Proposed Chicago law would enable city to fire convicted felons on payroll

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Chicago alderman Joe Moreno made a proposal at Thursday’s  city council meeting that would require the firing of city workers convicted on corruption charges.

Mayor Richard M. Daley didn't have much of an opinion about the proposal.

“Right now, we are spending Chicago taxpayer dollars on convicted felons until sentencing, and that time frame can be a year, two years, three years — and we’re continuing to pay,” Moreno said.

The process can also be drawn out through a lengthy appeal process.

Moreno said he came up with the idea after the city’s Inspector General Joseph Ferguson pointed out the practice in a quarterly report.

When asked about the plan at a news conference following the city council meeting, Mayor Richard M. Daley said, “I don’t know. It doesn’t bother me.”

Chicago Tribune

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Illinois gov. breaks campaign promise, hits taxpayers with 67 percent increase

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The Illinois legislature, rushing to act before a group of Democratic lame-duck lawmakers left office on Wednesday, pushed through a massive tax hike hitting individuals and businesses alike. The move is intended to partially offset the $15 billion budget deficit the state is facing this year.

Gov. Pat Quinn was re-elected in November after vowing to raise taxes by no more than 33 percent.

The final vote on the measure occurred on Wednesday at 1 a.m., the same day the new General Assembly was to be seated. Although both chambers of the legislature will still be controlled by Democrats, a number of seats lost to Republicans would have made it more difficult to pass the measure.

The tax package worked out by Democrat Gov. Pat Quinn and the Democratic majority in the House and Senate means that workers will see an increase in personal income taxes from 3 percent to 5 percent for four years, an increase of 67 percent, at which time the rate will fall to 4 percent. A family of four earning $50,000 will pay $1,000 more in state taxes.

Corporate taxes would also rise, from 4.8 percent to 7 percent, an increase of 46 percent. Business interests said that the measure would have the effect of discouraging new businesses from setting up in the state, and motivating others to leave.

Critics said that the tax increase is the largest ever imposed by any state, and a precursor of what is expected to occur in other parts of the nation.

The vote on the measure was passed along party lines, with the bare minimum of votes received in the House.  No Republicans voted for the measure there or in the Senate, saying that any tax increases should have been made only after the state made more progress on cutting costs.   They argued that instead of any requirement to cut costs, the measure simply put a cap on annual increases in the state budget to 2 percent.

Republicans blamed the state’s dire financial condition on Democrats, since both legislative chambers have been controlled by Democrats since 2003, as well as the governor’s office.

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Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. bucks trend, wants bigger budget for own office

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Unhappy with the cuts that lawmakers in Washington agreed to last week in their own office allowances, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. proposed Tuesday that they award themselves a raise instead.

In a gesture signalling their commitment to reducing government overhead, last week the House voted 408-13 to reduce their annual office allowance by 5 percent. House members are allotted $1.5 million annually for the cost of staffing an office in Washington and in their home districts.

On Tuesday, Jackson proposed that instead of a cut, the office allowance be increased by 10 percent, citing the need for additional security after the Arizona shooting spree that injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed 6 others.

In a statement, Jackson said: “My staff is working on a proposal to restore last week’s 5 percent cut in member budgets, because in this economic climate, we should be providing more services to our constituents – not less.  On top of that, I will propose a 10% increase in member budgets for security measures.  In some districts, that will mean hiring security personnel for public events.  In other areas, that may mean installing surveillance cameras at district offices as a deterrent or improving the locks or the entry systems in district offices.  Some will need more resources in order to move their offices to a safer area.

“I do not feel that fear should grip us, but since 9/11 we’ve secured every federal facility with the exception of our district offices. After the events of last weekend it is clear that our district staffs are vulnerable. Members should have the resources and the latitude to take the appropriate security measures in order to protect themselves and their staffs.”

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Illinois planning on 75 percent income tax hike

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Politicians in Illinois are considering one of the largest state income tax increases ever, according to a story in the Chicago Tribune. Democrats that control the state government in Springfield are working on a proposal that would raise income taxes by 75 percent, to help close a spending deficit of $13 billion this year.

The proposal would raise the tax rate from 3 percent to 5.25 percent through 2014, and then reduce it to 4 percent on a permanent basis. The increase would be the first for the state in two decades. Lawmakers are also proposing a higher corporate tax rate and a $1 increase on a pack of cigarettes.

The Democratic lawmakers are trying to get the measure passed before the new legislative session starts on Jan. 12, which includes new Republican members, who are expected to push for more cuts in spending than new taxes. Outgoing Democratic lawmakers are expected to vote for the measure because they won’t have to face voters in 2012.

The proposal was worked out on Thursday evening between Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate. The lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene on Sunday afternoon to continue working on the proposal.

“The governor continues to have productive discussions with the Senate president and the speaker of the House to build a framework that will allow the state to pay its bills, stabilize the budget and strengthen the Illinois economy,” said Kelly Kraft, a spokeswoman for the governor’s budget office.

The group also is considering an increase in the corporate tax rate from 4.8 percent to 8.4 percent.

Critics say the tax increase will encourage more people to leave the area in favor of more taxpayer-friendly states elsewhere. “I think we’re very close to the tipping point,” said John Tillman, head of the anti-tax Illinois Policy Institute. “The tipping point will come when the exodus of businesses and the jobs they represent grows so big that the tax increases won’t make up for the revenue losses.”

As former lieutenant governor, Quinn took over in 2009 from former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was removed from office after his arrest on corruption charges. During last year’s his election campaign, Quinn promised to raise income taxes by no more than 33 percent. Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, said, “This is more than double that. To me, it’s kind of bait and switch. I think it’s wrong, and it’s wrong to do it in a lame-duck session.”

The new personal income taxes are expected to generate about $6.2 billion per year, the cigarette tax $377 million and the corporate tax $1 billion. The state is also planning to borrow $12 billion against future tax revenues to help pay its current bills, mostly incurred for state social welfare programs.

A portion of the income tax increase, .25 percent, and the full cigarette tax proceeds, would be designated for the state’s public schools, providing up to $700 million annually.

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Chicago mayoral candidate releases tax returns, shows unstable financial condition

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The candidate, who first said on Monday that she wouldn’t make public her tax returns like the two other candidates “because I don’t want to,” on Tuesday provided them to the Chicago Tribune. It’s now a bit easier to understand why she wouldn’t want to.

She initially refused to release her income tax returns in the race for mayor of Chicago.

Carol Moseley Braun, the former U.S. senator from Illinois and former ambassador to New Zealand, showed income of $15,000 in 2009 and a loss of $225,000 in the previous year. She only provided a portion of the returns, making it difficult to understand how the numbers were derived.

Moseley Braun paid no income taxes in either year.

In running for mayor of Chicago, Moseley Braun has frequently touted her business acumen, even though it appears that she is struggling to operate the small coffee and tea import business, Ambassador Organics, which she started in 2005. A spokesman for the business, Kevin Lampe, said that Moseley Braun has been a hands-on manager.

Moseley Braun’s financial troubles were also recently reported in the Tribune, which reported that she had paid her property taxes late, and had taken out an additional mortgage on her home to do so.

She is now attempting to sell the house. Braun, in a statement said that the tax returns “are one measure of the fight I have waged to keep my business running. It is not unlike what many small business owners and regular Chicago families are going through.”

The other two candidates, former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Chicago City Hall insider and lobbyist Gery Chico, have already made their returns public.

According to records released by Emanuel, he and his wife made nearly $2 million over the last five years and paid more than $300,000 in taxes. The bulk of his earnings came from a blind trust.

Chico’s returns showed an even larger amount of income than Emanuel. In 2009, he and his wife, a school consultant, made $2.6 million; in the previous year, they earned $2.9 million. According to their tax returns, they paid taxes of $830,000 in 2009 and $900,000 in 2008.

The Chicago Tribune

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Chicago mayoral candidate refuses to release tax returns because “I don’t want to”

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Update: After a wave of sharp criticism from the public, press and opponents, on Monday evening Carol Moseley Braun backtracked on her earlier statement refusing to release financial records,  and agreed to make public two years of tax returns.

The candidate suggested earlier that she may have delayed paying some taxes, as a result of financial difficulties with a company she runs, Ambassador Organics, a small coffee and Tea company. Moseley was previously ambassador to New Zealand from 1999 to 2001.

Original story:

Carol Moseley Braun, a leading candidate for mayor of Chicago, said today that she won’t make her tax returns public, after both other candidates already did so. Asked why she wouldn’t release them before the Feb. 22 election, she simply said “Because I don’t want to” according to the Chicago Tribune.

She refused to release her income tax returns in the race for mayor of Chicago.

Braun made the statement at a press conference where she blasted the 2008 deal to lease the city’s parking meters for 75 years to a private company for an upfront payment of $1.2 billion. She claims that the city was ripped off and promised to undo the deal if elected mayor.

“There is law, casebook law up the wazoo about what happens when you get ripped off like that,” Moseley Braun said.

The other two candidates, former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Chicago City Hall insider and lobbyist Gery Chico, have already made their returns public.

According to records released by Emanuel, he and his wife made nearly $2 million over the last five years and paid more than $300,000 in taxes. The bulk of his earnings came from a blind trust.

Chico’s returns showed an even larger amount of income than Emanuel. In 2009, he and his wife, a school consultant, made $2.6 million; in the previous year, they earned $2.9 million. According to their tax returns, they paid taxes of $830,000 in 2009 and $900,000 in 2008.

Moseley Braun said she won’t release the return unless she makes it to the April 5 runoff election.

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Chicago dings drivers $5 per hour at parking meters

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Laying claim to the most expensive street parking in the nation, the city of Chicago is set to raise parking rates on downtown streets to $5 per hour, up from $4.25, an increase of 18 percent.

Rates are somewhat lower and at a bargain rate of just $3 per hour in areas adjacent to downtown.

The rate increase is the third in a series of five increases, agreed to by city leaders as part of a master lease agreement with Chicago Parking Meters LLC, a private firm that took over operation of the meters three years ago.

The 75-year lease deal, worth $1.16 billion in upfront cash to help address the city’s financial problems, was widely criticized by residents. Most of the proceeds from the deal have already been spent.

The downtown rates will hit $6.50 in 2013 and increase annually- for the next 70 years, by the rate of inflation.

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