socastcmsRssStartBy Greg Bishop | Illinois News NetworksocastcmsRssEnd
It may be one of the final bills Gov. Bruce Rauner acts on, and it makes Illinois government a little smaller.
Rauner signed House Bill 3538 this week. The measure folds the Legislative Research Unit into the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability.
"The legislature understood the need to provide consolidation and efficiency in the structure of the Legislative Support Service Agencies," Rauner spokeswoman Elizabeth Tomev said. "HB 3538 officially merges the Legislative Research Unit into the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. The bill also streamlines some reporting requirements to allow for reports to be filed electronically and as provided in the General Assembly Organization Act."
Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability Director Clayton Klenke said both the commission and the Legislative Research Unit are nonpartisan research groups and merging the two has been in the works for about a year.
“Right now at CoGFA we have our what we call our pension unit and our revenue unit and now we will have our research unit,” Klenke said. “The staff of researchers will still be there.”
The Legislative Research Unit team would do research about sales tax policies in all 50 states, Klenke said, while the commission does research on the economics, revenue and pensions. He said this move is the latest since the early 2000s taking four different commissions researching different issues down to one-stop-shop research unit for the Illinois General Assembly.
Klenke said the merger provides for more streamlined research approach for policymakers and some taxpayer savings, with four positions being eliminated through attrition.
“That represents about 10 percent of our workforce,” Klenke said. “So savings of a couple of hundred thousand dollars there already, I would say just in terms of personnel costs and the associated pension and health care costs.”
Other savings, Klenke said, will come from renegotiating various service agreement for one research unit, rather than two.
Klenke said ultimately the merger means lawmakers will get quicker information from a nonpartisan source.
“Each of the legislative staffs has access to their partisan staffs already,” Klenke said. “They may approach an issue such as the progressive income tax will be a hot one this year, and of course the research done by those partisan staffs may have a little bit of a partisan tinge on how they explain things.”
“We are completely nonpartisan,” Klenke said. “We are overseen by a board of twelve members of the General Assembly. Six Republicans, six Democrats, six House members, six Senate members.”
Klenke said taxpayers can expect just the facts and figures from the commission, not partisan spin.