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Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in Illinois

July 31, 2018

July 27, 2018

Chicago Tribune

Gov. Rauner, Mr. Pritzker, Illinois voters want to hear more from you

If you’re getting some hammock time this summer, you probably are aware there’s a race for governor unfolding in Illinois. Television ads composed and controlled by the campaigns have been streaming into living rooms for months.

But if you’re not a big TV watcher, or you’re caught up in national news, you might not realize the importance of the governor’s race to Illinois. It’s awfully quiet. Vague. What are the specific policy proposals for the next four years from Gov. Bruce Rauner and his opponent, J.B. Pritzker?

Perhaps the lack of specifics is the byproduct of two extremely wealthy, self-funded candidates facing off. Rauner and Pritzker don’t need to “earn” free media coverage with policy rollouts and press conferences. They don’t need to bug journalists with incessant phone calls and news releases to drum up headlines. They don’t need to rent hotel conference rooms to announce endorsements. They don’t have to congratulate their communications staffs for positive mentions on nightly newscasts.

They don’t have to engage as intensely. They can fly at 35,000 feet. That’s how it is so far.

As an incumbent governor, Rauner is more duty-bound to interact with the media. He has stood before microphones and endured an onslaught of questions from reporters many times since the March primary election. It’s part of his job. Pritzker, not so much. His interactions with the media and the public have been staged, camera-ready events.

And neither scenario extracts either candidate’s specific plans for this state from now through 2022.

Illinois continues to suffer from years of deep structural deficits, unfunded pension liabilities and late payments to vendors. Recently, child welfare officials in Indiana said they would not take troubled kids from Illinois, even children desperate for foster home placements, because Illinois is known for not paying its bills on time.

This state needs major corrective surgery.

Yet the two major-party campaigns for governor, and whatever media traction the two camps do create, tend to focus on the transitory topic of the day, not on specific, ambitious or provocative policy proposals for voters to weigh. What will the next state budget look like? Where would each candidate cut spending, if at all? How would each address, again, the alarming unfunded pension liabilities that continue to rise? If tax increases or cuts are the answer, then what exactly should the next governor sign into law?

In short, who has a grand plan to reverse the exodus of businesses and residents leaving for other states? Who can restore Illinois’ stature as a land of opportunity?

Four years ago at this stage of the governor’s race, then-Gov. Pat Quinn and reporters were digging into Rauner’s income taxes and pressing him to release full returns and schedules. On policy, Rauner had released a revenue plan that included broadening the state’s sales tax base, starting with 32 specific services he would consider taxing. Quinn had released a proposal for an assault weapons ban and a millionaire tax. He spoke repeatedly of his support for same-sex marriage, a topic Rauner tried to avoid by saying he had no social policy agenda.

They were sparring over Chicago’s pension problems. Rauner had released a framework of where he would cut the state budget. Both took aim at tax credits and loopholes. Quinn offered a plan to expand voter registration.

There was some beef to chew in July 2014.

This election for governor is Nov. 6. Can we move past the roundtable discussions and the scripted factory tours? Can we get beyond the television ads? Wealth should not be an excuse to skip the elbow grease of running for office.

We asked the same of the candidates for Chicago mayor: What are your grand plans for the next four years? The voters of Illinois need to hear them.


July 29, 2018

The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan

Tariffs no cause for celebration in Southern Illinois

It’s not often Metro East or deep Southern Illinois are the recipients of a presidential visit.

President Donald Trump appeared in Granite City Thursday to take a victory lap regarding the tariffs he has applied to foreign steel and aluminum. The tariffs have resulted in 800 jobs returning to U.S. Steel’s Granite City Works.

The jobs are certainly welcome in Granite City and Metro East in general, but that nugget of good fortune cannot mask the fact the president’s economic policies are hurting farmers in Illinois, the Midwest and the Plains states.

The big picture casts a long-reaching shadow over the celebration in Granite City.

Soybean and hog farmers, both of whom are plentiful in Southern Illinois, are taking it on the chin as the result of the tariffs and resulting trade war. China has slapped retaliatory tariffs on farm products, shutting down one of the nation’s most important soybean markets.

Soybean prices earlier this month fell to a two-year low of $8.60 per bushel, a drop of nearly $10 in the last two months.

That is devastating news to the farm community. According to a July 15 article in Forbes magazine, “For every $1 lower in average price per bushel, U.S. soybean farmers will see their revenue decrease by over $4 billion or about 10% of total revenue. Since costs don’t decrease, or at least very much, as revenue declines this lost revenue essentially drops to the bottom line.”

The news isn’t any better for hog farmers.

China’s retaliatory actions include a 25 percent tariff on pork imported from the United States. And, Mexico is considering following suit. The Des Moines Daily Register is reporting the Chinese and Mexican tariffs could cost Iowa farmers $560 million.

Other reports indicated hog farmers losing as much as $18 for every pig produced.

And, the damage certainly isn’t limited to Iowa and Kansas.

In a meeting with the Southern Illinoisan’s editorial board earlier this summer, U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, conceded pork producers in the 12th District were feeling the pinch of the tariffs. With the boost in jobs in Metro East, Bost admitted the tariffs were putting him in an uncomfortable position.

In order to offset the agricultural losses, the Trump administration has suggested a $12 billion relief package. The notion of taxpayers footing the bill for this costly economic policy has been met with widespread criticism. And, the criticism cannot be dismissed as merely partisan bickering.

The region is already enduring trying economic times. Southern Illinois can ill-afford the government putting the brakes on farmers who pay a significant amount of taxes that support our counties and schools. When the damage occurs in your backyard, it’s difficult to consider it collateral.

For generations Republicans have decried government attempts to choose economic winners and losers. That characterization didn’t always ring true, but it certainly seems appropriate in this instance. On general principle and for parochial reasons, Southern Illinois needs to see the tariffs lifted.


July 28, 2018

The (Champaign) News-Gazette

New option to pay for college

Given the high costs, parents and students are always looking for an affordable option to pay for a college education.

That’s why a plan called an “income share agreement” is increasing in popularity.

Under the arrangement, colleges offer to pay a student’s tuition in exchange for the student’s agreement to pay the school a percentage of his or her future salary for a set period of time.

Purdue University was the first to adopt this arrangement, starting in 2016 with what it called its “Back a Boiler” program.

Purdue worked with Vemo Education, a Virginia-based company, to implement the program. Since signing up Purdue, Vemo has persuaded roughly 30 colleges and universities to follow Purdue’s lead.

This kind of program, obviously, is not suited for everyone. But it’s another option to consider, one that encourages universities to help students get good jobs once they graduate and, at the same time, reduces borrowing risks for students.

What’s interesting is that this new idea actually is quite old. It was first proposed by Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman in the 1950s.

Friedman was, for many years, a prophet without honor in the economics field. As time passed, however, the University of Chicago economist became widely recognized and praised for his insights into the operations of a free market, the adoption of the “income share agreement” being the latest example of his wisdom and vision.

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