↓ Archives ↓

Archive → December 24th, 2016

Obama kills Muslim screening program ahead of Trump inauguration

"jihadi john"In a move largely seen as a rebuke of the president-elect’s plan to increase scrutiny on Muslims traveling to the U.S., the Obama administration has killed a 9/11 era program that could have been beneficial to Donald Trump’s efforts.

The program, called the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, was implemented following the September 11 terror attacks to increase scrutiny on men traveling into the U.S. from 25 predominately Muslim countries.

Though the program hadn’t been used since 2011, some activists worried that the Trump administration would repurpose it to make good on his promise to make it more difficult for Muslims to travel into the U.S.

“This is the right decision by Secretary [Jeh] Johnson. We commend him, and the Obama administration, for letting it be known that such registry programs are futile and have no place in our country. However the community cannot be at ease; the next administration has indicated that they will consider implementing similar programs. We will work twice as hard to protect our community and ensure such programs do not come to fruition,” American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Legal & Policy Director Abed Ayoub told the Washington Examiner.

Ayoub said that more than 13,000 Muslim men had been placed in deportation proceedings because of the plan.

“NSEERS was a discriminatory policy that ran counter to the fundamental American values of fairness and equal protection. Rescinding the regulatory framework of the program will ensure that our nation does not target communities based on national origin and faith in the future,” he said.

Source: Will County News

Metra CEO gets $28,000 raise after fares go up

December 15, 2016  Illinois Policy

Metra CEO Don Orseno is set to receive a pay increase a month after Metra’s fare hike.

Metra CEO Don Orseno has just been given a raise to the tune of $28,000. The Metra board unanimously approved the raise Dec. 14, saying Orenso was overworked and undercompensated in comparison to other large city commuter rail CEOs.

Orseno’s raise is retroactive to Oct. 1 and the increase will take his annual, six-figure salary to $317,500 from $289,000.

But if Orenso’s pay was tied directly to Metra’s performance record, it’s doubtful the CEO would be enjoying such a generous bonus. Metra has shown time and time again an inability to handle even the slightest of easily foreseeable problems. In 2014, Electric District trains, serving the South Side and suburbs, managed to run on schedule more than 97 percent of the time, while BNSF Line passengers traveled to and from Aurora were on time just 89.7 percent on time. In other words, as the Tribune points out, about 1 in 40 Electric District trains arrived late last year, while about 1 in 10 BNSF trains were delayed.

In November 2016, passengers returning from the Cubs World Series victory rally faced delays and poor customer service, and the best Metra could do was offer a tweet suggesting fans stay in Chicago.

Currently, Metra commuters are experiencing increased delay times in dangerously cold weather because of mechanical problems on the tracks. Oresno and Metra officials apparently could not make adequate enough preparations for winter temperatures.

Orenso’s incredible job comes with a price tag for commuters.

In November, Metra approved a fare hike effective in 2017. The hike will raise fares an average of 5.8 percent with monthly commuters paying an additional $11.75.

Hiking fares has become something of a tradition for Metra. The fare hike set for 2017 marks the third time in three years the Metra board has decided to raise ticket prices as part of its 10-year, $2.4 billion modernization plan passed in 2014. However, the continued poor management of funds is casting doubt on Metra’s best laid plans. In 2015, Metra spent nearly twice as much as it took in, with nearly $350 million in losses before deprecation despite having 81 million passengers.

Instead of passing the price of Metra’s financial bungling onto middle and working-class passengers, the Metra board should cut costs and reform its bad practices in order to run as efficiently and cost-effective as possible. This regressive raise in fares will come at the expense of people who can least afford it. Illinoisans already face some of the highest property taxes in the nation, and the last thing they need is to be squeezed for more because Metra refuses to enact reforms. Perhaps, the board should look to its most recent decision as a fitting example of the larger problem.

TAGS: Metra, transportation

Source: Will County News

Broken workers’ compensation system costs Illinois taxpayers millions

December 15, 2016   Illinois Policy

Illinois’ uncompetitive workers’ compensation system doesn’t just hurt private sector businesses – it is also costing taxpayers more than $400 million per year.

When it comes to workers’ compensation costs, Illinois’ political and business leaders focus primarily on how the system affects private sector businesses, which pay the highest workers’ compensation costs in the Midwest.

But taxpayers bear the brunt of workers’ compensation as well. Workers’ compensation costs for state, county and municipal workers cost Illinois taxpayers more than $400 million per year.

Like private-sector businesses, Illinois governments must also pay for workers’ compensation “insurance,” which is meant to cover the cost of worker injuries on the job. High settlement payments, long wait times for workers and businesses and loopholes in medical cost controls are just a few of the factors that combine to make Illinois’ system particularly costly.

A review of Illinois state government and 500 local units of government throughout the state showed government costs for workers’ compensation are sky high. Annual workers’ compensation costs for Illinois state government were $132 million. At the municipal level, it was $225 million per year, and it was the third most burdensome spending mandate for municipal governments. And at the county level, workers’ compensation cost $45 million per year and was the fourth most burdensome spending mandate.

The $402 million tab for workers’ compensation for all levels of government in Illinois is about $190 million more each year than the average state doles out in government workers’ compensation costs.

So, why is Illinois paying so much for workers’ compensation for public employees? There are two key reasons.

First, Illinois’ laws and judicial rulings have created a much more expensive workers’ compensation system than those in surrounding states. For example, insurance rates for concrete construction workers in Illinois are more than four times as high as Indiana, and more than double those of Michigan.

Secondly, Illinois has an astonishing 7,000 layers of government. That’s by far the most of any state in the union, accounting for more than 628,000 full- and part-time government employees and more than $2.3 billion in payroll. And all those duplicative layers of government increase payroll costs to Illinois taxpayers – this also drives up workers’ compensation costs along with them.

As enormous as these costs are, they only represent a partial picture of the total cost to taxpayers for workers’ compensation payments to public employees. While this study looked at state, county and municipal employees, it also identified thousands of other levels of government likely incurring workers’ compensation costs that will add to the $402 million per year total. For example, Illinois has 895 school districts; 1,431 townships; 3,227 special district governments; numerous other municipal, county, township and other special police and fire districts; as well as publicly funded construction projects Illinois’ Prevailing Wage Act governs.

The public employees examined for this study represent $8.6 billion in annual public sector payroll. But, Illinois’ many layers of government have a grand total of $28.7 billion in annual payroll. Taking the annual cost for county and municipal government payrolls discovered in this study and applying them to the state’s total payroll costs would translate to around $900 million in workers’ compensation costs per year, just for local governments. While it is unlikely governmental entities like school districts and townships have workers’ compensation costs as high as municipalities and counties, or that all public-sector compensation would be considered “covered payroll,” the projected number is still alarming and indicative of the massive and out-of-line costs facing Illinois taxpayers.

There are several steps the state could take to get public employee workers’ compensation costs under control, and bring them in line with our neighboring states. These include reforms to the Illinois Workers Compensation Act; light duty, which would mean bringing back injured workers in a capacity that wouldn’t interfere with their recovery from injury, like light office work; and reforms to the Public Employee Disability Act and Public Employee Benefits Act.

While reforms are critical for making Illinois’ private sector economy competitive with surrounding states, it’s also critical we reform public employee workers’ compensation costs and bring them in line with our surrounding competitor states to lessen the burden being Illinois taxpayers are shouldering.

TAGS: Illinois Workers Compensation Act, local government, Public Employee Disability Act and Public Employee Benefits Act, workers compensation

Source: Will County News