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Geneseo Republic - Geneseo, IL
  • Statehouse Insider: They’re both right but for different reasons

  • If pension reform wasn’t confusing enough, it may actually have gotten more so last week.
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  • SPRINGFIELD -- If pension reform wasn’t confusing enough, it may actually have gotten more so last week.
    At the start of the week, actuarial figures were released showing a union-backed pension reform plan didn’t save as much as thought. The plan would only cut Illinois’ $100 billion pension debt by $5 billion to $6 billion, far less than a plan approved by the House that the unions do not like.
    By the end of the week, Senate President JOHN CULLERTON’s office released actuarial numbers showing that the union-backed plan, which Cullerton negotiated, cuts the debt by nearly $10 billion. That’s just what Cullerton said it would do when the Senate approved the plan.
    Who’s correct? Both. It all comes down to predicting how people will behave, which is difficult at best. The Cullerton plan gives workers a choice of pension options. You come up with estimated savings by projecting how many people you think will select one option over another. That’s what Cullerton’s office did.
    It’s also what some House members did. They based it on the following assumption:
    “The scenario which is most likely to happen is where the employee makes the choice based on (what) would work out best for them,” said Rep. ELAINE NEKRITZ, D-Northbrook.
    Using that standard, the union-backed plan cuts less than $6 billion off the debt.
    However, maybe people choose an option that is less beneficial to them but is more beneficial to the state. In that case, Nekritz said, the savings for the state will increase.
    Anyone care to guess which option workers are more likely to select?
    *Comptroller JUDY BAAR TOPINKA had some wise advice for lawmakers last week, if anyone was listening.
    She basically said that just because the state had a good month for tax collections in April, don’t go crazy.
    The state started April with a bill backlog of $8.5 billion. By early last week, it was down to “only” $5.8 billion. Given the state’s history the last few years, that’s like being current, only obviously it’s not.
    April is always a good month for revenue, but especially this year as some taxpayers used techniques to minimize the effects of a federal tax hike. It meant even more money for the state, although it is considered a one-time deal. It won’t happen again next year.
    Plus, after the April influx when people file their state tax returns, state tax collections fall off again. Topinka said the backlog could be back up to $7.5 billion in August, and that longer payments delays likely will return.
    “Illinois must not let a strong tax season burn a hole in its pocket,” Topinka said. “This is not the time for new spending.”
    Page 2 of 2 - We’ll see if anyone is listening. Ex-Comptroller DAN HYNES used to issue a lot of warnings, too. He was pretty much ignored and here we are.
    Lawmakers have less than a week to come up with a spending plan for next year. It’s once again supposed to be frugal. We’ll see.
    *”They end up underneath the back of a semi truck with their head cut off.” Sen. JOHN MULROE, D-Chicago, bringing home to his colleagues the dangers of using a hand-held cell phone while driving.
    *”This is just one more step toward us losing essential freedoms in the interest of safety.” Sen. MATT MURPHY, R-Palatine, giving exalted status to the right to keep and bear a hand-held phone in the car.
    *”I think the best thing for people to do in their cars, if they want to be safe, is not to drive.” Sen. MIKE JACOBS, D-East Moline, an opponent of the cell phone ban, explaining a finer point of vehicular safety.
    *”This contraption is unsafe at any speed.” SANDRA STEINGRABER, biologist and environmental activist, on the dangers of fracking.
    Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527. Read more Statehouse coverage on The Dome, GateHouse Media's state government news website.
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