News from Senator Peter Roskam Senate Republican Whip
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For Immediate Release

Date: Feb. 25, 2005/tia

Senate Week in Review: Feb. 21-25

Springfield, IL – Local primary elections cut short the legislative Session this week by a day, but it was a long week for the Governor who saw his Fiscal Year 2006 budget blow apart when a bipartisan legislative commission issued a report disputing the estimated savings of reforming the state’s pension system, according to State Senator Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton).

Governor Blagojevich outlined his budget plan last week and based much of his revenue projections on more than $800 million in estimated savings that would occur if the General Assembly enacted certain pension reforms. Senate Republicans have questioned the Governor’s savings projections, suspecting that the savings may not be as much as the Governor is predicting. Those suspicions were confirmed this week when the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA), formerly the Economic and Fiscal Commission, issued a report indicating that of the proposed $819.4 million reduction, only $80.9 million can be attributed to the Governor’s proposed benefit changes.

Essentially, if all the changes pass through the General Assembly and are upheld in court, the 2006 budget’s required contributions would be reduced by $80.9 million. Under the current pension funding plan, the state would have to pay $2.6 billion into the pension systems. The Governor wants to reduce that payment by more than $800 million and pay only $1.8 billion into the system. If his reforms are not passed or if they fail to deliver the projected savings – the state’s pension system would be dramatically under-funded and it would be up to future generations to make up the difference.

Senate Republicans are willing to explore pension reform options, but they believe it is unwise to spend the projected savings today – especially since the savings may not actually materialize and may not be as substantial as the Governor claims.

In other news, Senate Republicans successfully fought to vote down legislation (SB 356) that would have raised the standards for taxpayers when they make an appeal to the Property Tax Appeal Board. The bill essentially would have put into law a presumption that the tax assessor is correct in the tax assessment, making the burden of proof a much higher standard for taxpayers. The Senate Revenue Committee narrowly voted down the measure this week.

Also this week, the Senate Environment and Energy Committee heard testimony on the Telecommunications Rewrite law. The reforms enacted in 2001 are set to expire this year and the General Assembly must again rewrite telecommunications regulations in Illinois. The testimony this week focused on land line service. Representatives of SBC, Verizon, the Illinois Commerce Commission, and various consumer advocacy groups all testified at the hearing. The general consensus at the hearing was that the service quality standards enacted in 2001 are working and that those standards should remain in place.

Finally, Senate Republicans joined their colleagues on the other side of the aisle in mourning the death of Senator George Shadid’s son, George Shadid, Jr. The Peoria Senator’s youngest son passed away Monday (Feb. 21) after a courageous battle with brain cancer. George Jr. was 46.

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