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Our view: Lawmakers, get to work

Spring Break ended for state lawmakers last week.

Legislators returned to Springfield after taking two weeks off. No movement, at least publicly, was reported in the dire need to reform the state’s pension system, which has an unfunded liability of more than $96 billion.

It costs an estimated $17 million daily for each day lawmakers don’t enact pension reform. The House passed a reform bill March 21, before lawmakers went on break. The measure capped the 3 percent annual cost-of-living adjustment for existing retirees to only the first $25,000 of income for four of the five state-run pension systems. It also pushed back the eligibility for COLA increases to age 67 or five years after retirement.

Three weeks later, no new developments or pension legislation. Local lawmakers did report progress last week on bills they have been shepherding:

• Rep. David McSweeney’s proposed constitutional amendment to eliminate the lieutenant governor’s office (HJRCA18) passed, 81-30, in the House on Thursday. In addition to McSweeney, local Reps. Jack Franks, D-Marengo; Tim Schmitz, R-Batavia; Mike Tryon, R-Crystal Lake; and Barb Wheeler, R-Crystal Lake, voted for the amendment.

McSweeney estimates $1.8 million can be saved each year by eliminating the office. We urge the Senate to also pass the amendment so voters can have the final say on the position’s fate in 2014.

• The McSweeney-Franks debt-reform bill aimed at ending abuses of alternate revenue bonds passed, 101-6, in the House on Tuesday. Schmitz, Tryon and Wheeler voted for the reform bill (HB983), which went to the Senate and picked up chief sponsors in Sens. Pam Althoff, R-McHenry, and Dan Duffy, R-Lake Barrington.

Alternate revenue bonds allow taxing bodies to incur debt without voter approval. The Senate should follow suit and pass the bill.

• Wheeler’s legislation to create the Women Veterans Task Force to examine the needs of women veterans with respect to issues including compensation, rehabilitation, outreach and health care passed, 112-0, in the House on Thursday.

We support each of these bills and commend local lawmakers for their work on them. Yet none carries the significance of long-overdue pension reform. Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, who has been an outspoken proponent for pension reform, doesn’t think reform efforts have lost momentum since March 21.

“I think members understand the gravity of what they voted for, and I think they’re still going to be committed to doing that,” she told the State Journal-Register.

We hope she’s right. Hopefully another week doesn’t pass without any movement.

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