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Political Rewind: Walker Visits Illinois Ahead of Recall; Scholarship Program Stalled in Senate

It's always good to be caught up on state politics. Here's an easy guide to what happened this week.

Editor's Note: This article was created by aggregating news articles from Illinois Statehouse News that were written by various Illinois Statehouse News reporters.

Walker Talks Unions, Budgets in Illinois Visit Ahead of Recall

SPRINGFIELD — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday visited a state he has used as a political punching bag to campaign ahead of a historic recall election in the Badger State.

Walker spoke to a crowd of about 300 lobbyists, lawmakers and members of the business community at thePresident Abraham Lincoln Hotel and Conference Center.Walker’s speech was part of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and National Federation of Independent Business lobby day here.

Walker’s visit comes less than two months before the embattled governor faces a recall election, spurred mostly by Act 10, a law passed during his administration that largely removes the ability of unions to use collective bargaining.

Walker said payment for his visit came from his political war chest.

Walker used the half-hour speech to highlight his fight against “a handful of big union bosses” and budgeting that allowed Wisconsin to dig itself out of a $3.6 billion deficit without increasing taxes.

Walker blamed the recall on “a handful of big union bosses (who) … think that I’m standing in the way of their power and their money.”

The Republican governor criticized Illinois’ Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and the General Assembly for passing a 67 percent income tax increase on individuals, and a 47 percent income tax increase on corporations in 2011.

The temporary tax increases eliminated the state’s structural deficit, but they failed to address the state’s $8.5 billion backlog of overdue bills.

“There’s always been this false choice, between either raising taxes or cutting core services,” Walker said. “Who amongst you in business would say, ‘You know what, times are tough so I’m going to double the price of my product?’”

Quinn’s office had no official response to Walker’s visit, although the Illinois governor addressed the issue in a news conference Friday.

“I don’t know what he’s doing coming to Illinois. He has enough challenges in his own state. I don’t plan to go to Wisconsin anytime soon,” Quinn said.

Quinn used the opportunity Tuesday to raise money. His campaign sent an email asking for donations shortly after Walker visited.

“If you want a governor with a proven record of job creation, rather than just rhetoric, show your support for Governor Pat Quinn,” the email said.

Quinn and Walker have traded jabs since about the time Walker took office.

John McAdams a political science professor from Marquette University in Milwaukee, said Walker’s trip to Illinois offered a way to garner media coverage ahead of the June 5 recall election.

“Everything Scott Walker does is part of his re-election campaign, just like, let’s be honest about this, everything (President) Barack Obama does is part of his re-election campaign,” McAdams said.

McAdams said Walker used his speech in Illinois in much the same way an environmental crusader would use a polluted river as backdrop for a news conference.

“This is the message that Walker’s people want Wisconsinites in general to get. Illinois is sort of a paradigm of what happens when you have a liberal governor that raises taxes to deal with a budget crisis,” McAdams said.

Illinois Chamber of Commerce President Doug Whitley said Walker was invited to the event because of his ability to cut Wisconsin’s deficit.

“Let’s hear some fresh thoughts and fresh ideas,” Whitley said.

Walker’s visit to Illinois fell on the same day a pension-reform working group was to release recommendations for fixing the state’s public pension funds. The state’s pension system faces an $85 billion unfunded liability, and pension payments are eating up more and more state spending.

Recommendations, which could range from eliminating cost-of-living increases for retirees to asking current workers to pay more, now are expected to be released later this week, Quinn said in a news release.Whitley said Walker’s visit wasn’t intended to be seen as an endorsement for eliminating collective bargaining for Illinois’ public unions.

“We brought him here strictly to talk about fiscal issues,” Whitley said.

The approximately 3,500 union protesters outside thought differently.

Protesters chanted, “Tell me what Democracy looks like? This is what Democracy looks like” while marching around carrying signs what read “Go Home Gov. Walker.”

“We sent a strong message to Illinois politicians that we won’t tolerate Walker-style attacks on the middle class, including the push to slash the modest pensions of teachers, police and other public employees,” said Anders Lindall, spokesman for the public union American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31.

McAdams said Walker and his Democratic opponents are not talking about collective bargaining in the run-up to the special election.

“Clearly, Walker wants to run on his fiscal successes,” McAdams said. “Democrats, on the other hand, are pointing to things like reductions in state aid to education” made during Walker’s term.

— Andrew Thomason

Heated Scholarship Program Stalled in Illinois Senate

SPRINGFIELD — Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno on Wednesday questioned why three proposals to eliminate Illinois' controversial legislative scholarship program are bottled up in a Senate subcommittee.

"I’m completely cynical about whether or not they are going to try and pass this,” said Radogno, R-.

In all, the Senate is considering three bills that would eliminate the program. House Bill 3810 joined two other bills in a subcommittee Wednesday, with apparently little hope of making it to the Senate floor for a full vote.

The House approved ending the program in March.

“I think it’s clear that the Senate Democrats are attempting to block this bill or, more specifically, a small group of Senate Democrats,” Radogno said, noting it has 38 co-sponsors in the Senate alone. Illinois has 59 senators.

“It’s crystal clear that there is widespread support for this bill, and these are parliamentary maneuvers to keep it from coming up for a vote."

The legislative scholarship program enables each Illinois lawmaker to give college scholarships to students attending in-state public universities, as long as the recipients live in the lawmaker's district. The scholarships, which can be awarded for one, two or four years, cover the entire cost of attending the universities.

Lawmakers cannot award scholarships to family members, but some have given them to children of campaign donors and residents living outside their districts.

Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman for the Senate Democrats, said it's unclear when, or if, the subcommittee might vote on the bill.

Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, has said he supports reforming, not abolishing, the legislative scholarship program.Radogno said reform is no longer an option for the program.“There is no way to reform this program or there shouldn’t be any more attempts to try and do that,” Radogno said. “It’s just been constantly rife with abuse and misuse.”

— Stephanie Fryer

Illinois Drivers May Leave Scene of Certain Accidents

SPRINGFIELD — A proposal that would allow Illinois drivers to leave the scene of a minor wreck to go to a safer location cleared a House committee Wednesday. 

Senate Bill 3409 lets drivers move off the highway to an exit ramp, gas station or other safe place.

Currently, anyone involved in a wreck, no matter how minor, must remain at the site of the crash or return to it immediately if unable to stop.

Bill sponsor state Rep. Sidney Mathias, R-Buffalo Grove, said getting cars out of the way after wrecks will help prevent traffic jams and ensure the safety of motorists.

“A small fender bender can tie up traffic on a road, and people are reluctant to move their cars, because they know there’s a law if you leave the scene,” he said.

The legislation only applies to crashes resulting in property damage. Drivers must remain at the scene of the crash if someone is hurt.

The Senate passed the bill in March.

— Stephanie Fryer

Brad Drake April 26, 2012 at 04:52 PM
(1) I would like you to show me one sourced-cited example where a worker who was once union and then went non-union made a higher wage with a better benefit package doing the exact same work. (2) I would also like you to show me one example where a company that has turned non-union and increased their profits has given that gain in profits directly to their employees. Please, gentlemen, give me a sourced and cited example of both. I am also curious to know if either of you have actually worked a manual labor job for a living before? I'm willing to bet you haven't. You went to college, got a degree, and then got a job where you didn't have to physically work. Good for you for doing that, but it's not for everyone. People who choose a life in the skilled trades and become very good at what they do are just as valuable as a person with a degree and deserve a fair wage and the right to negotiate for a fair wage. Once again, the check and balance of a system.
Edward Andrysiak April 26, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Brad...you need to catch up with the times. Years ago big companies were generally owned by an individual...we look back on them and call them tycoons. In that era there was a need for unions. Owners were greedy and there was little regard for their employees. Today, most corporations are public companies. Employees and retirees are the OWNERS via their stock and share in the profits. As for Wally in Darien...the neighborhood stores gave way to the shopping malls. The malls gave way to the mega box stores like Cosco and Sams. You the shopper got the better pricing and one stop shopping...and, the computer will give you on line shopping from home. Wally gives seniors jobs they need and generates a lot of sales taxes for your community. There are starter jobs for our young people and promotions for a few into management. If Wally was union would they be as sucessful? I think not. Remember you have a choice...you don't have to shop or work there if you don't like the way they do business. Their sucess tells me the majority of folks do.
Tom Koz April 26, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Brad, I was a union electrician for a couple of years in my early 20's. Later went into property management and had to deal with unions and inept union members. I'm now in my late 40's, own my own (unrelated) business. So, I have been on both ends of the spectrum. What makese different than you is that my eyes are open and I see the big picture. Regarding the speficics you asked for, I don't have time now, I have a business to run so that my employees can earn a paycheck and support their families. However, feel free to search the Internet for the specifics you seek, I'm SURE there are plenty. Regards.
tom April 26, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Here's another union story. This time in the auto repair business. The non-union shop techs are paid for the hours that they work. Work 8, get paid for 8.The union shop journeymen techs are paid "book hours". Those that are skilled could maximize their pay by booking more hours in the 8 hours that they work. The skilled techs at the non-union shop have no incentive to do this because no matter how many hours they book for the shop, they are only paid for the 8 hours that they're punched in.
Bronson May 02, 2012 at 04:53 AM
Workin' full time for half the money! Yeehaw! Most scab plumbers are unlicensed, and have no idea how to do the job. I've seen stuff done by bargain basement buffoons that slopes UPHILL...what a deal they gave though!!! Work done by an unlicensed plumber can be red tagged and removed. Something to look in to.

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