No Grand Bargain. For now.


IEA-endorsed Democrat John Cullerton and IEA-endorsed Republican Christine Radogno.

Democratic Senate President John Cullerton’s SB11 failed badly yesterday. SB11 was Cullerton’s pension theft proposal. It contained a choice between two pension diminishments and would have eventually been found unconstitutional by the courts.

But its defeat in the Senate yesterday puts the kabosh on any Grand Bargain to resolve the budget impasse. At least for now.

The Grand Bargain has a murky future in Madigan’s House even if it survives the Senate.

Chicago’s Democrats in the Senate generally voted for the pension thievery. Downstate Dems, not so much.

So, no Grand Bargain – twelve bills in the Illinois State Senate – for now. The budget impasse lives on. The Grand Bargain is wounded, but like a vampire, it isn’t dead dead.

In other Springfield news, Bev Johns reports that key House Democrats stated that “Commission members did not explicitly endorse the Evidence-Based Model or these 27 elements” that were listed in the Commission Report.

But both the Senate and the House are still working on the special education parts of any school funding reform.

On Tuesday, Illinois Secretary of Education Beth Purvis got into a pissing match with CPS CEO Forrest Claypool after the head of Chicago schools sent a letter to all parents  saying the Governor has stolen from children.

True. But pick your thief between that bunch.

IEA-endorsed Cullerton and and IEA-endorsed Republican leader Radogno are trading counter-offers on a school funding reform bill (Amendment to SB 1).

Watch out on that deal. Nothing good can come from those two.

What remains of the Grand Bargain bargain (No. That’s not a typo)?

Local property taxes would be frozen for two years, but schools would get the ability to scale back state requirements such as physical education, special education and driver’s education courses to cut costs.

School districts also would have more power to outsource things such as janitorial services.

 It would raise the personal income tax rate from 3.75 percent to 4.99 percent. Apparently 5 percent (which it once was) is some kind line in the sand. 

It’s all so stupid when what is needed is a progressive income tax.

The overall sales tax rate of 6.25 percent would drop to 5.75 percent, but it would be applied to a broader range of goods including food, drugs and medical supplies. The current sales tax rate, however, is just 1 percent for many food, drugs and medical supplies — think stuff bought at the grocery store.

The sales tax expansion seems regressive to me. 

In addition, services would be taxed at 5.75 percent, including car repairs, landscaping, laundry, and cable and satellite. The Center for Budget and Tax Accountability, who I trust on such matters, has suggested this for a while.

“Our goalie” wants to cut corporate taxes in half.


In case you stayed awake last night because you hadn’t heard the news and couldn’t fall asleep worrying, Democratic Party Chairman and Speaker of the House Mike Madigan was elected as Speaker for the 17th time. He got every Democratic House members’ vote except for Scott Drury from someplace called Highwood.  Highwood is somewhere between the north shore towns of Highland Park and Lake Forest. He courageously and boldly abstained.

Drury was one of those Democrats who refused to give Madigan his veto proof majority, even on the good stuff.

My youngest daughter was six years old the last time Illinois had a House Speaker not named Madigan, except for one session (1995) when the Republicans took control.

She just celebrated her 40th birthday.

In the fight against Governor Rauner, the state’s public union leadership including the IEA calls Madigan, our goalie.

It is a lovely metaphor. It means they are counting on the Speaker to block Rauner’s anti-union anti-labor shots.

What choice do they have? The union leadership has proven itself incapable of doing the job.

Madigan, you may recall, rebuffed Cullerton and the state labor coaltion’s efforts to draft a pension theft bill aimed at stopping one that they thought would be worse.

It was worse. Madigan drafted it and the Supreme Court tossed it out.

In the Senate chamber, Democratic Senate President John Cullerton has all but caved to Rauner’s Turnaround agenda. His recent Grand Bargain with Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno (IEA endorsed) gave Rauner major parts of his Turnaround Agenda, including property tax freezes and pension theft.

Time ran out before the Grand Bargain got very far. It will be back.

As of now it does not seem that Madigan will go along.

I talked with a progressive House member the other day who also believes there is little support for the Grand Bargain among Democrats in the House. Including any unconstitutional pension thievery.

However revenue reform is also not on the agenda. There is no talk of a fair graduated income tax.

In fact our goalie is calling for cutting corporate taxes by half.

And they are bringing back the Edge corporate tax giveaway which allows the state’s largest corporations to collect employee state income taxes and then keep what they collect for themselves.



Override. Override. Override. Block Sessions.


Democrats should block the appointment of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.

Democrats in the Illinois State Senate voted three times to override three Rauner vetoes of pro-working families and progressive legislation.

The Illinois legislature is meeting briefly this week and later in November in what is called the Veto Session.

And overriding Rauner vetoes is what they are doing.

Senate Dems voted to override Rauners veto of the Automatic Voting Law. If enacted the AVR  requires the Illinois State Board of Elections to build an electronic portal allowing several state agencies, including the Department of Human Services and the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, to automatically register eligible voters who are seeking their services.

Along with the current early voting law, the AVR greatly increases voting democracy in the state.

The Senate also voted to override the Governors veto of SB 2931. The bill  requires the state to pay personal assistants and individual maintenance home health workers who care for people with disabilities through the Home Services Program no less than $15 an hour.

And the Senate overrode Rauner’s veto of a bill blocking state cuts to training programs and health insurance coverage for non-relative, in-home child care providers in the child care assistance program.

All three bills now go to the Illinois House.

At yesterday’s North Lake Shore Illinois Retired Teachers Association luncheon I asked IRTA Executive Director Jim Bachman if he expected an override of the AVR veto in the House.

He said he thought it was likely.

Meanwhile, this morning I read that Trumpf has chosen Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as the head of the Justice Department.

When President Reagan nominated Sessions to be a federal judge, the Senate rejected him for his racism.

Democrats in Washington should follow Illinois’ lead in opposition to Rauner and Trumpf and do whatever it takes to block the Sessions appointment.

IEA members should stop giving their money to IPACE.

IPACE is the Illinois Political Action Committee for Education.

It is one of the largest political action committees in the state.

Illinois Education Association members pay through automatic payroll deduction and many do it without following closely where that money goes.

I have complained for years about the system of IPACE political recommendations and the awarding of members dollars to candidates that follow those recommendations.

Incumbents whether they are Democrats or Republicans who vote with the IEA on a very few narrow so-called education issues are guaranteed a recommendation.

Members only need to look at the legislative successes of the IEA over the past years to see the utter failure of this approach.

The New York Times today singles out the IEA as one state union that seems to work against its own political interests.

In Illinois, the top three recipients of political contributions from the Illinois Education Association this year are Republicans, including a candidate for the State House who has Tea Party support and advocates lower taxes and smaller government.

Back when Republican Senator Mark Kirk was running for Congress in the 10 Congressional District, IPACE recommended him over an African-American, anti-war Democrat. It shocked many IEA progressive activists in that District.

Kirk was recommended once again, and received IPACE money once again, when he ran in the Republican primary for the Obama seat in the US Senate.

To no one’s surprise, Kirk’s first public statement since the start of his recovery from a stroke was a video calling for benefit cuts to state employee pensions, including teachers.

Back when Ken Swanson was IEA President he spoke to our Region Council and promised a review of IPACE recommendation procedures.

It was one more Ken Swanson empty promise. It never happened. Swanson may be gone, but the review of IPACE recommendations still has not taken place.

Years ago I stopped making IPACE contributions. I now make individual contributions to individual candidates who support what I support.

I think other IEA members should do the same until this nonsense stops.

The in box. Chris Ludkowski takes on Representative Elaine Nekritz

Lill Ludkowski is a teacher in my old district. A union stalwart. Chris Ludkowski is her son.

State Representative Elaine Nekritz is a chief sponsor of the pension cost shift that would move the state’s pension payment obligations to local school districts. She also backs benefit cuts to teacher retirees.

Whether or not the pension shift obligation ever takes place, the threat of it is being used by boards of education to resist salary increases in current contract talks throughout the state.

Hello Fred,

I’m writing so that your readers can be the first to know that my son, Chris Ludkowski, has decided to mount a write-in campaign for the office of State Representative of the 57th District.As many of your readers know, that office is currently held by Elaine Nekritz, sponsor of the bill to shift the cost of teacher pensions to local school districts. Ms. Nekritz is not a friend of teachers or public employees.

Let me tell you about Chris. He attended elementary and junior high school in East Maine School District 63, and he graduated from Maine East High School in 2004. He attended Illinois State University received his B.S. degree with a double major in History and Political Science. He went on to earn an M.B.A. from ISU in 2010.

Chris is currently employed as a solutions specialist with an industrial chemical company. He helps private companies and government entities reduce operating costs in his current position. My son doesn’t like career politicians, but he is tired of the ” B.S.” and believes that the citizens of District 57 require fresh leadership to represent their interests in Springfield.

What will he work to accomplish?

1. Taxes should be increased for the highest earners. He realizes that any tax increase is going to be unpopular. However, there is no reasonable alternative to fix the problems that current and past senators and representatives have created. The burden of balancing the Illinois budget should be placed on those who can most afford it.

2. Capital gains should be taxed as income, not investment income.

3. Regulations should be increased on speculative-style trading.

4. Taxes should be increased for large corporations to pay for public services and commitments. ( i.e. pensions, roads, schools, police, fire, etc.) Public workers should not have to accept pension cuts because of government irresponsibility.

5. Penalize corporations that send jobs out of the country.

6. Reward corporations that create jobs for people in the United States.

7. He is pro- single payer universal health care.

8. He would work to increase funding to community colleges.

9. Labor Unions should be expanded.

What are his personal qualifications?

* He has no DUIs, arrests, convictions, or indictments.

* He hasn’t lied about his service record. (He is not a veteran.)

* He has had no extra-marital affairs.

* He has knowledge of foreign policy and business experience.

I hope all of you will spread the word and support my son even if you don’t live in District 57.

Thank you!

Lill Ludkowski


Guest blogger: “Do they think WE’RE idiots.”

By guest blogger: MiC

Shortly after a special session of the Illinois General Assembly ended a couple weeks ago, Representative Daniel Biss described the failure to enact pension “reform” by the politicians assembled in Springfield this way:

“We all look like idiots.”

This line, widely reported, pretty much summed up the view held prior to the special session of roughly 800,000 working and middle class Illinois public employees who keep us safe, care for our sick and elderly, inspire our children, or generally ensure Illinois keeps working. But although this might be a great summation of a growing majority of those paying close attention to the actions of their elected representatives in Springfield, for me this line was more a glimpse into the esteem Springfield politicians hold the majority of people who elected them to office.

We look like idiots to them.

How else can candidates like Daniel Biss, who wants to be the next Democratic state senator from the ultra deep blue north shore, think we won’t notice that his website describes “our promises of future Medicaid, pension, and retiree health benefits” – rather than an outdated flat tax system or corporate giveaways – as the focus of his “tough decisions” he’d make to fix Illinois’ structural budget deficit? Does he think we won’t notice that his five-point plan for “Jobs and the Economy” has as its first priority a corporate tax cut that subsidizes private sector labor costs with taxpayer dollars? Does he think we won’t notice there is no mention of the need for a graduated income tax, an end to corporate give aways, or the reform of TIF district use?

Does Biss think we’re idiots?

Do Democratic leaders like Governor Quinn really think we’ll believe that cutting the income of hundreds of thousands of middle class workers on the heels of the Great Recession won’t tank Illinois’ fragile economy and increase unemployment? With recent studies showing that pension recipients contribute $1.4 billion in sustained economic stimulus to Illinois economy, does he really think we won’t notice how his idea of “reform” will diminish not only the earned benefits protected by the Illinois and US Constitutions, but damage our economic recovery and reap devastating effects on Illinois’ working and middle class?

Does Quinn think we’re idiots?

Do they think that we didn’t notice that politicians in Springfield created this problem by their prolonged fiscal mismanagement of the state’s budget and repeated diversion of pension contributions to support unsustainable tax policy? Do they think we forgot that as they were piously advocating the dire need for pension “reform” they were enthusiastically opening the state coffers in the form of giant tax breaks for corporations earning billions in profit? Now that they’ve created a “crisis”, do they really think hundreds of thousands of voters who never missed their pension payments and who provided decades of service to Illinois’ citizens should be the ones to bail the state out?

Do Springfield politicians think we’re idiots?

Do they really think now that Gov. Quinn, a Democratic Governor who was booed off the stage at the state fair by his own Democratic base, has failed to achieve a pension “reform” deal with the two Democratic leaders in the house and senate – Mike Madigan and John Cullerton – that Springfield politicians can lie low until after the election in November and we’ll forget all this? Do they think that during the lame duck session they’ll be able to push through pension “reform” that focuses exclusively on diminishing benefits while ignoring the state’s real revenue issues and we won’t notice? Do they think we’re not watching to see if they begin to replace our outdated flat income tax used in only six other states with a graduated income tax, reform TIF district practice that was supposed to address urban blight but instead diverts local tax dollars to corporate bottom lines, eliminate give aways to corporations that take jobs hostage and extort taxpayers, and restructure the debt to realistic amortization schedules?

If they don’t, they think we’re idiots.

Reform Springfield. Send Patti Bellock a message. She’s ALEC’s State Legislator of the Year.

You need know nothing more about why we need to Reform Springfield than this: State Representative Patti Bellock from suburban Westmon is ALEC’s State Legislator of the Year.

Dear Friend,

Please join me in congratulating State Rep. Patti Bellock for being named “Legislator of the Year” by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for her extensive work on Medicaid reform. 

Rep. Bellock spent thousands of hours in meetings crafting Medicaid reforms that protected the most vulnerable while helping put our Medicaid system back on a path toward financial stability.  This was by no means an easy task.  All along the way, she faced strong resistance from many Democrats and interest groups who want to see Medicaid expanded, not reduced.   Once initial reforms were enacted into law, Bellock still had to fight to see commonsense measures like her recapture audit and residency verification implemented.  Rep. Bellock is still leading the fight to ensure implementation of all the reforms we have passed and is working with staff to craft additional Medicaid Reform measures. 

I remember several times this session when Rep. Bellock came into my office and said, ‘I think now is the time that we need to push for more reforms, this is our opportunity to push as hard as we can.’  And in each and every meeting she had with me, our staff and with the working group, she would bring more reforms and cuts for consideration.  I truly believe without our team member, Patti Bellock, at the table the Medicaid package would have been so much weaker than then what was signed into law.

Rep. Bellock was recognized for her efforts  at ALEC’s Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah this past Friday.   She was nominated by several of her colleagues for this prestigious national award. Patti Bellock is highly deserving of this recognition and we should all be proud of her, her past accomplishments, and those still to come.   


Tom Cross

House Republican Leader

State Representative, 84th District

Lets all give Patti a congratulatory phone call or send her a fax, shall we?

Springfield Office:
227-N Stratton Office Building
Springfield, IL   62706
(217) 782-1448
(217) 782-2289 FAX
District Office:
1 S. Cass Ave.
Westmont Centre, Suite 205
Westmont, IL  60559
(630) 852-8633
(630) 852-6530 FAX
DuPage County

Reform Springfield: Are retirees living “too long?” Dem legislator repeats GOP talking points.

Dear Senator Holmes-

You state “Another reason for our current pension crisis is that people are living longer.” With all due respect Senator, do you know how to use Google? As a Democrat I would expect you to know that this is a Republican talking point used in their attempts to eliminate Social Security and has been debunked so repeatedly that I’m genuinely surprised that you would repurpose it in your attempt to justify diminishing the benefits protected by the Illinois constitution you swore to uphold.

Here’s the main reason for the increase in life expectancy from Center for Economic and Policy research:

“Unlike a century ago, people expect their children to live past the age of retirement. This fact has important implications for how workers save for retirement, but has no specific implications for the retirement portion of Social Security. In addition, the increase in life expectancy is not nearly as important as it might first appear. A significant part of the increase in life is between birth and age 20. Including declines in child and teen mortality exaggerate the increase in retirement length. Furthermore, much of the gains in life expectancy come during working years—between age 20 and retirement.”

Rather than espouse a Republican attack on Social Security as a retooled rational for diminishing Illinois pension benefits, why don’t you look for ways to actually solve Illinois’ revenue problem and structural budget deficit. For starters, elimination of our outdated flat tax system, ending corporate giveaways that cost Illinois revenue and jobs, and restructuring the debt owed to the pension system caused through decades of fiscal mismanagement by Springfield legislators would all be more effective solutions than complaining that retirees live longer.

– MiC