Really lawmakers only had to get one thing done this session – at least from a fiscal standpoint – and that was to pass major pension reform. And, after six months and lots of discussion and a few votes, the House and Senate adjourned without an agreement on pensions.
No big deal right? It only costs the state, and taxpayers $17 million per day in growing debt.
In fairness, both Chambers passed pension reform. Unfortunately it wasn’t the SAME pension reform so neither bill was sent to the Governor. The House’s version would have saved more money but the unions were opposed. The Senate’s version was considered more palatable to organized labor, but in the end didn’t get voted on in the House ostensibly because the Speaker didn’t think it went far enough.
Governor Pat Quinn immediately said he would call lawmakers back this week to continue discussions.
It was also a tough session for business – at least for those businesses who are trying to survive in the construction industry. A curious, but not surprising, trend has begun to take root. Lawmakers introduce bills that hurt the owners of construction companies and when those owners, who happen to have union shops, complain they get an exemption and don’t have to comply with the law.
Message to construction companies from legislators – we only care about the jobs you create if they are union jobs. Never mind those union jobs only represent about 14% of Illinois’ workforce. Now that’s an economic development plan that is sure to fail.
Illinois continues to get crushed by neighboring states that push for big reforms to help their economies, while our lawmakers look for excuses as to why our state has the second highest unemployment rate in the country.
Lawmakers did pass a bill that requires the state’s economic development agency to put together a 5-year plan to help spur job growth. Too bad it is about 10 years too late.
If truth be told legislators already know what needs to be done to spur businesses to create jobs. They must revisit the major cost drivers for business like worker’s compensation, unemployment insurance and job-killing regulations. But that doesn’t sit well with Big Labor so it is push aside for more palatable “economic development” plans like another study, or another task force.
Even when they pass a bill that is positive for job creation, they cater to unions. Look at what happened with “fracking” and underground storage projects. Fracking, which is a major boon to the state’ energy sector, was almost derailed because unions wanted to control the work. And, at the last minute the underground storage tank industry was saddled with Project Labor Agreements – meaning only union labor get the jobs.
Again, a very small sector of the workforce getting special treatment doesn’t bode well for Illinois’ overall economic health.
Perhaps the bright spot of this session was what didn’t happen.
The threat of a $10 minimum wage, which is a $1.75 increase over our current minimum wage, loomed over lawmakers all session but in the end didn’t get a vote.
And legislation that would have effectively cut small business owners out of any work with their local governments and school districts by requiring them to participate in “apprenticeship” programs passed the House but failed to get out of a Senate committee. We all know that “apprenticeship program” is often code for union – again special treatment for a very small percentage of workers.
So while the spring session is over for now, they will be back in the fall hopefully with a renewed interest in job creation – job creation for all not just union workers that is.