Illinois Legislature

The 2013 session of the Illinois General Assembly will more likely be remembered for what was not accomplished than for what was done.

Pension Reform Moves Ahead in Illinois

May 9, 2013

The Illinois Senate has approved an overhaul of the state's pension systems.  

Illinois lawmakers began November with an election that solidified Democratic majorities and they will finish the month by returning to the Capitol. 

Their annual fall meetings are called veto sessions because lawmakers are supposed to consider legislation the governor rejected or changed.  Those could include statewide regulation of plastic bags and a plan to let cancer treatment centers reject job applicants who smoke.

No pension legislation moved through the Illinois General Assembly during Friday's special legislative session.

Democrats pushed along a plan to cut pension benefits for  state elected politicians and no one else, but opponents -- including Representative Darlene Senger (R-Naperville) -- called the proposal disingenuous.

"I am not going to vote for this. I think it's a farce," said Senger.

"I think we're basically coming out and saying we're doing something and we're absolutely not, and it's a real disservice for those who live in this state."

Rich Egger

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn's office is touting a one-page analysis claiming higher education will suffer if lawmakers fail to address Illinois' pension problem.

In the so-called study, Quinn's budget office estimates that state funding of higher education will steadily decline over the next five years.

The projections show more money would be needed to pay for university and community college employees' pensions, which would leave less for schools and scholarships for needy students.

Illinois lawmakers worked 90 minutes overtime to complete work on the new state budget. But they still have not addressed concerns with the state's pension system.

The Budget

The  Democratic budget imposes cuts throughout state government. But Republicans say the high spending levels mean the temporary income tax increase will have to be made permanent.

Democrats were attacked from within, too.

Democratic Senator Kimberly Lightford railed against what she said is too little money for higher education.

More than 1,000 child care providers, home health care workers and others opposed to human service funding cuts rallied in Springfield on May 15.

 One of the protesters is Faith Arnold, who is a childcare provider. She said 95% of the families she serves rely on state subsidies. She said uncertainty over state money is having an impact on those who run child care operations.

State Senator John Sullivan (D-Rushville) says everything is on the table when it comes reforming Medicaid in Illinois.

Governor Pat Quinn proposed a $2.7-billion dollar cut to the program in his budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. 

Sullivan told a crowd of 50 during a town hall meeting in Hamilton that some savings can be found through the scaling back of programs and the elimination of waste and fraud.

Illinois legislators face more bad budget news. 

A report from Chicago's Civic Federation said the massive backlog of unpaid bills is about to get much worse.

Illinois is expected to owe more than $9 billion by this summer. The figure is expected to continue rising and could hit nearly $35 billion within five years.

Civic Federation president Laurence Msall said the state must  act quickly.

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