Not done yet: General Assembly continues past scheduled adjournment

The sun rises over the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Ill., Wednesday, October 20, 2021. The state is the top employer in Sangamon County. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

Bars, restaurants and stores in Springfield can expect to see legislative patrons for at least some bit of additional time with a now longer than expected Illinois General Assembly session.

Friday was the original adjournment day for the spring session, but with no budget introduced as of that morning and hundreds of bills still requiring final action, an extension is necessary.

The major obstacle facing budgeteers is how to account for its health care program for undocumented adults. Originally estimated to be $220 million in Gov. JB Pritzker’s budget proposal in February, recent reports indicate that number is nearly $900 million short.

The Illinois Health Benefits for Immigrant Adults program applies to undocumented immigrants ages 42 and older, an expansion approved in July from the original 55 and older group. Those who have held green cards for less than five years are also eligible for the program which started in 2020.

More:Expected cost for Illinois’ noncitizen health care program grows to $1.1 billion

Members of the Latino Caucus have also suggested further expansion of the program to those ages 19 to 41, adding another $380 million according to the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. Republicans have countered that money should instead go to healthcare expenditures for those with developmental disabilities.

“It is time for Illinois Democrats to take a step back and recognize just how out of touch their priorities are from the priorities of the people of our state,” said Sen. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, in a statement. “We should be focusing our time and efforts on assisting our state’s most vulnerable citizens and responsibly spending their taxpayer dollars.”

Not surprisingly, some members of the minority party have used the delayed conclusion to claim Democrats are disjointed. Democrats have pushed back on this notion, saying negotiations have been going well, albeit not on-time. Sessions like those in 2019 when lawmakers approved the sale and use of adult-use cannabis have been extended in the past as well.

Where an appetite for bipartisanship could exist is in pension reform after two representatives rose in support for a pair of bills just filed on Thursday. A separate bill passed the Senate unanimously which would make whole the Cook County Pension Fund and now heads back to the House for concurrence.

These bills from Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, come following a plethora of subject matter hearings in the Illinois House Personnel and Pension Committee where she serves as chairperson. Votes however are not expected before adjournment and conversations will continue heading into the veto session later this year.

House Bill 4098 holds several provisions, including one that calls for the state to fully fund pensions by 2050. This would be a change from the state’s original plan passed in 1994, colloquially known as the “Edgar Ramp”, of funding 90% of the state’s unfunded pension liabilities by 2045. It additionally requires the state treasurer and comptroller to transfer $500 million from general revenues to the Pension Unfunded Liability Reduction Fund.

According to the governor’s February operating budget proposal, the pension funding ratio has improved over the course of the Pritzker administration from 40.3% in 2019 to 43.8% this year. The proposal also calls for another $200 million into the fiscal year 2023 budget, now moving the total contribution to $700 million in additional pension contributions in the last two budgets.

Total pension expenditures for the state were estimated to be be $9.6 billion in the current fiscal year and grow to $9.8 billion in the upcoming fiscal year.

The bill would also prevent new participants in the General Assembly Retirement System and the Judges’ Retirement System after Jan. 8, 2025, where future members would instead be offered enrollment into the existing State Employees’ Retirement System.

Kifowit said in a statement these systems were the “worst funded in the state,” and have granted considerably more benefits to retired lawmakers and judges than other state employees. GARS has especially come under increased scrutiny following the conviction of three ex-lobbyists and former CEO of electric utility Commonwealth Edison earlier this month.

State law allows for these benefits to be removed when an official has been charged with a crime related to their position, but have already allowed former House Speaker Michael Madigan to accrue $149,000 per year as he awaits trial next year as reported by The Chicago Tribune.

“We are going to be invoking all stakeholders in the discussion of this important subject matter over the summer and over the fall so that we can finally get the state of Illinois going on the right path,” she said of her bills, also announcing House Bill 4099 which changes the pension age for individuals who provide various security duties.

So far, HB 4098 has two co-sponsors – Reps. Mark Walker, D-Arlington Heights, and Steve Reick, R-Woodstock. Reick said the legislation included several pieces that Republicans could get behind but indicated that more reform will be needed.

“We can start making pensions a part of a compensation package that will bring great people to this state and will make us able to retain those people and provide the services that we all know need to be demanded,” he said on the floor.

Amid budget negotiations, lawmakers have passed hundreds of bills this week – several of which have local implications. The ones producing perhaps the most tense debates pertain to all-gender bathrooms and one opening the doors for the firearm industry to be held liable for consumer fraud. The governor has indicated his support for the latter, planning to sign the bill into law when it arrives on his desk.

Local matters:Volunteer rescue squad formally under county control

Led by Senate President Don Harmon, a bill permitting punitive damages in a wrongful death lawsuit passed the Senate on Thursday. If House Bill 219 goes into law, the family of Earl L. Moore, Jr., who allege he was murdered by two Springfield EMS workers, could seek those damages in addition to compensatory damages.

Contact Patrick Keck: 312-549-9340,,

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May 19, 2023 at 04:59PM

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