Arlington Height Daily Herald. June 4, 2021.

Editorial: Let’s give the vaccine lottery a try in Illinois

Details are as yet scarce, but Gov. J.B. Pritzker appears poised to put Illinois aboard the vaccine lottery bandwagon, pledging to devote around $7 million to lottery prizes that would entice Illinois residents to get vaccinated and possibly another $3 million in scholarships or educational awards for vaccinated students under 18.

Some critics will no doubt find it appalling that the state would lure people to get vaccinated through the astronomical odds of winning a lottery, and certainly people who, for whatever reason, are vehemently opposed to the vaccine won’t be persuaded.

But if Ohio is any indicator, there are still plenty of people who are on the fence about vaccination or who just haven’t gotten around to it for whom the unlikely chance at riches might convince.

Ohio is offering five $1 million prizes to vaccinated adults along with five full tuition rides for vaccinated kids 12-17 at a state college or university. According to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, shots are up 49% among people ages 16 and over, and have increased 36% among minorities and 65% among people in rural areas. Moreover, vaccinations among 16- and 17-year-olds have increased 94 percent.

“It (getting vaccinated) is the best thing we can do to protect ourselves and our loved ones,” Pritzker said.

Yes, but people have to be willing to take the time and trouble to do it. Our society is in real danger today of splitting into two unequal parts -- people who can go on with their lives, largely safe from the risk of death from COVID-19 or from spreading the disease to others; and everybody else. Minorities and rural residents -- two groups in Illinois that need greater numbers of vaccinated people to secure their own well-being -- have responded to the lottery in Ohio, so it follows they will respond here.

With the kind of vaccination numbers Ohio is showing, a $7 million to $10 million vaccine lottery seems like a reasonable experiment for Illinois. According to FAIR Health, a national nonprofit based in New York City, the average hospital bill for the most severe COVID-19 patients can be close to $250,000. At those rates, it wouldn’t take long for the lottery to pay for itself in saved health care costs.

When you consider that California is putting $116 million into its vaccine lottery, states like Ohio and Illinois seem like pikers.

Still, officials are keeping up the pressure in other ways, too. The Cook County Health Department is giving vaccinated residents tickets to Six Flags Great America every Wednesday as long as supplies last. And this week, Pritzker signed the dubiously dubbed “shot and a beer” law, allowing bars to give away a free drink to vaccinated customers.

Vaccinating the American people is the great public works project of the current age, a deadly serious endeavor. But making elements of it fun isn’t unreasonable. DeWine understood that when he quoted Bill Veeck in a New York Times column about Ohio’s vaccine lottery: “To give one can of beer to a thousand people is not nearly as much fun as giving 1,000 cans of beer to one guy.” Amen.

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Chicago Tribune. June 3, 2021.

Editorial: Gov. Pritzker, Speaker Welch: Put a brick on an elected school board for now

We can’t crystal ball who will serve on the Chicago Public Schools board if it becomes a fully elected body in 2027. But it’s a foregone conclusion who would run CPS if it happens. Make way for the power-hungry, politics-driven Chicago Teachers Union.

Which means make way, by 2027, for the likelihood of new heights of fiscal recklessness at CPS, more choking debt and consequently, a steady erosion of the educational experience for the district’s 340,000 children.

Led by Sen. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago, Democratic lawmakers passed legislation in the Illinois Senate that sets up a fully elected, 21-member CPS board by 2027. One of the measures in Martwick’s bill allows CTU leaders to run for a spot on the board. The transition would begin in 2025 with a hybrid panel made up of 10 members elected to four-year terms in the 2024 general election, and 11 members and a board president appointed by the mayor. The City Council would have to confirm the mayor’s appointments.

Then in 2026, votes would elect the remaining 10 members and a board president to four-year terms. The board president would be elected citywide, while the other members would be elected through newly created geographic jurisdictions within CPS.

The Illinois House must still approve the bill, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker would have to sign it before it becomes law. It could be a moment for the new House speaker, Emanuel “Chris” Welch, to step up and say no, he won’t call the bill for now, even though it’s an issue he supports.

It could be a moment for Pritzker to say no, he won’t sign it as is, even though it’s an issue he supports.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot doesn’t want it; it would be bad for taxpayers and students; and the reasons it flew through the Senate were heavily political — jabs at Lightfoot from Martwick, with whom she has battled, and Senate President Don Harmon, with whom she has a strained relationship. Throw kids under the bus to assert your own power? You bet, they said.

Welch and Pritzker should put a brick on it. Don’t call the House back to Springfield.

The General Assembly could instead opt for an alternative that would be far better for students, parents and the city. Lightfoot has pushed a compromise version that would establish by 2028 an 11-member board with three elected seats and eight spots appointed by the mayor. Under her plan, that setup would be preceded by a seven-member board in 2026, with two members elected. Lightfoot’s version gave voters a voice on the board, but maintained accountability for the nation’s third largest school district where it belongs — in the mayor’s office.

So far, however, the General Assembly seems bent on putting in the hands of CTU power over CPS’ budget, hiring, contracts, personnel and the next teacher contract. There’s no doubt that CTU will marshal its money and political clout to get its people elected on the board.

Lawmakers also haven’t bothered to take into account the roughly $500 million annually in subsidized payments from City Hall to CPS. The city’s not going to provide that level of financial support if it has no say in how CPS is run, not without a fight anyway. Where will CPS go to make up the difference? How about Chicago’s beleaguered taxpayers, who must be wondering how many more property tax hits they can take?

If Martwick’s bill becomes law, the winners and losers will be clear. CTU leaders probably are chilling their Champagne glasses. And the losers? You guessed it — the children of CPS, their parents and the city’s taxpayers — all imperiled by a future school board too unwieldy and too prone to union control to function responsibly.

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Decatur Herald & Review. June 4, 2021.

Editorial: Another state budget year with frustrating process

Illinois budgeting process remains a frustrating headache.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker discussed the budget in his own terms as he took a victory lap on Tuesday, celebrating the passage of a $42.3 billion budget as a phenomenal success.

Funny how we define success when it comes to the state budget.

Bi-partisan? Not even close. The budget received no “yes” votes from Republicans.

Timely? It is to laugh. Reporters call it “May 32nd” for a reason. In one of its sadly routine failures to meet deadlines, legislators went into the early morning on June 1 before OK’ing the plan.

Succinct? At 3,000 pages? Who are we kidding?

Republicans complained about Democrats filling the budget with pet projects. Democrats said their bill will grow the economy. The degree of truth for either will come out in the wash – we’ll know by the time we’re casting our next votes which party was how right.

But the depth of the perpetual problem persists. Nancy Pelosi’s 2010 quote – or at least a version of it – remains practically a political requirement. They had to pass the bill so we could see what was in it. (Pelosi’s actual quote in front of the audience at a legislative conference was, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it — away from the fog of the controversy.” Similar words, but in a context that makes the quote more benign.)

Pritzker was insistent on asserting victory, bringing up the legacy of his predecessor Bruce Rauner, under whom Illinois with 736 days without a spending plan. “Illinois became an example for the nation of what happens when government and budgets are mismanaged.”

Don’t underestimate the budget issue’s role in helping Pritzker get elected in 2018. If Pritzker wants to say his efforts have eclipsed Rauner’s, that’s fine.

But it’s not exactly like the bar is set very high if that’s the standard you want to exceed.

There’s little we’ve complained about here that hasn’t been a complaint about this system for years, potentially decades. There has to be a better way of making this sausage.

But we know the odds are heavily against any bi-partisan bridge building at this time – literally and figuratively.

END