Chicago Sun-Times Latest news from the Chicago Sun-Times Online en-us (Editor) Newspapers Chicago Sun-Times 84 34 30 Copyright 2014 <![CDATA[ ]]> Lead story image

… ]]> Tue, 09 Dec 2014 16:40:00 -0600 <![CDATA[ Can Karen Lewis guard the henhouse? ]]> Lead story image

Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, is clearly preparing to run for mayor of Chicago — filing the necessary forms with the State Board of Elections, circulating petitions to get on the ballot and meeting with community groups. If elected next spring, one of Lewis’ first big jobs as mayor would be to negotiate a new contract with the CTU. Does anybody think that’s a job Karen Lewis could do? The current contract between Chicago and the CTU is a three-year deal that expires at the end of June 2015. The next contract will be hugely important to … ]]> Mon, 25 Aug 2014 12:28:51 -0600 <![CDATA[ Dr. Pat versus Dr. Bruce ]]> Lead story image

How do you go about picking a doctor? Let’s suppose you have a child with a desperately serious medical condition — one that requires both brains and experience on the part of the surgeon. Let’s suppose the operation must be performed sometime in the next few months, and that circumstances compel you to make a selection sometime in the first week of November. The hospital where the surgery will be performed offers up two candidates — two supposed experts in the field. How would you select the one to perform the operation? The first is a genial chap with a … ]]> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 20:32:00 -0600 <![CDATA[ No pension reform? Then no funding increase ]]> Lead story image

This is the time of year when newspapers send questionnaires to the candidates for governor and then follow up with interviews. The process gives candidates the opportunity to show they can think about and respond to the questions, thereby helping voters decide which candidate to support. Here’s the question I’d put at the top of my list. Indeed, I think it may be the most important question any candidate for high office in Illinois has had to face in our lifetimes. If a candidate ducks it — or brushes it off (“I wouldn’t want to speculate on what the court … ]]> Thu, 07 Aug 2014 22:18:00 -0600 <![CDATA[ Rauner paves way for keeping tax rates the same ]]> Lead story image

The “Bring Back Blueprint — Jobs and Growth Agenda” issued last week by Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner is a more nuanced and realistic approach, both fiscally and politically, than we’ve previously seen from him. But you have to read the fine print. A Rauner campaign letter to “fellow taxpayers” issued just a few days earlier had characterized his platform as “simple”: First, “repeal the 67 percent Quinn-Madigan tax hike,” and second, “reform our state pension system to pay down the deficit and invest more money for education, roads, and public safety.” Full disclosure here: I like and respect Rauner … ]]> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 12:44:11 -0600 <![CDATA[ Pension reform or not, disaster ahead ]]> Lead story image

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled last week that retiree health insurance, like a pension, is a protected benefit for members of the state’s employee pension systems. What does this decision mean for the state’s pension reform law, approved by the Legislature last December, to bring pension costs under control? A column is neither a legal opinion nor a crystal ball, but I think the decision is irrelevant. It’s a different case, in a different posture, involving different legal issues and different facts. If anything, the court’s ruling on retiree health care underscores the argument that Illinois’ fiscal crisis is so … ]]> Wed, 09 Jul 2014 22:34:01 -0600 <![CDATA[ Level with voters on pain to come ]]> Lead story image

A new biography, The Life of Jimmy Carter, by Randall Balmer, describes Carter’s political career in Georgia before he became President. After Carter lost the 1966 race for governor of Georgia, he decided “he would court the white supremacist vote the next time around. Dirty means served noble ends. ‘You won’t like my campaign, but you will like my administration,’” the author quotes Carter. I remember that next campaign well. In 1970 Carter ran as a right-winger, defeating former governor Carl Sanders, a “New South” moderate who had worked to improve education and to transition away from racial segregation. Carter … ]]> Thu, 19 Jun 2014 11:16:01 -0600 <![CDATA[ Doing nothing while Illinois falls apart ]]> Lead story image

The spring session of the Illinois Legislature ended in failure to adopt a serious budget. This is no longer about kicking cans down the road. The can is now an empty tank car — too big to kick. The Legislature’s failure invites renewed musing about why it failed — again. One non-novel thought: Legislators want to hang onto their jobs; they don’t want to irritate any sizeable constituency or group (particularly if it has a PAC fund). Raising taxes or cutting programs would irritate somebody, and getting reelected means avoiding tough votes. Does that explain the continued failure? Another thought … ]]> Fri, 13 Jun 2014 11:46:26 -0600 <![CDATA[ No way around extending ‘temporary’ tax ]]> Lead story image

I don’t believe that candidates should ever make promises as to what they will do in the future with respect to particular issues; and such promises they do make should not be regarded as binding. ]]> Tue, 27 May 2014 23:50:00 -0600 <![CDATA[ Even after reform, pension debt will require tax hikes ]]> Lead story image

The real issue in this year’s race for the Illinois governorship is not whether to reduce property taxes, or whether to let the “temporary” component of the income tax expire. Reducing property taxes would leave Chicago with even less ability to fund its pensions. Letting the “temporary” income tax component expire would leave Illinois in the same situation. Either of those steps would take us in the wrong direction. Reform and funding go hand in hand. Assume for the moment that the state pension reform law is upheld in court (a state court on Wednesday stopped the pension overhaul law … ]]> Wed, 14 May 2014 17:48:30 -0600 <![CDATA[ What a real governor could do ]]> Lead story image

Why does it matter whom we elect as governor next fall, a young friend asked me recently. If Pat Quinn is re-elected, nothing much will change. We’ll have too many people on the payroll, and we’ll pay them more than market wages. Whether pension reform passes court review or not, Illinois will face about $100 billion in unfunded liabilities — growing at 8 percent per year. And since we can’t fund them adequately, we’ll borrow until we can’t borrow any more. Even if Bruce Rauner is elected, we’ll still have big Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. The governor … ]]> Wed, 30 Apr 2014 19:10:00 -0600 <![CDATA[ Putin rhetoric could come back to bite ]]> Lead story image

If Putin is so committed to maintaining the right of minorities with different cultures and languages to exercise their right to self-determination — to secede and form their own countries — I wonder how he would feel about some of the Russian nationalities taking the same view. ]]> Sat, 19 Apr 2014 00:46:00 -0600 <![CDATA[ Mayor’s pension deal goes right way ]]> Lead story image

The mayor deserves credit for making two tough decisions: to reduce benefits (and costs) prospectively, and to start funding on an actuarial basis. And Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan deserves credit for making it happen. But several huge barriers remain. ]]> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 23:48:00 -0600 <![CDATA[ Two longtime friends cross swords in gov race ]]> Lead story image

Two long-time Democrats – and old friends – crossed swords this week in the Tribune. They grew up together and clerked on the Supreme Court together. Newt Minow, FCC chairman under President Kennedy, explained why he would be voting for Bruce Rauner for governor. Abner Mikva, former congressman and chief judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, wrote that Newt was “wrong, wrong, wrong.” Newt quoted Kennedy’s statement that “sometimes party loyalty asks too much.” Abner wrote that Kennedy “never suggested that personal relationships should trump … important political values.” It would be tough to find two more gifted … ]]> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 23:48:59 -0600 <![CDATA[ Next governor can’t owe the unions ]]> Lead story image

BY EDEN MARTIN: Theoretically, a successful candidate might accept union support but afterward ignore those expectations. He might insist on facilities closings, salary freezes, work-rule changes and restructuring retirement benefits — and more charter schools. But in the real world of Illinois politics, that won’t happen. ]]> Tue, 11 Mar 2014 18:02:00 -0600 <![CDATA[ A way forward to equal opportunity: charter schools ]]> Lead story image

Precision and clarity have never been the hallmarks of campaign speeches or political slogans. So President Obama’s recent State of the Union speech was a welcome contribution to the debate about whether equality of income should be a policy objective of government. What is important — equality of income, or equality of opportunity to earn an income? The president made clear that in his view it is the latter: “Opportunity is who we are. And the defining project of our generation is to restore that promise. “Americans understand that some people will earn more than others, and we don’t resent … ]]> Thu, 20 Feb 2014 14:16:10 -0600 <![CDATA[ Some questions on bankruptcy, pensions for GOP gov candidates ]]> Lead story image

With Illinois’ primary election only about a month away — March 18 — the Republican candidates for governor are talking about their views on minimum wages, term limits and the like. It seems to me that the most important issues have to do with the fiscal future of Illinois and Chicago. Whatever the fate in the courts of the state’s pension reform law, Chicago has its own unfunded pension debts to deal with, and it needs state legislative permission to do just about anything. So here are some questions for the candidates. Detroit was able to seek federal bankruptcy protection … ]]> Wed, 12 Feb 2014 18:24:00 -0600 <![CDATA[ Results matter with Bruce Rauner, not his watch ]]> Lead story image

Supporters of some of the establishment Republican candidates for governor and a few media commentators are now taking shots at political newcomer and present front-runner Bruce Rauner. Some say he has an “arrogant” streak, and others claim it’s hypocritical for a wealthy candidate to refer in campaign ads to wearing an old watch or driving an old van. I’ve worked with Bruce for years on state finance and education policy, and I can understand how some who disagree with him might easily mistake self-confidence for arrogance. But I’ve found him to be smart, disciplined and focused on getting results. Full … ]]> Wed, 15 Jan 2014 15:12:01 -0600