Illinois lawmakers return to Springfield on Tuesday to begin a six-day, post-election fall veto session. It’s often one of the busiest times in Springfield.
With election worries a thing of the past, lawmakers are ready to roll up their sleeves. They’ll look at expanded gambling and prison funding.
They could also begin to wrestle with a massive $96 billion pension debt. It’s a problem that gets worse by the day.
“It’s taking up like a fifth of our budget,” said Rep. Pat Verschoore, (D) Rock Island. “If something’s not done, the system is unsustainable.”
But shifting that pension burden to school districts or cities is a cause for concern in East Moline.
“It’s a big trickle down mess,” said East Moline Mayor John Thodos.
The city must already do more with less. Pension reforms could hit East Moline in the wallet when it’s still waiting on unpaid state bills.
“They have to get their house in order because it is making it very difficult for municipalities to function,” Thodos added.
When it comes to pension reform, schools like Black Hawk College want to be prepared. That’s why the campus is planning ahead.
The college is adding students while expanding programs and facilities. Steady pension reforms would ease tremendous hardship on students.
“We seriously want to be able to make this happen to help the state,” said Dr. Tom Baynum, president of Black Hawk College. “But at the same time, we need to protect the institution and the students.”
Lawmakers will be more likely to act in January. The so-called lame duck session makes it easier to pass difficult bills.
“We need to make difficult choices,” said Rep. Rich Morthland, (R) Cordova. “We need to push back against Chicago and not let them run this state like they own it.”
They’ll be searching for solutions as the debt continues to grow each day.