April 14, 2014

BY JOHN D. HOMAN
Logan Media Services

CARTERVILLE – Area lawmakers and school officials met at the annual John A. Logan College Legislative Breakfast Monday to discuss current issues.

JALC Board Chair Jake Rendleman, one of three trustees attending the meeting, addressed a variety of concerns ranging from MAP or Monetary Award Program funding discrepancies and pension reform to state funding for Illinois veterans and energy conservation.

“John A. Logan College understands the need for pension reform in Illinois and is adjusting to the new reality of the Pension Reform Act,” Rendleman said. “The impact of this act on the college is dramatic. This year, we will have more retirees (25 to date) in a single year than ever before in school history.”
Rendleman said most retirees have been motivated to leave by the changes in the law and their own avoidance of what they see as penalties if they do not retire before the implementation date.

“The college believes the changes to the pension system will impact our ability to recruit both new faculty and new administrators due to the much reduced benefits among Tier 3 hires,” Rendleman said.

Rendleman added that Logan will be “challenged” to find quality replacements for many of the retirees.

Offering their take on the issues were longtime legislators, State Sens. Dave Luechtefeld (R-Okawville) and Gary Forby (D-Benton); State Reps. John Bradley (D-Marion) and Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro); and Congressional representatives Melissa O’Dell-Olson (Sen. Dick Durbin-D); John Hanson (Rep. John Shimkus-R); and Karl Maple (Rep. Bill Enyart-D).

Others who spoke included Du Quoin School Supt. Gary Kelly, Jackson/Perry counties regional school representative Donna Boros and new Shawnee College President Tim Bellamey.

“I’m looking forward to an interesting legislative session,” Luechtefeld said, referring to the possibility of making the temporary income tax a permanent one and whether the Illinois Supreme Court would rule the Pension Reform Act as constitutional or unconstitutional.

“I always thought it was unconstitutional, but we’ll see,” he said. “I also think a progressive income tax could end up on the ballot.”

Bradley disagreed.

“That’s not going to happen,” he said. “And the millionaire tax is gone, too. We’re going to try to keep funding levels the same in education and there is also going to be a business tax break bill brought up, which will help businesses of all sizes.”

Each of the legislators complimented John A. Logan College and surrounding community colleges for continuing to provide a quality education for area residents at affordable prices.

“We understand the importance of community colleges,” Bost said. “You have always been ready to go to work to help serve the needs of our residents.”