COGFA RULES TO KEEP LOGAN CORRECTIONAL CENTER OPEN
The state Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) acted appropriately by ruling against Gov. Pat Quinn’s plan to close Logan Correctional Center.
COGFA voted 9-2 on November 10 to keep Logan Correctional Center open.
With its ruling, COGFA clearly indicated, as they appropriately should, that this facility and the other six facilities on the list need to stay open for public safety reasons. It proved that the Governor is ill-advised to threaten to close this facility.
The COGFA ruling is non-binding, but it is a step in the right direction. Governors in the past have honored COGFA rulings. I hope this Governor will do the same. I am going to do everything I can to make sure we keep it open because it is the right thing to do.
LAWMAKERS SLATED TO RETURN TO SPRINGFIELD NOVEMBER 29
Lawmakers finished up the last week of the fall veto session November 10, but legislators have to return to Springfield November 29 to address outstanding issues relating to the state’s budget and business incentives.
The General Assembly was unable to come to any agreements during the week regarding a jobs and tax relief package being floated to retain several major Illinois employers, including the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) and Sears. The package could include other measures aimed at helping all Illinois businesses.
Negotiations on an incentive package stalled as Governor Pat Quinn demanded a costly expansion of grants for low-income residents, and the long-term costs associated with the legislation grew into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
The state’s budget constraints make it incredibly difficult to offer costly incentives to businesses, though lawmakers and state leaders agree that it’s important that CME and other businesses remain in the state. Many lawmakers also cited fears that bowing to demands for incentives would set a precedent for many other businesses to ask for the same concessions.
Illinois should enact policies that are friendly for all businesses instead of continuing to impose taxes and regulations that burden and hinder growth. CME has candidly criticized the Democrat leaders’ January 2011 income tax hike as egregiously burdensome, saying the bad business policy prompted the company to actively pursue relocation out of Chicago unless lawmakers could provide economic motivation for the company to stay.
REVISED GAMING PACKAGE FAILS IN HOUSE
Also failing to meet lawmakers’ approval was a revised gaming package.
Though House lawmakers considered a scaled-down gaming measure during the week, the bill didn’t receive the support needed to advance.
At this time the future of a large-scale gaming expansion in Illinois is uncertain.
LEGISLATION RESTORES UNEMPLOYMENT TRUST FUND
Senate lawmakers did approve a measure to eventually restore to solvency the state’s Unemployment Insurance trust fund, which is on track to be more than $2 billion in debt by the end of 2011.
Unlike the state’s other financial challenges, the negative balance of Illinois’ unemployment insurance fund is the direct result of the economic downturn that forced employers to reduce their workforce. The increase in people drawing unemployment has bankrupted the trust fund. Lawmakers joined business and labor representatives to negotiate Senate Bill 72, which outlines a plan to restore the Unemployment Insurance trust fund to solvency.
Without the legislation, employers would have faced new federal penalties and higher costs. If signed into law, this legislation will save Illinois employers about $400 million and prevent the state from having to pay $240 million in interest payments to the federal government.
Almost half of all Illinois employers will see a reduction in payments under the plan. The legislation also includes reforms that will allow the state to recoup improper unemployment insurance payments, and pursue those who abuse the system. It also includes incentives that will encourage both business and labor to return to the bargaining table in the future to assure continued solvency of the fund.
TARGETING PENSION ABUSES
The Senate also passed two measures to address abuses of some state and Chicago public pension funds.
One of the measures, House Bill 3815, drew criticism as a weaker reform of “union perks” in law, which allows union staffers to collect public pension benefits based on their union work. House Bill 3815 would only close the perks for most new hires, while current government employees who may work for a union in the future, and current union staffers who are members of public pension systems, would not be affected.
I preferred House Bill 3813, an alternative measure that advanced more stringent pension reforms and would put a stop to abuses, such as a lobbyist who served as a substitute teacher for one day to qualify for a public pension.
CHANGES TO MCCORMICK PLACE WORK RULES ADVANCE
Also during the week, reforms to work rules at Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center and exhibition facility were advanced by the Senate Executive Committee.
Senate Bill 1992 address labor union concerns associated with a 2010 law that sought to ease stringent labor rules at McCormick Place, after high labor costs encouraged several conventions to leave Illinois for more cost-effective locations. Labor unions protested the initial reforms, arguing the law interfered with the negotiating rights of private-sector employees.
Lawmakers, the Governor and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel worked with labor unions to negotiate a compromise settlement that satisfies the legal concerns surrounding the current work rules. The legislation would codify that agreement into law.