Editorial summary: Illinois | The State

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Champaign News Gazette. December 5, 2021.

Editorial: Secret spending plan an affront to open, honest government

Pulling swiftly has been a long-standing but unfortunate practice in the Illinois legislative process.

There’s a reason the governor and lawmakers like to put massive last-minute proposals to state lawmakers and then ask for a quick vote.

The point is to maintain the secrecy necessary to prevent full discussion, debate, and deliberation on key laws such as the proposed $ 42 billion state budget that went into effect July 1st.

If secrecy is not respected, all legislators and the public will learn what is really on the table and may have the opportunity to resist. When cared for, dirty little secrets aren’t revealed until months later, when it’s too late to do anything about it.

The Chicago Tribune recently unveiled a prime example of this kind of legislative game spirit – approximately $ 2 billion in federal aid paid into a special fund spent solely at the discretion of Governor JB Pritzker.

Somehow, Pritzker and the Legislature purposely failed to mention anything about the $ 2 billion fund. Of course they should have, but they didn’t.

Here’s why: All legislators would have liked to have an impact on how the money is spent, and rightly so. As an independent and equal branch of government, the General Assembly plays a crucial role in the governance of this state. This also includes the authority – this is called appropriation power – over how money is spent.

It doesn’t take a hopeless cynic to wonder why the governor wanted unilateral control of the $ 2 billion fund or why the Democratic legislators gave it to him. Circumstances support the suspicion that a private agreement has been reached on where and how the money will be spent.

A Pritzker spokeswoman defended this unique approach. She said the governor’s control over the fund is a plus as it gives the governor the “flexibility” needed to adapt to changing federal regulations about how the money is used.

Well, there is no such thing as flexibility like total flexibility.

The problem is that Pritzker was elected governor, not dictator. There are certainly formalities and obstacles to the efficiency of the democratic process. The give and take between the executive and legislative branches of spending is one of them.

Since this is Illinois, the lack of a formal legislative review is hardly the end of the world. Over the years, the members of the state parliament and the Senate have made a significant contribution to driving this state into ruin, especially on fiscal issues.

Nonetheless, the legislature is the legislature, whether collectively incompetent or not.

Unsurprisingly, Republicans were dissatisfied with superiority when they heard about the then-secret Pritzker Fund.

State Representative Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, not only complained about the fund, but also proposed laws that would limit Pritzker’s valued flexibility. He is calling for a legislative statement that Pritzker will inform legislative leaders of his proposed spending plans and obtain legislative approval for them.

It is a reasonable suggestion. But it won’t go anywhere.

Republicans are irrelevant in Springfield, their main purpose being to target the derision and contempt of the overwhelming Democrats.

The bottom line is that it goes as usual. The $ 42 billion budget, suspended at the last minute, passed with no time for serious review. The disclosure of the secret fund came months later, when it was a fait accompli.

After the deed is done, advocates of doing things the Illinois Way win again.

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Chicago Sun-Times. December 5, 2021.

Editorial: Payday loans are a problem. Can a public bank be part of the solution?

It pays to offer affordable banking services, including access to small, low-interest loans.

When the coronavirus first posed a threat to Americans’ health and finances, Tiffany Moore of Forest Park went to an installment lender for the first time in hopes of financial relief.

The good news: She was approved a $ 9,500 loan to compensate for a tenant unable to pay rent on her property. The bad news: an interest rate of 35.989%.

It was easy to sign a contract that brought temporary relief. However, when Moore realized that she would end up paying more than double the amount she borrowed, she paid off the loan early.

Payday loans, title loans, and installment loans with exorbitant interest rates can help borrowers get a grip. That remains the case even though the Illinois Predatory Loan Prevention Act now places a 36% cap on the annual percentage of interest that lenders can charge.

These exorbitant deals continue to proliferate in black and brown neighborhoods, as a report by Stephanie Zimmermann of the Sun-Times makes clear.

Legislators should think about how to facilitate access to credit for vulnerable communities without having to resort to high-interest credit.

Payday lenders caution that they serve high-risk neighborhoods and borrowers who other lenders avoid.

Yes, they provide a service you need. But what desperate borrower can get out of financial distress while borrowing at 36% interest rate?

Disinvestment cycle

The report highlights data compiled by the nonprofit Woodstock Institute that the major zip codes for payday loans were mostly black. The zip codes include 60619 and 60620 on the South Side, which are both 95.7% black and include Chatham, Avalon Park, Auburn Gresham, and Washington Heights. Postal code 60614, which also includes Lincoln Park and is 84% ​​white, showed the lowest incidence of payday borrowers.

“Consumers only need triple-digit interest loans if they are stuck in a disinvestment cycle. If it weren’t for that, they’d get a safer, more affordable product, ”said Brent E. Adams, senior vice president of Policy and Communication, Woodstock Institute. “These lenders depend on the divestment cycle and are irrelevant when communities thrive.”

In March, this editorial team supported the cap on payday loan interest rates and wrote that Illinois should impose it in fairness and for the sake of racial justice. Approximately 40% of Illinois borrowers ultimately disagree with payday loan repayment. Often they get caught in a debt cycle in which old loans give way to new ones.

Another step along the way could be to bring affordable banking services back to low-income neighborhoods that have suffered from divestments.

Congressmen have voted in favor of a pilot program of postal banking in rural and urban communities across America. The aim would be for the government to learn from the pilot and establish permanent banking services as part of the US Postal Service. The non-profit bank would offer cheap checking and savings accounts, mobile banking and low-interest loans.

State Representative Mary E. Flowers pushed the Community Bank of Illinois bill for over a decade, but continues to face opposition from bankers.

“Banks are in the business of making money, and this is where I propose lower interest rates for residents,” Flowers told us. “All I want to do is give credit to people they wouldn’t give credit to.”

We’re not being sold by the idea of ​​federal or state-level public banking. There are many unanswered questions about how the model works and the potential cost to the taxpayer.

But the idea of ​​a system that allows low-income bankless borrowers to meet their basic banking needs, as well as access to small, low-interest loans, is worth considering.

There is no reason to expect payday loan companies to agree to lower the 36% cap any further, if at all. Ed McFadden, a spokesman for the American Financial Services Association, points to a 2015 Federal Reserve poll that found lenders unable to break even on loans below $ 2,532 at an annual rate of 36%.

The public postbank business is not a direct solution, but it could help combat the predatory payday loan problem.

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Arlington Heights Daily Herald. December 4, 2021.

Editorial: United’s biofuel flight offers climate hope

Plagued by news of widespread forest fires, terrible bank erosion and extreme weather events on every corner, it is easy to feel intimidated by the threat of climate change.

Of course, environmental experts have recently expressed concern about the rate at which the earth’s climate is deteriorating.

“The world as we know it is going to end,” wrote the physicist Paul Behrens last month during the international climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, in Politico.

Former President Barack Obama, who spoke at the same conference, warned that time is running out.

“There are times when I doubt humanity can pull itself together before it’s too late,” Obama said. “We cannot afford hopelessness.”

There may be a debate about forecasting the health of the planet and how much time we have to drastically cut carbon emissions, but Obama’s last point cannot be debated.

We cannot afford to be hopeless.

The challenge is too important.

And those of us in search of hope need only turn to Tuesday when United Airlines flew a jet carrying 100+ passengers from O’Hare Airport to Washington on sustainable aviation fuel.

Made from leftovers from cooking oil, agriculture and other sources, this innovative fuel was made through research by the US Department of Energy’s Bureau of Bioenergy Technologies.

It promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions from conventional fossil fuels by more than 60%.

This historic maiden flight on an exclusively biofuel powered engine gives an indication of the solutions our technology can offer – if we combine that technology with a global commitment to make it a reality.

“Two percent of all greenhouse gas emissions come from aviation,” said US MP Brad Schneider of Deerfield, one of the passengers on the flight on Tuesday. “SAF (biofuel) reduces that by at least 50% or more. If we convert the entire fleet, which is the long-term goal, we can save 1% of greenhouse gas emissions with just one initiative. “

Downers Grove MP Sean Casten, a member of the Select House Committee on the Climate Crisis and a participant in the Glasgow conference, was also on the United flight.

He called it “a monumental step forward in decarbonising our aviation industry”.

Yes, the challenge of facing climate change is a premonition. There is much to do. And the stakes are enormous.

But we cannot afford to be weakened by hopelessness.

We have to take action.

The further devastation threatened by climate change is overwhelming. But so is our ability to advance in technology.

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