Understanding Illinois: Rauner Changes Budget Dynamic

NowlanFebruary 25, 2015

By Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

In his maiden speech on state finance this past Wednesday [Feb. 18], GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner changed the dynamic of Illinois budgeting from an “incremental” process to that akin to “zero base budgeting,” which goes all the way back to former president Jimmy Carter’s days as governor of Georgia in the early 1970s.
The above sounds like academic-speak, so please let me explain.
Rauner proposed a budget that is balanced, at least in theory, without the necessity of nudging the recently reduced state income tax back up a bit, as many Democrats including Speaker of the House Mike Madigan feel is necessary.
The businessman governor proposed dramatic, some would say draconian, cuts not only in pensions, health care for state employees and higher education, but also for children who are wards of the state, kids with developmental disabilities, and the mentally ill.
This will force interest groups and advocates for all these spending initiatives to come to the legislature to make their cases for why the programs must be sustained at higher levels than Rauner wants. Read More

The Romance of Railroading: Folklore of the Steam Engine Era

GintherFebruary 25, 2015

by Jerry Ginther
NP Columnist

Volumes have been written on this topic not to mention hundreds of ballads. To appreciate the latter, one only needs to remember a few of the old songs praising the brave engineers of steam engine days. Who hasn’t heard the words to “Casey Jones”, “The Wreck of Old 97” and “The Wabash Cannonball” just to mention a few. The engine man was the hero of the rails, and train wrecks were the subjects of much folklore.
The sentiments of crackling caldrons and hobos around a fire in a trainyard tugs at our hearts. Some nights the sound of a lonesome train whistle in the distance brings on such heartbreaking loneliness to a fellow pining for a lost love that he wonders if he will survive until the dawn. Oh, if railroad engineers only knew the role they have played in the lives of lonely, heartbroken lovers. The fireman shoveled the coal, the engineer kept his hand on the throttle, his eye on the rail and America moved forward to the age of diesel locomotives. Read More

LTE: 2.18.15

No Zoo In Moultrie County

Currently there are 11 zoo/wildlife parks in Illinois, not including major zoos in St. Louis and Indianapolis. Three are within easy driving distance from Moultrie County, including Henson Robinson Zoo in Springfield, Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington and Scoville Zoo in Decatur.
Is the proposed 140 acre zoo a want, need or necessity, or is it human hubris? A small group of people want to build a zoo one mile east of Cadwell and ¾ mile west of the Pumpkin Patch. This is where I have lived for almost 40 years. Many of the adjoining owners have made formal protests with the county officials.
Here is a list of concerns shared by adjoining property owners: Read More

Will state court address fiscal “death spiral”?

NowlanFebruary 18, 2015

By Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

A columnist for Forbes magazine declared in 2012 that Illinois, among several states, is in a fiscal “death spiral” that results from high taxation combined with population and business flight. Other observers have picked up the term.
In March, the Illinois Supreme Court hears an appeal by the state attorney general and several business-oriented groups to a decision last year that struck down an act that would reduce the growth in pension payments to government retirees.
The ultimate state high court decision will affect the state’s fiscal well-being for decades to come.
In the 1920s, the state began to provide meager pensions for penurious spinster teachers and later for state employees.
Over the decades, pay for government workers and their pension benefits have grown rapidly. Today, compensation for star faculty at our public universities and for local school superintendents often soars well into six figures. Read More

Farm Bureau Update: Important Dates Upcoming

HarveyFebruary 18, 2015

By Tyler Harvey
Mo-Do Farm Bureau Manager

On a state level, the Illinois Farm Bureau had an “Action Request” the week of February 9 and thanks to all who made the call to action. The action request was in reference to H.R. Bill 636 which is a bill to make the Section 179 small business expensing option permanent at the $500,000 level.
Last June, the U.S. House voted 272-144 to permanently extend to $500,000 the annual cost of property eligible for expensing under Section 179 and indexing the amounts for inflation. The bill would allow businesses to deduct immediately from their taxable income the full costs of up to $500,000 in investment of certain equipment from their taxable income, instead of spreading out the costs over time. The benefit of the immediate expensing phases out if total qualifying investment exceeds $2 million, indexed for inflation.
However, on January 1, the maximum expensing level for 2015 fell back to $25,000. But the U.S House just voted on Friday the 13 to pass H.R. 636, America’s Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2015 by a vote of 272-142. Read More

Growing up in Sullivan: Activities in the Park

GintherFebruary 11, 2015

by Jerry Ginther
NP Columnist

Wyman Park has been the venue of many Sullivan activities over the years. A few that I can remember are President Nixon’s campaign speech, the Buffalo Barbeque, the Kentucky Picnic and the Fourth of July fireworks display. Another big attraction was the carnival, Monarch Exposition Shows, which came to town for the week of the fourth and set up on the American Legion grounds at the south end of Wyman. Checking back in Moultrie County history, I discovered that Abraham Lincoln once gave a speech in Wyman Park in the area close to or now occupied by the Civic Center.
In addition to events, most of us will remember the playground facilities, swings, gliders and other equipment, but especially the giant slide that stood about two stories above the earth at the top end. For a youngster who ascended those steps for the first time, the view from the platform box was dizzying. And, the trip to the bottom was much faster than the ascent. If one sat on a sheet of wax paper, he could almost break the sound barrier before reaching the bottom. The breath taking descent down the slide made the long climb up the stairs to do it again and again well worth the effort. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Rauner Speech to Lawmakers Sets Right Tone

NowlanFebruary 11, 2015

By Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

Calling for a new partnership in Illinois, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner set a constructive, cooperative, problem-solving tone in his maiden speech Wednesday to a legislature in which more than three-fifths of the members are Democrats.
This positive approach will be critical in a pas de deux between chief executive and legislature that will have to continue unabated for the full four years of Rauner’s term, as the “Illinois Turnaround” the governor calls for will require years to set in motion.
The new governor’s proposals were, as expected, business friendly and union critical, yet he avoided demonizing the latter.
Rauner proposes cuts in workers’ compensation, unemployment and business liability costs as well as relief on property taxes, which are a heavy burden in Illinois on both businesses and homeowners.
The governor calls for local right-to-work zones (where workers would not have to join unions), which will not fly in the legislature, and for prohibitions on union contributions to political campaigns, another dead-on-arrival proposal, I am afraid. Read More

Thinking About Health: FDA Approved Doesn’t Guarantee Drugs are Safe or Effective

TrudyLieberman-PhotoFebruary 4, 2015

By Trudy Lieberman
Rural Health News Service

What does the label “FDA-approved” really mean? Most people probably think it assures that a drug you take is safe and effective for the condition you have. It seems to say a drug has passed muster with the drug safety experts in Washington so it’s OK to use it, right? Well, not quite.
An investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has just concluded FDA approval is no guarantee a drug is safe and effective, and the paper’s investigation of diabetes drugs should make every user of prescription drugs think twice about medications their doctors prescribe.
In December the Journal Sentinel and its partner MedPage Today revealed that more than 3,000 deaths and some 20,000 hospitalizations have been linked to diabetes drugs in the last decade. The drugs include some you’ve probably seen advertised such as Januvia, Byetta, and Victoza.
Reporters found none of the 30 new diabetes drugs have been proven effective in reducing key complications of the disease such as heart attacks, strokes, or blindness. Read More

Look. Up In The Sky. It’s A….

Bill Bailey, WIUFebruary 4, 2015

by Professor  William C. Bailey
School of Agriculture, Western Illinois University

Agriculture has always embraced technology, and there is a new technology, or at least a new approach to the use of a technology, that may provide significant changes to American farming. And it comes from the sky.
As a former military pilot, I have long monitored the use of airplanes in agriculture – exporting livestock by air, crop dusting, herding livestock by helicopter in Australia or simply flying over a farm to see crops and livestock from a different perspective than a truck. Following the airborne thought, I know creative people see new opportunities for technology in agriculture, in this case the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). I used the term ‘drone” once when first discussing this technology with an expert and was quickly corrected that the proper name is UAV. So, we will use UAV rather than drones for this column.
UAVs have been used in agriculture for a while, but as the military has increased their use of UVAs, they have become more powerful and more sophisticated. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently issued the first permit for the agricultural use of unmanned aerial vehicles. Among the FAA requirements are that UAV operations include a ground pilot that has a private pilot certificate, has a medical certificate and that the UAV remain in sight at all times. The significant factor is the FAA has recognized the growing interest in using UAVs in agriculture. Read More

Growing up in Sullivan: A Saturday Morning Adventure

GintherJanuary 28, 2015

by Jerry Ginther
NP Columnist

On one of my bicycling tours of the town when I was 12 or 13 years old, I came upon a man plowing a garden near the intersection of Seymour and Strain streets. That, in and of itself, was not unusual, but the fact that he was plowing the garden with a horse caught my attention right away. Even in the late 50’s this was somewhat of a novelty to see someone plowing in town with a horse. Truthfully, there was something else about this scene that made it even more appealing to a curious boy looking for something interesting to do. That something else, to which I’m alluding, was the sight of several kids riding on the plow horse. I wasted no time abandoning my two-wheeled transportation for a closer look. Kids were lined up on the horse’s back from the hames to his rump, and others were waiting their turn. If you think I got in line, you are thinking correctly. What more could an adventurous, young lad hope to find on a Saturday morning than a chance for a horseback ride. Even if it was a plow horse, it was a horse, and a big horse at that. At that age, it didn’t matter; it made the day, and I would join in the fun! Read More