Gov. Pat Quinn has issued a direct challenge to lawmakers to approve pension legislation immediately. Attempts at overhaul on the nearly $100 billion in unfunded pension liability have failed repeatedly, though there are currently several bills pending. In his budget address, Quinn told lawmakers: "It's time for you to legislate."
Quinn says that the pension payment is squeezing other services and departments, including education. His budget calls for steep cuts of $400 million to education. State Representative Dan Brady, who represents a big chunk of Bloomington-Normal says so far not all of the pension systems are included in any of the proposals. He wants judges pensions included as well.
Judges have been left out of many reform proposals because it is likely they will be asked to consider the constitutionality of pension changes. Quinn proposed closing what he calls corporate tax loopholes and using a gain of $445 million to pay back bills the state owes. Brady says the income tax increase was supposed to be for that purpose. Quinn's budget is also $500 million more than the spending limit included in a House revenue estimate, meaning even Quinn's cuts may not be enough.
Quinn says even though the proposed budget makes tough cuts to education he's preserving a few areas, like early childhood education and some college scholarships. It also includes modest increases for Veterans nursing homes. Quinn also said there is more money for mental health services and new cadet classes for the Illinois State Police. Quinn says the budget is also focused on anti-violence strategies. He says those are a few bright spots in an otherwise bleak outlook for the state.
A leading teachers' union says Gov. Pat Quinn's budget address before lawmakers presented a ``false choice'' when it comes to schools and a pension overhaul. Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery says in a statement that teachers did not create the pension funding problem and shouldn't be blamed. He says students shouldn't suffer.
Senate President John Cullerton says lawmakers know they need to act on pension reform, but doing so is ``hard'' and complicated. Cullerton says he hopes to call his pension bill for a committee hearing next week. The bill would include a plan proposed by House Republican Leader Rep. Tom Cross and Democratic Rep. Elaine Nekritz. It calls for cuts to benefits and creating a 401K-style retirement plan for some public employees. Cullerton says the issue is complicated by a constitutional amendment that says the state cannot reduce benefits for public employees.
Quinn says he's going to issue an executive order later this week to eliminate 75 state boards and commissions that he says are redundant and whose elimination would save money.
Gov. Pat Quinn says that any state revenue from gambling should go toward education. But Quinn says any new gambling legislation must have ethical protections. Quinn has vetoed two gambling expansions that lawmakers have sent him. Both bills proposed nearly half a dozen new casinos in the state, including one in Chicago. Quinn is calling for a ban on contributions from the gambling industry, but lawmakers haven't been thrilled about it. he Senate's executive committee is scheduled to look at another possible gambling expansion.
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