- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 11, 2014

March 8, 2014

The (Sterling) Daily Gazette

Legislative fitness? Budget needs it, too

Incremental changes can have a big impact as their effects accumulate over time.

For example, people who alter their lifestyles by eating responsibly and exercising more will reap multiple benefits. They will live healthier lives and feel better about themselves.

State Rep. Don Moffitt, a Republican from Gilson, knows that well.

Two years ago, Moffitt, who represents the southwest corner of Lee County and most of Bureau County, got bad news from his doctor. The chubby lawmaker was told that he might have to start taking diabetes medication if he didn’t adopt a healthier lifestyle.

Moffitt took stock of his situation. As a veteran lawmaker, he had sat for long periods of time during hearings and House sessions, gone to numerous social events and dinners in Springfield, attended dinners in his district, and logged a lot of windshield time.

No wonder he had piled on the pounds.

Moffitt made the decision to eat healthier and start exercising, and the pounds began to drop off.

Two years later, he has shed 100 pounds and feels great - so great that he decided to encourage fellow legislators to experience the health benefits that he enjoys.

Moffitt launched a “fitness caucus” that is intended to help lawmakers, lobbyists and other Capitol folks embark on weight-loss journeys and also share what works for them and what doesn’t.

An added benefit, we hope, is that the philosophy of “fitness caucus” members will spread to the taxing and spending habits of the Illinois General Assembly.

In January 2011, state government started gobbling up more revenue when the Legislature temporarily raised income tax rates on individuals and businesses. State leaders said the extra money would help improve the chubby state government’s dire financial health. From what we can tell, that hasn’t happened.

Ten months from now, those temporary hikes will ease, and Illinois’ finances might face a crash diet. Both the House and Senate have already gone on record as predicting a $1.3 billion reduction in revenue for 2014-15.

Let lawmakers learn a lesson from determined dieters like Moffitt. By imposing incremental reductions in spending now, state government should become leaner and healthier over time.

If Moffitt doesn’t mind, we’d like to nominate the 2014-15 state budget to join his “fitness caucus.”


March 7, 2014

Chicago Sun-Times

Don’t print the legend of Eliot Ness

‘When the legend becomes a fact, print the legend.”

So goes a famous line from a great old movie, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.”

Too bad the same can’t be said when it comes to naming a government building.

Much as we love the legend of Eliot Ness, the federal agent who made life miserable for Al Capone, we can’t imagine why anybody would want to name a building for the real Eliot Ness, who just annoyed Capone.

Ness and his squad of “Untouchables” certainly didn’t bring Scarface down. Accountants in green eyeshades brought him down by building a bullet-proof case of tax evasion.

This is too bad. How cool it would be to have an Eliot Ness Building in Washington, housing the headquarters of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. An Eliot Ness Building could support an excellent gift shop. Our state’s two senators, Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk, support just such a plan - though not necessarily the gift shop part.

But with due respect to Ness, an honorable man who did commendable work during a sometimes stumbling career, we have to agree with Ald. Ed Burke, who knows his Chicago history and says Ness simply doesn’t deserve the honor.

Ness’ leading defender in this debate is Douglas Perry, author of a well-received new biography about the famous crime fighter, “Eliot Ness: the Rise and Fall of an American Hero.”

“Ness was far from a perfect man and, no, he had nothing to do with the tax-evasion case that sent Capone to prison,” Perry writes. “But he was a diligent and incorruptible lawman.”

And if that were enough to get your name on a big federal building, we’d say go for it.

But it’s not.

It would be like printing the legend.


March 9, 2014

Belleville News-Democrat

It’s a parent’s job to care for children

In St. Clair County, a shocking 27.5 percent of children live in poverty, according to the latest Kids Count. That’s seven percentage points higher than the state average.

Community leaders in East St. Louis talked about things that government needs to change to help children living in poverty, such as more funding for schools in poor communities. Those things may or may not happen in the future.

But Martha Young, president of the Dunbar Elementary School Parent Teacher Association, pointed out what can happen today: “Parents need to … do what they need to do for their children. We have left the parents out too long.”

She is so right to expect more of parents. A parent’s greatest purpose is to raise their children so they are healthy and safe. Schools and social programs can help children, but ultimately this is the parents’ job. They should be doing everything in their power to ensure their children’s well-being.


March 7, 2014

The (Moline) Dispatch

Yes to historic tax credits

Two Illinois lawmakers are driving bills to create an economic development engine we believe will preserve historic structures, create jobs in our community and pay for itself in the long run.

That’s why public-private development agencies including Renew Moline have been pushing for the expanded state historic tax credits contained in a bill filed Tuesday by state Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley. It is similar to one which passed the Senate handily in April.

The bill would allow a credit up to $3 million per project on state income taxes equal to 20 percent of the qualified cost of an historic rehabilitation. That mirrors the 20 percent tax credit offered by the federal government.

Historic credits already exist in Illinois, but only for five cities, and those will expire soon. Success stories from that limited experiment, as well as in the 32 states which offer tax credits for re-purposing historic structures, offer plenty of reasons not only to renew existing credits, but to expand them.

The Economic Development Opportunities from an Illinois Historic Tax Credit found that Illinois would spur as much as $10.24 in economic impact for each dollar in historic tax credits awarded during the construction phase, and up to $11.47 per $1 in the first five years after completion.

The state would capture new income and sales tax revenues before it even hands out the income tax credit and only restorations which meet strict guidelines would qualify so the private developer bears the risk of projects not taxpayers. Cities also could collect increased property and sales taxes.

Bonnie McDonald, president and CEO of Landmarks Illinois, says neighboring states already use historic tax credits to lure development inside their borders. ” We are the ‘hole in the donut’ in our region and developers and investors will continue to choose to invest in those states over Illinois until we too can provide the gap incentive to make construction possible,” she said.

The credits could also be a boon to aging downtowns in small communities throughout the state and backers say preservation is a green choice because some old building and materials won’t end up in landfills.

The legislation creating the Illinois historic tax credit failed to make it to a vote in the House last year purportedly because lawmakers were focused on pension reform. That is no longer an excuse for inaction, so we urge Speaker Michael Madigan to call this job-creating economic development engine for a vote.

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