GOP Senators storm out of budget committee

GOP Senators storm out of budget committee

Posted by JP on Thu, 05/22/2008 - 20:41

Angered by the treatment they’d received from the majority Democratic lawmakers, Senate Republicans stormed out of a Revenue Committee meeting Thursday evening that'd been called to debate and vote on a massive pension borrowing scheme Senate Democrats and Gov. Rod Blagojevich hope to use to balance the budget.

The state owes itself billions in pension payments that have been skipped over the years. It’s kinda like skipping your kid’s college fund payments, the longer you let it go and more you skip, the more it’s gonna cost down the road. Imagine skipping billions in payments ... for years.

But it’s “soft” debt, money the state owes itself so it’s often overlooked.

The pension borrowing deal would convert it to hard debt. Illinois taxpayers would owe the billions to someone other than themselves. Keep in mind it’s your tax dollars that will fill this pension hole. While teachers and state workers have contributed their share to theirpension funds over the years, state lawmakers and governors chose to spend the state’s share – your tax dollars – on other things.

Imagine if you found out your employer had been spending the retirement fund contributions on something other than your retirement.

If nothing else, converting it to hard debt ensures no payments will be shorted or skipped, that is if the state hopes to have any financial credibility.

But there are all kinds of games that can be played with the borrowed billions, games that result in the borrowed money going to plug current budget holes or pay for program expansions rather than pension debt, or the borrowing can be back loaded so the state has added billions to spend now and doesn’t have to worry about these “hard” payments for several years. And the commission on these deals is huge, which opens the potential for all kinds of shenanigans and corruption.

Daily Herald Capitol reporter Nick Shields stayed late Thursday to check in on the committee action and watched as the GOP members chose to bolt rather than stick around and watch the inevitable approval by the Democratic majority.

The Republicans left after the acting committee chairman – Elgin Democrat Michael Noland – cut off their line of questioning regarding ethics.

"You're not going to respect one of us. You've disrespect all of us, just because you don't like the question that's being asked. When we don't say what you want us to say then you shut us down. I think it's dead wrong," said state Sen. Chris Lauzen, an Aurora Republican.

State Sen. Bill Brady, a Bloomington Republican and expected GOP candidate for governor in 2010, led the exodus. The other Republicans -- including Roselle's Carole Pankau -- followed soon after.

A Senate vote on the borrowing scheme is expected Friday. It’ll take 36 votes for approval in the 59-member Senate. Democrats have enough votes if every member supports it.

The last time the Democrats did this, they needed Republican help and found a few GOP members willing to back the governor’s pension borrowing plan, including Hinsdale Republican Kirk Dillard.

Comments ()
We are now using Facebook comments to offer a more inclusive, social and constructive discussion. Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our or terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.