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NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson 25th District state Sen. Jim Oberweis (R-Sugar Grove) addresses a Bureau-La Salle Tea Party meeting at the Elks Lodge in Oglesby on Tuesday evening. Oberweis along with senatorial candidate Patrick Hughes spoke and had a question-and-answer session with the group regarding taxes, speed limit, the newly concealed weapon law and other issues.
Freshman state Sen. Jim Oberweis made his way to the Illinois Valley as a speaker for a monthly meeting of the Bureau-La Salle Tea Party at the Elks Lodge in Oglesby. Oberweis is a chairman of Oberweis Dairy, a business founded by his grandfather. He handed out ice cream before his speech. The Republican from Sugar Grove shared his take on the atmosphere and attitude about politics in Springfield and what the state has at stake during a town hall-style meeting. Bureau-La Salle Tea Party coordinator Art Havenhill said Oberweis was a heavy influence in the movement to oust GOP chairman Pat Brady, who came out in support of gay marriage earlier this year. “It was for all the right reasons,” Havenhill said regarding the ouster. Oberweis has served in the senate for six months and shared with the assembled crowd of about 55 people a well-known sentiment about the state — that “Illinois is in very difficult straits.” “According to the state, our unfunded pension liability is about $100 billion. According to Moody’s, it’s about $200 billion. The difference de-pends on how you look at assets,” he said. “I spent most of my life in financial services... I understand pensions and pension funding. My best guess is that the real unfunded liability is somewhere around $140 billion. None of the pension plans that are on there are going to solve the problem.” He said there is a “clash of egos” when it comes to the difference between House Speaker Michael Madigan’s and Senate President John Cullerton’s and their pension bills. “Who’s going to be the big guy and who’s going to get their plan passed?” Oberweis said. “Neither one of them wants to back down. That’s why we have the so-called conference committee for a compromise between the two.” One of the pension bills that he did support included a measure that would shift future pension liabilities, not past liabilities, onto universities and community colleges. “It actually had the support of community colleges and universities,” he added. When he asked those entities why they supported the measure, he said they said they thought it was “reasonable” and they would pay for it by getting significant control of their pensions. He said there is a scam that goes along with pensions. “What was happening was, school districts did not have the responsibility for funding pensions, so they tried to make a compensation for teachers on the pension side, rather than the salary side. One of the ways they did that was based on final-year salary. During a teacher’s last year, they boost their salary.” Oberweis was a sponsor for the 70 mph speed limit bill. He said working with the bill was a great learning experience working with Democrats to pass the legislation. He said he went to House Speaker Madigan and asked him to find someone in the house to sponsor the bill. The bill passed with a sizable majority in both the house and senate, after Illinois Department of Transportation officials and the state police testified against the bill.
The NewsTribune Bureau County bureau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at (815) 879-5200 or by fax at (815) 828-0627.
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