Budget
This week House Appropriations Committees continued to take testimony on the Governor’s proposed budget. More than 30 of the Governor’s funding proposals for agencies have been heard in committees with testimony from the agency directors.  The hearing process will take two or three more weeks before legislation emerges on these proposals.

Meanwhile, discussions are also continuing on the so-called “Grand Bargain” budget bills in the Senate, but there was no floor action in recent weeks on bills that comprise the plan. So far, about half of the bills involved have been passed. All of the bills in this package would need to be passed and signed into law for any of them to become effective.

In addition, the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) this week added a new challenge into the mix, reporting that revenues are currently falling short of projections by approximately $800 million.

New Proposal for Cost-Saving Pension Reforms
With our growing budget challenges in mind, House Republicans today introduced a comprehensive pension reform proposal consistent with the “Grand Bargain” measures in the Illinois Senate. The new proposal is estimated to provide taxpayer savings of approximately $2.25 billion that would help us achieve a balanced budget while also saving our struggling pension systems.  I hope Speaker Madigan will help us move this important discussion forward.

There’s no question that with $130 billion in unfunded pension liabilities and billions in annual costs, the current pension systems are unsustainable. Components of our reform proposal include:
• Senate President John Cullerton’s “consideration model” that would require a choice between receiving an annual 3% COLA or having future raises counted as pensionable. This concept previously received union support by the We Are One Coalition
• Closes new member participation in GARS
• Offers Tier 1 TRS, SURS, SERS and GARS employees the option to participate in a defined contribution (DC) plan
• Creates a voluntary Tier 3 Hybrid defined benefit/defined contribution plan for new Tier 2 employees under TRS, SURS, and certain SERS members who do not participate in Social Security

We have gone far too long without a balanced budget. Now is the time to take action to reform our pension systems, break the budget impasse and pass a truly balanced budget for the people of Illinois.
State Representative Dan Brady has won unanimous House approval of legislation aimed at easing our state’s nursing shortage. House Bill 3490, now awaiting consideration in the Senate, would expand school options for scholarship recipients pursuing graduate degrees in nursing in Illinois.

“Our Nursing Education Scholarship Program was established to remove financial barriers to help increase the number of students training to be nurses in Illinois. The problem is that current law only provides scholarship students with 6 eligible nursing schools to choose from. That’s a problem we’re fixing with this legislation,” said Representative Brady (R-Normal).