State issues center stage at Naper Chamber event

Illinois Minority House Leader Jim Durkin (R-Westchester) spoke at the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce Legislative Lunch this week, and gave an update on activities in Springfield.

Durkin said that the rough and tumble of politics in the state capital often produces friction that leaves many legislators unable to mend fences across the aisle and sometimes even with members of their own party.

“That’s not good …,” he said. “And that’s not good for Illinois.”

Durkin listed several areas where the two parties had put aside their differences in order to solve critical public issues. First there was the public pension reform bill passed by both houses of the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Quinn.

The measure was almost immediately challenged by public employee unions and declared unconstitutional by a Sangamon County circuit court.

“I expected that,” Durkin said.

He also said that he was confident that the wording of the legislation would ultimately allow it to be approved by the Illinois State Supreme Court.

Durkin also said that Republicans worked with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on crafting SB-1922, the legislation signed into law by Quinn designed to ease Chicago’s pension liabilities.

Durkin said that Illinois’ hyper-partisan political climate led some to ask, “why are you helping out,” but he stressed the importance of Chicago to the entire state, and warned that without action, the city could be looking at the same financial crisis facing Detroit.

“It would have a terrible affect on Illinois,” he said. “It was the right thing to do.”

Moreover, Durkin said that he had worked with Quinn on an infrastructure spending bill that was trimmed from $1.6 billion to $1.1 billion, based on concerns from many about the uncertain nature of some of the money proposed.

“There was cooperation on many issues,” he said.

Durkin also pointed to clear differences between the parties, such as the final 2015 budget, the proposed progressive tax, and extending the 2011 state income tax increase beyond its scheduled sunset date of Jan. 1, 2015.

“We were not going to participate in that kind of class warfare,” he said.

Durkin said that the final Supreme Court decision on pension reform would likely not be known until late spring or early summer 2015.

Several Democrats were in the audience, but the only comment Durkin got was praise for his comments supporting community colleges and aiding technical and vocational education.

“Where are we going to get skilled labor,” state Sen. Linda Holmes (D-Plainfield) said, noting that her experience prior to running for office was in the construction business.

Illinois State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) said she is not thrilled with the pace of reform in Springfield and what it means for Illinois.

“We know exactly what we need to do in Illinois,” she said.

Ives made reference to surrounding states that had tackled problems of excessive regulation, pension liabilities and workman’s compensation reform.

“We are in such bad shape,” she said, stressing that many in government were aware of what needed to be done.

“I have no patience for it,” she said.

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