Rauner: Big government hurts middle class; California teachers case could impact Illinois; and more from INN Radio

Rauner: Can’t raise taxes without reforms
Illinois’ Governor continues his push for changing things in Illinois saying taxpayers can’t stomach more taxes without reforms. But the spokesperson for the leading Democrat says the General Assembly has already tested some of the Governor’s proposed reforms. Well into the fourth month of the current fiscal year without a budget Governor Bruce Rauner reiterated his plea for structural reforms before the state raises taxes.

What we should not do is purely focus on raising taxes and not getting any structural reforms. We cannot afford to do that.”

Speaker Michael Madigan spokesperson Steve Brown said the legislature has passed some reforms and voted on others.

“We passed legislation that helps build on the 2011 work comp reforms. We passed the privatization of DCEO (Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity). We took how many votes–15 votes–on the property tax freeze and that’s an idea whose time has not come yet.”

Despite the measures Brown cited, the Governor has been adamant on the legislature passing a law to allow local governments to opt out of collective bargaining issues. The Governor also called for ballot initiatives for term limits and an independent map making commission for legislative redistricting. Brown says those are non-budget issues.

Rauner: Big government, not reforms, hurts middle class
Leading Democrats in Illinois say the Governor’s Turnaround Agenda would hurt the middle class while the Governor says the opposite is true–the middle class is hurt by big government and a loss of jobs. For months Democrats have decried the Governor’s proposed measures as things that would lower wages of the middle class but the Governor says leaving things as they are is what’s hurting the middle class.

“The middle class in Illinois is not helped by big government bureaucracy. The middle class in Illinois is not helped by higher taxes. The middle class in Illinois is not helped as we’re pushing job creators out of the state and that’s what the status quo is doing.”

Madigan spokesperson Brown brushed off reports that businesses are fleeing the state and said it doesn’t have to do with the business climate. Instead Brown said the weather is what attracts businesses elsewhere.

“A lot of times you see businesses locate where the climate’s good because that’s where the CEO wants to live.”

Rauner said his ideas are not extreme, something Brown also dismissed saying the focus needs to be on the budget.

Poll finds support for Turnaround Agenda
A recent poll of likely voters about the Governor’s Turnaround Agenda found solid support in favor. That’s according to The Illinois Observer which says they commissioned a poll with Ogden & Fry of 533 likely voters. The poll asked “do you oppose or support legislation that would eliminate the right of teachers, janitors, police and firefighters to collectively bargain with local governments for their wages, work hours, and benefits?” The Illinois Observer says the poll found 42 percent would support limiting collective bargaining rights while only 30 percent would oppose such a plan. Twenty-eight percent were undecided. A spokesperson for Speaker Michael Madigan brushed off the poll as not being significant. Governor Bruce Rauner has been pushing for local control of collective bargaining issues tied to a property tax freeze for months.

Governor’s office: Study shows need for workers comp reform
A recent study released by the Workers Compensation Research Institute is proof more reforms are needed. That’s the assessment from Governor Bruce Rauner’s office. However, the Illinois Trial Lawyers’ Association says the study brings Illinois in line with other states. The WCRI study highlighted some costs going down but other non-hospital costs remaining higher than other states included in the study. Governor Bruce Rauner’s office says “The report highlights the need for the reforms that were included in the Governor’s workers’ compensation legislation.” Rauner’s office also says “while the 2011 reforms made progress, there is still much more work to do to make Illinois more competitive.” A statement from the ILTA says the 2011 reforms are having the intended result: lower costs to insurance companies and employers. ILTA also says further changes in workers’ compensation laws must focus on the insurance industry, not injured workers’ rights. Governor Rauner has said workers’ compensation must address causation.

Rauner wants to sell Thompson Center
Illinois’ Governor wants to wash the state’s hands of the Thompson Center in Chicago, saying the building is expensive and inefficient. During a press conference Tuesday Governor Bruce Rauner announced his intentions to sell the building which houses state government offices and around 2,200 state employees. The Governor said the proposal to get rid of the building is good news for taxpayers of Illinois and Chicago because he said right now, as a government building, it doesn’t generate revenue.

“Very unfortunate because this is one of the valuable, nicests blocks in the entire state, let alone in the entire City of Chicago.”

Rauner hopes a developer can come in with a new building that will generate much needed tax revenue.

“Taxpayers in the City of Chicago are under duress. The taxpayers in the State of Illinois are under duress. And I believe we can have an architecturally significant building here that is on everybody’s tours and that drives real value.”

Rauner said a new development outside of a government building could generate $20 million a year in new city and school taxes. The move would have to be approved by the General Assembly.

California teachers case could impact Illinois
A California teacher battling her state’s union in a fight picked up by the U.S. Supreme Court says she has been fighting the union in one way or another all her career. Buena Park, California, elementary teacher Rebecca Friedrichs says she has long battled the union.

“Whether it was the unions trying to force to be their political boots on the ground and me saying ‘no thank you, I’m on the opposite side of the issue’ or whether it was issues they take on in collective bargaining I believe are a negative impact on my students and their parents.”

Friedrichs said she feared backlash from other teachers and the union when she sued but was surprised when the opposite happened–teachers would privately show support for the cause.

“They won’t support me overtly. They won’t come out and say something in the group because they’re afraid but they will take me aside quietly. I’ve had thanks, I’ve had hugs, I’ve had emails of support.”

The outcome of the case in the U.S. Supreme Court–something expected in six to eight months–would impact not just Illinois’ public sector employees but more than a dozen other states that require agency fees as a condition of employment.

Outcome of case won’t impact private sector unions
Private sector unions shouldn’t worry about the outcome to a case concerning fair share dues the U.S. Supreme Court is picking up. That’s according to the lead attorney for a California teacher challenging fair share dues. Friedrichs’ attorney Terry Pell says the major argument of their case is one of free speech and free assembly, things protected in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which Pell says doesn’t apply to the private sector.

“Private employers are not bound by the First Amendment so whatever the court decides about public employee unions it will really have no legal applicability whatsoever to private employers.”

The outcome of the case would impact over a dozen states, including Illinois, where public- sector employees are mandated to pay agency fees to unions as a condition of employment. Pell argues unions use the agency fees to achieve political objectives like increasing public funds to pay for higher wages and benefits, something some forced the pay the so-called fair share may not agree with. A similar case brought forward by several Illinois state employees was put on hold because the nation’s high court decided to address the question in the California case.

Byrd-Bennett pleads guilty
The former head of Chicago Public Schools pleads guilty to public corruption and will be sentenced at a later date. A press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Northern Illinois office says Barbara Byrd-Bennett admitted she steered no-bid contracts worth $23 million to two education-consulting firms, The SUPES Academy and Synesi Associates, in exchange for cash, a consulting job, and other perks. Byrd-Bennett worked for SUPES and Synesi before becoming the CEO of CPS. A status hearing for Byrd-Bennett has been set for January 27th in Chicago. Meanwhile officials from SUPES and Synesi are scheduled to be arraigned on charges stemming from the case Wednesday afternoon.