Illinois is in the lead again on running more of the tax payers monies to the rich?

May 5, 2015 § Leave a comment

Illinois’ economy is sputtering. And it’s not because the state’s economic development agency isn’t doing its job. In fact, it’s partly because the agency exists in the first place.

For years, Illinois’ economic development agency, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, or DCEO, has thrown hundreds of millions of dollars at the biggest companies in the state, leaving taxpayers with the bill and small-business owners struggling to succeed on an unequal playing field.

The growth-through-giveaway approach has failed miserably – Illinois has 56,000 fewer people working since the DCEO’s biggest program got started in 2001. And privatizing the agency – as state lawmakers are now suggesting – won’t make it work.

A new proposal from state politicians, House Bill 574, would privatize much of the DCEO’s responsibilities, creating a public-private partnership entity called the Illinois Business and Economic Development Corp. This entity would “focus on business development, small and minority-owned business incubation, trade and investment, tourism and film.”

But whenever the state gives certain businesses grants or tax credits, the money has to come from somewhere: namely, taxpayers and other businesses.

The DCEO’s model has already proven a simple truth: Healthy economic growth doesn’t come from selective government handouts. If you measure the DCEO based on results, it has failed miserably. The largest DCEO tax-credit program is the Economic Development for a Growing Economy, or EDGE, tax credit, which began in 2001. The entire purpose of the EDGE tax credit is to incentivize businesses to expand and create new payroll jobs in Illinois. But after more than 13 years and nearly $1 billion in EDGE tax credits, the state is actually down 186,500 payroll jobs, a stunning record of failure.

What’s worse, for more than a decade, Illinois has been giving select businesses many millions of dollars more in tax credits than the law allows. The EDGE program is intended for companies seeking to expand and hire more workers in Illinois; not to help companies maintain existing workers.

But the DCEO has been giving tax credits to companies that simply retain employees. The Liberty Justice Center has filed a lawsuit, Jenner v. DCEO, which seeks to stop this illegal practice. The lawsuit alleges it’s possible that as much as half of the nearly $1 billion in EDGE tax credits approved over the life of the program violated the limits established in the law.

Not only is the DCEO handing out illegal subsidies, but politicians also make use of it to curry favor and create the illusion of jobs growth.

Former Gov. Pat Quinn did just that in October 2014, one month before he was up for re-election. That month alone, Quinn authorized $37.4 million in major grants to four big companies and two influential incubators.

Failed economic stimulus and rampant abuse of tax dollars always come into play when government gets into the business of picking winners and losers.

Knowing the DCEO is broken might make it tempting for politicians to create a public-private partnership to carry out similar functions. But public-private partnerships like the proposed Illinois Business and Economic Development Corp. won’t solve these fundamental problems.

In fact, privatizing could help shield the group from the same scrutiny that brought the DCEO’s usefulness into question in the first place. Transparency requirements, such as Freedom of Information Act requests and open records reporting, often do not apply in the case of public-private partnerships, leaving taxpayers in the dark on how their money is spent.

For example, Jobs Ohio, a similar program, has been plagued with a lack of transparency because the “public-private” hybrid structure allows it to be considered a private organization. The program regularly subsidized donors to Gov. John Kasich and his legislative allies, and Jobs Ohio ran ad campaigns to trumpet its economic success – not unlike how Quinn used Illinois’ DCEO.

The DCEO has been a mess – but in attempting to fix one problem, the state shouldn’t create new ones. Illinois shouldn’t have to bribe big businesses to set up and invest here.

Subsidizing legacy businesses misses the point of what actually drives jobs growth: Kauffman Foundation research shows that job creation is driven by younger firms in their first five years. Nationwide, businesses with fewer than 50 employees represent 95% of all U.S. companies.

Politicians should embrace economic reforms that make the state a place to which employers want to flock. That includes keeping the tax burden low, eliminating unnecessary red tape and reforming out-of-control workers’ compensation costs.

Illinois needs a lot less DCEO favoritism, and a lot more real economic reform.

This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post on May 1.

HIlary Gowins Yelvington
Managing Editor

Illinois has lost over 1.4 Million Residents and growing?

January 30, 2015 § Leave a comment

Illinois has lost nearly 1.4 million residents on net over the last 20 years. This out-migration crisis comes with an estimated cost to government of nearly $8 billion annually.

Two data sets paint a picture of how this out-migration crisis is breaking state and local budgets.

The first comes from the Internal Revenue Service, which compiles taxpayer filings that show when taxpayers move from one state to another, and how much income they take with them when they leave. The IRS data put a firm number on the net loss of wealth and talent from Illinois.

In every year from 1995-2010, Illinois lost more taxpayers and adjusted gross income, or AGI, than it gained. In addition, the average taxpayer who left Illinois earned about $8,700 more per year than the average taxpayer who entered Illinois.

Illinois’ net loss of $35.3 billion in annual adjusted gross income from 1995-2010 resulted in a budget-busting loss of $5.9 billion in annual tax revenue for state and local governments. Over the 16 years from 1995-2010, the cumulative loss of tax revenue was nearly $52 billion dollars. This tax revenue loss is divided approximately equally between the state and local levels.

The IRS has since delayed releasing additional data in a move that smells like politics. In general, the migratory data show red states as destination states and blue states, such as Illinois, New York and California, as major exporters of wealth and talent.

However, using a second set of relevant data, which comes from the U.S. Census Bureau and is largely based on IRS data, one can estimate how out-migration since 2010 has affected Illinois budgets. Census data use IRS migration information as an input, and also include broader measures that capture migrants who don’t pay taxes, such as students.

On average, IRS out-migration numbers are 81 percent of the broader census measurement. Under that assumption, Illinois lost nearly 250,000 taxpayers plus dependents from 2011-2014.

The estimated loss of AGI and tax revenue from 2011-2014 is $10.3 billion in annual income, along with $1.7 billion in state and local tax revenues.

Over the last 20 years, Illinois has lost 1.36 million people to other states on net, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That is equivalent to 1.1 million IRS taxpayers plus dependents, and $45.6 billion in annual AGI.

Due to the last 20 years of flight, the annual tax-revenue loss to state and local governments is a stunning $7.6 billion.

Any long-term fix to Illinois’ budget crisis must address the state’s out-migration crisis. In order to have sustainable budgets, Illinois needs a plan to stop chasing taxpayers away. Given that the No. 1 reason people leave Illinois is for job and business opportunities, a sustainable plan for moving forward must include economic reforms that foster entrepreneurs, encourage business and manufacturing expansion, and allow for local solutions.

Michael Lucci
Director of Jobs and Growth

Illinois extends marijuana experiment to children

January 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

Medical Marijuana Children
In this Jan. 1, 2015, photo, Nicole Gross and her husband, Randy, follow Chase, their epileptic 8-year-old son, as he walks through their home in Colorado Springs., Colo. Nicole moved her son to Colorado from Chicago about a year ago so they could legally treat him using a low-THC, high-CBD medical marijuana oil known as Charlotte’s Web. Randy continues to work in Chicago and comes to Colorado as often as he can. BRENNAN LINSLEY — AP Photo Medical Marijuana Children Medical Marijuana Children Medical Marijuana Children Medical Marijuana Children Medical Marijuana Children Medical Marijuana Children Medical Marijuana Children Medical Marijuana Children Medical Marijuana Children Medical Marijuana Children Medical Marijuana Children Medical Marijuana Children Medical Marijuana Children APTOPIX Medical Marijuana Children

CHICAGO — Randy Gross hopes a new law allowing children into Illinois’ medical marijuana program will reunite his family, nearly a year after his wife moved to Colorado so their son could receive a controversial treatment to ease his epileptic seizures.

Gross lives and works in Illinois. His wife, Nicole, moved with their two sons so their 8-year-old could legally swallow a quarter-teaspoon of marijuana oil each day. While the medical evidence is thin, some parents — including the Grosses — say marijuana works for their children and they’re willing to experiment.

“We can tell he’s feeling better,” Nicole Gross said of their son, Chase, who also has autism and uses sign language. “He puts four or five signs together. He’ll sign, ‘brother go downstairs play.’ … He engages more, makes better eye contact. If he notices something funny on his TV show, he’ll clap and pat you on the back.”

The boy formerly suffered abrupt “head drop” seizures — at least one every two minutes, she said. Now 20 minutes go by, sometimes 30 minutes, between seizures, she said.

The dark green, pungent oil comes from a hybrid marijuana strain called Charlotte’s Web, which was cultivated by a Colorado company to be heavy in a compound called CBD and low in THC, the ingredient that gets people high. It hasn’t been tested in clinical trials for effectiveness or safety, but it will be legal in Illinois under a law that took effect Thursday.

Sorting truth from hype is difficult. CBD shows enough promise that two drug companies are studying it for childhood seizures with support from U.S. regulators, but those results will take years. For now, mainstream medicine regards Charlotte’s Web as a folk remedy deserving of caution.

“There is good evidence of long-term harm of chronic marijuana use on the developing brain under 18 years of age,” said Dr. Leslie Mendoza Temple, a suburban Chicago doctor who has given accredited lectures about medical marijuana for the Illinois Academy of Family Physicians.

She considers the scientific evidence sparse, so “in general, this is a medicine only to be considered when all other therapies have been exhausted and failed, and if the child is quite debilitated.”

A wave of Charlotte’s Web publicity, sparked by a 2013 CNN documentary, lured families to Colorado and unfairly played on their desperation, said Dr. Kevin Chapman, who treats children with epilepsy at Children’s Hospital Colorado. Chapman has seen only inconsistent parent accounts that Charlotte’s Web works.

When he and his colleagues reviewed the charts of 58 young patients using the oil, they found less than a third of parents reported a big reduction in seizures, and the improvement didn’t show up on available before-and-after tests that measure brain waves. Families who moved to Colorado to use the drug, however, were three times more likely to report improvement than families already living in the state.

“Families have to move, sell everything, pack up, leave their social network,” Chapman said. “It’s hard to be truly objective if you’ve had to do so much to get this drug that’s been touted as a miracle medication.”

Under emergency rules, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced in December, young patients will be able to use medical marijuana for any of the nearly 40 health conditions already authorized for adults, although some — like agitation of Alzheimer’s disease — aren’t childhood conditions.

Children will be required to get written certification from two doctors. Adult patients need just one doctor to sign off.

Illinois doctors will be reluctant to sign children’s forms, and for good reason, said Dr. Joel E. Frader, a Northwestern University bioethicist and palliative care pediatrician at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. Signing means a doctor believes there will be a therapeutic benefit that outweighs the risks.

“I know there are a lot of parents who feel desperate, and my heart certainly goes out to them,” Frader said. “In Illinois, there has been pressure put on the state Legislature and the regulatory process to increase the scope of use for medical marijuana by families who look at this as their last hope.”

No legal marijuana has yet been grown in Illinois yet. Potential growers waiting to learn whether they’ve been granted permits must build secure facilities before they can plant the first crop. That means it may be summer before marijuana oil is available in Illinois.

Randy Gross, who works as a chief information officer for a trade group, hopes to bring his wife and sons back home. He tries to spend two weeks each month with them in Colorado. It’s been difficult for the family, particularly his 10-year-old son, Zach.

“I missed his first karate tournament. I missed my wife’s birthday and Valentine’s Day,” he said. “It’s the little things like that.”

Associated Press medical writer Carla K. Johnson can be reached at

Read more here:

The appearance this will go over is a snowballs chance in hell!

January 1, 2015 § Leave a comment

Illinois Supreme Court Approves Use of Video and Audio Recorders in Cook Country Courtrooms
By Stan Lewis December 30, 2014 9:00 am. Categories: Legal. Tags: audio, Chicago, Court, devices, Recording, Supreme Court, video. 0 legal_justice
The Illinois Supreme Court gave its OK on Tuesday for reporters to use cameras and audio recording devices in Cook County (Chicago) in certain circumstances, a major signal of progress in the state’s nearly 3-year-old experiment with media coverage at trials.

While nearly half of 102 Illinois counties are already participating in the pilot program —launched in 2012— Cook County becomes by far the largest, with more than 400 county judges overseeing more than a million cases a year in Chicago and more than 120 suburbs.

Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Rita Garman said in a statement Tuesday she expects logistical issues because of the large media market and volume of cases in the judicial district but that Cook County will “rise to the challenge.”

Another justice, Anne Burke, said she hopes the project leads to less reliance on Hollywood explanations of how law works.

“It’s good for the entire legal system as a means of increasing transparency, educating the public and informing citizens as to how our system actually works as opposed to sensationalized snippets […] on TV series and in the movies,” she said in the same statement.

The Cook County program will officially start Jan. 5 at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago, where many of the highest-profile criminal cases in Illinois have been tried.

Tuesday’s decision doesn’t mean cameras will become ubiquitous in Cook County courtrooms.

Media are likely to ask for the expanded access for a relatively small number of high-profile trials.

Judges will also have discretion about whether to grant access — a decision that’s not appealable. And juvenile, divorce and other types of cases stay off limits to cameras and audio.

Then-Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride launched the initiative with the aim of possibly ending camera bans for good someday. And while the program is described as a test, Garman said after taking over from Kilbride last year she didn’t see Illinois ever returning to a blanket prohibition.

The state has allowed cameras to be present during Illinois Supreme Court and appellate court hearings since 1983. But at the time, the ban at state-court trials was continued out of concern that cameras would be disruptive and undermine a defendant’s right to a fair trial.

Tags: audio, Chicago, Court, devices, Recording, Supreme Court, video

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