economic engine, is fighting image problems related to violent crime and its own pension problems. "It's fair to say, Illinois has lagged its Great Lakes peers on many metrics," Michael Gregory, head of U.S. economics at BMO Capital Markets, told the Tribune.

These issues make it hard for Illinois to lure employers and good-paying jobs.

Keep that in mind as you hear political leaders talk about raising taxes and minimum wage rates — and as you hear about hiring gains in other cities and states. Full employment produces more tax revenue and raises wages. That's the missing key to Illinois' survival.  Read the entire Chicago Tribune opinion piece.
Rep. Jil Tracy serves the 94th House district that includes the communities of Monmouth, Burlington, Fort Madison, Keokuk & Quincy.  

Before serving in the General Assembly, Rep. Tracy worked as an Assistant Attorney General and Director of the West Central Regional Office. Read more about Rep. Tracy.
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Taxes – Graduated Income Tax
So-called “fair tax” will not appear on November ballot.  Although state senators who support a graduated income tax attempted to move a constitutional amendment to carry out this goal (SJRCA 40), Republicans blocked this amendment and helped prevent it from meeting its deadline for General Assembly action. The General Assembly cannot place this amendment on the November 2014 ballot and it will not, therefore, become law.
State Representative David Reis (R-Ste. Marie) today welcomed the federal Department of Justice’s investigation into Governor Quinn’s scandal-ridden Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI).

“I’ve long held Quinn’s $54 million NRI program was a politically-motivated, re-election program subsidized by taxpayer dollars,” Reis said.  “I applaud the Justice Department’s recent probe into the program and their commitment to dismantle possible criminal wrongdoings of taxpayer resources.”

Federal prosecutors have requested the Illinois Comptroller’s Office to release information regarding the NRI program.  The federal probe is separate from Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s March subpoena to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity for records tied to the NRI.  Read more.

In the News
The Pantagraph
Herald & Review

Today the Illinois House Counties and Townships Committee unanimously approved bi-partisan legislation to help repair the Grand Tower Levee. The legislation to protect the community of Grand Tower and the Mississippi River Bottoms sponsored by Illinois State Representative Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) and Senator Dave Luechtefeld (R-Okawville) now heads to the House floor for a final vote.

“This issue is not about politics, it doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or Republican, the people in this area have to have their property protected,” said Rep. Bost. “I have been working on this bi-partisan legislation for months with Senator Luechtefeld, Representatives Phelps and Costello Jr. I am pleased we all worked together to help protect the individuals and families that count on the Grand Tower Levee to keep the flood waters at bay. As soon as this bill is signed into law, a local bank is ready to purchase the bonds so that Jackson County may repair the Grand Tower Levee.” Read more.
Illinois has the honor of claiming home to three United State’s Presidents.  Illinois also has the dubious honor of having over $7 billion in unpaid bills, a woefully underfunded pension system, and a culture of taxing and spending at the state capitol bringing State Rep. Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) to the conclusion that we cannot afford a $100 million library in honor of President Barack Obama.

“We as lawmakers have an obligation to prioritize and responsibly allocate taxpayer money,” said Wheeler.  “Being elected President of the United States is a great honor and should be remembered, but if we have an extra $100 million to spend, which we don’t, why not invest in our crumbling infrastructure?  Why not invest in our underfunded pension system?  Why not invest in education?  Why not pay our bills?”  More of the story.