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Gov. J.B. Pritzker is making free college a priority in his second term. Tuition is driven up by pension costs, which Pritzker routinely ignores.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is making affordable college a priority in his second term, but so far he’s ignored the surest way to ensure it can happen: pension reform.

“It’s also our obligation to make college more affordable by removing financial barriers. That’s why we need to bring down the cost of higher education. Since I took office, we’ve increased scholarships by more than 50%. Now let’s focus on making tuition free for every working-class family,” Pritzker said.

The biggest barrier to affordable college in Illinois is pensions. Rising pension costs push up Illinois tuition, forcing students to pay the difference.

Pension Costs Education

It’s why Illinois has the fourth-highest in-state tuition and fees for public universities in the nation at $14,455 a year. Pritzker boasts increased scholarships, but scholarships are like a coupon: they help people but do nothing to change the price tag.

Other big states keep their universities affordable. Public colleges in California, New York, Texas and Florida all cost under $9,000 a year for residents.

Read more here.

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JB 2023

Gov. J.B. Pritzker dances with his wife, M.K., to “You’re Still the One” during the inaugural celebration on Jan. 9, 2023, at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield. (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)

In his two winning campaigns to become Illinois’ chief executive, billionaire Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the nation’s wealthiest politician, has spent $350 million, including more than $167 million to defeat Republican Darren Bailey by nearly 13 percentage points in November, according to newly released state and federal campaign records.

Bailey, a former state senator from downstate Xenia, spent $17.6 million on his campaign. Most of that was spent before he won the June 28 Republican primary election, with only $6 million spent between then and his loss to Pritzker in the general election, records show.

Bailey’s primary campaign was assisted by another $43.2 million from People Who Play By The Rules, a political action committee run by political operative and right-wing radio host Dan Proft of Naples, Florida. Of that total, $35.8 million was spent after the primary, records show.

The PAC was almost entirely funded by ultraconservative megadonor Richard Uihlein, who founded the Uline office supply and packaging company. Uihlein’s total outlay for the primary and general election for governor was $48 million — $6 million to Bailey’s campaign and $42 million to the aligned PAC, records showed.

Pritzker, an entrepreneur and heir to the Hyatt Hotels fortune who largely self-finances his campaigns, faced no significant primary opposition in his bid for reelection, spending $140 million since he kicked off his reelection campaign with a $35 million donation in March 2021.

More here.

Editorial note: It’s good to be the king (Mel Brooks)

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Union-tied research group pushes for mileage tax to shore up road-building funds

Despite Illinois’ efforts to smoothly integrate electric vehicles into the state’s economy, a new report from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute is warning of a potential steep decline in transportation revenue as the process of electrification accelerates.

The primary issue is motor fuel taxes, which will see a significant drop as more electric vehicles make their way to the road and fewer people fill their cars with gas.

Since motor fuel taxes make up the backbone of state funding for road and bridge projects, ILEPI, which has strong ties to organized labor, warned in its report that new revenue sources will have to be identified to ensure the state’s 10-year capital improvements plan remains on track.

“There’s absolutely a benefit to having EVs but it will ultimately have a strong impact on transportation funding,” Mary Tyler, the author of the report, said in an interview. “It’s something that I don’t think is talked about enough.”

Motor fuel tax is the state’s leading source of transportation funding and makes up 52 percent of Illinois’ total transportation revenue and 82 percent of its contributions to the federal highway trust fund.

The report’s main policy recommendation is implementing a vehicle miles traveled, or VMT, fee which would replace the existing motor fuel tax with a fee determined by the number of miles a car travels on Illinois roads.

Read more here.

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Sheriffs in approximately 80 Illinois counties say they will not enforce the state’s “assault weapons” ban, to which Governor Pritzker has responded by saying the sheriffs are guilty of “political grandstanding.”

It is now illegal to buy or sell more than 170 semi-automatic firearms in Illinois.

Those who owned such guns before the ban went into effect Tuesday — when the governor signed the measure — must register them with Illinois State Police by January 1, 2024.

There is also a ban on long gun magazines of more than 10 rounds and handgun magazines of more than 15 rounds.

Sheriffs and state’s attorneys from across the state say they will not enforce the ban and registry.

“The right to keep and bear arms for defense of life, liberty and property is regarded as an inalienable right by the people,” said Iroquois County Sheriff Clinton Perzee.

“I, among many others, believe that [House Bill 5471] is a clear violation of the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution,” Perzee said.

Perzee said he will not use his jail to detain individuals exercising their civil rights.

“[N]either myself nor my office will be checking to ensure that lawful gun owners register their weapons with the State, nor will we be arresting or housing law abiding individuals that have been arrested solely with non-compliance of this Act,” Perzee said.

Read more here.

Related:McHenry County sheriff calls ‘assault weapons’ ban unconstitutional, says his office will not enforce it

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Prosecutors in a case involving Michael Madigan say they have wires of the former Illinois House speaker acknowledging operatives “made out like bandits” in a scheme involving utility ComEd.

In 2020, federal prosecutors and Exelon subsidiary ComEd reached a deferred prosecution agreement. As part of the agreement, the utility admitted it paid $1.3 million in jobs and contracts to associates of Madigan over nearly a decade to influence the former House speaker. ComEd agreed to pay a $200 million fine.

Madigan was later charged with 22 corruption-related counts in the case. The four others charged are Michael McClain, a former state lawmaker and ComEd lobbyist who was one of Madigan’s closest associates; former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore; former ComEd lobbyist John Hooker; and former ComEd consultant Jay Doherty. They’ve all pleaded not guilty.

Jury selection in the case against the four excluding Madigan begins March 7. Madigan’s trial begins in April 2024.

A filing ahead of the March case details corruption charges against the three former ComEd officials and McClain.

Tuesday’s ‘Santiago Proffer and Motion to Admit Evidence’ filing totals 126 pages.

Read more here.

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JB Gun

Gov. JB Pritzker signs a bill banning the sale and manufacture of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines on the Senate floor Monday. (Capitol News Illinois photo by Peter Hancock)

On the first full day of his second term, Gov. JB Pritzker on Tuesday signed a bill banning the sale, distribution and manufacture of high-power assault weapons, .50 caliber rifles and ammunition, and large-capacity magazines while still allowing people who already own such weapons to keep them.

The House had passed a similar bill early Friday morning and sent it to the Senate, where it appeared over the weekend to run into roadblocks. But negotiations continued behind the scenes throughout the weekend and into Monday when a final deal came together just as Gov. JB Pritzker, who campaigned on a pledge to pursue  an assault weapons ban, was being inaugurated into his second term in office.

As recently as Sunday, the House and Senate seemed to be far apart, both on the weapons ban and a bill expanding access to reproductive health services, two of the biggest items being considered in a lame duck session that will conclude Tuesday.

But by Monday night, he, Pritzker and Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, announced that they were all in agreement on a final proposal.

One of the key sticking points concerned a requirement that people who currently own such weapons register them with the Illinois State Police. Those individuals would be required to disclose the make, model and serial number of the specified weapons to obtain a special endorsement on their Firearm Owners Identification, or FOID card. The House had included that in the bill it passed shortly after midnight Friday morning, but an early draft of a Senate plan reportedly proposed dropping it.

The final version of the bill, contained in a package of amendments to House Bill 5471, includes the requirement but extends the deadline for compliance to Jan. 1, 2024, instead of 180 days after the governor signs the bill into law, as the House had proposed.

Read more here.

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Illinois BudgetBy Bryce Hill | Illinois Policy Institute

New Illinois lawmakers who will be sworn into office Jan. 11 would serve their state well if they started their terms by providing overtaxed Illinoisans with economic relief.

Early into 2023, Illinoisans continue to pay many costs that residents of other states do not. Those costs include the highest cell phone taxes and second-highest property taxes in the nation.

Illinois’ excess taxes and fees further hurt the state’s families, who are already struggling to pay the ongoing costs of rampant, nationwide inflation. Lawmakers’ inertia on tax reform over time may be discouraging, but the new legislative session offers hope for change. New lawmakers looking to make a difference could do so by eliminating some of the unnecessary costs that make Illinois a less affordable place to live.

Here are three potential solutions Illinois’ leaders could pursue:

  1. End automatic gas tax hikes.
  2. Adopt hold-harmless pension reform to reduce Illinoisans’ property tax burden.
  3. Loosen regulations on small businesses.

Read Hill’s full editorial here.

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Illinois state lawmakers are looking to give themselves a $12,000 raise with a bill that spends more than $1.7 billion of taxpayer money.

Just before 9 p.m. Friday, the Illinois House approved an amendment to Senate Bill 1720. The measure now goes to the Illinois Senate, which returns Sunday evening.

Alongside giving pay raises to state legislators, constitutional officers and executive agency directors, the measure puts $850 million into the state’s Budget Stabilization Fund known as the rainy day fund, gives hospitals statewide a one time $460 million payment to help with the increased cost of nursing, puts $400 million into the Large Business Attraction Fund and deposits $72 million into the Disaster Recovery Fund, among other things.

“A hundred and seventy-four pages on a Friday night, the audacity of what we are doing,” state Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield, said in opposition. “Pay increase, Christmas in January, for legislators.”

In the 102nd General Assembly that ends Jan. 10, base pay for legislators is $72,906 a year. Legislative leaders get extra stipends ranging from committee chairman and minority spokesman receiving an additional $11,098 to the Senate president and House speaker getting an additional $29,530 a year. If Senate Bill 1720 as amended is approved by the Senate and is enacted by the governor, starting with the 103rd General Assembly that begins Jan. 11, the base pay for part-time state legislators will increase to $85,000.

The measure also increases the salaries of the governor from $181,670 to $205,700, the lieutenant governor from $140,000 to $160,900, the secretary of state from $161,500 to $183,300, and the attorney general from $161,000 to $183,300. The comptroller and treasurer would each get their salaries increased from $140,000 to $160,900.

More here.

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Illinoisans with fingerprints on file with Illinois State Police will have their Firearm Owner ID Card automatically renewed.

The new measure was part of an update to the FOID law and allows for the voluntary fingerprint option for automatic renewals to kick in at the start of the year. ISP will check the fingerprints against criminal databases for possible FOID card and Concealed Carry License prohibitors.

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J.B. Pritzker

Illinoisans are stuck with two gas tax hikes in 2023, thanks to Gov. J.B. Pritzker delaying the 2022 hike until after his election.

Gas prices nationwide are going down, but gas taxes in Illinois are going up in the new year. Illinois is scheduled for two gas tax increases in 2023, first Jan. 1 and then July 1.

The increase amount isn’t official yet, but Illinois Policy Institute estimates roughly a 3-cent increase per gallon to 42.4 cents starting Jan. 1.

Illinoisans are already familiar with high gas prices, which are the highest in the Midwest, according to AAA.

Gas tax hikes disproportionally hurt lower-income residents, who give up a larger percentage of their paycheck to pay for gas.

Even without upcoming gas tax hikes, Illinoisans already pay the second-highest gas taxes in the nation thanks to Gov. J.B. Pritzker doubling the state gas tax to 38 cents per gallon from 19 cents in 2019. He also added automatic annual hikes for inflation that drove the rate to 39.2 cents but delayed the 2022 increase until after the election – leading to two hikes in 2023.

Read more here.

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