Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 20, 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.

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Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 20, 2012

Quinn to Unveil Pension Proposals Friday

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn will lay out major proposals for fixing the state's pension mess Friday.

A state lawmaker suggested they will include higher employee contributions and more modest annual increases.

The Democratic governor confirmed his plan Thursday after another major announcement about savings in Medicaid health programs.

Quinn will move forward on a pension fix as a group of lawmakers assigned to suggest ideas has not agreed on a complete plan.

Rep. Elaine Nekritz is a Northbrook Democrat on the committee. She says Quinn's staff told the group he wants employees to make higher contributions toward their pensions and will propose changes to cost-of-living increases. She would not be more specific.

Illinois pension systems are underfunded by $80 billion. Nekritz says Quinn will propose full funding in 30 years.

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Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 20, 2012

Goetten Concedes to Gill in State’s Democratic 13th District Race

A month after Illinois' March 20th primary, the state officially has its Democratic candidate for the 13th Congressional District.

In a press release issued late Friday, Greene County State's Attorney Matt Goetten conceded the primary to Bloomington physician David Gill. Goetten says he was 'honored to earn the support of thousands of people across Central Illinois, who were tired of failed leadership in Washington.'

He says Washington has 'lost touch with hard working men and women in Central Illinois, and it's critical that we have a voice fighting for us. Goetten didn't say he was endorsing Gill, but 'wished him the best of luck in taking on Republicans' failed agenda.'

Final numbers from the Illinois State Board of Elections show Gill defeated Goetten by 163 votes. The numbers were certified Friday by the board at its meeting in Chicago.

Republican party chairs in 14 counties will take a weighted vote to determine the GOP nominee, who will replace retiring Urbana Congressman Tim Johnson.

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Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 20, 2012

Goetten Concedes to Gill in State’s Democratic 13th District Race

A month after Illinois' March 20th primary, the state officially has its Democratic candidate for the 13th Congressional District.

In a press release issued late Friday, Greene County State's Attorney Matt Goetten conceded the primary to Bloomington physician David Gill. Goetten says he was 'honored to earn the support of thousands of people across Central Illinois, who were tired of failed leadership in Washington.'

He says Washington has 'lost touch with hard working men and women in Central Illinois, and it's critical that we have a voice fighting for us. Goetten didn't say he was endorsing Gill, but 'wished him the best of luck in taking on Republicans' failed agenda.'

Final numbers from the Illinois State Board of Elections show Gill defeated Goetten by 163 votes. The numbers were certified Friday by the board at its meeting in Chicago.

Republican party chairs in 14 counties will take a weighted vote to determine the GOP nominee, who will replace retiring Urbana Congressman Tim Johnson.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 20, 2012

Quinn: Delay Retirement, Charge Employees More

Gov. Pat Quinn wants to raise the retirement age for Illinois public employees and require them to contribute more money to their retirement funds.

Those are the key parts of what Quinn calls a "bold plan'' to shore up state pension systems. They're now about $85 billion short of the money they'll eventually need.

The Democratic governor says the retirement age should be raised to 67 and employee contributions should climb by 3 percent.

He also wants downstate and suburban school districts to start contributing to the pensions of their employees. The state pays for that now.

At a Chicago news conference Friday, Quinn acknowledged the pension problem was largely caused by the state falling short. But the cost of his new plan mostly falls on workers.

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Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 20, 2012

Quinn: Delay Retirement, Charge Employees More

Gov. Pat Quinn wants to raise the retirement age for Illinois public employees and require them to contribute more money to their retirement funds.

Those are the key parts of what Quinn calls a "bold plan'' to shore up state pension systems. They're now about $85 billion short of the money they'll eventually need.

The Democratic governor says the retirement age should be raised to 67 and employee contributions should climb by 3 percent.

He also wants downstate and suburban school districts to start contributing to the pensions of their employees. The state pays for that now.

At a Chicago news conference Friday, Quinn acknowledged the pension problem was largely caused by the state falling short. But the cost of his new plan mostly falls on workers.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 20, 2012

U of I Paying Bill for Dustup Over President

The conflict at the University of Illinois that eventually led to the resignation of Michael Hogan from the presidency had a monetary cost that could reach $250,000.

The crisis at the university began in December when unsigned emails were sent to members of the U of I's Faculty Senate about a report that was critical of some of the president's proposals. The emails were traced to a computer used by Hogan's chief of staff, Lisa Troyer, who resigned.

The Chicago Tribune reports (http://trib.in/I6cI8h) that after faculty members began publicly criticizing Hogan's leadership style, the university began incurring legal and consulting costs, including those resulting from two meetings Hogan had in March with an executive coach.

University spokesman Thomas Hardy says it's "not unreasonable to expect organizations to need extra help during such times.

Categories: Education

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 20, 2012

Rare 1792 Penny Sells for $1.15 Million

When is a penny worth $1.15 million? When it is a rare experimental penny minted in 1792.

The unusual coin was auctioned off Thursday at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center in suburban Chicago.

Officials with Heritage Auctions say Kevin Lipton of Beverly Hills, Calif., bought the penny on behalf of a group of unnamed investors. The winning bid was $1 million, but the investors also must pay the auction house's 15 percent commission.

Heritage Executive Vice President Todd Imhof says the coin is made with a copper ring that surrounds a small plug of silver, which was added to make the penny heavier.

Imhof says the coin was never actually put into circulation and only 14 examples of the coin are known to exist.

(AP Photo/Heritage Auction Galleries)

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Categories: History
Tags: history

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 20, 2012

Rare 1792 Penny Sells for $1.15 Million

When is a penny worth $1.15 million? When it is a rare experimental penny minted in 1792.

The unusual coin was auctioned off Thursday at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center in suburban Chicago.

Officials with Heritage Auctions say Kevin Lipton of Beverly Hills, Calif., bought the penny on behalf of a group of unnamed investors. The winning bid was $1 million, but the investors also must pay the auction house's 15 percent commission.

Heritage Executive Vice President Todd Imhof says the coin is made with a copper ring that surrounds a small plug of silver, which was added to make the penny heavier.

Imhof says the coin was never actually put into circulation and only 14 examples of the coin are known to exist.

(AP Photo/Heritage Auction Galleries)

Categories: History
Tags: history

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 20, 2012

Indiana Governor Speaks in Champaign, Unions Protest

In a visit to Champaign Thursday, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels spoke little of controversial legislation that brought thousands to the city to rally, but touted other ways he's addressed his state's business climate.

Daniels told over 400 people at the Champaign County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner that his approach to restoring Indiana's fiscal health included less government, and less spending. He said the lower the taxes, the more money that was left over to hire people. Daniels said state government took on the same mindset that went into every great business he's seen.

"And everybody knew what their role, or the role of their unit, was in delivering that goal," he said. "We are here to raise the disposable income of Hoosiers. That's what we're here for. We're going to do everything we can to attract better jobs, jobs that pay better than today. And then we're going to run the people's business the best way we know how so that we can leave more of those dollars in the pockets of the people who earn them."

The second term governor also cited Indiana's corporate income tax, worker's compensation, and property taxes as being lower than they are in Illinois. But Daniels only jokingly referred to the contentious right-to-work measure he signed this year, saying Illinois should not pass its own, so Indiana holds the advantage in luring employers.

Daniels also made parallels between his achievements in Indiana and what can be done at the federal level. He said government leaders need to be careful when using the 'coercive power of the state' to take money from people.

"Everyone in a position of public trust should ask him or herself everyday - did we really need that?" Daniels said. "We should only take dollars away from free citizens for a strictly necessary purpose, and then some people forget this part - you've got an equally solemn duty to spend it to the absolute maximum effect - never waste one of those dollars once you've taken it."

Daniels also says the country is seeing an 'erosion of opportunities' for a vibrant and stable middle class, calling for reforms of entitlement programs and spending reductions across the board.

About a year ago, Daniels announced he wasn't running for president in 2012. But he didn't speculate on his political future Thursday night.

Meanwhile, a few thousand came to Champaign to protest prior to the speech by Daniels, protesting legislation he signed earlier this year.

The rally included union members from Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Indiana, which became a right-to-work state in February. The legislation bars union contracts from requiring non-union members to pay representation fees.

Deb Takehara is an organizer with the Illinois Federation of Teachers out of Chicago. She's not convinced that Governor Quinn's criticisms of right to work will hold up in the future.

"Just because Quinn is saying today that he doesn't think it's a good idea today doesn't mean he won't change his mind tomorrow," Takehara said. "I think we need to be organized, and we need to stand up every single day and say no, so that legilslators know that we don't want this to happen here."

Rally Organizer Larry Swope is the Executive Director of the Illinois State Pipe Trades, and also chairs the committee for 'Right to Work Won't Work' in Illinois.

Swope said Gov. Quinn would never sign such a measure.

"But it's important to get organized labor awake again, and make sure they understand that what happened in Indiana two years ago, they didn't they were going to have the right-to-work (measure)," he said. "So this was to get our people fired up, this was to let the politicians know at the (Repbublican) event know that the right to work isn't going to work in Illinois."

The group started its protest outside the University of Illinois' Assembly Hall, then moved it to the Hilton Garden Inn, where Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels was speaking.

(Video courtesy of Maria Renear)

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Categories: Government, Politics

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