Lake County News-Sun - Feb. 18, 2015

By Jim Newton

Indications in Gov. Bruce Rauner's budget address Wednesday that his proposal would include major cutbacks to municipal funding drew quick and harsh reactions from several Lake County leaders.

"Instead of fixing the state, he's coming after local governments," Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik said Wednesday afternoon. "I'm not happy at all. Gurnee has its house in order — we have a AAA bond rating, no local property tax and exceptional services. I don't know why he's decided to pick on us."

Rauner's budget, Kovarik said, would force Gurnee to consider cutting staff, resulting in service declines and a possible increase in emergency response time.

"I was very hopeful about the new governor. I'm so disappointed," she said. "He's ignoring everything at the state level and coming after the local guys."

State Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, said she expected a backlash from municipalities when she heard Rauner planned to ask for a 50 percent reduction in the Local Government Distribution Fund, which collects money from several sources and is redistributed back to local governments.

"It could cause property taxes to go up. If you're getting less from the state, then you have to cut services," Bush said. "He's talking about cutting these funds in half from last year."

Bush also expressed concerns about potential cuts to "the working poor and mentally ill people, those who don't have a voice."

"I was hoping to hear something more like the (former Republican Gov.) Jim Edgar style of speech, more holistic," Bush added. "This was just about cuts."

State Sen. Julie Morrison, D-29, of Deerfield, said some aspects of the governor's budget plan are "simply unacceptable."

"I know Illinois is experiencing a budget crisis, but DCFS has been underfunded for years," she said. I'm gravely disappointed Gov. Rauner did not make abused and neglected children a higher priority. Cutting the agency's budget by more than 10 percent is simply unacceptable."

Bush said she doesn't see anything in the governor's plan that would require contributions from the wealthy, middle class or blue-collar workers.

"Everybody knows there is trouble (with the state's financial condition)," Bush said. "I don't disagree with that. But we have to meet in the middle."

Read the original story.

Category: In The News

Arlington Heights Daily Herald - Feb. 19, 2015

By Mike Riopell

More Breuder plans

State Sen. Melinda Bush, a Grayslake Democrat, has added another idea to the growing list of proposals sparked by the $763,000 severance package given to College of DuPage President Robert Breuder.

Her legislation would cap severance packages at 30 percent of a college president's annual salary.

"Families are struggling with the ever-rising price of higher education," Bush said in a statement. "To award nearly $1 million to an official just to quit is more than tone-deaf.

Read the original column here.

Category: In The News

Arlington Heights Daily Herald - Feb. 18, 2015

By Mike Riopell

Gov. Bruce Rauner today is asking suburbs to give up about half of the money they get each year from state income taxes.

The proposal comes as part of his sweeping ideas for budget cuts across state government intended to rescue the state's troubled finances, but mayors might not love what the move means for their budgets.

Rauner supported the state income tax reduction at the beginning of the year, but asking for the mayors' share would boost how much the state gets at the expense of local governments.

"Saying no is not popular," Rauner said.

The new governor touts the budget as one that doesn't rely on new taxes and says the amount the state has sent to communities over the years has continued to grow despite the state's troubles.

Mayors saw the proposal coming, and have already crunched some of the numbers. For Schaumburg, that'd be a cut of about $3.5 million in the next year.

Because of the give-and-take likely to occur with the legislature, however, Schaumburg Village President Al Larson considered it too early to start forming a plan as if Rauner's proposal was the final word.

"We have yet to sit down and discuss what our options are, but we have to wait until we find out what the final numbers are before we make any premature comment," Larson said.

Rauner, a Winnetka Republican, also has called for a freeze on property taxes, and Democrats said it was a contradiction that the governor would try to take money away and ask them to take in less local money at the same time.

"To me, it's a logical step to think that if we're taking their money ... that their option will be to increase property taxes," state Sen. Melinda Bush, a Grayslake Democrat, said.

Republicans, though, said there would need to be pain everywhere to solve the state's deep financial problems.

"It's going to be tough medicine for a lot of groups, but it's a realistic budget," state Rep. Tom Morrison, a Palatine Republican, said. "We actually balance the budget rather than using gimmicks."

Communities now share a pool of 8 percent of Illinois income taxes, and Rauner wants them to take 4 percent in the budget starting July 1.

Other towns that get less would lose less.

Rauner's plan will need lawmakers' approval to go forward.

His proposal is a more severe version of what's been proposed by former Gov. Pat Quinn in past years, so mayors have fought this battle before. They'd won so far, tapping into the political strength of local government at the Capitol, which is inhabited by lawmakers who have close ties to local officials. Many are former mayors or former members of various local boards.

View the original story.

Category: In The News

Chicago Tribune - Feb. 11, 2015

By Stacy St. Clair and Jodi S. Cohen

An Illinois Senate panel will ask College of DuPage President Robert Breuder to appear before its members and answer questions regarding his controversial severance package from the publicly funded school, lawmakers said Wednesday.

The newly formed subcommittee on executive compensation also wants to speak with some of the college's trustees, most of whom have refused to discuss the $763,000 buyout. The board has referred to the deal as a "retirement" package in news releases, but at least two members now acknowledge they approved the deal in order to prematurely terminate Breuder's contract, which ran until 2019.

"It has sparked outrage in DuPage County and, really, throughout the state," state Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago, the subcommittee's chairman, said at a news conference. "It has raised a series of questions on how institutions of higher learning compensate their top executives."

Breuder's total compensation this year is about $484,000, according to an agreement that was secretly changed by the trustees over the years. Among other perks, Breuder gets housing and car allowances, $10,000 a year for professional development, pension contributions and a membership at an exclusive hunting club.

College spokesman Joseph Moore said the school is confident the subcommittee's investigation will find that Breuder's compensation is not unusual for an administrator with his experience. But he would not say whether Breuder would appear before the panel voluntarily.

"We are supportive of examining the compensation of senior higher education administrators," Moore said.

The Senate panel plans to investigate the salaries and perks provided to college administrators throughout the state. On Tuesday, Cunningham sent letters to the presidents of the state's nine public universities and 38 community colleges requesting senior leaders' contracts, buyouts and severance agreements from the past 10 years. He also requested all perks given to those employees, including housing expenses, memberships and other compensation.

The institutions are to provide records related to the president, provost, vice presidents, general counsel, athletic director and other top executives, according to letter. The schools were given a deadline of Feb. 17 to respond.

In the wake of the College of DuPage controversy, legislators have filed numerous bills aimed at punishing the school and preventing other taxing bodies from approving similar buyouts. Committee members said there must be a comprehensive look at college and university compensation before any decisions are made on those bills.

The Senate subcommittee plans to hold hearings across the state and intends to finish its work by the end of the spring session, lawmakers said. The subcommittee will post the contracts online as part of its efforts.

View the original story, including video of Senator Bush's comments.

Category: In The News

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