There is simply no bigger problem facing our state than the enormous, catastrophically growing debt in our state workers’ pension funds.
As Chair of the House Personnel and Pensions Committee, I’ve worked nonstop to understand the problem, define answers, and build support for a long-term solution. Most recently, I worked closely with my pension partner in the Senate, Senator Daniel Biss, to create a comprehensive reform bill. Although this bill was not called for a vote in last session, I believe we are close to a solution. This is a problem that is decades in the making and now we’re trying to make the hard choices to get it fixed in a much shorter timeframe. Until then, I’ll keep working to educate my colleagues on why we should support pension reform that:
• Restores certainty that workers’ hard-earned retirement is safe and secure
• Ends lavish pensions for legislators and others that are out of line with Illinoisans’ expectations
• Ensures government at the state and local levels and employees are paying their fair share to support a realistic, sustainable pension system
• Provides relief from the budget pressures now forcing us to fund pensions over spending in critical areas such as education, health care and human services.
This document contains the actuarial analysis of the bill proposed
Our state budget has been too much of a problem for far too long. In 2010, a group of legislators and I worked to put real, meaningful budget cuts on the table for the first time affecting education, health care, state employee salaries and mileage reimbursements. Since then, the General Assembly has made billions of dollars more in cuts in the areas that really matter while maintaining our spending priorities and streamlining waste and inefficiency.
I’ve supported unpopular facility closures, both to save money and to provide the services in a more effective way in the community. And I’m continuing to push for streamlined models for how we deliver our services. Just as the private and nonprofit sectors have done, it is imperative to do more with less and ensure that what money the State is spending has a very effective, efficient and measurable outcome. There’s much more work to do, but pleased that the budget passed the last two years has been balanced.
Another massive problem facing our state is Medicaid. Last year, legislators from both sides of the aisle took the first meaningful step to reducing expenses in this state health insurance program. Through a combination of targeted spending cuts and an increase in the cigarette tax that will lower health care costs by discouraging smoking, the legislature and the governor produced $2.7 billion in savings in this $14 billion program.
Our work is not done. We will need to be vigilant to keep expenses manageable going forward and that will become even more important as more people join the rolls when federal health care reform takes effect in the next couple of years. But with vigilant stewardship, we will produce a stronger Medicaid program that provides the coverage that is so important to those who need it in our district and our state while ending waste and holding accountable the health care providers and insurers for taking care of these needs at a reasonable cost.
One of the top priorities in Illinois needs to be education if we want to strongly embrace our future success. I have fought year after year for appropriate funding for suburban schools including increased funding for early childhood education.
With the new approach to balancing the budget, adopted in the House, I am hopeful that funding reforms for education will take place sooner rather than later. In the reform debate, we need a data-driven approach where we examine why schools are successful and why they are not, and steer resources to meet the dire needs. My colleagues and I must also lead from Springfield by embracing the differences in education in our diverse state, rather than forcing bureaucratic mandates that squander our success stories.
I recently served on the House Bipartisan Jobs Creation Task Force, where we looked closely at our job losses and how we can turn that around. It starts with infrastructure. Illinois has phenomenal assets and we are uniquely positioned to take advantage of them. I support efforts to increase our rail capacity in Chicagoland through more state and federal investment. Every dollar we put into better rails, roads, bridges and transit is a dollar that creates jobs, supports jobs and reinvests in our future.
Too often, Illinois has been embarrassed by the state officials in Springfield. I’m more resolved than ever to fighting our way to a new reputation of clean, honest and transparent government. That includes:
• Pushing to eliminate a suburban Cook County education office plagued by ethical lapses and lack of performance
• Spearheading budget reforms that end waste and force more sunshine on what’s being spent and why
• Pushing back at political cronies by fighting to eliminate sweetheart deals and special favors for campaign contributors and requiring lowest bidders receive state contracts
• Supporting campaign contribution limits and creating incentives for candidates to control spending
• Advocating to finally end a legislative scholarship program plagued by accusations of favoritism and political shenanigans