Other happenings in Illinois …

Apr 19, 2012

What did Gov. Pat Quinn propose to do about Medicaid?

How did home sales perform in March?

Where does Illinois rank in creating clean jobs?

Why is Sheila Simon looking for volunteers?

All that -- plus links to more information -- follows ...

Quinn offers $1.35 billion plan to save Medicaid

Gov. Pat Quinn proposed $675 million in rate reductions and $675 in new tobacco tax revenue to deal with the state's massive problem with funding Medicaid, according to Crain's blogger Greg Hinz.

The plan includes 58 separate cuts, adjustments and other limits on Medicaid services. They include reduced eligibility for some programs, co-pays for others, and as-yet-undetermined efficiencies. Some programs will be eliminated completely.

Quinn proposes a $1-per-pack increase in the cigarette tax, which will yield a projected $337.5 million annually -- to be matched by the federal government, according to Quinn.

To read t5he full Greg Hinz column, click here.

State home sales are best in four years

 Illinois home sales posted the best March sales numbers in four years, and median prices snapped a 20-month streak of price declines, data released by the Illinois Association of REALTORS® show.

More than half of Illinois counties reporting (54 of 99) showed year-over-year home sales increases in March 2012. Statewide home sales (including single-family homes and condominiums) in March 2012 totaled 9,575 homes sold, up 21.1 percent from 7,904 home sales in March 2011. This was the best March performance since 2007 when 11,979 homes were sold.

The statewide median price last month was $130,000, the same as one year earlier. This is the first time the median price hasn’t decreased since June 2010. The median is a typical market price where half the homes sold for more and half sold for less.

Among the 67 counties showing year-over-year median price increases are DeKalb County, up 15.0 percent to $115,000; and LaSalle County, up 10.7 percent to $82,250.

“There are encouraging signs in the market,” said Dr. Geoffrey J.D. Hewings, director of the Regional Economics Applications Laboratory (REAL) of the University of Illinois. “Sales volumes are up, time-on-the-market levels are down significantly from a year ago and prices appear to be stabilizing in Illinois although continuing to fall in Chicago.”

Sales and price information is generated by Multiple Listing Service closed sales reported by 31 participating Illinois REALTOR® local boards and associations including Midwest Real Estate Data LLC data as of April 7, for the period March 1-31. Find Illinois housing stats data and the University of Illinois REAL forecast at www.illinoisrealtor.org/marketstats

Senate Democrats delay action on legislative scholarships

Democrats in the Illinois Senate have delayed taking action on the program that allows legislators to hand out free tuition at state schools. Illinois Public Radio’s Brian Mackey Reports that backers of the so-called "legislative scholarships" say they provide an opportunity for poor kids to go to college. But press reports have repeatedly shown tuition waivers going to political donors' children.

Last month, the House passed a measure to end the program. Thirty-eight Senators have signed on to co-sponsor the proposal ... more than enough to pass it, if it ever gets to the Senate floor.

"I mean, this is not a new issue,” according to Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno.

“(It) has enough sponsors to pass right now; it already passed the House. But it seems like it's another stall to be continuing to put these things into subcommittee."

Senate Democratic spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon differs. "They will have a fair hearing,” she said. “And the proponents or opponents have the opportunity to convince the people on that subcommittee to either move it or keep it there."

Subcommittee chair Sen. Kimberly Lightford, a Maywood Democrat and ardent supporter of tuition waivers, says the hearings will happen "in the near future.”

“We're beginning to come up with suggested ideas on ways to work with and reform how the scholarship system works," she said

Republicans say they had been under the impression the proposal to end the scholarships was supposed to come up for a vote Wednesday.

Report ranks Illinois second in Clean Job announcements

Illinois’ clean jobs growth was significant in the first three months of 2012. Six new clean energy projects were announced, which could create nearly 4,500 new jobs, according to an analysis released Wednesday by Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2).

Illinois was second only to Connecticut in clean energy job announcements, according to the report.

Clean energy employers announced plans involving at least 137 projects in 42 states during the first quarter of this year. On a national level, the projects could create as many as 46,000 new American jobs ‑ reinforcing numerous other studies recently that show the clean energy industry is alive, well and poised for continued growth.

The report, “What Clean Energy Jobs? These Clean Energy Jobs!” is the latest since E2 began tracking clean energy job announcements in September 2011. E2 is a nationwide network of business leaders who advocate for good environmental policy while building economic prosperity. It is an affiliate of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

For the complete report, visit www.e2.org/cleanjobs.

Should you leave that accident scene?

An Illinois House committee has voted to allow drivers to leave the scene of an accident ... if it's for their safety.

Illinois Public Radio’s Rachel Otwell reports that the measure would allow a driver who gets into a fender bender on the highway to pull off to a parking lot or other safe spot nearby – but only in accidents where no one gets hurt.
Plan sponsor Rep. Sidney Mathias (R-Buffalo Grove), says it would keep drivers out of the way of oncoming traffic and prevent traffic jams.
"I mean you can't go home, and say 'Oh well that's the safest place.',” he said. “You need to go to a safe place, if you're on the highway maybe pull over to the side, pull on to a ramp..."
The measure already passed the full Senate and now awaits a vote by the House.

Director says IDES is ‘victim’ in fraud case

Director Jay Rowell says the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), says his department is a victim in a federal case alleging unemployment insurance fraud totaling nearly $9 million.

The IDES brought the case to federal prosecutors and provided detailed analysis for charges announced by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s office. Federal prosecutors allege 15 individuals schemed to defraud the IDES and others of $8.7 million. Had the fraud not been identified, the loss for IDES could have reached $30 million.

“The Department of Employment Security officially is considered a victim in this case,” Rowell said, “but the real crime is against the millions of hard-working Illinoisans and the business owners who employ them. The allegations that a few individuals connived to line their pockets at the expense of others down on their luck is outrageous.”

Rowell said questions on the criminal investigation and prosecution should be directed to Fitzgerald’s office.

Simon seeking two good citizens

Lt. Governor Sheila Simon is accepting applications for two citizen volunteers to advocate for retention and reuse of military bases and foster strong economic connections with the local economies.

The Interagency Military Base Support and Economic Development Committee includes retired military personnel and economic development officials, as well as four members of the General Assembly and representatives from various state agencies.

Applicants may draw on personal and professional experiences in military, economic development, education or governmental fields More information can be found here.

$20 million to fund legal aid services for struggling Illinois homeowners

Legal assistance programs in Illinois will receive $20 million in funding from this year’s  national foreclosure settlement to address the foreclosure crisis and to help homeowners and renters access the justice system.

“The one sector of our economy that has shown limited signs of recovery is the housing market,” Attorney General Lisa Madigan said. “Providing critical resources for legal assistance programs will create a domino effect in the marketplace. Helping a family stay in their home benefits not just that family but the surrounding community, as well as local and state governments, all of which must happen to stabilize the housing market and revitalize the economy.”

The funding comes from the $25 billion national settlement in February with the nation’s five largest bank mortgage servicers – Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank and Ally Bank (formerly GMAC) -- over allegations of widespread “robo-signing” of foreclosure documents and other fraudulent practices while servicing loans of struggling homeowners.
As part of the settlement, Madigan’s office will recover money from the banks to alleviate historic levels of foreclosure in Illinois. Funding legal assistance programs is the first step in distributing settlement monies to help homeowners and communities recover from this crisis.

The settlement also will provide direct relief to affected Illinois borrowers and overhaul mortgage servicing standards to prevent future abuses during the foreclosure process.

More information is available at the Attorney General Homeowner’s Helpline at (866) 544-7151, or visit her website, www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/consumers/bankforeclosuresettlement.html.  Borrowers also can visit www.NationalForeclosureSettlement.com.