Legislative Update: April 3, 2017

Rep. Steve Reick Co-Sponsors Comprehensive Pension Reform Bill
Our state desperately needs pension reform, and this year I’m serving as a co-sponsor of a comprehensive, compromise pension reform bill that would provide significant savings for taxpayers.

The legislation, filed in Springfield as HB 4027, is a monumental showing of compromise on the part of the House Republican Caucus. It is modeled after legislation introduced in a bipartisan manner in the Senate. Specifically, HB 4027:

  • Includes Senate President John Cullerton’s “consideration model” that would require members of TRS, SURS, SERS, GARS, and CTPF to exchange their Tier 1 COLA for the right to have future raises to be counted as pensionable, or keep their COLA and sacrifice future raises as pensionable.
  • Closes new member participation in GARS.
  • Offers Tier 1 TRS, SURS, SERS and GARS employees the option to participate in a defined contribution (DC) plan.
  • Creates a voluntary Tier 3 Hybrid defined benefit/defined contribution plan for new Tier 2 employees under TRS, SURS, and certain SERS members who do not participate in Social Security.
  • Provides a one-time-only $215 million pension parity payment to the Chicago Public Schools.

This compromise bill is drawn from prior language agreed to by Democrats and Republicans. It is estimated the State of Illinois will realize short-term savings of $2.25 billion dollars from the general funds, which represents a substantial step towards closing the deficit. The bill also ends pensions for legislators, which is long overdue (I rejected a pension for my legislative service). Most importantly, it is believed to be Constitutionally-sound. With more than half of the House Republican Caucus signed on as co-sponsors, I hope many Democrats will join us in our attempt to fix our failing pension systems once and for all.

McHenry County Rallies to Assist Families Displaced in Devastating Woodstock Fire
At about 3:00 in the morning on Saturday, March 25, fire and other emergency personnel responded to a massive fire at the Willow Brooke Apartments in Woodstock. Tragically, 32 families were displaced and some escaped with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. The City of Woodstock has established an Emergency Assistance Fund and is accepting monetary donations to assist victims with their financial needs as they deal with the losses they sustained from the fire. Click here for more information about how you can help. Representatives from the American Red Cross were on the scene immediately during the night and provided displaced tenants with hotel vouchers and other short-term items.

Marengo FFA Students Visit Capitol on “Ag Day”

Thursday was Agriculture Day in Springfield, and the Capitol was buzzing with high school students from chapters of Future Farmers of America (FFA) programs from throughout the state. I had an opportunity to visit with a great group of students from the Marengo High School FFA chapter. We had a nice talk and they brought me a lunch that featured a variety of Illinois-grown foods. The lunch was delicious, and I hope the hundreds of students who made the trip to Springfield enjoyed their day at the Capitol.
Reick Presents First Bill before House Revenue and Finance Committee
In Illinois we have seniors on fixed incomes who are missing out on a tax credit that most other taxpayers are able to receive. As my first bill as a lawmaker, on Thursday I presented a bill before the House Revenue & Finance Committee that would address this issue. The committee held a subject matter hearing on HB 3013, which would provide property tax relief to seniors over the age of 65 whose federal adjusted gross income is under $50,000. Specifically, the bill would allow those meeting the proposed eligibility threshold to enjoy a tax refund equal to 5% of the taxes paid on their principal residence. These fixed income seniors are some our most vulnerable citizens, and while the tax refund that was proposed does not represent a large amount of money, it could make a real difference for those who find themselves choosing between buying groceries or filling a prescription.
IDOT Announces Route 47 Project through Woodstock will Proceed
There was some great news out of Springfield last week! On Wednesday, State Senator Pamela Althoff (R-McHenry) and I hosted a group of public officials from the City of Woodstock in Springfield to meet with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). During the meeting, Secretary of Transportation Randy Blankenhorn expressed the importance of the Route 47 project and said it is one of IDOT’s top priorities. Woodstock officials were also told they are ahead of the game and are doing exactly what is needed to be done to ensure the project’s movement.
Woodstock Mayor Dr. Brian Sager was part of the group that attended the meeting downstate, and he said, “First, IDOT informed us Woodstock Route 47 Phase two is funded and will move forward, even in a time when other IDOT projects are being halted. Secondly, Secretary Blankenhorn informed us it is his expectation that actual construction of Route 47 will move forward with the completion of a Federal or State capital bill. These are substantial new developments.”

As part of preparing for the Phase two work on Route 47, IDOT representatives and the City of Woodstock are working to make final design updates as part of continuing public input from residents and businesses. I am glad to know that IDOT recognizes the importance of moving forward with the Route 47 project. For safety purposes alone it is a project that cannot be delayed. The economic and traffic flow improvements that will also result are additional benefits that will be very welcomed in this community and region.

Veterans Resource Fair and Employment Event Set for April 27 in McHenry

Several agencies and groups are coming together to provide a free Veterans Resource Fair and Employment event on Thursday, April 27 in McHenry. The all-day event will be held at the McHenry VFW Post, 3002 W. Route 120 in McHenry. The Resource Fair will be available from 9:00 AM until 1:30 PM, and the employment event will be open to veterans only from 2:00-2:30 and available to veterans and the public from 2:30 until 4:30. Just some of the booths that will be available include:
  • VA Disability Claims Screenings
  • Employment Services
  • Legal Counseling
  • Information, Referrals, Advocacy
  • Employers Ready to Hire (so bring your resume!)
  • A free lunch for veterans

The event is sponsored by the Veterans Assistance Commission, TLS Veterans, the IL Department of Employment Security, the McHenry County Community Foundations and the Capt. J.A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center. If you are a veteran or help care for one, you don’t want to miss this comprehensive event. For more information please call the Veterans Assistance Commission at (815) 334-4229.