Dear Friends,

If you’ve been following media reports about the state budget, you’ve probably heard a lot about state employee pensions.  You’re probably going to hear even more this spring.  Employee pensions are a complicated, emotional topic, so there will probably be a lot of facts, rumors, and accusations in the press.  I want to take this opportunity to explain—in detail—why you should care about employee pensions and why the issue is so complicated.

What are pensions?

Pensions are a kind of retirement fund.  Illinois has a defined benefit pension system.  When workers retire, they receive a fixed pay check—whether they live two years or twenty.  Both workers and the state pay into Illinois’ pension funds.  The workers pay a fixed percentage of their income.  The state pays the rest of the money needed to pay for the workers’ retirements.  This amount is calculated based on anticipated retirement dates, life expectancy, the state’s expected return on its investments, and a variety of other factors.

Who can collect pensions?

The people who can collect Illinois state pensions are the teachers who work in our schools, the professors at Illinois’ public universities, the Department of Transportation employees who maintain our highways, the Illinois State Police officers who protect our communities, the Department of Agriculture employees who inspect our food to make sure it’s safe, the DCFS employees who protect abandoned and abused children, and more.  For many of these people, their pension will be their only retirement income in that they don’t qualify for Social Security.

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Category: E-Newsletters

State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) has been appointed to a special Senate committee that will work to extend and streamline one of Illinois government’s most successful job-creation tools: Enterprise Zones.

Enterprise Zones are specially designated areas where employers—particularly large manufacturers—receive targeted tax relief, fast-tracked reviews of some state and local permit applications, and improved government service.  The state’s Enterprise Zone Program has become a priority because eight Enterprise Zones are set to expire next year, including one Peoria and another in Canton/Fulton County.  Dozens more will expire over the next few years.

“Many of the state’s largest employers, including Caterpillar, have challenged us to improve Illinois’ business climate,” Koehler said.  “Coming up with a comprehensive plan to extend and improve the Enterprise Zone Program will put people to work in our local communities and help attract businesses large and small to invest in Illinois.”

 The bipartisan Special Committee on Enterprise Zone Extensions is dedicated to working with the Illinois Manufacturing Association and other stakeholders to come up with a comprehensive plan to revamp the Enterprise Zone Program rather than relying on piece-meal extensions of individual Enterprise Zones.   The committee will hold hearings throughout the state, including one in Peoria.

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Category: Press Releases

After hearing Governor Quinn’s budget proposal, State Senator Dave Koehler said that he thinks the real key to balancing the state budget this year will be bipartisanship.

“Last year, we saw a bipartisan budgeting process in the Illinois House,” Koehler said.  “Democrats and Republicans worked together and made tough choices.  In the Senate, we saw a lot of press conferences, grandstanding, and refusal to compromise.  That can’t happen again this year.  We’re all going to have to work together.”

Koehler believes that the governor’s budget plan can be a starting point for budget negotiations.

“Look, the governor’s plan is always just the starting point for negotiations,” Koehler explained.  “It really is important for us to know his priorities and his ideas, but no governor ever gets exactly what he wants.  Governor Quinn said he’s still waiting to hear back from working groups on Medicaid and pensions, and those are a major part of the state budget.  Still, his budget plan gives us a place to start in important areas like education and human services spending.”

One of the major parts of the governor’s speech was a plan to close 14 major state facilities and dozens of smaller service centers, including a halfway house in Peoria.

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Category: Press Releases

Earlier today, the Illinois State Senate passed a resolution urging Congress to provide more support for local and regional food systems in its forthcoming farm bill.

“My colleagues and I believe that the federal government needs to recognize that helping farmers sell their produce in local markets only strengthens our country,” explained State Senator Dave Koehler, who sponsored the resolution.  “When supermarkets and farmers’ markets sell locally grown fruits and vegetables, it’s a net gain for the local economy and the environment.  When people buy strawberries grown a few miles down the road, most of the money they spend is invested right back into their local community.  When people buy strawberries grown in Spain, their money not only leaves the community, it leaves the country.”

“Illinois has some of the most fertile farm land in the world,” Koehler added.  “Yet, we mostly grow crops to export or feed to livestock.  We have the opportunity to grow so many more fruits and vegetables for the local market.”

The farm bill is a package of federal legislation enacted every five to seven years to set the general direction for America’s farm and food policy.

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Category: Press Releases

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Contact Info

Springfield Office:
M113 Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-8250

Peoria Office:
400 NE Jefferson, Suite 200
Peoria, IL 61603
(309) 677-0120