Rep. Schmitz update
Illinois State Representative Tim Schmitz (R-Geneva) wrote the following after the House concluded the Spring legislative session last month:
The spring session of the General Assembly wrapped up just before midnight on May 31 as the Illinois House adjourned for the summer. Some major strides forward were made, especially in terms of the budget, as Republicans and Democrats worked together to reduce state spending for the first time in years and chart a course toward a truly balanced budget. Other efforts such as public pension reform were left unfinished, with more work to be done before a compromise can be reached.
I’d like to give you a thorough recap of this year’s session in Springfield. First, the new state budget: The budget we sent to the Governor is the first in years that actually forces the state to live within its means; and actually spends less than we did the year before ($400 million less than FY2011) and includes $4.2 billion to fully fund the mandated pension payment. It is never easy to make cuts, but the budgets we passed will keep state spending under our revenue estimate of $33.2 billion. This is the only way we’re ever going to get our bills paid, get our state finances back on track, and make the ‘temporary’ income tax increase temporary.
All spring, members of both sides of aisle worked together reviewing the budget line-by-line in committee and making the difficult decisions about where cuts could be made that would cause the least pain. We started by cutting pay raises and administrative costs wherever possible. The budget we passed spends nearly $2 billion less than the Governor’s proposed spending projection of $35.4 billion, which relied on higher taxes and billions in new borrowing.
House Speaker Michael Madigan and Republican Leader Tom Cross issued a joint statement at the end of session expressing bipartisan support to reform the way the state funds public employee pensions. A few of the points expressed in the letter and related committee hearings include the following: We are absolutely committed to reforming Illinois’ public pension system for current employees. It must be done to stabilize our systems and address long-term financial issues for both the public employee pension systems and state government.
We believe passage of legislation addressing this issue is essential to the state’s well being. It was made very clear this spring that both those who supported the pension reform bill and those who oppose it acknowledge we have a problem and something must be done. Our goal is to enact reforms to our pension systems that provide a long term solution for both those who are members of the pension systems and those who fund them.
We will convene meetings over the summer to address the issues and concerns that have been raised and work toward a solution in this year’s Fall Veto Session (scheduled to begin October 25). Right now, the State of Illinois spends more on pensions than we spend helping seniors, more than we spend on higher education, or public health and safety or to repair our roads & bridges. Clearly we must make some changes moving forward. We are committed to having teachers and state employees be an equal partner in these discussions as we mutually work toward a compromise in the coming months.
WORKERS COMP REFORM
The General Assembly approved a weakened workers compensation bill in the final hours of the spring session that falls far short of the need to enact meaningful reform to reduce the crushing cost to businesses of Illinois’ broken workers comp system. The most important reform we need is to ensure that injuries claimed under workers’ compensation actually occurred on the job or are predominately work related. While that would seem to be common sense, it’s not currently the law in Illinois, nor part of the legislation that passed on the final day of our spring session.
When Florida enacted a similar “causation” reform in 2003, workers’ compensation costs decreased by nearly 70%. That is the kind of true reform Illinois needs. ? If we are truly serious about improving our business climate and creating jobs, we need to enact true workers’ compensation reform, tort reform, regulatory reform, and tax relief.
GAMING EXPANSION MOVES FORWARD
The Illinois General Assembly gave approval to the largest expansion of gaming in Illinois history this spring, authorizing the creation of five additional casinos; one each in the City of Chicago, Rockford, Danville, Park City (near Waukegan) and one in the south suburbs. Under the bill, slots will be put at race tracks and gaming will also take place at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield.
Additionally, $10 million will be allocated annually to programs that serve people with gambling addiction. While this is a good provision, I voted no on the overall gaming expansion package because I believe that job creation and business growth would be a much more positive and stable source of revenue to the state than an over-reliance on gaming.
Once again, it seems Springfield’s priorities are in the wrong place. As of this writing, it remains unclear whether the Governor intends to sign the gaming expansion bill, SB 744, or whether he will veto specific provisions within it. There were many other areas of legislative activity this spring affecting a wide range of issues. If you have questions or are looking for information on a specific topic, please feel welcome to let me know. I can be reached at my District Office in Geneva at 630-845-9590 or via e-mail at email@example.com.