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State Comptroller Dan Hynes' address last week to a Chicago business group could not have been better timed. Smack in the middle of the campaign season when candidates tend to promise more, expanded and better services and programs, Hynes dared to show that Illinois government can't afford more, expanded and better. Not, at least, based on its current revenue growth.
Those who closely follow the news may have noticed that members of Congress seem to be getting into trouble with the law.
U.S. Reps. Bob Ney of Ohio and Randy Cunningham of California, both Republicans, each have been charged or convicted in recent months in connection with illegal payoffs. Another legislator, U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat, is expected to be charged following the execution of a search warrant that turned up thousands of dollars in bribe money.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Republican challenger Judy Baar Topinka differ on a lot of topics, but there's one issue where the difference is particularly striking: funding for higher education.
On the same day recently that the University of Illinois trustees said they hoped the university could put five years of budget cuts or nominal increases behind it, and a national study gave Illinois an "F" in college affordability, Topinka was on campus and promised to increase higher education spending by $350 million over the next four years. She also promised to fully fund pensions and to increase capital spending, virtually nonexistent in recent years.
There will never again be a routine space shuttle mission, not after the Challenger and Columbia disasters, and Thursday's conclusion of Atlantis' flight to the international space station was no exception.
Atlantis left Cape Canaveral about two weeks behind schedule over concerns about weather and its electrical system and a fuel gauge, and also came back to Earth a day late. After a nearly flawless trip to the space station, NASA engineers became concerned about material seen floating around the shuttle. There were concerns that it could have been part of the shuttle's heat shield, or perhaps some other debris that could have damaged the vehicle's exterior. But NASA officials now believe the material was a small shim, a plastic filler designed to keep a gap between the thermal tiles. If not that, the mysterious item could have been, sadly, a garbage bag.
AmerenIP electric rates could increase as much as 40 percent in January, the result of higher wholesale costs for energy. That shouldn't surprise anyone. Illinois' electric rates have been frozen for nine years, putting customers in a sort of suspended universe where even though all other costs have risen, electricity prices stayed the same. But the freeze is about to end, and with it will pass the era of low-cost electricity.
Customers, both residential and commercial, understandably are upset. And they're ready to take their anger out on the utility companies.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich has pulled off a rare triple play of government ineptitude.
It's no secret that private fundraising has taken on an increasingly important role in maintaining the academic excellence of the University of Illinois.
So a recent report that private gifts to the UI and the UI Foundation last year totaled nearly $185 million came as good news. That sum is up $33 million from the previous year.
There's no doubt that politics in Illinois is a closed society, with only Democrats and Republicans welcome.
Last week, after the all-too-young death of Linda Mills, her many friends in Champaign-Urbana recalled her as a thoughtful, generous, talented, compassionate and active woman – all accurate descriptions. Mrs. Mills, who passed away at the age of 65, was a businesswoman, an athlete, a mother and wife, a community leader and a champion of many people and causes.
Although she had been an active member of the Champaign-Urbana community for more than 35 years, it may be her long and valiant fight with breast cancer that touched people the most. Especially, friends and others in the community will remember her stoic appearance last May at the groundbreaking for the Mills Breast Cancer Institute at Carle Foundation Hospital and Clinic. "I told Dr. (Kendrith) Rowland that you have to keep me going long enough so I can be here," she said on the day that she described as "almost like a dream come true."
Let's say you were the director of a library and you know that your library building is getting older and is going to need some remodeling. But instead of remodeling, your library board wanted to rebuild the entire library. Now let's also say that use of your library is declining and that all evidence pointed to a continued decrease in the number of library users and the number of books being checked out of your library. Would it make any sense to build a new library?
Certainly not. And that, essentially, is the crux of the seemingly never-ending debate to rebuild the lock and dam system on the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. Last week, a coalition of labor and business groups including, for shame, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, again asked for a federal handout to help rebuild the lock and dam system at a cost of $2.3 billion. The project would replace seven existing 600-foot locks with new 1,200-foot locks, all with the idea of eliminating a traffic bottleneck and expediting the shipment of cargo, especially grain, to the Gulf of Mexico.