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mcdermed_pages.jpgThank you to Michael Thompson and Kristin Lutz, both students at Lincolnway East, for being my ‘Pages for a Day’ last week in Springfield

Pension Problems
A long-term plan approved when Jim Edgar was governor in the 90’s created a spending ramp on pensions to alleviate then budgetary pressures and essentially push pension obligations off until the future. The ramp started in 1995 and under it the State is scheduled to hit 90 percent funding level by 2045. The original forecasts of this plan expected liabilities to reach about $50 billion under the ramp before dropping back down. The State’s actual unfunded liabilities is $123.8 billion as of the latest report in 2016 and there are still 17 years to go before the ramp is scheduled to peak. The projections were off by so much because they assumed an overly optimistic 8.5% yearly return on investments and lawmakers have failed to follow the ramp in many years and instead spent money that should have gone toward pensions on other, more popular items.

The recent allegations about House Speaker Michael Madigan’s improper handling of misconduct on the part of staffers in his political operation has prompted many to call on Madigan to resign his position as Democrat State Party Chairman.

Madigan, of course, has refused. Instead, he has responded to the recent controversy by launching his own investigation into his staff.

Does anyone really believe a Madigan-funded investigation into the handling of sexual harassment accusations on his staff is going to come close to being a truthful presentation of the facts?

Predictably, Speaker Madigan has released several findings showing how his office responded to several allegations and everything was handled perfectly. Imagine that. A Madigan-paid for investigation shows an impeccable record of responsiveness to allegations of misconduct.

Mike Madigan is the only legislative leader in any statehouse in the 50 United States who also serves simultaneously as the state political party chair. As Chairman of the Democrat Party, Madigan has complete control on how Party resources are spent.

This is simply too much power to be put in the hands of one individual. If we are going to reform our state, we need to start by preventing one individual from accumulating so much power, which is why I introduced legislation, HB 4097, last year to ban legislators currently serving in the Legislature from also serving as the State Political Party chair.

My bill is about preventing the abuse of political power in Illinois. Legislators already wield a lot of political power. There is no reason to legally allow sitting legislators to acquire even more clout by heading up their respective state party organizations.  

Margo McDermed,
State Representative 37th District

EBF Money Distributed
The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) just finalized the numbers for the evidence-based funding formula for FY18. The State Comptroller was then able to start sending out the new money promised by the tier funding portion of the formula to the most under-resourced districts. 
The EBF formula defines an adequate funding target for each school district, based on enrollment numbers and the cost of 34 factors proven to deliver the greatest positive impact to students. The formula compares each district’s current resources to its unique adequacy target. Increases in state education appropriations go to the most under-resourced districts. An additional $367 million dollars was distributed to schools this year. Lincoln Way SD should see an addition half a million dollars and New Lenox and Mokena should see an additional $130k and $30k respectively. Calculations for all 852 school districts can be found on ISBE’s website.

This new funding formula is ambitious and to fully fund it will require significantly more resources, possibly as much as $7.2 billion dollars, which the state ultimately doesn’t have. To put this in perspective, the state currently spends around $9 billion on education. 

Springfield, IL… State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) has advanced two bills to fine tune the legislation governing the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and consequently save the state money. 

"Given the State's fiscal condition we should be taking a hard look at anywhere that we can save money, reduce redundancies, and operate more efficiently, no matter how small," Rep. McDermed said. "Legislation like House Bill 5206 is a no brainer. Why should we tie our agency's hands when it comes to making financially sound deals?"

HB 5206 allows IDOT to lease locomotives, passenger railcars, and other rolling stock equipment or accessions to any state or state agency, public or private entity, or quasi-public entity. Under current law, IDOT is limited to selling such assets to neighboring states only.

IDOT has several high speed rail locomotives purchased in 2009 through the American Recovery and Investment Act that are not currently in operation. IDOT has a tentative arrangement to lease these railcars to another state on the East Coast, but the agency lacks the authority to do so. The cost to store each unused locomotive is $400 dollars a day.  IDOT's proposed lease would earn approximately $1300 a day; $2.38 million dollars in potential annual revenue for the department to use for infrastructure investments. 

“Legislation pertaining to how state agencies and state government operate are filled with outdated practices and inefficiencies,” Rep. McDermed continued. “We owe it to the taxpayers and recipients of state services to identify where we can make positive, good government improvements.”

House Bill 4960 is an omnibus bill that codifies existing IDOT practices, eliminates outdated statutory requirements, and moves IDOT towards compliance with federal regulations. Such changes include eliminating the annual 10% appropriations increase for downstate transit, instead linking the annual increase to the rate of increase of revenue being raised by the existing formula. The passage of this bill will allow IDOT to operate more efficiently, save tax dollars, and allow the department to provide better service for Illinois residents. 

HB 5206 unanimously passed out of the House Transportation Committee and HB 4960 is awaiting a vote in the Executive Committee.

Springfield Lull
The Illinois House has adjourned for a month. We return on April 9th. Speaker Madigan sets the schedule and all told the House has met for just 12 days this year.

We’ve yet to hold a single committee hearing to address the pension deficit or the budget or any number of the crises bubbling at the state level. The General Assembly has also yet to adopt a revenue estimate, a critical component of the budgeting process. The revenue estimate informs us budget makers how much money we will have to spend. The House has failed to adopt a revenue estimate for years now and has consequently run significant budget deficits leading to a current bill backlog of $8.9 billion dollars.