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A Message From Colby on the Future of My Social Jacksonville 

Many have noticed that there has been a significant decline in the number of posts on the My Social Jacksonville Facebook page over the last few months. 

Some – including a former Village employee – have gone so far as to accuse my wife and I of viewing the goings on in the Village as “old news to you now”. While it is certainly true that the amount of information that has been shared and the investigative work that we did in the past has diminished, our desire for the Village of South Jacksonville to continue to grow, prosper, and see citizen trust in its government become stronger has not dropped, in any way. In order to both allay the concerns of a certain group of people and to be fair to all, it’s time to tell you a little bit more about the behind the scenes of this website and page.

A few weeks prior to the election that saw Harry Jennings become Village President, I had additional responsibilities given to me, both by my employer at the time in Springfield and a couple of freelance projects that I had been working on. With those new responsibilities, I had to make a choice of whether to try to take those responsibilities and continue the previous intensity of work involving watchdog efforts in the Village… or to focus on those items that paid bills, put food on the table, and provided for the needs of my family. As at least one of my colleagues in the watchdog efforts over the last couple of years can attest, it’s not cheap to do, both in terms of real financial cost and in terms of cost to family life. When you file a Freedom of Information Act with a government body and they respond by giving you tens, dozens, or even hundreds of pages of material that you then have to read, digest, and then make a written conclusion from, that is extremely time-consuming. As we all know, there are only so many hours in a day.

I made a commitment to myself that I would see the election through, no matter whom emerged victorious in the Village President’s race, although I had my chosen candidate. At that point, I intended to allow whichever candidate – Harry Jennings or Dani Glascock – get into office, get acclimated, and begin to form the path of their administration. At the very least, I was going to back off for ninety days, if not longer, before really jumping back into things. I felt then, as I do now, that that was a fair thing to do. Harry Jennings knew that, as I had privately disclosed to him that sentiment. Dani Glasock, had I felt comfortable in approaching her at the time (I didn’t, for reasons that anyone who followed the last few months of the campaign season can probably figure out), would have been given the same knowledge.

On April 4th, we all had the opportunity to go to the polls and speak out. By a dozen votes, probably the closest election in Village of South Jacksonville history, Harry Jennings defeated Dani Glascock to win the President’s office. On May 4th, President Jennings took office, starting the ninety-day clock, a “grace period”, if you will. I sat back, observed, and made notes about things I thought might be worth looking into. A ninety-day “grace period” from the day that President Jennings took office would have expired on August 2nd.

August 2nd arrived and, in my personal life, so had a few other things that had taken a greater position of importance than My Social Jacksonville and its zero revenue status. Those who know my wife and I personally are aware of one obvious item. I had also begun the application process for a new job, having made the decision that continuing in my previous career field simply wasn’t feasible anymore, due to changes outside of the workplace. However, part of the process of applying for the new position meant that I would have to dial back my online presence. So, the decision was made to do just that and be very quiet for awhile.

Let me be clear – I am not ashamed by any of the watchdog work that I have participated in over the last two years. I was wrong about a couple of things and came to the wrong conclusion on some of those items. I’ll take this opportunity to publicly apologize for those conclusions and any and all problems they may have caused. Please know that nothing I did was intended to be malicious and that my goal was the betterment of our community in the long run. In some ways, I – and others – succeeded, but in still other ways, I – and others – failed.

On August 31st, I – and another person – received the following text message from a former Village employee:

“I’ve been contacted by several people that find it extremely interesting that since the new administration has taken over at SJax that neither of your sites are exposing the behind-the-scenes goings on. Contracts being signed without approval, Trustees and Mayor fighting like children, or the entire Board is meeting tonight and no agenda is posted online. Or, maybe they feel chief of police interviews wouldn’t be violating OMA. Supposedly you both claimed to be unbiased, but clearly this isn’t the case. Just passing along what is being discussed in the Village. Guess the Village is old news to you now.”

I’m not here to debate whether that meeting did, in fact, violate the Open Meetings Act. As we all know, our current chief, Tim Mann, was eventually hired as a result of that meeting. The other accusations – contracts, in-fighting among elected officials, etc – have all been brought up to several elected officials, who have denied them. Whatever the case may be, I’d like to remind you that, as a citizen, you have just as much of a right to file a Freedom of Information Act with the Village or to ask questions of your community leaders as I, Tyson Manker, Mike Woodyard, Kim Rawe, or anyone else involved in the watchdog efforts of the last several years. If you have questions, ask them. I believe that the current administration – and, quite honestly, the Waltrip administration, as well – want to have absolutely nothing to hide from South Jacksonville residents. They want transparency and will work with anyone that asks to help make that a reality.

As to the future of My Social Jacksonville, here’s where things stand:

I was, a week ago, offered the position for which I applied in July. As luck would have it, the timing of certain personnel restructuring at my previous employer allowed me to begin my new position this week. As a condition of that employment, I have been told that I must give up My Social Jacksonville, due to the possibility that, in the course of my employment, I may gain knowledge of privileged information that I would not be able to write about on the website or Facebook. It would be a conflict of interest for me to continue to maintain a website such as MySocialJacksonville.com, in my new position.

I have approached an individual about acquiring the intellectual property, as well as control of the website domain, for My Social Jacksonville. At the time of our conversation, it was purely a hypothetical. Over the next few weeks, I will continue that conversation with them and see if it makes sense for them to take over the site and Facebook page or if I should seek other interested parties. But, the one absolute change – effective immediately – is that I am no longer an administrator for My Social Jacksonville. My new job demands that I do this and I am happy to oblige. For the time being, it remains in the control of my wife, until such time as we decide if she is going to keep the site and run it completely on her own, if we will sell it, or simply shut it down.

It has been an honor to have been a part of so many great things that have happened in our community since March of 2015. I hope to see many more wonderful things happen, now and in the future. I will be right here alongside all of you, but in the role of average citizen just wanting to pitch in, rather than a “loud mouth with a Facebook page and a blog”, as I have so affectionately been referred to on more than one occasion in the last two years. 

God bless.

 

 

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Governor Bruce Rauner Delivers State of the State Speech

Here is the text of Governor Bruce Rauner’s State of the State speech, being given today in Springfield. 

Good afternoon:

President Cullerton

Speaker Madigan

Leader Radogno

Leader Durkin

Lieutenant Governor Sanguinetti

Attorney General Madigan

Secretary White

Comptroller Mendoza

Treasurer Frerichs

Members of the General Assembly

Ladies and Gentlemen: It is an honor to stand with you today to discuss the State of our State. Despite the problems and uncertainties we face, I am deeply optimistic about the future of our beloved Illinois. We have big challenges and like many of you, I’m frustrated by the slow pace of change in Springfield. But with great challenge comes great opportunity. By working together, we can overcome any obstacle. We have the best people and best location of any state in America. Through bipartisan cooperation, Illinois can once again be the economic engine of the Midwest and the home of innovation and prosperity for everyone.

Two years ago, when our Administration came into office, we set about to return Illinois to a state of growth and opportunity. We knew that we could not simply tax our way out of our fiscal problems; we needed to grow; we needed to fix a broken system. We needed to make Illinois more welcoming to job creators; to restore confidence in government; and to ensure that all of our children could receive a high quality education and job training so they could obtain high-paying careers here, at home.

Given those realities, we set key goals for our Administration:

·                     Make Illinois the most ethical and efficient state in the nation

·                     Invest in education so that Illinois has the best schools and vocational training in every neighborhood and in every community

·                     And most importantly, make our state more competitive, more attractive to job creators, to grow our economy and bring more good-paying jobs to our state


Working together, we’ve begun to accomplish these goals, but much remains to be done.

Inside government over the past two years, we’ve made great strides in ethics reform.  We closed the revolving door on Executive Branch employees leaving government to become administration lobbyists. We tightened the gift ban loopholes that lobbyists and contractors used to influence regulators and win favor with decision makers. We increased transparency, so that any resident of the state can now go online and review state spending on contracts and at-will hires. We required more comprehensive economic interest statements so we all could see who was being paid, and by whom.  We cleaned up the hiring mess we inherited at IDOT – and we’re working cooperatively with Michael Shakman to strengthen state hiring rules even more.

We are modernizing and streamlining state government, and building toward a higher level of transparency through our new Department of Innovation and Technology.  In the last year, the Department has protected more than 5 billion records of Illinois residents that were previously left unsecured and unencrypted… and we’re moving millions of pieces of paper out of file cabinets and into the digital age.

Kirk Lonbom leads our cybersecurity efforts at DoIt. He is working around the clock to ensure that our efforts are successful and state records are secure. He is here today, let’s give him a hand.

We’ve cut red tape and made it easier for constituents to interact with state government. We are moving to a digital application process for professional licenses and reducing processing times by 70 percent. We are cutting paper and postage costs through online license renewal notifications, saving money and 16,500 hours of work every year.

Richard Morris works for the Department of Financial & Professional Regulation and has been a leader in our transformation to online licensing. Working across agency lines and with professional associations outside of government, he has put the time and effort in with the right people, at the right level, and at the right time to make this initiative a success. He is here with us today – let’s all give him a hand for his service to our state.

We are using technology and innovation to stop fraud and abuse, and we’re already saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars inside Medicaid alone. And working together, we enacted historic reforms to crack down on unemployment insurance fraud as well.

We signed innovative new contracts with 20 of our state government unions to drive more value for taxpayers, by paying more for productivity and high performance rather than just seniority; by starting overtime pay after 40 hours rather than just 37.5; by adding greater flexibility in the workplace; and, we have laid the groundwork for allowing volunteers to work at our state parks and health facilities. These are all common sense changes that are good for employees and taxpayers alike.

We formed a bipartisan task force led by Lt. Gov. Sanguinetti to recommend ways we can reduce the cost of our bloated bureaucracy and worst-in-the-nation 7,000 units of local government. Every dollar we save in reducing bureaucracy is a dollar we can invest in education and human services, along with reducing our highest-in-the-nation property taxes. The task force made 27 recommendations that we can implement together through legislation to save hundreds of millions of dollars. The communities of Grayslake and Hainesville are leading by example, saving $500,000 per year through sharing services while providing more support to their local police.

Grayslake Mayor Rhett Taylor is with us today. Let’s give him a round of applause for his service – and for setting an example for all of us to follow.

We worked hard to change our broken political system and restore competitive general elections in our state. We encouraged the people of Illinois to put more than one million signatures on petitions to get term limits and fair maps on the ballot. Unfortunately, our judges, who themselves are elected through our state political process, decided that a million signatures weren’t enough. They decided that only you, the members of the General Assembly, could pass the necessary legislation to enable the voters to have their say.

I ask you today, on behalf of all the people of Illinois – Democrats and Republicans – please do the right thing and pass the bills to put term limits and fair maps on the ballot. Let the people decide these issues for themselves. End the power of incumbency and special interest groups, and give power back to the people of our state. Illinois turns 200 in 2018. What better time to give us a brighter next 200 years than by bringing greater integrity to our political system?

When it comes to providing a better future for the people of Illinois, nothing we do together is more important than educating our young people. We all want our children to be able to stay here in Illinois with good-paying jobs. And we want employers to come to Illinois because we have the best people.  So our administration has made education from cradle to career a top priority.

Two years ago we delivered unprecedented funding for our K-12 schools, and the next year we came back and did it again. In all, our kids are receiving $700 million more per year from the state than two years ago, including an extra $100 million for early childhood education. The practice of proration has come to an end.

We formed a bipartisan task force to recommend changes to the unbalanced way our K-12 public schools are funded. For years Illinois has provided the lowest percentage of education financial support from any state in the country. And we have the largest gap between funding for high income schools and low income schools in the country, both across the state and within the city of Chicago. The task force expects to finish their work in the coming weeks, and we look forward to working on a bipartisan basis to implement their recommendations.

We created the Governor’s Cabinet on Children and Youth, bringing together all state agencies that serve our children to ensure that Illinois’ young people are healthy, safe, well-educated and on the road to becoming self-sufficient. The commitment, cooperation and effective problem solving among the agencies involved is extraordinary; in partnership with external partners in the private sector, they will make Illinois a better place for all children.

Working with the Illinois State Board of Education, local high schools, community colleges and local employers, our youth Cabinet is striving to expand vocational training and apprenticeship programs for all our high school students so each of them has a clear path to an attractive career.

Another critical initiative of the Children’s Cabinet is reducing young children’s exposure to lead. We’re proud to recognize Jen Walling from the Illinois Environmental Council, who is working with us on this effort, and she’s here today. On Martin Luther King Day, all of us, Democrats and Republicans, stood together in signing a bill that requires all schools and day care centers to test their drinking water regularly, and inform parents of the results. Dr. King spoke about the threat of lead in 1966, so it was particularly appropriate that we were able to sign that important piece of legislation on his birthday.

Reducing lead exposure—which disproportionally affects low-income children and children of color—is a social justice issue.  So too is ensuring that we provide a means for those in our criminal justice system to rehabilitate and return to productive lives.  Over the past two years our Administration has worked to reform our criminal justice system, reduce recidivism and address underlying behavioral and mental health issues for those in our systems of care, in order to keep our communities safer.

We’re making great strides in implementing initial recommendations from our Commission on Criminal Justice Reform – helping non-violent ex-offenders get back on their feet and giving them meaningful skills to find employment.  We’re turning around the Department of Children and Family Services, and we’ve safely reduced the juvenile justice population by 49%.  We’ve shuttered the outdated Roundhouse at Stateville Prison while repurposing two other facilities in Murphysboro and Kewanee as life skill centers to help non-violent offenders return to the work force more effectively.

Sadly, our progress in reducing non-violent crime is overshadowed by the skyrocketing rate of violent crime in Chicago.

The violence occurring in Chicago every night is intolerable; we’ve got to bring it to an end.

Violence experts say there’s no single cause and no single solution.  But with the right mix of policies – with a joint commitment between the city, the county, the state and the federal government – we can and must find solutions to curb the violence. 

At the Illinois State Police, we’re providing the Chicago Police Department with a wide range of resources – and we stand ready to do more wherever and whenever called upon.  Our troopers have already surged to counter the violence that’s spilled over to our expressways – and we’re committed to hiring more State Police officers to help patrol Chicago expressways, and other high violence areas. 

Law enforcement plays a critical role in violence reduction – but in the end, it’s a treatment, not a cure.  Addressing the roots of this plague will take much more: to restore hope where hope has been lost, to build a long-term future of quality education and good jobs for communities that need it most. Tearing down the barriers to good jobs and economic opportunity. Getting rid of blight and incentivizing redevelopment. Making sure both the state and Chicago Public Schools treat low-income kids the same as high-income kids. Giving parents more choices and support to give their kids a world class education.  Putting vocational training back into our high schools so young people can see a clear path to a career rather than falling victim to the gang recruiters. 

As my good friend Reverend Marshall Hatch has said, nothing stops a bullet like a job.  And so we are focused on building opportunity in every community in our state so that EVERY resident of Illinois can share in the American dream. That’s our single greatest priority: growing more good paying jobs everywhere in Illinois.

Improving transportation is critical to our goal of growing more jobs across the state.

We’ve advanced critical transportation projects to improve the quality of life for residents, and attract new families and businesses. We rebuilt 62 miles of Interstate 90 between Rockford and Chicago and replaced or rehabilitated 100 bridges along the way. We expanded the I-57/70 corridor in Effingham and completed a new flyover ramp connecting the Dan Ryan and Eisenhower Expressways in Chicago.

With your approval in the General Assembly, we are hoping to create a public-private partnership to create a new managed lane on I-55 paid for by private investors – not taxpayers. The project will create thousands of construction jobs, expand the quality of life for commuters, and support faster economic growth throughout the region.

We created a partnership that draws upon the wisdom and experience of our state’s top business executives to recruit employers. We call it Intersect Illinois, and it includes people like Sheila Morgan of the Minority Supplier Development Council; Inga Carus, a 30 year environmental business leader and Chairman of the Peru, Illinois-based Carus Group; Jim Wong a CEO and business entrepreneur with more than 20 years experience; and Chairman Jim Schultz – a fifth generation Illinoisan and agribusiness entrepreneur – working together to bring hope and opportunity to our state.

Sheila, Inga and Jim Wong are here today, let’s thank them for their service to our state.

They’ve already been successful in recruiting employers like Amazon to expand here in Illinois – creating thousands of new jobs across our state.

Working with the General Assembly, we were also able to save jobs in the Quad Cities and in Clinton by passing legislation that ensured energy plants there stayed open. We protected families and job creators by putting caps on business and residential energy rates. And at the same time, we were able to advance green energy by improving our Renewable Portfolio Standard that will lead to billions of dollars in private investment in wind and solar energy.

Jeff Wrage and his wife Stephanie live in Clinton with their two daughters, eight-year-old Halle and six-year-old Maesie. Jeff works as a Chemistry technician at the plant, Stephanie is an IT analyst for State Farm and their daughters attend Clinton Public Schools. They were understandably nervous about the potential plant closing and elated when we successfully passed the Future Energy Jobs Bill. The Wrage family is here today – and we can all be thankful that they’ll be Illinois residents for years to come.

But this is just a start. Illinois is home to some of the greatest research universities in the world.  Working in partnership, we can create a technology and innovation center here in the Midwest that can rival Silicon Valley or North Carolina’s Research Triangle, creating tens of thousands of high-paying jobs.  We can recruit companies who are drawn to our great transportation system, our natural resources and our Midwestern work ethic and quality of life. 

Working together, we can accomplish this kind of growth and opportunity. 

Critical to our success is helping our world-class research universities like the U of I and SIU to extend their footprint in the state, form alliances with other great research institutions like the University of Chicago and Northwestern, and significantly expand their efforts in research and innovation. Our goal must be for our great research universities to drive the same stunning level of company formation, entrepreneurship, innovation and wealth creation as Harvard and MIT have done for New England and Stanford and Berkley have done for California.

A few months ago I met a native son of Illinois, Sam Yagan, who has moved his family back to Illinois after many years of success in Silicon Valley.  He came back because Illinois is his home. He loves the people, the values, and the quality of life here in our great state.  And he’s working to make the next great tech success story right here in Illinois.

I know how he feels. I bet you do too. We love this state, the people here, and our way of life.  This is our home, and we’ll never give up trying to make it better.

Clearly we’re excited about the achievements we’ve made, and the unlimited opportunities open to us.  But we still face significant challenges.

We haven’t had a full year budget of some kind in a year-and-a-half– and we haven’t had a state budget that is truly balanced in decades. We have more than $11 billion in unpaid bills, a $130 billion unfunded pension liability, and the worst credit rating in the nation. We have the 5th highest overall tax burden and one of the lowest rates of job creation of any state.

These problems aren’t new. They’ve been building up for many years as past governors and General Assemblies – from both political parties – kicked the can down the road to avoid making tough decisions.

Years of irresponsible borrowing and deficit spending have been devastating to human service organizations that assist children, senior citizens, people with behavioral health issues and disabilities, and our other most vulnerable residents. It has caused student and faculty departures at our colleges and universities. Decades of undisciplined spending and uncompetitive regulations and taxes have made employers hesitant about coming or staying in Illinois, limiting job opportunities across the state.

We are seeing the collective impact of those realities from Carbondale to Chicago, from East St. Louis to Danville. Families and employers are leaving. Nonprofits and small businesses are cutting staff and services. We are failing to be compassionate because we are failing to be competitive.

These problems aren’t new, but these problems are now ours to solve.

We can, and we must, do better.

We know that much in our state has been broken for many, many years; but we know that there is a way forward – there is a path to a better future for ALL Illinois families.

All of us, on both sides of the aisle – President Cullerton, Leader Radogno, Speaker Madigan and Leader Durkin, we all agree that we must have a truly balanced budget and we must make changes to our broken system to return our state to a path of prosperity.

Listen to these comments from recent news reports:

“What is going on is not good for the state.”

“The only way we can solve our problems is in a bipartisan fashion.”

“To break the impasse, both sides must respect each other’s priorities. That means negotiate, compromise.”

“We should focus on working together and finding common ground to address the issues facing our state.”

Those statements were made by Leader Radogno, President Cullerton, Leader Durkin and Speaker Madigan.

I agree with every single one of them.

Now, let’s get it done!

Our state’s economy could take off like a rocket ship if we could just come together on major pro-jobs changes that need legislation to take effect. Lawmakers from both parties deserve credit for working for many months to find ways to reduce regulatory costs and property tax burdens that make businesses in Illinois less competitive than our neighbors. Hopefully we can build upon these initial proposals to ensure they drive big results on job creation. And hopefully we can work together to cut the red tape even more – reducing filing fees and costly licensing barriers that prevent hard-working Illinoisans from qualifying for good, high-paying jobs.

When it comes to the budget, we all can agree Illinois HAS to do something different.  Our Administration has offered many proposals to achieve a truly balanced budget with changes that fundamentally fix our broken system. We must remember that to keep budgets balanced in the future, our rate of economic growth must be higher than our rate of government spending growth. It’s just simple math.

Changes to the worker’s compensation system to prevent misuse and abuse, and attract employers and good jobs. Property tax relief to reduce the immense burden felt by our families and businesses – and to give them reason to stay here. Term limits and redistricting, where voters pick their representatives and not the other way around, in order to restore the confidence of job creators and working families in our state.

We have offered these proposals to drive the change that we ALL KNOW is necessary.

It’s heartening to see the Senate coming together on a bipartisan basis to acknowledge these changes are needed. Let’s build on that cooperation to achieve a truly balanced budget and changes that really move the needle on job creation and property tax relief.

Our aim to have the most ethical and efficient government in the nation, the best schools in every community of our state, and good jobs for all of our residents – these goals are all within our reach…

All of us are here to build a better future for families across this state.

To build a future where our economy booms and job creation soars. Where states around America watch with amazement as Illinois takes the lead in innovation, job growth and economic opportunity. Where people around the country say to themselves, you know what – we want to live in Illinois – that’s where we want to build a business, that’s where we want to start a family, that’s where we can achieve the American dream.

It’s a future where our schools are the envy of the world.  Where every child from every background gets the same, high-quality education – from cradle-to-career – to get on the path to wealth, prosperity and a high-quality of life.

It’s a future where our budgets are balanced for decades to come – where our credit ratings rise as our pension liabilities drop – where our economy grows faster than government spending – where taxpayers are treated with respect and their government squeezes every penny to go the extra mile.

We’ve been at the bottom for far, far too long. It’s time we race to the top. To lead the nation in job creation. To lead the nation in education funding and outcomes. To lead the nation in ethics and accountability. To lead the nation in poverty alleviation and violence reduction.

Yes, we’ve made important gains in government efficiency and economic development these last two years.  Now let’s work together to make Illinois more competitive – so we can realize a better future of jobs and opportunity for all.

Yes, we’ve made important gains in education these last two years.  Now let’s work together to ensure that every child, in every neighborhood, and in every community, has the opportunity to succeed. To ensure the violence that plagues Chicago and other communities comes to an end. To give people hope that tomorrow will be better than today.

All of us – Republicans, Democrats, and everyone in between – have a moral obligation to work together to bring change. We…together…can return Illinois to a place of hope, opportunity, and prosperity.

Illinois is home. All of us love it here. Ultimately, we all want the same things for our home – good jobs, strong schools and safe communities – it’s just a question of respecting each other’s views on how we get there.  If we negotiate in good faith, we can move Illinois forward as a state which is both competitive and compassionate.

 Now, let’s work together to get the job done.

Thank you.  God bless you, God bless our beloved State of Illinois, and may God continue to bless the United States of America. 

 

Senator Durbin Responds to My Social Jacksonville Letter Regarding Trump Education Secretary Nominee

The following is a reprint of the letter sent to My Social Jacksonville administrator Colby Huff regarding the nomination of Betsy DeVos to serve as Secretary of Education under President Donald Trump.

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Our View: Legislator Paycheck Withholding Needs to End

Welcome to Day #526 without a full-year budget in the State of Illinois.

It is truly mind-blowing, isn’t it?

It is amazing to consider that the individuals that we have chosen to represent us in Springfield have not been able to put together a comprehensive spending plan to fund the fifth-largest state in the nation in over eighteen months. It is important to remember, however, that the process isn’t as simple as many would like to believe.

Fingers are being pointed from both sides of the political aisle at the other side. Democrats claim that Governor Bruce Rauner’s “Turnaround Agenda” is inherently bad for everyone but the wealthiest citizens of Illinois and that his demands for reforms aren’t “budget issues”. Republicans, in turn, put the blame on House Speaker Michael Madigan and his ironclad grip on the floor of the House for over thirty years. It is the opinion of this writer that both sides are right… and both sides are wrong.

The finer details of each party’s arguments aside, the simple fact of the matter is that this is no longer a political game to be waged between two very intelligent, but entrenched, individuals. It never was a game, in the literal sense of the word, but it can be argued that there is a bit of a “game” to be played by both sides when it comes to the process of negotiating a budget, in a normal year.

However, as we approach Christmas and a heightened sense of uncertainty for tens of thousands of state workers and millions of run of the mill Illinois citizens who depend on their service each day, the urgency for Governor Rauner, Speaker Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton, House Minority Leader Durkin, Senate Minority Leader Radogno, and Representative Greg Harris to spend every minute available to work out an agreement for the good of all Illinois residents.

Stuck in the middle of the mess, however, are 173 other elected officials who have been unfairly judged and criticized by their constituents… and unfairly meddled with by the Illinois Executive Branch. It is most certainly not a popular opinion, but these rank-and-file Representatives and Senators are wrongly being told to come to work on behalf of the citizens of Illinois without being paid for their time.

Former Comptroller Leslie Munger, a Republican, took a strong stand earlier this year to decide that legislator compensation would be put into the same ever-growing stack of bills to be paid by the State of Illinois. Newly-elected Comptroller Susana Mendoza, a Democrat, has pledged to continue that policy, unless ordered differently by a court of law. While this writer can appreciate the message that both the former and now current Comptrollers were trying to send, it has reached the point of becoming unfair to 173 people who have little to do with the position in which Illinois currently finds itself.

The blame for the current budget impasse is not on the rank-and-file lawmaker. People such as C.D. Davidsmeyer, Sam McCann, Avery Bourne, Sara Wojcicki-Jimenez, and Tim Butler can go to work in Springfield and give speeches on the floor of their respective chambers until they’re blue in the face, but the truth is, they have no power in the process of making a budget until one is presented to them for a vote. Currently, those five individuals – and 168 other colleagues – are being paid six months or more behind schedule. They’ve done nothing to deserve that, when the blame for the lack of a full-year state budget firmly rests on the shoulders of Governor Rauner, Speaker Madigan, President Cullerton, Leaders Durkin and Radogno, and – as of late – Representative Harris. Until these five people are able to get their heads together and compromise on a bill for the rank-and-file to vote on, nothing can happen. That’s how it works, folks, and we’re aiming our hate and vitriol at the wrong targets, when we criticize people outside of these five individuals.

Now, in the midst of the ongoing fight in the budget sandbox, six Democratic lawmakers have filed suit against former Comptroller Munger and the State of Illinois in an attempt to force their paychecks to be given on time. This is not what residents of Illinois need or deserve right now. Now, on top of significant delays in social service payments, employee incentive compensation, travel reimbursement, aid to college students, and repairs to our infrastructure, Illinoisians will have to foot the bill to defend the state against a lawsuit that never should have been necessary in the first place.

Comptroller Mendoza, do the right thing for the lawmakers that have nothing to do with the budget process until a proposal is presented to them for a vote. Release legislator paychecks on time, just as you do for thousands of other State of Illinois employees. Don’t penalize the many over the actions of the (very) few.

Rauner Administration Reaches Agreement with Several Unions

Governor Bruce Rauner and the following labor unions have agreed to terms on new four-year collective bargaining agreements: 

Service Employees International Union (“SEIU”), Local 1 Chicago, the International Union of United Food and Commercial Workers, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Three Councils of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (The Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters, Mid-Central Illinois Regional Council of Carpenters, and the St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenter’s Regional Council), the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers – Iron Shipbuilders, Blacksmiths, Forgers, and Helpers, the Laborers International Union of North America, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, & Transportation Workers, and Illinois State Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers.

In October, the Administration announced agreements with the International Union of Operating Engineers, the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry, and the International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers. These agreements have now been ratified. Over the summer, the Administration reached collective bargaining agreements with 5 different bargaining units represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, all of which have also been ratified.

Altogether, the Governor has now successfully negotiated new collective bargaining agreements with 17 different bargaining units representing more than 5,000 state employees.  These developments stand in stark contrast to the ongoing negotiations with AFSCME Council 31.  Despite being offered substantially the same material terms as the Teamsters and the Trades, AFSCME has to date rejected the Governor’s chief proposals.

The agreements announced today include:

·         The State will expand the existing group health insurance program by offering employees a variety of new options.  In the expanded program, employees will receive on average $967 per month to either maintain their current premiums, maintain their current coverage, mix and match in the way that is most beneficial to them, or shop for an entirely new custom health insurance package potentially on a new health insurance marketplace.  Employees can also use the State’s contribution to purchase insurance through a union plan.

·         A new performance incentive program to reward employees with bonuses for cost-saving measures and meeting or exceeding performance standards.

·         A new, collaborative managed competition program that allows management and the unions to work together to provide low-cost alternatives to outsourcing.

·         A reduction in the payout for accumulated unused vacation from 75 to 45 days for employees hired after January 1, 2016.

·         Continuation of a 40-hour work week with overtime earned after 40 hours.

·         A program to enable the State of Illinois to address minority underutilization in state government.

·         Increased training and certification opportunities for employees.

·         Continuation of the prevailing rate system administered by the Illinois Department of Labor.

AFSCME is now on the opposite side of these negotiations from their own colleagues in organized labor.  AFSCME continues to reject many of the same, reasonable proposals being ratified by wide margins by their fellow state employees:

·         AFSCME continues to reject the health insurance framework accepted by the trade unions.  AFSCME’s proposal is to continue the same unaffordable health insurance system that the credit rating agencies have noted in the recent downgrades.

·         AFSCME continues to reject a new performance incentive program accepted by trades and Teamsters.  AFSCME’s proposal is to continue to pay employees unaffordable automatic wage increases.

·         AFSCME continues to reject a new, collaborative managed competition program accepted by trades and Teamsters.

·         AFSCME continues to resist moving the overtime trigger to the common workplace benchmark of 40 hours.

·         AFSCME continues to reject a program to enable the State of Illinois to address minority underutilization in state government.

·         AFSCME continues to reject a four-year wage freeze.  Teamsters, in contrast, not only agreed to freeze their wages but did so on top of the 75% in-hire rate.

(The preceding is a reprint of a press release from the Governor’s Office.)

Rauner Administration Reaches Agreement with Several Unions

After several months of good faith negotiations, Governor Bruce Rauner has agreed to terms on new four-year collective bargaining agreements with the International Union of Operating Engineers, the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry, and the International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers. 

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