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A bill sponsored by State Representative Tom Morrison (R-Palatine) that will increase the frequency of actuarial reviews of the State’s five public pension systems was signed into law today by Governor Bruce Rauner.

HB422, now known as Public Act 99-0232, amends the Teachers’ Retirement System, State Universities’ Retirement System, State Employees’ Retirement System, Judges’ Retirement System and the General Assembly Retirement System by requiring that the actuary of each system conduct an investigation of the system every three years rather than five years as was previously written in the statutes. Each review will examine the mortality, retirement, disability, separation, interest, and salary rate assumptions used by the system for accuracy. The bill was approved unanimously in the House in March and unanimously in the Senate in May.

“A more frequent actuarial study ensures we are making the right payments to stay on track with our obligations, especially since we now have new Tier II employees in our pension systems,” said Morrison. “I was pleased to see that my bill was approved by every lawmaker in the House and Senate, and am also glad to know that Governor Rauner shares my feelings that we need to work with the most accurate financial data possible when it comes to our pension payments.”

The new law takes effect immediately. To hear more from Rep. Morrison about this new law, click here.
In May I voted against a Democrat-sponsored bill that would guarantee automatic cost of living adjustments (COLA) for members of the General Assembly and state-wide office holders. Unfortunately, in spite of unanimous opposition by House Republicans, SB1354 was approved by Democrats in the House and Senate. In FY16, this law was scheduled to grant pay hikes to lawmakers for $1,356 to $1,905, in addition to their existing salaries and stipends.

On Wednesday, July 1, Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has declined to accept a salary for his service as Governor, used his amendatory veto power to strike out the automatic COLA increase for elected State officials and lawmakers. The veto also freezes the lawmakers’ “per diem” daily expense money and travel mileage. The Governor’s action on SB1354 will be effective through June 30, 2016, unless overridden by the General Assembly.

The Governor’s veto message reads in part: “A balanced budget requires shared sacrifice. My Administration has reduced State personnel costs among agencies under my jurisdiction by $4 million during the first four full months (February through May) of this year, compared to the same period last year.

“I recommend that Senate Bill 1354 be changed to eliminate raises for legislators, elected officers of the Executive Branch, and agency directors and other highly compensated State officials, and to freeze the per diem amount and mileage reimbursement rate. Budget implementation bills must give us the tools to implement a balanced and realistic budget, and this change is an important step in closing our budget deficit. A similar provision has been enacted for each of the past six fiscal years.”
Session May 31 Deadline Passes with No Budget Agreement
The May 31 session adjournment date came and went on Sunday with no consensus on a 2016 budget. A Democrat spending package that was nearly $4 billion out of balance was approved earlier in the week, even though Governor Bruce Rauner has said emphatically that he will not look at new revenue sources until Democrats pass some of his fiscal and business reform initiatives.

At the start of the session day on Sunday, Speaker Mike Madigan announced that the House will be in “continuous session” throughout the summer. Members of the House were told to be back in Springfield this week on Thursday, June 4 and that members could be called back to Springfield throughout the summer with as little as 48 hours’ notice. The Speaker also said that the Representatives would not be receiving mileage reimbursement or per diem pay for the summer session days.

House, Senate Democrats Pass Unbalanced State Budget
Ignoring their constitutional responsibility to enact a balanced budget, the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate rammed through spending bills in the final days of May that they readily admitted they could not pay for, while at the same time walking away from the reform negotiation groups put together by Governor Rauner.

Illinois is estimated to bring in $32 billion next year, and the Democrats proposed budget would spend over $36 billion. The proposed spending is 12% higher than projected revenue and would push the state’s backlog of bills to over $10 billion, equaling 30% of our total revenue. The Democrats budget gives false hope to those who rely on state services and is an outright lie to schools, service providers and the state’s most vulnerable.

With locked-in increases intended to cover higher costs for Medicaid expenses, pension contributions, and other mandated and constitutional responsibilities, the House Democrats’ FY16 budget calls for spending more than $36 billion. House Republican members rejected the unconstitutional budget; calling upon the majority to change course and come back to the negotiating table so that a responsible, bipartisan budget with structural reforms can be agreed to. On party-line votes, the Democrats’ spending bills were approved by the Illinois House and Senate.

Rauner Administration Initiates Budget Management Steps in Preparation of Madigan-Cullerton Budget
In the final days of May, House Speaker Mike Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton and their allies in the General Assembly pushed through a FY16 budget that is close to $4 billion out of balance.

Think about that. The FY15 budget was between $1.4 billion and $1.5 billion out of balance, and that shortfall created a mid-year funding crisis for important state services, like court reporters, prison guards, and key human and social services for our state’s most vulnerable citizens. When he took office on January 12, 2015, Governor Rauner inherited that unbalanced budget and he worked diligently with House and Senate Republicans to eliminate the deficit without raising taxes. Because of this action, Illinois is projected to end FY15 on June 30th with a balanced year-end budget.

With the upcoming Madigan-Cullerton budget deficit, which is more than double that of last year, a mid-year solution is not a possibility at this time. The Rauner administration announced yesterday that they will begin taking the necessary steps to manage state spending. Unfortunately, the Democrats refused to even consider reforms that would save the state money, so the Administration’s budget management options are limited due to the crisis.

While additional measures are still being finalized, budget management steps announced yesterday include:

Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO)
Effective Immediately
  • Immediately suspend of all future incentive offers to companies for business attraction and retention, including EDGE Tax Credits, Large Business Attraction Grants, Employer Training Investment Program Incentive Grants and Prime Sites Grants.
  • Immediately defer all application approvals for film tax credits and High Impact Business designations. 
  • All commitments previously made in any of these programs will be honored.
Action Initiated
  • Prepare and provide notice for the July 1, 2015 suspension of the State Low Income Home energy Assistance Program (SLIHEAP).
  • The federal portion of the program, funded at about $170 million, will continue.
Department of Transportation (IDOT)
Effective Immediately 
  • The Illiana Expressway will not move forward at this time. As a result, IDOT will remove the project from its current multi-year plan. It is the determination of IDOT that the project costs exceed currently available resources. The Department will begin the process of suspending all existing project contracts and procurements.
Action Initiated
  • Beginning July 1, 2015, IDOT will “ground” all state plane passenger service. Planes will be maintained and will be available for emergency purposes only.
Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ)
Action Initiated
  • Begin the process of identifying one or two juvenile correctional facilities for closure.
    • The juvenile justice system has a surplus of capacity.
    • Capacity currently includes approximately 1,200 beds with 700 beds occupied.
Department of Corrections (DOC)
Action Initiated
  • Begin the process of closing the Hardin County Work Camp.
    • Approximately 180 inmates will be moved.
    • Approximately 60 Work Camp staff will be affected.
Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS)
Action Initiated
  • Implement an audit review of nursing home reimbursements to ensure payments comply with the recently implemented new rate structure.
  • Recover overpayments to nursing homes and implement financial penalties for improper billings.
Illinois State Police
Action Initiated
  • Immediately freeze all vehicle purchases.
Department on Aging
Action Initiated
  • File emergency rules to enact means testing to Aging’s Community Care Program (no income limit currently exists).
  • Increase the Determination of Need (DON) Score required to obtain services through the Department’s Community Care Program.
Department of Human Services (DHS)
Action Initiated
  • DHS will pursue cost control strategies through emergency rules for the Childcare Program.
    • Increase co-pays for parents using the program.
    • Freeze intake and create waiting lists.
  • DHS will also begin background checks for relatives providing child care. Background checks are currently required for child care licensed centers, group homes and non-relatives who provide care.
Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
Action Initiated
  • The Department will not award Open Space Land Acquisition Development Grants in FY16.
  • The Department will begin the process to suspend operations and close the five state museums to visitors. The state will continue to maintain and secure the museums to protect the artifacts and exhibits.
This list is disturbing but represents a necessary step which will allow State Government to remain operational in the event that the budget impasse is not resolved very soon. I will continue to keep you up to date on this very important issue as any additional decisions are made.
It was nice to see Palatine Village Manager Reid Ottesen in Springfield this week.

House Republicans have worked for years to provide Illinoisans with much-needed property tax relief, and in most instances those bills have been blocked from advancing to the House floor. In response to the House Democrats’ effort Friday to use the issue of property tax relief in their latest round of political theatre, State Representative Tom Morrison (R-Palatine) has issued the following statement:

“Throughout my tenure in the House, I have been a vocal advocate for the property taxpayers in the 54th legislative district. I have spoken with elected officials and administrators from every level of local government and shared my opinion that they need to control costs so that additional tax burdens are not passed on to home and business owners. So to see the majority party treat the serious issue of property tax relief as a game was very disappointing.”

“I am a Chief Co-Sponsor of a comprehensive piece of legislation that would provide taxpayers with real tax relief. HB136 would freeze tax rates during times of declining property values and utilize a three-year average metric for determining when the freeze would be lifted. This is a fair solution, yet when Democrats had an opportunity today to release that bill for consideration and debate, they blocked it.”

“I always encourage my constituents to get to know their elected officials so they can let them know how increases in tax rates affect them personally. This is especially true for elementary, high school and community college districts, whose taxes comprise the majority of peoples’ tax bills. I will encourage them to continue doing this, because today’s actions by the majority party in Springfield made it very clear that they are not sincere about providing tax relief.”

At a time when legislators should be working in a bipartisan manner to create the FY16 budget, House Democrats have been making a mockery of the legislative process. Rather than allowing the budget working groups to complete their work and send appropriation bills through the committee process for proper vetting, Speaker Madigan has instead decided to engage in a process meant to divide, not unite the House of Representatives.

Last week House Democrats short-circuited the budget process by bringing the Human Services budget directly to the House floor with little notice and no committee deliberations. They brought the multi-billion dollar spending bill to the floor before a revenue number was determined and before spending priorities were identified by the Appropriations-Human Services Committee. After insisting the bill be brought to the floor, Democrats voted unanimously against it. Because the action was not genuine, House Republicans voted “Present.”

Immediately after that vote, House Democrats filed 15 additional amendments, choosing various State programs and running funding amendments one at a time. With no general revenue number set and a refusal to view the specific funding areas as part of a larger budget package, Republicans again voted “Present” on the amendments.

Today the games continued as House Democrats brought additional human service amendments to the floor for votes. They continued to cherry-pick select programs and ignore the lack of a general revenue number, so again, House Republicans voted “Present.”

I take my role as a State Representative very seriously, and when I come to Springfield I arrive ready to engage in serious discussions on matters of importance. But when those on the other side of aisle refuse to respect our rules and procedures, they are doing a great disservice to the people of Illinois. As long as the majority party continues to engage in unprofessional and counterproductive activities such as those that have unfolded on the House floor during the last two weeks, House Republicans will continue to vote “Present.”

Click here to hear Rep. Morrison's recent interview about the issue.
On Friday, May 8, just hours after the IL Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling that the General Assembly's 2013 Pension Reform Bill is unconstitutional, State Representative Tom Morrison sat down with Chicago Tonight's Eddie Arruza to discuss the ruling and what is next for the State of Illinois. You can watch the video here. Rep. Morrison's segment begins at just after the seven-minute mark of the broadcast.