- Associated Press - Monday, October 19, 2015

October 19, 2015

Rockford Register Star

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner should cancel draconian child care ‘emergency rule’

On Oct. 13, a group of Rockford-area child care providers banded together to write a letter to Gov. Bruce Rauner to warn him that his “emergency” order to lower subsidies to needy families applying for child care after July 1 is causing damage to the economy and to low-income families.

It will also put many day care providers in Illinois out of business.



Rauner’s draconian rule reduced the subsidy for new applicants for day care assistance to the point of ridiculousness. It effectively eliminates aid for more than 90 percent of those who applied after July 1. People will either quit their jobs or leave their children home.

We remind Republican Rauner that day care assistance was a Republican idea designed in 1997 during the welfare-reform era to help parents get off welfare and allow them to get jobs. It has been successful and, until now, bipartisan.

As the day care directors wrote to the governor: “Under your emergency rule, the Child Care Assistance Program no longer allows full-time minimum wage earners to access child care. Have you considered the tax revenue being lost as parents are forced to leave the workforce and our staff lose their jobs because of low enrollments in our centers? Does this make any sense to you?”

And as guest columnist Anita Rumage, director of Circles of Learning Day Care Center, noted in Sunday’s paper, before Rauner’s cuts took effect July 1, “a family of three could earn $3,098 a month; now, that same family can make no more than $838 a month to qualify for assistance. A full-time minimum wage job earns $1,320 a month. Although emergency rules expire 150 days after enactment (Nov. 28), Gov. Rauner has started the steps to make cuts to (the Child Care Assistance Program) permanent.”

Of all the things to cut, child care assistance should not be one of them. It is creating taxpayers, and Illinois desperately needs more of them.

Rumage reminded us that parents receiving state child care assistance in the greater Rockford area pay $5 million in taxes, and local child care centers have more than 363 employees who pay $1.4 million in income and social security taxes. And, she said, child care centers buy their supplies from local stores.

The House can restore the governor’s day care cuts today by passing the House version of Senate Bill 750, a measure that takes 71 votes, a supermajority, to pass. Democrats have exactly 71 votes in the House.

They are not likely to get help from Republicans, who are all afraid of incurring the wrath of Rauner, who is creating his own Republican political organization to elect “friendlies” in 2016. And if you’re a Republican, you want to be a “friendly” lest you get surprised by a primary challenger put up by the governor’s minions.

Rauner could rescind his emergency order. We hope he does. His “emergency order” is penny foolish and pound foolish.

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October 18, 2015

The (Crystal Lake) Northwest Herald

Transparency best policy in contract negotiations

Too often, school boards negotiate new contracts with teachers unions and rush to vote on approving the contract before showing taxpayers how their money is being spent.

It’s why we’ve supported previous legislative efforts that would have required contract disclosure and public comment before a taxing body votes.

To that end, McHenry Community High School District 156 deserves praise for trying to make its most recent contract negotiation with the McHenry Community High School Educators’ Association as transparent as possible.

The District 156 school board and the teachers union reached a tentative agreement on a new contract during the early morning hours of Oct. 10. The teachers union ratified the agreement Oct. 12, ending a teachers strike that resulted in students missing seven days of school.

The school board, however, will not vote on the contract until Monday. Instead of keeping taxpayers in the dark about details of the contract and how their money is being spent, a summary of the new contract - including details for a new salary schedule and insurance increases - was posted on the school district’s website Tuesday. The information will have been online for seven days before a vote is taken.

On top of that, at the beginning of the negotiation process, the board was open to holding negotiations in a public forum rather than executive session, but the notion was rejected by the union, lead negotiator for the school board, Gary Kinshofer, said.

We applaud District 156 at its attempt at transparency.

It is not acceptable to keep the public in the dark about how its money is being spent until it’s too late. Public bodies should not believe it is acceptable to spend large sums of taxpayer dollars without telling the public how those dollars are being allocated.

Last year, state Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, introduced legislation that sought such transparency. The bill would have required all newly negotiated contracts between unions and public-sector employers (school districts, cities, counties, the state, etc.) to be posted for at least 14 days on the public body’s website. Further, after at least 14 days, the public entity would be required to convene an open meeting and receive public comments before a vote was taken.

The bill eventually died in the State Government Administration Committee.

Ives refiled it this year. House Bill 3134 was filed in February. It was assigned to the Labor & Commerce Committee before being re-referred to the Rules Committee in March.

There’s nothing stopping public bodies from releasing contract details before a public vote, as School District 156 has done.

Most units of government, however, choose to hide the information from the public. It’s unfortunate that we need legislation demanding public bodies do the right thing instead of public bodies doing the right thing on their own.

___

October 17, 2015

The (Joliet) Herald-News

State should work with Lockport to keep museum open

The city of Lockport would like to keep the local branch of the Illinois State Museum open during the state’s budget impasse.

However, because of the ongoing budget battle between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic-controlled General Assembly, state government is insisting on paying the rent - just so it can keep the museum closed.

That makes no sense. Not for Lockport, which pitches the downtown museum as a city asset to potential developers. Not for state taxpayers, who are being used as a political pawn in the fight between Rauner and legislative leaders.

The museum’s future has been precarious for months. The gallery was emptied over the summer because of a lapse in the state’s insurance. The city and museum came together to create “The People’s Exhibit,” a show highlighting public art made in reaction to the Illinois budget crisis. The contents of the exhibit were under the city’s insurance.

The city had been covering the rent for the space at 201 W. 10th St., appropriating funds from its Summer Art Series after the state’s lease ended Aug. 1. That allowed the series to continue. The money ran out Sept. 31, and Mayor Steven Streit said he was willing to pay rent again.

In late September, Rauner ordered the Illinois State Museum system, including the Lockport Gallery, to shut its doors. In October, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources expressed interest in handling rent payment so it could keep the institution closed.

Streit said his long-term hope is the state museum remains in Lockport, even if it’s not in the same spot. It helps with economic development in downtown, Streit said. It’s one of the city’s assets he can mention when interested parties consider Lockport as a place to invest.

“We just started to turn it around,” he said. “Money has been put into State Street reconstruction. We have investors coming in, and we are having good conversations to redevelop further buildings.”

The museum is one more feather in the city’s cap, Streit said. It attracts visitors, who will then visit shops and restaurants. It allows residents access to state museum collections without having to go to Springfield.

“If we lose that, the plume and the hat starts to go away,” Streit said.

Streit said as long as the state pays for the museum’s employee, he can find space in Lockport for cheap or even free.

We hope the state is willing to work with Lockport on this. We want a state budget in place as much as anybody.

Rauner said he wants to improve Illinois’ economy and make our state a better place to do business. By playing political games with the Lockport branch of the state museum, he’s doing the opposite.

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