Business & Economy
IL House votes to close pension loophole for teachers union lobbyists PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Rich Morthland   
Monday, 14 November 2011 14:28

Springfield, IL...The Illinois House of Representatives voted Wednesday to close the pension loophole that allowed two teachers union lobbyists to earn huge state pensions after serving for a single day as substitute teachers.

State Representative Rich Morthland (R-Cordova) co-sponsored House Bill 3865, which would prohibit employees of teachers unions from participating in the state's Teachers' Retirement System. It requires the lobbyists already in the system to forfeit all pension credit earned. HB 3865 passed the House unanimously and will go to the Senate for consideration.

"Today we close the book on another shameful chapter of Illinois history," Morthland said. "These guys were lobbyists masquerading as teachers. They took advantage of a pension loophole that allowed them to receive a teacher's pension after subbing for just one day in the classroom. That's a slap in the face to hard working teachers across Illinois. As a member of this union and as the husband of a member of this union, I'm appalled that it has gotten this far."

A Chicago Tribune/WGN-TV investigation found that two lobbyists with no prior teaching experience were allowed to count their years as union employees towards state teacher pensions after subbing for a single day in 2007.

According to the Tribune report, Steven Preckwinkle, the political director of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and fellow IFT lobbyist David Piccioli were the only people who took advantage of a small pension window opened by state lawmakers just a few months earlier. The law allowed union officials to get into the Teachers' Retirement System and count their previous years as union employees after quickly obtaining teaching certificates and working in a classroom. Preckwinkle and Piccioli could collect nearly $3 million in pension payouts, based on their union salaries and years of union credit.

"Illinois' pension systems face serious financial problems, with more than $85 billion in unfunded liability," Morthland said. "I'm glad to join my House colleagues in voting to stop these egregious abuses of pension loopholes."


News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Christine Hojnacki   
Friday, 11 November 2011 15:06


“May All Your Gifts be Merry and Bright”

York, PA, November 9, 2011 – The Bon-Ton Stores, Inc. (NASDAQ: BONT) today announced Bon-Ton stores will open their doors at 12:00 a.m. on November 25 for the biggest After-Thanksgiving Sale offering over 500 door busters, more than ever before, and a myriad of special offers and discounts for its customers.  Bon-Ton’s After-Thanksgiving eBusters and specials will be available online beginning at 6:00 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day.  In addition, Bon-Ton announced its holiday marketing campaign inviting its customers to experience the “May all Your Gifts be Merry and Bright” theme in our stores, social media and online.

Bud Bergren, President and Chief Executive Officer commented, “We are very excited about giving our customers an early start on one of their favorite shopping days and believe they will appreciate the exceptional value of our door busters and special offers.  Our customers can maximize their holiday budget with our value-priced gifts, all offering the quality, fashion and styling shoppers have come to expect from Bon-Ton.  The decision to open at midnight was based on our customers’ feedback – they wanted the convenience of shopping earlier.  We believe this will enhance our customers’ over-all shopping experience.”

Mr. Bergren continued, “‘May all your gifts be merry and bright’ says it all.  We are offering our customers distinctive gifts in every category making it even easier to choose that special gift for that special person at values that will exceed our customers’ expectations.  Our customers can enjoy the convenience of shopping the way they choose – in our stores, online and kiosks. We are very excited about the holidays and we believe our customers will be too when they experience the glitter and sparkle of our gift assortments.”

  • After-Thanksgiving Day hours: Bon-Ton will be open from 12:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on November 25.  Over 500 After-Thanksgiving door busters will be available from 12:00 a.m. on November 25 until 1 p.m. on Black Friday, November 25, or while quantities last.
  • Marketing campaign for November and December: “May all Your Gifts be Merry and Bright” campaign highlights the dazzling array of gifts in the ladies, men’s, children’s, cosmetics/fragrances and home departments. We have bright gift ideas at prices that will make our customers merry.
  • 24/7 – Bon-Ton is there whenever and wherever customers are:
  • Every Tuesday in November and December, there will be weekly Deal of the Day with extraordinary online-only gift deals.
  • 20 Days of Holiday Gift Giving starting December 1.  Every day for 20 days, a feature gift category with 30% off + FREE shipping on that category.
  • Digital and Social Media: Bon-Ton will increase its investment in all digital channels including Facebook, Twitter and mobile campaigns.  Through these media channels, customers will be able to stay in the loop on special holiday gift ideas, discount offers and exclusives throughout the holiday season.  For the convenience of our customers, coupon offers during the holiday season can be sent directly to their mobile device by texting “SHOPPASS” to 266866.  Customers can show their mobile phone at any register to get their digital savings.
  • Email Alerts: sign up to receive email exclusive offers for the entire holiday season by visiting any of our Bon-Ton Stores web sites.
  • Television: Bon-Ton has increased its spend to reach more customers.  Holiday television will include a mix of :15 and :30 spots that will support sale events and highlight unique merchandise offers that support the holiday campaign.
  • Direct Mail: Bon-Ton will mail to a wider base of customers this holiday season.  Bon-Ton Stores proprietary credit card holders will receive advance notice of sales as well as special shopping offers.
  • Extended Shopping Hours during the holiday season starting with After-Thanksgiving through December 24 make shopping more convenient. We know our customers appreciate that extra time as they shop for that extra special gift.
  • Holiday Plush Animals to Benefit Boys and Girls Clubs: Again this year we will offer two exclusive plush animals in our stores and online – a holiday moose and polar bear – 10% of sales will benefit the local Boys & Girls Clubs in our communities. In its ninth year, the promotion has raised more than $940,000 for local Boys & Girls Clubs through fundraising events.

The Bon-Ton Stores, Inc., with corporate headquarters in York, Pennsylvania and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, operates 276 department stores, which includes 11 furniture galleries, in 23 states in the Northeast, Midwest and upper Great Plains under the Bon-Ton, Bergner’s, Boston Store, Carson Pirie Scott, Elder-Beerman, Herberger’s and Younkers nameplates and, in the Detroit, Michigan area, under the Parisian nameplate.  The department stores offer a broad assortment of national and private brand fashion apparel and accessories for women, men and children, as well as cosmetics and home furnishings.  Visit for more information on special store hours, in-store offerings and online specials.



IRS is not pursuing many private debt collection cases PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 11 November 2011 15:04
Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa expressed concern in 2009 when the IRS, Treasury Department and congressional supporters decided to end a program using outside contractors to try to help collect overdue taxes.  Grassley made the following comment today on a new report showing the IRS has not pursued many of the cases from the private debt collection program.

“The IRS assured us all that the agency could do a better job with these tax cases than outside firms and didn’t need any help.  It turns out that the IRS isn’t doing a better job and in many cases, isn’t doing the job at all.  The IRS and Treasury Department went out of their way to stop a means of collecting tax debt that the IRS otherwise will never collect.  They bowed to union pressure and terminated an alternative collection program before it had a chance to reach its full potential.  It’s a shame the IRS continues to let tax debt slide while honest taxpayers pay what they owe.  The agency should explain why that’s the case.  And the Administration should be focused on collecting existing taxes owed before trying to impose new taxes, as is being suggested in deficit reduction proposals.”

Report details follow:

Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration

Press Release


November 9, 2011
TIGTA - 2011-80
Contact: David Barnes
(202) 622-3062
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

TIGTA: The IRS Did Not Pursue Collections on All Cases Returned From the Private Debt Collection Program

WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has not taken collection actions on 47 percent of a statistical sample of 62 past-due tax cases that were returned when the Private Debt Collection Program ended in 2009, according to a new report publicly released today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

From 2006 to 2009, the Private Debt Collection (PDC) Program collected $98.2 million from delinquent cases that were considered low-yield and therefore not generally worked by IRS employees. The IRS initially contracted with three private debt collection agencies to pursue these collection cases.

When the PDC Program was discontinued in March 2009, the IRS recalled cases with a total assessed balance of $848.5 million from the remaining contractors. TIGTA reviewed the effectiveness of collection actions taken by the IRS on taxpayer accounts returned by the PDC Program.

The IRS did not always pursue collection actions on cases returned to the IRS or analyze the best practices of the private debt collection agencies in the PDC Program for possible improvement of IRS collection practices, TIGTA found.

“The IRS must do its best to work these cases, since taxpayers who do not timely pay all their taxes create an unfair burden on taxpayers who do,” said J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. “This sense of unfairness can erode the public’s respect for the tax system,” added George.

TIGTA reviewed a statistical sample of 62 cases returned in Fiscal Year 2009 and found that collection actions were not taken for 29 (47 percent) of the 62 cases. These cases were not selected for collection action due to collection policies and inventory assignment practices. TIGTA estimates that potentially $30.7 million in collections will remain as outstanding liabilities. In addition, TIGTA estimates that the IRS may not collect an additional $103.2 million per year, or $516 million over the next five years, from similar cases in its inventory that would have otherwise been assigned to the PDC Program.

TIGTA also reviewed a statistical sample of installment agreement cases returned during Fiscal Year 2009 and determined that no collection actions were taken for six (10 percent) of 61 cases reviewed. TIGTA estimates that potentially $58,000 in collections will remain as outstanding liabilities. Finally, the IRS did not capture or use PDC Program data and results to improve its own collection practices.

TIGTA recommended that the IRS:

  • Ensure that Collection policy and procedures are reviewed for inventory assignment practices to determine if cases that otherwise would have been assigned to the PDC Program can be worked, or consider reinstituting the Program; and
  • Evaluate private-collection agency best practices and lessons learned for potential improvement of IRS collection processes.

In their response to the report, IRS officials partially agreed with the recommendations and stated that they have begun taking steps to address TIGTA’s concerns. The IRS implemented a process to improve balance-due case prioritization and reviewed collection agency operations to identify potential best practices. TIGTA is encouraged by the IRS’s commitment to improving case selection and prioritization processes. However, it is still unclear how the IRS would actually work lower priority cases like those eligible for the Program.

Read the report.


Tax Incentive Would Encourage Hiring of Veterans PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 11 November 2011 13:15

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley today said it’s very good news that the veterans hiring legislation he and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus introduced in January may be included in a larger proposal that the Senate will vote on this week.

“These men and women are extremely capable,” Grassley said.  “They have a lot of skills to offer in the workplace.  The legislation that Senator Baucus and I put together would clear some bureaucratic hurdles and add a financial incentive to encourage employers to seek out veterans.  These steps are a logical follow-up to my effort to increase the IRS’ hiring of veterans.  The IRS saw the value of this pool of potential workers and followed through on increased hiring of veterans.  Other employers, including small businesses, should have similar opportunities.  Whether our bipartisan legislation is included by amendment, or when the larger package is brought up for a vote, the veterans hiring proposal needs to be passed.”

As introduced, the Veterans Employment Transition Act, or the VETs Jobs bill, would reward employers for hiring qualified veterans who have recently completed their service in the military with a tax credit of up to $2,400 per veteran.  A previous version of this credit, which was part of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit and also authored by Grassley and Baucus, was designed to help employers hire veterans but expired at the end of 2010.  The new version of the legislation would reinstate the tax credit and make it easier for veterans and small businesses to use.  As a result, servicemen and women who have been recently discharged would be able to provide documentation directly from the Department of Defense without having to go through the tax credit’s current certification process.

Any veteran who has left active duty in the past five years who has discharge paperwork showing 180 days of qualified active duty would be eligible for the credit. This would include those men and women who were activated by their states as members of the National Guard.  The bill also helps service members market themselves to prospective employers by requiring the military to educate service members about how the credit works.

Noting that the unemployment rate for veterans is higher than for non-veterans nationwide, the senators first introduced the VETs Jobs bill in May 2010.


Commodity Futures Trading Commission chairman recusal in order on MF Global Holdings matters PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 08 November 2011 13:23
Friday, Nov. 4, 2011

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa made the following comment on whether Gary Gensler, the chairman of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, should recuse himself from matters related to MF Global Holdings Ltd., the fund that was run by former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, in light of media reports outlining close, longstanding ties between Gensler and Corzine.  Media reports say Gensler and Corzine “rose through the ranks” together at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. for 18 years and collaborated on Capitol Hill when Corzine was a senator and Gensler was a staffer.

“The chairman of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission is supposed to look out for investors.  MF Global’s case is a big collapse that requires a lot of work from the commission to try to figure out what went wrong and minimize further investor losses if possible.  It’s hard to see how the commission chairman could be completely objective in looking out for wronged investors when he has such strong ties to the principal of the failed firm.  It seems recusal would be the best outcome for investors.”

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