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November 15, 2014
The (Springfield) State Journal-Register
Leaders’ meeting with Rauner sets good tone
A lot of things are said during high-stakes political campaigns that are hard to take back.
For example, Republican governor-elect Bruce Rauner said on the campaign trail that House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, both Democrats, were responsible for Illinois’ downward death spiral.
And he suggested Madigan and Cullerton were his real challenge in bringing back Illinois and said they are corrupt insiders who’ve been in office too long.
Voters hungry for change at the helm ultimately gave Rauner the nod over incumbent Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.
It can be tough to move forward and put such harsh words in the past - and it’s doubtful that all is entirely forgiven or forgotten - but move forward these three leaders must for the sake of Illinois, which faces pressing financial problems as the state’s temporary income tax extension sets to roll back Jan. 1, causing a $4 billion shortfall in the state’s budget.
Rauner, Madigan and Cullerton met for more than two hours Thursday in Chicago and said afterward that they will put the negativity of the campaign behind them.
Rauner reportedly did not reveal to Madigan or Cullerton how he may address the tax rollback or the impending shortfall. He does not take office until Jan. 12, but he did say during his campaign that he is open to the possibility of rolling back the tax over four years.
After the meeting, Madigan told reporters he told Rauner “that we’re going to work with him professionally.” Cullerton said afterward that while they “didn’t get into apologies,” they did talk about moving forward and working together.
The potential for four years of gridlock are there, but Illinois can’t afford it - in either time or dollars. Republicans and Democrats must be willing to work together, and it is hoped that Thursday’s meeting marks the beginning of good things for the state.
November 15, 2014
Pekin Daily Times
One chief at a time, please
It isn’t Jan. 12 yet.
So Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner needs to remember that for now, he’s not in charge.
His statement that he didn’t want lawmakers to take major actions until he could get in there is a bit presumptuous.
The duly-elected current Legislature and governor are, in fact, still in charge until their terms end.
At that point, the new officeholders will be in charge and will be able to take actions as they believe best.
But for now - whether you think this is a good thing or a bad thing - the existing officeholders still have the rights and responsibilities of their offices.
Back when President Barack Obama had been elected but not yet sworn in, he declined to second-guess President George W. Bush’s military decisions. “The fact is that there is only one president at a time,” said Obama’s senior adviser at the time, David Axelrod.
There’s only one governor of Illinois at a time, too. It will soon be Rauner. But it isn’t yet.
There are good reasons for the transition time.
We could, if we chose, pass laws to make it impossible for lame ducks to take any action. However, we haven’t done that and we don’t think we should. Sometimes a lame duck is braver than a fresh-in-office duck. Sometimes things get passed that need to be passed but that are too politically hot for someone worried about re-election to vote for at other times.
The transition time also allows all those who are soon to take office to do some planning and preparation, and to learn a little more about how government works.
Illinois is a mess. The voters decided to make a change in leadership, and time will tell whether Rauner will be successful in rooting out corruption, balancing our budget, bringing in jobs, funding our schools, addressing waste, improving the tax structure and a seemingly limitless list of other improvements our state is crying out for.
We hope he can get the job done, but this is a cynical state. Absolute honesty and integrity are two things we all demand.
He has until Jan. 12 to take charge, but we’re watching now.
November 12, 2014
Sauk Valley Media
Billion-dollar idea could benefit Illinois; pursue it
Of all 98 ideas for governmental reform in the book “Fixing Illinois,” one stands out to us as a billion-dollar gem.
We challenge area lawmakers on the state and federal level to actively pursue it during this post-election period.
What idea could possibly mean a cool billion-dollar-a-year improvement in the Illinois state government’s bottom line?
It’s idea No. 29:
“The Illinois congressional delegation should pressure the Obama administration and Congress to develop a Medicaid reimbursement formula that reflects current economic conditions in the states as well as poverty rates.”
Authors James D. Nowlan and J. Thomas Johnson, who were Sauk Valley Media’s guests at last month’s Sauk Valley Symposium, came up with the idea after studying Illinois’ Medicaid funding situation.
Medicaid, the public health insurance program that covers 25 percent of Illinois residents, receives federal reimbursement.
The problem for Illinois is that the rate is low. Only 50 percent of Illinois’ Medicaid expenditures are reimbursed by the feds.
Compare that to the national average of 57 percent.
Compare that further to the reimbursement rates for states surrounding Illinois, which, according to “Fixing Illinois,” stand at about 65 percent.
And compare that to the highest Medicaid reimbursement rate in the land - 75 percent - and you can easily see that Illinois trails badly when it comes to recovering the costs of its Medicaid expenses.
If Illinois’ Medicaid reimbursement rate would rise from 50 percent to the national average of 57 percent, according to Nowlan and Johnson, the state would realize a $1 billion-a-year increase in federal reimbursement.
And that would leave $1 billion available for Illinois to spend, not on Medicaid, but on funding education, paying off bills, and other important needs.
We call on local officials, state lawmakers, U.S. House members, U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk, and whoever else is interested, to investigate with vigor this untapped opportunity.
After all, it could be worth a billion dollars.
November 10, 2014
The (Kankakee) Daily Journal
Age discrimination a pure shame
Bill Maher can be described as an American stand-up comedian, television host, political commentator and lightning rod.
His opinions, which he expresses weekly on the HBO program “Real Time with Bill Maher,” stir strong passions on both sides. Liberals tend to love him and conservatives tend to hate him. But sometimes his viewpoint can make sense to all, and that was the case when the latest episode aired last Friday.
Maher wondered aloud, quite aloud actually, why California Gov. Jerry Brown isn’t receiving serious consideration as the top contender to be the Democratic nominee for president in 2016. He then answered his own question by saying Brown’s age, currently 76, eliminates him because America has an infatuation with youth and shows disrespect for the aged, something that is contrary to the attitude of almost every other country.
Now the goal here is not to promote a Brown presidency. But the intent is to promote the idea that someone who is in his or her late 70s certainly is qualified to be president. You need only refer to Ronald Reagan to add political leverage to the argument. Reagan, who will be forever revered by most Republicans, served as president from 1981-1989, between the ages of 69 and 77.
Age discrimination is arguably the top form of discrimination found in the United States today. We push our seasoned people aside as if they have nothing left to offer. This is a pure and simple shame.
Who knows more about finances than Warren Buffet, who is 84? Who is a more accomplished newsman than Larry King, who at 80 has an Internet talk show that is considered a hit? Who knows more about sex therapy than Ruth Westheimer, who is 86?
We are living longer and people are aging more gracefully. You might not be able to work as a professional football player at age 70, but you can sure work behind a desk, even if that desk is located in the Oval Office. Let us take advantage of the experience and wisdom our senior citizens have to offer.
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