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Simon, Mees: Long-term reform vital 

The Southern Illinoisan
May 25, 2012
By Scott Fitzgerald

CARTERVILLE — Reform of public pension funding and Medicaid are going to take more than a quick fix, Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon said Thursday.

“We need a long-term perspective,” Simon said Thursday during a news conference at John A. Logan College shortly before college administrators and board members hosted a reception for incoming President Michael Dreith, who begins his new job July 1.

Simon said state pension and Medicaid reform is particularly important to education because that funding stream could be severely altered.

According to Simon’s calculations, the current rate of accelerating public pension and Medicaid costs would gobble up 50 percent of state general revenue spending by 2014 if major reforms are not enacted.

That would severely dampen a state goal of 60 percent of working-age adults holding a degree or certificate by 2025.

“I’m anxious to support lawmakers and educators through the tough process of reform,” Simon said, adding the current proposed Medicaid reform proposal lawmakers are sifting through “is a pretty big package.”

Also speaking at the news conference, outgoing JALC President Robert Mees talked about some of the implications of a problem that he said has been growing steadily through the years.

If the burden of pension funding for its employees was to fall solely on John A. Logan College, for example, it would create an immediate $2.5 million deficit in the college budget.

Property taxes would go up. Tuition would go up, Mees said.

He said more participation is needed from state educators as part of the current reform negotiations being discussed now in Springfield.

“We’re at a most critical time in Illinois history. We need to bring everyone together to find a reasonable solution,” Mees said.