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  • A Time to Act on the State Universities Retirement System | Institute of Government and Public Affairs
    session Some provisions of that proposal if allowed to stand in their current form would result in higher tuition for students at the state s public universities and community colleges according to the pension experts The uncertainty about the long term security of the state s pension system is putting the economic engine powered by its universities at risk of stalling said Avijit Ghosh a professor of business at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign The paper written by Ghosh and fellow U of I professors Jeffrey Brown and Scott Weisbenner along with colleague Steven Cunningham of Northern Illinois University builds on a set of proposals published earlier this year The new paper was published as part of IGPA s ongoing contribution to the dialogue on pension reform in Illinois found at http igpa uillinois edu pensions The authors recommend a constitutionally feasible way for SURS participants to trade in a portion of their guaranteed benefits The program would decrease future benefits but would offer to participants a lump sum payment in exchange The payment would be deposited into a self managed retirement account The opportunity to voluntarily trade in part of one s defined benefit for a lump sum is guaranteed to reduce projected liabilities for SURS said Brown the William G Karnes professor of finance at the U of I and a member of the IGPA faculty This is because the lump sum is being priced to reflect historical credited interest rates which are higher than current market rates The reason that many participants would voluntarily choose this lump sum despite the lower present value is that it provides them with an opportunity to diversify away some of the political risk that they face when they have such a large share of their future pension benefits linked

    Original URL path: http://igpa.uillinois.edu/content/time-act-state-universities-retirement-system (2016-02-17)
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  • What do voters need to know about redistricting? | Institute of Government and Public Affairs
    state Rep Adam Brown Only Davis will have a Democratic opponent in November David Gill You will have a whole new crop of candidates to choose from How can this be One word redistricting The year after every decennial census the Supreme Court requires every state to rearrange its congressional and state legislative boundaries so that each district in a given legislative chamber is equal in population That is the states must redistrict their legislatures But this is no simple exercise in head counting and geography Since the boundaries of their districts can mean political life or death for hundreds of officeholders and candidates around the state redistricting is perhaps the most politically intense process of the decade The process results in a completely new political map It also results in voter confusion While those drawing the new maps typically use the current legislative maps as a starting point they have no problem deviating from these boundaries as political factors both party and personal dictate In redistricting years when the two parties share power in state government districts are often crafted to preserve the political careers of incumbents But in 2011 Illinois Democrats controlled the entire legislative process allowing them to take as much political advantage as they felt the courts would allow just as Republicans would have done had they been in control So the Democrats packed as many Republican voters into as few districts as possible while spreading out Democrats to maximize the number of districts in which they might gain a majority This game is as old as the country but that doesn t make it any easier for voters who have to navigate the new political landscape What can you do to prepare yourself for the voting booth First visit the Illinois State Board of Elections

    Original URL path: http://igpa.uillinois.edu/ontheissues/redistricting (2016-02-17)
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  • A Tale of Two Healthcare Plans—Why This Election Matters | Institute of Government and Public Affairs
    If you answered yes to these questions you agree with President Obama and the Democrats What would each vision of future healthcare policies mean for you The future of healthcare under a re elected President Obama is somewhat clear as embodied in the Affordable Care Act ACA If you are currently uninsured you will have new coverage options access to Medicaid or subsidized commercial insurance through a new state marketplace If you have a pre existing condition insurance companies won t be allowed to deny you coverage Preventive care like mammograms and immunizations will be free If you already have insurance that you like you will probably be able to keep it although premiums may increase because insurers might pass new costs onto customers In an attempt to save money and improve patient outcomes the ACA will also affect how healthcare is delivered how doctors and hospitals are paid and how insurers operate If Mitt Romney is elected many of these changes may never be implemented Romney supports the healthcare proposals of his vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan who proposes a modified voucher system for Medicare that would go into effect as those currently under age 55 become eligible for retirement He also proposes giving states a fixed block grant and almost complete freedom to design healthcare programs for the poor elderly and disabled Yet unanswered questions remain about both plans State officials will have a say in certain key parts of the ACA s implementation Will the state expand Medicaid coverage State Democrats largely see long term benefits to wider insurance coverage while Republicans are concerned about additional costs expansion would incur for the state Will the state run its own insurance exchange rely on the federal government or create a partnership exchange Illinois policymakers would have to answer

    Original URL path: http://igpa.uillinois.edu/ontheissues/healthcare (2016-02-17)
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  • Is it fair to tax income from capital gains at such a low rate? | Institute of Government and Public Affairs
    become increasingly uneven and tax revenues are insufficient to provide basic government services it is reasonable to ask whether the wealthy are paying their fair share Lower tax rates for investment income seem to violate the traditional value embodied in the U S tax system that tax rates should increase with income or should be progressive But regardless of the debate over the justice of tax rates there are good reasons to tax capital gains from long term investments differently than income from wages Gains from investments are taxed when an asset is sold This procedure treats all appreciation of the asset as income regardless of whether it resulted from inflation An asset might have greatly increased in value but the price of goods and services may have risen even faster Consider a stock purchased for 5 000 in 1960 that now sells for 30 000 It hardly seems equitable to tax someone who makes such a transaction in the same manner that we tax someone who earned an additional 25 000 from a job last year In 1960 a family of four could live comfortably on 5 000 while today an income of 30 000 would leave the family struggling Taxation of capital gains should account for the fact that asset appreciation reflects inflation The corporate income tax rate complicates the issue further Taxing capital gains by both the corporate and personal rates could result in a higher cumulative tax rate than on wage income alone We could rewrite the tax code to explicitly correct for inflation and to adjust based on the corporate income tax rate However this might encourage individuals to play the system to reduce their tax burden Instead the system is designed to make an approximate adjustment for inflation and the corporate income tax rate

    Original URL path: http://igpa.uillinois.edu/ontheissues/taxes (2016-02-17)
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  • How do the candidates' platforms on poverty compare? | Institute of Government and Public Affairs
    the face of rampant U S poverty you might imagine that both presidential candidates would talk a lot about this problem You would be wrong Republicans declare that the safety net is the cause of not the solution to poverty and that we have to keep our eyes on the long run goal of economic growth Perhaps bruised from attempts to label him as the Food Stamp president and suggestions that he is attempting to undermine welfare reform President Obama has downplayed poverty as a campaign issue In February the Mitt Romney campaign briefly mentioned the poverty issue only to brush it off The candidate stated that I m not concerned about the very poor we have a safety net there If it needs repair I ll fix it Significantly these remarks appeared to convey an understanding that the very poor often can t lift themselves and their families up without the government s help However Mr Romney has yet to point out a single hole in the safety net that he would fix To the contrary Mr Romney has since said that he would like to see more restrictions to various welfare programs like increased time limits and work requirements Further Mr Romney subsequently chose as his running mate Rep Paul Ryan who has laid out explicit plans to virtually eliminate all welfare spending Mr Romney s recently revealed infamous remarks at a private fundraiser leave no doubt that he supports the Republican philosophy that all government assistance is a problem The poor are most assuredly among the 47 percent of Americans that are dependent on government and believe they are victims President Obama in contrast has anti poverty policy goals but lacks specifics on how to reach them First term policy objectives included cutting poverty in half in

    Original URL path: http://igpa.uillinois.edu/ontheissues/poverty (2016-02-17)
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  • How can Illinois improve its budget situation? | Institute of Government and Public Affairs
    or using one time revenue and incurring obligations that do not have to be paid until later Using a family budget as an example the state s actions are similar to spending the college fund to pay for clothes or using the credit card to pay for groceries rather than respecting the constraints of current household salary The state needs stronger requirements to highlight and distinguish these actions from sustainable revenue sources such as the flow of current tax revenue The glaring example of time shifted spending is the cost of public employee pensions With each additional year of service and salary bump public employees qualify for higher future pensions But Illinois has not covered these obligations with funds set aside for investment The state s unfunded pension liability is more than three times the combined income and sales tax collections for a year The budget should report the current change in pension obligations and the additional amount needed to amortize the unfunded obligation The second transparency concern has to do with funds reporting Illinois has hundreds of separate funds for budget accounting purposes But most discussion of the state budget concentrates only on the four General Funds which represent less than half of the total state budget Consequently moving funds around cross year accounting changes or within year transfers between funds can conceal what is really going on Between 1997 and 2009 the special fund share of total spending in Illinois ranged from 37 to 54 percent nearly the highest variability across all states How does one tell what is real and what is smoke and mirrors To make better sense of the state s budget situation the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs constructed a budget measure that combines the General Funds with over 600

    Original URL path: http://igpa.uillinois.edu/ontheissues/transparency (2016-02-17)
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  • How do energy policies affect the environment? | Institute of Government and Public Affairs
    Chicago 6 cents to Cook County and another 1 cent environmental levy A tax of 50 cents per gallon in Chicago is higher than most other cities but is considerably lower than in Canada Australia and other comparable nations In fact the gasoline tax exceeds 2 per gallon in Japan and most of Europe As those countries have learned a higher tax discourages driving and encourages fuel efficiency which helps reduce urban smog and global warming Instead the U S has tended to avoid taxes in favor of mandates and standards Cars sold in the U S must meet emission per mile standards for local pollutants that contribute to ozone Those rules also indirectly reduce greenhouse gas emissions For example the Corporate Average Fuel Economy CAFE standards require each automaker to meet a minimum miles per gallon average for all the cars they sell Those rules in turn affect climate gases For another example in a completely different realm consider the pricing of electricity to consumers and businesses a policy choice made by many state and local public utility commissions They are primarily worried about balancing the need for fair pricing and their bottom line Although the environment is not their biggest concern the way commissions set the price of electricity inevitably affects electricity use and generation This affects a host of environmental issues from coal use to urban smog to greenhouse gas emissions A final example the Environmental Protection Agency places monitors across the U S to measure National Ambient Air Quality Standards for various local pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide The EPA requires Illinois and every other state to implement a plan for any county that exceeds maximum allowed levels At certain times Cook County has been deemed out of compliance and the state has

    Original URL path: http://igpa.uillinois.edu/ontheissues/energypolicy (2016-02-17)
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  • How can states implement better education reform? | Institute of Government and Public Affairs
    evidence suggests that the gaps begin in early childhood before children even walk through a school door A recent national study found that poor kindergartners began school nearly 10 points below their higher income classmates in reading and math Interventions thus increasingly start in early childhood fueled both by the desire to reduce these school readiness gaps and the success of some widely publicized programs in doing so Indeed state funding for pre kindergarten more than doubled during the 2000s to nearly 5 5 billion in 2010 Illinois spent almost 300 million on pre k in the 2010 2011 school year With this type of investment lawmakers and the public want to see evidence that current programs in Illinois are effective Yet the best evaluations cost the most money and without good data the programs are often vulnerable to budget cuts Policymakers in Illinois can look to other states that are beginning to support better designed evaluations often using federal dollars and partnerships with universities and research firms to help fund the efforts For example an innovative evaluation of Oklahoma s state pre k program capitalized on the fact that some children just missed the birthday cutoff for enrolling one year Those children were compared with children who did make the cutoff In the following fall the children who had made the cutoff had completed a year of preschool Those who had missed the cutoff were similarly aged but were just about to begin preschool The children who had just made the birthday cutoff to attend preschool scored as though they were nine months older in their knowledge of letters and words than the children who had just missed the cutoff on average This design has been replicated in several other states and Tennessee is currently using it along with

    Original URL path: http://igpa.uillinois.edu/ontheissues/education (2016-02-17)
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