I’m thrilled to say that my bill HB303, amending the Illinois Freedom of Information Act to ban confidentiality agreements in severance agreements funded in part or in whole with taxpayer funds, has passed both chambers overwhelmingly. Runaway severance agreements have made the news in the last few years with scandals at Metra and the College of DuPage. Taxpayers should be entitled to see how and why their money is being spent. I will continue to fight for government transparency and accountability through legislation like this. Senator Althoff carried the bill through the Senate and it will soon be sent to the governor.
No deal has been made so the government remains in a partial shutdown. Instead of working to fix the unbalanced budget or avert a government shutdown, legislators have spent what few days we’ve been called down to Springfield listening to hours upon hours of testimony instead of substantive debate on the unbalanced budget and the governor’s issues. Last Thursday, Democrats pushed an unbalanced temporary budget that essentially took the 12-month problematic budget and cut it down to 1/12th. That bill, which expires August 1st, funds certain services at a level that is not sustainable over the course of the entire fiscal year while also ignoring other crucial services. The bill gained the needed 71 votes, but still needs to be approved by the Senate before it will be sent to the governor who has stated he will veto it.
The governor addressed reporters last Wednesday and said that he would be resubmitting his 5 ‘Turnaround Agenda’ proposals with some revisions based on debate in recent weeks. Proposals for independent 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 just a few reforms to change the way the state does business and to help expand the tax base before asking Illinoisans for another tax increase to fund the Democrat’s out of balance budget.
Governor Rauner also unveiled a new omnibus pension proposal last week that took input from Mayor Emanuel, Cook County Board President Preckwinkle, and Senate President Cullerton. The state of Illinois and the city of Chicago face crushing debt pension obligations and the Illinois Supreme Court ruled this year that the 2013 pension relief proposal was unconstitutional. The court ruled that public workers have an iron clad protection in the state constitution that prevents their pension benefits from being reduced. This year Illinois will put around $6.7 billion towards its pension obligations and around another $2.2 billion towards its debt, leaving significantly less money to be spent on state services.
Working around the state constitution, Rauner’s proposal includes President Cullerton’s idea to give public workers a choice between cost-of-living adjustment retirement increases or having future wage hikes count toward pensions. The bill would also give Illinois’ local governments a route to Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy following an evaluation by a third party or the declaration of a fiscal emergency and includes a much sought after city-owned Chicago casino with all of the revenues devoted. exclusively to shoring up Chicago police and fire pensions. Those pension systems are due payments of over $600 million dollars each next year.
On Monday June 29th the governor released a letter to all state employees that he would be pursuing any and all legal options to ensure that they get paid. His office will be looking to use the 2007 budget impasse as precedent to ensure they get paid in full and on time. Speaker Madigan and Attorney General Lisa Madigan are insisting that paychecks may be delayed if the government continues to be shutdown. Conflicting court opinions and appeals since then from Cook County and St Clair County where the issue is being debated have left the issue still in limbo. In the meantime, should it become necessary, the State Treasurer’s office and Credit Union 1 have announced that they will be offering no interest loans to state employees to get through the shutdown.
Many Republicans, including myself, have asked the State Comptroller to withhold our paychecks if state workers can’t get theirs. Thanks to a bill passed last year by the Democrat majority, legislator pay is classified as a continuing appropriation — a budget item that state law mandates be funded even in the event of a government shutdown. The bill puts compensating part-time legislators on par with the state’s big-ticket items such as debt and pension payments and retiree health benefits.
Blood banks often see a shortage during the summer so I’ll be hosting a blood drive on Thursday August 6th from 4:30-7:30pm in the parking lot of my office at 11032 W Lincoln Hwy in Frankfort. There will be free food and drinks plus health screenings and information. Come out and help save a life by donating just a little bit of blood and time.
Senior Tech Workshop
We live in an amazing age of technology where our phones have more computing power than the systems that took Neil Armstrong to the moon. Keeping up can be difficult, however, especially for older generations. So together with AT&T, we’re having a senior tech workshop where you can learn about smartphones, apps to help manage your health and prescriptions, and how you can utilize technology to help better keep in touch with loved ones. The event is on August 4th from 10-11am at the New Lenox Senior Housing Complex, 1090 S Cedar Road. Space is limited so please call (815) 277-2079 or email my office at email@example.com to register.