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New Pension, Campaign Donation Reforms Direct Result of Blagojevich Actions

By Chuck Sudo in News on Dec 31, 2010 3:35PM

Illinois is set to have new campaign finance restrictions go into effect on New Year's Day. Yesterday, Gov. Quinn signed into law new pension reforms that increase the retirement age of teachers, firefighters and policemen, and restricts double dipping. While neither go the full length of what reform advocates want, they are first steps and, to a man, are the result of the actions or inactions of Rod Blagojevich's tenure as Governor, and his impeachment.

That Quinn chose Dec. 9, 2009 to sign into law the campaign finance reform was notable because it was the one-year anniversary of Balgojevich's arrest for allegedly trying to sell President Obama's former Senate seat to the highest bidder. Quinn said at the time of the signing, "I think that last year at this very day was an alarm bell, as I said at the time, to the people of Illinois that there were serious, serious problems in our state government."

Under the new reforms, individuals can donate a maximum of $5,000 to primary and general election campaigns; corporations are limited to a maximum $10,000 donation; political action committees can donate no more than $50,000 an election. That's a big step considering there were no limits before. Where there are possible loopholes in the reform is in the amount of money the political funds controlled by the state's top legislative leaders can dole out in a general election. There are still no restrictions there. But Senate President John Cullerton says that the other restrictions will lead to a trickle-down effect in how the party doles out campaign cash.

Meanwhile, the deals on pension reform were only able to be dealt with once Blagojevich was impeached and Quinn ascended to the Governor's office. Lawmakers are hoping the pension reforms will save the state billions in the coming decades. Closing the "double dip" loophole, where a person can collect a government pension from one job while working another, is a major advancement. Mayor Daley and city officials are still lobbying Springfield for a special exemption, as the new reforms could blow a hole in the 2011 city budget now being balanced by one-time dips into cash reserves and TIFs.