- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Here are editorials from newspapers published around Illinois.

August 9, 2020

The (Champaign) News-Gazette

Buddy, can you spare a dime?

News of the physical consequences of the coronavirus pandemic continues to dominae our lives and will for the foreseeable future.

But what of the fiscal consequences of the coronavirus? It’s clearly devastated the economy - more in some places than in others - and the spinoff effects are taking a toll on the states - more in some than in others.

Among the least prepared for the fiscal impact and, as a consequence, the hardest hit is Illinois.

That’s why Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Comptroller Susana Mendoza have been beating the drums for a federal bailout of the state’s cratering finances.

Congress already has passed two bailout packages for individuals, states and local governments. There’s talk of a third. But Democrats and Republicans are caught up in a protracted argument as to its size - anywhere from less than $1 billion to more than $3 billion.

Here’s the state’s problem in a nutshell - its financial management has been so bad for so long that the ship of state is in danger of running aground.

Some are suggesting Illinois simply borrow more money to make up for the predicted shortfall - $7 billion in fiscal 2020 and 2021 - in revenue growing out of Pritzker’s decision to lock down the state to limit the spread of the virus.

The major question surrounding that proposal is just how much borrowing can the state withstand.

“It must be cautioned that (borrowed money) is not free money. It must be repaid. Adding some $6.5 billion in potential borrowing, especially with interest rates of more than 4 percent, to the $2.66 billion in short-term borrowing already owed would have consequences on Illinois’ financial outlook for years to come,” Mendoza warned.

One measure of the state’s poor financial situation is its pile of unpaid bills, which reached $16.7 billion in November 2017. As of last week, the state’s unpaid bills were much less - $4.4 billion - but a big part of the reduction resulted from borrowing $6 billion to pay down bills.

That was a sound move from an arbitrage standpoint - the state is paying less in interest on the borrowed $6 billion than on the unpaid bills.

But everyone knows that borrowing from Peter to pay Paul is hardly the best way to go.

So Illinois is stuck in a big hole, one largely of its own making prior to the March coronavirus lockdown.

Legislators could have tried to minimize the problem by cutting spending in the governor’s $42 billion budget, which took effect on July 1. Instead, they opted to roll the dice and hope that a series of federal bailouts would be forthcoming.

They got two and, it appears, may well get a third. If not, those who work in and/or rely on government programs to get by will feel the effects.


August 7, 2020

Chicago Tribune

A lesson in contrasts: How the GOP purged its leader amid corruption allegations

In June 2002, then-Illinois Republican Party Chairman Lee Daniels abruptly announced his resignation from that party post as pressure mounted, including from the GOP state attorney general, to remove unwanted “distractions” in an election year. Daniels and his chief of staff had fallen under the radar of federal prosecutors who were investigating whether GOP staff members did campaign work on state time.

“The party deserves to serve its purpose without unwarranted distractions,” Daniels, who as House minority leader was House Speaker Michael Madigan’s counterpart, said in announcing he would step down as party chair. “For that reason, it is best that I refocus my energy and encourage others to refocus theirs.”

Not long after, the House Republican caucus voted 33-18 to install a new House leader, Rep. Tom Cross, after Daniels lost support among his colleagues in that role too. Daniels had not been charged and was only peripherally linked to a time sheet scandal, but the whiff of a federal corruption probe pushed his members to force him out of leadership.

Three years later, Daniels’ chief of staff, Michael Tristano, formally was indicted and later pleaded guilty to a fraud charge as part of a probe into state workers’ diverting taxpayer resources to campaigns. Tristano also was accused of working out a deal with a real estate group to put a Republican candidate on its payroll. In exchange, the real estate group’s project received more than $1 million in state funds, prosecutors said. Other statehouse insiders, including Madigan, then-Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka and Senate President Emil Jones, also had been asked to turn over records as part of a state-resources-to-campaigns scandal.

Shortly after Tristano’s indictment in 2005, Daniels announced he would retire from his remaining position as a state representative. Daniels was not implicated in Tristano’s indictment, and he was never charged with wrongdoing. But he left anyway. A top GOP party and policy leader in the state who once held three positions of power was gone, pushed out by his own members and a nudge from the previous GOP attorney general, Jim Ryan, who had forwarded corruption allegations to federal investigators.

Under the lens of compare and contrast, then and now, one takeaway is this state’s breathtaking tolerance for corruption. It has settled into the system of governance and politics as its own permanent institution. Corruption is an expected byproduct of serving in public office, like wind makes waves.

Now it’s happening again with Madigan. He’s at the heart of a wide-ranging bribery probe involving utility giant ComEd. He has been served with subpoenas. At least three of his top aides’ and allies’ homes have been raided, along with other confidants targeted in inquires involving red-light camera bribes, sexual harassment payoffs, property tax clout and nepotism.

And yet, he continues in three positions of power, raising gobs of campaign cash. Recently, after the feds outlined the ComEd scandal, one of Madigan’s campaign funds showed donations on July 28 from LiUNA Chicago Laborers District Council of $362,500. Chicago Journeymen Plumbers’ Local 130 gave the speaker $25,000. Chicagoland Operators Joint Labor-Management PAC wrote him checks totaling more than $513,000. Others gave, too, including political advisers who apparently still cling to his coattails.

A handful of the House Democrats’ 74-member caucus and a few senators and others have called for him to step down from at least one position. But Gov. J.B. Pritzker has shifted and squeaked, refusing to take a lead role. Attorney General Kwame Raoul, unlike Jim Ryan facing his own party’s dirty laundry in 2002, has said next to nothing - the state’s top law enforcement officer.

And an election looms with hundreds of candidates running under the Democratic Party banner. Corruption is the institutionalized thief in state government, robbing taxpayers of honest services, which they deserve. It needs to be confronted and eliminated.


August 7, 2020

(Arlington Heights) Daily Herald

Ultimately, what’s at risk in reopening schools is our children’s - and others’ - health

It’s difficult to have a conversation about whether to hold in-person schooling in the fall without things breaking down into partisan arguments.

But it’s the safety of our kids — and others — that is at stake.

We understand that there are as many reasons for sending kids to school — or for keeping them home — as there are kids who need to learn and parents who need to work.

We have kids and jobs, too. We’ve dealt with the challenge of e-learning. We get it.

When we reported that Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire had taken the step on July 20 to eliminate in-school learning until the second semester — at the earliest — we wondered whether others would follow suit.

And many, many suburban districts did.

The thought of mandatory, 14-day quarantines for students or employees who contract the coronavirus (as well as for those who come into contact with them) loomed large in the minds of Stevenson leaders, Superintendent Eric Twadell said during that night’s school board meeting, which was held electronically.

In addition to the risks posed to the student body, educators and others in the school, the disruption would create a logistical nightmare to keep the school running, he said.

And Stevenson High School District consists of one school.

On the other end of the spectrum, the state’s second largest district, Elgin Area School District U-46, with more than 40,000 students from 11 communities in more than 50 schools, decided to delay the start of in-school learning for the lower grades until Oct. 22, when the district will employ a hybrid model. For the district’s five high schools, it will be distance learning for the full fall semester. The sheer volume of students makes safe passing periods impossible, officials say.

Parents who can work from home have challenges when kids are around. Parents who must leave home to work have even greater challenges. In many ways, the support for or objection to at-home learning is informed by one’s personal situation.

But we cannot overlook that it’s our kids’ safety at sake — and the safety of the many people at various walks of life with whom they may come in contact.

While teenagers are less likely to feel the full effects of COVID-19 and, in many cases, will have mild to no symptoms, we still need to worry about what they unwittingly bring home with them from school to older family members.

Delaying the opening of schools is a decision for each district to make. But, remember: It’s our kids’ health and the health of us all that is at stake.

That’s a risk that demands the utmost consideration and caution.

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