Representative Dan Swanson’s December 15 Capitol News Update


  • Latest pension report
  • Lincoln’s Challenge Academy graduation
  • Imagination Library launches statewide
  • Merry Christmas!

Latest pension report filed

Illinois has one of the worst-funded state pension systems in the country. The five state pension funds face an unfunded liability of $141.4 billion according to a report just issued by the state’s nonpartisan fiscal watchdog, the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA). The figure represents the future liabilities owed by the various pension funds to the workers who will one day draw the pensions they have earned under state law. Right now the pension funds do not have the money to pay these future liabilities.

Each year, the state sets aside a larger sum of money, known as the “pension ramp,” to try to close this gap. The General Assembly has asked CGFA to conduct an audit of the assumptions used to develop the estimate of the unfunded liability. This audit will help us better determine how much money needs to be set aside each year to close the gap. The gap is currently a little bit smaller than it was at its worst point, back in 2020 when it was $144.2 according to CGFA.

The five pension funds cover state employees, state universities, the judicial branch, teachers and General Assembly members. Though some funds are in better shape than others, all five are substantially underfunded. Pension funding has been one of the most serious fiscal challenges the General Assembly has faced in each year since I came to Springfield, and the coming spring session will be no different.

Lincoln’s Challenge Academy graduation ceremony

Lincoln’s Challenge Academy (LCA) was established in 1993. The Illinois National Guard was given the mission to design a military academy for at risk Freshmen through Senior high school students. The students cannot have past or pending criminal records or drug problems. Most of the cadre are current or former National Guard or active-duty service members.

LCA is located near Rantoul at the former Chanute Air Force Base. Several cadets earned certificates in welding, culinary and CNAs. Many earned their GED and some participated in credit recovery courses. Those Cadets will return to their High School and continue coursework.

You can read the speeches of the Valedictorians to learn how much this personally meant. Also, a list of class statistics. Not listed was the accomplishment of one cadet improving 8 grades while attending the 5 1/2 month long course.

Imagination Library launches statewide

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library puts a free book in the hands of every child under the age of five each month. Now this program is expanding statewide in Illinois to encourage early childhood literacy.

The state will partner with Imagination Library through a $1.6 million appropriation in this year’s budget. The state funds go along with funding from the Dollywood Foundation and local organizations.

Earlier this year I sponsored a resolution to support this initiative by establishing a statewide “Read With Your Kids Week.” It was part of a package of ideas to improve literacy for every child in Illinois. There is no substitute for an engaged parent (or grandparent!) when it comes to helping a child learn to read.

Those interested in participating in the program can visit to find their local provider. Readers Make Leaders!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

I hope that everyone has a very Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year!

I remember sending Christmas cards home to my family and friends while serving in Iraq. Today I am reminded of the many courageous servicemembers deployed around the world. This Christmas season means time apart from their families and holiday activities as they perform their duties protecting us. They deserve our deepest gratitude for their sacrifice and a little Christmas spirit from home. During this Christmas season, please consider sending a card or a care package to a servicemember deployed or stationed away from home as they defend our great nation.

Thank you for the privilege of serving as your representative in Springfield. I will be back with more news from state government in January.

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