* It ain’t over ’til it’s over, but things appear to be humming right along. Even so, nobody wants to start talking about the end quite yet…
(L)egislators tackled some huge problems and seem to be on track to wrap up by Thursday, the last scheduled day of session. But no one will tempt fate by predicting a smooth finish.
“That’s when the wheels go flying off,” warned Rep. Joe Lyons, D-Chicago.
* The budget is a fairly sizable hurdle…
The House’s schools plan would cut how much state money suburban schools get by nearly 4 percent. Suburban schools typically rely on state money less than less-wealthy downstate schools, and the House budget would leave alone money for buses — an issue that local officials have focused on in particular in recent years.
But the Senate plan doesn’t cut schools at all, meaning the two sides will either have to compromise soon or pick one plan.
And at least some suburban lawmakers could foresee missing the deadline, a move that would make Republicans more relevant in a legislature dominated by Democrats because budget plans would require more votes for approval. […]
The Senate didn’t meet Saturday, and House lawmakers don’t believe they’ll be bowing to the Senate’s budget plan, which generally doesn’t cut spending as far.
“They’re going to have to come down,” said state Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat. “We cannot, because of our own rules, spend more than what the revenue estimates are. So they’re going to have to come down, there’s no other way around it. I hate to say there is no compromise, but that is a fact.”
* Even the grouchy curmudgeons at the Tribune seem fairly pleased. But they’re not happy with everything…
Our concern here is that some lawmakers are more determined to impress voters — See? We saved the day! — than to salvage the nation’s worst-funded pension system. Once more, with feeling:
The only enduring solution to Illinois’ pension debacle is … an enduring solution to Illinois’ pension debacle. That means rolling all employee groups into a legislative package. We’re focused on that because some timid legislators would rather pass reforms affecting some employees today, but leave, say, teachers, police and firefighters for another day — which may never arrive.
Not good enough, lawmakers. You’ve come a long way since the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago presciently warned in 2006 that pension and health costs were driving Illinois toward “financial implosion.” If you leave Illinois pension protocols unreformed, every voter — and every rating agency — will see through your little charade. Settle on fixes that begin to solve the problem right now and keep it from ever recurring.
Maybe an editorial board member ought to run for the General Assembly so the rest of the board can be informed that waving a magic wand does not pass legislation. There are no magic wands.
* Record tax hike isn’t fixing Illinois’ problems: Quinn aides are quick to note that Democrats alone didn’t create the pension problem. They point to a 1995 pension law passed under Republican Gov. Jim Edgar. Billed as a way to stabilize the pension system and get it 90 percent funded by 2045, the law backloaded pension payments so that they were minimal in early years but increased over time.
* What’s been done? What’s yet to come?
* Illinois House panel votes to cut education funding by 4 percent
* House committee votes cuts in general state aid to schools
* S. Illinois lawmakers hopeful about Tamms prison funding
* Tinley mental health center closing plan needs more funds, advocates say
* Closer Look: Illinois lawmakers near finish line
* State’s legislators are moving in right direction
* Editorial: Legislators must reform Medicaid, pensions, pass a budget
* Our Opinion: A sense of urgency at the Capitol
* State Considers Tax Break To Video Game Industry: Illinois lawmakers are talking about spending cuts. But they’re also advancing a tax break for one industry. Video games are a huge business. So much that 20 different institutions in Illinois offer classes that teach how to design them. But few jobs are available in this state. Senator Toi Hutchinson, a Democrat from Olympia Fields, is pushing a tax credit for video game companies that set up shop in Illinois… Actually, about 15 states have them. Hutchinson points out Electronic Arts, one of the biggest game makers, left the Chicago area in 2008. She says her plan won’t cost taxpayers, as the credit only would apply once the number of employees goes above a certain level. But not everyone agrees with it. Some Republicans say the state should consider breaks for small businesses, including a roll back of the state’s income tax.
* Medicaid cuts threaten nursing home reforms, advocates say
* Thousands will feel pinch of Illinois’ Medicaid cuts
* Medicaid: Cuts Now, Some Revenue Soon?
* Lenders: High rates key to payday loan business
* Point: Gambling expansion bill is based on ‘supply and demand’
* Counterpoint: Gambling expansion bill is a continuation of failed policies
* Editorial: Put the skids on massive gambling expansion
* Beloit, Rockford casino supporters push ahead
* Word on the Street: Gaming laws catch officials unaware