Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 19, 2012

Danville Aldermen Differ on Downtown Promotion

Danville has a new city budget for the next fiscal year, but not before alderman disagreed Tuesday on how best to promote the downtown area.

Mayor Scott Eisenhauer wanted to eliminate funding for Downtown Danville Inc, which ended up receiving $20-thousand, $10-thousand less than it's currently getting from the city.

Alderman Bill Black voted against the move. He says that group appears to be repeating what's being done by the Danville Convention and Visitor's bureau, and particularly, Vermilion Advantage.

"They have a proven track record, they've been around, and I just think the days are over when you can afford a duplication, or sometimes a triplication of effort, " Black said. "It's not against Downtown Danville, or the people on the board, they're fine people. But I just thought in these days of tight budgets, you need to put your money where you get the best return for your dollars."

Black says he disagrees with taking the money to lure business out of the city's general liability line item.

Alderman Rickey Williams Jr. supported the funding for Downtown Danville Inc., saying the focus of Vermilion Advantage should remain on the greater Vermilion County area. But Williams says he considers the vote a victory, since Mayor Eisenhauer wanted to zero-out funding for the group.

"Downtown Danville has struggled for years, and I feel like they're finally starting to have those type resurges that we need in terms of the services offered, in terms of having a little more retail and such downtown," Williams said. "And I think that it's imperative if we want that area to continue to grow, that we support them as a city."

Williams serves on the board of Vermilion Advantage, but says it's focused instead on development in greater Vermilion County.

That group received $70-thousand from the city Tuesday, $20-thousand more that it's currently getting, after a year that's seen retail developments, including new Meijer and Kohl's stores that are underway.

The Danville city budget passed Tuesday on a 10 to 2 vote.

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Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 19, 2012

Quinn Wants Medicaid Cuts, Tax Hike

(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)

Gov. Pat Quinn has come out with a proposal that he said will rescue Illinois' hemorrhaging Medicaid program. It would cut health care services and raise the state's cigarette tax.

In recent years, Illinois has added programs and bulked-up services to help people who don't have or can't afford private health insurance. There is "All Kids," which offers state-subsidized coverage for children. Illinois Cares R-X, which helps low-income seniors pay for prescription drugs.

Those are just two examples of the nearly three dozen programs that would be affected by a proposal unveiled Thursday by Gov. Quinn. He also wants to hike the tax on cigarettes.

A lot of Illinois residents rely on Medicaid to pay for their health care. These days, every other baby born in Illinois is covered by it.

An uptick partially prompted by the recession that, coupled with Illinois' increases in coverage, has made costs soar. Medicaid accounts for 40 percent of the state budget, a number that Quinn said will grow unless something's done to rein it in.

"In order to save the system -- to rescue the system, to have a system of health care for our most vulnerable residents all across Illinois, 2.7 million people, lots of 'em children -- we have to make some fundamental changes," Quinn said. "Now these are difficult changes, but if we don't make those changes, we won't have a system at all."

Quinn's proposed a three-pronged approach. It relies on raising the state tax on cigarettes, paying doctors and hospitals less for taking care of Medicaid patients and cutting programs and the number of people who qualify for them.

Those cuts are wide-ranging. Some aren't too hard to swallow, like limiting recipients to one pair of eyeglasses every two years. Other cuts are more like cost controls. Prior approval would be needed to get a wheelchair repaired or for HIV and cancer patients to get certain drugs. The state limit paying for the delivery of babies via c-section.

Then there are moratoriums on admissions to mental institutions, and knocking 26,000 adults off a state insurance program.

In order to prevent more cuts, Quinn is proposing raising the state's 98-cent tax on cigarettes by a dollar.

"It's one of the largest drivers of cost in our Medicaid system," Quinn said. "Now the proven strategy of preventing more people from smoking and continuing to smoke is to raise the price of cigarettes. That's just common sense."

And as a bonus, Quinn said that would trigger an extra infusion of cash from the federal government.

The American Cancer Society and Lung Association are thrilled.

State Rep. Patti Bellock (R-Hinsdale) said Quinn's plan doesn't go far enough in "scrubbing the rolls." She said there are people who've moved out of state, but still come back to Illinois to use their state-paid Medicaid benefits. She wants recipients to have to prove their eligibility every year. She is concerned that under Quinn's proposal even those who need the care would have a hard time finding it, because doctors will be unwilling to treat them.

The governor's plan calls for a roughly 8 percent decrease in what the state pays caregivers.

Laura Shea is president of the Sangamon County Medical Society, and a practicing psychiatrist in Springfield. She said reimbursements are already too low. Shea said if they go even lower, more doctors may turn away Medicaid patients.

"I'm really concerned about the people who are insured by public aid because I feel like they have a hard time getting treatment already," Shea said.

It is likely that some variety of rate cut will be part of the final deal. It may, however, not be at the level Quinn has proposed.

The governor may have rolled out his plan, but a bipartisan group asked to propose $2.7 billion worth of cuts in Illinois' Medicaid budget failed to come up with a plan by a deadline this week.

State Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) is part of a bipartisan group of legislators the governor had charged with finding a way to cut Medicaid by 15 percent. Righter isn't supportive of Gov, Quinn's plan, noting that Democrats raised the state income tax just last year.

"We're still 6 weeks out from the end of session, the governor's waving the white flag and saying 'you know we're really not going to change the system that much, and we're going to go ahead and raise taxes," he said. "The working group's not done. This is not the working group's plan. This is the governor's plan."

The task force is meeting again Tuesday to come up with its own plan for Medicaid. Whatever the final agreement may be, it is going to hurt.

Advocacy groups have been bracing for proposed cuts and are worried about the impact on the elderly, poor and disabled. David Vinkler of AARP said that cutting some benefits could lead to increases in other costs, like emergency room visits.

"It's going to be really bad," Vinkler said. "People who really need help ... start choosing between food, drugs, and paying their bills.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 19, 2012

New Unit 4 Board Member Anxious to Get Started

The newest member of the Champaign School Board says she wanted to take on a more active role as a community member and parent.

Ileana Saveley was selected earlier this week among the 8 who interviewed to fill the open seat left by Greg Novak, who passed away earlier this year.

Reflecting on her own struggles in grade and high school, the 33-year old Saveley hopes to help other native Spanish-speaking students and parents who have had trouble learning English.

"The immigrant children are coming in to our community, (I'll be) talking to those parents, trying to help them," she said. "You know, there's a need for someone who can communicate in both directions and feels like the can communicate to be actively involved."

Saveley says she'll take her time getting her feet wet before weighing in on the issues impacting Unit 4, and isn't sure yet if she'll run for the remaining two years on Novak's term.

Saveley is a Chicago native. She has two kids in the Unit 4 system - a son at Jefferson Middle School and another at Champaign's early childhood center.

Saveley works as an operations supervisor at the Social Security Administration Office in Decatur.

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Categories: Community, Education

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 19, 2012

New Unit 4 Board Member Anxious to Get Started

The newest member of the Champaign School Board says she wanted to take on a more active role as a community member and parent.

Ileana Saveley was selected earlier this week among the 8 who interviewed to fill the open seat left by Greg Novak, who passed away earlier this year.

Reflecting on her own struggles in grade and high school, the 33-year old Saveley hopes to help other native Spanish-speaking students and parents who have had trouble learning English.

"The immigrant children are coming in to our community, (I'll be) talking to those parents, trying to help them," she said. "You know, there's a need for someone who can communicate in both directions and feels like the can communicate to be actively involved."

Saveley says she'll take her time getting her feet wet before weighing in on the issues impacting Unit 4, and isn't sure yet if she'll run for the remaining two years on Novak's term.

Saveley is a Chicago native. She has two kids in the Unit 4 system - a son at Jefferson Middle School and another at Champaign's early childhood center.

Saveley works as an operations supervisor at the Social Security Administration Office in Decatur.

Categories: Community, Education

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 19, 2012

Champaign Resident Remembers Kindertransport

One of the lesser known stories about the Holocaust is what is known as the Kindertransport - rescue missions that brought thousands of mostly Jewish children from Nazi-controlled territories in the months leading up to World War II. One of those children was Champaign resident, Heini Halberstam. He was born in Czechoslovakia, and separated from his mother during the Nazi occupation. He believes she died in a labor camp. Halberstam said that changed his life forever. He tells Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers about his experiences on the Kindertransport.

(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)

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Categories: Biography, History
Tags: history, people

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 18, 2012

Danville Aldermen Differ on Downtown Promotion

Danville has a new city budget for the next fiscal year, but not before alderman disagreed Tuesday on how best to promote the downtown area.

Mayor Scott Eisenhauer wanted to eliminate funding for Downtown Danville Inc, which ended up receiving $20-thousand, $10-thousand less than it's currently getting from the city.

Alderman Bill Black voted against the move. He says that group appears to be repeating what's being done by the Danville Convention and Visitor's bureau, and particularly, Vermilion Advantage.

"They have a proven track record, they've been around, and I just think the days are over when you can afford a duplication, or sometimes a triplication of effort, " Black said. "It's not against Downtown Danville, or the people on the board, they're fine people. But I just thought in these days of tight budgets, you need to put your money where you get the best return for your dollars."

Black says he disagrees with taking the money to lure business out of the city's general liability line item.

Alderman Rickey Williams Jr. supported the funding for Downtown Danville Inc., saying the focus of Vermilion Advantage should remain on the greater Vermilion County area. But Williams says he considers the vote a victory, since Mayor Eisenhauer wanted to zero-out funding for the group.

"Downtown Danville has struggled for years, and I feel like they're finally starting to have those type resurges that we need in terms of the services offered, in terms of having a little more retail and such downtown," Williams said. "And I think that it's imperative if we want that area to continue to grow, that we support them as a city."

Williams serves on the board of Vermilion Advantage, but says it's focused instead on development in greater Vermilion County.

That group received $70-thousand from the city Tuesday, $20-thousand more that it's currently getting, after a year that's seen retail developments, including new Meijer and Kohl's stores that are underway.

The Danville city budget passed Tuesday on a 10 to 2 vote.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 18, 2012

Illinois Senators Scrutinize Prison Cuts, Funding to Ceasefire

An Illinois Senate Appropriations Committee questioned the closing of two state prisons and other program cuts proposed by the Illinois Department of Corrections at a time of prison overcrowding.

The IDOC is looking to reduce costs as its proposed $1.1 billion budget for fiscal year 2013 is $112 million less, or 9.2 percent, than this year.

IDOC director Salvador "Tony" Godinez defended the cuts given the department's shrinking budget.

"Obviously, this budget request reflects the reality of the economic situation we're facing here in the State of Illinois. This budget request contains many difficult choices that must be made given our overall fiscal climate," Godinez said Tuesday. "There's absolutely no area of area of our agency that is not going to be impacted."

The IDOC, as directed by Gov. Pat Quinn, is looking to close by August two state prisons: the Tamms Super Max facility in southern Illinois and the Dwight Correctional Center in central Illinois.

Combined, closing the facility will save the department nearly $60 million but cause the layoff of 800 employees.

The IDOC is also proposing to eliminate six adult transition centers.

Some senators expressed concerned about the closing of Tamms, since it houses 181 of what the state considers its most dangerous inmates.

State Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, wondered if it would be better to reduce the pay of IDOC employees but keep the facilities running.

"Would it make more sense for taxpayers and those that are operating facility to have the facilities stay open and perhaps have a reduction of pay so that a larger number of people can keep their job?" Murphy asked. "I assume the 800 people would probably rather take a pay cut and stay rather than lose the job. And for the benefit of the taxpayer, keeping more facilities, since we do still have an overcrowding situation. "

As IDOC considers the cuts, Murphy questioned the agency's proposed spending of $4.4 million to fund Chicago's Ceasefire program that aims to reduce violence in urban neighborhoods.

But Murphy and fellow State Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago), also on the committee, questioned the effectiveness of Ceasefire.

"Seeing homicides up 60 percent in [Chicago], it's a reasonable conclusion that ... the program needs to justify itself," Murphy said.

Trotter said of the Ceasefire program, administered through the University of Illinois Chicago, "They have good P.R."

Godinez said Ceasefire is a nationally-based program that's well accepted across the nation.

"It services many communities in Illinois. Every corner of the state has Ceasefire programs in place," Godinez said.

Murphy also wondered if Quinn will reinstitute the Meritorious Good Time (MGT) program that he suspended in 2009.

The program allowed some non-violent offenders to be released early from the sentence.

It was suspended by Quinn after questions arose on whether some prisoners were being given good time credit but not earning it.

Some see it as an effective way of reducing the state's prison population and reducing costs.

Just last week, Quinn's deputy chief of staff Toni Irving said lawmakers would have to adopt a new law to allow MGT since the old statute is outdated.

Godinez said Quinn has given tentative approval to allow electronic home monitoring of some non-violent offenders as a possible option to reduce prison overcrowding.

It was suspended from use around the same time Quinn suspended MGT.

The state's prison population now stands at 48,000. They system is designed to handle 33,000 inmates.

The electronic detention system would allow up to 2,900 inmates to complete their sentences at home.

Godinez told the state senate committee that 1,200 non-violent inmates are now involved in adult transition centers, or ATC, and are put in contact with the public.

"They could be working, going to school, receiving treatment. If we find the best of that population and put them on electronic detention, those that are maybe even 90 days from release, they are already out there, they are actually going to be scrutinized more than if they were in the ATC," Godinez said.

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Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 18, 2012

Illinois Senators Scrutinize Prison Cuts, Funding to Ceasefire

An Illinois Senate Appropriations Committee questioned the closing of two state prisons and other program cuts proposed by the Illinois Department of Corrections at a time of prison overcrowding.

The IDOC is looking to reduce costs as its proposed $1.1 billion budget for fiscal year 2013 is $112 million less, or 9.2 percent, than this year.

IDOC director Salvador "Tony" Godinez defended the cuts given the department's shrinking budget.

"Obviously, this budget request reflects the reality of the economic situation we're facing here in the State of Illinois. This budget request contains many difficult choices that must be made given our overall fiscal climate," Godinez said Tuesday. "There's absolutely no area of area of our agency that is not going to be impacted."

The IDOC, as directed by Gov. Pat Quinn, is looking to close by August two state prisons: the Tamms Super Max facility in southern Illinois and the Dwight Correctional Center in central Illinois.

Combined, closing the facility will save the department nearly $60 million but cause the layoff of 800 employees.

The IDOC is also proposing to eliminate six adult transition centers.

Some senators expressed concerned about the closing of Tamms, since it houses 181 of what the state considers its most dangerous inmates.

State Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, wondered if it would be better to reduce the pay of IDOC employees but keep the facilities running.

"Would it make more sense for taxpayers and those that are operating facility to have the facilities stay open and perhaps have a reduction of pay so that a larger number of people can keep their job?" Murphy asked. "I assume the 800 people would probably rather take a pay cut and stay rather than lose the job. And for the benefit of the taxpayer, keeping more facilities, since we do still have an overcrowding situation. "

As IDOC considers the cuts, Murphy questioned the agency's proposed spending of $4.4 million to fund Chicago's Ceasefire program that aims to reduce violence in urban neighborhoods.

But Murphy and fellow State Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago), also on the committee, questioned the effectiveness of Ceasefire.

"Seeing homicides up 60 percent in [Chicago], it's a reasonable conclusion that ... the program needs to justify itself," Murphy said.

Trotter said of the Ceasefire program, administered through the University of Illinois Chicago, "They have good P.R."

Godinez said Ceasefire is a nationally-based program that's well accepted across the nation.

"It services many communities in Illinois. Every corner of the state has Ceasefire programs in place," Godinez said.

Murphy also wondered if Quinn will reinstitute the Meritorious Good Time (MGT) program that he suspended in 2009.

The program allowed some non-violent offenders to be released early from the sentence.

It was suspended by Quinn after questions arose on whether some prisoners were being given good time credit but not earning it.

Some see it as an effective way of reducing the state's prison population and reducing costs.

Just last week, Quinn's deputy chief of staff Toni Irving said lawmakers would have to adopt a new law to allow MGT since the old statute is outdated.

Godinez said Quinn has given tentative approval to allow electronic home monitoring of some non-violent offenders as a possible option to reduce prison overcrowding.

It was suspended from use around the same time Quinn suspended MGT.

The state's prison population now stands at 48,000. They system is designed to handle 33,000 inmates.

The electronic detention system would allow up to 2,900 inmates to complete their sentences at home.

Godinez told the state senate committee that 1,200 non-violent inmates are now involved in adult transition centers, or ATC, and are put in contact with the public.

"They could be working, going to school, receiving treatment. If we find the best of that population and put them on electronic detention, those that are maybe even 90 days from release, they are already out there, they are actually going to be scrutinized more than if they were in the ATC," Godinez said.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 18, 2012

Indiana Gov. Daniels Endorses Romney for President

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is endorsing Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential nomination that he has all but sewn up.

The Romney campaign announced the support from Daniels on Wednesday. That step that comes after Daniels declined for months to publicly support any of the Republican candidates, saying he wanted to stay neutral if Indiana's May primary ended up being contested.

The endorsement statement from Daniels echoed his message raising concerns about the federal debt that drew him attention as a possible GOP presidential candidate before he bowed out last year.

Daniels says Romney has proven that he understands the nation's challenges and "is prepared to summon Americans to the changes that will restore the American Dream.''

(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

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Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 18, 2012

Indiana Gov. Daniels Endorses Romney for President

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is endorsing Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential nomination that he has all but sewn up.

The Romney campaign announced the support from Daniels on Wednesday. That step that comes after Daniels declined for months to publicly support any of the Republican candidates, saying he wanted to stay neutral if Indiana's May primary ended up being contested.

The endorsement statement from Daniels echoed his message raising concerns about the federal debt that drew him attention as a possible GOP presidential candidate before he bowed out last year.

Daniels says Romney has proven that he understands the nation's challenges and "is prepared to summon Americans to the changes that will restore the American Dream.''

(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Categories: Government, Politics

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