A press release last week about a partnership between state Treasurer Mike Frerichs and the University of Illinois Employees Credit Union was in error, said Greg Anderson of the Champaign-based credit union.
It is not participating in an interest-free loan program for state workers — at least for now — although a release from the treasurer’s office left that impression.
“We appreciate the efforts of Treasurer Frerichs to provide assistance to Illinois residents impacted by the budget impasse,” E.J. Donaghey, CEO of the UI Employees Credit Union said in the press statement. “As a long-time supporter of credit unions and advocate for the people of East Central Illinois, he has consistently demonstrated a proactive approach to helping others.”
But Anderson admitted that “we got swept along with all the news” about the treasurer’s office establishing a loan program of as much as $50 million for state workers who might need help if payroll checks are blocked because of the budget gridlock.
The News-Gazette heard from some UI credit union members who said they inquired about the loan program but were told it wasn’t being offered.
“We put a program in place a couple weeks ago with fee waivers, deferring loan payments and a low interest, short-term loan,” Anderson said. “It’s not the exact treasurer’s program but we had reported earlier through the state league (of credit unions) that we already had some remedies in place for members who were affected or were going to be affected.”
One problem with the treasurer’s program, Anderson said, is that it doesn’t appear to cover workers like those at Lincoln’s Challenge in Rantoul and the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission — people who aren’t specifically state employees but who are already out of work because of the budget mess.
“We have a low-interest loan program, 2.29 percent for six months. It’s not the zero rate (that the treasurer’s office is offering), but it’s an attractive rate,” he said. “And there’s some structure and implementation with the treasurer’s program that we’re not totally through yet, to be honest.”
Anderson said the error was a “miscommunication” between the treasurer’s office and the credit union.
Frerichs’ campaign organization Tuesday afternoon reported his second quarter fundraising details, including $104,924 collected in April, May and June.
Among the contributions listed was $550 from the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District.
But he said Tuesday that the sum wasn’t a political contribution. So did MTD Managing Director Karl Gnadt.
“We do not make political contributions,” Gnadt said.
More likely, he said, it had to do with some accounting confusion involving the MTD and two offices that Frerichs once had in the MTD’s Illinois Terminal building. One housed his old state Senate office and the other was a separate political campaign office, still in the Illinois Terminal.
Frerichs said his campaign would file an amended report to correct the mistake.
UPDATED: The amendment was filed today and the $550 item is listed under the category “Other Receipts.”
Incidentally, Frerichs’ biggest contributors in the last quarter were separate $5,000 donations from the North Central Illinois Laborers District Council in Peoria, the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters and Operating Engineers Local 150 in Countryside.
Bennett waives pay
Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign, has joined a growing list of about a dozen state lawmakers who has filed paperwork to skip his legislative paycheck until the state’s budget impasse is resolved.
“I stand up in solidarity with the hard-working men and women in our community who provide essential services to our most vulnerable populations. It is unjust for elected officials to continue to take home their pay while in-home child care providers struggle to keep their doors open and seniors are forced to choose between picking up their prescriptions or keeping their lights on at night. These are real people with real responsibilities forced to make difficult decisions,” Bennett said.
The state comptroller’s office said Tuesday that it was unable to say who among the 177 state lawmakers had filed the paperwork to forego their pay during the budget fight.
Nursing home tax increase
Monday night’s discussion about a possible property tax increase to benefit the Champaign County Nursing Home prompted questions about how much higher the nursing home’s current 3 cents per $100 of assessed valuation rate could go. That rate was set in 2002 when county voters approved a special nursing home operations levy by a 58 percent to 42 percent margin.
State law says that the maximum rate for a county nursing home is 10 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.
The county’s taxpayers this year gave the nursing home about $1.1 million through the special levy. Increasing it to the 10-cent maximum would yield about $3.5 million annually.
If there’s any vote on a tax increase, it probably wouldn’t come until November 2016.
As of Tuesday afternoon there were still four area Republican lawmakers who hadn’t disclosed whether they had cashed controversial campaign contributions from Gov. Bruce Rauner.
But the Rauner campaign Tuesday revealed that checks were written on May 5 to all Republican lawmakers, including those who hadn’t signed them yet: Sen. Chapin Rose of Mahomet, ($8,000); and Reps. Dan Brady of Bloomington ($8,000), Chad Hays of Catlin ($8,000) and Reggie Phillips of Charleston ($4,000).
And for those Republicans who want to know about leadership donations to local Democratic lawmakers, there’s this: Bennett raised $11,750 in the April through June quarter, but there was nothing from Senate President John Cullerton or House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Bennett’s biggest donor in the quarter was $2,500 from the Associated Firefighters of Illinois. He also got $1,500 from the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and $1,000 each from the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, the Illinois Laborers and the State Universities Annuitants Association.
It’s nothing like the estimated $1 million TV ad blitz that Gov. Rauner’s supporters fired last month, but a Washington, D.C.-based group is chipping in with an all-digital media ad buy attacking House Speaker Michael Madigan for “the massive debt each citizen has incurred since he became Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives in 1983.”
(There actually was a two-year period in the 1990s when Madigan wasn’t Speaker and Republican Lee Daniels was).
The ads won’t appear on TV but will be on various news pages and social media, web and mobile, according to Ellie Wallace of the State Government Leadership Foundation, a conservative policy group.
And finally …
Jim Edgar, whose last day in office as governor of Illinois was Jan. 11, 1999, still has $459,515.50 in his campaign fund. That’s not as much as Bruce Rauner ($19.7 million) but it’s impressive for a guy who’s been out of office for 16 years.
Written by TOM KACICH for THE NEWS-GAZETTE