Plan would charge state retirees more for health care – Chicago Tribune

State lawmakers, fresh off of passing a major income tax increase, are turning toward a trio of other ideas as they try to capitalize on a newfound mood at the Capitol of dealing with long-festering budget problems.

The new push is a crackdown on the rising cost of health care for retired state workers. The program costs the state nearly $500 million a year, and more than 90 percent of the retirees and survivors pay no premiums.

Read the full story here: Plan would charge state retirees more for health care – Chicago Tribune.

States Help Ex-Convicts Find Jobs – NYTimes.com

Faced with yawning budget gaps and high unemployment, California, Michigan, New York and several other states are attacking both problems with a surprising strategy: helping ex-convicts find jobs to keep them from ending up back in prison.

The approach is backed by prisoner advocates as well as liberal and conservative government officials, who say it pays off in cold, hard numbers. Michigan, for example, spends $35,000 a year to keep someone in prison — more than the cost of educating a University of Michigan student. Through vigorous job placement programs and prudent use of parole, state officials say they have cut the prison population by 7,500, or about 15 percent, over the last four years, yielding more than $200 million in annual savings. Michigan spends $56 million a year on various re-entry programs, including substance abuse treatment and job training.

“We had a $2 billion prison budget, and if you look at the costs saved by not having the system the size it was, we save a lot of money,” said Patricia Caruso, who was Michigan’s corrections commissioner from 2003 through 2010. “If we spend some of that $2 billion on something else — like re-entry programs — and that results in success, that’s a better approach.”

All told, the 50 states and the federal government spend $69 billion a year to house two million prisoners, prompting many budget cutters to see billions in potential savings by trimming the prison population. Each year, more than 600,000 inmates are released nationwide, but studies show that two-thirds are re-arrested within three years

Read the full article here: States Help Ex-Convicts Find Jobs – NYTimes.com.

Stop the Lies: NJ Gov. Christie on 60 Minutes

Stop the Lies: Glenn Beck Attacks AFSCME

Rhetoric v. Reality: A Viewer’s Guide to Rep. Paul Ryan’s State of the Union Response » Greenline: The AFSCME Blog

Americans United for Change has put together this handy guide for watching tonight’s Republican response to Pres. Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address tonight:From The Politico: “FIRST LOOK: GOP RESPONSE: House “Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, in his State of the Union rebuttal, will call for an end to ‘Washington’s spending binge,’ … [contending that] the past two years failed to stem historic unemployment … [H]e will emphasize the need to cut federal spending to boost job creation.”

Read the full story here: Rhetoric v. Reality: A Viewer’s Guide to Rep. Paul Ryan’s State of the Union Response » Greenline: The AFSCME Blog.

morrisdailyherald.com | Marvin, McNamara tying the knot

Nicole Marvin and Eric McNamara will be united in marriage at 6 p.m. Saturday, June 25, 2011, in Dana, Ill. The bride-to-be is the daughter of Darla Marvin. The prospective groom’s parents are Kay McNamara of Bloomington, Ill., and Dan McNamara of Dana, Ill. Nicole is a 2004 graduate of Seneca Township High School and a 2008 graduate of Illinois Valley Community College. She is employed as a substance abuse counselor for the Wells Center at Dwight Correctional Center. Eric is a 2000 graduate of Fieldcrest High School. He is employed as a correctional officer at Dwight Correctional Center.

via morrisdailyherald.com | Marvin, McNamara tying the knot.

Wall Street vs. Main Street

AFSCME wins crucial battles in Springfield – AFSCME Council 31

The 96th General Assembly went out with a bang in the wee hours of the morning on Tuesday, Jan. 12. When all was said and done, the efforts of AFSCME and our allies succeeded in winning several very significant victories.

Raising the state income tax is the achievement grabbing all the headlines—and for good reason, as this long-awaited new revenue is desperately needed to finally begin to turn around the disastrous state budget and avoid potential state bankruptcy. But just as important was our ability to stop—at least for now—dangerous attempts to strip collective bargaining rights from potentially thousands of state employees and gut workers compensation provisions that protect workers injured on the job.

“This lame-duck session dealt with many issues of vital importance to AFSCME members, and we faced an onslaught of opposition,” Council 31 executive director Henry Bayer said. “But thanks to the efforts of thousands of AFSCME members, we came through nearly all our challenges standing tall.”

A roundup of what happened to bills of importance to AFSCME members

King’s Lasting Impact On The Labor Movement | Progress Illinois

As the country celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday, there is endless supply of reflection on his philosophy of equality, non-violence, and service. What is less discussed is the impact King had on organized labor. As someone who marched, spoke, and protested around the country for equal rights, King preached that one path to achieve that goal was through building the labor movement.

The National Jobs For All Coalition has a helpful reminder of just how important economic justice was to King. The group notes that the “March on Washington,” which climaxed with the “I Have a Dream” speech was officially called the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” Rev. Al Sharpton and Stuart Appelbaum recall that King traveled to Memphis in 1968 — the trip that would mark the end of his life — “to preach that no job holder should live in poverty” and to join striking sanitation workers who were pushing for a living wage.

And while today is a federal holiday — celebrated by the closings of court houses, post offices, and other government entities — one local school will remain open. The principal of Providence St. Mel, a private school on Chicago’s West Side, who met King while growing up in Alabama in the 1950s, said the best way to honor the civil rights leader is to remain open and teach. King’s labor legacy should be a part of the day’s lesson plan.

via King’s Lasting Impact On The Labor Movement | Progress Illinois.

TABOR Shelved, For Now | Progress Illinois

Illinois current budget negotiations are still in flux, but social service providers and those who rely on their programs temporarily dodged a bullet in Springfield when House Speaker Michael Madigan D-Chicago delayed consideration of a constitutional amendment HJRCA 61 that would impose strict limits on Illinois ability to spend.

Labor unions, state vendors, and budget experts urgently warned the state legislature last week that the amendment, known colloquially as TABOR, would drain Illinois budget of vital resources. One study by the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability found that the limits would have forced the General Assembly to make massive additional cuts — between $4.5 billion to $ 7.8 billion — in FY 2009, the most recent year with complete data. Like we did in our original on the topic, the State Journal-Register outlined the adverse effects a similar measure had in Colorado:

Colorado’s roads declined to the worst shape since the state started monitoring them, its contribution to higher education funding fell from 60 percent to 40 percent, and its contribution to elementary and secondary education funding fell to $2,000 below the national average. Revenues returned to pre-recession levels only after voters elected to suspend the limit for five years, Jones said.

The fight isnt over entirely; a spokesperson for the speaker said he would introduce the same measure again after the new General Assembly starts work Wednesday. But for now, its a victory for those who want to see Illinois fund core services adequately.

via TABOR Shelved, For Now | Progress Illinois.