Pension consolidation bill introduced; Encouraging safe driving

Legislation introduced for pension consolidation

Legislation has been filed to consolidate more than 600 police and firefighter pension funds in Illinois. The legislation, Senate Amendment 1 to Senate Bill 616, came about after Governor Pritzker’s pension consolidation task force released its report last month. A larger share of the property taxes paid to local governments are going to these pension funds each year. Downstate police and fire pension funds (defined as all those outside of Cook County) have a combined $11 billion shortfall, but the Governor’s office claims that consolidation would generate investment returns of anywhere from $800 million to $2.5 billion each year if it were to be enacted.

The proposal was immediately met with reservations. One of the largest police advocacy groups in the state announced its opposition, citing concerns about protecting current benefits and potential bailouts of badly managed pension funds. Senate leaders expressed their intention to find an agreement with the police group before advancing the bill, though they would like to do so before the fall session adjourns next week.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, Illinois did not get into its current pension mess overnight, and it won’t get out of it quickly either. Skipping payments and borrowing from the pension fund over the decades have left us with a tremendous debt which we have been forced to keep up with by shortchanging other aspects of the state budget. The idea of some kind of consolidation has been around for decades, so this is not a new issue. I expect we will see more developments on this in the coming days.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $6,475,556,660 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $7.5 billion. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be approximately $133 billion.

Encouraging safe driving

Representative Lindsay Parkhurst and I met in Chebanse on Wednesday with Fire Chiefs Jay Hanson and Tim Kent as well as the Illinois Department of Transportation and the State Police to talk about the number of accidents that have occurred in the last few years along U.S. Route 45 and 52 in Kankakee and Iroquois counties. It was a great thoughtful discussion, as everyone has serious concerns for health and safety. In the next few days, plans are in place to make sure we have larger and double stop signs, red reflecting strips, and “cross traffic does not stop” signs, as well as refreshed rumble strips at this location.

I appreciate all the efforts to work together, but a lot of the responsibility lies with individual drivers who need to be aware, look both ways when crossing the road and be sure to stop at stop signs. IDOT will continue to monitor this area as we move forward.

Meeting with fellow Second Amendment supporters

Every day that the legislature is in session we see groups of people from throughout the state coming to the Capitol to weigh in on any number of issues. One of the largest groups every year arrives on the annual Illinois Gun Owners Lobby Day (IGOLD), when supporters of the Second Amendment gather at the Capitol to discuss the importance of protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners.

This year I enjoyed meeting with some fellow Second Amendment supporters from our district when they stopped by my Capitol office during the IGOLD activities. I appreciated them stopping by and thank them for their dedication to preserving our Constitutional rights.

Remembering victims of communism

This week sees two important historical milestones: November 7 was Victims of Communism Memorial Day in Illinois, and November 9 marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Each of these stand as tributes to the victims of the most murderous and destructive ideology the world has ever known.

I sponsored the resolution to declare November 7 as Victims of Communism Memorial Day to bring attention to the importance of never forgetting the tragic suffering which communism has wreaked upon the globe for over a hundred years, and which we continue to see in some parts of the world today. As the resolution states, communism has proven incompatible with the ideals of liberty, prosperity and dignity of human life, and has given rise to some of the most brutal dictators in world history. It has caused the death of over 100 million people worldwide, of many different ethnicities, creeds and backgrounds. These regimes have robbed their own citizens of the rights of freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of association through coercion, brutality, fear and other human rights abuses. Some continue to do so today.

Two years ago, a National Day for the Victims of Communism was declared, and I am proud to stand with the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington DC, a non-profit organization authorized by a unanimous act of Congress, to educate people about the ideology, history and legacy of communism, and to honor those who have suffered and died under communist regimes.

Saluting our nation’s veterans

Monday is Veterans Day, the day we pause to recognize the service of those brave men and women who have served our nation and defended the liberties we all cherish. Veterans Day started as a holiday a hundred years ago to mark Armistice Day, the day that World War I ended. As American servicemembers took to the field of battle to defend freedom in later conflicts, it was expanded into a holiday to honor all who have worn the nation’s uniform.

I offer my thanks to all those who serve our nation, in peacetime and wartime, close to home or far overseas, as well as the families of servicemembers who have sacrificed so much in their own right. We live in the greatest nation in the world. It is only possible for us to do so because of those who have served and protected it for over 200 years.

Did You Know?

November 10 is the birthday of Illinois poet Vachel Lindsay. Lindsay traveled the nation on foot in the early 20th Century, sharing his poems in exchange for food and lodging. He became famous when his 1913 poem “General William Booth Enters Into Heaven” was published in Poetry Magazine. He is perhaps best remembered for his 1914 poem “Abraham Lincoln Walks At Midnight.” His home in Springfield is a state historic site.