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Top 10: Illinois Remains in National Unemployment Cellar

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UNEMPLOYMENT BOTTOM 10
New unemployment figures last week showed Illinois' jobless rate unchanged in August. That also means our second-worst national ranking is unchanged. Today's Top 10 list looks at the bottom of the U.S. unemployment picture.

WORKERS COMP
One of the things that hinders Illinois' job growth is Illinois' workers compensation system, which has employers here paying some of the highest workers compensation insurance rates in the country. Fraudulent workers comp claims remain a big problem. Recent reforms helped, but not nearly enough. Get the background on this issue and send a message to your legislators in Springfield, Gov. Pat Quinn and the four leaders of the General Assembly with our Sound Off tool.

LEANING RIGHT
In 2010, Bill Brady narrowly won the Republican nomination for governor by presenting himself as the most conservative of the seven candidates in the race. This year there are four candidates in the GOP primary, and Capitol Fax publisher Rich Miller notes that Brady again is working the conservative strategy as he seeks the 2014 nomination. It brought him within 32,000 votes (a margin of .85 percent) of defeating Pat Quinn in 2010 and Brady is banking on converting those voters this time around. Miller breaks it down in his column today.

TAX TALK
No matter who ends up on the ballot for governor in November 2014, the future of the Illinois state income tax will be Issue No. 1. It's scheduled to fall from the current 5 percent to 3.75 percent on Jan. 1, 2015. Republican candidates Brady and Bruce Rauner are eager to let that happen, though they haven't given specifics on how the state will get by without the $5 billion or so it will lose if that happens. Kirk Dillard said in a Reboot Illinois interview he wants a "fair, flat income tax." Treasurer and GOP candidate Dan Rutherford said extending the current rate should be on the table and Gov. Pat Quinn hasn't stated his position. One thing is certain: raising taxes won't help Illinois break its cycle of economic failure. You can send that message to Springfield loud and clear with Sound Off. Try it!

STEP 1 FOR REFORM
Better Government Association President Andy Shaw's column today deals with the most fundamental step in improving Illinois government: registering to vote. You can't be part of the solution if you don't vote, and you can't vote if you don't register. This is something you'll be hearing a lot about from Reboot Illinois in the months to come, and Shaw has some helpful tips and keen observations in this column.

SPEAK UP AND SOUND OFF
Taxes and workers comp reform are only two of many issues on our new Sound Off tool. Pension reform, fair legislative maps, school funding and the Metra scandal are among the others. It only takes a few mouse clicks to identify your representative and senator, choose your issue, send your message and encourage your friends to do the same. Your Sound Off message also goes to Gov. Pat Quinn and the four legislative leaders, who set the agenda for the General Assembly. Believe it or not, Illinois lawmakers really do listen to their constituents, especially when their numbers are too big to ignore. Give Sound Off a try!

TOP 5 Here's what's making news in Illinois today:

5. One downstate agency is getting payments from Illinois two months late...and says that means the state is "pretty up to date." (State Journal-Register)
4. Opinion: $17 million to expand Walter Payton College Prep is a good investment by Mayor Emanuel. (Chicago Sun-Times)
3. With Bill Daley dropping out of the gubernatorial race, the focus now shifts to the Republican side of the ballot. (Associated Press)
2. Opinion: Is there any Republican candidate who has the guts to defeat Gov. Quinn? (Crain's Chicago Business)
1. Today's pension stalemate can be traced back to a single day in the summer of 1970. (Chicago Tribune)