Despite hopes that the final days of the 97th General Assembly might bring resolution to several critical social and fiscal issues, it ended on Jan. 8 without debate or votes. Many expected the legislature, with so many members ending their service, would act on controversial issues.
In addition, efforts to pass supplemental funding for such programs as mental health, human services, education and capital projects failed to garner enough support for action. The body seemed tired and responded to a lack of strong direction from legislative leaders.
As if to defend the productivity of the 97th General Assembly, Speaker Mike Madigan recalled major legislation that did pass in the last two years during his inauguration speech. He recalled the budget appropriation that was balanced for the second year in a row, workman compensation changes intended to lower costs to employers and Medicaid reforms intended to reduce spending, although many reforms are yet to be implemented.
Pension reform stalls again
Because no pension solution was passed during the lame duck session, the state’s bond rating has been lowered by one rating service which is expected to raise the cost of borrowing money for every unit of government.
There are many solutions being proposed that garner a lot of support. The annual pension costs must be paid each year and if not, employees should be able to find relief in the courts. Increased state funding could come by redirecting $2.7 billion in annual bond payments to the pension accounts as those bonds mature.
With everyone at the table, I remain optimistic that a fair pension solution can be found and passed during the spring session.
Bob Pritchard, R-Hinckley, is the state representative for the 70th Legislative District, which includes most of DeKalb County. He can be reached in DeKalb at 815-748-3494, or online through his website, www.pritchardstaterep.com.