Rescue Dog Adoptions, Marriage Equality, Budget Woes

Rescue Dog Adoption Day


We had rescue cat adoption day….and now the rescue dogs get equal time. Join us at Bridgeview Bank Andersonville this Saturday between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. (5117 N. Clark) for rescue dog adoption day with Famous Fido Rescue. Stop by and meet some really great dogs who need a home, or if you can’t adopt, please make a donation to sponsor a rescue dog that desperately needs care:


Marriage Equality

Yesterday, along with my colleagues Rep. Deb Mell, Kelly Cassidy, Ann Williams and Sara Feigenholtz and Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, I introduced the Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.  This law will provide full marriage equality for all Illinoisans at the state level. You can see the language of the introduced bill here:


Since last summer, thousands of committed Illinois couples have been united in Civil Unions, but until we achieve full marriage equality in all 50 states, and until the federal government repeals DOMA and treats all Americans equally in the eyes of the law, there is still work to be done.  They call it a “struggle for equal rights” for a reason.  This will not be quick, nor will it be easy. However, if fair-minded Illinoisans work with their faith communities, advocacy groups, friends, neighbors and elected officials to demand equality….it can happen here. 


This week was especially meaningful for marriage equality throughout the U.S.  The Federal Court of Appeals in the 9th Circuit overturned the California marriage ban, saying: “it singles out same-sex couples for unequal treatment by taking away from them alone the right to marry, and this action amounts to a distinct constitutional violation because the Equal Protection Clause protects minority groups from being targeted for the deprivation of an existing right without a legitimate reason.”


Moments after the Illinois Marriage Fairness Act was introduced, the legislature in the State of Washington overwhelming voted for marriage equality there on a bipartisan vote, just as the legislature of New York recently did. Now it is our turn in Illinois to lobby our elected officials, talk to our neighbors, and enlist the assistance of business leaders, faith leaders and allies across Illinois to do the next right thing.  I look forward to the fight and to our next victory.


Budget Woes


Now for the bad news…while we continue to work on other legislation, the state’s budget woes loom large over everything else.  This week the House Democrats had a caucus to discuss the current situation and the near-term prospects prior to the Governor’s Budget Speech on February 22.  While there are signs of hope in the economy, the overall budget picture continues to be clouded by the costs associated with our pension and Medicaid contributions.  Here are some key facts and figures to consider:


  • ·         FY12 Revenue and Expense Projections (as of January, 6 months into the Fiscal Year)
    • o   Individual Income Taxes are coming in slightly higher than projection, while corporate income taxes are slightly lower. (The tax breaks approved for CME and Sears do not take effect until next fiscal year).
    • o   Sales taxes continue to over perform by $397 million.
    • o   Gaming taxes underperform substantially.
    • o   Federal (mostly Medicaid) sources are $1.3 billion below projections, causing a drag on the entire budget. This is due to the backlog of unpaid bills.
    • o   We projected total revenue of $35.033 billion, are now anticipating only $34.019 billion for FY12. 
  • ·         Pension Obligations
    • o   Our pension obligation for FY12 was $4.868 billion, and is projected for FY13 to be $5.825 billion, an increase of $957 million. A major component of the increase was a $581 million increase in the actuarial assumptions underlying some of the plans.
    • o   78% of this cost is for workers who are NOT employed by the State of Illinois (they are employed by local school districts, community colleges and universities, which do not pay their employer share. The taxpayers of the State have paid the employer contributions.)
    • o   The changes to unfunded liability (including actuarial changes and implementation of the 2 Tier pension system is currently projected to be $57.927 billion by 2045 (including $10.634 billion in actuarial assumption changes, and investment returns to be $18.742 billion less than projected. Keep in mind that these numbers are continually changing as the markets and underlying actuarial assumptions change.)
  • ·         Medicaid Liability (assuming 2% annual growth)
    • o   Medicaid cash spend from the General Revenue Fund (GRF) is expected to grow from $7.095 billion in FY12 to $7.315 billion in FY17 (inclusive of federal match)
    • o   Other related fund GRF cash spend (e.g. Healthcare Provider, LTC and Hospital Provider Relief Funds) is expected to decrease from $2.294 billion to $1,835 billion (inclusive of federal match)
    • o   Meanwhile, estimated unpaid bills on hand  will grown from $1.772 billion in FY12 to $21.002 billion in FY17
    • o   Again, changes in eligibility, utilization, rate or federal participation could vastly change these numbers


I am working with a bi-partisan group of legislators on short-term and long-term solutions to our pension problems. As a member of the Joint Medicaid Committee, I will be working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both the House and Senate to address these alarming numbers, as well.  The size of the problem on the expense side is so enormous that any solution that we develop will cause substantial hardship for one group or another. There is no way of finding easy or painless solutions.  I will try to keep you informed of the various options that are on the table, their potential financial effects and their human toll. 


As always, I welcome your thoughts and advice. I can be reached in Chicago at 773 348 3434, at the Capitol at 217 782 3835 or at