Senator Syverson’s Week in Review: May 15 – 19

Springfield, IL – This week the Illinois Senate took action on a number of measures that make up the Senate’s budget and reform package, which has been the subject of months of negotiations. Senate Republicans supported initiatives where compromise was reached, but urged the Senate majority to continue with negotiations on critical measures that have yet to be agreed upon.

Measure allowing for permanent term limits for legislative leaders moves

The Illinois Senate has advanced a constitutional amendment (Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 2) that would permanently create leadership term limits, limiting the terms to five General Assemblies (10 years) for the Illinois Speaker of the House, President of the Senate, House Minority Leader and Senate Minority Leader. 

If approved by both the Illinois Senate and House with a three-fifths vote, SJRCA 2 would be on the Illinois ballot in November 2018.  

When the 100th General Assembly was sworn in this past January, the Senate adopted its new rules, which for the first time put in place term limits for Senate legislative leaders. As a result, Senate rules limit both the Senate President and Minority Leader to a maximum of five terms (10 years).

Senate takes action on budget and reform package

The Illinois Senate began voting on a number of budget and reform measures this week that are part of the “Grand Bargain” budget plan, which has been in the works for months by Senate members on both sides of the aisle. The goal of the “Grand Bargain” is to create a bipartisan solution to the ongoing budget impasse in order to provide Illinois with a balanced budget along with structural reforms to help create jobs and boost the economy.

As voting on several of the measures began, Senate Republicans readily supported certain initiatives, such as pension reform and procurement reform, where bipartisan compromise was reached. However, Senate Republicans urged their Democratic counterparts to hold on other critical measures that were not yet agreed upon, such as property tax relief, education funding reform, and local government consolidation. Republicans reiterated the need to keep negotiating to ensure the best deal possible for taxpayers, students, and job creators. However, despite these requests Democrat lawmakers moved forward on a number of these issues.

Throughout the budget process, Senate Republicans have negotiated in good-faith with the Senate majority in an effort to bring budget stability and economic security to Illinois taxpayers. In the weeks leading up to the scheduled May 31 deadline, Senate Republicans remain committed to working with all parties to ensure the best deal possible is reached for Illinois residents. But they note that to act on legislation that is incomplete, or not agreed upon, may only derail the good-faith negotiations that they say are close to bearing fruit.

Work Continues on Property Tax Reform

One of the key issues Senate Republicans remain committed to seeing through to fruition is the issue of meaningful property tax relief.

Republican lawmakers continue to push for parity for the Illinois homeowners and employers who are burdened by some of the highest property taxes in the entire nation. Senate Republicans underscore Illinois property tax policies will continue to drive residents and businesses from the state if not addressed. Additionally, they emphasize that if an income tax increase is on the table, Republicans require parity in the form of property tax reform in order to give the people of Illinois balanced relief.

Republicans note this is not an issue that just affects Republican districts—the issue of high property taxes impacts all the districts throughout the state.

Senate Advances Significant Pension Reform Plan

Senate Republicans applauded and widely supported the passage of a pension reform measure that passed out of the Senate as part of the “grand bargain” package on May 17.  The legislation is expected to save taxpayers roughly $1 billion per year.

Estimates currently place the state’s unfunded pension liability at approximately $130 billion dollars, the worst in the nation. Previously, a bipartisan pension reform bill passed in 2013, but was ruled unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2015.

The current version was developed through bipartisan talks between Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and Senate President John Cullerton, and was designed to work with the very strict wording of the Illinois Constitution.

Illinois’ pension obligations currently consume a quarter of the state’s annual budget. The current year’s pension payment is estimated at $7.9 billion.

Dave Syverson

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