Policy Outreach Manager
Key issues that we expect to be brought up during January’s special session, before the newly elected lawmakers are inaugurated on Jan. 9, 2013, include: a minimum wage increase and making the income tax hike permanent, something Illinois cannot afford. Gov. Pat Quinn has expressed his willingness to increase the minimum wage in exchange for an expansion of gaming.
Other pieces of legislation that the Illinois Policy Institute’s Government Affairs team and policy experts are closely monitoring and anticipating potential movement on during special session are a bill that would authorize $4 billion in bonding to pay down the state’s $9 billion stack of unpaid bills and a Satellite TV tax.
Special session was originally scheduled for Jan. 3 through Jan.8, but Senate President John Cullerton has confirmed that the Senate, scheduled to convene on Jan. 2, may not meet until Jan. 6 because “there simply might not be enough legislation to keep the chamber occupied.”
You may recall Quinn’s push to pass pension reform during a special session in August. It failed. It was a day for politics, not solutions. And the cost of our legislators’ inaction is profound: the state loses $21 million every day that substantive pension reform is not passed.
Again, the governor has stalled on pension reform. Currently there is only one bill on the table regarding pensions, which has not received the support of leadership. Because it is a lame duck session, bills with immediate effective dates only require a simple majority to pass. With a lack of agreement on any pension bills, it seems less and less likely that pension reform will take place at all.
During veto session, members of the Illinois House unveiled a new pension reform proposal. The Institute attended the press conference and released a statement on the proposal, which commends the members for putting forward a bill, although the solutions offered are not bold enough given the magnitude of the problem. Unfortunately, these legislators are proposing more of the same.
Illinois has the worst-funded pension system in the nation and the credit rating agencies aren’t letting us forget it.
Perhaps passing real, comprehensive pension reform will be the New Year’s resolution for Illinois’ 97th General Assembly – but don’t hold your breath.