Senate Week in Review: March 20-24, 2017
As the General Assembly and the Governor struggle to come together on a budget compromise that prioritizes reductions to government spending and waste, while also advancing associated structural reforms intended to provide the state with long-term fiscal solvency and stability, momentum seems to be building in favor of compromise pension proposals introduced by Senate Republican lawmakers that could form the foundation for positive negotiations moving forward.
On Friday, the Governor announced a number of House lawmakers have pledged their support for the proposal pending in the Senate, a positive development and a significant platform upon which Senate Republicans say consensus could be built.
There was also movement this week on another significant issue, when an amendment was filed to change the way the state funds its schools, and the Rauner administration announced it is taking steps to advance much-needed improvements that would improve cybersecurity and better protect residents’ sensitive information.
Building momentum toward a budget compromise
A Senate budget hearing this week focused on the state economy, with additional time dedicated to an overview of a budget plan offered up by The Civic Federation, a non-partisan research organization. Senate Republican lawmakers welcomed the discussion, but noted their disappointment that there was no conversation about reforming state government or cutting government spending. In fact, the Civic Federation’s proposal would increase state taxes by a whopping $9 billion.
Senate Republicans continue to prioritize cuts to state and local spending, as lawmakers and the Governor work towards a bipartisan, full-year balanced budget with reforms that will stem the tide of employers and residents from Illinois. A compromise pension reform measure that has been introduced in the Senate, and has gained the support of the Governor, Senate and House Republican leaders, and a number of Republican legislators, is one significant platform upon which Senate Republicans say consensus could be built.
The reforms contained in this Senate Bill 2172 and Senate Bill 2173 have received bipartisan support in the past. The package incorporates pension reform concepts that have been supported by both Governor Bruce Rauner and Senate President John Cullerton. The pension package would save taxpayers billions of dollars, while also providing significant fiscal relief to Chicago Public Schools.
Senate Bill 2172 includes the Tier 3 and budgetary items of SB16 along with the text of SB 2822 from the previous General Assembly. It creates an optional hybrid Tier 3 for new hires, as well as a voluntary 401k program for active Tier 1 employees and an optional pension buy out provision. Additionally, the legislation institutes provisions designed to curb late-career salary spiking, and closes the General Assembly Retirement System pension plan to new entrants. Among other provisions, the legislation also provides $215 million for Chicago Public Schools pensions in Fiscal Year 2017.
The second component, SB 2173, includes the consideration model portions of SB16 previously proposed by Cullerton. This measure applies to active Tier 1 employees of the General Assembly Retirement System (GARS), the State Employee Retirement System (SERS), the State Universities Retirement System (SURS), the Teachers Retirement System (TRS), and the Chicago Teachers Pension and Retirement Fund of Chicago (CTFP). Retirees are not impacted by this measure.
State prioritizes Illinois’ cybersecurity
In today’s web-and-data-driven world, cybersecurity must be a top priority in both the private and public sector. The state’s current antiquated technology systems put Illinois citizens and their information at risk—something Governor Rauner and the team at the Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) are seeking to change.
This week, the Governor’s office and DoIT announced a plan intended to better safeguard state operations and the personal information of Illinois residents, by protecting state of Illinois information and systems, reducing cyber risk, advancing the highest level of cybersecurity capability and a proactive approach to cybersecurity. The plan was developed after a comprehensive risk and cybersecurity capability assessment, and an analysis of current and emerging cybersecurity threats.
A statement from DoIT and the Governor noted that “Illinois’ cybersecurity strategy was specifically designed to rapidly address any current gaps in operations, while simultaneously accelerating progress toward the establishment of best-in-class cybersecurity capabilities. The final plan was developed in partnership with stakeholders across state government, as well as other private and public sector contributors. The National Governors Association (NGA) provided significant support as part of its Policy Academy for State Cybersecurity, which facilitated collaboration across states. Illinois was one of only five states awarded an NGA Policy Academy for State Cybersecurity.”
Changes advanced to state’s school funding formula
For more than a year, lawmakers have sought a bipartisan fix to the state’s education funding formula—agreed by legislators on both sides of the aisle to be both inequitable and unfair. This week, an amendment was filed in the Senate to change the current education funding system. Senate Republican lawmakers say they are cautiously optimistic about the proposal, and look forward to its thorough review and vetting. The end goal, say Senate Republicans is a modern, streamlined and efficient school funding system.
Working to develop a bipartisan, bicameral solution has been a lengthy process, involving the General Assembly, the Governor’s administration, Illinois State Board of Education officials, local educators and administrators, a vast and diverse array of interested stakeholders, and Illinois residents from across Illinois.
Illinois Department of Insurance Issues Spring Travel Tips
Spring Break is a popular time for young adults to get away from the cold and travel to somewhere warmer. If you have a child traveling this spring, the Illinois Department of Insurance suggests you review their tips before your child leaves.
- Be Prepared. Collect all pertinent insurance paperwork and make copies. Review your coverages and understand what is covered. Be sure to include your son or daughter in this review process
- Auto Insurance. If your child is borrowing your car, show him or her where they can find the insurance card. The Department of Insurance also suggests printing a copy of the accident checklist to keep in the car.
- Health Insurance. Be sure your child has a health insurance ID card. Also, make sure they know the name of the insurance company and that they have a list of emergency phone numbers.
- International Travel. If traveling outside the country, remember, auto and health insurance is not always readily accepted. Speak with your insurance agent or company to learn more about the extent of your coverage.
- Group Travel. If your child is traveling in a group, make sure you provide someone in that group with emergency contacts and insurance information as well.
If you have questions about your insurance coverage, the Illinois Department of Insurance encourages you to contact them at http://insurance.illinois.gov/ or 866-445-5364.