Two Forest Park village commissioners and Village Administrator Tim Gillian drove to Springfield last week to meet with area state legislators as part of an annual event. This year they happened to be in Springfield on the very day the General Assembly was voting on an issue important to the finances of Forest Park.
The West Suburban Municipal Conference’s annual drive down day to Springfield landed commissioners Mark Hosty and Marty Tellalian and Gillian in the state capitol on the day the General Assembly debated and quickly passed pension reform legislation.
The new law will create less generous retirement plans for newly hired state and municipal employees. This will eventually save state and local governments like Forest Park a lot of money. But since the law only affects those hired after the bill was passed Forest Park will not see savings in the immediate future.
“It’s certainly nothing that is going to help me tomorrow,” Gillian said. And the local officials say that the new law does not go far enough because it excludes police officers and fire fighters. Rapidly escalating police and fire pension contributions are taking big bites out of Forest Park’s annual budget.
The local officials encouraged the state legislators to extend the pension reform to police officers and fire fighters.
“If they applied the same fix they did (last week) to the police and fire pensions, it would go a long way toward helping local municipalities,” Hosty said.
Gillian said he was told that further pension reform would be coming in the future.
“Several legislators indicated that this was a first step and that they’re continuing to work on pension reform for all public sector employees,” Gillian said.
Pension reform wasn’t the only thing on the local officials’ minds when they met with State Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), and state representatives Karen Yarbrough (D-Maywood), Angelo “Skip” Saviano (R-Elmwood Park) and Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) as well as state transportation department officials.
In addition to asking legislators to support pension reform the Forest Park contingent also asked legislators to oppose Governor Pat Quinn’s proposal to have the state stop sharing income tax revenues with local governments. Currently the state sends 10 percent of state income revenues back to local governments.
If Quinn’s proposal is adopted it would cost Forest Park about $385,000.
“If the governor is successful with reducing the amount that the state gives back in the income tax (revenues) it would severely harm our village,” Gillian said. “We begged for them to be advocates for the communities that they serve and not let the governor move forward with that.”
Hosty said that several legislators suggested that Quinn’s proposal will not pass this year.
“They understand where we’re coming from,” Hosty said. “They feel it is more Governor Quinn trying to rally everyone toward his end goal of raising taxes. He’s doing scare tactics on everyone and that’s the one they used on us.”
It will be difficult to find votes for Quinn’s proposal in an election year, Gillian suggested. “They’re going to be hard pressed to vote for things that reduce funding to villages and communities throughout Illinois.”
In fact, the Forest Park contingent was given the impression that the legislature will mostly mark time for the rest of the session.
“Their feeling is there will be nothing that happens of substance before November’s election,” Hosty said.
All three said that the overnight trip was worthwhile. Face time with legislators has an impact, they say. They also took the advantage of a meeting with state transportation department officials to lay out the need for road repairs on state roads in Forest Park.
“It’s important for us to be down there,” Tellalian said.
Hosty agreed.”They listen to you because you take the time to go down there and see them,” Hosty said.