Tag Archives: Illinois

Illinois dems aim high with minimum wage proposals

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The future of Illinois…

Despite this proposal stalling, I guess this is one way the demorats can prove they aren’t out of touch with their supporters.

From MyFoxChicago (AP): Amid a national push by unions and worker advocates for a $15 minimum wage, Illinois Democrats hope to pass an ambitious hike during the spring legislative session, despite a warning from Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner that he opposes an increase of any kind.

The proposal would lift the state’s minimum wage from its current $8.25 to $15 over the next five years, a more accelerated leap than previous adjustments in Illinois. It also would constitute a larger jump than increases toward $15 approved last year in New York and California, where the rates had been $9 and $10, respectively.

But, as with previous efforts in Illinois, the measure is likely to be tied up in the state’s electoral politics.

Sponsors of the legislation acknowledge Rauner’s opposition but have signaled they want to force him to act on the measure ahead of next year’s gubernatorial election, in which he already faces half a dozen Democratic challengers.

“We will get a really good opportunity to see where the governor stands,” said Rep. Will Guzzardi, a Chicago Democrat sponsoring the wage bill in the House. “Does he side with the 2.3 million people in this state who need a raise now or does he side with the big corporations?”

In the past, Rauner has said he supported minor increases in the minimum wage. But he told the audience at a business forum on April 13 that requiring employers to raise pay is out of the question. “That’s not gonna happen,” Rauner said. “Companies will just leave.”

Democrats say they have considerable support for the $15-per-hour measure in the House, and expect a floor vote in May. The Senate is also considering two minimum wage bills, one similar to Guzzardi’s and a less ambitious one that would raise the wage to $11 by 2021.

In 2014, Democrats placed an advisory referendum on the Illinois ballot asking voters whether they supported a minimum wage increase in an effort to motivate their base to go to the polls. The referendum secured 67% of the vote in the same election that Rauner won his first term in office. During the campaign, Rauner was criticized by his rival, former Gov. Pat Quinn, for statements supporting a reduction of the minimum wage.

Illinois has raised its minimum wage above the federal floor, currently $7.25 per hour, twice in recent history – first in 2003 and again in 2006 to $8.25, where it’s remained since 2011. That leaves Illinois with a lower rate than 20 others nationwide, but above every state it borders.

Business leaders claim increasing the rate puts Illinois at a competitive disadvantage, driving companies across state lines or forcing them to reduce staff. Labor unions and other allies of the national “Fight for $15” campaign contend raising the minimum wage boosts the economy by putting more money into pockets of low-wage workers, decreasing reliance on government assistance.

Advocates say anything less than $15 falls far short of the cost of living for millions of Illinoisans. They point to research including a 2016 report from the University of Illinois that shows at least 34 percent of Illinois workers earn less than $15 an hour, many of them while helping to support a family.

The report projects an increase to $15 would result in just a 0.78 percent employment decline while yielding an extra $2.4 billion in tax revenue.

Robert Bruno, a professor of labor relations at the university who co-authored the report, said research on previous increases indicates companies are able to recoup additional labor costs by raising prices a few cents on the dollar and benefit from enhanced worker productivity and purchasing power.

Some business organizations, including the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, oppose any increase above federal levels. Others, like the Illinois Restaurant Association, are willing to consider a more incremental adjustment – something some economics experts also recommend, warning against potential job loss resulting from more substantial leaps.

Sen. Kimberly Lightford of Maywood, the Democrat sponsoring both Senate proposals, has been advocating for a higher rate since 1999 when she first proposed what became Illinois’ 2003 increase. She said if the federal minimum had risen with inflation since its peak in 1968, it would be $11 today. “I cannot sit back and allow millions of working people to receive no wage increase at all because it could not be the $15,” she said.

The bills are HB198, SB1738 and SB2.

DCG

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Fiat Chrysler Spends $1 Billion on U.S. Amid Trump Squeeze

maga

Via Bloomberg: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV will invest $1 billion toward making three new Jeep models in the U.S., plus a Ram pickup now built in Mexico, as President-elect Donald Trump pressures the auto industry to hire workers and produce vehicles above the border.

The outlays planned by 2020 include retooling factories in Michigan and Ohio and adding 2,000 jobs, according to a company statement. The Italian-American automaker confirmed the Jeep brand will add the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer sport utility vehicles and a truck model to its lineup. After improvements to a plant in Warren, Michigan, the site will be able to assemble heavy-duty Ram pickups now made in Saltillo, Mexico.

Fiat Chrysler is circulating the plans before any potential criticism of the company by Trump, who last week threatened General Motors Co. with import taxes for importing a version of its Chevrolet Cruze from Mexico. Ford Motor Co. last week canceled a $1.6 billion factory in the country and said it’ll invest $700 million into a Michigan plant.

“The expansion of our Jeep lineup has been and continues to be the key pillar of our strategy,” Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne said in the statement. He also highlighted plans to export the SUVs and trucks. “We will finally have the capacity to successfully penetrate markets other than the U.S. which have historically been denied product due to capacity constraints.”

Fiat Chrysler employs more than 11,800 workers in Mexico at seven manufacturing facilities, which shipped 477,000 vehicles in 2015, according to the company’s website. Its models built south of the border include Ram trucks and vans in Saltillo and Fiat 500 small cars and Dodge Journey SUVs in Toluca.

The company is set to start producing a new version of its Jeep Compass SUV for the U.S. market at the Toluca plant. Its factory in Belvidere, Illinois, which used to assemble the model, is being retooled to make Jeep Cherokees SUVs.

DCG

Hundreds Get Layoff Notices at Peoria-Area Caterpillar Sites

From Pekin Times: Hundreds of mostly office employees received layoff notices at one of the largest Caterpillar Inc. facilities in the Peoria area this week, just as the company announced plans to close overseas production plants and eliminate thousands more positions.

A total of 300 support and management employees at Building AC and the Tech Center in Mossville this week received job loss notifications that included severance packages, 60 days notice and mandated Illinois Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act letters.

The WARN Act letters are required under certain conditions, including plant closures and mass layoffs of at least 250 people, and must be filed with agencies such as the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

“We issued out WARN letters to the appropriate agencies and employees,” Caterpillar spokeswoman Rachel Potts said Friday. “The letter does not reflect other reductions at our facilities in the area.”

The company did not disclose the number of layoffs this week at other locations in the region. The layoffs generally take effect by Oct. 31, and Caterpillar announced it would work to place some of those employees in new positions within the company while helping others find work elsewhere.

In its initial confirmation of the layoffs Monday, the company reiterated its commitment to Peoria, where it has been headquartered for 91 years, and the surrounding area.

The layoffs initiated in Mossville and other facilities in the Peoria area this week largely consisted of engineers working in divisions that Caterpillar announced last month would be consolidated, resulting in significant work force reductions beyond the 10,000 job cuts announced last fall as part of a company-wide restructuring.

Those plans also resulted in the announcement of thousands of intended job cuts overseas by the end of the week — in Northern Ireland and Belgium.

Read the rest of the story here.

DCG

Aetna ditching 70% of its ObamaCare business

Obamacare: Going as planned.

tried to warn you

Via NY Post: Insurance giant Aetna won’t be offering coverage under ObamaCare next year in 11 of the 15 states it now serves — an announcement that instantly became an issue in the presidential race.

Aetna’s decision led Donald Trump to charge that President Obama’s health care reform was “imploding.” “Aetna’s decision to leave the Affordable Care Act’s public marketplaces is the latest blow to this broken law that is slowly imploding under its regulatory red tape,” said Trump campaign deputy national policy director Dan Kowalski.

Millions of Americans have lost their health coverage under this disastrous policy, eliminating their ability to choose their doctors. Thousands of businesses have been forced to cut employment or shutter their doors in response to Obama’s signature achievement,” he added.

The company had previously warned that it expected to lose more than $300 million this year on the 900,000 patients it covers under the Affordable Care Act. Aetna said it is pulling out of ObamaCare markets in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas.

Aetna does not currently offer the policies in New York. It does offer other medical insurance to individuals and small businesses as well as large employers in the state, officials said. It will continue to offer policies in Delaware, Iowa, Nebraska and Virginia.

ObamaCare is credited with expanding coverage to millions of previously uninsured or under-insured people.

O laughs

But insurers have complained they have lost money on the policies. United Health Group and Humana are other insurers exiting ObamaCare plans.

Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini, in a statement, said there were not enough younger, healthier customers signing up to make ObamaCare policies sustainable. “The vast majority of payers have experienced continued financial stress within their individual public exchange business. Providing affordable, high-quality health care options to consumers is not possible without a balanced risk pool,” Bertolini said.

More than a dozen nonprofit insurance co-ops have shut down in the past couple years. The pullouts could spell trouble because competition is supposed to help control price increases.

Some states like Alaska and Oklahoma will be left with only one insurer selling ObamaCare plans to individuals in 2017. More densely populated states like New York say their ObamaCare markets remain strong.

But rates for customers are skyrocketing to maintain stability.

Obamacare Screw U

Citing increased medical costs, New York recently authorized insurers offering individual ObamaCare plans to increase premiums by an average 16.6 percent — the highest rate hike in the program’s four-year existence. New York’s small businesses will get hit with an average 8.3 percent rate hike.

DCG

Illinois overdrew hundreds of millions of federal Medicaid dollars, audit says

corruption

thonline.com:  Illinois used faulty methods for withdrawing federal Medicaid money, resulting in “a perpetual ‘treadmill effect’” of regular overdraws of dollars that the state later had trouble repaying, federal auditors said in a report released Monday.

The state’s withdrawals exceeded its actual Medicaid spending by an average of $60 million per quarter during the three years reviewed, according to the report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General.

The federal government may have lost as much as $792,000 in interest during fiscal 2010 through 2012 because the state repaid the money two to six months later, the report said.

Meanwhile, Illinois used the money for other purposes. The state deposited the overdrawn Medicaid money directly into the state’s general revenue fund, the same fund used for transportation, education and pensions, the report said. The money was used to pay non-Medicaid expenditures because it was mixed in with other money in the fund.

Federal rules require states to limit the amount of Medicaid transfers to what the states really need and to minimize the time states hold onto the money.

A watchdog group called the report’s finding an example of Illinois’ irregular budget practices that have led to a multibillion-dollar pile of overdue bills.

“The audit clearly points out that the state has used federal Medicaid dollars to mask other financial challenges and avoid cutting spending or increasing revenue” to balance the budget, said Laurence Msall of the Civic Federation, a Chicago-based policy analysis organization.

But the report concluded that all the money obtained by Illinois was legitimately supported by state spending on the Medicaid program. That’s important, said Ralph Martire of the bipartisan Chicago-based Center for Tax and Budget Accountability.

“It’s not like the state is trying to defraud the federal government,” Martire said, although he said Illinois may have “some sloppy internal systems” it needs to fix.

Illinois “justified every dime that it claimed,” said Michael Casey, finance administer for the state’s Medicaid program at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. He called the repayment problems cited by the audit “a matter of timing.” (Try using that excuse with the IRS.)

Casey said that the state’s outdated, 30-year-old computer system can’t do daily calculations of federal reimbursement rates for a half-dozen different programs, making it necessary to estimate how much money to draw. The system will be replaced by the end of 2017, he said.

Medicaid is a federal and state program that pays medical expenses of the poor and disabled. In Illinois, the state and federal governments each pay for about half the program’s expenses. The Illinois Medicaid program now covers 3 million people with a budget of about $18 billion.

The federal review was part of a series related to states’ withdrawals of federal Medicaid money.

Julie Hamos

Julie Hamos

It’s the latest difficulty for Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Director Julie Hamos, who earlier this year was hit with an Illinois audit finding the program overpaid $12.3 million for medical care for 2,850 people who were dead. (In December 2012, Julie was presented the “Excellence in Public Service Award” by Motorola Solutions Foundation, in partnership with the Civic Federation. In January 2013, Julie was named by the Chicago Tribune Business Section as one of the “People to Watch” in 2013.)

In a letter responding to the new federal audit, Hamos said her department is addressing the problem “to reduce the amounts of overdraws and underdraws of federal Medicaid funds.” Hamos said the expansion of managed care in Illinois’ Medicaid program “should allow for more consistent payment cycles and better estimates of the federal share of payments.”

Illinois has lagged behind other states in adopting managed care, which pays insurers and health networks fixed per-patient fees instead of paying separately for every appointment, surgery and test. A 2011 state law required expanding managed care to half the state’s Medicaid patients by 2015.

DCG

Illinois towns reject call to pass assault weapons bans

chicago2

Fox News: (SPRINGFIELD, Ill.) –  As Illinois prepares  to become the last state in the country to allow the concealed carry of  firearms, few of its communities appear concerned that the window allowing them to ban assault-style weapons will rapidly begin closing next week.

Despite encouragement from Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon — and on the verge of  almost-certain enactment next week of a law allowing residents to carry  concealed weapons — only four communities have adopted semi-automatic gun restrictions out of more than two dozen taking them up.

According to interviews and information from gun-rights groups such as the  Illinois State Rifle Association, 14 communities have rejected or decided not to  act on proposed bans. Ten have yet to vote or have delayed consideration.

All of them are in the Chicago metropolitan area. Those adopting bans —  Highland Park, North Chicago, Melrose Park, and Skokie — join eight other cities, also near Chicago, that already regulate possession or sale and transfer of illegal weapons, according to research compiled by the Illinois House  Democrats’ staff.

The odd linkage of packing handguns in public to allow city-based bans on  semi-automatic weapons comes from a delicately negotiated settlement that will make Illinois the last of 50 states to allow the carrying of concealed  weapons.

Lawmakers approved concealed carry in May after a federal appeals court ruled it is unconstitutional for the state to prohibit it.

Gun-rights supporters pushed through the House a concealed carry initiative  which invalidated all local ordinances regulating guns. Chicago Democrats in the Senate demanded that Chicago be allowed to keep its ban on assault-style rifles, leading to the compromise allowing those places without such bans 10 days to enact them.

“I just don’t see the place for it. I’m not against people having guns, not  at all,” said Melrose Park Mayor Ron Serpico, whose village board unanimously  voted for a ban in late June. “The thing I can’t get my arms around, I know when the Constitution was passed, I don’t think they could envision these types of guns.”

Along with the dozen communities banning them, Deerfield officials voted not  to ban the weapons but adopted storage regulations. Outside the Chicago area, only a couple communities requested information from Simon when she urged cities in early June to consider bans. None followed up.

Lawmakers adopted the concealed carry legislation by margins large enough to invalidate Gov. Pat Quinn’s amendatory veto of the bill on Tuesday. Quinn called the initiative “flawed” and along with tougher restrictions, suggested there be no time limit on enacting local assault-weapons bans.

The Highland Park City Council agreed with Quinn’s contention that larger  cities with “home rule” powers should have a say on semi-automatic weapons and  high-capacity ammunition feeders. “It became a question of, this is a home-rule right, and we think we ought to retain it,” Highland Park City Manager Dave Knapp said.

Skokie officials decided to enact an ordinance for review later. “We can  amend it or repeal it once the legal dust settles,” corporation counsel Michael  Lorge said.

law

In Chicago, with a long history of tough gun restrictions, Mayor Rahm Emanuel last month proposed a tougher city assault-weapons ban. It would include cover weapons not included in the current ordinance and would “reflect advances” in  gun technology, according to a news release.

But not every community is toeing the anti-gun line. The Illinois State Rifle Association has worked against what association officer Mike Weisman said is needless regulation because semi-automatic rifles are not often used in murders.  FBI statistics indicate that of 377 Illinois firearms-related murders in 2011,  only 13 were not committed with a handgun. Five were by shotgun, one by rifle —  although the type is not specified — and seven by an unreported type of  gun.

“They don’t need local control over these firearms,” Weisman said. “There are no problems, so they’re creating a tough, painful solution to a non-existent  problem.”

More than a dozen cities have heard the outcry from gun owners. “I never had so many emails, so many phone calls from people who didn’t want us even playing with this issue,” said Dean Argiris, the village president of  Wheeling, where he and the entire board of trustees voted against an ordinance Monday night.

The Northbrook Village Board took a pass last month. “We believe that it belongs at the federal or state level,” village president  Sandra Frum said.

Simon’s office said her letter to more than 200 home-rule communities  generated requests for information and sample ordinances from six cities, none of which have appeared to have taken up the issue. Mayor Joel Fritzler, Simon’s  hometown of Carbondale, is one official who requested information but chose not to pursue it after a tepid response from city council members. “To have a patchwork system in Illinois just doesn’t make sense,” Fritzler  said.

I’m glad some communities are coming to their senses in Illinois. The gang bangers won’t be following the gun rules, of course. Hopefully citizens in Illinois will be able to protect themselves.

DCG

 

Illinois gets their “hope and change”

hopeandchange3

More than 1,700 Illinois workers warned in May of layoffs

Chicago Tribune: More than 1,700 Illinois workers received notice in May that they could be laid off in the coming weeks, according to filings with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Caterpillar warned it could add 299 workers to a round of layoffs planned to begin July 3 at its heavy mining equipment plant in Decatur. The company said in April it would lay off more than 460 supplemental employees there because of falling equipment sales. The combined job cuts represent nearly 20 percent of the plant’s workers.

Pennsylvania-based TransCore LP gave notice to 196 workers they could lose their jobs as early as June 30. The company operates the Illinois Tollway Authority’s customer-service center in Lisle, warning drivers of violations and taking calls from I-PASS customers.

All Tri-R, a commercial and institutional builder in Decatur, warned 173 workers they could lose their jobs because of a lost contract. On its Web site the company said it had about 300 workers.

Other workers reporting possible layoffs of more than 100 workers included book publisher D. B. Hess in Woodstock, Berkeley Contract Packaging private mail center in Edwardsville, paint manufacturer Testor Corp. in Rockford, Illinois Central School bus in South Beloit as well as school district caterer Chartwells Dining Service in Waukegan. G&D Integrated Distribution in East Peoria said it may add 168 workers to an earlier WARN notice.

Abbott Laboratories spin-off AbbVie Inc. in North Chicago said it may lay off up to 96 workers between June 21 and the end of the year. The Tribune reported last month AbbView it was cutting pharmaceutical sales representatives who sell heart drugs that have lost patent protection.

Sources said the AbbVie cuts would be nationwide and include “several hundred” employees and contracted salespeople, as well as managers.

Employers with more than 100 employees are required to give 60 days notice of possible layoffs under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining (WARN) Act when third of the workforce or more than 500 workers could be affected.

Forward!

Forward!

Elections have consequences.

DCG