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Sweating the little stuff

Monday, Jan 31, 2011

* The Pantagraph editorializes in favor of small budget cuts like this one

Meanwhile, the idea of going from two license plates to one, another action that should be easy, is met with hemming and hawing.

When this issue has been raised previously, law enforcement officials have objected because having two plates increases the opportunity for identifying a car that’s been stolen or involved in a crime or accident.

But many other states — including our neighbors in Indiana, Michigan and Kentucky — get along fine with just a rear plate.

The savings are limited — an estimated $800,000 a year. But we have to get away from this mindset that if “only” a little under $1 million is saved, the action is unworthy of attention.

* But the SJ-R is quite upset with one of those small budget cuts

Now we learn that the Illinois Department of Agriculture, without consulting city tourism officials, canceled one of the biggest potential tourism events of 2012 and 2013: the National High School Finals Rodeo.

The reason? Ag officials say the state can no longer afford the $1 million annual cost of hosting the event.

Keep in mind, this is an event that brings thousands of people — spectators, competitors and their families — to Springfield for a long stay. Long enough to generate an estimated $8 million for the local economy, most of which goes back to the state in sales tax.

We’re baffled at the logic behind the decision, but we’re especially annoyed that it appears to have been made without any consultation with local officials outside of state government. The ag department owes an explanation to Springfield on that communication gaffe.

* Doug Finke is unimpressed with the fury

Well, gee, you’d think [the Illinois Department of Agriculture] would be praised for what it did. The mantra we’ve heard for months, if not years, is that state government must cut spending. Spending’s out of control, we’ve got to cut.

So ag cut. That’s what people have been clamoring for, right? The department’s allotment of state money (it also doles out a lot of federal funds) is down 30 percent since 2007. Something had to go. It was the rodeo.

That’s the thing about cuts. Someone or something somewhere is going to be affected by them. That’s not to say the state shouldn’t make cuts in spending, but when it does, it’s going to have an impact. This time it’s in Springfield. The next time it could be Peoria or Rockford or wherever. We’ll have to see how popular cuts will be when they start hitting home.


* If people are getting so riled up about budgetary peanuts, you can imagine the firestorm which will be created by this next topic

Illinois lawmakers and Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration plan to make another attempt to get state retirees to pay more for their health care during this legislative session.

The legislature’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability will meet Wednesday to talk with two Quinn administration officials about how the state can craft an income-based formula for how much retirees will have to pay. Also on the commission’s agenda is approval of a request-for-proposal to study the best way to implement the new charges. […]

There are five cost tiers for current employees’ health care premiums based on their income, Schoenberg said. The top tier, for those making more than $74,901, costs $59 a month for those employees in managed care and $84 a month for those employees in the state’s preferred-provider plan.

The average retiree/survivor’s premium is just $10.22 per month. But here’s what the plans cost the state…

Managed Care / Quality Care Health Plan

Medicare retiree $294.55 / $332.47

Non-Medicare retiree $791.08 / $964.10

One Non-Medicare dependent $450.16 / $722.39

One Medicare dependent $299.35 / $344.52

Two or more dependents $773.85 / $978.19

Two-thirds are enrolled in the higher priced plan. The average retiree income is about $31K a year. But average household income is $78K a year. Click here for more detailed info.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - wordslinger - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 9:47 am:

    The cost of and access to healthcare is going to dominate domestic politics for at least the next 20 years.

    It ain’t getting any cheaper, the Boomers are hitting the age where they need more of it, and everyone wants all they can get, one way or the other, no matter the cost.

    Last year’s debate and bill were just the beginning.

  2. - He Makes Ryan Look Like a Saint - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 9:50 am:

    Keep in mind the General Assembly Retirees get free health care after 8 years of service, but state employees (SERS) must work 20 years for that. I am not saying that the retires should pay a portion, but I think ALL Retirement systems should follow the same rule in regards to health care.

  3. - Question? - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 9:59 am:

    example state House/Senator.

    Part time job $90,000.00 per year
    Other job 100,000.00 per year

    Retire after 4 years, but serves 20 years = Full health care coverage. 85% OF PART TIME JOB WAGES.

    New job (lobbiest or (”screw taxpayer) 200,000 per year

    New salary $300,000.00
    100,000 and full health care coverage
    Paid for by the taxpayers.

    I know my numbers are probably off, but you get the idea.
    So, let’s hope whatever they reform that they look at the whole package… No one gets a free pass.

  4. - jerry 101 - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 10:03 am:

    So, the SJR thinks that the taxpayers of Illinois should spend $1 million to bring an event to Springfield that generates a return to the taxpayers of Illinois of about $500,000 (6.25% of $8 million)? And the SJR can’t figure out why Ag decided to cut funding for this program?

    If it’s such a great deal, then why doesn’t the City of Springfield foot the bill?

    Everybody loves spending cuts, until they find out what spending cuts actually mean…

  5. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 10:06 am:

    Question, the difference is there are 300 retired legislators with health benefits. There are almost 51,000 SERS participants with health benefits.

  6. - ANAL - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 10:06 am:

    Most retirees have additional health care costs that are not factored into these discussions: dependent coverage; significant prescription drug co-pays for chronic conditions w/very significant deductibles; and dental for self and dependents often above the annual deductible; all medical encounter co-pays. It should not just be about retiree income (which in most cases is 2/3 of final salary). What is the real life experience of the individuals and families? What will that pension buy today, especially if there is no additional income? Will an additional premium cause retirees to re-enter the workforce to cover that cost?

  7. - Question? - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 10:08 am:

    Rich - Shouldn’t the same rules apply to them?
    After all, they are the ones who have not funded the pension plan.

  8. - thechampaignlife - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 10:19 am:

    Yes, all benefits should be the same regardless of employee classification. Premiums paid by the employee should be a percentage of the total premium and much higher than they currently are, perhaps a 50/50 split. Retirees should have to pay the entire premium, at least for those making more than the median family income. They should be just happy to have the opportunity to participate in a risk pool that doesn’t charge higher premiums based on the individual’s situation (age, health, etc). I can’t imagine many other organizations fund so much of their former employees’ lifestyle as the state does. They should be saving more anyway and have Medicare and Medicaid to fall on as a last resort.

  9. - so... - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 10:25 am:

    Can anyone give me a reason why the State shouldn’t either do away with the fee-for-service plan (Quality Care Health Plan) and move everyone into managed care, or make people on QCHP pay the difference out of their own pockets?

    I’m not shocked at all that most retirees are enrolled in the more expensive plan, people generally don’t look at cost when it’s free.

    Just by making that one change I’m betting we could save at least $100 million a year. That ain’t peanuts.

  10. - Amuzing Myself - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 10:30 am:

    To those jabbing supporters of the Rodeo funding - most would be OK with this cut as long as other cuts fall proportionally on other areas of the state - say Chicago? Don’t know how much state funding they get for any of their events, but I suspect there’s quite a bit aimed at “tourism” in the City of Chicago.

    Let’s just be fair (no pun intended) about yanking revenue-generating events statewide. BTW, If the IL State Fair is open this year in either Springfield OR DuQuoin, we’ll know the Dept’s reason for canceling the rodeo is complete BS. Those events lose hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars EVERY year.

  11. - Sen. Jeff Schoenberg - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 10:39 am:

    - Question? @ 10:08a.

    Agree with you that this should indeed apply to everyone: lawmakers, retired governors and other former constitutional officers, judiciary, agency directors and other exec-level spots, too. And let’s not forget about those school supts. we read about in this weekend’s Trib, whose school districts bestowed upon them generous pensions here and who’ve moved out-of state and don’t pay anything toward their health insurance.

  12. - Mr Ethics - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 10:42 am:

    If a retiree moves from IL, you can only be in QCHP. Also, the rodeo last held in springfierld in 07 filled every motel room in town, and those people had to eat. The tax may not cover the event but all that $8 millin made its way into the pockets of local estalishments. Dumb idea to cancel this event.

  13. - Cindy Lou - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 10:44 am:

    The majority of retirees use QC with the typical frontliner use managed care.

    I have no problem with retirees paying on a sliding scale within reason. Spouses and dependents of retirees now currently pay the same premium as current worker spouses/dependents ( which is as it should be)… there is a difference in that premium if the spouse of retiree is medicare age.

    I also have no problem with early retirees, especially those living out of state who are accessing QC, being asked to have to pay an even bigger share. There is little to control cost in that situation vs a resident remaining in state and accessing an HMO. I’m sure my union does not agree with my opinion…but QC and the non-ability to control the cost should be an actual consideration when retiree picks their residence and plan rather than whining over what the premium is.

  14. - wordslinger - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 10:57 am:

    –According to the SJR, the House canceled this week’s session because of the weather–

    What is this, Washington, DC? It hasn’t started snowing yet!

    The 24-hour-news weather hysteria has started already.

    How many Storms of the Century can you have in the same year, anyway? Wasn’t that “wind-storm” in the fall a Storm of the Century? Didn’t we have one in the summer, too, when parts of the expressway were closed by flooding?

  15. - Deep South - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 11:01 am:

    The century is only 11 years old. It’s easy to be “the storm of the century” in 2011 But your point is well taken.

  16. - Retired Teacher - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 11:11 am:

    Just so everyone understands that retired teachers pay $434.21 mionthly for the PPO in our retired health plan and each dependent is $868.41 monthly. If you’re 65 or older without social security the figures are $653.03 for the retired teacher and #1,306.04 MONTHLY per dependent! I don’t see those figures coming out from elected officials or the Tribune!

  17. - Newsclown - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 11:30 am:

    The rodeo funding should come out of DCEO tourism promotion funding, if the state is going to support it. It is outside of the ag department’s main business, which is regulating and promoting agriculture. In that context, ag funding the state fair makes perfect sense, but the rodeo is a travelling entertainment event, not unlike those wrestlemania tours.

  18. - piling on - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 11:32 am:

    Mr. Ethics,
    So you’d prefer what, cutting education to balance the budget so Springfield businesses can continue to profit off a state taxpayer subsidized rodeo event that isn’t breaking even for the state?

    If Springfield profits that much from it, it should be easy for the local businesses to get together and come up with the $1 million themselves.

    Does the state subsidize the Elvis impersonator competition? It brings in people from all over the country? How about the horseshoe world championships?

  19. - thechampaignlife - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 11:38 am:

    Just so I’m understanding this, an accountability commission wants to outsource legislative decision-making to some for-profit company so that the commission is not held accountable for the unpleasant results? Because surely a dozen people sitting in a room could hammer out a proposal on premiums cost-sharing to be sent to the GA for them to muck up with pork and watered down language.

  20. - ispretired - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 11:42 am:

    I don’t have a big problem with paying for part of my heath care but your right, reps. and sents. get it free after 8 years , must be nice to make special rules for yourself. Income should be part of the pay but how about the number of years employed by the state. If your on less than 20 years then you pay 100% , at 20 you pay 50% and for each year or say 5 years less you pay.

  21. - ANAL - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 12:14 pm:

    Salary, pension and health benefits are part of the total compensation package. The amounts of each are generally what an employee considers when taking a job. The lack of benefits are a major consideration in setting a salary schedule. Adding unanticipated charges for health simply results in reduced value of the salary, which in the case of the average State retiree w/o Medicare could amount to $6,000-to-$7,000 per year, or a 10%-to-15% cut in salary. In effect, a 10%-to-15% income tax increase.

  22. - RDB - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 12:15 pm:

    The five cost tiers (59.00 – 84.00 /top tier) for current state employees health care premiums are based on their income from their “state” job only. Director Hamos letter states they have studied the “ household income” of those retired. This appears to discriminate against retirees as the “household income” of current state employees does not come into play when determining what cost tier they are in. In addition, the state has enrolled in the early retiree reinsurance program and will receive federal reimbursement dollars to help offset health care costs for early retirees.

  23. - How Ironic - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 12:21 pm:

    @ Amuzing Myself -10:30am

    Get a clue. The fairs are paid for out of a dedicated ‘State Fair Fund’ and the ‘DuQuoin State Fair Fund’. Granted the actual 10 day event might not generate enough revenue to pay for itself, but the year long activites on the fair grounds DOES pay for the State Fair (through fees paid to use the buildings and grounds). It isn’t paid for out of GRF, as was the Rodeo (to be paid for).

  24. - Christine Kaplan - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 12:37 pm:

    Canceling the rodeo without so much as talking to the city should be grounds enough for the AG director to be fired.

  25. - steve schnorf - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 12:38 pm:

    Retiree should pay a portion of their health care premium. One reasonable approach would be a percentage of the pension payment. That alone would graduate the payment. Their are probably other approaches that would work equally well or better.

    Don’t forget, it was only 15 years ago that all state retirees got free health care after just eight years of service.

  26. - piling on - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 12:39 pm:

    audits of state fairs:

  27. - DRB - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 12:39 pm:

    Regarding the rodeo, I think the main issue is that the state made this decision without contacting the city and county. Thus there was little to no chance for anyone else to come up with a way to keep the event going forward.

  28. - Anonymous - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 12:45 pm:

    As a state retiree, I am ready to pay a higher part of my income, unwelcome as it may be. Fairness must prevail though. Concurrent with such raises, put more effort into ensuring ALL government agencies are exercising maximum program intergrity. People don’t mind paying their fair share - they (I) hate seeing gross corruption prevail while politicians wink or turn a blind eye. Can’t someone lead in this state?

  29. - zatoichi - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 1:15 pm:

    It was only a couple of years ago that health insurance at my company was a $250 deductible and the employee’s part of the premium was under $80 per month. That same plan, in May 2010, costs over $1,000 and the employee portion was $330 a month. Dependent care started at $1,375 after the employer portion was paid. In 2011 that plan is no longer even offered.

    We had to change. Health insurance costs were simply going to be unaffordable. Now, to be affordable, the deductible is $3,500, cost is $650 a month, and employee portion of the cost is $160 per month. Employee costs for dependent coverage start at $800 a month and goes up. We are looking at a 30% increase by May 2011. I would love to provide better coverage. I also want to stay in business and provide jobs.

    State employees are paying under $80 a month and retirees at $10. And they are complaining? Time to pony up and pay the freight. Does not matter when you got hired. That cost structure is long gone. Of course the state could just give everyone a flat stipend and let them find their own insurance. Good luck with that. Isn’t this the state health plan where the medical groups ask for cash payment before services are started due to poor payment?

  30. - Peter Snarker - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 1:31 pm:

    On the rodeo thing - I dont get it - if it is such a big money maker for the area ($8M), then who cares if it is government supported to the tune of $1M?

    Why doesnt the local area biz, or whomever has a stake in the $8M, privately fund the rodeo?

    I am not passing judgment on the worth of the rodeo. I am even passing judgment on whether or not the government should be in the business of rodeos…

    … more pratically speaking, if there is $8M waiting to be scooped up by a local area, why dont local area businesses pro-rata fund it to the extent they gain from it?

    Serious question.

  31. - How Ironic - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 1:52 pm:

    @piling on-

    Again, the audit only shows that the 10 day fair doesn’t generate enough revenue itself to pay for the event. However, what your article DOESN’T show is the revenue generated YEAR ROUND on the fair grounds (ISF, or DuQuoin SF) through events that carry the fairs.

    The fairs do not get GRF funding, but rely on revenues generated during non-fair events to carry the main 10 day event.

  32. - McLean Farmboy - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 2:15 pm:

    The rodeo business is not all that surprising. IDOA has already been saving lots of money for several years now. There are buildings on the fairgrounds that have not been maintained for years. They saved enough money on maintaining the Jr Home Ec and dorm building that no one has been allowed in the upper floors for a number of years, and this year that building has been all but condemned.

  33. - BOB - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 2:27 pm:

    An employee of the state before he retires, considers his income. If he has enough income he can retire. The employee thought that they would receive a set amount, every month. Then Gov Quinn decides that they can now start charging the retiree for his health insurance. So put the burden of the states mistakes on the elderly,

  34. - Greg - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 4:24 pm:

    One license plate on the rear, Why not? I’ve always wanted one of those “Eat Mo Possum!” plates on the front of my truck like the hillbilly’s in Kentucky have!!!!!

  35. - Question? - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 5:12 pm:

    Thanks Senator Schoenberg. There is another issue you can look at to save a significant amount of money. Several thousand state employees can retire on last day of pay, while the others retire on the average last 4 years. This is causing some to retire at a very elevated pension, so maybe this can be fixed and reflect the same for (4 yr avg) everyone.

    Also, I just want to point out just because someone has a big title next to their name; it doesn’t mean their pay reflects it. The the pay scale in this state is way out of whack.

  36. - Budlong Woods - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 8:33 pm:

    We have an aging population, some of whom with chronic health conditions. The health care system, as it currently stands, can only raise costs. There are other models focusing on reducing health care costs by focusing on those who use it the most. Not by increasing their cost but by increasing their disease management, making sure they take their medicine, see the physician, take care of themselves. State retirees don’t pay a premium after 20 yrs of employment but do pay co-pays and face a continually shrinking drug formulary. There was a time not that long ago when our health insurance coverage was considered gold.

  37. - Me - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 8:46 pm:

    When I reired from a county, the county didn’t pay any of my health Insurance. It cost $1047.00 per month for my wife and I when I retired in 2002 with 28 years of service. After 1 yr it when to $1347.00 per month. I had to go back to work. So let state employees paid a share of the cost

  38. - Michelle Flaherty - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 9:48 pm:

    How about a forensic audit of the Rodeo subsidy before we just sign a million state taxpayer bucks over on the gold-plated word of the Springfield convention and visitor’s bureau?
    I mean a session worth of drinking with Miller probably has a $1 million economic impact but you don’t see him getting subsidized by the state … oh, wait. Not a good example.

  39. - 13th - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 10:20 pm:

    It should be the same for everyone in state government funded health insurance, including all elected and/or appointed positions. These are out of line compared to most Illinois citizens. But we all know that the Dems and Repubs will not do anything that might affects them, self serving, no leadership anywhere once they are elected :(

  40. - rdb - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 10:35 pm:

    Going back to the posted April 20, 2010, Group Insurance Contract approval meeting audio of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, it was noted (approx. 47 minutes into the meeting) that there is not a significant difference in cost (to the State) for Quality Care versus Managed Care Insurance

  41. - dupage dan - Tuesday, Feb 1, 11 @ 9:26 am:

    =We’ll have to see how popular cuts will be when they start hitting home.


    Might as well raise the white flag of surrender. We are doomed if you can’t even cut $1million from the budget without a conflagration. I believe the correct course of action would have been for the ag dept to have communicated better (doesn’t cost much) to all concerned so that alternative plans could have been made that may have avoided the cancellation. Or, we could just suck it up and deal with it. In my town, they cancelled the annual festival due to the high cost of producing same. Many people were understandably upset. Some folk got together, found a sponser for a smaller event and put same on. Not the same but a loss people can live with.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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* Simon considering state Senate bid
* Killer Congressman Tom MacArthur trying to...
* Shutdown? State may not notice
* Rep. Bob Dold

* Durbin Backs Duckworth - Alton Daily News...

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* Chinese Take Out
* "Mexican Food, Opening Soon"
* Tony at the Red Line Tap.
* The cover-up of the killing of Laquan McDonald.
* Keeping retirement weird. Justice is the public face of love.
* RLC Roundup: Drivers Aim Lawsuit At Tinley Park Red Light Cameras
* Dueling pair of children being used to fight for attention of Chicago, world
* No Positive Loitering Tonight
* Fairness.
* It brings out the rats.

* Emergency Management Officials, National Weather Service Encourage Winter Preparedness - November is Winter Weather Preparedness Month in Illinois
* Keep Your Family Safe This Winter - November through February are leading months for carbon monoxide related incidents
* Governor Takes Bill Action
* Illinois Department of Labor Director Hugo Chaviano Awards Governor’s Award for Contributions in Health and Safety to the Illinois Refining Division of Marathon Petroleum Company LP
* State Regulator Elected Treasurer of Interstate Medical Licensure Compact

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