That’s unfortunate because the facts matter. What was funded and by how much has a significant impact on our state, but often doesn’t create a sizzling headline. But that’s why you’re here, right?
Firstly, I’m very thankful to have a full state budget. I firmly believe our state can be more successful when taxpayers, educational institutions, businesses, service providers and more know what to expect from our state.
So, what’s in it? The budget checks in at approximately $38.5 billion. It fully funds the governor’s capital program for infrastructure needs that was a priority for the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.
It also includes $350 million for evidence-based funding for school districts and an additional $50 million for early childhood education. In addition, it increases funding for universities and community colleges by 2%.
It also includes pension reform that some estimate may save the state up to $445 million. It’s this last piece that I find the most interesting.
The pension reform is a buyout plan. It allows current employees “to collect the 3% compounded cost-of-living adjustments in their benefits for 70% of the value and 1.5% less of their living adjustments. Another program could allow retirees to take 60% of their lifetime pension in one lump sum instead of continuing to collect regular payments.”
I am not a doe eyed optimist and I do not believe we should hang a “Mission Accomplished” banner at the Capitol Dome in Springfield. Even if we actualize the full amount of the estimated savings at $445 million, that figure would be less than 0.5% of our full pension liability.
But we need pension reform and I am happy to accept wins where I can. We will continue to work for more significant reforms that shore up the current system.
Last year, you’ll recall Governor Rauner signed HB418 right here in Naperville. That bill was sponsored by Rep. Wehrli and picked up in the Illinois Senate by Sen. Connelly. The bill limited pension double dipping and passed under the constitutional limitations.
We need more work like this, a lot more, but forward progress is encouraging and will significantly help grow the 5th largest economy in the United States.