According to the ruling, Benn stated that Illinois “is in violation of the clear language of the relevant Cost Savings Agreements.” Benn’s ruling also contradicted statements by Governor Quinn, who has contended he was not appropriated the funding necessary to keep the facilities operating. Benn noted: “The state made contractual promises not to lay off employees represented by the union and to not close facilities prior to July 1, 2012. The state simply must keep those contractual promises. A party is not excused from previous contractual obligations by claiming that it presently can no longer afford to meet its obligations.”
The Governor’s office announced plans to seek to stay and vacate the arbitrator’s decision, while pursuing the matter in the court system. Despite the arbitrator’s decision, the state is moving forward with public hearings on the proposed closings at the following facilities: Chester Mental Health Center and Murphysboro Youth Correctional Center on October 12; Mabley Developmental Center in Dixon on October 17; Jacksonville Developmental Center on October 24; and Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln on October 26.
REVENUE FORECAST SUNNY, BUT STORMS POSSIBLE
Though state revenues grow, the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) cautions "clouds on the horizon." A monthly briefing issued by COGFA highlighted gains in state revenue during September, but cautioned the state’s economic outlook may not be so promising.
According to COGFA, revenues increased in September by $350 million, even though it was a poor month for federal reimbursements. Due to the Democrats’ January tax hike, personal and corporate income taxes increased over last year’s returns. The report also noted the sales tax is performing well, despite economic indicators cautioning consumer weakness.
However, COGFA revenue manager Jim Muschinske cautioned in his report that “[T]he forward view of revenues should be tempered with the realization that some clouds on the horizon will serve to stymie a repeat of similar growth.” Muschinske noted that the state will not enjoy the revenue boost from last year’s tax amnesty program.
Additionally, the report also cautioned that high unemployment, coupled with “the current economic ‘soft patch’” would impact future revenue performance. Muschinske said that “Looking ahead, continued economic malaise would jeopardize even modest revenues expectations well into FY 2013.”
PENSION SHENANIGANS AND LEGISLATIVE REACTION
A bill has been filed that will help give more accountability to taxpayers by reconstituting the City of Chicago and Cook County pension boards. House Bill 3827 will also require pension boards statewide to refer any suspected fraud to the local authorities.
In recent weeks, the Chicago Tribune and WGN TV have reported numerous pension abuses, including when the Chicago Municipal Employees’ Pension Fund allowed four members of the fund to keep their pensions after they falsified documents regarding pension eligibility. These abuses unveiled by the media were not reported to the proper authorities for investigation or punishment.
House Bill 3827 would mandate any board member or employee of any retirement system or pension fund created under the Pension Code or the Illinois State Board of Investment, who has reasonable suspicion to believe that fraud is being committed or has been committed, to either notify the board or the State’s Attorney of the county having jurisdiction of the alleged fraudulent activity. Additionally, if a board, fund member or employee fails to report apparent fraud, he or she can be held liable for repaying any losses to the fund that occurred as a result of the breach, and/or be removed from his or her position.
The measure also creates a fresh start with regard to the city and county pension fund boards. The numerous boards of the City of Chicago Pension Funds will be standardized and have seven members. All current board members’ terms will expire and going forward the board will consist of four Mayoral appointees who are not members of the fund or elected officials, two elected active members and one elected annuitant member.
The board of the Cook County Pension Fund will also be reconstituted. The new board will be made up of nine members, including five appointees of the County President who are not members of the fund or elected officials, along with two elected active members and two annuitant members.
The scandals associated with the boards of the State Pension Systems during ousted Governor Rod Blagojevich’s tenure prompted the General Assembly to enact similar reforms in 2009. Public Act 96-6 reconstituted the boards of the State Pension System by giving the Governor more appointments and allowing the current appointments to expire.
The legislative sponsors plan to move legislation during the upcoming veto session, as well as House Bill 3813, which was filed last month. HB 3813 will repeal a portion of a law passed in 1991 that allowed city employees to retire with a city pension that was based on their much higher union salary. HB 3813 will only allow union officials to accept a city pension based on their city salary when they left service.
The McLean County Adult Drug Court and Recovery Court is the beneficiary of a substantial federal grant to develop an intensive system that will help justice-involved adults in our legal system.
Programs like these better prepare those individuals with mental health disorders and substance abuse problems avoid incarceration or other avenues. Sometimes our legal system needs flexibility and a one-size approach can not always be applied to all cases. The Drug and Recovery Court can serve to help the community and save taxpayers money in the long-run by keeping offenders out of the Illinois Department of Corrections
“Kudos” to the McLean County Courts and keep up the good work!