Chris Essig

Walkthroughs, tips and tricks from a data journalist in eastern Iowa

Posts Tagged ‘Dan Brady

“Raise our taxes!” “Raise our taxes!”

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Have you ever seen 15,000 people chat that? Yeah, neither have I…until today…

SPRINGFIELD — Thousands of teachers, social service providers and government workers surrounded the Illinois Statehouse Wednesday, calling on lawmakers to fix the out-of-whack state budget.

Link.

I shot a video of the event. Here’s a look:

So is all this rallying really going to push lawmakers to raise our taxes? The short answer is: Probably not.

“To say that is going to rally enough support for a tax increase, I don’t think so,” said state Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington.

Link.

But that didn’t certainly stop them from coming. After the rally, many of the people participating in the rally visited one-on-one with their local lawmakers. We’ll see if that convinced any leery lawmakers to vote for a controversial tax increase in an election year. But if I were a betting man…well, you can see where I’m going with this.

Written by csessig

April 21, 2010 at 6:57 pm

Quinn calls for deep cuts; nobody likes them

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Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposed cuts

– Today was one of the most important days of the young legislative session, as the governor unveiled his proposed budget to the public. Not surprisingly, the proposal was very bleak. Quinn called for deep, painful cuts, including more than $1 billion in education funding, and basically dared the legislature to pass a 1 percent income tax (which is much lower than the first tax hike he called for). If not, the governor will be forced to go through with his education cuts, which could mean 17,000 teachers statewide are laid off. Talk about a depressing scenario.

Here’s the boss with more:

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn offered Illinois lawmakers a choice Wednesday: Raise the state income tax or cut spending for schools.

In a 21-minute speech to a joint session of the General Assembly, the governor outlined a gloomy $55 billion budget proposal that relies heavily on borrowing more money and again would delay billions of dollars in payments to people who do business with state government.

With all eyes on the upcoming election, Quinn said lawmakers could face voters in November after either cutting $1.2 billion to local school districts or bumping up the income tax rate by 33 percent.

“I have made some difficult, painful choices in this budget,” the Chicago Democrat said. “You must make some tough choices as well.”

For the full article, click here.

– Quinn is basically playing a game of chicken with the legislature. But could it pay off?

State Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, said the cuts put forth by Quinn were used to scare lawmakers into supporting a tax increase.

“I think that is a strategic move on his part to probably box in the General Assembly,” he said.

But, the state’s dire money troubles might force action this year, said state Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington.

“The mess that we’re in might force compromise that’s desperately needed,” Brady said.

Link.

It’s also possible that neither of the scenarios will come to life. Only time will tell.

– Other cuts (noted above in the graph) were touched on in his speech, but they were basically lost in the shuffle on Wednesday because of how severe his education cuts were. But I spoke with some local officials on Monday, who were paying particular attention to Quinn’s proposed $300 million cut to local governments. And they weren’t happy:

Pana, for example, may need to look into some kind of tax or fee increase to plug such a shortfall, Mayor Steven Sipes said Monday.

Because Pana’s property taxes are capped, city officials would have to consider water rate hikes or a utility tax increases if more revenue is needed, he said. Layoffs are an absolute last resort because the town of 6,000 only has 45 employees.

“It’s going to be devastating,” Sipes said.

Link.

Not good news for any one involved.

– Like his State of the State address last month, Quinn addressed a joint House in the Capitol. Fortunately, his speech today wasn’t nearly as rambling as the SoS address, and lasted only a fraction of the length. He, not unexpectedly, called for a income tax hike. But he noted it would be earmarked solely for education, which was the only new, groundbreaking comment made during the 21-minute speech.

After the speech, I scrambled to get reactions from as many local lawmakers as possible. I think I talked with seven lawmakers. Mike and I spoke with nearly 20 lawmakers in all.

Like our SoS coverage, we basically wrote five separate stories for each of our publications. Here’s a quick wrap:

– The other controversial component of Quinn’s proposal that didn’t get much fan fare was his plan to continue “strategic” borrowing to help the state stay afloat. Bill Brady attacked Quinn on this as well during a presser later in the day. I was all over it:

The Republican state senator from Bloomington was critical of Quinn’s proposal, saying it doesn’t solve the state’s fiscal crisis and instead relies on record amounts of borrowing.

Quinn wants to borrow $4.7 billion to help pay state bills and to roll over an additional $6 billion in unpaid bills to balance the budget.

“Today was an embarrassing day. He (Quinn) asked for an extra 30 days and yet the best he could come up with was a budget that is $4 billion out of balance,” Brady said, referring to Quinn’s request to delay his budget address by a month.

Brady noted that Quinn doesn’t have a plan to repay the borrowing he proposed, and is simply “kicking the can down the road, trying to make it past the election.”

“Quite frankly I wonder if he plans on being here in January because we have a pretty big problem,” he said.

I also shot a quick video of Brady bashing Quinn. I believe it’s the first video the Lee Enterprises’ Springfield bureau has put out, which I’m proud of. Take a look:

– In short, Quinn called for deep cuts today and nobody liked them. This could be a sign of things to come, so be prepared for a very contentious legislative session. And don’t be surprised if nothing get’s done…

Written by csessig

March 10, 2010 at 9:47 pm

“Family of slain area pregnant woman pushes criminal reform in Springfield”

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Interesting story…

SPRINGFIELD — The gruesome murder of a Hallsville pregnant woman and her unborn baby last year has pushed the family of the deceased to rally for criminal law reform.

The family of Jodi McGrew, who was killed last year by her brother-in-law in his parents’ LeRoy home, has been working with state Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, to push for changes in state law in the wake of the incident.

Brady introduced legislation requiring Illinois courts to sentence defendants to life imprisonment if they are found guilty of first-degree murder and their slaying is “exceptionally brutal or heinous.”

Brady wants the legislation to require judges to impose the penalty if they decide not to give the defendant the death penalty. The measure was approved by a House committee on a 5-1 vote Thursday.

Read the rest by clicking here.

I enjoy putting together feature stories whenever possible, especially on a citizen’s initiative like this. Ordinary citizens may have their hands in writing laws the rest of the state’s population has to follow…

Plus, it’s a story that I’m assuming not many other media outlets in Statehouse are going to pick up on…Being unique is always good.

The proposal is sure to be tweaked before it reaches the House floor, so we will see where the differences lie. And the family said they plan on making a trip to the Capitol to lobby their law, which will likely make some heads turn…

So my guess is this won’t be the last time we hear about this proposal. Whether it becomes law, however, is a completely different story.

Written by csessig

March 4, 2010 at 10:05 pm

Same speech, three different stories

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One interesting dilemma while working for a newspaper company as opposed to a newspaper is making your coverage meaningful for all of your publications. What that typically means for most stories is getting sources–lawmakers–from every region we cover: the Quad cities, Bloomington, Decatur, Mattoon/Charleston and southern Illinois. The same was true for Gov. Pat Quinn’s State of the State address yesterday. Basically we split our coverage into two parts: a story on the speech, which was compiled by my bureau chief Kurt Erickson, and a reaction piece from local lawmakers, which I worked on with Mike Riopell. Usually when we write a reaction story or a story or a piece of legislation, we put together one article filed with quotes from lawmakers in the five mentioned coverage areas. Well, the SoS address was a little different. Instead of one story, we decided to create separate stories for each coverage area.

Fortunately, The Southern covered the speech on their own, so we didn’t need to worry about talking to those six lawmakers in their area. But getting a hold of the other lawmakers after the speech was mandatory, meaning Mike and I had to talk to roughly 15 lawmakers before they got the hell out of the Capitol. And the result of that was three separate stories (the Quad City Times did not pick up our story). All the stories were set up the same, they just featured different lawmakers. Here’s a quick wrap:

Decatur Herald & Review

State Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, said he assumed the speech would take political tones with Quinn facing a primary election in three weeks.

“The city of Decatur…has 15 percent unemployment,” he said. “What did he talk about putting those people back to work? What did he talk about bring manufacturing back to Illinois? I didn’t hear a lot.”

Budget details will come when Quinn gives lawmakers his proposal in the coming months, said state Rep. Bob Flider, D-Mount Zion.

Bloomington Pantagraph

“I think he’s a nice guy, but certainly the speech didn’t tell us anything,” said state Rep. Shane Cultra, R-Onarga. “It had no meat in it at all.”

State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, agreed.

“It was a long speech short on specifics,” Brady said.

Matton Journal Gazette & Times-Courier

State Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said he thought Quinn’s remarks should have focused more on the problems facing Illinois.

“I felt like we were walking through Candy Land,” Rose said. “We’ve got real problems to address.”

Similar criticism came from other Republicans.

“I was disappointed the governor didn’t spend more time on the issues that really trouble the state,” said state Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon. “The speech isn’t about what’s good about the state of Illinois. It’s just the state of Illinois. And there is a lot wrong in Illinois.

Amazingly, almost every lawmaker we talked to basically said the same thing: the speech, despite being 75 minutes long, lacked specifics. But in all fairness, Quinn’s budget address is coming up next month, which will likely include more specific details on how the state is going to get out of this fiscal nightmare. It will be interesting to see how Quinn–whether he’s the Democratic nominee or not–addresses the state then.

If you feel so inclined, the entire budget address is available by clicking here.

Also, a full transcript of the speech is available here.