An “Agreed Bill” That I Don’t Agree With

 

For those of you who live in Illinois or are just curious as to how one state can find itself in such a mess, here’s the latest post from my blog: 

In April, I was appointed to be a representative of the House Republican caucus on an “Agreed Bill Committee” which is a device used by labor and the business community during negotiations over the critical issue of Unemployment Insurance. By that process, business and labor agree that they will not propose legislation dealing with tax increases or benefit cuts to the unemployment system until both sides have fully negotiated a settlement of the issue. It would then be my role, along with the other members of the Committee to put its stamp of approval on the agreement and work to pass the legislation through the House.

In an April 23rd letter from representatives of the business community, it was said:

“Because of the pandemic, Illinois’ UI Trust Fund has a deficit of unprecedented levels. Due to the need to borrow funds from the federal government to pay benefits, Illinois’ General Fund is once again faced with the very real possibility of having to pay tens of millions of dollars year-after-year to pay interest penalties absent an agreement.”

The letter from the business representatives went on to say:

“(Previously) Illinois has avoided having to dip into general revenue funds to pay interest as required by federal law because business and labor have always come to closure to solve the problem.”

Interest began to accrue on this deficit on September 1, and as of November 1, Illinois had accrued almost $9 million in interest on the $4.4 billion that the state is obligated to repay, and that amount is growing by nearly $300,000 per day.

Illinois received over $8 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds from the federal government. On May 17, the U.S. Department of the Treasury released guidance specifying that states could use ARPA money to restore their unemployment funds to pre-pandemic levels, and many states did just that. The Governor put a crowbar in the state’s wallet and committed $100 million.

Under current law, the Unemployment Insurance Act (UI Act) has a series of pre-programmed tax increases and benefit cuts which were set to take effect on December 31, 2021.  These statutory changes are described as “speed bumps,” and are incentives to maintain the integrity of the agreed-bill process by imposing pains and penalties on business and labor to keep them at the negotiating table.

In a telephone conference prior to the just concluded Veto Session, business and labor agreed to postpone the “speed bumps” until July 3rd, 2022, which means that by then an additional $73 million of interest will come due, to be paid by taxpayers out of the General Revenue Fund, with no guarantee that the date won’t be extended even further. Even if the $100 million the Governor allocated from the ARPA money to the fund could be used to pay the interest, it would barely cover the amount due. The extension was passed during Veto Session as part of H.B. 594. I was one of the two “No” votes on that bill.

What’s really going on here is that the Governor is slow-walking the state’s obligation to repay its debt to the Federal government at a cost to you of $300,000 per day. He’s doing it with the hope and expectation that the Feds will turn around and forgive the debt without using ARPA funds to do so. In the meantime, the Governor will not tell us how much of the $8 billion we got in ARPA funding is left and what’s being done with it. Any money he’s using to prop up programs funded by General Revenue will then become part of the next budget year’s baseline. It’ll be the gift that keeps on giving, at your expense.

I could not in good conscience lend my support to a process which should have been completed months ago without additional cost to Illinois taxpayers. I’ve had private conversations with members on the other side of the aisle who agree with me but won’t go against the Governor. Since I have no say in the actual negotiations and my continued involvement with the Committee would imply my agreement with the outcome, I’ve sent a letter to the House Republican leader requesting my removal from the Agreed Bill Committee.

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  1. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    I fantasize that if a substantial share of outstanding Illinois public debt were held by the mafia, then an entirely new set of incentives for fiscal responsibility would emerge.

    • #1
  2. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member
    9thDistrictNeighbor
    @9thDistrictNeighbor

    Illiniguy: Interest began to accrue on this deficit on September 1, and as of November 1, Illinois had accrued almost $9 million in interest on the $4.4 billion that the state is obligated to repay, and that amount is growing by nearly $300,000 per day.

    [Snip]

    In the meantime, the Governor will not tell us how much of the $8 billion we got in ARPA funding is left and what’s being done with it. 

    [Snip]

    I’ve had private conversations with members on the other side of the aisle who agree with me but won’t go against the Governor. 

    Does anyone in this state have a backbone?  Anyone?  Bueller?

     

     

    • #2
  3. The Cynthonian Member
    The Cynthonian
    @TheCynthonian

    Too bad you don’t have a decent media that would publicize this, either.

    • #3
  4. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Ugly sausage making

    • #4
  5. Bunsen Coolidge
    Bunsen
    @Bunsen

    Is it bad to wish an Illinois shaped asteroid wipes us out just to be rid of the pillsbury dough boy?  I have threatened bodily harm to my friends who use one of my nicknames, JB.  I figure my tunnel to Indiana will be done in about 10 years.

    keep up the good fight @Illiniguy!

    • #5
  6. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Illiniguy: Since I have no say in the actual negotiations and my continued involvement with the Committee would imply my agreement with the outcome, I’ve sent a letter to the House Republican leader requesting my removal from the Agreed Bill Committee.

    That’s why I quit serving on committees where my only role is to have my name attached to proposals I disagree with. 

    • #6
  7. HankRhody Freelance Philosopher Contributor
    HankRhody Freelance Philosopher
    @HankRhody

    9thDistrictNeighbor (View Comment):

    Does anyone in this state have a backbone?  Anyone?  Bueller?

    At least one guy is willing to risk his prestige to protest this. Well done Illiniguy!

    • #7
  8. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    Illiniguy: I’ve sent a letter to the House Republican leader requesting my removal from the Agreed Bill Committee.

    Doesn’t the legislature have phones or email? Why request instead of inform? What if your request is denied, then what?

    • #8
  9. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    I still dont understand what this committee is. Who is “business” and who is “labor”. Why do these people or entities have such control over the elected legislature? Why doesn’t the elected legislature simply legislate as needed instead of leaving things to these unelected representatives representing who knows what in reality?

    • #9
  10. Illiniguy Member
    Illiniguy
    @Illiniguy

    Ed G. (View Comment):

    Illiniguy: I’ve sent a letter to the House Republican leader requesting my removal from the Agreed Bill Committee.

    Doesn’t the legislature have phones or email? Why request instead of inform? What if your request is denied, then what?

    It’s better to memorialize this type of thing with a letter, as my appointment was done the same way. In a nod toward decorum, I requested rather than informed the Leader. If he thinks my presence on the committee is needed, he then has the chance to deny my request. 

    Ed G. (View Comment):

    I still don’t understand what this committee is. Who is “business” and who is “labor”. Why do these people or entities have such control over the elected legislature? Why doesn’t the elected legislature simply legislate as needed instead of leaving things to these unelected representatives representing who knows what in reality?

    “Business” are the representatives of employers (retail, manufacturing, etc.) who pay the unemployment taxes. “Labor” are the representatives of those whose benefits can be cut if another downturn occurs while we don’t have the money to pay them. The agreed bill process is meant to ensure that those parties which are most at risk of paying higher taxes or receiving reduced benefits are the ones making the decision as to who gets what. The last time this happened (long before I was in the G.A.), labor walked away from the process and thus forced massive tax increases on business. The “committee” to which I was appointed has no say in the negotiations, but serves as the group which is tasked with carrying onto the floor whatever comes out of the process in the form of agreed legislation. In this instance, the Governor is pulling the strings and I have significant problems with his actions. 

    • #10
  11. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    Illiniguy (View Comment):

    Ed G. (View Comment):

    Illiniguy: I’ve sent a letter to the House Republican leader requesting my removal from the Agreed Bill Committee.

    Doesn’t the legislature have phones or email? Why request instead of inform? What if your request is denied, then what?

    It’s better to memorialize this type of thing with a letter, as my appointment was done the same way. In a nod toward decorum, I requested rather than informed the Leader. If he thinks my presence on the committee is needed, he then has the chance to deny my request. 

    If he denies the request, then what? Will you continue on with the farce?

    • #11
  12. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    Illiniguy (View Comment):

    Ed G. (View Comment):

    I still don’t understand what this committee is. Who is “business” and who is “labor”. Why do these people or entities have such control over the elected legislature? Why doesn’t the elected legislature simply legislate as needed instead of leaving things to these unelected representatives representing who knows what in reality?

    “Business” are the representatives of employers (retail, manufacturing, etc.) who pay the unemployment taxes. “Labor” are the representatives of those whose benefits can be cut if another downturn occurs while we don’t have the money to pay them. The agreed bill process is meant to ensure that those parties which are most at risk of paying higher taxes or receiving reduced benefits are the ones making the decision as to who gets what. The last time this happened (long before I was in the G.A.), labor walked away from the process and thus forced massive tax increases on business. The “committee” to which I was appointed has no say in the negotiations, but serves as the group which is tasked with carrying onto the floor whatever comes out of the process in the form of agreed legislation. In this instance, the Governor is pulling the strings and I have significant problems with his actions.

    Wow this is even worse than I first thought. I am both “business” and “labor” in Illinois, and no one ever asked me who I want representing me. Silly me I thought my elected representative was supposed to represent me. Now I understand that my elected representative, if he were to be assigned to this committee, is only supposed to advance whatever legislation these unelected representatives come up with.

    Who are these people? How are they selected? In what way are they actually representative? Why do actual representatives continue to tolerate something like this?

    • #12
  13. Illiniguy Member
    Illiniguy
    @Illiniguy

    Ed G. (View Comment):

    Wow this is even worse than I first thought. I am both “business” and “labor” in Illinois, and no one ever asked me who I want representing me. Silly me I thought my elected representative was supposed to represent me. Now I understand that my elected representative, if he were to be assigned to this committee, is only supposed to advance whatever legislation these unelected representatives come up with.

    I’d ask you to consider this: Who would you rather have negotiating a solution, the parties which are closest to the pain that will have to be imposed if a solution isn’t found, or bloviating politicians with just as much and eye (or maybe more so) on the next election than solving the problem? Most bills introduced in the legislature don’t spring fully formed from the foreheads of politicians, as if they were Zeus. They’re suggested by constituents and others who see an issue they think can be solved at the state level (though most can’t be). If I stay on the committee and accept whatever solution ultimately comes out of it, and then advocate for its passage, I’ll be doing nothing more than is ordinarily the case. In this case I’d be expected to support that outcome, and I like to think that I took a principled stand on what I’m seeing.

    • #13
  14. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    Illiniguy (View Comment):

    Ed G. (View Comment):

    Wow this is even worse than I first thought. I am both “business” and “labor” in Illinois, and no one ever asked me who I want representing me. Silly me I thought my elected representative was supposed to represent me. Now I understand that my elected representative, if he were to be assigned to this committee, is only supposed to advance whatever legislation these unelected representatives come up with.

    I’d ask you to consider this: Who would you rather have negotiating a solution, the parties which are closest to the pain that will have to be imposed if a solution isn’t found, or bloviating politicians with just as much and eye (or maybe more so) on the next election than solving the problem? Most bills introduced in the legislature don’t spring fully formed from the foreheads of politicians, as if they were Zeus. They’re suggested by constituents and others who see an issue they think can be solved at the state level (though most can’t be). If I stay on the committee and accept whatever solution ultimately comes out of it, and then advocate for its passage, I’ll be doing nothing more than is ordinarily the case. In this case I’d be expected to support that outcome, and I like to think that I took a principled stand on what I’m seeing.

    IG, there is a world of difference between constituent suggestions, problems, and ideas informing legislation versus whatever this committee is. Right? Here you are on the committee whether you want to be or not and your only job is to get through whatever these other people work out. That is far from what should ordinarily be the case at least according to my understanding of civics.

    “Business” and “labor” coming together to solve some problem that they supposedly are most familiar with. Sounds good. What of me and my neighbor? What of the taxpayer? What of the businesses or laborers who were never consulted as surely 99% of us weren’t? Who’s representing us?

    • #14