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April 12, 2015Daily Herald

By Ralph Martire 
Guest columnist

Whether it's the Beltway or Springfield, it seems increasingly difficult for elected officials to cross party lines and reach consensus on issues that really matter -- with one notable exception. Nearly everybody, liberal, conservative, or somewhere in between, supports holding public schools "accountable" for educating students. Unfortunately, broad consensus hasn't resulted in sound policy. Indeed, the accountability systems at both the federal and state levels are fundamentally flawed.

By now, most people are familiar with the largely discredited, high-stakes testing approach to accountability adopted under the federal "No Child Left Behind" legislation. Ostensibly to ensure all children -- irrespective of race, ethnicity or income level -- are learning, NCLB requires every school district in each state to demonstrate "adequate yearly progress" in student achievement on standardized tests. The glitch is, NCLB compares the performance of children currently in a specific grade to the performance of different students who were in that grade during the preceding year.

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April 8, 2015Bloomberg Politics

A thankful Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel presented himself to bleary-eyed South Side commuters today, embodying the humble, sweater-wearing politician who told voters in television ads that sometimes he rubs people the wrong way.

Tough Choices

“We have a lot of work to go, and a lot of work to do going forward,” Emanuel told reporters at an early childhood learning center on the West Side. “But I do believe doing it together, we are going to get where we need to go as one, as a city, a lot faster.”

Softer Side

Even if voters like the mayor’s softer presentation, they may not appreciate his choices in the new term. The financial crisis means that Emanuel will have to work to raise taxes and cut spending, said Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a Chicago-based research group that tracks government spending.

“Whatever patience the re-elected mayor has will be severely tried by the fiscal challenges confronting both the city and the Chicago public-school system,” Martire said. “People, meaning voters and taxpayers, need to hear what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.”

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April 2, 2015Chicago Tribune

Low-income immigrants residents hope Rauner's cuts won't block their path to citizenship

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March 27, 2015The Final Call

"The governor of Illinois came to the African American Contractors Association gala with a message: The state needs to expand economically, construction needs to be booming, jobs need to be created and Blacks need to be included in a growing economy................................In typical GOP fashion, Gov. Rauner is taking on labor unions and proposing budget cuts that are troubling. Robert Otter of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability said Gov. Rauner proposed $6.3 billion cuts as Illinois faces a budget deficit. “He has yet to present as governor any sort of revenue enhancement or revenue increases,” Mr. Otter said."

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March 20, 2015Illinois Times

UPDATE: On Thursday afternoon, Madigan announced a plan to tax personal income over $1 million at an extra 3 percent, bringing the effective rate for people earning more than $1 million to 8 percent.   Individuals with income under $1 million would continue to pay the current rate of 5 percent,

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March 18, 2015Huffington Post

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's housing agency has been pulling hundreds of millions of dollars from a fund earmarked for its affordable housing program and using the money instead to boost its pension, purchase government debt and build up a staggering cash reserve.

The agency's massive cash reserves were first noticed by the Chicago Housing Initiative, a coalition of tenants. The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a Chicago-based watchdog group, later produced a report on the stockpile, leading to a spate of news coverage over the summer. But the fate of much of the money the housing agency has stashed away has so far gone unreported. Through a series of open records requests, the Chicago Housing Initiative and the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability obtained internal documents revealing that under Emanuel, the CHA has become as much an investment fund as a housing agency.

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March 18, 2015State Journal-Register

"...Rauner is making this budget thing more difficult than it needs to be by opting to introduce a budget that ignores the revenue side of the ledger, instead relying entirely on questionable spending cuts to resolve the state's fiscal mess."

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February 12, 2015WTTW

As lawmakers and stakeholders await Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget proposal next week, the Institute for Illinois' Fiscal Sustainability at the Civic Federation has released a five-year roadmap that it says will stabilize state finances and protect government services.

.......While the group’s plan calls for a rate hike, it wants to see the income tax drop on Jan. 1, 2018 to 4 percent for individuals and 5.6 percent for corporations. Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, says while income tax rates do need to be adjusted, it’s not sound policy to temporarily increase the rates and call for a rollback in three years.

“You’re implementing artificial changes in policy that aren’t based on anything economically driven – rather, they’re politically driven,” Martire said. “The problem with our revenue system isn’t temporary, it’s structural.”

Martire says a more sound approach is to adjust the rates to account for the gap between the revenue Illinois takes in and what it spends on services, like education and health care.

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January 21, 2015Watchdog.org

In January 2013, Time Magazine featured the story “Why Illinois is Going Bankrupt.” It pronounced the state’s financial prognosis as terminal, with little hope of recovery. From its gaping annual billion-dollar deficit, to its bulging unpaid pension debt and revenue-draining Medicaid, Time

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January 21, 2015State Journal-Register

Bruce Rauner is Illinois' first Republican governor in more than a decade.

If that isn't enough to shake things up, Rauner also never had held elected office, so there's no track record to assess. This means his policy "to-do" list is somewhat of an unknown, except in one area: education.

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