Friday, February 26, 2010

Illinois Honors Those Lost in Desert Storm

SPRINGFIELD – In honor of the 19th anniversary of the cease fire announcement of the Persian Gulf War, the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) held a memorial service today at the Capitol Rotunda in Springfield for the 14 Illinois service members who lost their lives during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Governor Pat Quinn issued a proclamation declaring Sunday, February 28th, 2010 as Desert Storm Remembrance Day in Illinois and encouraged all Illinoisans to join in on the worthy observance.

“With Sunday marking the 19th anniversary of the end of Operation Desert Storm, we take time to remember the brave men and women who gave their lives during the conflict,” IDVA Director Dan Grant said. “The state of Illinois lost fourteen courageous service members during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and today we renew our vow to always honor their memories and dedication to this nation.”

The text of the Governor’s proclamation follows:

WHEREAS, since the birth of this great nation, millions of brave American men and women have courageously answered the call to defend their country’s ideals of freedom and democracy; and

WHEREAS, eighteen years ago, over 600,000 members of the United States Armed Forces risked their lives in the Persian Gulf to liberate Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm, some making the ultimate sacrifice for their country; and

WHEREAS, the men and women who served in the United States Armed Forces during Operation Desert Storm have earned the gratitude and respect of their nation; and

WHEREAS, the observance of the 19th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm allows citizens throughout Illinois, and across the country, the opportunity to honor those who served during this conflict for their valor and selflessness:

THEREFORE, I, Pat Quinn, Governor of the State of Illinois, do hereby proclaim February 28, 2010 as DESERT STORM REMEMBRANCE DAY in Illinois, and urge all citizens to honor those who courageously served their country during Operation Desert Storm.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Durbin Statement on Obama Health Care Proposal

From the Office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin
Monday, February 22, 2010

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) made the following statement regarding President Obama’s health insurance reform proposal that was released earlier today:

“The President’s health reform proposal brings together the best of the current healthcare proposal – including both Republican and Democratic ideas. President Obama’s plan to give access to affordable health care to over 31 million Americans who currently don’t have it today, will put families not insurance companies back in control of their own health care, drive down health care costs and improve the quality of health care in America.

“On Thursday, I will join Congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle in a meeting to discuss the President’s new plan. I look forward to a discussion with new ideas and bipartisan participation.”

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Cross and Radogno Sponsor Constitutional Amendment to Create a Fair Map

From the Offices of the Illinois Senate Republicans and Illinois House Republicans

(Springfield) After seeing the early success of a citizens’ movement to take back Illinois, Republican Leaders Rep. Tom Cross (R-Oswego) and Sen. Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) filed resolutions today to amend the Illinois Constitution with reforms that would take the power of drawing legislative maps out of lawmakers’ hands and place it into the hands of an independent commission.

“This resolution will also take away the ridiculous “hat provision” which has decided who draws the legislative map for the last three decades,” said Cross. “When lawmakers and the governor can’t agree on a legislative map—we draw a name out of a hat. We’re the only state in the nation that allows this winner take all approach.”

House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 56 and Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 104 take an initiative sponsored by the League of Women Voters and other government reform groups and put it into legislation for General Assembly passage.

“We are proposing to take the politics out of the redistricting process and let voters choose their elected representatives. This is the reform that citizens are demanding. This proposal is specifically designed to empower the voters of Illinois,” Leader Radogno said. “We know we could face strong opposition but regardless of the past we have a responsibility to seek good public policy. Redistricting reform must happen in Illinois.”

“We will continue to push hard for a House vote on our amendment. The residents are demanding it,” added Rep. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet). “The political reality is that the Democrats in control don’t want it.”

The current process allows legislative leaders to draw district boundaries behind closed doors. The constitutional amendment would require public hearings, ensure public display of proposed maps and allow public submission of proposed maps. Since 2001, incumbents have a 98% reelection rate; passage of the amendment will encourage competition and promote diversity.

The League of Women Voters has taken the lead in recommending the constitutional amendment, and has partnered with other reform groups, including: the Better Government Association, members of the Illinois Reform Commission, the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, Common Cause – Illinois, the Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity, Illinois Alliance for Growth, Independent Voters of Illinois and United Power for Action and Justice.

“We are thrilled that legislative leaders are proposing this constitutional amendment with our language in it—and we are hopeful that lawmakers will do the right thing and pass it through the General Assembly,” said Jan Czarnik, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters.

According to state law, in order for the Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment to appear on the ballot in November—the General Assembly must pass it with a 3/5th majority by May 2, 2010 (six months before the election).

“There are other proposals out there, but we believe only one that empowers an independent authority is true reform,” said Deputy Senate Republican Leader Dale Righter. “Any proposal that continues to have lawmakers draw their own districts is not reform.”

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

PHOTO: Senator Kwame Raoul (D)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - Senator Kwame Raoul (D) discusses an effort to pass a constitutional amendment changing Illinois' current flat tax system to a progressive tax system.

PHOTO: Senators Donne Trotter (D) & Pamela Althoff (R)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - Senators Donne Trotter (D) and Pamela Althoff (R) brief reporters on the National Conference of State Legislatures' report on the national economy and state budgets.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

NIU Geologist Says Northern Illinois Earthquake a "Total Surprise"

DeKalb, Ill. — NIU Geologist Philip Carpenter, an expert in seismology, was writing a proposal Tuesday night on how to study natural ground vibrations to identify the location of northern Illinois geologic faults, which occasionally generate small earthquakes.

Scientists don’t know much about the fault locations, but Carpenter found evidence of one early Wednesday morning.

At 3:59 a.m., a quake with a magnitude of 3.8 on the Richter Scale awoke thousands of residents across the region.

“I heard a booming sound followed by shaking, like you’d feel from an explosion, that lasted 10 seconds or so,” Carpenter says. He and colleague Paul Stoddard man NIU’s seismic center, located in the Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake was centered about one mile south-southeast of Pingree Grove, or about 15 to 20 miles east of Sycamore. So scientists now know there must be a fault there.

“It’s a total surprise,” Carpenter says. “No one knew there was a fault there. We’ve never had an earthquake centered in this particular area, and we have 150 years of records.”

That’s not to say an earthquake has never been centered in northern Illinois. Carpenter says there have been two other mild quakes in the last two decades, one centered near Amboy and the other near LaSalle-Peru.

“No faults have been mapped for the three earthquakes in the last 20 years,” Carpenter says. “We want to pinpoint the locations of the faults causing the small sporadic quakes.”

In addition to studying natural ground vibrations, scientists also could use portable seismometers that can detect tremors that can’t be felt by people, Carpenter says.

He adds that there are two major identified faults in northern Illinois—the Sandwich fault and the Plum River fault—but both have been dormant for the last 150 years.

The Sandwich fault runs through Sandwich and extends to Oregon, and the Plum River fault runs from the Savanna area toward Byron. Scientists have visibly identified fracture zones for those faults in outcrops, quarries and wells, Carpenter says.

Motorola Rethinking Strategy of Dividing the Company's Units

From the Wall Street Journal

Motorola is close to rolling out a new plan that it hopes will revive a long-suffering effort to separate the company's main business units, according to people familiar with the matter.

In recent days the Schaumburg, Ill., company has moved toward reversing a months-old strategy of selling off the largest of its three divisions, which makes set-top boxes and wireless-networking gear, these people said.

The company has instead signaled it will likely chop that unit in two -- continuing an auction for its wireless-networking business, while spinning off its set-top box business with its core handset business into a new, publicly traded company, these people said.

Greg Hinz On Replacing the Lt Gov on the Democratic Ticket

GREG HINZ, Blog from Crain's Feb 10, 2010

In some ways, it's the best job in town.

For $117,800 a year, all you have to do is cut ribbons, kiss babies, and smartly salute when the boss calls. There is a bit of travel involved -- Springfield is lovely this time of year -- and it would be a good idea not to have been involved with hookers, or massage parlors, or to be behind on your child support and taxes. But given everything, it's one cushy gig.

Perhaps that explains why Illinois Democrats so far have had a devil of a time finding a candidate for gov lite. First came the whole Scott Lee Cohen fiasco, and now that he's promised to give up his ballot spot, half the political world wants the job.

Frankly, the best thing the Illinois General Assembly could do would be to pass a constitutional amendment abolishing the job and letting another official -- the attorney general or secretary of state -- temporarily take over if the gov croaks or pulls a Blagojevich.

Ergo, my vote goes to the first candidate for lieutenant governor who promises to, upon election, immediately resign, an action that hopefully would prompt the Legislature to get serious about amending the constitution.

Short of that, my preference would be to require each candidate for governor from now on to run as a ticket with a candidate for lieutenant governor. That way, at least someone would be vetting the Scott Lee Cohen's of the world.

But despite such sentiments, Democratic Party powers seem intent on filling the vacancy with a new candidate. But who?

The first group is composed of the guys who ran and lost to Mr. Cohen. They can at least say they've shown an interest in the job. That would be State Reps. Art Turner and Mike Boland, and state Sens. Terry Link and Rickey Hendon. But all of them fell short -- though I must admit that Mr. Hendon's commercials, a knock off of the old Amos and Andy show, were quite entertaining.

Group two consists of folks who fell short in prior bids for higher office, but whose supporters say are tanned, fit and ready. Notably included are Gov. Pat Quinn's reported favorite, former congressional hopeful and U.S. veterans affairs official Tammy Duckworth, and state Rep. Julie Hamos, who lost a shot for 10th District congressman.

Chicago's powerful African-American voting block has a big influence in this process. It likely would be pleased if the choice went to West Sider Mr. Turner. Selecting him also would please state Democratic Chairman Mike Madigan, who elevated Mr. Turner to be his deputy House majority leader.

But an at least equally compelling argument can be made that, with everyone else on the November Democratic ticket hailing from Chicago, the Ds really need someone from the exurbs or Downstate. That would augur in favor of Rep. Boland, who's from Moline, or perhaps state Sen. John Sullivan from Rushville, who's name also has come up.

It it were me, I'd select the most competent person I could find, someone who would bring clear financial expertise to the table at a time of staggering state budget woes. That might mean thinking totally out of the box -- a corporate treasurer, perhaps -- rather than relying on the same old political names. Maybe even, gasp, a Republican businessman.

City Room™ - Politics - Blagojevich Claims Innocence in Court

Blagojevich claims innocence in court today. Click link below to read more.

City Room™ - Politics - Blagojevich Claims Innocence in Court

PHOTO: 2010 Illinois Piglet Book Released

Tuesday, February 9 - John Tillman of the Illinois Policy Institute reports on the release of the 2010 Illinois Piglet Book. This book outlines $350 million in "wasteful" state spending.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Statement of Arthur Turner on the Democratic Nominee for Lt. Governor of Illinois

From the Campaign Office of Arthur Turner for Lt. Governor
Sunday, February 7, 2010

"I commend Scott Lee Cohen on making the difficult decision today to resign his nomination for Lieutenant Governor, and have great respect for any citizen who engages in the public political process with the hopes to improve the lives of Illinoisans.

"I believe that in the November general election, the people of Illinois will elect the candidates who are the most honest, experienced and effective leaders. Governor Pat Quinn heads an outstanding slate of accomplished legislators on the Democratic ticket that far surpass the Republican candidates in every important regard. It continues to be my desire to join this exceptional group of individuals as the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor, and to bring my 30 years of experience to the executive branch as we solve the difficult economic and social challenges that face this great state."

Monday, February 8, 2010

Scott Lee Cohen Drops Out as Democratic Nominee for Lt. Governor

Scott Lee Cohen, Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor on November's ballot, has dropped out of the race.

For more information, visit

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Dillard Says There Is No GOP Nominee Until the Last Vote Is Counted

(Chicago, IL) – Republican candidate for Illinois Governor Kirk Dillard today said that the ballot counting process in the GOP Primary must continue, “until all of the legal ballots have been counted and verified.”

With a little more than 400 votes separating Senators Dillard and Bill Brady, Dillard put the difference in perspective. “With over 750-thousand votes cast, this is a .0005 of a percent difference. So, in a race this close, it’s important that every vote count.”

Dillard said campaign estimates, based on contacts with all 110 election authorities across the state, show there are as many as 5,000 provisional ballots still uncounted. In addition, there are about 1,000 absentee ballots that have been delivered but not yet counted.

Dillard also said as many as 5,000 absentee ballots could still be in the mail, not yet delivered to election authorities. “I wish we could resolve this today,” said Dillard. “But the reality is that it takes time for election authorities to do their job and for these votes to be counted.”

Some election officials have told the campaign that they will wait until February 15 or 16 to count their absentee and provisional ballots. “So, we will have to wait awhile longer before those votes are counted,” Dillard explained. “When you have a race this important, it’s essential that every vote count. That’s what Senator Brady and I want, and we know that’s what the people of Illinois deserve.”

Dillard also said the GOP remains committed to defeating Governor Quinn in November. “The Republican Party is unified behind balancing our budget, putting people back to work and cleaning up Springfield. Senator Brady and I are absolutely committed to this goal, regardless of who’s the nominee.”

Thursday, February 4, 2010

MORE DETAILS: Illinois Supreme Court Strikes Down Medical Malpractice Caps

From Crain's Chicago Business

(Crain’s) — The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday struck down limits on jury awards in medical malpractice cases passed by the Legislature four years ago amid spiking liability costs for medical providers.

The court ruled that the caps on pain and suffering and other non-economic damages — $500,000 per case for doctors and $1 million for hospitals — are unconstitutional.

The court’s opinion upholds a 2007 ruling by a Cook County Circuit Court judge determining that the law violated the Illinois Constitution’s “separation of powers” clause, essentially finding that lawmakers interfered with the right of juries to determine fair damages.

It’s the third time the state’s high court has quashed limits on medical malpractice awards, having tossed out similar laws in 1976 and 1997.

The ruling is a blow to physicians, hospitals and malpractice insurers, who successfully argued in 2005 that frivolous lawsuits and runaway jury verdicts were driving up insurance rates and forcing physicians to leave the state.

The court’s ruling stems from a malpractice lawsuit filed in 2006 by the family of a girl who suffered brain damage during her delivery at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park. Illinois’ trial bar selected the suit as its “test case” to challenge the law.

Liability insurance rates for Illinois doctors generally have held steady or dipped slightly since the caps took effect in August 2005, according to survey data from Medical Liability Monitor, an Oak Park-based trade publication. That’s roughly in line with national trends.

PHOTO: Post Election Review at the Union League Club of Chicago

February 4, 2010 - John Kass, Carol Marin, and Mike Flannery take part in a post-election analysis at the Union League Club of Chicago.

BREAKING NEWS: Illinois Supreme Court Rules Caps on Medical Malpractice Awards Unconstitutional

Today, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that medical malpractice caps, adopted by the Illinois General Assembly in 2005, infringe on the judicial branch's power.

Click the link below for more information from the Springfield State Journal-Register.

Audio Clip from Hynes Press Conference

Click the link below to listen to a 46-second audio clip from Comptroller Dan Hynes' press conference conceding victory in the Democratic Primary to Governor Pat Quinn.

BREAKING NEWS: Hynes Concedes to Quinn

Comptroller Dan Hynes has conceded victory in the Democratic Primary to Governor Pat Quinn.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Durbin: President Obama's Budget Focused on Job Creation and Reducing Federal Deficit

From the Office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin
Monday, February 1, 2010

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said the budget President Obama delivered to Congress today will help put millions of Americans back to work, build a new foundation for long-term prosperity and continue restoring fiscal responsibility.

“Each year, the President has a chance to clearly articulate his vision and his priorities through his budget. Today’s budget is a vision for the future that is focused on creating jobs and rebuilding our economy,” said Durbin. “This budget includes tax credits and other incentives designed to encourage new hires, it adds dramatically to education so that our kids will be prepared to succeed in college and compete in the global economy and it includes more than a billion dollars for jobs related to energy efficiency.”

The President’s 2011 Budget makes critical investments in the key areas that will help to reverse the decline in economic security that American families have experienced over the past decade with investments in job creation, education, clean energy and infrastructure.

It also reflects the Obama Administration’s commitment to tighten the government’s belt to reduce deficits in the years ahead. In this budget, the President proposes to save $250 billion by freezing all non-security related discretionary spending for three years. The freeze would exempt the budgets of the Defense Department, Homeland Security Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Job Creation

The President’s budget proposes several smart, targeted initiatives that would help encourage job creation this year. It proposes to invest $100 billion in programs to help small businesses access the credit they need to expand and hire; incentives to encourage energy efficiency renovations that would put contractors to work on homes and manufacturing plants; and infrastructure projects that would employ construction firms to make our roads, trains, and airports more efficient.

ILLINOIS IMPACT: There are over 250,000 small employers and over 850,000 sole proprietors in Illinois, most of which would benefit from easier access to credit to finance expansion as the economy begins to grow again. Most of the over 3.3 million homes in Illinois could benefit from incentives to make those homes more energy efficient. There are 310 transportation projects in Illinois worth $1.3 billion that are ready to go if funding were available to put people to work.

The budget encourages the creation of as many as one million new jobs in small businesses throughout the country this year through the proposal of a Small Business Jobs and Wages Tax Cut.

ILLINOIS IMPACT: The Small Business Jobs and Wages Tax Cut could create over 43,000 jobs in Illinois.

The budget includes $237 million to purchase, activate, and operate the “supermax” state prison in Thomson, Illinois. There is a critical need for a facility to address federal prison overcrowding problems nationwide and a particularly urgent need for supermax-type bed space. There are more than 209,000 inmates in the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons, up sharply from 202,000 last year.

ILLINOIS IMPACT: The purchase, activation and operation of Thomson Correctional Center could generate more than 3,000 jobs and inject more than $1 billion into the regional economy.


The President’s budget expands access to a quality education through the largest funding increase ever requested for programs authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – a $3 billion increase to $28 billion, plus up to an additional $1 billion if the law is reauthorized by Congress.

ILLINOIS IMPACT: Less than a quarter of Illinois students graduate high school ready for college level work. The President’s budget will help prepare all students for college by investing $2.1 billion in Illinois schools, students, and teachers.

The budget invests in comprehensive education reform through a $1.35 billion increase to expand the President’s Race to the Top competition.

ILLINOIS IMPACT: Illinois was one of 41 states to submit an application for the first round of the Race to the Top competition. If Illinois’s application is successful, the state will receive between $200 million and $400 million to implement state-wide education reforms.

The budget makes college more affordable by raising the maximum Pell Grant to $5,710 and indexing the grant amount to inflation.

ILLINOIS IMPACT: The President’s budget will make $1.4 billion available to Pell Grant recipients in Illinois. This will help more than 361,000 students in the state afford college.

The budget would lessen the burden of student loan payments on recent graduates by strengthening income-based repayment so that overburdened borrowers will pay only 10% of their discretionary income in repayments and have their remaining debt forgiven after 20 years.

ILLINOIS IMPACT: College students in Illinois graduate with an average of over $20,000 in student loan debt. The President's budget expands federal student aid and reforms the student loan system so that it works for students, not lenders.

The budget would expand child care and early education funding for working parents by adding $1.6 billion to the Child Care Development Fund and $1 billion to Head Start and Early Head Start

ILLINOIS IMPACT: The President’s investment in child care would mean $268.7 million in child care assistance for Illinois families. And the investment in Head Start would help place children in high-quality early childhood programs so that they enter school ready to learn.

Energy, Science and the Environment

The President’s budget would strengthen the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative by adding $300 million for the interagency effort which targets federal funding at the most pressing environmental concerns in the Great Lakes. Last year the Obama Administration created the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Congress appropriated $475 million for its efforts.

ILLINOIS IMPACT: The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is an interagency effort that targets federal funding at the most pressing environmental concerns in the Great Lakes including efforts to control the spread of Asian Carp. In December, $13 million was directed to fund emergency efforts to control Asian Carp. Next week, the Administration will be announcing its comprehensive Asian Carp plan that will address short and long term efforts by the Federal Government.

The budget builds on last year’s historic investments in energy efficiency, renewable energy and science with nearly a 7% increase in overall funding for the Department of Energy and an 8% increase for the National Science Foundation.

ILLINOIS IMPACT: Both of Illinois’ Federal labs, Argonne and Fermilab, are slated for increased funding. Argonne’s overall budget is increased to $532 million and Fermilab’s overall budget is increased to $420 million. The state of Illinois is proposed to receive over $1.3 billion in energy spending from the Department of Energy. This is nearly a 6% increase from 2010 levels.

Heath Care

The President’s budget offers more security for our communities by investing $2.5 billion for health centers to provide affordable high quality primary and preventive care to underserved populations, including the uninsured. This will allow health centers in Illinois to continue to provide care to the additional patients they served under the Recovery Act and support new health center sites.

ILLINOIS IMPACT: Since 2000, Illinois community health centers have more than doubled the number of patients—from over 400,000 to over 1 million today—a 150% increase. Last year alone, Illinois health centers provided direct health care services to over 1.1 million people.

The budget invests in the future of healthcare by providing $330 million as part of the health workforce initiative to address the shortage of health care providers in underserved areas. The Health Workforce Initiative includes $169 million in the National Health Service Corps and additional monies for the Nurse Education Loan Repayment and Scholarship Program, the Nurse Faculty Loan Program, and Dental Workforce Development Grants.

ILLINOIS IMPACT: In Illinois, 97 of the 102 counties have been designated full or partial health professional shortage areas. As the primary care shortage worsens, Illinoisans will benefit from the President’s investment in targeting funding to the neediest areas. Almost 2.2 million Illinoisans live in federally designated health professional shortage areas and are at great risk for being unable to establish a medical home because of a shortage of primary care doctors where they live. That’s 1 out of almost every 5 of Illinois’ citizens.

The budget offers stability for states and families by including $25.5 billion in additional Federal Medicaid assistance to help states maintain their Medicaid programs and ensure access to health care for millions of low-income Americans.
ILLINOIS IMPACT: Over 2.4 million Illinoisans depend on the Medicaid program including over 1 million children. The President’s budget will allow a total of almost $8 billion to help Illinois protect health care coverage for vulnerable families with dependent children as well as aged, blind, or disabled individuals

The President’s budget expands access to high-quality health care for all of our nation's veterans. The President's budget provides record funding to the Department of Veterans Affairs, building on historic funding increases with a 20 percent total increase since 2009. $57 billion is requested for FY2011. $50.6 billion is provided in advance appropriations for the VA medical care program in 2012, so that veteran care is not hindered by budget delays. The President's budget continues enrollment of more than 500,000 moderate-income veterans into the VA health care system by 2013.

ILLINOIS IMPACT: In 2008, Illinois' five VA medical centers and 22 outpatient clinics saw over 200,000 patients from Illinois and surrounding states. Illinois veterans will benefit from an increase in medical services funding of approximately $4 billion. The budget supports the VA and Defense Department joint implementation of the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record, which will rely heavily on the lessons learned from the soon to be complete merger of North Chicago VA Medical Center and Naval Health Clinic Great Lakes into the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center. Illinois veterans affected by Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress disorder will get the care they need through a $5.2 billion investment in specialized care.

The budget improves veteran access to the disability, education, and other benefits they have earned as a result of service to our nation.

ILLINOIS IMPACT: The approximately 841,500 Illinois veterans stand to benefit from a variety of benefits initiatives. In 2008, over 77,000 Illinois veterans received VA compensation or pension benefits. In addition, more than 26,000 took advantage of VA sponsored education, home loan, or vocational rehabilitation programs. The President's budget allows the VA to hire thousands of new personnel to attack the current claims backlog, and puts $200 million into automated processing. According to a 2006 VA report, 2,197 Illinois veterans go homeless every night, with only 136 VA-funded beds available. The budget puts $799 million toward the administration's commitment to dramatically reduce veteran homelessness.


The President’s budget helps promote nationally significant transportation infrastructure investments by creating the National Infrastructure Innovation and Finance Fund. The budget requests $4 billion in grants and loans for transportation projects that provide a significant economic benefit to the nation or a region.

ILLINOIS IMPACT: Last year’s Recovery Act included $1.5 billion in competitive Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants for nationally significant transportation projects that will provide long-term economic benefits. Last year, Illinois submitted 49 applications totaling more than $2.3 billion to DOT for this program. This new program proposed in the budget is similar to the TIGER program but will add innovative financing assistance in addition to grants for these projects.

The budget makes a significant investment in our nation’s rail infrastructure by including $1.052 billion for Amtrak’s capital costs and $563 million for operating assistance – an increase of $50 million.

ILLINOIS IMPACT: There are 1,487 Amtrak employees in Illinois, earning $98 million in wages. Amtrak’s routes from Chicago to St. Louis, Milwaukee, Carbondale, and Quincy connect 35 Illinois cities. From Chicago you can visit the over 500 cities Amtrak serves. This funding could also benefit new routes from Chicago to Rockford and the Quad Cities.

The budget continues the Obama Administration’s historic federal commitment to high speed rail. $1 billion for 2011 is proposed for the high speed rail State grant program. This funding comes on top of the $8 billion included in the recovery Act and the $2.5 billion included in the 2010 Omnibus Appropriations bill. This program will be directed by the states and is intended to create several high-speed rail corridors across the country linking regional population centers.

ILLINOIS IMPACT: Last week, the Obama Administration awarded $8 billion in grants from the Recovery Act. Illinois received $1.23 billion for work along the Chicago to St. Louis route. This grant will upgrade 2/3rd of the current track so it can handle 110 mph trains; shave up to an hour off the current trip time of 5.5 or more hours; improve on-time-performance to over 80%; upgrade stations along the corridor; and support 6,000 construction jobs. This funding could also benefit new routes from Chicago to Rockford and the Quad Cities.

Agriculture and Nutrition

The President’s budget responds to the needs of low-income Americans by continuing to support the nutrition provisions incorporated in the Recovery Act, including enhanced benefits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) averaging about $20 per person per month.

ILLINOIS IMPACT: In Illinois, the SNAP program helps over 1.5 million individuals (12.3% of the population) afford groceries. This is a 41% increase in participation over 5 years ago, a sign that this help is desperately needed now. In addition, food stamps have a direct impact on the state economy—USDA research has found that $1 in food stamps generates $1.84 in total economic activity.

The budget strengthens nutrition assistance and promotes healthy eating by investing $8.1 billion in discretionary nutrition programs, which is a $400 million increase over the FY10 level. This funding supports programs such WIC and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program which provide healthy food to low-income pregnant women, new mothers, and their infants; and supports our nation’s food banks and soup kitchens through The Emergency Food Assistance Program.

ILLINOIS IMPACT: In Illinois, nearly 295,000 women and children participate in WIC, which provides low-income at-risk women and children with vouchers for nutritious supplemental food packages, nutrition education, and health and immunization referrals.


The President’s budget helps take care of our men and women in uniform. It provides a 1.4 percent basic pay raise for all servicemembers to keep their pay increases consistent with pay increases in the private sector. The budget also provides an average housing increase of 4.2 percent for servicemembers and their families. It increases military family support programs more than 3 percent above 2010 levels, to $8.8 billion, including $1.3 billion for child care services at over 800 child development centers in the U.S. and overseas. It also includes $1.9 billion for expanded counseling and assistance services to help families meet the challenges of repeated deployments and family separations.

ILLINOIS IMPACT: About 42,000 active duty and National Guard and Reserve members in Illinois will benefit from these increases. In 2008, servicemembers, Department of Defense civilian employees, and military retirees from Illinois received $2.49 billion in pay. The budget will help fund the child development centers at Scott Air Force Base and the Rock Island Arsenal.

The budget provides quality health care for servicemembers, their families, and military retirees. It provides $30.9 billion overall for health care for the 9.5 million servicemembers, military family members, and military retirees who receive health care through the military’s TRICARE program. This amount includes $669 million to provide care for traumatic brain injury and psychological health and another $250 million for continued research in these areas.

ILLINOIS IMPACT: About 157,000 Illinois residents receive their health care through the Department of Defense’s TRICARE program.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Study Shows Abstinence-Only Sex Education IS Effective

From the Washington Post, Feb 1, 2010

Sex education classes that focus on encouraging children to remain abstinent can convince a significant proportion to delay sexual activity, researchers report in landmark study. The abstinence program had no negative effects on condom use among youth in the study, which has been a major criticism of the abstinence approach.

For more information, visit

Obama Releases $3.8 TRILLION FY 2011 Budget

From the NY Times

WASHINGTON — President Obama sent Congress on Monday a proposed budget of $3.8 trillion for the fiscal year 2011, saying that his plan would produce a decade-long reduction in the deficit from $1.6 trillion this year, a shortfall swollen by $100 billion in additional tax cuts and public works spending that he is seeking right away.

Full Story:

REMINDER: Tomorrow is Election Day!

Don't forget...tomorrow (Tuesday, February 2) is election day!

Jacob Meister Drops from Senate Race & Endorses Giannoulias


Dear supporters,
Thank you!

Thank you for your unselfishness.

Thank you for knocking on doors, making phone calls, getting your families and friends involved, and for all your encouraging voicemails, emails, tweets and Facebook comments.

Thank you for your financial contributions, particularly the determined 4-year-old girl who gave her mom $1.12 from her piggy bank with the directive: “Give this to Jacob Meister.”

Thank you for validating and affirming my decision to enter into the race for United States Senate. I will be eternally grateful for your support.

This morning, I will take the stage at the Teamsters Hall on the West Side of Chicago. The Teamsters was the first union that I worked for when I was 18 years old when I drove a truck for our family bottling company. The experience instilled in me a work ethic and pride of ownership, virtues I have carried throughout my career.

A teamster is someone who leads the team for the long haul. This morning, I will change my course, take one for the team and officially withdraw from the race to support Alexi Giannoulias for the Democratic nomination for United States Senate.

This is not a decision that I entered into without weighing your interests and our purpose and mission in making this run. Putting your street first, keeping jobs at the front of the discussion and civil rights as a constant, will all be embraced by Alexi.

That doesn’t mean in words only, either. As I have said before, you need to be willing to burn political capital for the things that do matter, and Alexi has assured that he will take up the mantle of my 20/20 Vision and fight for the issues that have been the cornerstone of my platform.

So today I ask you to join me in the race for the next 10 months and support Alexi Giannoulias for the Democratic nomination for United States Senate.

We must work together to keep Illinois blue if we want to move America forward in the direction in which the country needs to go. As I take my hat out the ring today, please join me in throwing our support behind what is in the best interest of the country.

I know I have handed my reins, my supporters and my policies to someone who knows that a democracy that discriminates against one, discriminates against all. I know my candidacy was not in vain because it kept the issues at the forefront and mobilized a colorless base of people whose rights have been denied for far too long.

What an incredible experience these past four months have been. Please join me for the exciting future that lies ahead.

Jacob Meister