Despite State fiscal crisis, Illinois lawmakers get ‘Cadillac’ health plan

by Scott Reeder | Illinois News Network

Illinois taxpayers spent $1.23 million last year to provide health insurance to state lawmakers despite the fact that the jobs are part-time and the state is broke.

This perk of office is under fire from a surprising source — a group of state lawmakers.

“This is a part-time job. There is absolutely no reason that it should have health insurance and a pension provided, especially at a time like this when the state is hurting financially,” said State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills.

McSweeney along with 33 other lawmakers — about one-fifth of the General Assembly — are refusing to accept the health insurance benefits.

“If it is more generous than what other people are getting, they should at least scale it back, but I say eliminate it,” he said.

Kane and McHenry Among Illinois Counties Subsidizing Union Organizing

Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen agreed it is a bad practice…

“This is something (release time) that predates me and I’ve been here since 1984,” he said. “If they are doing taxpayer work, the taxpayers should pay the tab,” he said. “But if they are doing union work, the union should pay the tab.”

by Scott Reeder | Illinois News Network

County workers are doing union business on the taxpayer’s dime in at least 40 Illinois counties but almost no one has bothered to keep track of how much this is costing local governments.

The practice known as “release time” allows government workers to continue to participate in union business, such as collective bargaining and disciplinary hearings, while being paid by the taxpayers rather than the union.
This year, the practice was found to be unconstitutional in Arizona, which has a provision in the state constitution prohibiting gifts to private organizations or individuals.

Illinois has a similar provision in its constitution that has yet to be litigated.

Just how prevalent the practice is in Illinois remains a bit of an open question.

Illinois News Network filed Freedom of Information Act requests with all Illinois’ 102 counties to try to discern how pervasive the practice is.

Forty of the responding counties said they allow for release time but of these only one, Peoria, attempts to track it. And 34 of the responding counties say they do not allow for release time. The remaining 28 counties did not comply with Illinois law and provide the requested information to INN despite being contacted multiple times.

“This concerns me. These are taxpayer dollars that there is no accountability to the public for,” said Jon Riches, the Arizona lawyer who argued the release time lawsuit. “Employers have very little control – or idea – how these hours are being spent.“

Frank Mautino approved as new Illinois auditor general

by Cole Lauterbach | Reboot Illinois

SPRINGFIELD — State Rep. Frank Mautino will be Illinois’ next auditor general.

The Democrat from Spring Valley, nominated by state’s Legislative Audit Commission, was approved Oct. 20 by a vote of 55-0 in the Senate and 102-10 in the House.

The post was established in the 1970 state constitution, and Mautino becomes Illinois’ third auditor general and the first to have served in the General Assembly.

Mautino has served in the House since 1991 and been a deputy majority leader since 2011. He was a member of the Legislative Audit Commission for 18 years before resigning from the panel this summer to submit his application for auditor.
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Rauner, handful of unions reach tentative pacts

by Mark Fitton | Illinois News Netowrk | 10/22/2015

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration said Thursday it has reached tentative agreements with unions representing roughly 300 engineers and operators, plumbers, steamfitters and machinists.

After several months of negotiations, the administration said, it has reached tentative, four-year contracts with International Union of Operating Engineers, the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry, and the International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers.

Illinois judge rules that government retiree health benefits are not protected by state constitution

By Scott Reeder
Illinois News Network

Sangamon County Circuit Court Associate Judge Stephen Nardulli dealt a blow today to government employee unions who have long contended that retiree health benefits are protected by the Illinois Constitution.

Nardulli granted the state’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by former appellate Judge Gordon Maag and other plaintiffs seeking to overturn a new Illinois law allowing the state to charge state retirees for health insurance.

“There is nothing surprising here,” said Jonathan Ingram, an attorney and a senior fellow for pension policy at the Illinois Policy Institute. “We have been saying for at least two years that retiree health insurance and pension benefits are different and that Gov. [Pat] Quinn could act on his own to have retirees pay more for their health insurance.”

Nardulli noted that retirees are not parties to collective bargaining agreements.

“They can appeal this but I’m confident that the appellate court and the state Supreme Court will agree with the lower court,” Ingram said.