SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The estimated savings on a pension proposal backed by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan earlier this year is nearly $25 billion less than originally thought.
That's because the Teachers Retirement System - one of Illinois' five pension systems - says it made a mistake in its calculations. The change was outlined in a Monday letter to a bipartisan panel tasked with coming up with an approach to solving Illinois' nearly $100 billion pension crisis.
Madigan's plan involves across-the-board cuts in benefits. It was originally touted to save Illinois about $187 billion over 30 years. However, the new estimate is about $163 billion in the same time period.
Another plan from Senate President John Cullerton, which had union support, was estimated to save roughly $47 billion over the same timeframe.
GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) - Running out of money to fight wildfires at the peak of the season, the U.S. Forest Service is diverting $600 million from timber, recreation and other areas to fill the gap.
The nation's top wildfire-fighting agency was down to $50 million after spending $967 million so far this year, Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers said Wednesday in an email.
Wildfire spending by other federal agencies takes the total to $1.2 billion.
Chambers says the $50 million the Forest Service has left is typically enough to pay for just a few days of fighting fires when the nation is at its top wildfire preparedness level, which went into effect Tuesday.
There are 51 large uncontained fires burning across the nation, making it tough to meet demands for fire crews and equipment.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois has awarded contracts for computer upgrades intended to screen out people prohibited from carrying concealed weapons under the state's new gun legislation.
The Springfield Journal-Register reports on two contracts totaling more than $350,000. The Illinois State Police is contracting with a division of Levi, Ray & Shoup of Springfield to automate the entry of names into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
The Department of Human Services is contracting with Levi, Ray & Shoup for help dealing with the new law's mental health reporting requirements.
The law gives the Illinois six months to create an application system and another three months to approve applications.
Earlier this month, Illinois became the last state in the nation to make it legal for people to carry concealed weapons in public.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois lawmakers have convened a special session in Springfield, where they're expected to move ahead with plans to form a committee to deal with pensions.
Moving to committee requires a vote by both the House and Senate.
Gov. Pat Quinn met separately with Democratic and Republican legislative leaders Wednesday morning.
Republican House Leader Tom Cross says the governor wants to move ahead quickly so pension reform can be voted on by early July in another special session.
House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton each would get three appointees to the 10-member committee. Cross and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (rah-DOH'-nyoh) each would get two.
Illinois' $97 billion unfunded pension liability is the worst in the nation.
CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) - Southern Illinois University President Glenn Poshard says the school has met a budget milestone.
He told The Southern Illinoisan Editorial Board on Monday that for the first time in several years SIU has been able to enter the next fiscal year with a budget equal to the previous year. University officials had been bracing for another 5 percent cut, but instead were able to convince state lawmakers to reinstate funding at the previous year's level. The school's budget will be $203 million.
Poshard also discussed enrollment. He says it's unrealistic to think the school's declining enrollment will turn around. But Poshard says he sees evidence enrollment is moving in the right direction. He says he has confidence Chancellor Rita Cheng will accomplish the task.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri lawmakers have prepared a budget that could force Gov. Jay Nixon to choose between developmentally disabled children and low-income seniors.
The nearly $25 billion operating budget being considered Thursday by lawmakers assumes more than $55 million of savings from the elimination of a tax break for low-income seniors and disabled residents who live in rental housing.
The budget would spend that money on early childhood programs for the developmentally disabled, health care for the blind and medical clinics that treat low-income people.
Nixon has said he would veto a repeal of the renters tax break unless it's part of a broader tax-credit overhaul. But if he does, then the early childhood programs and health care initiatives would lose money.
Lawmakers hope that will compel Nixon to accept the plan.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri public schools and universities will be getting a funding increase under an agreement by legislative budget negotiators.
A group of House and Senate members decided Tuesday to provide a $25 million funding increase to public colleges and universities based on whether they have met performance criteria such as student graduation rates. That's less than the $34 million increase sought by Gov. Jay Nixon but more than the House had approved earlier this year.
The budget also includes $10 million for the University of Missouri medical school to expand a residency program at the Cox Health system in Springfield.
Public school districts would get a $66 million increase to their $3 billion of core funding - the same amount Nixon recommended.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri lawmakers have until Friday to finalize the state's roughly $25 billion operating budget.
The House and Senate have each passed their own budget and now must hammer out an agreement on the spending plan that will take effect July 1. Budget negotiators were scheduled to begin formal talks Monday, but delayed that until Tuesday.
The House and Senate must reconcile differences on higher education funding and whether to keep intact cuts made to state agencies over concerns about the new drivers' license procedures.
One item not up for debate this week is Gov. Jay Nixon's plan to draw down nearly $1 billion from the federal government to expand Medicaid coverage for about 260,000 adults. Neither the House nor Senate included the federal money in their budget proposals.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - State senators are expected to consider two possible paths toward addressing the nation's worst pension crisis.
One option is legislation approved in the Illinois House last week. That bill is sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan. It would require public employees to pay 2 percent more toward their retirement benefits. It would also reduce annual cost-of-living increases for retirees and raise the retirement age for workers under 45.
Labor unions also are expected to pitch a plan. The details of that proposal have not been disclosed. But a spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton says it would offer employees a choice between health insurance or cost-of-living increases.
Lawmakers are expected to discuss the two options in a closed-door meeting on Monday before convening on the Senate floor.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Amid the risk of losing millions of dollars in federal transportation funding, Missouri lawmakers are considering changes to rules for commercial driver's licenses.
State House members this week gave initial approval to legislation that seeks to comply with federal regulations dealing with learning permits for commercial driver's licenses and with restrictions on texting and using hand-held cellphones while driving a commercial vehicle.
The Missouri Transportation Department says the state could lose $30 million for one year and $60 million annually after that if it doesn't act quickly enough.
The legislation needs another round of approval in the House before it can move to the Senate. Lawmakers have until their mandatory adjournment on May 17 to approve new legislation.