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Democrats playing defense over cost shift

Friday, Sep 28, 2012

* 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.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

14 Comments
  1. - East Sider - Friday, Sep 28, 12 @ 12:04 pm:

    I live in the 56th Senate District. Haine has always seemed to be invincible, usually runs unopposed, masquerades as a conservative, etc. However, he seems to have worn out his welcome. For the first time since his 1988 Madison County States Attorney’s race, he’s out knocking on doors. He doesn’t appear to be in good health, and has difficulty walking sometimes, so you know that his campaign is getting desperate. He’s been sending out robocalls referring to Babcock as a “radical TEA Party candidate”, and it doesn’t seem to be working. Babcock was the first Republican elected as Wood River Township Supervisor in more than 100 years, and he has a spotless record so far on spending and taxes.

    Furthermore, Haine is flat out lying when he says that he “never said he wouldn’t vote for the tax increase.” He was the deciding vote for the tax hike, and he can’t run from it. However, if he loses, he can start collecting a lucrative state pension to go along with his Madison County pension that is paying him more $137,000 this year, so there is that consolation.


  2. - reformer - Friday, Sep 28, 12 @ 12:07 pm:

    Babcock is hardly the only Republican candidate who wants it both ways:

    * Criticizing spending cuts while demanding immediate repeal of the temporary tax hike.

    * Blaming Democrats for the downgrade of the state’s credit rating, while trying to immediately reduce state revenues by $7 billion (from the tax hike), which would surely ratchet down the credit rating ever farther.

    * Preaching accountability and fiscal responsibility while protecting school districts from responsibility for the pension consequences of salaries they approve.


  3. - Cincinnatus - Friday, Sep 28, 12 @ 12:37 pm:

    As part of the cost shift, will suburban and downstate school districts be given mandate relief and the ability to set their own contracts and obligations? Will suburban and downstate districts be allowed to decertify the unions? Will the disparity of money being given to Chicago be fairly distributed among all school districts?


  4. - Crime Fighter - Friday, Sep 28, 12 @ 12:39 pm:

    What reformer @ 12:07pm said.
    There are huge contradictions in the mantra of paying down debt, not paying for things (like schools, disaster cleanup, and wars), and the revenue reductions proposed by the GOP at both the state and national levels.


  5. - wordslinger - Friday, Sep 28, 12 @ 12:48 pm:

    Republicans and Democrats downstate are always in agreement on someone else picking up the check.


  6. - Rich Miller - Friday, Sep 28, 12 @ 12:58 pm:

    ===it doesn’t seem to be working===

    I dunno about that. I’d like to see your data. Mine shows something else.


  7. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Sep 28, 12 @ 1:05 pm:

    === Chicago leaders’ idea to shift employer pension costs to Downstate and suburban schools districts ===

    Therein lies part of the problem.

    As long as journalists keep reporting this as a plan to shift costs to local school districts, the Democrats have an uphill battle.

    Given that local school districts are about the only employer I can think of or anyone else has named who expect state government to pay their pension costs, it is an odd way to frame the discussion.

    It’s like cutting stuff the Pentagon doesn’t need or want out of the defense budget and being accused of weakening our armed forces.

    Or ending overpayments to doctors and insurance companies and being accused of slashing Medicare services.

    Democrats aren’t “shifting costs,” they are ending cost shifting.


  8. - Demoralized - Friday, Sep 28, 12 @ 1:10 pm:

    @East Sider:

    Thanks for you work on the Babcock campaign. You might as well be up front about it.


  9. - East Sider - Friday, Sep 28, 12 @ 1:17 pm:

    @Demoralized: I’m volunteering with a different campaign, but I still pay attention to all of the others.


  10. - Sue - Friday, Sep 28, 12 @ 1:43 pm:

    Rather then continuing to focus on shifting costs perhaps Quinn and Madigan need to start thinking about ways to reduce the cost so there is less to shift


  11. - Rich Miller - Friday, Sep 28, 12 @ 1:44 pm:

    ===perhaps Quinn and Madigan need to start thinking about ways to reduce the cost so there is less to shift ===

    Um, yeah, that’s already part of the proposal.


  12. - reformer - Friday, Sep 28, 12 @ 1:48 pm:

    East Sider
    == Haine was the deciding vote on the tax hike. ==
    There were 31 votes in the Senate for the tax hike. Thirty is the minimum, which means Haine was not the deciding vote. Try again.

    YDD
    == Democrats aren’t “shifting costs,” they are ending cost shifting. ==
    Well said!


  13. - walkinfool - Friday, Sep 28, 12 @ 2:42 pm:

    It’s nonsense like this that has prevented the proposed reforms, which include both cost reductions, and some appropriate cost-shifting over time, from being passed already. Everyone who can add and subtract, and has a balanced view of how each involved party must give up something, knows that it must be done to solve the problem for the long-term. The leaders from both parties know it has to be done roughly in this form. Even the Trib. and its political sponsors, have mostly come around. They just want to shore up their political positions first.

    It’s a sorry situation, but that’s why these necessary but painful changes occur during lame-duck sessions.


  14. - HooNose - Friday, Sep 28, 12 @ 4:06 pm:

    Walkinfool, the news cycle today is catching up with the expediency of passing unpopular bills in lame duck sessions. It used to be the GA could count on no one paying much attention to pension or revenue enhancements because the reporters accepted it as the way things were done in Springfield. Not so much today. I remember when we thought the GOP would never be able to make MJM’s name move the needle on the name-recogniton dial outside the City.

    And, as always, these lame ducks who make these unpopular votes are going to want something in exchange, a juicy appointment or a golf-pro-like lobbying gig. As a matter of fact, there are still a couple tax-hike appointments hanging out there waiting for the veto session to sneak in because the GOP was going to make votes on those appointments campaign issues.

    While you’re right that political reality often still requires the heavy lifting to be done in lame duck sessions, the idea that it will go unnoticed and without political consequences as it always has seems less likely.


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