- Follow along with the General Assembly
- Unfunded pension liability is $141.4 billion
- Undocumented immigrant health care costs continue to add up
- Illinois National Guard members deployed to Middle East
Follow along with the General Assembly
This week the House and Senate came back to Springfield as the spring session of the General Assembly gets going. We will be in Springfield for eleven of the next fifteen weeks. Most of the activity is in committee hearings now, as bills are being reviewed and evaluated for possible action by the full House later this spring.
House floor sessions and committee hearings are open to the public, but if you can’t make the drive down to Springfield, you can also watch and even participate online.
All House sessions and many committee hearings are live-streamed on the General Assembly website, ilga.gov. On days and at times when the House or its committees are in session, you can go to https://www.ilga.gov/houseaudvid.asp to watch live. To find out when House committees meet and when the full House convenes for session, you can look up House schedules at https://www.ilga.gov/house/schedules/default.asp.
In recent years the House has not been very good about convening on time, so some patience might be required.
For many years Illinoisans have been able to attend committee hearings and testify or file “witness slips” in support or opposition to a bill. But for those who cannot make the trip to Springfield, the witness slip process is also available online. If you want to express your thoughts on a bill and have them entered into the House record, you can file a witness slip or written testimony right from your own home. This is a great way for Illinoisans to make sure their voice is heard. On some controversial bills in recent years we have seen tens of thousands of Illinoisans give us their thoughts.
Go to https://www.ilga.gov/house/HouseCommitteeWrittenTestimony.asp to find out how you can participate in the lawmaking process without having to travel to Springfield.
Unfunded pension liability is $141.4 billion
The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability has delivered to the General Assembly an updated report on the state’s unfunded pension liability, which now stands at $141.4 billion. The update included data from the end of 2023 for such factors as pension fund assets, obligations and expected future returns on investments.
The term “unfunded liability” refers to the gap between the assets of the state’s five pension funds and the total liability to beneficiaries of those funds. The system with the largest unfunded liability is the Teachers Retirement System, which has an unfunded liability of $81.9 billion.
After many years of bad news on this front, this report actually showed some stabilization. Between 2009 and 2020 unfunded liabilities nearly doubled, going from $77.8 billion to $144.2 billion. Since hitting that peak in 2020, the unfunded liability has been holding at a slightly lower amount, which brings us to the current figure of $141.4 billion.
The unfunded pension liability drags down Illinois’ credit rating, which is one of the worst in the nation. This means that most other state government can borrow money at much lower cost to their taxpayers than Illinois can.
Costs of undocumented immigrant health care continue to add up
One of the reasons I opposed last year’s state budget was the $550 million in taxpayer funds which it devoted to subsidized health care for adult undocumented immigrants. It was believed at the time that the real cost of this expansion of services would actually be much higher. A recent report from the state agency overseeing the program has indicated that that belief was correct.
Hospitals bill the state for the care they provide to undocumented adults, and the state pays the bills. The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services issues a report each month on the enrollments and costs of this program. The latest report, released a few weeks ago, projected that the annual cost has now gone up to $773 million, well over the amount that was included in the budget for the year.
Illinois National Guard members deployed to Middle East
More than 300 Illinois National Guard members are preparing to deploy to the Middle East as part of Operation Spartan Shield, the ongoing military operations in Southwest Asia. The 300 were reviewed by Major General Rodney Boyd, the state’s assistant adjutant general, during a ceremony at Chicago’s Wintrust Arena last week.
The Illinois guard members will be under the umbrella of U.S. Central Command while they are deployed. Operation Spartan Shield has been ongoing since September 2012 and has seen U.S. service personnel rotated in and out of the Middle East ever since. National Guard units deployed for Spartan Shield have generally performed duties such as infrastructure support and logistics.