State Roundup: Rauner moving fast for special election

From Illinois News Network
ilnews.org

Voters in the 18th Congressional District will get to vote for a new congressman earlier than they may have thought.

With the pending resignation of Republican Aaron Schock from the U.S. House, Illinois’ governor is tasked by the federal constitution to schedule a special election to fill the vacancy. Governor Bruce Rauner says he’s in talks with the Illinois State Board of Elections about what happens next.

“We need to, within five days of the congressman’s official resignation, we need to pick dates for a primary election and a general election. And those elections need to be held within one-hundred-twenty days of his resignation.”

Rauner says he hopes to have a more detailed timeline in the coming days. As for who’s interested in the office, Rauner says he hasn’t talked with any potential candidates about the vacancy. Several names have been tossed in the ring as possible candidates including Peoria-area Republican State Senator Darrin Lahood.

Barickman not running for 18th district

Who will be the candidates for the 18th Congressional District? That remains to be seen, but one prominent area republican has already removed his name from the mix.

Republican State Senator Jason Barickman says he gave the position some thought, but decided there are big financial fish to fry in Illinois. Barickman says his current role allows him to be at home while working on important issues for constituents.

“And this job allows me a little bit of balance. It’s the balance to serve the public and also to be home at night with our very young family. And I plan to continue to do that”

As for who he thinks should be the next person to represent Illinois in D.C., Barickman says with the big challenges facing the country, whoever is elected must have the capacity to take on the tough issues.

“We just need a steady representative who can go to Washington and to be a serious representative for us. One who will represent the communities well.”

Barickman says he hopes the district remains republican.

Rauner calls for constitutional amendment, provides update on current FY

He’s criticized the current fiscal year budget as being phony but some say the proposed budget for next year is just as full of holes. Governor Bruce Rauner defends his proposed budget and says he will always have a balanced budget when he’s governor, but there are questions about the more than $2 billion in pension savings he’s outlined.

The Governor says he will work on several fronts to fix the state’s pension system that’s $111 billion underfunded. One fix Rauner says is to pass a bill that protects historic pensions but provides a different plan for future workers. Meanwhile Rauner is calling for a constitutional amendment.

“Make it clear in the constitution that historical pensions should be protected but future pensions can be subject to whatever elected officials deem is appropriate for the people of the state.”

Rauner says his agenda is being written up in bill form and hopes to see a package appear soon. Meanwhile, the Governor says he believes a resolution to fill the one-point-six-billion dollar shortfall in the current fiscal year will soon appear.

“But I’m hopeful in the coming few days we’re actually gonna have a bill introduced and it’s one based on recent discussion that I will be supporting.”

Rauner admits he’s been saying that for a while and Senate Democrats agree. A spokesperson for Senate President John Cullerton says they’ve “had to respond to the ‘days away’ remark for 30 days.”

Rauner on union comments

Meanwhile, Rauner dismisses a report that he told a group of lawmakers behind closed doors that unions in Illinois will be entirely diminished in a matter of years. The Governor says the report misrepresents what he may have said. After addressing business leaders in Springfield Rauner clarified the remarks that were made behind closed doors.

“In the private sector union participation has gone from thirty-five percent to six-and-a-half percent and it’s gradually going down every year. That’s a fact. That’s just a fact. I want Illinois to be strong with unionization. It’s been a good thing in many regards. But I also need Illinois to compete.”

Rauner says he hopes some counties will step up with efforts to become right-to-work zones and to address project labor agreements and prevailing wage issues. But analysts contend the Governor is too focused on these issues rather than working to correct the current budget and ensuring next year’s finances are in order.

Chamber urging businesses to speak up

The Illinois Chamber of Commerce is encouraging businesses that have problems with Illinois’ business climate to speak up. Todd Maisch, President of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, says businesses that may be seeking other avenues to grow outside of Illinois are reluctant to speak out because of how other companies in the recent past have been treated by the media.

“Think of Officemax. Think of CME. Think of ADM. They got really the crap beat out of them for standing up and saying ‘other states want us to come there, will Illinois do something to keep us?’ and you saw the response. That does make other employers say ‘hey, I want that same treatment’”

As for making Illinois more business friendly, Maisch says one of the big issues is the costs of workers’ compensation. Even though a recent measure to lower workers’ compensation costs did lower some of the burden, Maisch says the 2011 law didn’t go far enough. Governor Bruce Rauner addressed business leaders with his “Turnaround” agenda in Springfield Wednesday. The Governor says a package of bills addressing some of his agenda items could be filed soon, though he didn’t provide a timeline.

Auditor: State’s deficit grows

Illinois joins only one other state in having increasing deficits and that number has more than doubled in seven years. That’s according to the state’s Auditor General.

A report published Wednesday for the fiscal year that ended June 2014 indicates the net position of state governmental activities continued to deteriorate and the deficit increased by one-point-three billion over the year. The overall deficit approaches $50 billion. In the past seven years, Illinois’ deficit more than doubled from $20.8 billion in fiscal year 2007 to $49.2 billion in fiscal year 2014.

With the exception of several states that have not yet reported on their finances, the Auditor’s report puts Illinois and Massachusetts as the only two states in the country running deficits. Illinois has $20 billion more in a net position deficit than Massachusetts, according to the report.

Meanwhile the states’ financial reporting problems continue and have not been resolved but a couple of recently enacted laws have had a positive affect. Despite the continued financial problems the Auditor General report says two measures have helped ensure proper reporting. One law enacted in 2011 established a statutory deadline for reporting.

Another in 2012 created the Financial Reporting Standards Board to assist the timeliness and quality of financial reports. The audit says the Governor’s and Comptroller’s offices agreed to continue work at improving the quality of financial reporting.

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