Tuesday, June 20, 2006

John Fritchey: Getting closer to supporting Topinka and Vouchers?

"Public Affairs," is featuring State Rep. John Fritchey [D-Chicago], Chairman, House Civil Judiciary Committee,this week in 35 Chicago Metro suburbs [See, below, for a detailed suburban airing schedule] on Comcast Cable; this coming Monday night [June 26] through-out the City of Chicago on CANTV, Cable Ch. 21 at 8:30 pm; And, by this weekend, on the "Public Affairs," podcast page on your computer [See here].
The "Public Affairs," podcast page gives you a choice of more than twenty different episodes of “Public Affairs," in addition to the show with State Rep. John Fritchey [D-Chicago] that will be posted by this weekend[See here]. The podcast page also includes 8th Cong. Dist. Republican Nominee David McSweeney [Barrington Hills], press conferences held recently with Governor Rod Blagojevich and his Republican Challenger, State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, State Rep. Julie Hamos [D-Evanston], a show with Republican Presidential candidate John Cox, a show with Kevin White, the Republican nominee for the 5th Cong. Dist. seat currently held by Cong. Rahm Emanuel (D-Chicago), Professor Barry Chiswick, Distinguished Professor of Economics, University of Illinois at Chicago and Professor Hoyt Bleakley, Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business discuss and debate immigration, Mayoral Candidate Bill Dock Walls, State Senate Republican Nominee [27th Dist.] Matt Murphy; a recent joint press conference with Senator Obama [D-Illinois] and Congresswoman Bean [D-Barrington] dealing with, among other issues, Iran, Iraq, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and tax cuts, Senator and Republican nominee for State Treasurer Christine Radogno, the Republican nominee and Democratic incumbent in the 8th CD, David McSweeney and Congresswoman Bean, respectively; Tony Peraica, Cook County Commissioner and Republican nominee for Cook County Board President and much, much more.
[See here].
Coming attractions on Public Affairs in the suburbs:

Next Week: full coverage of the McSweeney funder featuring Mayor Rudy Giuliani at Mike Ditka’s restaurant in the Loop and an interview with Governor Jim Thompson

Two weeks from now: Deputy Governor Bradley Tusk

Three Weeks from now: Ald. Ricardo Munoz [Chicago, 22nd Ward], possible 4th CD Democratic Primary candidate to replace Cong. Gutierrez in 2008.
State Rep. John Fritchey: And he [Governor Blagojevich] filed this [McCain –Feingold type caps on the amount of money individuals, unions and corporations can contribute to political candidates] a couple of weeks before we adjourned in 2005 and no steps have been taken to move that bill. If you are going to file it, mean it. And, if you mean it, try to move it. All Kids was filed, passed and signed in about two weeks.

Jeff Berkowitz: You support All Kids?

State Rep. John Fritchey: I support the concept of access to quality healthcare. As far as how we pay for it—listen, there are a lot of things that we can put on our wish list. And, I actually agree with Judy Baar Topinka on this one. We’ve got to be able to pay for these things. Whether it’s healthcare, whether it’s education, we could propose everything under the sun. We have a responsibility to be able to prudently pay for these programs.

Jeff Berkowitz: Do you agree with Judy Baar Topinka that this [All Kids] should be means-tested? You shouldn’t have All Kids health insurance, basically unlimited, going to anybody with as high an income as can be?

State Rep. John Fritchey: What we need to focus on first and foremost is a responsible means of taking the people that are falling through the safety net and getting them covered. We need to cover the children. We need to cover their parents. We need to get their parents back into the workforce. But, that doesn’t mean that a family making a hundred and twenty five thousand dollars a year should be able to drain these resources.

Jeff Berkowitz: So you agree with Judy. You agree with Judy on universal pre-school? Same thing, it should be means-tested? Shouldn’t be available to everyone, no matter how high their income?

State Rep. John Fritchey: I think that not only do I agree with Judy, I think that the public agrees with that. And the public’s comfortable with that level as well.

Jeff Berkowitz: Do you agree with Judy that this idea of selling—or leasing the lottery—as a way of getting a large [up front] payment, say ten billion dollars [is not good policy]? Use four billion dollars for the next four years [on supplemental education funding from the state]. Also, buy an annuity [for six billion dollars], so over next twenty years [education] continues to get similar payments [650 million dollars per year]... as it gets ... from the lottery [now]. And, then twenty years from now, the whole thing’s over, and you got nothing [in terms of additional supplemental education funding]. So, Judy says that’s the wrong way. She doesn’t agree with leasing the lottery. You agree with Judy Baar Topinka?

State Rep. John Fritchey: I prefer to say maybe Judy agrees with me.

Jeff Berkowitz: All right. So, you agree with Judy on all these things. Are you voting for Judy Baar Topinka?

State Rep. John Fritchey: I’m not voting for Judy Baar Topinka.

Jeff Berkowitz: You supporting Judy Baar Topinka?

State Rep. John Fritchey: I’m taking no position right now.

Jeff Berkowitz: So right now, you’re supporting neither Rod nor Judy. You’re in between, right?

State Rep. John Fritchey: The discussion right now is the issue of these programs. I think that the concept of selling or leasing off the lottery to get us out of our educational bind is a short-sighted and misguided one. I don’t believe that it has a long term fix in place. And, furthermore, it doesn’t deal with the two critical questions: How we fund schools in general? And, our over-reliance on property taxes.

Jeff Berkowitz: How should we fund schools? …

State Rep. John Fritchey: …We trail the country in funding and equity between school districts.

Jeff Berkowitz: So, how should we be funding schools? What should we change?

State Rep. John Fritchey: Jeff, in the past I have openly advocated, and I was one of the sponsors, with Senator Meeks, of a tax swap bill. As I’ve told you, and as I’ve said publicly, numerous times, whether it’s via a tax swap or another mechanism, we have to change the over reliance on property taxes. We have to get the state’s percentage of education funding from the mid thirties back up to around fifty percent, where it should be. If there is another means of doing that, other than raising the income tax, I am open to it. But, the debate on this issue—I’m forty-two years old—the debate on this issue is almost as old as I am. And nobody’s come up with a better idea.

Jeff Berkowitz: But the, now the, tax swap—House Bill 750, at least one form of it, —would have raised the income tax, to five percent from three percent. Some characterize that as a two thirds increase.

State Rep. John Fritchey: Yeah, depending on what side you’re on.

Jeff Berkowitz: And it would have lowered property taxes, or endeavored to try to do so. But, there would have been, some say, a massive increase in taxes in general, of three to four billion dollars in Illinois. Two billion or so would go to education. Two would go elsewhere. Would you come out and tell the taxpayers of Illinois, in your district and elsewhere, that you favor a tax increase of three to four billion dollars?

State Rep. John Fritchey[D-Chicago]: My constituents will tell you that I have steadfastly, repeatedly spoke on this issue, supporting some variant of this concept. What we need to deal with right now are two things. We need to get the state’s share of education funding up. And, we also have to deal with the massive pension obligations that are going to be hanging out there. So, [at] some point in line, the structural deficit that our expenditures are outstripping our revenues is going to have to be dealt with. Politicians are very quick to put their head in the sand and think in terms of election cycles.

Jeff Berkowitz: Okay.

State Rep. John Fritchey: This is not a two year or four year fix.

Jeff Berkowitz: So, [education funding is] another area in which you would agree with Judy Baar Topinka over Rod Blagojevich, because he’s taken a pledge, which he’s renewed for the next term, not to increase the sales tax, not to increase the income tax.

State Rep. John Fritchey: Is Judy supporting an income tax [increase] now?

Jeff Berkowitz: She said she’s going to have to take a look. She’s not going to pledge that she won’t raise taxes. She doesn’t want to raise taxes. But,
that’s really closer to your view
. Or, you’re saying taxes have to go up. If she were to say that, might you support Judy Baar Topinka?

State Rep. John Fritchey: That would go a long way. If there were a commitment that this was going to be a primary focus of the next administration, it would go a long way. I’m saddened that the Governor took the pledge again. I don’t think he needed to. I don’t think it was prudent. We really need to keep our options open. There are tough times ahead of us.

Jeff Berkowitz: All right. We’re going to continue to speak as the credits roll, but I very much want to thank our guest, State Representative John Fritchey, who is a Democrat from Chicago. He’s in the 11th district. His sister state representative would be Sara Feigenholtz. His state senator-

State Rep. John Fritchey [D-Chicago] : John Cullerton.

Jeff Berkowitz: John Cullerton. John [Fritchey], of course, will continue to be rumored as running for Mayor [of Chicago] and Governor and God knows a number of other offices-

State Rep. John Fritchey: [laughs]

Jeff Berkowitz: And some day, John, when you’re running for any of those offices, you’ll continue to come back as you have-

State Rep. John Fritchey: At this point, I may owe you to make the announcement on this show.

Jeff Berkowitz: Absolutely. We very much want to thank State Rep John Fritchey for coming here. Seriously, John, thanks so much.

State Rep. John Fritchey: Jeff, it’s been a pleasure, as always. Thank you.

Jeff Berkowitz: Let’s finish off on education, here. We had hoped to get to real estate tax assessments, but you’ll come back and talk about assessments?

State Rep. John Fritchey: Acquisition-based assessments.

Jeff Berkowitz: You want to cap those assessments more. You want to keep the assessments down, right.

State Rep. John Fritchey: We have to give predictability to people, to businesses, to homeowners. In my area, my own property taxes have gone up five fold in nine years.

Jeff Berkowitz: Back to education, quickly. You’d like reform. You’d like to see competition. You might support school vouchers, school choice?

State Rep. John Fritchey: I’m getting closer to looking at it with every passing year, Jeff.

Jeff Berkowitz: Seriously?

State Rep. John Fritchey: I kid you not. It’s got to the point now.

Jeff Berkowitz: Give kids choice, right?

State Rep. John Fritchey: Hmm?

Jeff Berkowitz: Give parents choice?

State Rep. John Fritchey: In some form, we have to figure out—we have a system that if nobody’s going to work to fix it, maybe we need to change it.

Jeff Berkowitz: So, maybe you’d be the person to be the entrepreneur to come to the city of Chicago and say you favor school vouchers, school choice. Let them choose. Let the parents choose. Competition. Innovation.

State Rep. John Fritchey: We’ve had great innovation with the charter schools program, with our magnet schools. The 2010 program—I think the jury is still out. But, whether the issue is vouchers or choice, I think everything should be on the table. And, then decide through those choices what the best … But, in short, whether it is a no tax pledge or ruling any potential idea off the table, out of hand, is short sighted and it is maybe more for political gain than policy furtherance.
Public Affairs, State Rep. John Fritchey [D-Chicago] was recorded on June 11, 2006 and is airing on the Suburban edition of Public Affairs this week [week of June 19] and on the City of Chicago edition of Public Affairs on Monday night, June 26 at 8:30 pm on Cable Ch. 21. See, below, for a detailed, regular suburban airing schedule for Public Affairs . The show with John Fritchey will also be available, by this weekend, as a video podcast at the Public Affairs Cinema Complex, along with more than twenty other shows, which are also airing there. [See here].
In twenty-five North Shore, North and Northwest suburbs, the show airs tonight in its regular Tuesday night time slot: 8:30 pm on Comcast Cable Ch. 19 or 35, as indicated, below.

In ten North Shore suburbs, the show is also airing in its regular airing slot at 8:30 pm on Comcast Cable Ch. 19 this week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, as indicated, below.

The episode of Public Affairs, featuring State Rep. John Fritchey [D-Chicago] airs tonight:

at 8:30 pm on Comcast Cable Channel 19 in Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove Village, Hoffman Estates, parts of Inverness, Lincolnwood, Morton Grove, Niles, Northfield, Palatine, Rolling Meadows and Wilmette

And at 8:30 pm on Comcast Cable Channel 35 in Arlington Heights, Bartlett, Glenview, Golf, Des Plaines, Hanover Park, Mt. Prospect, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Prospect Heights, Schaumburg, Skokie, Streamwood and Wheeling.

and this Wednesday and Friday night at 8:30 pm on Comcast Cable Channel 19 in Bannockburn, Deerfield, Ft. Sheridan, Glencoe, Highland Park, Highwood, Kenilworth, Lincolnshire, Riverwoods and Winnetka.
Transcript draft prepared by Amy Allen, who also does research for “Public Affairs,” and has her own political blog [See here].
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at JBCG@aol.com