On Monday, we met with Rep Patti Bellock in her Westmont office. Rep Bellock is always a delight to meet with and we updated her on service cutbacks because of the state’s budget tragedy. We also discussed rebalancing, employment first and the staff recruitment crisis. Rep Bellock is respected by both sides of the aisle for her knowledge of disability issues. She is in House Leadership and also sits on the Appropriations Human Services Committee.
Phil and I also met with Rep Margo McDermed on Wednesday morning to discuss the state budget, the staff recruitment crisis and rebalancing. Rep McDermed is in the New Lenox area and happens to be my State Representative.
Thursday I head to the Capitol to attend two important meetings. Director Fenton has called the State Associations together to discuss the Second Draft of the State Transition Plan. It should be a good meeting with members of Health Care & Family Services also attending. Also regarding the plan, CMS has granted a 90 day extension for Illinois’ response to CMS’s feedback on our Statewide Home & Community-Based Services Transition Plan. The deadline for the next submission of the plan is on or before March 1, 2016. This will give us more time for discussion with stakeholders.
The second meeting, hosted by IARF, is also for the State Associations on the crisis facing many non-profits: the retention and recruitment of staff.
Tuesday in Chicago the Governor and the four Legislative Leaders met to discuss the state budget. Some minor progress was made.
Story on Leaders meeting yesterday from the State Journal Register.
Legislative leaders report some progress in budget talks
By Sara Burnett, The Associated Press
CHICAGO — Illinois legislative leaders said they made minor progress during a Tuesday meeting aimed at ending the state budget stalemate, including agreeing to take another shot at overhauling a public pension system that’s billions in debt.
Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, GOP leaders Sen. Christine Radogno and Rep. Jim Durkin, Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton sat down for the second time in as many weeks to try to end an impasse now in its sixth month.
Speaking to reporters afterward, Madigan, Radogno and Durkin described the meeting at Rauner’s office in Chicago as cordial and said they will meet again next week.
They said the conversation behind closed doors has focused almost entirely on legislative priorities Rauner says he wants, including term limits for lawmakers and curbing the rights of labor unions to collectively bargain.
None of those proposals would have an immediate impact on the state’s budget deficit, but Rauner has said they’re necessary to improve Illinois’ economy in the long term. The businessman-turned governor says he won’t sign off on a tax increase to help balance the budget until Democrats who control the legislature give him some of what he wants.
Madigan and the GOP leaders indicated the items most likely to bring an agreement — which also took up most of the nearly 90-minute sit-down — were changes to pensions and workers’ compensation insurance.
The leaders agreed their staffs will meet to try to work out a new plan to address Illinois’ multibillion-dollar unfunded pension liability.
The Illinois Supreme Court earlier this year threw out a previous pension overhaul, saying it violated a provision of the state constitution that says retirement benefits can’t be diminished. Lawmakers said that plan would save the state billions in contributions. Durkin said they’re now considering other ideas.
“No one wants to talk about it, but we have to talk about it,” he said.
Democrats have rejected other top Rauner priorities, such as term limits and creating a new process for drawing Illinois’ political districts.
Republicans say those changes are necessary to end years of corruption. Madigan calls them “Republican campaign issues for November 2016” that have no place in budget talks.
Radogno and Durkin also said lawmakers agreed to shelve talk of changing the formula Illinois uses to fund public education, saying they will take it up after a budget deal is reached. Lawmakers have long agreed that the system should be more equitable, but not on how to fix it.
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