State lawmakers preparing to spend this week and next in Springfield can’t avoid it: the state is in sorry financial condition. One task awaiting them – in the post-New Year’s lame duck session, if not in this fall veto session – is to bolster the public pension systems. State Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) has been given the job of trying to work it out, as chairwoman of the House Personnel and Pensions Committee.
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“We know what the levers are that have to be pulled in order to achieve the savings that have to be achieved, both for the sustainability of the system and for the affordability of the state,” she says. As far as her heightened role the pension post has given her, Nekritz says it’s a mixed blessing. “When you take on the big issues of the day, you don’t always do it to make friends.”
Some members of the House began their work Monday afternoon, at a meeting of the House Revenue and Finance Committee. There was testimony but no vote on a measure to cap salary increases.
Springfield home care worker Kevin Holmes spoke out against it: “There are too many months when I have to decide whether or not I am going to pay a bill or pay a prescription. I got into this work because I saw the value on helping someone live independently, but I think (personal assistants) should be able to have a living wage.”
Bills called for a vote at this time of the year require a three-fifths majority to pass. After Jan. 1, they only need a simple majority – and dozens of lame-duck lawmakers will be here between New Year’s Day and the day the new General Assembly is inaugurated, Jan. 9.