An email from Mike Tryon:
It is our busiest time of the year in Springfield, and I would like to provide you with an update of the key items that were discussed and/or voted on last week:
State Retiree Health Care
On Wednesday, May 9, the Illinois House passed Senate Bill 1313, Amendment #9, which aims to stabilize the state’s health care system by requiring state retirees to pay a portion of their healthcare premiums.
This bill does not affect public school teachers or community college employees who already contribute premiums to the Teachers’ Retirement Insurance Program (TRIP) or the College Insurance Program (CIP).
My respect for public employees runs deep, which is why this was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make, but if nothing is done I truly believe our State employee health care system will fail.
Failure of the system would create a scenario where future State retirees would lose their health insurance benefit completely.
I supported an amendment that puts protections in place giving lawmakers the opportunity to object if we feel the changes are not implemented fairly.
It is important that retirees understand that this bill does not take away retiree health care benefits.
However, it will require retired employees to contribute to their health insurance premiums to help offset rising healthcare costs.
Today there are 78,000 retirees who pay no premium for healthcare.
Another 7,400 pay a portion of their premium and 36,000 dependents are enrolled but whose premium does not cover the true cost of the healthcare benefit.
Providing this benefit costs the State of Illinois between $800 and $900 million per year.
The change puts in place a mechanism that allows the Director of CMS to determine the State’s premium payments on behalf of retired employees – including lawmakers and judges.
CMS has proposed guidelines for determining what retirees’ contributions will be based upon a sliding scale that takes into account length of service and ability to pay.
The percent of cost the retiree will pay will also be based on his or her pension level. Senate Bill 1313 House Amendment 9 was approved in the Senate on Thursday and has been sent to the governor.
Diabetes Advocacy Day
On Tuesday, May, 8, the Illinois Legislative Diabetes Caucus partnered with the Illinois Diabetes Policy Coalition for “Diabetes Advocacy Day” at the State Capitol. Approximately 200 people participated in the day’s events, which included a luncheon, an update on the caucus from Republican House Leader Tom Cross, meetings between advocates and State Representatives, a speech about the benefits of bariatric surgery for Type II diabetes patients, and a meeting with the Diabetes Caucus Foundation. The Illinois Legislative Diabetes Caucus supports public policies and programs to improve the lives of those affected by diabetes and works closely with advocates and stakeholders to create awareness for the detection, prevention and management of the disease. As a sufferer of Type II Diabetes, I am committed to helping this caucus achieve it’s mission.
Child Care Funding
One of the human services commitments made by the State is that of reimbursement to a wide variety of child care providers for services provided to children who come from households with incomes that make them eligible.
Funding for these reimbursements in fiscal year 2012 has run out, and $73 million in additional funds will be required for the State to pay the bills of child care service providers through the end of the fiscal year (June 30).
This shortfall is tied in part to an increased case load in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which has had funds redirected to it at the expense of the child care program.
Many child care service providers are licensed individual caregivers and small businesses.
On May 8, Governor Quinn’s office stated that they had found funds that could be used as a “supplemental appropriation” to fill this gap.
Lawmakers continue to work with the administration to ensure that the solution to this problem is revenue-neutral and falls within the agreed $33.2 billion FY12 budget framework.
Governor Pat Quinn’s plans to close 35 facilities throughout Illinois, with a cost of up to 2,527 jobs, will hit Downstate Illinois especially hard.
Many of the human services and correctional facilities listed in the closure plan are located in rural Illinois, especially central and southern Illinois.
I am a member of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA), a bipartisan General Assembly panel, and most of us voted “no” on May 1 to most of the closure requests contained in a primary round of facilities closure requests.
However, CGFA’s vote is advisory and will not prevent the Governor from padlocking the threatened facilities.
n a last-ditch attempt to protect these threatened jobs and facilities, the Illinois Senate tried to move a bill (SB 3564) to allow CGFA to permanently block these closures. On May 9, however, the bill failed in the Senate by a vote of 29-23-1, allowing the Governor to continue to move forward with his plans to close the threatened facilities.
Enterprise zones are great economic development tools to create and retain jobs in Illinois. Between 1984 and 2011, the zones created 354,000 jobs and retained 536,000 jobs in Illinois.
Unfortunately, without action by the General Assembly, Illinois’ 97 existing enterprise zones will begin expiring in 2013. On May 9, House Republicans made a Motion to Discharge Senate Bill 3688 from the House Rules Committee.
SB 3688, which would extend the lives of Illinois’ enterprise zones for an additional 25 years, passed the Senate unanimously in April, but is being held in the House Rules Committee.
Several Representatives rose in strong support of the Motion to Discharge Senate Bill 3688 from the Rules Committee. Unfortunately, the legislation remains stalled.
College Illinois! Audit
College Illinois!, a program operated by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) to provide a tax-advantaged prepaid tuition savings opportunity for Illinois residents, is (like many other funds worldwide) currently actuarially unsound.
It has promised investors more returns than it can provide based upon current prudent projections of future investment returns and interest rates.
Some of College Illinois!’ investments made before and during the 2008 economic downturn have led to significant losses.
A report released on May 9 by the Auditor General’s office reveals some of the steps that led up to the current situation, including certain actions taken by College Illinois!’ former Director of Portfolio Management. The full report can be viewed at http://www.auditor.illinois.gov/.
Discussions are ongoing in this very difficult budget year.
An overall appropriations number has been set, and soon the Human Services, Elementary/Secondary Education, General Service, Higher Education, Public Safety Committees will finalize appropriations within their individual areas.
There is bipartisan support this year for a balanced budget which includes reserves to be used to pay down debt, and difficult budget cuts are a key element of all discussions.
I will continue to update you on these and other issues as they make their way through the legislative process, and as always, if my staff or I can assist you in any way, please do not hesitate to call my Crystal Lake office at 815-459-6453.
Michael W. Tryon
State Representative, District 64