Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to email@example.com
July 13, 2015
In This Issue:
Ø Budget Stare Down
Ø State Employee Pay Update
Ø Governor Submits Pension Proposal
Ø Legislation Limits College Executive Benefits
Ø Fair Season Get Underway
Ø Health Fair for Seniors Next Week
Ø Upcoming Coffee and Conversation
Budget Stare Down
The gridlock over passing a state budget continues to focus on reforms. The Speaker of the House refuses to talk about reforms before passing a budget while the Governor continues to hold fast to his belief that reforms will never happen once the budget is passed. Last Thursday, the House debated for several hours a Senate version of a one-month appropriation it had defeated the week before. This time, however, all 71 Democrat members were present and the bill passed along party-lines. The Governor said he will veto SB2040.
While I support getting a budget as quickly as possible and helping at least the most vulnerable, the leaders must be engaged in the discussion. There must be program reforms that reduce spending and improve operations, reforms that help employers compete and yes, new revenue. I strongly oppose just spending one month of a budget that is $4 billion out of balance. In addition the appropriation excluded a great number of important programs such as the Autism Project and domestic violence shelters in the Human Services area; court reporters as well as all of higher education to name a few things.
The governor addressed reporters last Wednesday saying that he was resubmitting his 5 ‘Turnaround Agenda’ proposals with some revisions based on debate in recent weeks. Proposals for independent redistricting maps and term limits were resubmitted in the same language as in May because those issues have not been addressed at all by the House. The governor continues to ask for reforms to change the way the state does business, make Illinois businesses more competitive with ones in other states, and to help expand the tax base.
State Employee Pay Update
A bill has been introduced to make state workers a part of the continuing appropriations just like judges and legislators. HB4245 which could quickly pay workers is held in the Rules Committee and the Speaker refuses to hold a debate on it. Meanwhile three courts have been asked to clear the air on the issue, but instead have muddied the water.
Two circuit courts at near opposite ends of the state have given opposing views about whether the Comptroller without a budget can pay workers. Due to the state's antiquated payroll systems, the Comptroller said she is unable to differentiate state employees in order to pay some the minimum wage as required by the federal Fair Labor Practices Act. An Appellate Court has stopped any action to pay workers until they study the matter, hopefully by July 20.
Governor Submits Pension Proposal
Governor Rauner unveiled a new omnibus pension proposal last week which took input from Chicago Mayor Emanuel, Cook County Board President Preckwinkle and Senate President Cullerton. They believe the proposal sidesteps the Illinois Constitution’s iron clad prohibition of diminishing public worker benefits.
The proposal includes President Cullerton’s idea from several years ago to give public workers a choice between keeping cost of living adjustments to retirement income or having future wage hikes count toward pensions. The bill would also give Illinois' local governments a route to Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy similar to Detroit, something they cannot do today. The unit of government must undergo an evaluation by a third party or issue a declaration of a fiscal emergency. Finally the proposal includes a much sought after city-owned Chicago casino with all of the revenues devoted exclusively to shoring up police and fire pensions.
Legislation Limits College Executive Benefits
A bill to limit the size and scope of community college severance agreements and buyout packages has passed both chambers and heads to the Governor. The bill (HB3593) also limits employment contracts for college executives to four years.
The issue came to light when it was revealed that College of DuPage trustees granted an egregious severance package of $763,000 to its retiring president. The college also allowed a practice of near automatic contract extensions with no board vote. A Senate Democratic Caucus investigative report into the matter discovered practices of questionable financial management and issues at other community colleges and universities as well.
The bill limits employment contracts with a set start and end date to no more than four years with no provision for any automatic rollover clauses. It also limits severance agreements to no more than one year salary and benefits. Long-term contracts have become expensive for taxpayers in instances where an employee is underperforming and a change is needed.
Most often our college trustees do a commendable job and are fiscally prudent. When exceptions occur that need to be addressed statewide, then legislation giving guidelines is appropriate.
Fair Season Gets Underway
County fairs are an important aspect of Illinois tradition and fun part of summer. Besides the tasty “fair” food and entertainment, you can encourage and celebrate the hard work and skills of our youth as they learn to care for animals and dozens of other projects.
I had the chance to speak with representatives from the local county fairs earlier this year in Springfield and they shared the significant economic and educational impacts of county fairs. It was a real burst of memory from my years in 4-H and showing projects at the county fair. Come to the fair and encourage our youth.
Health Fair for Seniors Next Week
The Senior Health Fair I organized 12 years ago has grown into a wonderful array of information, health screenings and opportunity to visit with nearly 70 health providers. State Senator Dave Syverson, the Family Services Agency and Voluntary Action Center will be joining me in hosting the Fair on Thursday July 23rd at DeKalb High School Cafeteria (501 W Dresser Road) from 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
Admission is free and so are refreshments and a number of health screenings. This is an excellent opportunity to learn about local, regional, and state service providers who can help improve wellness and make life more enjoyable. Professionals will be on hand to answer all of your questions.
Upcoming Coffee and Conversation
Circle Saturday July 25th at 10 a.m. on your calendar and plan to join me for the second of four planned Discussions Over Coffee. This one will be held in Campton Hills along with fellow Representative Keith Wheeler (R, North Aurora). Please stop by the Community Center, bring your neighbors and join us for a lively discussion of the current issues in Springfield and your concerns.
Have a wonderful week. I will be in Springfield on Wednesday ready to work on reforms and a balanced budget. Call the office if we can be of assistance or you want to share your comments.