Week in Review: Madigan, budget, crime & more


Former House Speaker Michael Madigan pleads not guilty to latest federal corruption charges. The Chicago politician, who was Speaker of the Illinois House and head of the Illinois Democratic Party for decades, has since been indicted by federal law enforcement. Charges against former Speaker Madigan include taking bribes and participating in federal racketeering. The charge sheet against Madigan began with allegations involving himself, his senior aides, the utility company ComEd, and the state laws that govern the consumer bills that ComEd is allowed to send out to electricity customers. The federal charge sheet has since been lengthened with additional new charges. The new charges constitute a superseding indictment, a new indictment that supplements and replaces the first one.
  In the superseding indictment, Madigan is now accused of colluding with another utility service provider, telecom provider AT&T, involving other state laws that govern the price tags on consumer bills sent out to millions of Illinoisans. In return for allowing these firms to charge higher bills to customers, Madigan is accused of extracting various favors from these firms. These favors allegedly included money and jobs from these firms and interests for Madigan’s allies and friends. In an arraignment on Tuesday, November 1, lawyers for former Speaker Madigan told a court that he was pleading “not guilty” to all of the current charges against him.

House Republicans responded to the superseding indictment by renewing their calls for comprehensive ethics reform in Illinois state government. The state’s current ethics laws were not effective at stopping the alleged conduct and fact pattern presented in the indictment.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and State Rep. Mike Marron held a press conference following Madigan’s arraignment on Tuesday. Leader Durkin kicked off the press conference by pointing out the decades-long pay-to-play schemes perpetrated by Madigan that are being uncovered by a sweeping Federal investigation.

“Two years ago, Democrats chose to bury their heads in the sand and blocked every attempt to seek the truth about Madigan’s corruption in the Illinois House,” Durkin said. “That’s why I called for a Special Investigating Committee into his behavior. House Speaker Chris Welch called the Republicans’ efforts a sham and a political show trial. After all that we have learned, I’d like to know if Speaker Welch still stands by these claims today.”

AT&T joins Commonwealth Edison as companies identified so far in Madigan’s corruption investigation that have agreed to pay millions of dollars in fines after agreeing to deferred prosecution agreements. AT&T will pay a $23 million fine after admitting the company helped a Madigan ally get a no-show job in exchange for passage of legislation favorable to AT&T.

Rep. Marron says he is sponsoring some of the toughest ethics laws in the country, but House Democrats have actively worked to block their passage.

“I am sponsoring legislation that would end the practice of legislators serving as lobbyists in any capacity,” Marron said. “House Democrats have worked at every turn to block the passage of real ethics reform that would end that corrupt practice as well as provide the legislative inspector general with the tools that he needs to conduct thorough investigations. Something has to change or Illinois will continue to wear the stained reputation of one of the most corrupt states in the country. Our citizens deserve better than that.”

October 2022 report indicates continued growth in State tax revenues. The numbers were published by the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA), the nonpartisan budget-monitoring arm of the Illinois General Assembly. The revenue report covers the fourth month of FY23, which began on July 1, 2022.

State individual income tax receipts continue to increase, helped out by inflation-driven pay hikes and mandatory workplace tax deductions. With CGFA reporting $2,027 million in individual income tax moneys taken in by the State in October 2022, this key facet of State revenues is up more than 20% from the year-earlier level. Individual income tax payments were up by $376 million, year over year, on October 2022. Two other significant State revenue categories, sales taxation (up $60 million year over year) and corporate income taxation (up $50 million) also showed large increases over October 2021.

State lawmakers and budget experts often focus on State tax revenues, which are relatively stable, rather than transfers in, which can fluctuate over time. The balance sheet contained in the CGFA report also shows possible one-time growths in revenue from federal sources ($171 million) and the State income tax refund fund ($197 million), but these revenue sources are not dependable as cash flows for purposes of government spending.

SAFE-T Act lawsuits consolidated. More than one-half of the state’s attorneys of Illinois have filed lawsuits against the Democrats’ SAFE-T Act. These lawsuits, to which prosecutors representing fifty-eight of the 102 counties have signed their names, contain evidence showing that the controversial new Act will force the courts to release thousands of arrested persons. These criminals will be out on the street while awaiting trial, a period that for many criminal justice processes takes significantly longer than 12 months. The SAFE-T Act is scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2023. Warning Illinois of the consequences of this new law, a lead prosecutor says “real tragedy” will result.

The states’ attorneys’ lawsuits against the SAFE-T Act have been consolidated into a single case, which will soon be heard in Kankakee County circuit court. The constitutional questions raised by this Act may well be appealed to a higher court as this question moves toward a final resolution. The Illinois Supreme Court has taken note of the lawsuits and approved the consolidation. In the consolidated lawsuit, the plaintiffs point out that the Constitution of Illinois grants independent powers to its courts of law to decide how to treat people who are awaiting trial; however, the language of the SAFE-T Act contains language that purport to take these powers away. The majority of Illinois’ state’s attorneys believe the SAFE-T Act is not constitutional.

Rep. Dan Ugaste points out that only four states, including Illinois, still have post-pandemic unemployment insurance (UI) debt. Forty-six of the 50 states have now cleared all of the debts they piled up when paying COVID-19 pandemic benefits to persons laid off in 2020 and 2021. Illinois, with approximately $1.3 billion in UI debt still outstanding, is one of only four states with outstanding debts left over to the federal government for money advanced during the pandemic emergency and forced layoffs.

Rep. Ugaste warned this week that this could become a problem for Illinois in only a few days. “Employers throughout the state are going to be hit with higher taxes” after a trigger point on Thursday, November 10, Ugaste said. Federal authorities and lawmakers have warned Illinois that failure to clear the massive UI by November 10 will trigger the so-called ‘FUTA penalty,’ an automatic tax hit imposed on most Illinois employers at the payroll level. The tax hit, if not prevented by making a payment of the past-due liability, will divert a tax stream of money from Illinois employers to cover and service the unpaid debt.

Saline River Farms announces deal to build new processing plant. State Rep. Dave Severin is applauding the decision by the United States Department of Agriculture to award Saline River Farms, LLC a multi-million dollar grant to aid in the construction of a planned meat processing plant in near Creal Springs in Williamson County. Severin says he’s encouraged that more than 400 jobs are coming to the area as a result of the project.

“The area as a whole will really benefit from this new investment and the jobs that will be coming with it,” Severin said. “I am encouraged by the teamwork and cooperation that has been shown by local leaders to make this project a reality.”

Local elected officials and community leaders were in attendance for a special press conference at Veterans Airport in Marion to announce the USDA’s $6.8 million investment in the meat and pork processing facility. Officials involved with the project say the new plant will create more than 400 new jobs and is projected to process 40 million pounds of beef and 19 million pounds of pork every year.

“We’re seeing high prices for the consumer at the grocery store for beef and pork right now, and bringing on more processors is one way we can help to address those costs,” Severin said. “More jobs and more investment means more progress for Southern Illinois.”

Low water levels on the Lower Mississippi pressure farmers, food prices. The Lower Mississippi River, as it flows at and below the port of Cairo, Illinois, is usually a broad deep river for barges and commerce. So much water flows through this river, after the Missouri River and the Ohio River have added their shares, that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has never built dams or floodgates to maintain a full pool for the boats and their tugs that churn up and down the Lower Mississippi. Tug-barge traffic on the Mississippi, including the Lower Mississippi, is an essential link in the supplies of food and energy used by America and the world.

Unfortunately, unusual weather patterns in Year 2022 have caused the flow of water to dry out in large sections of the Lower Mississippi. Down near Memphis, sunken boats are rising up out of the shallow water, and farmers and the grain elevators with which they work are being told that it may be difficult to ship grain to potential customers. This is already creating additional upward pressure on food prices in Illinois and the United States.

Time to fall back one hour. The end of Year 2022 Daylight Saving Time will come just after midnight on November 5-6, 2022. The exact time of the changeover will be 2:00 a.m. on Sunday, at which time all U.S. clocks will fall back one hour to 1:00 a.m. in the jurisdictions (including all of Illinois) that observe Daylight Saving Time.

Daylight Saving Time is observed over almost all of the U.S. in accordance with the federal Uniform Time Act of 1966. Daylight saving time used to be called ‘summer time,’ but it now stretches over a period of time (more than seven and a half months) which is much longer than the three months of summer. Some of the nation’s retailers say that people shop more, for longer periods, if there is still some light in the sky when the shoppers are leaving their places of daytime work. This perception has helped to standardize, and lengthen the official length of, the months of the year which America observes Daylight Saving Time. However, each state can choose to opt out of Daylight Saving Time, and two states – Arizona and Hawaii – have opted out.