Blagojevich outlined his $53 billion
budget proposal for fiscal 2006 to a joint session of the General
Assembly on Feb. 16. Fiscal 2006 runs from July 1, 2005, through
June 30, 2006.
"I am not sure
which reality the Blagojevich administration is occupying right
now," Brady said. "They have spent themselves into yet another
budget deficit, estimated at $2 billion; state job growth still lags
behind the significant employment growth of other Midwestern states;
and employers are fleeting to more business-friendly states, taking
jobs with them. Yet, this governor stood before us on Feb. 3,
claiming that our state is turning the corner economically, when in
fact we have lost nearly 14,000 jobs since he took office. And now,
in his budget address, he is spouting platitudes about pension
reform, when he is in fact relying heavily on yet another pension
shell game to prop up his proposed budget."
Brady is a member of the governor's
pension commission, which has been meeting since April 2004 to
address Illinois' severely underfunded public pension systems. The
44th District senator says he attended the commission meetings in
good faith, ready to work with other members to effect some
"Instead of using this panel of
experts to develop long-term solutions to a very real pension
funding crisis, the governor's allies are using it to give him
political cover." Brady said."
"It was extremely disheartening when
I realized that instead of being used … to develop long-term
solutions to a very real pension funding crisis, this panel of
experts was actually being used by the governor's allies to give him
political cover," Brady said. "All those hours of meetings and
lengthy review of information turned out to be an absolute farce."
At its meeting Feb. 4, the
governor's pension commission voted to recommend a plan to free up
money now by overhauling the state's pension systems. The
controversial proposal would scale back pension benefits for new
state hires but use the savings immediately to give the governor
some relief for the fiscal 2006 budget.
On an 8-3 vote, the Pension Funding
Commission recommended that any savings from any pension reforms
enacted by the General Assembly should be allocated proportionately
from 2006 to 2045. Brady voted "no," as did Rep. Mark Beaubien,
R-Wauconda, and a representative of the United Food and Commercial
of second column in this article]
"As a commission member, I
vehemently oppose any plan to 'recognize' future savings that may,
or may not, occur under long-term reforms," Brady said. "That's just
another attempt to spend more today to shore up the governor's
sagging budget and push the cost onto the future. No matter how you
spin it, we would simply be spending money now that we don't have --
and may never have." On Feb. 9, the 44th District senator filed a
letter with the pension commission explaining his opposition to the
pension restructuring plan and asking that it be included with the
The governor is using the
commission's recommended savings allocation plan and proposes
short-funding the pension systems by more than $800 million next
year, although actual savings will be minimal. The governor is
endorsing most of the pensions changes sent to him by the
commission, including the following changes that likely will not
have the support of the General Assembly:
- Limiting "end-of-career" pay
increases to bump up an employee's pension, with pension benefits
paid by the state, not local school districts.
- Increasing the early retirement
penalty for future employees who retire before age 65.
- Limiting cost-of-living adjustments
for pension benefits for newly hired employees.
- Changing the alternative retirement
formula for new hires only.
- Changing the money purchase option
for existing university system employees and eliminating it for new
At Brady's insistence, the pension
commission did vote to reject any plans the governor may have had to
reduce benefits for existing employees, which Brady and others
believe would be unconstitutional.
The governor's budget address Feb.
16 also includes a 75-cent cigarette tax increase, a tax on computer
software, a tax on landfill-generated electricity, more raids on
dedicated state funds to meet spending obligations for schools and
the continued expansion of the FamilyCare Medicaid program.
Brady says the governor's spending
blueprint is the only the first step in the long and complex budget
negotiation process, and the senator looks forward to working with
his fellow lawmakers to make the kinds of changes that reflect the
spending priorities of 44th District citizens.
Senate Republican Caucus news release]