Around Illinois – May 22

May 22, 2012
  • Rockford gives nonunion workers a raise
  • Quinn will focus on Medicaid, pensions
  • Area cities pass video gambling ordinances
  • Hearing on Ottawa sand plant scheduled

Nonunion Rockford employees will get a raise

Rockford aldermen voted 10-3 Monday night to approve a 3 percent general wage increase for the city’s roughly 200 nonunion employees, retroactive to Jan. 1.

According to the Rockford Register Star, nonunion city employees took a 3.33 percent wage cut in 2009, with no increase or decrease for 2010 and 2011. Unionized police and fire employees had no wage increase in 2009, but pay hikes ranged from 2 to 6 percent in 2010 and 2011. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union members got a 4 percent wage increase in 2009, but no increase in 2010 or 2011.

“I don’t think we can honestly continue to look at the faces of our nonrepresented employees and tell them, ‘Sorry, you don’t get to get a pay increase even though all of your fellow employees who are represented by unions are going to continue to get pay increases,’ ” Ald. John Beck, R-12, said.  “It’s basically not fair.”

Opponents questioned where the city would get the money to pay for them.

Finance Director Chris Black told council members that the raises would amount to about $270,000 for 2012.

Medicaid cuts, pension reform are governor’s focus

Gov. Pat Quinn says he'll focus on cutting $2.7 billion from Medicaid and pressuring lawmakers to cut retirement benefits for state and university employees and public school teachers as the legislature nears its adjournment deadline of May 31.

Quinn says he's not going to be distracted by other issues -- like a move to expand casino gambling and install slot machines at horse racetracks -- even though advocates say it would bring in sorely needed tax money.

"Sometimes down here, shiny objects can distract people,” Quinn said Monday. “We don't want any of that this week. We want two things this week -- real focus on: that's pension reform and Medicaid restructuring. This is vital to our state."

One of the more controversial proposals related to Medicaid has been a $1 increase per pack in the cigarette tax. Quinn says it's important, not only as a source of revenue, but as a way to discourage young people from taking up smoking.

Mendota, Sterling approve video gambling law

The city councils of Mendota and Sterling both approved video gambling ordinances Monday night, joining other northern Illinois communities which already have allowed the machines pending final state regulations.

The state is moving forward with plans to implement the Video Gaming Act. Under the law, any approved bar, restaurant or establishment with a liquor license can have up to five machines, once the municipality passes an ordinance allowing them.

Under the state law, 25 percent of the money made after winnings are paid will go to the state, while 5 percent will be paid to the city. The rest will be divided between owners of the bars and the machines.

Mendota’s action will allow video poker for fraternal organizations, restaurants, bars and other establishments as soon as Illinois finalizes details on splitting a share of the proceeds between the municipality and the state, which is expected later this year.

Sterling hopes to generate more than $300,000 a year under the ordinance approved Monday night. Sterling also will charge an annual fee of $25 per machine, the maximum allowed by state law. The maximum bet will be $2. The maximum payout will be $500.

Rock Falls passed a video gambling ordinance last week, and Dixon and Polo are among other area communites considering the issue.

Hearing on sand pit is Wednesday evening

“public availability session” to discuss the pending air and water permit applications for a sand mine pit by Mississippi Sands LLC will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Illinois Valley Community College in Oglesby.

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency staff, representatives from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, and Mississippi Sands will be available.

The IEPA also will accept written comments, which must be postmarked by June 7.

Mississippi Sands has applied to the IEPA’s Bureau of Air to build a sand processing plant in La Salle County on Route 71 near Ottawa. Mississippi Sands’ application covers constructing crushers, screens, conveyors, a dryer, storage and other operations associated with processing sand.