Thursday, March 25, 2010

Two 'pillars' taking shape

By Jamey Dunn

Two major components of the five “pillars of recovery” proposed by Gov. Pat Quinn in his budget plan are headed to the governor. One, pension reform, passed both chambers in a single day.

Quinn's small business tax credit aimed at job creation passed in the Senate today.

Pieces of Quinn’s proposal finding such traction fairly early in the legislative session has Statehouse watchers wondering whether approval of an income tax increase before November is as “dead in the water” as it was pronounced by many after the governor’s budget address.

Quinn only briefly referred to the proposal at a news conference he held today. He characterized the tax increase as a “surcharge” for education in his budget address, saying after the address that all revenue generated would go to schools. However, today he mentioned the proposal as a possible solution to State Police layoffs and headquarters closures.

“In order to get the resources we’re going to have to be very creative, and part of that is of course what I talked about in our budget. And we’ll keep talking about it as we come back after Easter,” Quinn said. “If we could get the surcharge revenue that could help us in a lot of ways.”

Quinn said that yesterday’s pension reform was prompted, in part, by feedback he has received from voters.

“It’s very very important for state government to show in a crystal clear manner that the state of Illinois is ready to cut cost and take on very difficult assignments when it comes to restructuring the government,” he said.

Some House Republicans and union leaders were critical of how quickly the bill passed yesterday. Union representatives accused Democrats of using strong-arm tactics to force the bill through quickly, so the public would not have time for input. Henry Bayer, executive director of Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said that the legislature should have taken more time to “study the implications” of a proposal that is going to affect the future of tens of thousands - if not hundreds of thousands - of our children and our grandchildren.”

“This is not the way to conduct policy. This is not the way the legislative process is supposed to work. This is no what they teach kids in school about the way the legislative process is supposed to work,” he said.

Quinn said that pension reform has been on the table for the past year. He mentioned the dozen of so public hearings of a pension task force and said interested parties have had time to give input.

“Ultimately, you have to make decisions in democracy. You cannot have a situation where it’s just all talk. The people elect us to roll up our sleeves and take bold and important action for the common good and the public interest. And that’s what happened yesterday”

Republicans have often included pension reform on the list of things they want to see done before they would consider a tax increase. Quinn did not say whether he thinks yesterday’s bill would improve the chances of putting some Republican votes on a tax increase, but did call the changes to the pension system “epic reform.”

“Anyone who wants cuts in government, you got them yesterday.”

Quinn has not signed SB 1946 but said he plans to soon.

Lieutenant governor

With the Democrat State Central Committee scheduled to vote on a replacement lieutenant governor candidate Saturday, Quinn said he plans to name his choice tomorrow.

Many are speculating that Quinn will choose Sen. Susan Garrett, a Democrat. Garrett, who did not run for the office in the primary, acknowledged earlier this week that she has talked with representatives of Quinn’s administration.

However, a group of House Democrats encouraged Quinn to support Chicago Democrat Rep. Art Turner, who came in second behind Scott Lee Cohen in the primary race. Cohen stepped down after allegations of violence in his past.

East Moline Rep. Mike Boland, who also ran for the office and is on the Democrats' current list of finalists, stepped aside and threw his support behind Turner.

“It’s almost an insult to the hundreds of thousands of people who went out in that cold February day to vote in that primary to all of a sudden just say, ‘Oh, well, none of you who ran in that matter. Instead we’re going to just pick somebody out of the blue.’”

The committee has the final say on who becomes the candidate. Check back Saturday for coverage of the vote.


Anonymous,  7:34 AM  

Remaining Pillars:
Pension reform will "allow" for strategic borrowing

Continued federal assistance: Congress will extend the FMAP, but the Governor proposes to cut Medicaid spending for the disabled and the mentally ill...why again?

Increased state revenues:
the 1% surcharge doesn't solve the state's structural deficit. Why ask legislators to take a hard vote on insufficient revenue when you know you will be asking them to do it again in a year or two?

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