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Insight on Illinois

September 10, 2020

With Labor Day in our rearview mirror, the traditional campaign season is now in full swing. While Illinois is not considered to be in play for the presidential election, don’t think that there will be an absence of campaign commercials blanketing the airwaves and search engines and filling up our mailboxes. Locally, the graduated income tax battle is heating up, with opponents of the measure hitting the airwaves and raising serious money to compete with Governor Pritzker’s $51 million contribution in favor of the measure. The proposed amendment question, which will be on the November ballot in Illinois, would permit a graduated state income tax, rather than the existing flat tax, and the Constitutional Amendment would take effect if approved by 60% of the voters who vote on the question or by a majority of those voting in the election. 

In Springfield, the fallout from the ComEd bribery scandal continues, and all eyes are on the House panel looking into allegations that Speaker Madigan engaged in wrongdoing. Whether the panel would recommend that the Speaker disciplined is uncertain, but the very fact that the panel has been convened is remarkable. Needless to say, the legislative environment is not conducive to any big energy legislation in Springfield for quite a while. And, many watchers are waiting for revelations of ComEd-style issues in other sectors. 

Here is what we are watching:

Graduated Income Tax Battle Heating Up

  • Illinois Billionaire Ken Griffin donated $20 million to the Coalition to Stop the Proposed Tax Hike Amendment
  • Vote Yes for Fairness, a group backed by Governor Pritzker, has been running TV advertising since August to support the graduated income tax constitutional amendment, which will be on November 3rd ballots statewide
  • Union leaders joined the fray, indicating their support for Governor Pritzker’s graduated income tax proposal

Chicago Facing Massive Budgetary Shortfall

  • Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Tuesday that she anticipates the city facing a $1.25 billion deficit in 2021, up from the roughly $800 million shortfall in the current fiscal year
  • Mayor Lightfoot has said there is potential for layoffs of city workers

New Developments in ComEd’s Springfield Scandal

  • The House Special Investigating Committee II met this week to begin hearings on whether Speaker Michael Madigan engaged in wrongdoing in connection with allegations that ComEd attempted to bribe the Speaker
  • On August 4th, Fidel Marquez, the former Senior VP of Governmental and External Affairs for ComEd, was formally charged with conspiracy to commit bribery

Upcoming Meetings

Thursday, September 24th, 10 a.m. – Cook County Board of Commissioners

Wednesday, October 7th, 10 a.m. – Chicago City Council

News of the Week

Billionaire Ken Griffin gives $20 million to stop graduated-rate tax amendment groupChicago Tribune

Ken Griffin, Illinois’ richest person and the founder and CEO of the Citadel investment firm, has donated $20 million to a business group fighting Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s push for voters to approve a proposed state constitutional amendment that would shift Illinois’ flat-rate income tax to a graduated-rate system.

IL Billionaires Gov. Pritzker, Ken Griffin fight over state's proposed graduated tax amendmentABC 7

One of the hottest contests on ballots across Illinois this November won't feature a single candidate. The fight over a graduated income tax amendment is turning into a battle of the billionaires. According to Illinois Board of Elections records, Illinois' richest man and Citadel founder Ken Griffin donated $20 million to the Coalition to Stop the Proposed Tax Hike Amendment on Aug. 27. The group opposes switching Illinois' income tax from a flat rate to one based on income levels.

Union leaders vow to campaign for ‘Fair Tax’ amendmentChicago Sun-Times

Labor union leaders from throughout Illinois spoke out Thursday for voter approval of the proposed graduated state income tax, saying the pandemic has underscored the need for taxation that’s fair to working people. “Our communities have been living in perpetual crises,” said Greg Kelley, president of SEIU Healthcare. “We all deserve a brighter future, and this is why we need the Fair Tax.”

Facing $2 billion budget shortfall, Lightfoot says she has to work better with others. ‘Hallelujah,’ says one alderman.Chicago Tribune

Mayor Lori Lightfoot embroidered her doom-and-gloom forecast for Chicago’s COVID-era finances last week with a promise to turn over a new leaf as the city’s leader, acknowledging she needs “to push myself harder to work with people with whom I do not agree and who do not agree with me.”

Lightfoot warns of employee layoffs to erase 2021 budget shortfall now pegged at $1.25BChicago Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot warned Tuesday in the strongest terms yet that employee layoffs she has long called her “second to last resort” will be needed to erase a 2021 budget shortfall she now pegs at $1.25 billion. Lightfoot refused to say how many city employees will be targeted. She noted negotiations with organized labor to identify specific areas for cuts or concessions have just begun.

What You Need To Know About The Legislative Probe Of Speaker Michael MadiganWBEZ

Against the backdrop of new criminal charges, a legislative inquiry into Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and whether he improperly helped Commonwealth Edison in Springfield is set to begin this week. It’s a process that historically has been reserved for lawmakers accused of crimes – including disgraced ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich. But its focus on the longest-serving House speaker in American history and sitting Democratic Party chair is extraordinary.

Madigan investigations committee to meet next weekState Journal-Register

A special House committee charged with investigating House Speaker Michael Madigan will hold its first meeting next week. The House Special Investigating Committee II will hold a hearing Thursday in Springfield. In an interview earlier this week, Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, said the initial meeting will be organizational in nature and establish the groundwork for conducting future meetings. He said he does not know yet how many additional meetings may be needed or how long the process may take.

Illinois Senate President Don Harmon’s office subpoenaed by feds who wanted information on land parcel in ChinatownChicago Tribune

Add Illinois Senate President Don Harmon’s office to the long list of organizations, politicians, lobbyists, and others subpoenaed in a wide-ranging federal probe that has already led to a series of political corruption charges and convictions. The U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago demanded that Harmon’s office, which he took over early this year after the retirement of former Senate President John Cullerton, turn over all documents and communications related to a property at Cermak Road and Wentworth Avenue in Chinatown. The parcel is a state-owned parking lot long coveted by developers.

A Former High-Ranking ComEd Exec Is Charged In Madigan-Connected Probe – WBEZ

Federal prosecutors late Friday filed one count of conspiracy to commit bribery against Commonwealth Edison’s former chief lobbyist, a one-time powerhouse in Springfield whom Speaker Michael Madigan invited as his personal guest to House inauguration festivities last year.

Lightfoot Defends 1619 Project — Madigan’s Crusade — It’s A Tax WarPolitico

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot dismissed President Donald Trump’s threat over the weekend to pull federal funding from schools that adopt elements of the New York Times’ 1619 Project, which aims to explain how integral slavery was to the founding of the United States.

Preckwinkle Urges Municipalities to Apply for ‘Use It or Lose It’ COVID-19 FundsWTTW

Cook County officials are urging suburban municipalities to apply for $51 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds by a Sept. 30 deadline. “This has been a very challenging time, not just for county government but for local units of government as well,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said Tuesday morning at a press conference in Oak Lawn.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announces ‘Mask Up Cook County’ campaign as suburbs see ‘second surge’ of coronavirusChicago Tribune

The Illinois Democratic Party is on a crusade to grab as many seats as possible in the November election, which is just 56 days away — or less if you’re voting by mail. Democratic and Republican sources say Dems could flip at least six House seats and, depending how much money House Speaker Michael Madigan throws at races, even more.

Suburban Cook County warned to wear masks, wash hands, distance — or face crackdown: ‘We are at a crossroads’Chicago Sun-Times

Nearly a third of all Illinois counties, including Will and suburban Cook, are now at a COVID-19 “warning level” amid the state’s summertime coronavirus resurgence, public health officials announced Friday. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said officials aren’t scaling back business operations any further for now, “but we are at a crossroads.

Saying their white colleagues are ’now uncomfortable,’ Illinois Legislative Black Caucus call hearings on criminal justice, education and economic reformChicago Tribune

Amid a nationwide reckoning on race, the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus on Tuesday floated an expansive agenda for legislative action on police accountability, economic access, and health care. Black caucus members are planning a series of legislative committee hearings over the next two-and-a-half months leading up to the Illinois General Assembly’s scheduled fall veto session to take up four policy areas: criminal justice reform, violence reduction and police accountability; education and workforce development; economic access and equity; and health care and human services.

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