NFL Running Back Adrian Peterson
September 18, 2014

Quinn, Rauner Weigh In on NFL's Troubles

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn says the National Football League has been putting profits ahead of doing what’s right on domestic violence.  Bruce Rauner, a team minority owner, is also critical.

Quinn's campaign is trying to make it an issue in his bid for re-election.

The NFL and its commissioner are under fire for mishandling the situation around player Ray Rice who was caught on video assaulting his then-fiancee.

Quinn addressed the issue Wednesday outside a Women’s Empowerment Event at the McCormick Center in Chicago:

The efforts of the NFL so far have been woeful, and anyone who owns a team or part of a team has a duty, in my opinion, to do the right thing," he said.

He didn’t say his name - but that “part of a team” line was aimed squarely at Quinn’s Republican challenger Bruce Rauner, who's a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

He was asked about it Wednesday.

"I am working here in Illinois to win an election and transform the government, that is 100 percent my focus," he said.

Later in the day, Rauner’s campaign sent out an email saying the candidate thinks what Ray Rice did was deplorable and the NFL has badly mishandled the situation.


Democratic Lt. Gov. candidate Paul Vallas during a news conference in Savoy in July.
August 27, 2014

Vallas: Rauner Plan Would Cost Schools $4 Billion

Governor Pat Quinn's running mate is attacking Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner's budget plan for Illinois - this time targeting its impact on schools.

Democrat Paul Vallas says Rauner's promises to both put more money into schools while also cutting property taxes is unfeasible.

Rauner won the GOP nomination with a promise bring the state income tax down to three percent --- a move Vallas says will leave a $4 billion hole in the state's education budget.

Vallas produced a study that shows the sort of impact that will have on individual school districts.

Rauner has repeatedly said he wants Illinois to "grow its way" out of deficits; meaning that he believes building a more robust economy, not raising taxes, will bring in more revenue to pay for things like schools.

But Vallas says Rauner's vision is impossible.

"You're not going to grow to the tune of $8 billion in two years or even for that matter, three or four years ... You're talking about devastating local school budgets," he said.

Besides the state's contribution to schools, funded by the income tax, it's local property taxes that are schools' main source of funding.  And while Rauner says he will freeze property taxes, Vallas says a lower state income tax rate would actually force schools to hike property taxes.

Rauner campaign spokesman Mike Schrimpf says the numbers Vallas uses "are just made up.''
 
He says even though Quinn raised the tax 67 percent in 2011, he cut school spending by $500 million.  He says Rauner will "fully fund our schools.''


Bruce Rauner
August 27, 2014

Rauner: Dept. Of Agriculture 'Full Of Cronyism'

GOP candidate for Illinois governor Bruce Rauner says if elected he'd work to overhaul the state Department of Agriculture. 

Bruce Rauner is a Winnetka businessman. He told attendees at a forum in Bloomington Wednesday coordinated by the Illinois Farm Bureau that the agriculture department is "full of cronyism'' and has 'folks running things that generally don't have much expertise.'
 
Rauner has previously criticized agriculture department director Bob Flider  - a former Democratic state lawmaker - for not being a farmer.

He says he wants "farmers and farm experts running the Department of Agriculture.''   Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has defended Flider's work as well as the agency.
 
Along with Rauner, Quinn, Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and Republican state Sen. Jim Oberweis are participating in the forum.  


Pat Quinn
August 26, 2014

Quinn: Agencies Must Follow Hiring Rules

Gov. Pat Quinn says it was up to his transportation secretary to follow employment rules even when hiring candidates the governor's office favored.

The Chicago Democrat said Tuesday his cabinet members "have a duty to make sure that they comply with the rules that I've set down'' and are accountable for that.
 
Quinn was responding to questions in Chicago about an investigative report released Friday by the Office of the Executive Inspector General.

It says the Illinois Department of Transportation circumvented rules to keep political clout out of job decisions and hired 250 people improperly in the past decade.
 
Former Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider responded to the report saying the "vast majority'' of hires were candidates recommended by Quinn's office.

She felt pressured to employ them. Schneider resigned in June.

UPDATE:   One of Gov. Pat Quinn's deputy chiefs of staff - whose responsibilities included the troubled Illinois Department of Transportation - is leaving the job.
 
Sean O'Shea of Chicago had duties that included oversight of IDOT for the governor. Quinn spokesman Grant Klinzman confirmed that O'Shea's last day in the $130,000 job is Friday.
 
Klinzman says the 37-year-old O'Shea is taking a private-sector job and his departure has nothing to do with an investigative report released Friday about improper hiring at IDOT.


fracking
(Orlin Wagner/AP)
July 24, 2014

Business, Labor Leaders Urge Quinn Administration To Finish Fracking Rules

Business and labor leaders are urging Illinois' Department of Natural Resources to finish the rules for hydraulic fracturing. 

The coalition said it is left wondering if the governor's administration might be dragging the process for political reasons.

It has been more than 400 days since the General Assembly passed a law to allow hydraulic fracturing in Illinois. Proponents say the technique of drilling for natural gas deep in the ground will lead to job and revenue growth.

But the Department of Natural Resources has yet to finalize the rules that need to be in place before fracking can begin, leaving drillers to wait.

Mark Denzler, with the Illinois Manufacturer's Association, said that in conversations with Gov. Pat Quinn's administration, he got the sense it set a deadline for the rules for mid-November — after the election — on purpose.

"They've said there's more votes in the Chicago suburban area than there are downstate and so it's an electoral ballgame," he said.

The thought being that it could be to Quinn's political advantage to keep a controversial practice like fracking out of headlines — at least more so than creating job in downstate Illinois, where there are fewer voters.

According to one study from Illinois State University, the fracking industry could create up to 45,000 jobs in the next five years, something Illinois AFL-CIO president Mike Carrigan said the state can't pass up for unemployed workers in southern Illinois.

"When they go to work, there are paychecks on Friday," he said. "Paychecks go in the community banks, those members become consumers in their community and then the communities in the area benefit from the economic stimulus."

DNR spokesman Tim Schweizer said there is no political motivation, and that the agency is taking the time it needs to consider public comment.

"The department has been working on getting the rules in place since the day the legislation was signed into law," he said.

Schweizer said DNR is also on track to hire extra staff to enforce fracking rules once they go into effect, but that is also taken a bit of time.

But the coalition doesn't buy DNR's reasoning. Denzler points to Indiana, which shares the New Albany Oil Shale with Illinois, and already has a natural gas industry up and running. A few major companies have contracts secured in anticipation of fracking in Illinois, but instead of waiting, they're focusing their investments on Indiana.


Pat Quinn
(Seth Perlman/AP)
July 16, 2014

Illinois Gov. Quinn Facing Investigations

Illinois lawmakers have ended a daylong hearing on Gov. Pat Quinn's troubled anti-violence program without agreement on whether to push forward. 

Federal prosecutors asked the Legislative Audit Commission to wait 90 days before questioning former members of the Quinn administration over the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative begun in 2010. 

The bipartisan commission agreed to hold off. But lawmakers did not agree on how long to wait.

Republicans wanted to call witnesses in October. Democrats rejected that. 

The investigation has been a focus of Republicans looking to tarnish Quinn's reformer image. A state audit found poor program management and misused money. 

Republicans have alleged Quinn used the $55 million program as a political slush fund to secure votes. Quinn has denied that claim. 


July 09, 2014

Gov. Quinn Prepared To Send State Police To Address Chicago Violence

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is willing to provide back-up for the Chicago Police Department. More than 50 people were shot in Chicago over the long holiday weekend.  

Quinn said he is prepared to send the Illinois State Police to help address Chicago’s violence, but only if Mayor Rahm Emanuel asks for them.

“We are always ready to help in whatever district the city may request," Quinn said. "We’ve done that in many, many districts and I’m prepared to help the mayor and the police chief if they request it, wherever they need it.”

Quinn said the state police patrol the Metro East region on weekends, around East Saint Louis in Southern Illinois.


July 09, 2014

New Law Furthers Illinois Adoptees' Rights

Gov. Pat Quinn has signed legislation aimed at allowing adoptees and birth family members to learn more about their family histories.

The bill will help people gain information about their biological family history including obtaining original birth records when one of their grandparents was adopted as a child. It's sponsored by two Chicago Democrats, Rep. Sara Feigenholtz and Sen. Iris Martinez.  

In a Wednesday statement, Quinn says people have the right to know the first chapter of their lives. He says the information can be vital when determining inherited traits and medical history. 

Department of Children and Family Services Acting Director Bobbie Gregg notes nearly 17,000 children have been adopted in Illinois over the past decade. 


(l to r) Gov. Pat Quinn speaks during a press conference in Gifford, Ill. on July 7, 2014. Gifford village president Derald Ackerman and State Sen. Mike Freirchs (D-Champaign) stand beside him.
(Sean Powers/WILL)
July 07, 2014

Illinois Awards Communities $11.6M In Aid Following November Storms

On Monday, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced $11.6 million in state relief to communities hit by the Nov. 2013 tornadoes.

The city of Washington is getting about $7.7 million of the pot. The community already received $6.5 million of the funding for city streets, sidewalks, and curbs and gutters.

The money is part of an overall $45 million relief package to help communities recoup some of the costs associated with storm cleanup.

This year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied public assistance that would have helped local governments that have damaged property or infrastructure and are saddled with the cost of paying first responders overtime. Members of Illinois’ Congressional delegation want FEMA to change its funding formula, so that communities in the future aren’t left out.

FEMA did approve individual assistance, which is different from the public assistance.

Washington Mayor Gary Manier said the city will likely apply for more state help for potential water issues. 

“We don’t know how much damage we’re going to have until we turn some of our systems back on to see if we’re going to have to tap into that,” Manier said. “There’s a lot of unanswered questions. It’s not a six to eight month process. It’s a year to two year process.”

Gov. Quinn says the state is not done helping the storm damaged communities.

“There’s more opportunities from other departments, but we wanted to allocate this amount pronto,” Quinn said in Washington.

More than 1,100 homes were affected in Washington by the November tornadoes, and there are more than 700 permits that have been issued for reconstruction.

Additionally, more than $115,000 is also going to Pekin in Tazewell County, and East Peoria is receiving about $268,000. The village of Gifford in Champaign County is getting more than $379,000, Brookport will receive $1.8 million, Massac County is to get more than $31,ooo, about $442,000 is going to Diamond, Coal City is getting more than $268,000 and Compromise Township in Champaign County is receiving $185,000.

The governor also signed three measures into law related to disaster recovery. The first goes into effect immediately and creates the Illinois Gives program that allows current and retired state employees to donate a portion of their paycheck to the American Red Cross for disaster relief. 

The second piece of legislation sets a limit of 10 percent on the amount of compensation an insurance adjuster may receive when representing a consumer in a claim resulting from a disaster. This goes into effect in January. 

The last legislation seeks to make it easier for business owners to get back on their feet following a natural disaster. It slowly phases in property taxes over a 15-year period to prevent an immediate tax hike on the repaired or rebuilt business property.  

That is good news for Eric Rademacher, who runs a lumber business in downtown Gifford. Eight months after the storm, he said it will take another year before his company is operating at 100 percent. Rademacher said the chief county assessment officer told him it would be more affordable to repair instead of re-build parts of his property.

“Some of these buildings are 40, 50 years old, and so you’re assessed on an old building where it would have been brought up to a brand new building,” he explained. “So, that could be two, three, four times what it was before.”

But those tax increases will be smaller under the bill signed Monday. Its sponsor, State Sen. Mike Freirchs (D-Champaign), who grew up in Gifford, said he wanted to protected businesses that couldn’t afford a “doubling or quadrupling of their tax bill.”

“Some (business owners) may decide it’s not worth it to re-build,” Freirchs said. “It’s hard when you’re town is hit by a tornado and you have to rebuild. It’s even harder when people decide we’re just going to pack up and move.”

The law is effective immediately. It mirrors a similar bill protecting homeowners from higher taxes that was signed following deadly storms in the state two years ago. In 2012, eight people were killed by a tornado in the southern Illinois town of Harrisburg.

“We’ve had a number of natural disaster in Illinois over the last five years,” Gov. Quinn said during a press conference in Gifford after he visited Washington. “We have to be ready for everything, and we learn as we go along. We did learn in Harrisburg having the law to help residential property tax payers avoid massive increases in their property taxes as they re-build. Here today we’ve learned how important it is to help our small businesses.”


Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, left, and his Republican rival, Bruce Rauner, shake hands after they appeared together for the first time before the 2014 general election, during the annual meeting of the Illinois Education Association Friday, April 11, 201
(M. Spencer Green/AP)
July 07, 2014

Voters In Bad Mood Shaping Gov's Race

The people of Illinois are feeling particularly gloomy about their state, with its high unemployment, billions of dollars in debt and decades-long battles against corruption.  

The bad mood surfaces in public-opinion polls that startle even the pollsters. And now it's shaping one of the nation's most competitive governor's races.  

The race pits Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn against businessman Bruce Rauner, an untested multimillionaire. The contest boils down to the incumbent's insistence that it's not as bad as it used to be versus the challenger's exhortations to throw the bums out and start over.  

One survey showed that more people want to leave Illinois than anywhere else in the U.S. The cynicism among voters was also evident in the March primary election, which had the lowest turnout on record. 


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