Whether they were discussing how to tackle health care, pension reform or unemployment, legislators at kept returning to the same solution: more cooperation.
said elected officials need to reach across party lines more frequently to pass job legislation. said legislators need to sit down with unions to deal with rising pension costs. And Illinois Department of encouraged small business owners to offer suggestions for the institution of the Affordable Care Act.
"The number one issue that we face not only in Illinois but across the country is jobs and the economy," Dold said to the crowd gathered at the early last Friday morning. "The good news is that when I talk to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, the number one issue is jobs and the economy as well."
The Chamber of Commerces from Highland Park, Highwood and Glencoe organized the event, which was presented by NorthShore University HealthSystem. moderated a panel that included Dold, Garrett and Hamos as well as Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Chief of Staff Andrew Moyer. was supposed to speak but did not attend.
Escalating pension crisis
Garrett discussed the state's rising pension obligations at last year's Legislative Outlook as well as this year's. Although the problem is not a new one, she said the time to address it is now.
"The pension issue has not just been a carryover from last year, it's been a carryover for the past decade," Garrett said. "This is the year I call 'Now or Never.'"
Garrett pointed out that local schools and universities "don't contribute much" to teacher's pensions, suggesting that increasing those contributions could help ease the state's financial burden.
"We do think that schools and universities have to have a dog in this fight," Garrett said.
The state senator also suggested that union leaders and legislators meet to tackle pension reform together. Highland Park resident and event attendee Pete Koukas said he didn't think this would work.
"The idea of getting unions and state regulators and legislators all to work together to resolve the pension problems is whistling dixie," Koukas said.
The recently published jobs report showed that the country created over 240,000 jobs in January, making the topic of unemployment less morose than it was a year ago.
"We need to build on that," Dold said.
The congressman said that Illinois needed to create an environment that encouraged small businesses to hire more. He stressed the importance of bipartisanship and business regulations.
"We need regulations, but the regulations need to be smart regulations, not just more of them," Dold said.
Dold also lamented that some jobs bills are currently stuck in the Senate and said he shared a goal with President Barack Obama to double U.S. exports by 2014.
State vs. local financial burdens
asked the first question at the event, focusing on the state's budget problems. She asked the panel not to put the state's debt on municipalities that have already made difficult cuts to operate more affordably.
"We've done the heavy lifting," Rotering said. "Please don't turn around and add your burdens to our burdens."
After the event, attendee and said he planned to take Hamos up on her invitation to small business owners for feedback on health care reform. Anand said he was happy to get input from and ask questions of his legislators.
"I find it very productive to get the ideas across," Anand said.