* Downstate and suburban Democrats are finding themselves on the defensive this campaign season over their Chicago leaders’ idea to shift employer pension costs to Downstate and suburban schools districts. Here’s one example from the Metro East…
The Illinois Senate’s Republican leader said Wednesday she suspects Democrats in January will try to use a lame-duck session of the legislature to shift the costs of downstate teachers’ pensions onto local school districts.
Such a shift would likely force local school districts to raise property taxes.
Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, said she suspects Illinoisans will get a “January surprise” on the pension cost-shift because it was during a lame-duck session in January 2011 when the Democrat-led legislature passed a temporary, 67 percent increase in the state income tax.
Radogno made the prediction during a campaign stop in Glen Carbon with Republican Senate candidate Mike Babcock of Bethalto.
But Babcock’s opponent in the 56th Senate District, Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, said there’s been no discussion of having a pension-reform vote during the lame-duck session. Even if there were, there just aren’t enough votes to pass such a shift, Haine said.
“The Republicans and Democrats downstate are united on a few things, and this is one of them. It’s a no-go,” Haine said.
* But Radogno insists that history could be repeating itself…
She and Babcock both said Haine voted for the tax increase during a lame-duck session after saying he would oppose such an increase.
Haine said he absolutely did not say he would vote against the measure, which eventually passed. He said he opposed a permanent income and sales tax increase but voted for a temporary tax increase of four years to avoid a statewide financial disaster. The tax hike will “sunset” in two years.
Haine said he opposed a permanent income tax increase bill, which also included several sales tax increases.
He said the temporary measure was the only way to save SIUE from closing its doors, to prevent nursing homes and hospitals from having to lay off employees and to keep school staffing intact.
“I find it odd that he (Babcock) is criticizing me for voting for a temporary tax increase that prevented teacher layoffs, but now he’s saying he’s opposed to a measure that he says could cause teacher layoffs,” Haine said.
If you’re explaining, you’re losing. Haine may not lose the election, but he could very well be losing this argument.