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Lou Lang coverage roundup

Thursday, May 31, 2018

By Hannah Meisel

* Boy what a day. In case you are not plugged into this world, here are the basics: on Tuesday it was reported that a woman would come forward on Thursday to accuse a “leading lawmaker” of harassment. This morning the woman went on Dan Proft’s radio show only identifying herself as “M,” and then at a 1 p.m. press conference in the Capitol, she identified herself as a medical marijuana advocate named Maryann Loncar.

Loncar accused top Madigan ally Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) of years of harassment. But when pressed by reporters during the press conference, Loncar revealed that the reason for the abuse was because she claims she was privy to knowledge of an alleged $170 million “bribe” offered to Lang and two other Democrats by someone in the medical marijuana industry. However, the person she heard this from disputes this claim, as Rich reported earlier.

Lang then held his own press conference, where he was flanked by female supporters — lawmakers and lobbyists — who spoke to Lang’s leadership and even mentorship of women.

* Tribune

Democratic Rep. Lou Lang of Skokie announced he was stepping down as House deputy majority leader in a statement released as advocate Maryann Loncar was taking questions from reporters at the Capitol.

Loncar accused Lang of years of verbal abuse after they initially worked together to pass the state’s 2013 law that legalized medical marijuana. Loncar said that several years ago, Lang made her uncomfortable by putting his hand on her lower back and asking if her husband knew how lucky he was.

Loncar said that on another occasion, Lang called her at night as she was out at dinner, saying he would have come to meet her if she were alone.

Lang’s announcement came less than 24 hours after he won approval of the federal Equal Rights Amendment, which seeks to guarantee that rights can’t be denied because of a person’s sex.

* WTTW

Loncar said she became “privy” to information she shouldn’t have when she witnessed Lang being offered a $170 million bribe, and that’s when Lang retaliated, with behavior such as telling her ex-husband: “I can help you bury her if you want.”

She says she never contacted police or other authorities in part out of distrust and fear of further retaliation, but that she came forward Thursday despite fearing for her life, hoping that other women will speak out against Lang and others in power. […]

Lang also denied any suggestion of a bribe.

“If I have $170 million somewhere, help me find it,” he said.

* NBC5

Loncar said her experience was similar to allegations brought forth by other people who have come forward, including state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, who alleged retaliation from House Speaker Michael Madigan after she spoke out questioning his office’s handling of harassment claims.

“It’s what everybody else is talking about,” Loncar said Thursday morning. “It’s Representative Cassidy and other people that stand up and say if you don’t conform and go along with everything they tell you, regardless of your own morals, your own mindset, you will be blackballed and that you will be treated unfairly and you will be harassed and you will be singled out. And no matter how many times you go through a video for 15 minutes and answer questions on sexual harassment, that’s not enough. That’s not enough.”

* Sun-Times

Loncar also claimed Lang killed a hemp farming bill she had been advocating for, a claim many organizations are disputing.

Jen Walling, executive director and lobbyist on behalf of the Illinois Environmental Council, said the initial hemp farming bill “wasn’t killed because of Lou Lang.”

“That is absolutely not true,” Walling said, adding that the measure failed because an agreement couldn’t be reached with the Medical Cannabis Association. A revamped Industrial Hemp Bill was sent to the governor on Wednesday after being passed by the state Senate.

Walling called Loncar a “citizen advocate,” who was not involved in negotiations or in any meetings regarding the initial hemp bill.

“I’m not belittling her other claims but I’m absolutely sure that Lou did not kill this bill,” Walling said.

Walling told Rich the same thing today.

- Posted by Hannah Meisel   36 Comments      


Alaina Hampton: Women who stood with Lang “truly disheartening”

Thursday, May 31, 2018

* Press release…

“Rep. Lang’s press conference today was a perfect example of why victims don’t come forward. To see so many Democratic women standing with and singing the praises of a powerful man, just hours after he was accused of harassment, in an effort to undermine his accuser, was truly disheartening. To the women who stood with Rep. Lang today–think about what message you sent to all of us who have been victimized by men in power in Springfield.”

–Alaina Hampton

* She’s referring to these folks…



And if you somehow don’t know who Alaina Hampton is, click here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   53 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Rauner says he’ll “enact” the budget

Thursday, May 31, 2018

* Press release…

Gov. Bruce Rauner today offered the following comment on the passage of the Fiscal Year 2019 budget:

“We started this year’s budget process with the common-sense goals of a full-year balanced budget and no new taxes. With this budget, we can come as close as any General Assembly and Governor in Illinois have in a very long time. It’s a step in the right direction, though it does not include much-needed debt paydown and reforms that would reduce taxes, grow our economy, create jobs and raise family incomes. The Fiscal Year 2019 budget is the result of bipartisan effort and compromise. We worked together to provide a budget to the people of Illinois that can be balanced, with hard work and continued bipartisan effort to deliver on the promises it makes. I’ll be taking action quickly to enact the Fiscal Year 19 budget into law.”

*** UPDATE *** Speaker Madigan…

House Speaker Michael J. Madigan issued the following statement Thursday after passing a bipartisan, balanced budget:

“For the second time in as many years, House Democrats have worked alongside our Republican colleagues in the Legislature to pass a bipartisan, balanced budget. As House Democrats have said throughout the past four years, when we can work together in good faith we can accomplish great things.

“Our budget holds the line on taxes and spending, and creates a $15 million surplus that will be used to pay down old bills. We cut government bureaucracy like high-paid consultants and duplicative IT systems at state agencies to invest our finite resources in critical services, provide $350 million in new funding for public schools, and reverse the governor’s cuts to education programs, health care, child care and senior services.

“While there is more work to be done, this compromise budget shows yet again that when extreme demands are not preconditions to negotiation, Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature can work together to move Illinois forward.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** More on Loncar’s bribery allegations

Thursday, May 31, 2018

* Illinois News Network

During questioning from media members, [Maryann Loncar] also said that [Rep. Lou Lang] was retaliating against her because she witnessed an attempted bribe involving Lang. She said having that knowledge made her fear for her life. When asked why she hadn’t gone to the authorities about the potential crime, she said she was waiting for the right time but had the details journaled. She said others were also privy to the bribe offer.

* Hannah Meisel transcribed this part of Loncar’s press conference…

Bernie: And you learned the bad information about him when?

Loncar: Probably about five years ago. The real, yeah this isn’t right.

Bernie: Does this it involve money?

Loncar, Yes of course it involves money. This is Illinois.

Bernie: How so? Somebody giving somebody something?

Loncar: Yes.

Bernie: Like what? Like a bribe or something?

Loncar: Yes.

Bernie: Who was offering that? Was it taken?

Loncar: No, because we stopped it. We were the meddling kids who stopped it.

Reporter: You’re saying the bribe was offered to Lou Lang?

Loncar: Um, y- It was offered — it was spoken to to him and two other senators. Democrats.

Amanda: You’re saying two other senators?

Loncar: Yeah. There were three of them.

Bernie: By a grower? Or developer?

Loncar: Down those lines yes.

Bernie: You wanna say who as long as we’re going this far?

Loncar: Um *long pause*

Rotheimer: It’s your call.

Ives: Maryann, if you don’t want to —

Loncar: You’re dealing with a lot of people who have a lot of money. The truth is you all know the truth.

Hannah: How much money are we talking about?

Loncar: We’re talking about at least 170-something million dollars. Is that enough for everybody to know?

Hannah: That sounds more like —

Reporter: A contractual bribe?

Loncar: No, it doesn’t. We have many people over the years that have written about this. Many.

Bishop: So you said earlier you wanted the cannabis title program to be non-profit. So it’s in this context that this bribe —

Loncar: Yes, the people who had the choice of writing HB1.

Reporter: You’re not talking about contractual arrangements, you’re talking about a bribe to three people of $170 million?

Loncar: Yeah, I’m talking about a meeting at the Capitol. That we weren’t supposed to be privy to, that we weren’t supposed to know about.

Reporter: And they didn’t accept the bribe?

Loncar: This is Illinois. Do I have to bring it back to that we’re the most corrupt state of all of the states?

Tina: But did they accept the bribe?

Loncar: We didn’t give them the chance to accept it.

Hannah: When you’re saying you meddled, what did you specifically do?

Loncar: We went to the news. I went to Andy Shaw specifically and sent him all the information I had on it and he wrote something about it.

Loncar: “I have written all of this down and I have documentation.” “Eventually I will release it…I’d like to be able to show all this to

Bernie: And the illegality is often in offering the bribe. If he didn’t take it, then it’s not illegal. If you offer it, it’s illegal. So you’re saying it’s not Lou Lang but somebody else who was illegal.

Loncar: Um, no. I’m saying all of these people were culpable of going that direction. And as advocates when we found out about it we stopped that direction. And this is why I am being targeted. Make no mistake about it.

Bishop: Do you fear for your life?

Loncar: Yes, yes every day.

Tina: How did you end up at that meeting?

Loncar: Mike Graham was at the meeting with another individual. I was at a hotel waiting for them to be done.

……

Bernie: And is the person who offered the money for this —

Loncar: They didn’t get a license and they sued.

Bernie: Okay and they’re not in operation now?

Loncar: Nope, they sued because they thought they had worked this legislation. Their lawyer basically said that they earned it.

Bernie: Are they in Chicago?

Loncar: They are up north near Lake County.

Hannah: Do you know if they sued in federal court or county court?

Loncar: They sued downtown. They sued saying that they should have gotten a license and they put a lot into it.

*** UPDATE *** Mike Graham and I have talked before on Facebook, so this afternoon I reached out to him about Loncar’s claim that he was a witness to an attempted $170 million bribery scheme. His response…

Maryann misspoke on the “bribe” was not an accurate description. I believe it was 12/4/12 stakeholders meeting. (As written before)Medponics owners entered the meeting and said “we can just give you $170M and we will take all operations”, at which time the room erupted with no’s–Lang was never directly offered or demanded anything! Maryann was just overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation

He added that he believed the $170 million was intended as a payment to the state for all of the operating licenses.

- Posted by Rich Miller   96 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** *** LIVE VIDEO *** Rep. Lang press conference to respond to allegations

Thursday, May 31, 2018

* Again, many thanks to the folks at BlueRoomStream.com for access to this press conference which is scheduled to begin at 3 o’clock. Rep. Lang’s press release did not deny any of the allegations made against him, so I’m sure he’ll be asked about them at his event

Click here if the embed doesn’t work for you.

And if you can’t watch videos at work, click here to follow along with our live coverage post.

*** UPDATE *** Rep. Lang was asked if the allegations were true: “From beginning to the end the allegations are absurd.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      


Speaker Madigan responds to allegations against Lang

Thursday, May 31, 2018

* Press release…

House Speaker Michael J. Madigan issued the following statement Thursday:

“I appreciate the courage it takes for individuals to come forward to share their experiences, and in doing so urge us all to do better.

“Representative Lang has already requested that the legislative inspector general immediately conduct a full investigation of these allegations and I’m hopeful she will conduct this investigation quickly and thoroughly. After consultation with me, Representative Lang has submitted his resignation from House leadership, as well as from the Legislative Ethics Commission and the Joint Commission on Administrative Rules.”

That kind of implies that Lang’s been forced out of leadership, etc.

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      


Rep. Lou Lang responds to allegations

Thursday, May 31, 2018

* Press release…

The following statement can be attributed to Illinois House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D-Skokie):

“Let me say this. My original sponsorship of medical marijuana legislation in 2013 was focused on the patients who came to my office, some in wheel chairs. Some were too ill to come. The sick children, the ill men and women were my priority. And the patients remain my priority with each new iteration of the law.

My priority was not helping those seeking to profit off medical marijuana, like, Ms. Loncar, who wanted a cannabis dispensary license for her company, Patient’s Health Center, but, apparently failed at her money-making effort to secure a dispensary license. Because I refused to let the medical marijuana profiteers trump the interests of patients, I made some people mad. So be it.

Therefore, I have submitted a formal request to the Special Legislative Inspector General to begin an immediate investigation. Additionally, after consultation with Speaker Madigan, I have decided, in order to maintain the integrity of the Legislative Ethics Commission and the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules as well as to avoid distraction from the agenda of the House Democratic Caucus, to submit my resignation from the Commission, JCAR, and from my post as House Deputy Majority Leader.”

Lang’s letter to the IG is here. His letter to Madigan is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** *** LIVE VIDEO *** Alleged abuse victim’s press conference

Thursday, May 31, 2018

* Many, many thanks to the folks at BlueRoomStream.com for this access to today’s press conference. I’m hearing there may also be a follow-up presser by the accused legislator. The first presser is scheduled to start at 1 o’clock

Click here if the embed doesn’t work for you.

And if you can’t watch videos at work, click here to follow along with our live coverage post.

*** UPDATE *** The worst-kept Statehouse secret of the week is now public. House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang is the alleged abuser. He also sits on the Legislative Ethics Commission. Here’s the press release…



- Posted by Rich Miller   99 Comments      


Cornerstone Credit Union Awards $12,000 in Scholarships

Thursday, May 31, 2018

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- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Alleged victim appears on Proft’s radio show

Thursday, May 31, 2018

* As I’ve already told subscribers, Dan Proft scored a big scoop this morning. The woman who plans to hold a press conference at one o’clock this afternoon with Rep. Jeanne Ives and Denise Rotheimer appeared on his WIND radio show today. From Proft…

EXCLUSIVE: Springfield Sexual Harassment Victim Speaks Out

“It’s a certified terrible frat house,” is the way a sexual harassment victim coming forward today describes Springfield.

The woman, who will only identify herself as “M,” joined Dan Proft and Amy for an exclusive interview detailing the sexual harassment allegations she will make against a leading state legislator. “This has gone on probably for the last four to five years where I’ve been harassed and blackballed and threatened” she shared.

You can watch the in-studio video by clicking here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      


Legislators, governor avoid addressing bill backlog in budget agreement

Thursday, May 31, 2018

* The biggest single problem with this agreed budget, which is the same big problem as Gov. Rauner’s introduced budget, is that it doesn’t appropriate money to pay off overdue bills except for what’s been included for unappropriated spending during the impasse. The current bill backlog is $6.6 billion, but that’s expected to rise.

Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) said last night that the unaddressed backlog issue is her chief regret about the new budget. I’ve yet to see any reporting on this topic.

* I asked Comptroller Susana Mendoza’s spokesperson about this budgetary short-coming…

This consensus budget provides stability. It gives us the tools to manage debt responsibly going forward. Our Debt Transparency Act gave legislators and taxpayers the numbers they needed to craft this budget with a clear picture of the state’s backlog of bills. That backlog as of today stands at $6.6 billion. It will take a long time to reduce that. But a consensus budget like this certainly beats the chaos of the budget impasse in previous years.

Looking on the bright side, I suppose.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      


What’s in the capital bill?

Thursday, May 31, 2018

By Hannah Meisel

* Capital project spending is included in the overall budget bill, HB109. As noted yesterday, $53,775,000 will go to the Quincy Veterans’ Home for capital improvements like piping replacement, and “water quality improvement projects.” It’s not the $245 million the Rauner administration asked for earlier this month, but until a new home can be built, the pipes need replacing at the very least.

We hear Quincy money was a bit of a trade for the $172 million included in the budget for improvements necessary to build the Obama Presidential Library in Jackson Park. Some of that money will go to various improvements, but a bulk will go toward building a new Metra station at 59th Street.

* What else?

- $400 million in deferred maintenance. Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) told me last night that there had to be an increase in deferred maintenance “…because we’ve had no capital for so long in a budget impasse,” she said. “There’s a lot of built-up emergency needs.”

- Speaking of emergencies, there’s also $100 million for statewide emergency spending.

- $75 million for higher education facilities and emergency projects.

- $30 million for improvements on the coliseum on the State Fairgrounds in Springfield. You may recall that a few years ago it closed because some of the beams inside were threatening to fall.

- HB109 also reinstates appropriation authority for all DCEO community grants, which have not had any appropriation authority since 2015.

- $29 million increase in OSLAD grant funding.

IDOT:

- The bill also contains $8.8 billion in IDOT capital re-appropriations for projects put on hold during the budget impasse.

- $2.9 billion in IDOT pay-as-you-go capital, including $2.2 billion for IDOT’s FY2019 road program.

- $50 million for high-speed rail projects and maintenance.

* Oh, and the Thompson Center? The budget does rely on $270 million in savings from a potential sale of the building. The $270 million figure comes from an early estimation of the land’s worth. Other estimations have been lower, but the budgeteers say it’s actually a conservative estimate, given recent upticks in value of real estate around that area.

Sen. Steans couldn’t tell reporters when Gov. Rauner would receive the bill for selling the Thompson Center, but did say Rauner probably won’t be waiting all the way until November.

Of course, there are still major snags that would need to be worked out, like the Blue Line stop underneath the Thompson Center and other zoning. When reporter Brian Mackey pointed that out a few days ago, Steans and other Democrats said that savings which won’t actually be realized wouldn’t be included in the budget. “That’s why I think it will be [real] because we’re going to send him the bill.”

As for the issues that need to be resolved: “We believe it needs to go through the regular city of Chicago process,” Steans said.

Guess we’ll see what happens there.

- Posted by Hannah Meisel   9 Comments      


Report: Trump “strongly considering” Blagojevich commutation

Thursday, May 31, 2018

* Dana Kozlov last night

Former Governor Rod Blagojevich is preparing to formally ask President Donald Trump to release him from prison early. […]

Blagojevich’s attorney, Len Goodman, says he plans to send his formal petition for a commutation of sentence to the President in the next few weeks.

* Today…



…Adding… More info…


- Posted by Rich Miller   64 Comments      


My favorite Statehouse tweets of the week

Thursday, May 31, 2018

* These two made me chuckle…


* And these are from last night’s ERA debate in the House…



- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      


Stop Illinois Big Coal Bailouts

Thursday, May 31, 2018

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Learn More

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Tobacco 21 bill clears House on second try

Thursday, May 31, 2018

* The proponents regrouped after they came up short Tuesday and worked extremely hard to flip the votes. Man, did they ever scurry. It was quite something to behold. Senate President John Cullerton, who has been an anti-tobacco advocate for decades, also personally lobbied House members. Speaker Madigan did not vote either way on the bill the first time around, but he voted “Yes” yesterday and that seemed to help as well

The Illinois House has voted to bar tobacco sales to those under age 21 a day after the legislation fell four votes short.

Chicago Democratic Rep. Camille Lilly’s plan would prohibit sales of tobacco products to minors. The ban would include e-cigarettes and vaping materials.

It was approved 61-49 and goes to the governor for action.

* NPR Illinois

This comes more than a decade after state lawmakers banned smoking in most public places. Since then, cigarette prices have risen and public opinion on smoking has gone from bad to worse. Health advocates and even the military lobbied to raise the smoking age, arguing generations of teens have developed bad habits. In doing so, they say, those teens are now under-prepared for careers in the military.

While many Republicans rejected the move, Rep. Tim Butler (R-Springfield) broke ranks.

“This is a vote I’m making on my own personal beliefs,” he told the House chamber during debate. “If we can take steps to make a healthier Illinois, I think we should do it.”

The Illinois Chamber of Commerce says Illinois could stand to lose millions of dollars in tax revenue. Other opponents echoed those sentiments, arguing a higher minimum age would send buyers — and their sales tax money — to surrounding states.

The bill is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   10 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Moody’s warns against reducing pension contributions

Thursday, May 31, 2018

* Moody’s press release…

When fiscal 2019 begins on July 1, the State of Illinois (Baa3 negative) faces a sharp jump in its budgetary fixed costs for debt service, retiree healthcare, and pension contributions, part of a trend that may intensify in future years, Moody’s Investors Service says in a new report. A failure to adopt mitigating strategies soon will greatly increase the state’s risk that these rising costs will become unaffordable without severe public services cuts.

Without any revenue increases or legislation to reduce the state’s retirement benefit burden, Illinois’ total fixed costs will reach or exceed 30% of state-source revenue next year, with pensions accounting for more than half of the costs. Debt service, reflecting the state’s issuance of $6 billion of bonds in November 2017 to help reduce a backlog of unpaid bills, is scheduled to increase by 17%.

“Given their magnitude and growth trajectory, the state’s unfunded pension liabilities will likely require more than a single response,” said Moody’s analysts Ted Hampton and Tom Aaron, co-authors of the report. Illinois could raise revenue, shift some of the funding responsibility to local governments and public universities, or seek to reduce benefits. All of these approaches face potential political or even legal impediments, but the risks of inaction are significant for the state’s credit quality.

“Under some scenarios, Illinois could eventually find the burden of paying for retirement benefits becomes extremely difficult to manage,” Hampton said. “Part of the problem is that state officials always face the temptation of making the ultimate reckoning worse by pushing costs to the future, and they’ve used that approach many times in the past.”

In 2017, Illinois managed to keep the impact of its fixed costs from exceeding 30% of own-source revenues – approximately triple the median level for US states — by increasing income tax rates to boost revenues and passing legislation requiring that recent actuarial assumption changes be phased in over five years.

However, the growth of Illinois’ projected pension funding requirements will outpace its organic growth of tax revenues and the state’s economy. Moody’s says it anticipates that the state’s economy will continue to lag national trends as in recent years.

Severely unfunded pension liabilities leave Illinois far more exposed to adverse events such as a recession. Illinois’ pension funding needs will remain elevated even under favorable circumstances, but if the coming years include a recession and stock market downturn, the state’s funding burden could quickly become unsustainable without painful corrective actions.

“Illinois does have some ability to keep pushing costs to future years, in view of its plans’ assets on hand, but a decision to reduce current pension contributions would cast doubt on the state’s long-term ability to afford both accumulated liabilities and current services,” Aaron says. “Easing funding in favor of fiscal relief could erode the state’s credit.”

It’s unclear if Moody’s is aware of the pension proposals in the new budget.

*** UPDATE *** I asked David Jacobson, Moody’s VP for communications, if the ratings firm was aware of the pension changes in the BIMP. His e-mailed response…

We are, but don’t comment on pending legislation. Should this become official we will analyze the credit implications.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Pension savings explained

Thursday, May 31, 2018

* Click the pic for a larger image of these internal legislative dot points

I’m told the savings were calculated by the pension funds’ actuaries.

*** UPDATE *** From Rep. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield)….

There are a lot of misconceptions about the pension buyouts. Let me clarify a few things:

Is the only savings the “haircut” annuitants take to get the lump sum?

    No. Depending on the system, we have an expected rate of return of 7-7.25%. Therefore the unfunded portion of the shortfall grows at that amount each year. By bonding to buy people out of the system we are saving interest costs because we can sell bonds at less than 7% right now. The spread between 7-7.25% and whatever we sell the bonds for is additional long term savings.

Will anyone take the buyout?

    When I introduced HB4427 in Jan 2016, buyouts had only been done in the private sector. But since then, Missouri passed a bill very simliar to the HB315 I filed last Jan. That bill is for vested inctives. In Missouri there was a 22% take-up rate. That is the take-up rate that is being used.

What is done with the money?

    It does need to be rolled into a qualified retirement account. It will not be immediately taxed by the Feds. But, once it is in the account the annuitant can do with it whatever it wants to do.

What about negative-selection?

    The reason there is a “time-window” for these buyouts is to limit negative selection. People have to decide quickly. Plus, at a haircut of 30%-40% we would have to have a whole bunch of sick people in the state to have to plan lose money.

- Posted by Rich Miller   55 Comments      


Senate leaders crow about bipartisan budget deal

Thursday, May 31, 2018

* From Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady last night after the Senate passed the budget with only two “No” votes, both from his caucus…

“The budget we passed contains no tax increase and is born of bipartisan compromise. As we move forward, it is vital we continue to work together to ensure this balanced budget is accomplished,” said Brady. “This budget came about because we built trust and I believe we’ve got the start of something special here.”

* From Senate President John Cullerton last night…

The Illinois Senate approved a bipartisan budget deal that invests in public education at all levels and balances through targeted savings, reforms and utilizing existing state revenues.

“This is an important step forward. This budget helps restore stability to Illinois, which is what we need. There remains more work to do, but this is a bipartisan accomplishment that we can hopefully build upon,” said Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton.

The budget was negotiated by bipartisan working groups, finalized by legislative leaders and then approved in a bipartisan vote that signifies, at least for now, an end to years of partisan budget fights that decimated universities, human service providers and ballooned the state’s debt.

The state’s operating budget totals $38.5 billion, which is a $600 million increase over the current budget. That increase is largely due to education funding increases and making required pension payments.

The proposal won Senate approval 56-2. It now goes to the Illinois House.

Highlights include …

Education:

    $350 million increase in K-12 education to honor the commitments made when lawmakers overhauled how the state funds public schools last year. The new funding formula ensures every school district will see an increase.

    $50 million increase for early childhood programs.

    The budget deal does not include shifting millions in state pension costs onto local school districts.

    State support for the retired teacher health insurance program (TRIP) is maintained.

Higher Education:

    Higher education sees a 2 percent increase after years of budget cuts. That translates into a $25 million increase for public universities and community colleges.

    In addition, the state creates a $25 million scholarship fund to be matched by public universities and community colleges. The goal of this new tuition assistance program is to keep Illinois students in Illinois attending Illinois schools.

    The budget deal does not include shifting millions in state pension costs to universities and colleges.

Human Services:

    The budget includes and funds a 50-cent wage increase for caregivers who work primarily with developmentally disabled individuals.

    Numerous human service programs including those addressing epilepsy, autism, youth employment, addiction treatment and community mental health had been cut if not zeroed out in the governor’s budget. They are funded in this budget deal.

Local Government:

    Local governments would see a nearly $120 million increase over the current budget.

    A 10 percent cut in the Local Government Distributive Fund in the current budget is reduced to a 5 percent cut. That results in a nearly $100 million increase for local governments.

    The existing budget also implemented a 2 percent administrative fee for the state processing sales tax revenue for local governments. That fee is reduced to 1.5 percent in the FY19 budget. The result is an increase of nearly $20 million going to local governments.

Financial details:

    A more than $1 billion budget hole wiped out through savings, reforms and utilizing other available revenues.

    The state is authorized to tap into up to $800 million sitting available in various state accounts. This allows the state to utilize that money now to fund programs and services and pay it back over the next two years.

    A series of voluntary pension reforms are projected to bring in $445 million in budget savings.

Those reforms include:

    Inactive buyout: Former public sector workers vested in the program and owed an annuity when they reach the qualifying retirement age would gain the option of cashing out now for 60 percent of the value. Savings estimated at $41 million

    COLA buyout: Tier 1 employees owed a compounding 3 percent COLA in retirement would get the option of having the state buyout the compounded COLA for 70 percent of the value. Savings estimated at $382 million.

    Pension spiking: End of career raises would be limited to 3 percent, currently 6 percent. This means if school districts award end of career raises in excess of 3 percent, the retirement system charges them to cover the increased expense to state taxpayers. Savings estimated at $22 million.

- Posted by Rich Miller   57 Comments      


*** LIVE *** Session coverage

Thursday, May 31, 2018

* Follow along with ScribbleLive


- Posted by Rich Miller   2 Comments      


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Thursday, May 31, 2018

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