Amrozowicz: State needs full balanced budget, public pension reforms
Mike Amrozowicz, the Republican candidate in the District 31 state Senate race, said Illinois needs to break its cycle of fiscal mismanagement.
Illinois’ backlog of bills continues to grow as Moody’s Investors Service speculated that it could reach up to $14 billion by the end of this fiscal year in June 2017. Moody's blames the stopgap budget.
Unpaid bills stood at $4 billion at the end of the last fiscal year on June 30, State Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger said, adding that it could reach $8.5 billion by the end of 2016.
“We need to get out of the habit of lurching from budget crisis to budget crisis because it leads to bad governing,” Amrozowicz told the Lake County Gazette. “The stopgap budget was never a perfect plan. I doubt many of the people who voted for and supported it thought it was the right way to solve our long-term problems.”
Moody’s projected that the six-month budget will drive up general fund expenditures by an estimated 12 percent this year due to a lack of any new revenue streams and continued appropriations and spending.
Amrozowicz traces this financial predicament to House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago), and said that while the stopgap was necessary to fund certain services, the state needs a proper balanced budget.
“The stopgap budget was a response to a crisis caused by Mike Madigan and the legislators he controls,” Amrozowicz said. “It was a necessary step to ensure that schools would open in the fall, that road construction wouldn't end, and that we could pay for some of our essential social services. But the plan was a Band-Aid on an open wound and not nearly enough for the people of Illinois. What we need is a long-term balanced budget and economic reform to grow our economy so that we can finally have the revenue to pay for essential services.”
The state needs money for not only essential services, but also for pensions, especially in the face of a bursting pension crisis. Illinois’ lackluster investment gains made its pension debt worse, with reports that its balance to its largest pension, the Teachers’ Retirement System, has increased by as much as $7.4 billion.
Amrozowicz said Illinois' pension system needs reforms that strike a delicate balance in protecting the interests of both taxpayers and retirees.
“I support pension reform that preserves and protects the retirement of those who have earned it while finding a balance to respect the interests of taxpayers,” he said. “There are a number of pension proposals that could reduce our yearly payments and start to reduce our long-term unfunded pension liability.”
One such reform Amrozowicz would closely study would follow a consideration model in which employees are given an option in choosing their retirement. Amrozowicz said such a reform would pass constitutional muster because it already has gained bipartisan support in the Assembly.
Amrozowicz also is looking at another alternative.
“I would also be interested in looking at voluntary lump-sum buyouts in which employees are given the option of accepting a single payment, at a discount, into a personal retirement account,” Amrozowicz said. “Going forward, Illinois should look at transitioning from defined-benefit pensions into personal retirement accounts, which are a more sustainable way to fund retirement income. This shift has already occurred across the private sector.”
Making the private sector successful so that it may bolster the economy is one of Amrozowicz's goals especially in the face of massive job losses.
Amrozowicz also said the state needs to cater to businesses so that it may grow.
“Reducing the tax burden and unnecessary regulations will be a top priority of mine in the state Senate,” Amrozowicz said. “We need to improve the business environment in Illinois so we can attract businesses back to the state and make it easier for existing businesses to create jobs. A robust and growing private sector will make all of our other problems easier to solve.”