Downstate Lawmaker Screams, Throws Papers Over Pension Reform Bill
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — A downstate lawmaker screamed, yelled and threw papers Tuesday, as he expressed frustration about the Democrat-led plan to overhaul the state pension system.
A state House pension reform bill endorsed by Gov. Pat Quinn and House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) cleared a House committee Tuesday morning.
The bill would reduce annual cost-of-living increases for public employees, such as state workers, university staff and downstate teachers. It also gradually makes public schools and universities pay the cost of retirement benefits for their employees, as Chicago schools already do.
It would also shift pension costs for public schools from the state to local school districts, which would be forced to raise property taxes to fund pension costs that are now picked up by the state. That provision is not sitting well with some Republican and downstate Democratic lawmakers.
One of those lawmakers is Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro), who launched into a tirade Tuesday as he complained about the amount of power Madigan wields.
“Total power in one person’s hands – not the American way!” Bost said.
He proceeded to throw several sheets of paper in the air and punch them as they landed.
“These damn bills that come out here all the damn time, come out here at the last second!” Bost said as he threw the papers on the floor. “I’ve got to figure out how to vote for my people!”
“You should be ashamed of yourselves! I’m sick of it!” Bost went on. “Every year! We give power to one person! It was not made that way in the Constitution! He was around when it was written! Now we give him – we’ve passed rules that stop each one of us! Enough! I feel like somebody trying to be released from Egypt! Let my people go!”
Other Republicans have also called the move to shift teacher pension costs from the state to local school districts a deal breaker, and have attacked Madigan for it.
House Republican Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) said “the speaker has put in something entirely, kind of, came out of left field, that says we’re gonna allocate the responsibility to local schools. … You’re hearing from both Democrats and Republicans in the suburbs and downstate. We’re not going to support that, so the way he’s drafted it, it’s not gonna happen.”
Cross implied that might be exactly what Madigan wants, so he can avoid reducing pension benefits for teachers, while pointing the finger at Republicans for opposing the pension shift, calling that proposal a “poison pill.”
If the proposal is sent to the House floor on Wednesday, debate could be intense, and passage is, at best, considered a long shot.