N.J.’s past may be Illinois’ future: What to expect if you’re expecting Gov. Bill Brady

The traditionally blue state is drowning in red ink — budget deficits in excess of $10 billion, massive shortfalls in the pension funds — and the Republican candidate for governor says he knows how to stanch the flow.

He promises to cut spending and taxes, eliminate “waste, fraud and abuse” and get flinty with public employees while protecting and preserving vital programs such as education. He brushes off critics and the Democratic incumbent who say he’s not nearly specific enough about where exactly he’ll find billions of savings in the budget.

New Jersey one year ago sounds an awful lot like Illinois today.

Voters there went on to give the brash challenger, Chris Christie (left), a 3.6 percentage-point victory. And since Christie has traveled to Illinois to campaign for GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady, who openly admires Christie’s record, it’s relevant to ask how things are working out in the Garden State.

First, Christie did cut the budget — to $31.9 billion authorized for the current year from $33.3 billion in state spending authorized by former Gov. Jon Corzine for fiscal 2010, according to figures provided by the nonpartisan New Jersey Office of Legislative Services, a state agency.

That’s a 4.2 percent trim, well short of the 10 percent Brady is promising in Illinois, but real money nevertheless.

How did Christie do it? Nips and tucks here and there, but mostly by cutting education funding, reducing state aid to local units of government and suspending a property-tax rebate program for seniors and lower- and middle-income taxpayers.

Read the full story here: Change of Subject: N.J.’s past may be Illinois’ future: What to expect if you’re expecting Gov. Bill Brady.

Quinn / Brady debate

“Setting The Record Straight” On Quinn’s Early Release Program | Progress Illinois

If Gov. Pat Quinn loses the governor’s race on Tuesday, analysts will point to the MGT Push controversy as a key component of the Democrat’s downfall.

Roughly eleven months ago, Quinn’s early (and substantial) lead in the Democratic gubernatorial primary virtually vanished when Comptroller Dan Hynes used the governor’s stewardship of his meritorious early prison release program to characterize his opponent as undisciplined. Although Quinn survived the race, that damaging meme stuck. GOP nominee Bill Brady has used it to club Quinn repeatedly during the gubernatorial campaign.

Were the attacks on the Democratic incumbent fair? Was MGT Push a serious danger to public safety? Malcolm Young, a longtime Illinois prison reformer and director of the Program for Prison Reentry Strategies at Northwestern’s Bluhm Legal Clinic, differs decidedly from conventional wisdom in his analysis of the program. In a lengthy report released today, Young boldly argues that “nearly all of the charges against the program are false.” Quinn’s administration, this report suggests, isn’t nearly as careless as his critics contend.

Full article here: “Setting The Record Straight” On Quinn’s Early Release Program | Progress Illinois.

Illinois refutes claims about lack of prenatal care for inmates – Chicago Muckrakers

After a story yesterday about Illinois getting a “D” grade for prenatal care for female inmates from the Rebecca Project, we got a call from the Illinois Department of Corrections wanting to correct some information talked about in the Rebecca Project’s report.

The report, they say, which said there was no evidence that our state provides prenatal care to pregnant inmates, is incorrect. I talked with Debbie Denning, women and family services coordinator at IDOC, who told me about the intensive services they provide to expectant mothers.

All women who enter through Dwight Correctional Center who are pregnant are assigned to a special caseload, screened for sexually transmitted diseases and diabetes, and seen by an OB/GYN to assess their pregnancy.

“We really consider all our women high risk pregnancies,” said Denning.Then women are provided counseling and asked about their plans for after the baby is born. They can be placed in special housing if the staff feels that’s appropriate.

If a woman is within two years of her release date, she is eligible to enter the Moms and Babies unit, where women can take parenting and development classes while they wait for their babies to arrive and stay with them after they are born to up to age two.

Denning says Illnois has been a leader in taking care of women in prison.

Read the full article here: Illinois refutes claims about lack of prenatal care for inmates – Chicago Muckrakers.

Cherry-Picking Season in Illinois

From the article Court Watch: Mudfest 2010 at FactCheck.org written by Viveca Novak

Justice Thomas Kilbride, who has served a decade on the Illinois Supreme Court, doesn’t have anyone running against him; his is a retention election, in which he must win approval of 60 percent of voters to stay on the bench. Much of the corporate community doesn’t approve of him, largely because of his vote with the majority in a case overturning a statutory cap on pain-and-suffering damages in medical malpractice cases. The opposition is led by a group called the Illinois Civil Justice League, which is funded by business, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to go after Kilbride. The American Tort Reform Association and the American Justice Partnership, which was started by the National Association of Manufacturers, have also anted up to defeat Kilbride.

Interestingly, the league isn’t going after Kilbride for his malpractice ruling. Ads sponsored by the league’s political action committee, JUSTPAC, focus instead on Kilbride’s rulings on criminal cases. “Our central issue is to remove Thomas Kilbride from the bench,” the league’s head, Ed Murnane, told the Chicago Tribune. “We will do whatever we feel is legal and we will be using whatever means necessary and whatever issues will have an impact on voters.” He didn’t promise they would be truthful.

Read more of this >>

Judge Refuses To Nullify Blagojevich’s Sole Conviction

CHICAGO — A judge in Chicago has denied a motion to nullify the sole conviction of Rod Blagojevich returned by a jury at the ousted Illinois governor’s first corruption trial.

In a two-page opinion filed Wednesday, U.S. District Judge James Zagel rejects defense claims that prosecutorial misconduct contributed to the guilty verdict against Blagojevich on the charge of lying to the FBI.

The judge says defense attorneys often blame the prosecutors’ conduct when they are struggling to challenge a conviction based on law or fact.

Jurors convicted the ex-governor on one of 24 counts in August. He is set to be retried on the 23 deadlocked charges in April.

Blagojevich faces up to five years in prison for the sole conviction. He denies any wrongdoing.

via Judge Refuses To Nullify Blagojevich’s Sole Conviction.

Another Non-Endorsement Endorsement For Brady | Progress Illinois

Talk about getting damned by faint praise.

Here’s how the editorial board at the influential Springfield newspaper, the State-Journal Register, describes GOP gubernatorial candidate State Sen. Bill Brady’s plan (or non-plan, really) for addressing the state’s massive fiscal crisis:

“Brady has given us no indication that he understands the scale of this state’s financial trouble. His plan amounts to waving a magic wand and hoping for a return to 1996.

We can only hope that maybe, as a Republican governor, Brady will manage to stir enough across-the-aisle cooperation to break the stalemate that finds Illinois in a deep hole and sinking fast.”

And those two paragraphs, believe it or not, were the parting shot in an editorial that endorses Brady’s bid for governor. Other jabs in the piece: “We’re far from confident that Brady will fare better [than Quinn] as governor,” and “Despite 17 years in the legislature, Brady claims he does not know enough about the state budget to outline what he would cut.” The editorial also praises departed Department of Corrections chief Michael Randle; Brady called for his firing earlier this year.

This kind of non-endorsing endorsement of Brady for governor is becoming something of a trend. The Rockford Register Star editorial board acknowledged their support for Brady was “not a ringing endorsement” and criticized his use of “cliches” in talking about the state budget mess.

A shorter Brady endorsement could perhaps be written like this: Sen. Cotton Candy’s magic fiscal wand will produce magic beans that will fix the state’s fiscal crisis.

via Another Non-Endorsement Endorsement For Brady | Progress Illinois.

Brady’s AFSCME Ad Is All Wrong | Progress Illinois

After berating Gov. Pat Quinn incessantly over the past month for what he called a “secret” AFSCME deal, you’d think GOP gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady would understand the basics of the agreement Quinn and the public employees union reached last month. You’d be wrong. In his latest ad, the Brady camp accuses the governor of “sticking taxpayers with a $250 million pay raise for government workers.” Watch it here.

That’s just factually inaccurate. Rod Blagojevich bargained AFSCME’s latest contract, which included a slight pay increase. Gov. Quinn promised he wouldn’t cut any state jobs or close any facilities until June 30, 2012 if the union makes changes to its group health insurance plan that will save $70 million and identifies an additional $50 million in cuts by the end of October. (If not, the “deal” is void.)

And since it was revealed that two Blagojevich allies threw a private fundraiser for the Brady campaign in late September, perhaps it’s time for the Republican to ease up on the Blago-Quinn connections.

via Brady’s AFSCME Ad Is All Wrong | Progress Illinois.

Giannoulias, Kirk Round Out Campaign With Final Debate

Alexi Giannoulias and Mark Kirk, the candidates running for U.S. Senate in Illinois, battled over both issues and character at the last debate of their hard-fought and tight campaign. According to a write-up in the Tribune, the nearly hour-long debate was filled with “innuendo and suggestions of guilt by association.” Watch the entire debate here.

Another vendor quits doing business with Illinois

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois’ precarious budget situation has again prompted a company to stop doing business with the state.Records show the Illinois Department of Corrections was forced to scramble this week when a vendor refused to deliver foam food trays to Menard Correctional Center because it hadn’t been paid.Industrial Soap Co., which holds the master contract for the foam trays, “will not deliver due to delinquent invoices,” prison officials noted.

The St. Louis-based vendor wouldn’t discuss the contract situation Tuesday, but records show the company is owed about $166,000 dating to last year.

In order to avoid gaps in meal service, state officials gave another company a $36,000 emergency contract to keep the foam trays in stock.

The trays are needed to serve meals to the 3,400 inmates because they have been mostly locked in their cells since mid-October due to rising violence in the maximum-security facility.

Full article here: Another vendor quits doing business with Illinois.