* I told subscribers about this earlier today…
* The linked press release…
Senators Michael Connelly (R-Naperville) and Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) today announced they were filing a compromise statewide pension reform plan, which is modeled after a proposal agreed to on a bipartisan basis last summer. With Democrats refusing to meet Republican requests for property tax relief, jobs legislation and spending reductions, some have called on the legislature to try to move smaller agreements on other important state issues. Pension reform would be the ideal starting place, combining the Senate President’s own language for statewide pension reform along with the exact same language Democrats supported last year that provides Chicago Public Schools with a one-year pickup of its pension normal costs.
“The so-called ‘Grand Bargain’ is in a holding pattern while we wait for Democrats to agree to freeze property taxes, make Illinois more competitive and cut spending to balance the budget,” said Sen. Connelly. “But that shouldn’t prevent us from moving forward on areas where we agree, including pension reform. Republicans want pension reform that helps the whole state save money while the mayor of Chicago is asking for pension assistance to solve his own pension crisis. We have bills already filed and supported by Senate Democrats that we can move right now to solve both issues. We should honor the agreement reached last summer, and hopefully moving a pension deal now will spark momentum toward a larger budget deal as well.”
The Connelly-Tracy pension package consists of two bills: One which includes the consideration model portions of SB16, and one which includes the Tier 3 and budgetary items of SB16 along with the text of SB 2822 from the previous General Assembly (that bill provided $215 million for Chicago Public Schools pensions in Fiscal Year 2017).
As part of the stopgap passed last June, Governor Rauner and the four legislative leaders agreed the state would pay for one year of CPS’s teacher pensions as long as lawmakers passed statewide pension reform. President Cullerton broke that agreement in November, which led to Governor Rauner vetoing the bill that would have contributed $215 million from the state to CPS to pay its pensions. Now, however, President Cullerton has filed a statewide pension bill (SB 16) which could easily be paired with the previously vetoed legislation.
* The Tribune editorialized in favor of this concept the other day…
Is it possible to combine pension reform with CPS funding and get a bill on Rauner’s desk? Voting on this duo separate from, or instead of, the overall compromise is a risk. Take out the pension bill from the package of 12 bills and that broader effort could stumble even more.
But if the grand compromise is faltering, can something good come of it?
Don’t give up, senators. Keep talking. The condition of the state continues to worsen at an alarming rate. There is no time for grudges.
* Doug Finke…
“We can’t sit around and wait for a compilation of 15 or 16 bills to magically appear,” Connelly said. “This was agreed to last summer. In large measure, we are taking what was agreed to back then and bringing it forward.” […]
Tracy said the bills should not be taken as an indication that the “grand bargain” is dead.
Cullerton spokesman John Patterson said the components of Tracy and Connelly’s bills are contained in the pension reform legislation that’s part of the grand bargain. He said the focus is still on passing the bargain, not separating out the component issues.
“Right now we’ve left the proposals together because we remain interested in a comprehensive plan to solve the state’s problems,” he said.
Seems like Connelly and Tracy don’t totally agree about the grand bargain’s chances.
Either way, what do you think of separating this from the grand bargain and running it as a stand-alone?
*** UPDATE *** Press release…
Illinois Secretary of Education Beth Purvis today called on Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to support legislation being filed by Senators Michael Connelly and Jil Tracy, which would enact statewide pension reform while providing CPS with $215 million for its pension payment.
“At a time when cost-effective, logical solutions are scarce, it is imperative that our state’s leaders support any measures that can fill budget gaps and move the state forward in funding our schools,” Secretary Purvis said. “The Connelly-Tracy pension package offers a solution to achieving comprehensive statewide pension reform, and provides $215 million in funding for CPS. CEO Claypool, Mayor Emanuel and education leaders across the state should join together to support this bill as a way to provide statewide pension reform and support the children and teachers of Chicago.”